This deserves some discussion....
  • Quoting a list member:

    "I am amazed that people think one musician can do all this. Stunned.
    Imagine the workload. Imagine trying to keep up organ chops, coordinate tons of various liturgies, and lead, let alone train, choirs and cantors. No wonder so many organist/ directors go mad.
    This job, as described, requires at least two people to make great things happen.

    Why instumentalists without a deep and working knowledge of vocal technique are still hired to train singers (in general) is still a mystery to me. Bring back pro singers!! Cathedral schools of singers were led, most often,by highly trained SINGERS. This is still the case with the best music programs.

    Are cathedrals so committed to paying one salary only that they can't seethis is not a situation for the best success? That is the only answer I can imagine."
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    I think the level of singing in parishes has come to naught. Parishes (in general) have invested in an instrument (organ) and they probably feel that an organist is the primary musician they need. What they REALLY need is a Director of Music who can oversee a proper program which requires:

    1: in depth understanding of planning liturgies which includes
    a. choosing music and training choirs, cantors, and soloists
    b. choosing music for organists (if they aren't one themselves)
    c. choosing (arranging) music and training instrumentalists

    Yes... this is a huge undertaking, if it is done properly.

    So, yes, those who do it all are most definitely stunning people :-)
  • Not disagreeing necessarily with anything anyone has said so far, but in the case that was being discussed it seems that the incumbant DID work in this situation and had great success.
  • One does not need to be able to sing to be director of music of a church, including being an effective choral director.

    In fact, choral directors with beautiful singing voices can intimidate singers.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364
    Having sat in on MA's polyphony rehearsal, I came to realize the quality singing that a well-trained vocalist can elicit from a choir. She has received extensive training in voice and so is able to bring singers into excellence.

    The quality and confidence of her group were outstanding.

    This alone makes me think that an organist/ director combination is preferable to a single person who directs from the organ. In most of the concrete situations I know of, this problem has already been solved. For the choir Mass, at least, the choir directors in my area usually have another organist playing while the director conducts.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,364
    Having sat in on MA's polyphony rehearsal, I came to realize the quality singing that a well-trained vocalist can elicit from a choir. She has received extensive training in voice and so is able to bring singers into excellence.

    The quality and confidence of her group were outstanding.

    This alone makes me think that an organist/ director combination is preferable to a single person who directs from the organ. In most of the concrete situations I know of, this problem has already been solved. For the choir Mass, at least, the choir directors in my area usually have another organist playing while the director conducts.
  • I think organists/accompanists can have a "deep and working knowledge of vocal technique" while still being organists/accompanists themselves. So, the problem isn't in hiring instrumentalists. The problem is not hiring someone who understands vocal technique, whether they're an instrumentalist or not.

    Just because I'm not an opera/pro-singer doesn't mean I can't teach good singing technique. Who cares if a music director is a pro-singer (aka. vocalist)? Are all good choral conductors pro-singers? Nope.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    There are very few (as one of my dear colleagues defines it) "trifecta" church musicians in the world. And by this description I mean excellent in each.

    I. Choral Director
    II. Organist
    III. Vocalist

    Directing from the organ is a natural for the trifecta. He/She compensates for the dynamics and tempi and is free to move in a different direction at the slightest breathe of the Holy Spirit and immediately bring the congregation and all the musicians (vocalists and instrumentalists) into the proper way adjusting the performance and the direction in every microsecond. Conducting (by itself) is highly overated.

    Compound the trifecta with these abilities and you can't beat it.

    I. Able to sight read anything (vocally)
    a. able to sing all parts in the proper register (SATB)
    b. able to instruct in breathing, phrasing and tonal technique
    c. able to read GC and MN
    d. able to transpose on sight
    II. Able to arrange music for all instruments
    III. Able to compose
    IV. Able to conduct

    (conducting is the lowest on the list IMHO... and I own and use batons!)
  • Glad you copied this for discussion, as I was going to as well.
    First off, the problem as I see it isn't mainly with organists- its with large, affluent parishes and cathedrals not wanting to hire enough musicians for mega jobs.
    Does it make sense to have 10+ people working full time as security guards and one over-burdened musician?

