British Columbia, Canada, Sacred Music Scene?
  • JonDeulingJonDeuling
    Posts: 12
    Question: I'm from British Columbia, Canada, and want to consider whether or not God is calling me to be involved in progressing in the study, practice, performance of sacred music. What do y'all suggest? I'm an ear trained musician with the bare minimum of theory behind me, however, I've a heart full of inspiration for these wonderful old forms of great music. I'd love to make some friends of Sacred Music involvement, too, if you're in BC or close by! Thanks

    Jon
  • PMulholland
    Posts: 120
    I'm in BC, will send you a message. Western Canada is a bit of a liturgical wasteland... very lukewarm and minimalist with little tradition to clutch (not long ago we were still mission territory)
    However, there is plenty of potential and the more the merrier!

    Peter
  • rjgrigaitisrjgrigaitis
    Posts: 43
    I'm from Alberta and more or less agree with Peter. However, I've heard many good things about Westminster Abbey in Mission, B.C. I'll eventually make a retreat there one year. Check out this website:
    http://www.westminsterabbey.ca/chants.html
  • JonDeulingJonDeuling
    Posts: 12
    Hi, and thanks for your notes; it's my first time using this thing, and I love it. I attended that Abbey, in fact, and I can attest that it has an excellent Mass, but no studies in sacred music. I live in the Okanagan, and am thinking of moving down to the coast because I believe there is potential. Heard of the Royal School of Church Music in BC? I'm trying to learn more, but only see it on the web.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,597

    My first advice to any Canadian seeking to "do" Church Music full-time is to get the heck out of Canada. If you're extremely talented (even if its just visible potential) you should try to find a Catholic parish here in the United States to hire you, get an R-1 Visa and get over here. Parishes will pay for that sacred music education here in the US if you're already far enough to be able to be a full-time DM at a parish.
  • Ally
    Posts: 223
    Matthewj, that is true, but so sad.

    I am a Canadian living in the US working as a full-time DM/Dir. Liturgy and would LOVE to move back to Canada and continue working, but this would require a position with a full-time salary. There is so much room for improvement in the sacred music scene, especially in the West (AB and SK from my experience). (Ha ha I originally wrote "scared music scene"...partially true!) How do we get talented musicians, committed to the true Sacred Liturgy to want to stay in Canada or move there? We can't have everyone leave or it will never get better!

    My brother is in BC and drives a considerable distance to go to the EF (but he is not a professional musician). In the OF parishes I've been to/at, they could really use the help of trained sacred musicians! I always wonder why it is that way in Canada (worse than here). Any thoughts?
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,597
    At the end of my "run" in Canada, I was playing 8 Masses per week in three languages (English, French and Latin), running 3-4 weekly choir rehearsals, maintaining the instruments of three churches, and all of the administrative tasks of essentially four parishes... and I was making around $12,000 a year. Luckily I was in my early twenties and could handle all of these tasks, but even then it was taking a toll... and in order to make it between these many Masses in multiple buildings, I was literally risking my life during the winter as I had about 15 minutes between Masses to make it from one building to another (a 10 minute drive).

    These churches were not forward thinking - none of them had children's choirs (and they had no desire to start them), which was probably why their adult choirs were all aging quickly. They saw music as "something nice to have" and offered a small stipend to whoever would stroll in and play some hymns. They were not interested in truth, worship and beauty being found in Holy Mass - the Mass was about community building so they could further their outside programs. (these previous comments are not regarding the Latin Mass community I worked at, but rather the parishes).

    All of these churches had full-time secretaries and custodians, one had a full-time nurse, two had full-time youth people, - yet none would even consider a full-time music director position. I knew of only one fellow in my entire city who made a "full-time salary" - and even that was a small portion of what could be made across the border.

    I wouldn't recommend that anyone try to make it "full-time" in Canada, unless they won the lottery and/or found the dream gig and became DM at the Toronto Oratory or one of a few other locations. Other than that you're just going to have frustrations, empty bank accounts and will be opposed at every turn. The positive signs regarding liturgical music in the United States are obvious and abundant - when I speak to my Canadian colleagues, all I hear is doom and gloom - or how they're working insane hours as a DM but also have to work full time in another industry to pay their rent.

    If I ever did go back to Canada (and I doubt I ever will), I would probably work as a bartender and volunteer to play a middle-of-the-road Parish (w/a pipe organ)'s earliest Sunday Mass and try to make a difference in a very small way there. That would, likewise, be my advice to anyone who wanted to make a difference in sacred music while staying in Canada. However, I do know of many Canadian musicians who are making great progress at improving the state of sacred music in the United States. The snow in our blood makes us a better fit for dealing with the difficulties of running parish music programs, I think. ;)
  • Ally
    Posts: 223
    Ha ha you are right...the harsh climate prepares us for the harsh reality of parish life!

