my article and the unexpected hysteria
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    So I wrote this up casually on Sunday and posted it and then all heck broke loose. I've never faced such criticism - like my in box filling up with vitriol, nearly everyone seeming to misunderstand my point, which is just that the only and top priority should not be to get people to sing in way that they are disinclined to want to do. Anyway, I'm somehow certain that I could have stated this better. I'm obviously a champion of the people's role here. I must have overstated the case or something. Anyway, if you are curious about this frenzy and have any pointers as to how I made have made my point better, I'm all ears.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 773
    I was going to post it here, complaining that you had demolished some of my idols.

    Thanks for a wonderful article. Perhaps the words were fine, the audience not so much.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Well, something surely riled people up. I just can't believe the criticism, even from friends. I really thought I was saying something normal and agreeable. I guess I forget how entrenched biases are here. Still, something tells me that I might have done a better job. When that many people go bonkers, it usually indicates a problem with the prose/argument.
  • BachLover2BachLover2
    Posts: 331
    JT: i think it's high time people realized that the mass is not a campfire sing-along. your article simply brought out the fact that each person at mass has his own role to play: cantor, choir, congregation, priest, deacon, etc. fine work, JT.
  • Jeffrey's article is spot-on. No outward 'participation' can be authentic without deep inward participation. No outward participation can be 'authentic' if its materials and aesthetics are best described as kitsch. The 'closed circle' metaphor is extremely painful to many Catholics precisely because it is so true. The virulent response from even normally well-balanced Catholics (ar, et al.) shows the centrality of this issue and its outcomes for the development of Catholic liturgical praxis.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    As I said elsewhere, I think the issue is context. I was likewise outraged to read the article, but you yourself reminded others that you have always been a staunch advocate of congregational singing, and this is most certainly true. So, read in that light, I think it makes sense. My own argument against it is simply that I cannot stand for excuses being made for a silent congregation. If a congregation decides it will not sing, perhaps at daily Mass or an EF dialog Mass, then no, let's not try to change that. But a congregation sitting mute while the organ and a few choristers participate in a hymn, they are just wasting their time. The singing must increase, or the music must change.

    I think the main problem is twofold: 1) you made a strong case that the volume of congregational singing is unimportant, when perhaps what would have sufficed would be to say that it need not always be interpreted as a bad thing, and 2) many, many people, especially those on this board, have worked hard to convince people that low levels of singing, when they are not necessary, are unacceptable, and this undermines those efforts. Keep in mind that FEW of us here see people sitting tight-lipped through "On Eagle's Wings". We see it during the Gloria VIII that we introduced a few years ago and still gets the cold shoulder. We see music Catholics (Christians of any stripe, really) should take pride in being ignored, and that's not just depriving the silent ones of the blessings of making the text and melody their own, it hurts us too. Congregational song is an issue that needs to be handled with tact and precision.
  • I thought it was a pretty good article, and I won't comment on the parts I liked, since you've asked what it is that caused people to criticize.

    It seems to me the piece does two things: (1) try to analyze and explain why Protestants sing louder than Catholics, and (2) argue that Catholics actually don't need to sing so loud. The article was pretty good on the second point, especially after you added the words "within the current cultural context" to "... will never be the norm, and if it ever did become the norm it might suggest something has gone wrong with the ritual."

    However, you seemed to go a little astray in your look at the Protestants. Frankly, the article seemed a bit needlessly dismissive of them, with claims amounting to, No wonder they need music, it's all they've got; and They stand in a closed circle. As a former Protestant yourself, I hope you'd concede that they don't see it that way -- when they're belting out those hymns, they're really trying to lift their praises to God, not to satisfy each other with some nice tunes. The "closed circle" effect is much more arguably true of praise bands and even of choirs, but I've never heard someone say, "Gee, I love when we sing hymns, it's such a great concert." (Maybe they'd say, "... such a great concert for God.")

    So, when you write concerning "Come on now, shout!"-type services, "What is going on here? Nothing holy, nothing miraculous, nothing liturgical", that's arguably true from the Catholic perspective, but you fail to look at it from the relevant Protestant perspective. (Full disclosure: cradle Catholic speaking here.) Protestants do think something holy is going on: praising God.