    If we are working toward the paradigm of chant and polyphony, with a fair helping of great organ and hymns, then why wouldn't we want to hire more trained singers, in addition to organists? If we want the best of each, why not hire each?

    I have sung under several choral directors as a choir member and soloist. The best ones, who elicit the best sound from singers, are SINGERS. Why is that so surprising? Musicianship and communication skills being equal, who would lead a guitar ensemble better, a guitarist or an oboist? Organ and voice are vastly different instruments. It does not respect the voice as an instrument to assert that all it takes is an understanding of the voice- working daily with one's own instrument matters with any instrument, including voice.

    Consider cathedral schools of the past, when polyphony and chant were in full bloom. What worked then? Well-trained singers, lots of them, and often hired ones. Do we really think the level of music literacy in our culture has improved to the point that all volunteer singers led by an organist will produce the most beauty? No.

    Music schools are churning out good singer musicians who don't necessarily want to be on the opera track. Many of them love chant and polyphony. Why not hire them?

    When one wants something painted with precision, one hires a respected painter.
    When one has a tough plumbing job, one hires a good plumber.
    When one has any job requiring specialization, one hires a specialist in that field.
    And yet, when a pastor or bishop want great singing, they don't hire singers...
    Parishes and cathedrals with means need to expand their salaries to include singers if they want great singing.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    I desperately wish I could hire vocalists and/or section leaders for both choir and schola. They are invaluable. Especially when sending sections to different rooms to learn their parts! Instrumentalists I hire for major feasts, and I am grateful to have them! I have timpani and cymbals in the church, and it is not difficult to train novices to hit the Tonic and Dominant for great support to hymn singing, etc.

    MA is right. Those who vocalise well will influence others to do the same. Although it is not necessary to be a vocalist as a DoM, it is desirable and beneficial. But is even more beneficial that the DoM is an organist too!

    On the other hand, I agree with Noel. If you know your stuff, you can elicit a superb sound without singing yourself. As a child, I sang in a state renowned boys choir for most of my elementary school life under a Princeton graduate who never sang a note. He had the ability to mentor us into choral bliss. However, that is probably rare these days.

    Nonetheless, these kind of things must be approached on a case by case, person by person basis.

    I only take MA to task in thinking that an "organist" cannot produce the excellence required. It just is not true. The secret is to hire a MUSICIAN, not just an organist, or a vocalist or a choir director. The more rounded the musician, the better off you will be.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,410
    I've mentioned this before, but I've been turned down for a handful of jobs because of my slack keyboard skills (they usually want a pianist, sometimes a pianist/organist). I've offered to take less money than the budgeted salary in order to have room to hire an accompanist. They wouldn't hear of it.
    (BTW- I play piano about as well as a folk singer plays guitar. I could probably have fooled some of these places into hiring me, but then I'd have had to subject a congregation to my fake-book skilz. I wouldn't do that to people.)

    In one case, I got a call from a priest after submitting a resume. Upon hearing that I'm a choral/vocal/composer/arranger/teacher-guy, but couldn't play piano he was almost disgusted that I had even thought they could use me. I remember the tone in his voice more than the words, but I think he said, "What, exactly, do you think you'd be able to do?" He said it in a way that made it obvious there was no point in answering.

    I think there's some kind of bias that good musicians play an instrument, and so if you don't play an instrument you're not a good (or a real) musician.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    Adam

    It's not a bias... look at it the other way around. If I can't read a line of music and sing it, but can play Bach upside down and backwards on the organ, well, that's great, but, I am limited in my ability to lead a full music program.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,410
    And that would be a good point if the people hired instead of me had all my skills PLUS were able to play organ and/or piano (lets ignore the piano debate from the other thread- that was the primary instrument at the parishes I've applied to).

    But what I've seen happen is that I was passed over for what amounted to a lounge singer piano player.


    Great organists are rare, and are likely to also be decent choir directors. If I had a choice to hire me or hire someone who was a fantastic organist, pianist, and even moderately decent choir director, I wouldn't go with me.

    But that isn't what it comes to in a lot of places. Churches that hire lounge singers because of their keyboard skills would have done better to hire me and a part-time accompanist. Especially if they want piano- there's always decent piano players around.


