Ban on instruments on Good Friday
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    I know it's the convention but where is the legislation?
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,200
    I raised a similar question on another thread with respect to the organ going silent after the Gloria on Holy Thursday until the Gloria on the Easter Vigil.

    IIRC, one person responded that it was the bells that were to be silent. Someone else suggested that the suppression of the use of instruments on Good Friday may be found in the Ceremonial of Bishops.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 754

    Perhaps it's an example of the point that liturgical tradition and rubric aren't the same thing, despite their close relationship.


  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    AFAIK there is no ban, just a custom. The Ceremonial of Bishops states at #300 that from the Gloria on Holy Thursday until the Easter Vigil the organ may only be used to sustain singing (I don't have a direct quote, but from various references in other documents it's evident that this is what it says). Which would imply that its use is not banned. Bishops conferences have discretion to relax (or, presumably, tighten) these requirements for pastoral reasons.
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • john m
    Posts: 134
    I have always taken "to sustain singing" to mean that the organ is used only to maintain the choir on pitch (for instance, with only an 8' Dulciana), and the choir's singing should make the organ inaudible to the congregation.
    Thanked by 1Ryan Murphy
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,891
    I use the organ on Good Friday, but I don't over-use it. I don't play preludes or postludes during Lent, to begin with. However, I do keep the major reeds silent during Lent. The organ is used for hymns, choir anthems, and as "cover" while collecting the offering and while the choir receives communion. I am glad you are able to keep your choir on pitch with a Dulciana. I have days with mine when even a trumpet 8' wouldn't help.
  • john m
    Posts: 134
    I think we all have those days with our choirs. :-)

    Having gone through Good Fridays sustaining the choral pitch on the soft stops, after some time we were able to have an organ-free Good Friday. One year, my pastor - God love him - insisted. So...come Good Friday, the organ power remained off, we sang the Liturgy a capella, and we never looked back.

    That was in my first job. My present job is much the same - "if that is the authentic tradition, we will respect it". In fact, now the choir expects me to shut down the organ power, turn off the lights and remove myself from the bench after the Gloria on Holy Thursday.

    On the other hand, there was the intervening job at our cathedral parish, where the musicians have been conditioned over time to regard themselves as above the discipline of the liturgical tradition. At the Good Friday of 2000 I was on the piano bench, forced to rock out the accompaniment to some pop paraphrase or other of the proper psalm. Such is the power of the liturgical tradition that I felt keenly that the Liturgy had been somehow violated, even though from the parish standpoint, this was what they were accustomed to.

    Since the day that my first boss/pastor taught the choir and me that the organ is their adjunct and not their foundation, in the parishes which respect the traditions of the Faith, we have not feared to sing and to rehearse a capella. Even if the pitch drops - that is part of the human condition brought on by the Fall. We don't worry about it anymore.
    Thanked by 1bonniebede
  • G
    Posts: 1,396
    "Even if the pitch drops - that is part of the human condition brought on by the Fall. "
    Thank you! That bit of wisdom may keep me from tearing my hair out....

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
    Thanked by 2Ben PurpleSquirrel
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,204
    The ban WAS legislated for the Extraordinary Form, and most folks kept it when moving into the Ordinary Form.

    A good choir singing unison can support a congregation quite well.
  • The uniquely Catholic custom of not using the organ or using it as little as possible from the Gloria on HT through the Gloria on EV is so beautiful and really brings to life our rich heritage. However, I think sometimes we need to think practically depending on the parish we're in, especially considering most of us are probably not in Rome, nor do we have a choir truly capable of comfortably pulling off strictly unaccompanied singing through that wide gap in the Triduum. Even if we did happen to have a stellar choir that could lead the assembly in beautifully executed psalm settings, chants, and perfect renderings of liturgically appropriate unaccompanied choral anthems and motets, in my experience, it seems that many congregations do not always support or appreciate such liturgical actions. I realize how childish this sounds on the part of the parishes that feel this way, and I'm sure many will feel the only solution would be to educate the parish on liturgy and the traditions and teachings of the church. I serve as Music Director in a medium sized suburban parish, which for decades prior to my arrival, ignored many liturgical teachings from the GIRM, and I was quite saddened at the strong resistance I felt from the parish when trying to follow such teachings. Fortunately, I have been able to somewhat suggest the idea of reduced accompaniment during the Triduum, and am proud to say that earlier today during our Holy Thursday liturgy, we sang the Pange Lingua unaccompanied as well as the Gospel Acclamation, and mass acclamations, but many compromises needed to be made and over the last two years I have angered many old time parishioners initiating these liturgical acts.