    Accordingly, your whole argument regarding the Protestants comes across as very weak, and it taints much of the rest of your article with an air of illogic. This is quite unfortunate, because you didn't need to discuss the Protestants at all to make your ultimate point, which is that Catholics don't need to sing very loud. You could cut every word about the Protestants from the piece and develop a much better argument around that point.

    I say a better argument, because your current argument runs, "Protestants must sing loudly, because their services are not holy. Our services are holy; therefore, we need not (and likely should not) sing loudly." Put into formal logic, the argument runs: If not H, then L. H, ergo not L. This is not a sound argument. A similar example built on the same framework would be, "The choir at St. Peter's must sing loudly, because the building has bad acoustics. Protestant churches have good acoustics; therefore, Protestants need not (and probably should not) sing loudly." The truth of the antecedent just has no particular bearing on the conclusion.

    Again, I haven't commented on the many things I did like about the article; so, on that note, cheers!
  • I thought your article was good, Jeffrey. But I can see how it can seem a bit radical to the people who have been taught over and over throughout the years that the goal of music in liturgy is congregational singing.

    Even my own pastor, a committed RotR priest, has had a real internal struggle with the question of congregational singing. The solution that has been most satisfying is to work to achieve Musicam Sacram's 3-fold plan for the singing of the liturgy. This motivates our priests to sing their parts, and the congregation is lustily singing their responses and acclamations. Next is to assure the congregation is singing the ordinary well--in time we are and will be establishing the basic repertoire of Gregorian ordinaries. And finally, when all of this is being sung well by the congregation, the need for four hymns virtually disappears and the place for propers presents itself, and there is less of a need for anyone to think that we need four hymns to make sure that we have congregational participation.

    So, perhaps a better focus might be to, first, affirm the legitimate value of congregational singing, BUT to emphasize its proper place: the Order and Ordinary of the Mass.

    It seems that the backlash against the article might be a reaction to it's title "In Defense of Non-Singing Congregations". Your points are all well taken, and I believe them to be true, but I suspect that many are unwilling to endorse the idea of "non-singing congregations". Maybe a follow-up article on the congregation's proper role in the singing of the liturgy is in order. I'm sure that there are many pastors out there who are like mine: They want their congregations to vocally participate in the liturgy (properly subordinated to proper participatio actuosa), but they need a prescription for how they can achieve it in a way that is consonant with proper sacred music.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Before Vatican II, people would pray the Rosary or do Stations of the Cross during the liturgy. The new Mass was revised so that people could participate in the liturgy. Now instead of praying the Rosary, the people are singing a song someone wrote. They are still not participating in the Mass. Loud singing does not equal participation.

    Jeffrey, I'm sure you would not object to 300 people singing the ordinary and proper in chant and polyphony, whether it was Latin or English. And believe me, no one enjoys singing more than I do! But if I were at such a Mass, I might just sit and listen, and let that still, small voice sing in my soul. There's nothing controversial in what you wrote, at least for anyone who accepts the Church's instruction on the liturgy.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Yes, a follow up is in order. And yet, I'm more and more convinced of what Arlene has been telling me for years: part of the proper role of the congregation is to listen to the schola and watch the processsions. People need to understand this. Until we can get a proper introit in our parishes, Mass just won't have the right liturgical feel. The entrance has never ever belonged to the people (I'm getting this from Hiley's latest book). Their role is to stand and watch and pray as Mass begins. Sticking a hymn book in their hands and demanding that they sing is destabilizing. I would like to say this bluntly and plainly with evidence. I think we need to come to terms with this.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    Jeffrey,

    Many clergy and musicians are still committed to a particular take on the the Liturgical Movement and its implications for congregational participation. The emotional and public nature of that commitment can make it difficult for them to move on, even as time and experience give cause to reflect on its outcome, and the possibility that it might represent a spiritual, theological and cultural dead end.