    All this is only tangentially related to the original "they want one person to do all THAT" post. I'm just saying- I think there's a strong under appreciation for choral/vocal skills among non-musicians.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,279
    I think the problem with most Catholic churches, is that they want all the above mentioned skills - at a $10,000. per year salary. I am not a singer, but an organist/director. My choir wouldn't sound any better if they were led by a singer. They are amateurs who are about as good as they will ever be. They actually sing rather well, but the Mormon Tabernacle need fear no competition from them.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,410
    I think the problem with most Catholic churches, is that they want all the above mentioned skills - at a $10,000. per year salary.

    Close.
    I think the problem in Catholic church music is that MOST parishes have no conception of wanting anything in particular. The parishes we complain about (who post these ads and such) represent a very small and non-indicative sample. I think the vast majority of parish music ministries are run by volunteers with no qualifications whatsoever (except maybe being able to play guitar or piano) who aren't familiar with either traditional or contemporary literature, have no understanding (liberal or orthodox) of liturgy, and can barely hold together their little rag-tag band of weak and warbly singers together.
  • We seem to be avoiding the obvious: the availability of money. The few parishes not dwindling are those with immigrant populations and we all know those tend toward limited financial resources. Most pastors are understandably concerned with keeping their parishes afloat and to convince them that an increased music budget will eventually pay off with increased attendance and giving is a hard sell - and perhaps in some locales not even accurate.

    Organists have been perhaps the first to recognize a shift in priorities. Though I’ve never met a really good organist who actually prefers playing an electronic instrument to one with pipes, the pipe organ advocacy battle – so vigorously fought prior to the past decade - has been lost. Even in New England, home to distinguished firms like C. B. Fisk and Noack, you will find none of those instruments in an area Catholic parish.

    Even in a parish like St. Paul Church in Cambridge, long committed to music excellence, money is scarce. It may be the home base of Harvard’s large Catholic student population, but the parish receives no money from the university. The parish and its choir school employs three organists (two of which are – to use Francis’ word – trifectas.) Even with that, however, they work themselves to exhaustion. And though they may earn salaries that would be envied in some parts of the country, they deserve much more.

    The decline in church attendance has been the most significant social trend in my rather long life. Growing up in a small town when church affiliation was considered essential to business and personal success, I would never have foreseen this shift. Perhaps we are putting the cart before the horse. Church music budgets won’t improve until fervor for the Christian life becomes again part of our social fabric.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    It's not unexpected that this thread has deteriorated into a debate about the cultural and economic realities of local parish life. But the instant case isn't a local parish, and while the Basilica may be feeling the effects of the current economy, they're hardly an impoverished local parish. They're a high-profile Basilica with (at least by a tour of the website) a vibrant, active and relatively well-off parish with a highly-developed and nationally recognized music program.

    The outgoing DM is the formidable John Romeri. I'm not sure he did all of the work that's spelled out in the current job description on his own. I believe his wife was also heavily involved in the administration of the music program at the Basilica, together with a well-organized army of volunteers and part-time employees (and probably interns as well). Otherwise, I doubt very much that Romeri would have been able to engage in all of the NPM activities he was involved in - choral workshops, choral music reading sessions for GIA, choral festivals, concerts, recitals, heading up various divisions at the national level and so on, that would have taken him away from the Basilica on a regular basis.

    I suspect that nobody in the administration really gave much thought to the current structure of the programs and just what it takes to maintain such a program. It's not so much a question of talent or level of ability, as I know many accomplished organists who are also capable choir trainers (because they themselves were well-trained choristers) and possess the skills necessary to administer a program. It is, rather, a question of time. There are only 26 hours in a day, and a laundry list of daily tasks at a high-profile institution such as the Basilica takes about 28 hours per day to get everything done, IF (I say, if) the "incumbent" isn't married with children, doesn't need to clean house, do laundry, shop for groceries and tend to other personal matters.