    Another point that I'm surprised no one made yet, is that in many parishes, including my own, we have Folk Groups and Contemporary Ensembles to accommodate, and prior to my arrival as Music Director, the parish organists rarely had a part in the Triduum and it was my understanding that the Contemporary Ensemble lead the Triduum for years. I have yet to ever hear of a church Contemporary Group singing unaccompanied, as it seems piano and guitar need to be used constantly (and usually loudly, all the time). Currently my Adult Choir collaborates with the Contemporary Ensemble (which by the way the combined total of choristers maybe reaches 15 people) for the whole Triduum. Yes, we are in fact singing quite a bit unaccompanied, but then certain things are sung with piano and guitar, and one anthem for Holy Thursday - "I Give to You a New Commandment" by Peter Nardone (SJMP) was accompanied on organ as the piece is scored. I also will say that the Easter Triduum is a time where we find people in church that aren't around the rest of the year, especially Good Friday in addition to the Easter Vig., and as much as I hate to say this, music by composers like David Haas played on the piano and guitar appeals to certain people can move and touch them, as can the beautiful anthem by Peter Nardone that I mentioned above. Would it be terribly wrong to sing some unaccompanied chant and psalm settings on Good Friday, and pair that with say David Haas' Now We Remain accompanied on piano and guitar during Communion? I think considering the time we live in we need to think practically and pastorally when planning these liturgies.


    - Peter
    Thanked by 1PurpleSquirrel
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    Without doing some sort of research, who can say what might appeal to someone who comes wandering by on Good Friday or Easter? And they do come, and I feel we have a great deal of responsibility towards them, but...
    Is there good, evangelising, on message literature readily available at multiple points in the church for them to read and take away? Is there a trained team of evangelists (hospitality) on the look out for them to welcome, and possibly begin the process of talking to them about the faith ( I don't mean there and then in the liturgy. but a would you like to chat more about this sometime? invitation). and I am sure there are other things that can be done for them.
    When these more obvious things are in place, maybe then it is time to consider shading the music at the liturgy to be helpful.
    But without the research...
    What if someone wanders in, prompted by some vague, ineffable feeling of wanting something, only to be met with bland pop music which sounds the same as the lift in the shops, who leaves feeling there is nothing there for him?
    The musical tradition of the church is very big on evoking the numinous, and considering the way chant is used in film soundtracks, that remains a culturally understood and communicable reality. What if they wander in, and hearing an ethereal, unaccompanied chant, suddenly have the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to realise here is a whole piece of life ( the spiritual, the what if there is something more than the mundane) which they are missing?
    As I said, without research... be obedient to the rubrics, be informed by the tradition, trust in the Holy Spirit.
  • RevAMG
    Posts: 159
    I realize that this is a resurrected post from 2008, but here are the quotations from official sources about the silence of the organ and musical instruments:

    From The Roman Missal, Third Typical Edition in English (2011):

    7. The Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest) is said. While the hymn is being sung, bells are rung, and when it is finished, they remain silent until the Gloria in excelsis of the Easter Vigil, unless, if appropriate, the Diocesan Bishop has decided otherwise. Likewise, during this same period, the organ and other musical instruments may be used only so as to support the singing.