    It is not surprising, then, that your eloquent and thought-provoking post prompted the response it did, though it is amusing to note the hysteria in the comments of one who makes a great show elsewhere of sweet reason and consideration for others. I'm sure you won't let that prevent you from developing this train of thought. One suggestion, which probably isn't even necessary: beware the danger that rediscovery of old truths can obscure valid points (I'm sure you're familiar with this pattern from your other areas of interest). There was a Liturgical Movement before the 1960's, and its attempts to encourage liturgical piety bore fruit. We would do well to consider the best of its thought and achievement, including the encouragement it gave to many to express their worship through the Church's own song, even in such simple ways as singing responses.
  • don roy
    Posts: 306
    jeffry
    have you read marva dawns reaching out without dumbing down? Ms. Dawn, a Lutherin, talks about learning the one liturgy from the one lutherin hymnbook everyone learning the same responses.
    Look at the difference between a catholic and protestant hymnbook. for one thing catholic hymnbooks are GIANORMOUS! protestant books are skinny. catholic hymnbooks are full of every stylistic ripoff imaginable, protestant are all 4 part organ based stylistically similar (or at least used to be). there was no piano in the presbyterian church i grew up in.
    also a protestant service typically has 3 or so hymns and a couple of short responses (Gloria patri and maby the merebeck agnus dei) catholics have to sing 4 hymns, the gloria, sanctus and agnus plus the responsorial, alleluia, memorial acclamation, great amen and countless "let the people say AAAA-men!"
    Heck, if the average catholic sang lustaly through all that, theyd loose their voice.
    Jeffry, i think the vitrol you experienced shows a not so nice aspect to our collective "traddie-personality." something that we as Christians should probably work on.
  • BachLover2BachLover2
    Posts: 331
    maybe if they had good hymns to sing, it would be different....
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    I found nothing objectionable in your piece, but I admit i have only skimmed the comments, so I don't know what the main cavils are.

    But it seems to me that complaining that the congregational singing at a Catholic Mass is less robust than that at a protestant service is a bit like b****ing and moaning that your ace reliever can't manage the .310 batting average that your outfielder does.

    And in a liturgical celebration that allows the priest umpteen options for the Eucharistic Prayer, surely we can allow the congregation some options in their approach to expressing themselves in music.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "Complaining that the congregational singing at a Catholic Mass is less robust than that at a protestant service is a bit like b****ing and moaning that your ace reliever can't manage the .310 batting average that your outfielder does."

    I think you're talking about sports, G. I might consider my brother's car, an Audi convertible, and mine, a Honda Civic. And I agree, there's no use in asterisking about my car (catholics) not being able to smoothly get to 130 (sing the protestant hymn tradition in an ear-splitting volume), because it just wasn't meant to do that. BUT the one thing it DOES do is gets 45 MPG (chant and the ethnic hymn tradition), so if I fill up, do the calculations, and find it's only getting 15 to the gallon (singing a dull whimper during Gloria VIII), there's probably something wrong.

    OBVIOUSLY that whole convoluted metaphor will make everything clear.

    Here's the facts: many of us have introduced easy, singable, beautiful congregational music into Catholic churches. And that music is rejected time and time again by congregations that shout out "Amazing Grace". Don't tell me there's anything Catholic about deciding to shut up and listen during "Regina Coeli", "Christus Vincit", or any of the chant Masses. And don't tell me the sea of bored detached people (ever see anyone under 35 pick up a hymnal?) are all experts of inward participation either. It's excuses for what should be recognized as a sad situation.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Ah, another thought for consideration pops up: in your experience who sings louder, a small Catholic congregation or a large Catholic congregation?

    ADDENDUM: Ok, another thought, but I figured I'd just add this on rather than make another comment. I just want to make clear, before I'm portrayed inevitably as someone calling for loud singing all the time and making that the sole measure of one's faith, THIS is my position as it applies to Catholic ministry: IF a congregation, through explicit wishes made to the powers that be, does not wish to sing, FINE! I really think that is compatible with Catholic liturgical practice, and I wholeheartedly agree with Jeff there. In fact, I'll ask any such congregation to hire me so that we can have a glory of chant and polyphonic propers and orchestral ordinaries. Those who do wish to sing can join the choir.

    If one is stating that the role of a congregation should be diminished, I would say that with the informed consent of a catechized congregation, go for it. Responses, usually an ordinary and a final hymn? Why not?! Sounds glorious to me! And again, those who most greatly benefit from singing the great texts may join the choir.