    Here is Dr. Romeri's bio: http://www.pcchoirs.org/docs/John Romeri Bio.pdf

    Here is the article that discusses his departure: http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/arts-and-theatre/culture-club/article_2f947ab0-9545-11df-9c39-0017a4a78c22.html
  • Musicianship and communication skills being equal, who would lead a guitar ensemble better, a guitarist or an oboist?


    Either, because it takes a good musician to lead any other kind of musician. Does a good concert band director play every concert band instrument at a professional level? Most likely not. Should they at least understand and be able to teach a basic technique for every instrument under their direction? Of course they should. All good elementary, middle, and high school concert band directors do this.
  • I respectfully disagree, Jeffrey. I chose the example of a guitar ensemble because its all one instrument, like a choir with all voices. Your example is very different, as it takes many types of instruments into consideration. Obviously the director of such a group wouldn't be remarkably skilled in more than a dozen instruments.

    While an percussionist might have the musicianship required to lead a band that includes trumpet players, the percussionist wouldn't claim to have more knowledge than a trumpeter to lead a brass quintet.

    Musicianship and communication skills being equal, it makes sense that singer will have a more developed sense of technique and artistry on their instrument than an organist.

    Can organists, especially those trained as choristers, etc., be CAPABLE choir directors? Certainly. Some can be very good. But again, musicianship and communication skills being equal, the highly trained singer will have a more refined skill set with which to train singers.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    David:

    Just an aside:

    Dr. Romeri is accomplished, as we see by his bio and the article. But I don't see anywhere in either where the liturgy is mentioned one time. Granted, this is only two sources, but I think there needs to be a shift in the thinking of these organizations in terms of where the rubber meets the road (musically speaking) and that the liturgy needs to be central.

    Basilicas and Cathedrals sometimes wander off into being more of a concert hall or museum than putting the effort into where it truly belongs first... the liturgy.
  • David Andrew is correct that this discussion is primarily centered on cathedrals and parishes with means.
    I am NOT trying to pit organist against singer. I think we need both in cathedrals and parishes with means, and so I am trying to make two main points.

    1) If bishops and pastors want excellence in both purely vocal music (chant and polyphony) and great organ music, they should be working to employ BOTH high level singers and high level organists.

    2) The job descriptions, such as the one I was referring to, describe the workload of (at least) two people but pay only one unimusician, demonstrate an impoverished set-up. This will not be nearly as likely to produce a flourishing and model sacred music program as the program that utilizes choir director AND organist.
    Who is determined to be the DoM could be up to several factors, such as experience and education level.


    I am not saying the unimusician model cannot work OK in small parishes or even large ones with the abilities of a superb musician. Many of us have no choice other than to work in this type of situation. Still, the problem of overworking organists and DoM's across the country could be resolved to everyone's satisfaction by hiring highly trained musician-singers.

    Organists and singers who are pursuing the sacred music paradigm are all on the SAME TEAM. May we both be increasingly utilized in the service of the Church.

    So, I ask again... at the cathedral and mega parish level-
    Does it make sense to have 10+ people working full time as security guards and one over-burdened musician? Can anyone defend this as the BEST WAY?
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    MA, Singing Mum:

    Can organists, especially those trained as choristers, etc., be CAPABLE choir directors? Certainly. Some can be very good. But again, musicianship and communication skills being equal, the highly trained singer will have a more refined skill set with which to train singers.


    Oh, I don't know.

    Barry Rose (organist and choir trainer: Guilford Cathedral program established from scratch; St. Paul's London)
    James O'Donnell (organist and choir trainer: Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral)
    John Scott (organist and choir trainer: St. Thomas 5th Ave., St. Paul's London
    Simon Preston (organist and choir trainer: Westminster Abbey)
    Steven Cleobury (organist and choir trainer: King's College, Cambridge)
    Bruce Neswick (organist and choir trainer: St. John the Divine, St. Paul's Buffalo)
    David Willcocks (organist and choir trainer: King's College, Cambridge)

    Capable organists all, with demonstrated success in training choirs. These men trained treble choristers, many of whom went on to be highly refined musicians, many who went on to be choir trainers or vocal soloists themselves.