    From the Ceremonial of Bishops (1989 in English):

    300. During the singing of the Gloria, the church bells are rung and then remain silent until the Easter Vigil, unless, according to circumstances, the conference of bishops or the bishop of the diocese decides otherwise. During the same period, the organ and other musical instruments may be used only to sustain singing.

    From the Circular Letter Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts (published by the Congregation for Divine Worship on Saturday, 20 February 1988):

    50. During the singing of the hymn "Gloria in excelsis" In accordance with local custom, the bells may be rung, and should thereafter remain silent until the "Gloria in excelsis" of the Easter Vigil, unless the conference of bishops or the local ordinary, for a suitable reason, has decided otherwise. During this same period the organ and other musical instruments may be used only for the purpose of supporting the singing.

    From a historical perspective of the Ordinary Form, the 1965 Roman Missal stated:

    7. When the celebrant solemnly begins Glory to God in the highest, the bells are rung and the organ is played. At the end of the hymn the bells and organ remain silent until the Easter Vigil.

    And, finally, the 1974 Sacramentary stated:

    During the singing of the Gloria, the church bells are rung and then remain silent until the Easter Vigil, unless the conference of bishops or the Ordinary decrees otherwise.

  • Bonnie - When our choir attempts to chant without any accompaniment they do not sound at all "ethereal". They sound scary...

  • Our service was quite nice, youth choir provided singing,and all was well until they decided to pull out the good ole On Eagles Wings for communion, complete with guitar and drums...But the congregation, which usually has to be dragged kicking and screaming to be inspired to sing, all started singing along. I'm with bonniebede on this issue I really is impossible to know what will move people's spirits. :-/
    Thanked by 1bonniebede
  • bonniebede
    Posts: 756
    @purplesquirrel... scary can be good...scary can be numinous!
    don't be afraid to be scary!
    Thanked by 2Salieri eft94530
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 3,174
    No matter who wrote it [Dies Irae "Song of Death"], we all have to sing it eventually.

    That is probably the most frightening sentence I have ever heard in my life. I have yet to hear a sermon that cuts to the chase like that.
    Thanked by 2francis eft94530
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,423
    It is amazing that something that was a few years ago universal and church law (the organ is not played on Good Friday), is now so completely abandoned. What has happened? I know of no church that observes this custom, other than some I have worked for.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,204
    IMHO, many, many parish MDs are completely ignorant of liturgical norms--and so are the pastors. MD's are hired for their musical ability (such as it is), not for overall Catholic liturgical formation. Seminaries (apparently) are not bothering with such "trivial details" as liturgical praxis--OR priests in parish service just don't want to make an issue of it.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,168
    I imagine that there are some (including myself) who don't use any instruments (including the organ) on Good Friday. Its hard work but worth it.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    I wonder whether there's a demonstrable difference between mannerism and idealism as regards adherence to the rubrics? In addition, is there a middle ground between those in which many DMM's find themselves out of necessity? Of course, there are many, many mitigating factors that influence how these matters finally play out.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,690

    It is amazing that something that was a few years ago universal and church law (the organ is not played on Good Friday), is now so completely abandoned. What has happened? I know of no church that observes this custom, other than some I have worked for.

    We observe it at the Cathedral of Phoenix.
    This year we had a Mystery Worshipper in the congregation who apparently is Episcopalian and made mention of the no-instruments in his/her review:
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,200
    I was actually told by a "senior statesman" Catholic musician and composer in my diocese that the ban on the use of the organ and other instruments during Lent is wrong because it treats the organ as a decoration no different than flowers.

    I just gave him a blank stare and moved on.

    We used the organ and other instruments straight through Lent and Holy Week, including an oboe on Good Friday. Unfortunately I'm just the assistant and do not have a voice in the matter.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,423
    That is quite a review: congratulations!
  • donr
    Posts: 971
    We also did not use instrumentation on Good Friday. It was the first time we did this and it turned out better than expected.