Organ Use During Advent
  • Is the organ supposed to be used less in Advent, as it is in Lent?
    Does this apply to the OF Mass as well as the EF Mass?
    What about preludes and postludes?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
  • Yes to all questions.

    General Instruction of the Roman Missal (2002) 313:

    "In Advent the organ and other musical instruments should be used with a moderation that is consistent with the season's character and does not anticipate the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord."

    Musicam Sacram (1967)* 65-66:

    "In sung or said Masses, the organ, or other instrument legitimately admitted, can be used to accompany the singing of the choir and the people; it can also be played solo at the beginning before the priest reaches the altar, at the Offertory, at the Communion, and at the end of Mass.

    "The same rule, with the necessary adaptations, can be applied to other sacred celebrations.

    "The playing of these same instruments as solos is not permitted in Advent, Lent, during the Sacred Triduum and in the Offices and Masses of the Dead."

    *"'Musicam Sacram' has not been abrogated and indeed its principles are still in force." — Fr. Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy
  • Additionally:

    It seems that in lieu of organ music should be choral or congregational music, especially if the selections are in keeping with the character of the liturgy and the season. Absolute silence might be employed depending on the congregation's comfort with it, but we live in a culture that is very uncomfortable with silence.

    In the parishes I'm situated, the organ prelude is eliminated during Advent except for Gaudete Sunday (III Advent) and for Immaculate Conception. But I do employ muted organ accompaniment at Communion after the sung selection, as well as muted and less frantic postludes — accompanied silence, as it were — working with an ear towards complete compliance with the Church's norms on a gradual basis, season by season.
    Thanked by 2Mary Ann RedPop4
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,451
    Besides "supposed to," this should also be covered by "it's such a good idea why wouldn't you?"

    We're doing WAY less organ this Advent (and I already do a good bit of unaccompanied choral music and chant). This is my first Advent at this parish, and they love it.

    I'm also testing out pieces of my new unaccompanied Mass setting, based on Shaker chants. (One of the benefits of working in an Episcopalian parish right now is that they don't care much about translations one way or the other, so I can try out musical settings of the new Ordinary freely. By the way, no one died when we sang "God of Hosts" instead of "Power and Might.")

    To wit:
    Unaccompanied Kyrie (my setting - Greek)
    Unaccompanied Sanctus (my setting - English [new ICEL] )
    Unaccompanied Gospel Acclamation
    Unaccompanied "Post-Communion Chant" (this is usually unaccompanied anyway)
    Unaccompanied Offertory (a choral piece... they like to call it an "anthem." Whatever)

    They don't sing (but rather say) the Mystery of Faith and the Amen.
    They usually sing the Our Father (an overwrought, schmaltzy setting written by a former music director). We are speaking it during Advent.

    And the customary Processional Hymn use of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is being done with an accomp. that gradually scales back each verse until we sing the last "Rejoice! Rejoice!" unaccompanied.

    I think I might be making my organist sad, but he's getting paid the same for about half the work.
    I can't take away his organ prelude, though- he seems to think it's an official part of the liturgy.
    Thanked by 1RedPop4
  • I'm curious to know just how many cathedral church parishes, under the watchful eye of the diocesan director of liturgy and music, eliminates organ during Advent and Lent? Or, how many bishops and priests adhere to the other norms set forth in Musicam sacram, such as the chanting of all of the dialogues between celebrant and people? This, after all, is specified in MS:

    28. The distinction between solemn, sung and read Mass, sanctioned by the Instruction of 1958 (n. 3), is retained, according to the traditional liturgical laws at present in force. However, for the sung Mass (Missa cantata), different degrees of participation are put forward here for reasons of pastoral usefulness, so that it may become easier to make the celebration of Mass more beautiful by singing, according to the capabilities of each congregation.

    These degrees are so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first. In this way the faithful will be continually led toward an ever greater participation in the singing.

    29. The following belong to the first degree:
    (a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.
    (b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.
    (c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's Prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

    30. The following belong to the second degree:
    (a) the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei;
    (b) the Creed;
    (c) the prayer of the faithful.