    Q.E.D., I think.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,279
    No, of course not. Musicians are often not paid well in many, if not most, parishes. Fifty years ago, it wasn't any different. Sometimes it's a case of musicians working for priests who may like good music, but have little understanding of what it takes to produce it. In some instances, one can have the misfortune to succeed a workaholic, and be expected to do the same. The example is often given of dear old Aunt Bessie who gave her life at the console for the glory of God. Of course she was paid next to nothing.

    I guess we could all quit, but that would only be effective in Protestant churches. In Catholic churches, guitars would probably be brought in. Some of us stay because we are fearful of what our successors would do.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    MA

    As right as you are, the thinking has to change at the level of bishop, rector and pastor. And that change in thinking has to come from the seminaries that VALUE excellent liturgy: vestments, architecture, music, the proper role of a celebrant as priest in personae Christi. This means a paradigm shift in the attitude that surrounds the praying church - Oremus must be the center of life, the sacraments, devotion to Our Lady and the Saints, praying the Rosary and Eucharistic Adoration, must come from the priest, not be delegated to a lay person. From the heart the mouth speaks. Hearts must change and then that will reflect out into the life of the parishes by putting priority where it belongs (and once the mouth is in the right place, so will the money be). What a leader does in moderation, his followers will do in excess.
  • Francis, YES. The thinking has to change at the level of bishop, rector and pastor. Which means it starts in the seminary.

    David, who can argue with your list? You leave out a few big factors, though, which are true for most large CofE programs- 1) many of their adult singers, and even choristers, are also trained by voice teachers. Their training does not solely consist of an organist teacher.
    2) Many of their singers are also paid.

    With advances in vocal pedagogy and schools that train singers to have high levels of musicianship as well as developed vocal artistry, I ask you pointedly,
    Why not hire such singers to train and direct other, mostly volunteer singers in Catholic cathedrals and mega parishes? Do you really think they have no special expertise and should be looked over in preference for organists?
  • David, at the risk of being too cheeky, imagine the increased level of gloriousness in the choirs you mentioned had pro singers trained them. I couldn't resist.

    Perhaps one day, if it strikes your fancy, we could collaborate on Cantata 51. I'm a huge Bach fan, myself.
  • They wouldn't be glorious because the singers in all of those choirs are boys who are involved in a voice training program that focuses upon the unchanged male voice. I have deleted the one that I am not sure of.


    Barry Rose (organist and choir trainer: Guilford Cathedral program established from scratch; St. Paul's London)
    James O'Donnell (organist and choir trainer: Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral)
    John Scott (organist and choir trainer: St. Thomas 5th Ave., St. Paul's London
    Simon Preston (organist and choir trainer: Westminster Abbey)
    Steven Cleobury (organist and choir trainer: King's College, Cambridge)
    Bruce Neswick (organist and choir trainer: St. John the Divine)

    These vocal training programs rarely produce what is considered a trained adult voice in US terms, but do turn out excellent choristers as adults in most cases.

    The music can rarely be sung by women with the same tone quality, the tone quality it was composed for, unless the choral director is able to choose singers who can control their voices to a degree not taught or called for in US music conservatories, where project of the voice is a major concern rather than the coloring of tone and absence of vibrato called for in this music.

    But MA, I have heard you sing and you know this!
  • I chose the example of a guitar ensemble because its all one instrument, like a choir with all voices.


    Is a concert band really so much different than a choir? In my entire life, I have never heard two singers sound identical. One could say one singer sounds like a bassoon while one singer sounds like a flute. You have to take into consideration all of your singers, because they will all sound naturally different. You have to understand what you're working with, whether you're a soprano conducting a men's choir, or if you're an organist leading a church choir.

    While an percussionist might have the musicianship required to lead a band that includes trumpet players, the percussionist wouldn't claim to have more knowledge than a trumpeter to lead a brass quintet.


    I think your instrumental analogies are furthering my point more than yours. Yes, a trumpetist is more capable of leading a brass quintet than a percussionist would since there are actually no conductors within a brass quintet. The performers, themselves are leading each other, most often the 1st trumpet player. Not only that, but there are different brass instruments in a brass quintet (typically four different brasswinds) which require not only slightly different techniques of playing between each other, but there are also different fingerings, etc. So, if one person who specializes in one particular instrument can lead an ensemble of other instruments, then you don't need to be a "pro-whatever" to affectively lead them. You simply just need to understand what you're working with.