    But if you are going to call the muffled whimpering accompanied by an anemic organ and choir "congregational singing", no, I will say that is not acceptable and your situation needs to change.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    I agree with most of your points, and think you said them well enough. But I take issue with some of it... you're not explicitly wrong, but perhaps you should clarify.

    t is to more fully participate in sacred actions taking place in a liturgical manner. It comes from within the structure of the liturgy and is not imposed from without. It does not come from the people. This is true, but not true at the same time. I know that in the West, a priest can say Mass by himself--but that is not preferred at all; the people are an important and vital part of the Mass. You actually mention that later:

    It is a gift from God that we offer back to God, something we receive humbly as a blessing and an occasion of grace as we offer our lives back to God in sacrifice.

    The people are there to do this offering WITH the priest. The way you formulated it before made the people seem like spectators, quietly praying their own devotions and not involved in the Mass in any way. That's not true (or shouldn't be true). It is important for the faithful to pray the prayers of the Mass. They can do this silently if they want--that I do not disagree with--but the Mass is a public liturgy and not a private devotion. It is important for the faithful to be united in the SAME prayer. And then private prayers can be appended throughout (for example, during the litany of the faithful, you can bring to mind particular names of people who you're praying for, etc.). But first and foremost it is the people's role to pray the Mass with the priest, and offer the Mass and themselves to God with the priest. They do not accomplish the consecration of the gifts--but neither does the priest, really; the Holy Spirit does that (through the ministry of the priest).

    it is true that the Mass is "the prayer in which the people are invited, but not required, to participate." Nevertheless, if the people present are not paying attention and not praying the Mass--whether out loud or silently--should they be taking communion? Participation can be external or internal, but it is necessary if you're going to be properly disposed to receive. I think your article would benefit from a more thorough treatment of what exactly "participation in the Mass" means. Instead of saying participation is optional, say that vocalized participation is optional. Reinforce the idea that the people really ought to participate, but make your point that they can participate just fine silently. Praying the rosary or stations of the cross while the priest says his hocus pocus up front is completely missing the point.
  • Erik P
    Posts: 152
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  • BachLover2BachLover2
    Posts: 331
    the 'full and active participation' the council envisioned has not been achieved, and anyone who says it has is full of nonsense. the idea was that people would know what's happening at Mass, and take part in it. this has not happened. nobody in our pews knows what happens at Mass. ask them: you will see. they don't know. at Mass, two things happen: 1. Jesus Christ is made present on the altar, 2. Jesus Christ is offered to His Heavenly Father. until people realize these two things, no amount of hymn-singing can substitute.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Gavin, you know that I'm completely with you on the matter of singing congregations. We sing a Marian antiphon nearly every week in the hope of inspiring people. And people do sing. They do. But do they sing like Baptists? No way. It is good singing for Catholics, truly, but it is not aggressive and bold. It is sweet and quiet and prayerful. There is just a huge difference here, a massive cultural chasm. I don't think it does much good to curse our people for failing to act like other people they are not. My article was really attempt to come to terms with this and speculate why it is this way. I will never stop trying to teach people Catholic music. To me, this is the way music travels through time, through the voices of people. Without this, everything we do can slip away. But you know what I think is more important than loud singing? Familiarity. A sense that this music is part of our hearts and minds and experience, a sense that this music is our music and must continue to exist. This is more of a priority than merely turning up the volume.
  • The flames and fury, Erik, were ignited primarily at Catholic Sensibility; is that really news?
    I can, as a seasoned citizen, still hear the rolling thunder of any advocate of any cause WRITING a rationale or thesis that advances their understanding of the dynamics and circumstances that are integral to the cause. In that, Jeffrey's article is reasonable and, contrary to one comment, remained "on the rails."
    That said, I stand a little closer to the old-school notion that "actions speak (or sing) louder than words. Please excuse the unintentional pun. By that, I mean exemplars such as Roger Wagner and his protege, Paul Salamunovich, William Mahrt as well as our confreres AOZ, Scott Turkington, Kurt Poterack, David Hughes, Aristotle Esguerra, Mary Jane Ballou, MA Singing Mum, Jeffrey Keyes, et al (forgive me if I didn't continue the litany with your name) who basically work quietly (another unintended pun!) at "home" to achieve liturgical equilibrium and integrity.
    In defense of Jeffrey's article's worth, if for nothing else it meets the criteria that any publicity is better than none. And if it can help further a dialogue among the Ruff's, Flowerday's and Cooney's in the square, then I think we'll come out the better for it.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    One amusing thing to come out of the response to Jeffrey's article is the way in which our old friend Paul Inwood uses it over at Pray 'n' Tell as an opportunity to advertise his own music:

    Come to my own diocese for the Chrism Mass and hear the great wall of sound that the assembly produces as they sing the Gathering Mass Sanctus.

