St. John Neumann in Knoxville
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    Congratulations to Noel whose music program is featured on Amy Welborn's well-read blog "Charlotte was Both." And Amy is right, this is one of the best music program web pages I've seen. It's informative, well-written, and very clear on the purpose of music at the Mass. And this with Mass in a gymnasium modified for liturgy while they await completion of their new church! will let you see what I'm talking about. Amy's comments are here:

    What a pleasant surprise to read all this early in the morning.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Yes! So here is the post. and here is what she says:

    1) The music was complex, multi-faceted, but did not overwhelm or call attention to itself. It was rich but subdued and served God through the liturgy.

    2) Latin and chant were in evidence. Sanctus and Agnus Dei. A beautiful piece sung by two women, at Communion. (I know I have blog readers who were there, and if you can provide a list, feel free! Please also tell me what the second Communion piece was - centered on Jesus’ words about going to Galilee - I’d like to post it.)

    3) The propers flowed seemlessly in and out of the spoken words. No gaudy, prolonged introductions.

    4) The Responsorial was done in a way that I’d not heard, but that Michael tells me is an option that more are becoming aware of, particularly since it evokes some elements of the Liturgy of the Hours: the response was chanted twice at the beginning, the soloist chanted the entire Psalm through, and then the response was chanted again. I thought it was very conducive to prayer.

    Mad, mad props to Mr. Noel Jones, who is the music director at St. John’s - they have a good website for their music ministry here, and if you are in East Tennesse wanting to sing some good music - I’m sure they’d love to have you.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Reading things like this (and also spending some time over at Mr. Tucker and AOZ's most excellent site "Cecilia Schola") is both inspiring and depressing.

    Inspiring because it proves that music and liturgy that honors the traditions and rich patrimony of the church can be employed; depressing because as the music director of an extraordinarily large suburban "mega" parish with phenomenal financial and human resources I'm up against a mentality regarding music and liturgy that is still stuck in the 1980's, and I'm pretty much unable to pry the liturgy loose from the hands of the aging hippie crowd.

    From reading this and the description of Tucker's church in Alabama, I get the impression that both church congregations are smaller. I wonder how these approaches, especially Tucker and AOZ's "Blueprint" (see the article at their site) can be adapted for a situation like mine. We have 5 Masses per weekend, and it was the previous pastor's desire to have all the Masses use the exact same music list, only varying the "style" based on instruments used and number of voices "cantoring". At the time this was consistent with my philosophy. Now I'm not so sure. We've got one "renegade" contemporary ensemble that sings twice a month on Sunday nights that has become the focus of controversy: some love it and want it more often, and perhaps at other Masses as well, others despise it. There are those who want more reverent music, but don't know how to make it happen. Most are in the middle, quite content with "blended" worship and "diversity of musical styles" at ALL the Masses, as long as it's not Latin (chant).

    Is there anyone among us who is in a situation similar to mine (large suburban parish with a rather weak, homogeneous music program) who has had some success with a change in direction?
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    David, take my word for it on this uniformity issue. All attempts to impose it are nearly certain to lead to disaster. Anytime a pastor says "oh, we want the parish to be united in its music" look out! Yes, in theory it sounds ok, but the practical reality is that, given today's situation, it will lead to equally mixed up and unimpressive liturgy across the board: a bit of this and a bit of that. Our own parish was wholly wrecked with this approach. All choirs were reduced to a fraction of their original size. It was demoralizing for everyone and completely devastating to the parish. We lost more parishioners during that 5 year upheaval than ever before or after. The only unity that resulted was unity of resentment against the person who imposed this rule. The effects are still with us.

    People can theorize all they want about united parishes and bringing everyone together, but it is an apodictic truth that no man can change: Catholics are attached to particular Mass times and have absolutely zero interest in what happens at the Mass before or after. Each Mass time is associated with a specific demographic and culture. It was always true before the council and it remains true now. These modern-day Robespierres who attempt to change this might as well try to reverse the flow of the Mississippi.

    Diversifying Masses permits progress to occur in increments. Each Mass time learns from the other. This allows for experimentation and when something doesn't work, it affects only one Mass. Also, inevitably, competition develops between the crews of people working in specific times. This is a good thing actually, not a bad thing. Pastors who permit this to develop normally and naturally are wise indeed.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193

    I've been going about this all the wrong way, and now it seems I'll be paying a rather exacting and high price for the folly!

    Of course, what I thought I was doing was bringing the parish closer in line with the Mind of the Church. Apparently I was giving the people cause to hate the music, hate me and hate each other in the process.

    The biggest problem I have with the idea of letting, say, the 5:30 Sunday folk continue in the direction they're going is, if something should fall apart, if the volunteer who directs that ensemble should be unable to continue, the responsibility to take up the leadership of that group would fall on me. The prospects of this make me literally physically ill. I know exactly nothing about how to play the music of Twila Paris and Mark Schultz, and have no interest in learning how, and philosophically I cannot bring myself to take time and energy to "teach" this crap to people. There, I said it. Call me evil, wicked, elitist, a snob.

    As my CBT therapist said, I have two choices: re-think my interpretations or leave. Period. There's no third choice. To my mind, it's not unlike the devout Catholic who is a doctor and forced by law to either loose his license or perform an abortion on demand. While I understand that the music we do at Mass doesn't have this kind of moral attachment or impact, nonetheless I find it personally immoral and unethical to actively engage in the advancement of music that I know at my core not only runs contrary to the Mind of the Church, but carries with it a subtle destructive nature for those who hear it and are attached to it within the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    Now what?!?
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    The what is to decentralize control as soon as possible. A transition to sacred music absolutely requires at least one safety-valve Mass that permits people who hate the change a chance to do their thing. People vote with their feet and their dollars. Not to worry: change will come in time.