    I thought that's what music education degrees do for people - to prepare musicians to direct ensembles of their choosing, whether that be choir, concert band, orchestra, etc, regardless of their actual major instrument. You don't have to be a "pro-singer" to direct a choir, but you do have to be a singer.
  • Jeffrey,

    You have to be able to tell a singer how to sing (none of them can sing effectively without a coach, ever. And the finest ones fly their coaches around the world with them to get them set for performances) to get a good choral sound.

    Singing ability IS required, but being a polished singer is not.
  • Jeffrey, I'm not advocating what one needs to do to have a decent or good program.
    I'm putting forward how pro singers can help craft an excellent program due to their level of expertise.
    Cathedrals especially, and parishes of means, can start thinking outside the box to demonstrate excellence.

    (And I know how a brass quintet typically functions. That's why I chose the word leader instead of conductor or director.)
  • I cannot envision any cathedral or church hiring a pro singer to teach choir members how to sing.

    I have been in touch with around 6,000 churches over the past 10 years and one of them offers singing lessons from a pro.

    Not good odds.

    What all churches need it a leader that can produce results without having to hire singers....this leaves more money available to pay this person for being a leader!

    Some of the most frustrated (now here we have candidates for musicians going mad) are singers who are very good singers being stuck in a job as choir director where they never get to sing.
  • You have to be able to tell a singer how to sing ... to get a good choral sound.


    @frogman noel jones
    That's exactly what I'm saying.

    I'm putting forward how pro singers can help craft an excellent program due to their level of expertise.


    @MA, Singing Mum
    That's really only if they can teach and direct well. I've been under the direction of plenty of "professional-performers" (whether it be a "professional-singer" or a "professional-clarinetist"), yet they weren't good at the teaching/directing aspect of what they're "professional" at. In other words, they made fabulous performers, but not good teachers/directors of their "instrument".
  • Jeffrey, true point. That's part of the package I'm referring to when I say, "musicianship and communication skills being equal"... I would put pedagogical and conducting skills in that area. Many pro singers are deficient in those areas, and still many others are strong.
  • MA!

    How much time has an average pro singer spent in class learning choral vocal pedagogy in comparison to time spent in voice lessons?

    In a former life, married to a soprano from a major music conservatory, I am aware that there were no classes offered, in fact there was no choir or vocal ensemble...aside from opera class where the spent time trying to outdo each other in power during scene quintets!
  • I agree that being a pro singer does not relate to choral pedagogical skills. In my own college experience, voice majors had to take a 2-hr Vocal Pedagogy class, and it only focused on operatic vocal production. Much is learned in lessons, but their being voice performance majors over my being an organ performance major does not make them automatically better choral conductors than me. We actually covered a lot about choral technique in Conducting classes, but for all musicians, we never are there. There's always more we can learn. To be the best choral conductors we can be, we have to apply what we learned in school, with what we learn from constant continuing education and practice, practice, practice.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,061
    *to bring things back onto topic regarding the original quote* and DA & francis' comments:

    I was hired by John Romeri (he was consultant) for my current parish job in St. Louis immediately after grad school at UT-Austin. I thought it might be informative to the discussion to outline the people (formerly) involved in the Cathedral-Basilica music program's administration/programs:

    1) Director of Music/Organist (Dr. Romeri); included are responsibilities as director of the Office of Sacred Music for the archdiocese.
    2) Assistant Director of Music/Organist (similar responsibilities as above, along the lines of that in a large Episcopal cathedral/parish, but also helping with OoSM)
    (*as was mentioned, Karen Romeri was at one time the assistant, I believe, and did still direct the archdiocesan handbell choir after she left the other responsibilites*)
    3) Organ Scholar (not sure what the pay was with this, but David Ball, the past o.s. now at Julliard, was very, very good and accompanied a large part of the archdiocesan liturgies and also played a lot of the accompaniments and voluntaries for parish things)
    4) Music office assistant/secretary

    As others have pointed out, it is interesting that the current job listing appeared as it did. I can only imagine that they will let the new DoM hire an assistant after the DoM position is filled; otherwise, it is very hard to believe one person (even two!) could accomplish the work for the very large music program AND have a well-run office of worship for the archdiocese. Also, as someone pointed out above, my comments are excluding the "Cathedral Concerts" series, which is a whole other can o' worms, one which may now be better run as a discrete entity from the cathedral and archdiocese.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    Bruce:

    Interesting insights.