    31. The following belong to the third degree:
    (a) the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions;
    (b) the songs after the Lesson or Epistle;
    (c) the Alleluia before the Gospel;
    (d) the song at the Offertory;
    (e) the readings of Sacred Scripture, unless it seems more suitable to proclaim them without singing.

    Clearly, the reference to use of the organ in Advent notwithstanding, there are plenty of cases, perhaps in our own churches, where the priest does NOT chant those parts specified in Para. 29, while elements of 30 and 31 are employed every Sunday. Does this not constitute a violation of the legislation every bit as much as inclusion of preludes and postludes in Advent? Does it make any sense, therefore, to adhere so scrupulously to the prohibition of the use of the organ in Advent, while ignoring these? After all, the elements of Para 29 truly impact the "full, active and conscious participation of the Faithful" by joining themselves with the priest in the action at the altar. The presence or absence of organ music does not, except perhaps in the minds of those who are familiar with the documents.

    Ultimately, to engage in this kind of debate is much like arguing about how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. There are other, more important elements of the Mass that are being ignored or subjected to abuse in many parishes. I'll wager that concern over the use or exclusion of the organ in Advent and Lent doesn't rate high on that list for many of us.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,072
    I basically follow Aristotle's pattern above for Advent; during Lent, I don't do anything before or after Mass, and try to plan everything very tightly so that there will be choral/congregational music covering everything except for an appropriate amount of prayerful silence.

    From my experience, the admonition against preludes and postludes during Advent (and especially Lent) is not obeyed in US cathedrals. It's a shame, too, because since there's so much wonderful Advent organ music from Bach et al, it's a great opportunity to give an Advent recital outside of Mass.
    Thanked by 2CCooze RedPop4
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,694
    I don't play preludes or postludes. If the Communion or Offertory hymns (yes, still using 4 hymn sandwich here, though with faux propers at one Mass) end early I do a short improvisation on it and then end it earlier than I would during Ordinary Time.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,933
    I don't play preludes or postludes. At the pastor's instruction, I play softly during offertory to cover collection noises. However, I find that bombastic, never-ending singing is far less in keeping with the season than soft organ playing and some silence. It does appear, for any practical purpose, the penitential aspects of the season are generally lost anymore, at least in U.S. churches.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,668
    O God help us find our way out of the darkness please.
  • The parish I currently serve was previously served by a dillettante organist whose knowledge of sacred Catholic music was cripplingly limited. He knew about 20 songs (the usual Haugen/Haas stuff, plus a smattering of traditional devotional hymns and the basic Polish repertoire), and apart from that he had absolutely no liturgical sense whatsoever. To make an issue out of organ use in Advent and Lent in my current situation wouldn't balance well against more critical issues that must be addressed.

    My philosophical position, which may or may not be shared by others on this board, is that there are far bigger liturgical/musical fish to fry (in my parish, at least) than to agonize over whether or not it is appropriate to play preludes or postludes in Advent. There is a delicate edge one must walk when making decisions about these matters.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 517

    You make a good case for your approach to the use of the organ in Advent.

    Still, there is a difference between the prohibition of the organ in Advent (except the third Sunday) and the degrees of the incorporation of music in Musicam Sacram. The prohibition of the organ in Advent (and Lent) is a long-standing tradition; in the old rite it was a foregone conclusion that the organ would not be played in Advent. The three degrees in Musicam Sacram should be read in the context of the introduction to the section which states that the distinction between the low and the high Mass is to be retained, but for the sake of gradually introducing more music these degrees are set forth. Sing to the Lord has proposed that these degrees are degrees of solemnity and should be used to distinguish greater feasts from lesser ones. I think that is at least not justified in the text of MS; moreover, the distinction of seasons in the old rite was achieved by other means--no flowers, no organ, purple vestments, etc.--not by eliminating the singing of some texts. The cue to the status of these degrees as slightly less than binding, as paradigm to be adapted, is in the last paragraph of the section, which concedes that even in a low Mass, some of the sung parts of the Mass can e used. So it authorizes the singing of some of the parts of the proper or ordinary, even when the priest does not sing anything.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,668
    Dr. Mahrt et al:

    So, what is the 'official' (USA) position on the use of organ during Advent?
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    The most recent position is stated in GIRM 2000 + USA Adaptations == GIRM 2003

    313. The organ and other lawfully approved musical instruments are to be placed in an appropriate place so that they can sustain the singing of both the choir and the congregation and be heard with ease by all if they are played alone. It is appropriate that, before being put into liturgical use, the organ be blessed according to the rite described in the Roman Ritual.[124]

    In Advent the organ and other musical instruments should be used with a moderation that is consistent with the season’s character and does not anticipate the full joy of the Nativity of the Lord.

    In Lent the playing of the organ and musical instruments is allowed only to support the singing. Exceptions are Laetare Sunday (Fourth Sunday of Lent), solemnities, and feasts.

    Liturgical Music Document Literacy Challenge
    Thanked by 1GregoryWeber
  • francis
    Posts: 10,668
    thnx eft.
    Thanked by 1RedPop4
  • To the above statement: "The prohibition of the organ in Advent (and Lent) is a long-standing tradition; in the old rite it was a foregone conclusion that the organ would not be played in Advent", I would ask: does this mean the prohibition of all organ playing, or just the prohibition of solo organ playing? I was always under the impression (which seems entirely consistent with the official documents' proclamations noted earlier in this thread) that organ accompaniment could be, with discretion, used during the relevant seasons.
  • Here the Organ is used for the openning and closing hymns if they are not chants,

    for the responsorial psalm if necessary,

    Memorial acclamation,

    postludes, and

    chant intonations.
    And that would be most Sundays. No postludes, organ meditation or solo organ pieces in Lent and Advent.
    And I rarely use preludes.
  • While this thread specifically treats the issue of the organ, I was very dismayed when I heard the regular live broadcast of the Sunday Mass from our Cathedral yesterday morning. Not only were the Mariachis playing at full blown fury, they also managed to make a debacle of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". The music is supposed to be subdued during Advent. What upsets me is that the Cathedral is supposed to set the standard for liturgy in the diocese. It is not, in my opinion, leading by example.
    Thanked by 1RedPop4
  • henry
    Posts: 241
    In response to Aristotle's quote from Musicam Sacram: the Roman Missal says that the organ may be played with moderation during Advent. I interpret that as quiet, Advent-based Preludes and other music during the Mass as needed. Does that seem correct?
    Thanked by 2CharlesW RedPop4
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,217
    Errmmmm.....think of Advent as what it is: anticipatory of the Great Light of Christmas.

    In almost any dramatic realization of "waiting," such is done in relative silence. Not complete silence. "Hushed" might be the best word.

    (Lent is different--it's penitential, so the organ which always stood for 'joy' should be silent.)

    Church musicians, generally speaking, think of music as the sine qua non of "church." That's just not correct.

  • dad29
    Posts: 2,217
    One more thing, to the lovers of Bach's stuff: it is worth remembering that Bach was NOT a Catholic.

    Yes, I love his stuff, too. I've sung the B Minor, the Magnificat, the St John and St Matthew, and a couple of lesser goodies. I have a bunch of his organ literature in rep and scores for a bunch more. So what?

    Bach was not bound by RC liturgical norms.....
    Thanked by 2CharlesW RedPop4
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,933
    No, Bach wasn't Catholic. I find it difficult to fit some of those Lutheran works into a Catholic mass. If I actually liked him, I might try harder, but it is what it is.

    Advent: No postludes, accompany hymns and choir, and play soft music at communion. I don't do preludes, either. It is difficult to tone it down when the congregation sees Advent as 4 weeks of shopping before Christmas.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,668
    I don’t use Bach’s choral works... ever. Only his instrumental music for preludes and postludes. ‘‘Tis a shame he was not Catholic.
    Thanked by 1RedPop4
  • ...a shame...