    Where to begin? The breathtaking shamelessness of the plug for his own music? The faiulure to understand, after all these years, the unmitigated awfulness of the product on offer? The implication, which later becomes an assertion, that English Catholics sing quite as well as English Protestants, thanks to the efforts of Mr. Inwood and his friends (they don't, and anyone who thinks so is living in cloud cuckoo land)? The culturally telling, cringe-making "wall of sound" (© P.Spector, 1963)? Or the proprietorial "my own diocese"?
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    "The louder, the better." This must be a cultural thing.
    'God is not deaf.' then why, and for whom we have to be loud?
    I remember when I was a protestant, everything in the church was pretty much loud; the sermon, praying , singing. Hymn singing also asks loud organ playing. In Catholic church even if many organists are also music directors and lead the singing, I think the MD in Catholic church has to lead the congregation by educating them to sing in the natural order as the Church instructed. Then he doesn't have to lead people by the volume, but lead by serving and truly 'supporting' the congregation's singing as musically and spiritually as Catholics.

    When I witness the beautiful procession at Mass and listen to beautiful Introit, my tears come down with joy, the joy of thankfulness for our Church and the priests who lead us to "the Holy of Holies' where we truly meet our Lord. When I sang hymns in a Protestant church where there's no real altar, sanctuary and no presence of our Lord, it was pretty much emptry and just heard our own voices. Protestant hymns are started by those who protested against the Church. In their hymns I can't help but hearing the echo of Martin Luther's protest and his big pride, with which he tried to customize God into a small box of intellect and mind of individuals. In order to be a Catholic I learned to be humble more than anything, humble enough to obey His teachings through the Church. When I step into a Catholc church for a Catholic Mass, I don't need to be reminded of Protestant church.

    Any way, thank you Jeffrey for your article. You are accused and will be accused, but at the same time you are helping many people. It was you and Arlene's writing that helped me to understand the role of Gregorian chant in the Catholic liturgy, and you are continually helping many musicians.
  • Because I nearly always agree with Jeffrey and have great respect for his literary talents, I genuinely hate to say this. But, in spite of the quite correct observation of the different theology and aesthesis of Catholic and (some) Protestant worship, it seems to me that one could not ask for a better rationale, a more finely crafted apologia, in defense of all those Catholics who attend mass and are stalwart in their utter, craven, refusal to sing even those parts of the mass which are historically theirs to sing. These people, when given 'worship aids', hymnals, or mass music, simply lay (or toss) them aside in the pews and stand there in deliberate, unabashed silence. It would be begging credulity to characterise most of these people's demeanor as some species of mystical or meditative prayer. They have shown up. They have fulfilled their 'obligation'. What more could one expect?! The mass is a public act of worship which asks (demands) of all present a unified degree of corporate participation in the drama, the divine ritual, that unfolds in sacred time and space. It is neither a private devotion nor a spectacle. Having said this, I see nothing otherwise in Jeffrey's article to warrant any degree of excoriation.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    The other amusing thing about the response over at Scratch 'n' Sniff is that it illustrates fr. Ruff's tendency to pontificate condescendingly about those who disagree with him and remove the comments of those who suggest flaws in his reasoning. I pointed out that his argument against Jeffrey's position leaned heavily on an Aunt Sally (a kind of informal fallacy); he removed it without comment.

    I fear he's been keeping the company of old frauds for too long.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Maybe people In OF have to be 're educated,' instead of being forced to sing, and sing anything?
    And I think we have to be very patient, especially the musicians. The current musicians may plant the seeds, but may not taste the fruits.
  • Erik P
    Posts: 152
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  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    " The mass is a public act of [Catholic] worship ... It is not a private devotion. "

    Then, why are we forced to sing someone's priviate devotional songs, instead of the Church's liturgical prayers?

    And am I allowed to have my own silent thankful prayer after receiving my Lord who personally come to me?
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Re: Jeffrey's comment on the introit/procession - switching from an entrance hymn to an antiphon from BFW has made a big difference at my parish. Now we can watch the procession. Unfortunately, now we can also see how poor the procession actually is.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,537
    Be of good cheer, Jeffrey! Your article goes a long way toward clarifying what is distinctive about sacred music in the Catholic understanding, and the examples from the Protestant traditions are very helpful. Those of us who have spent some time in the Protestant confessions can confirm the importance of singing as an act of worship by itself, as contrasted with the ancillary role of music in the Mass.