    We are DoMs. However, the reality is we are DoSMs. Directors of SACRED Music. Even more to the point, DoRCSM... (plugging my website now...) It is our business to spend our time developing and perfecting just that. Do you want to conduct Beethoven or Stravinsky? Well, go to a concert hall. Do not profane the Church with such.

    If we truly put our energy into perfecting the chant and polyphony, and even chamber works and supporting instrumentalists, and directed our efforts toward every feast day making the liturgical event par excellence, we wouldn't feel as driven to put the time into a concert series (the need to entertain with quasi-sacred or secular music.) We would be 'entertaining God himself' with our efforts where the height of splendor would find its climax during the liturgy (where it TRULY belongs.)

    I don't think the problems are in the programs themselves, but in the primary focus of thinking from the top down when it comes to a Cathedral (or larger parish) music program. And here is the case in point. I composed a choral/orchestral work a couple of years ago, (Septum Ultima) which you can read about and hear on this forum. However, it is the mind of the Church in addressing concerts that the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Tabernacle! I have a real problem with this. If all the music we performed in the liturgical space was sacred, HE should not have to be removed. The music should never be allowed in! But since there are allowances in the minds of all, then that opens the door (literally opening the Tabernacle and moving God out of His own Throne) because the music is just not up to spec when God is around?! Who are we fooling! If God can't be there when we are performing in the sanctuary we should seriously think twice about the content that is being presented on consecrated ground.

    And the irony of all of this, is that we introduce the musical trite, heretical, narcissistic and even sacrilegious into the very liturgy itself. That to me is like smacking Christ in the face with a whip. (think about the passion here)

    Running a concert series is a tricky endeavor (as far as a Catholic Church is concerned) because music for concerts is supposed to be music that was (in the mind of the composer) created for the Sacred Music venue. This means that Beethoven and his Ninth should never approach the altar. It should stay in the concert hall where it belongs. (besides, the text is pure humanism). That goes for much of the instrumental music that we often hear in the church: Chopin, Mozart, etc. Now to play devil's advocate with myself, I would also say that some music intrinsically leads us to thoughts of God. Is it a clear black and white issue in our concert series? No... I myself lead a concert series here that does not comprise ONLY 'sacred music'. Do I struggle with this? YES!!! If God were not removed, I think I would be much more careful what was programmed on the series. But I do try to steer it toward the subliminal and towards that which drives others toward God. Highly subjective when you as the director are making those calls and choices.

    Nonetheless, I think we should all rename our titles from DoM to DoSM just for the sake of keeping our purpose and focus absolutely clear.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,061
    Francis,

    Of course I would not object strenuously to being a DoSM (though I am in favor of the briefest acronyms possible, in general!)

    I personally would subscribe to all the points in the CDW's 1987 statement found here (http://www.adoremus.org/concerts.html).

    Regarding seminaries, I can only say that I believe that Kenrick-Glennon has to be one of the, if not THE, top seminaries in the country for study of the sacred liturgy. Suffice to say that they study the fullness of the Sacred Liturgy. Fr. Samuel Weber, OSB, teaches the "introduction to liturgy", if that is any indication. Also, I have many friends whom are in seminary at K-G, and they are all well-versed in liturgical matters. I was asked to make a presentation to a class at K-G by Fr. Samuel to explain the qualities desirable in (and process in hiring) music directors and organists. I was impressed that even the pre-theologians had a good grasp of things.