    Indeed, it is.
    However, most modern-day Lutherans (many of whom are really 'Baptist Lutherans') would think the liturgy at Leipzig or Luebeck at Bach's and Buxtehude's time was down-rite papistical. A true Lutheran would know that he has much more in common with the Catholic Church than with any Protestant church. There are, scattered here and there, Lutheran equivalents of the Anglo-Catholics, some of whom wish for a 'Lutheran Ordinariate' - the which, I've heard, Rome has said is not going to happen.

    As for Bach's (or any other Lutheran's) music at Catholic liturgy, well, we use it all the time, do we not? We sing Lutheran chorales as hymns and anthems. Many are the German Lutheran motets that are suitable for Catholic liturgy, And, for a great solemnity one could not do better than Bach's magnificent double-choir motet, Singet dem Herrn, ein neues lied (Psalm CXLIX, et al.), as an offertory offering. For many, Advent would not be complete without Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme or Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (which just happens to be a German version of Ambrose of Milan's Veni redemptor gentium); and Holy Week would be incomplete without the 'Passion Chorale', O Haupt, woll blut und wunden. Christmas, too, is well graced with Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel herunter (if you can play it!), not to mention Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her, or that justly beloved macaronic carol, In dulci jubilo. One could hardly find a grander organ voluntary for Mary feasts than Bach's fuga sopra il Magnificat - with the tonus perigrinus as cantus firmus. And as for other organ chorales and free organ works, playing them when their texts or moods are appropriate to the Lectionary is not to be discouraged - even though few in the pews would make the connexion. But neither, unfortunately, would they make the connexion of an organ work based on a Gregorian hymn-tune matched with the Lectionary. Our people are astonishingly poorly catechised and, for all intents and purposes, are simply ignorant (yes, ignorant!) of their patrimony of church music. And this is the grievous (nay, the MOST grievous) fault of the clerical order, and our seminaries and schools - which is no reason for US to sink so low rather than to build up, to aedify, to enrich.

    As a 'post-script' to what I wrote above, it occurs to me that, regardless of confessional origin, there are certain musics (and, indeed, other of the arts) which are so profound as expressions of human and Christian faith and spirituality that they transcend confessional boundaries, that they have become the property of all. This includes them being the property of the Catholic Church, too, insofar as they have not a negative, but, rather, a positive relationship with Catholic truth. Exemplary of this assertion would be much of the Anglican choral tradition, much of the German organ and choral tradition, and other artful and literary treasures culled from here and there. Even if one were to find a Buddhist saying that happened to express a Catholic truth, it would be, ipso facto, Catholic. As I have argued many times elsewhere, what is not expressive of non-Catholic falsehood, what, indeed, states Catholic truth, IS, regardless of its origin, CATHOLIC, and shares in the patrimony common to all of Christendom.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,368
    But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. (Mk. 9:39 RSV)
  • Germans have a right to be 'despoiled', just as much as the Egyptians.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,933
    " it occurs to me that, regardless of confessional origin, there are certain musics (and, indeed, other of the arts) which are so profound as expressions of human and Christian faith and spirituality that they transcend confessional boundaries, that they have become the property of all. This includes them being the property of the Catholic Church, too,... "

    being a little ecumenically promiscuous are we?
  • henry
    Posts: 241
    How does any of the above relate to the original question: using the organ during Lent!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,933
    Advent. Not the same. However, it seems folks do as they please and ignore church directives.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,933
    Henry, you don't know us very well. We are incapable of staying on topic for very long. ;-)
  • I had to chuckle this past weekend when I did not play a postlude (per usual the last 2 years since my arrival at the behest of a traditionally-minded priest) and the deacon had no idea what to do. He bowed to the altar with the priest at the end of mass and then just stood there... he wouldn’t profess out. Finally the priest had to “shout-whisper” (deacon is deafer than a door nail) “go!” And I could hear it all the way from the loft. Lol. Poor deacon.

    As for being uncomfortable with silence as others alluded to above, that’s one of the things that makes using silence during Advent so very poignant in our time. It makes the liturgy feels so very stark and barren and makes us suddenly very aware of our surroundings and almost self-conscious… Which has a very profound effect, in my personal opinion.