    At some point, you might write a follow-up about the Office.

    As for readers' reactions: a charismatic friend found much of it persuasive, although he usually thinks of King David playing the harp and dancing before the Ark as his ideal image of music for worship. So I think you're doing a good job at reaching people who don't normally agree with you.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Ha ha that's funny. but really, this is the point. There are times when people should just let go and listen. The procession is crucial. I mean, people can sing the full ordinary, the Our Father, all dialogues, a communion hymn if so desired and a recesssional hymn if so desired. Is that not enough? These liturgists who demand relentless yelling from the first to the last are just not thinking with the Roman Rite and its complexities.

    by the way, I continue to be astonished at what bloggers are saying about my piece, as if my purpose is to tell people to shut up for the whole of Mass. I'm getting PX quoted to me as if I don't favor people's chant even though I've dedicated the large part of my extra time for year's to promoting that - not to mention an entire book. I really don't think people read well.
  • . . . as my purpose is to tell people to shut up for the whole of Mass.

    I assume this should be, ". . . as though my purpose were to tell people to shut up for the whole of Mass" !
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,014
    I think everything these days tends to be cast in extremes. Some want to go back to 1962 and be melisma'd into the ground in an unknown language, while others want to bring in the rock band and party. There is a middle ground, I think, where music can be sacred, reverent, effective, and not tied to any one period in musical history. We need leadership from the U.S. bishops. It could make a world of difference.

    Congregational singing: If they want to do it, fine. If not, don't obsess over it. Someone complained some time ago that, "you are singing us to death." As much as I love good singing, even I have to admit that all the sung parts in many masses is even more than I want to do. Singers do need to be aware that everyone doesn't share their love of singing, and keep it reasonable.
  • ChaedatylChaedatyl
    Posts: 45
    I think Miacoyne is onto something. My parish has had much more traditional music for a long time, but has been moving even more in that direction as of late. Our congregation knows and sings very well those chants which they have been singing for eons, such as the Mass VIII Gloria. However, we just introduced the Mortem Tuum Memorial Acclamation in place of the typical "Christ has Died", and are still at near silence levels several months later. It takes time for any piece of music to become ingrained into the minds and hearts of a congregation. They aren't going to sing until they feel comfortable, know the words, and love it. Even though our parish pastor put the words and music into the bulletin and made weekly announcements for our Mortem Tuum, it is still taking "forever". But, my "forever" is very different from the congregation's. To them, it is still something very new. I know that a few years from now, everyone will know it by heart.
    Also, it is interesting to see the people who know it best are the children, especially those in the youth choir. This is their music, the music we practice at choir. When they are adults, this is what they will have been singing forever. The beautiful, traditional chants and polyphony that I choose to teach my youth choir will be their "Amazing Grace" and "On Eagle's Wings" in years to come.
  • Bravo! A pastor's conscientious desire is worth ten-thousand hours of teaching effort. Next is perseverance and patience. Bravo, and Godspeed!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,014
    My congregation picked up the Mortem Tuum quite easily. However, I vary the mass settings with the major liturgical seasons, and use both Latin and English settings. Hopefully, that keeps any particular mass setting from becoming tedious.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 662
    Re: just showing up, that is meditative prayer, or at least its beginnings. Moving butt to pew, despite the many reasons not to come; and keeping butt in pew, despite the many reasons to walk out; is an act of faith and perseverance. Maybe not an outwardly impressive one, but it's there.

    And as I've said here before, there's really no way of telling what's going on with people. Just because it looks like someone is idly flipping through the book doesn't mean that they're not listening intently to the organ or to the homily. Equally, it doesn't mean that the person's not in a meditative state. Indeed, as a kid it's a lot safer to meditate while staring at a random page in the book than to do it any other way in church, because your parents are a lot less likely to lean over and ask you what's wrong. :) There's a long Catholic tradition of adopting protective coloration for meditation, fitting in so as not to disturb one's neighbor. I suspect that it's gotten even stronger in the last forty years, since some people have mentioned actually being harassed for not paying attention to Mass in exactly the proper way.