    I agree that is a very common situation that I hear! It sounds crazy, but so true.
    Matthewj, I cannot imagine what you went through, and I second that I wouldn't recommend anybody just try to "make it", because the support and understanding are not there! Maybe I should clarify that I want to move back because I love Canada, not because I want THAT kind of position! A reasonable (i.e, not what you experienced) full-time DM position is what I would look for (need $ and family time), and I am sure that is what most others would need too. Yep, winning the lottery. (Well we can dream, can't we?)

    There are many fairly well-off parishes that could definitely afford a full time DM that just don't have any concept of a professional musician, or of a true sense of the Sacred. If a volunteer will do it just fine, why should we hire someone? Then whatever is published in selected "pulp missal" and related planning resource is sung, and must be ok, right? I mean they published it, right? Even in parishes with an EF group, the rest of the community can have no concept of the "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass", and the music there can be pretty sad if there is a big divide in the parish.

    How will is ever improve? Is this a seminary issue? Is this a CCCB issue? Where does this kind of change come from? Pastors to catechize, people to start grassroots sacred music movements... I don't know. Otherwise it really does sound gloom and doom!

    Don't you think something can be done? Or should we all just high-tail it to the US? (or stay here). That would be too bad. I don't want to think we should abandon ship... even though I am in the US.

    And of course, on Sunday, July 1 - Canada Day - yes I will be playing America the Beautiful as the recessional... a lovely little thing called "job security"...anyone else in that boat? :)
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,597

    Well, you should be at the CMAA Colloquium singing chant on July 1.

    There are some good, solid seminarians and newly ordained priests in Canada. I know of several in my home Diocese. Once they become Pastors, hopefully they will still be hopeful and orthodox and will make a difference.

    I think if one of them really invests some money and effort into their mainstream parish music program and begins something impressive/holy/good and that effort brings forth a large increase in attendance, offertory money and faithfulness of parishioners - then perhaps others will follow suit.

    Results will lead to others following the pattern.
  • expeditus1
    Posts: 480
    "At the end of my "run" in Canada, I was playing 8 Masses per week in three languages (English, French and Latin), running 3-4 weekly choir rehearsals, maintaining the instruments of three churches, and all of the administrative tasks of essentially four parishes... and I was making around $12,000 a year. Luckily I was in my early twenties and could handle all of these tasks, but even then it was taking a toll... and in order to make it between these many Masses in multiple buildings, I was literally risking my life during the winter as I had about 15 minutes between Masses to make it from one building to another (a 10 minute drive)."

    Matthewj, did you develop any nervous tics, IBS, or acid reflux during your tenure there? Impressive! And for such a reasonable monetary sum! I would have developed a secret Xanax dependency.

    "They were not interested in truth, worship and beauty being found in Holy Mass - the Mass was about community building so they could further their outside programs."

    Thank you, for that succinct commentary - That is it, in a nutshell.
  • JonDeulingJonDeuling
    Posts: 12
    Well, aside from the last note, which I found to be rather off the wall, I am interested in your comments. I rather agree with the two of you, but lean on the fact that I want to stay in Canada. I won't exclude the possibility of going to the USA for education, though. Ally, what does EF stand for, which your brother attends? By the way, I have a friend just in Vancouver who is making a living, not being the maestro, but a member of the sacred music choir at Holy Family parish. Granted, he has other gigs, but that says something. Are there any recommendations, then, for getting the sacred music scene started here in BC?
  • expeditus1
    Posts: 480
    "Well, aside from the last note, which I found to be rather off the wall, I am interested in your comments."

    And that, JonDeuling, is just one of my quirks. Being a church musician has made me the person I am today!
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,397
    EF Stands for Extraordinary Form. If you can make it to the CMAA conference, it's a wonderful week of education! I strongly recommend it. It is in the West this year... perfect for you!

    I'm Canadian. I don't think it's fair to paint everyone with the same brush. There are some great things going on here too. I'm on the other side of the country, so I can't be a help in BC. Brick by brick.

  • PMulholland
    Posts: 120
    Jon,

    I sent a message to your inbox. You can use that to correspond privately. I have some ideas for you.
    Best,

    Peter
  • JonDeulingJonDeuling
    Posts: 12
    Anyone heading from BC to the CMAA Colloquium and want to carpool? I want to go, but would need a ride!
  • Ally
    Posts: 223
    Matthewj, I would LOVE to be singing chant on July 1. I would go to the Colloquium, I desperately want to, but the dates overlap with summer classes I am taking, and unfortunately the finances do too! I can't wait until I get the opportunity to go.

    JonDeuling, that is the parish I am referring to... I will send you a message also.
  • rjgrigaitisrjgrigaitis
    Posts: 43
    It's not all doom and gloom in Canada. I've been to many Masses at a number of parishes where the liturgical music is just beautiful, with or without the choir with a professional director. The chant, the incense, the Tabernacle in the centre on the altar, the priest facing with the people, the icons... Oh yeah, they don't call it Mass. The call it Divine Liturgy, and it is Divine.

    I've been asked a number of times when I'm going to change rites. I guess instead of Latin I should begin to learn Church Slavonic. (Actually, the churches mentioned above use half English and half Ukrainian.)
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen canadash Ally