    However, my post was simply to note how extensive the St. Louis position has become WITHOUT considering the non-essential responsibilities inherent in adding such a large concert series. Also, since I think the seminarians are getting such great training here (and they come from a number of Midwestern (arch)dioceses, too, so they could have a HUGE impact), I'd love to see the new cathedral music director be someone who is interested in their liturgical and musical formation AND is interested in propagating that through the Office of Worship, too. Obviously, if it is one person doing all that, that's not possible, thus the topic of my post.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    Bruce:

    Very impressive. I would consider a degree from a KG myself if I could get in. Yes, that document is the one I subscribe to. Now if the rest of the AC Church would only get behind it!
  • Francis,

    I have been thinking myself about the issues that you have brought up lately. For instance, I am right now perfecting and reviewing a fugue by Schubert as well as two pieces from the Suite Gothique by Boellmann for this coming weekend's liturgies. Are these concert pieces that really have no place before/after/during the mass? What about selections from the Widor organ symphonies? Is it only appropriate to play music such as chorale preludes or pieces based upon chants? These are questions that you elude to and that I have been pondering lately.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    Well, like I said as a caveat, it is very difficult to make it black and white this side of heaven, especially when it is not directly concerned with the liturgy itself. It seems to me the problem arises when the exception to the norm replaces the norm, as has happened with hymns and the propers. (You can read more about this in the other top post on the forum which keeps getting tossed back and forth.) Before or after Mass is really not too much of an issue for Widor or Schubert I suspect. I try to limit my concerns to the liturgy itself, starting with the Introit (which we actually perform on high feasts, otherwise, the hymn is quite entrenched and would be hard to toss out, which seems to be the argument for keeping it... the "ole local custom clause" or the one invented by the progressives, 'de gustibus non est disputandum' which, of course, because it is in Latin cannot be disputed itself... and has nothing to do with the choice of proper liturgical music.

    Then again, I am 'forced' to play Wagner's and Mendelssohn's trashy wedding music time and time again, and there seems to be no case against it as far as the heirarchy is concerned. I try to educate people, but in the end have to be careful about refusing to play anything... however, I did refuse to participate in the Byrds "For everything there is a season, turn, turn" complete with electric guitar at a funeral this year. God forgive us our trespasses.
  • @Francis:
    Dude, as a musicologist of repute, you should know that the "Turn, Turn, Turn...." was popularized (wonderfully) by McGuinn and the Byrds, but remains the authorship of the more revolutionary Pete Seegar. See, things coulda been worse than a Rickenbacher 12 string, you coulda had a banjo for the funeral recessional.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    I have nothing against a Rickenbacher... I have a Martin 12 string... its the CONTENT that does not belong. And it was for the Communion meditation... not the recessional! Good ole Pete. I am not eager to play Seager (for Mass).
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,279
    Interesting thing about "Turn, Turn, Turn." The liturgical illiterate who teaches music and does the music for our school masses, dragged that out for the kids to sing last week. Is there some kind of NPM conspiracy going on?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    na.. i think you are being paranoid... its actually just a new age global conspiracy.
  • PGA
    For me it's an issue of affect, not pre-existing content. Does the organ work speak of the holy? If you stripped the titles off, played it as a prelude, and then asked congregants what it meant to them, what would you hear? For me, a lot of 20th c French organ music is gratuitously ugly. And some seems to be about something else entirely (Hindemith organ sonatas for instance). I think there's a place for good taste informed by tradition.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    I played the Hindemith in College and was never interested to play it since. How's that for being opinionated? I think his music is intellectually interesting, very interesting. For church... nah... there is no spiritual content (at least in the one I played)
  • CharlesW: At least the words to "Turn, Turn, Turn" are a near-direct quote from Scripture (except for the last little bit). Compared with the lyrics of some other pieces of church music we're familiar with, it's positively Gregorian. ;-)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,279
    When I play French, I will stick with Vierne, Franck, Widor, etc. I never cared for the later stuff.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,279
    Francis, the thing with "Turn, Turn, Turn" is that I had not heard it in 30 years. It's not coming back, is it? Next it will be "Michael rowed the boat ashore" again. Horrors!
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,577
    Well, all the old hippies are dying out now, so they are all dragging out their old LP's and turning up the volume. But soon the Byrds will stop their singing and there will be silence in the air. Ah, ever so sweet silence... leave us not as carrion to the Byrds.