    Of course, the unfortunate consequence is that some people think Mass is only a series of symbolic actions which one attends, instead of a sacrament that actually does things, and a mystery to be explored and experienced with soul and body. So you can't assume people are deep in prayer, any more than you can assume they're not. But beyond a bit of surface noisehandling, that's a problem for pastors to decipher and deal with, not for parish musicians. Music is a spiritual help, not a cure for everything. Some music directors seem to take on the burdens of Atlas, and that's not their purpose. Zeal for souls -- good, assuming it's you against the Devil all alone -- not good.

    I was going somewhere with this... Um... Singing good, silence good, not obsessing over exact levels of congregational participation good. A certain amount of laissez faire attitude is part of Catholicism; people are allowed to look after their own souls in their own way. People won't do anything for you if you seem too desperate or smilingly totalitarian. Encouragement, education, all that is good. And frankly, people absorb a lot by osmosis over long periods of time, so don't assume your efforts aren't doing anything.

    If you're doing something good and you're not receiving hideous amounts of complaints, people are probably ecstatically happy with you and you're hugely influential. You will probably only find this out forty years from now, but that's the way it often goes.
  • j13rice
    Posts: 36
    Jeffrey, I just assumed you overstated your point precisely get a lot of reaction... isn't it the job of a blogger to drum up controversy and discussion? I just thought it odd that the author of Sing Like a Catholic would write an article defending non-singing congregations. I think that many take offense to this because as liturgical musicians we measure our performance in large part on how much/well our congregations sing the parts they are supposed to (I know I do). The congregation's participation in the liturgy, whether it be listening or singing, is my primary focus, and in some ways your article basically devalued my life's work. That said, over the years I've determined that it is my responsibility to facilitate the congregation's participation through singing, not force it. If someone genuinely doesn't want to sing, it certainly doesn't bother me. I figure if I do my job well, prepare the cantors and the choir, am conservative with introducing new material, and savvy in mixing music the congregation sings well with something new or difficult, most of the folks will get swept up in singing and the prayer of the liturgy.
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 840
    I wasn't sure what the point of the article was - was it:

    (1) Let's face it - we've tried to make Catholics sing for 40 years and it hasn't worked. Time to let the choir and cantors do it all.

    (2) related to (1): as Charles put it: "If they want to do it [congregational singing], fine. If not, don't obsess over it." Trying to force people into singing simply doesn't work.

    (3) Protestants are much better / more interested than Catholics in singing because that is worship for them, whereas Catholics know that the real focus of the liturgy is the sacrifice of Christ

    (4) related to (3): Congregational singing isn't really part of the Catholic ethos, and deep down Catholics know this - hence their weak singing

    (5) Perhaps all of the above - which seems to argue something like "congregational singing at mass is really not that important."

    I'm a little surprised, Jeffrey, that you are so surprised at some of the reaction to these points. For those who consider the congregation to be the "primary music minister," any one of them in isolation is like a red flag in front of a bull.

    I think (2) is closest to what you are really trying to say, but the other arguments also make their appearance which muddies the waters a bit.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Yes, I said all the above. I do not think this is good: "we measure our performance in large part on how much/well our congregations sing the parts they are supposed to."

    Is our devotion to liturgy or to making people do what we want them to do?
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    I note that - at the time of writing - Fr. Ruff has yet to answer Jeffrey's suggestion that Ruff's research doesn't address Tucker's point that the substitution of hymns for elements of the liturgy is a recent innovation. I suspect the sensitivity of the subject is such that JT's post elicits an emotional - even visceral - response from those whose academic and musical activity (and in some cases careers) have been built on the assumptions he questions, and that this has inhibited intelligent engagement. The knee-jerk is wholy understandable: think how it must have been for church musicians of a more traditional kind in the years of post-Conciliar upheaval.

    In reading Jeffrey's post and the subsequent discussion I am reminded of Dom Alcuin Reid's thesis that the liturgical radicalism of the the second half of the last century represented a fundamental break with the Liturgical Movement to which it often claimed to be the heir. While Reid's 'Organic Development of the Liturgy' doesn't take much time over music (he's not a musical scholar), he does put it in the context of his wider argument that the Liturgical Movement aimed to foster piety within the context of the received Roman liturgy, not change it. It may well be that there are rich rewards to be reaped from revisiting the Liturgical Movement's experience and ideas, and that in doing so we might continue their work of fostering a liturgical piety that is recognisably in continuity with our tradition. Jeffrey's post, deliberately of not, is a step in that direction, and I for one find it curiously liberating.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    From the sublime to the ridiculous: over at Pray, Tell, Paul Inwood has now followed up his shameless plug for his own music and the 'wall of sound' it produces in 'his' diocese with the suggestion that we book him for an animateur workshop!
  • Jeffrey, your article is common sense. People shouldn't feel cajoled/pushed/guilted into singing during the Mass. Catholics worship differently, and with (mostly) different music. So why the fuss?

    The idea that we must be singing loudly and all we could at Mass was a large objective of liturgical renewal after the Council. If that objective were to be fulfilled, it would have justified (in the minds of some) the shift from sacred music to commercial/popular music, and even the setting aside of the degrees set forth in Musicam Sacram.

    As long as people were still working toward the central objective of the robust singing Catholic congregation, they were in the position of thinking that it just hadn't worked *yet*. They could put the bulk of the burden on the congregation, and just try to draw them out or push them a little harder. But then you come along and dare to suggest that the goal was off-base to begin with, and suddenly a HUGE part of their work and effort is demonstrated to be... well, rather pointless... and fruitless.

    I take no delight in saying this, and do not intend it as uncharitable. Its simply my best analysis of the rancor behind some responses to your article. People who got used to evaluating the sacred liturgy by the sound of the congregation singing don't know where to go next without admitting that the experiment was largely unsuccessful- and unnecessary. And they might feel a little lost and resentful.
  • It strikes me that a big problem is the varying roles of various participants. Many times I've pored through documents which say the choir has a liturgical role, so I look to find what it is, but haven't found it yet, other than to encourage the congregation. I think clearer notions of which parts are for the congregation, the choir, and the priest would help a lot. The Roman documents (Musicam sacram) are clearer about this than the American ones, and the latest American one is an improvement. Then the congregation could learn their parts and not feel pressured into singing a lot more, which happens a lot of places. I can imagine congregants thinking (maybe subconsciously), well if I sing this bit, they'll want me to sing 12 more things, so I better nip this in the bud.

    Also, the priests need to sing their parts, which are mostly very simple. If the priest sings on one pitch: "The Lord be with you" or "Dominus vobiscum," how can the congregation not answer in kind?

    By the way, the reaction to the post didn't surprise me. The stand alone essay appeared to downplay the magisterial desire for active participation, but knowing Jeffrey, I also knew that wasn't what he was getting at.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Right, David, of course. I was speaking about comparing tendencies within micro-cultures of ritual settings, and how silly it is to make the only and only standard of success-a triple forte congregation, when there is no evidence that this kind of bombast has ever had a place in Catholic liturgy.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Jeffrey, flares of discussion (and vitriol) indicate real issues and differences, and the reality that things (often money) are at stake. Sincere kudos for uncovering a splendid set of assumptions, which are, as we know, tied to markets and money. I wish I had time to jump in more, but I wanted to convey to you my support and well wishes.
  • Yes, of course market and money inserted in this area makes it much harder for some to let go of control. Easier to blame it on the congregation.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Jeffrey's 'Sing Like a Catholic' and his article in defense of non-singing {Catholic] are in the same line, because too many musicians in Catholic churches are asking Catholics to sing like Protestants.

    (My former music director actually shouted out before Mass "Sing like Protestants!")
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Hmmm , I didn't think about the market and money until now. I guess hymnal publishing companies would not make much money if musicians try to focus on the congregations singing their parts, "responses and Ordinaries."
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    That's nothing Mia, I once went to a liturgy where the (no doubt liberal fool) deacon called out "DYNAMIS!", or "with strength!" during the singing at the opening rites! Imagine! I sure hope there's no other parishes with such tomfoolery going on...
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,537
    Oh, pshaw, Gavin. In the Byzantine Divine Liturgy, "Dynamis!" is part of the rite for the Trisagion, about mid-way through the liturgy, not in the opening rites.

    Also, it's not intended as an exhortation or nagging for the people to sing more loudly now and for the rest of the service, and next Sunday and always and forever and ever, but to sing the last repetition of the Trisagion with greater power.