    Another major benefit of letting different Masses do different things is that this dis-empowers the committee. Actually, the goal should be to never permit another committee meeting to take place. Such committees always and everywhere leave people seething in anger. No one says what he or she is really thinking. The compromise that seems to make everyone happy falls apart hours later on further reflection.

    It does no good at all to drive the strummers out of the parish. It is their parish too. They have made a contribution over the years and don't believe they have any less right to be there than anyone else.

    So everyone should just agree to disagree, apply their talents in the best way they know how, and go about their business. A healthy but respectful competition will emerge. In time, sacred music will prevail through quiet persuasion. In the meantime, and I really believe this, peace in the parish is more important than being correct about music itself.

    As for the job of directing falling to you, it is a matter of citing your health etc. and pointing out that this contemporary group is wholly capable of directing itself. After about 4 months, they will come begging you and then you will be in a position to suggests some changes.

    Let me add one more thing. Nothing soothes people over like abject apologies and statements of appreciation for their work. This might be enough to fix whatever problems have emerged from the attempt to unify the Masses.

    I apologize if I have misunderstood your particular situation. My advice is more general and each situation is different.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    I feel the pain of all ... I am currently feeling quite demoralized. After all, "the people" want music they can relate to that will help them to pray. Oh, and, apparantly, I am told that they are "not sophisticated enough", i.e. too stupid, to understand truly good and superior hymn texts. It's amazing! I wish the Church would give less options in her documents.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Thank you, Jeffrey, this is terrifically sound advice.

    You should become a professional church music mentor. . . oh, wait, you already are!
  • SJN has 3,000+ members....not small...but not huge!

  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    The parish I serve has approx. 11,500 (+/-) members.

    For the most part the music prior to my arrival was heavily driven by the typical "hum and strum" mentality. Hymnody was used, but most of the music came from Gather 2nd ed., and unless the one organist they had was playing (at that time only the 7:30 every other Sunday, 9:00 with the choir or 11:00 with a "vocal ensemble" of individually miked voices) the organ wasn't used, everything was accompanied by guitar/piano/flute/cantor.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    I find Jeffrey's thoughts on diversity of music interesting because in my neck of the woods it's the "blended music model, all the same at every Mass" mantra that prevails. Of course, that means that a sizable percentage of the congregation is somewhere between annoyed and outraged at any particular musical moment. It just shifts back and forth between the different camps who always find themselves at that particular Mass. The only exception seems to be the LifeTeen Mass, which never has anything to do with anyone else and is allowed abolute freedom. Of course, I don't understand why we can't have an "OldBats Mass," with chant.

    And it is an absolute truth that people have a devotion to a particular Mass time. One director from a huge parish that fielded 6 Masses with over 1,000 people at each Mass said that they, in effect, had six parishes sharing one space. There were different choirs for each, styles, (occasionally) language. The director's job was the overall management and scheduling.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    MJ, it's funny how that seems to work: the "youth group" Mass (which is always an occasion of sin for me because they make me SOOOO angry) sings whatever they want, but the choir cannot exceed a certain percentage of Latin and its own itty bitty Mass. Otherwise the Dead Language Detectors go off, the Felt Banners unroll from the ceiling to dampen any lingering sounds, and the parish is filled with the Spirit of Vatican II Chant Suppressant.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    I will be a voice of dissent here - I actually am a fan of the "blended" approach. It's just not good theology, etc. to have "6 different parishes" under one roof. Furthermore, I have always been a fan of making everyone a little uncomfortable.

    Let me elaborate: You think that the "Spirit of Vatican II" calls for the repression of the organ and chant? You have a lot to learn - and you've got another thing coming. By the same token, you think ANY AND ALL music accompanied by piano is unfit for liturgy? Again, I'm going to make you very unhappy!

    What we do in my parish is a large dose of organ based music - with some of the things sung almost everywhere thrown in as well, such as "Blest are They" and other good, scriptural "contemporary" songs that are not "pop" in nature. These can even be accompanied on the organ - and they are here, at daily mass. We definately do use the piano as well, but it is always done reverently.

    I believe that by using the "blended" approach, we can move in the right direction - it doesn't have to make everyone so angry that they can't worship.

    My biggest struggle is that all it takes is for one person to mention - not even complain - that they like piano based music - and my pastor is all upset saying "We need to give them what they need to pray", "They are going to leave the parish", etc.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Unfortunately, the one component missing from this is the Mind of the Church.

    Do we really want our pews filled with mind-numbed, dumbed-down, fat and happy quasi Catholics who have been fed a steady diet of whatever is trendy from collumn A and a side order of what the liturgy calls for from collumn B? And in doing this, just what are we saying about the "5 different worshipping communities that share one building?" Worse still, what are we saying about the authentic liturgy of the church?

    Remember what the Holy Father said to the attendees of WYD '08:

    "Dear friends, life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose (cf. Gen 1:28)! Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth."

    Also, I wonder if by having some Masses feature music that is more in keeping with the "mind of the Church" it will, not unlike Benedict's easing of the restrictions on the EF, create a "gravitational pull" where those who become more steeped in the music of the tradition will draw more people to the Masses where this kind of reverence is heightened, thus making the starkness of the "contemporary Mass" become all the more obvious.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,197
    I have never tried the blended approach and don't think it would work. I do use all Latin mass parts during Lent, but most of the people think that's enough Latin for the year. Still, I put in Latin motets and such from time to time with no complaints. I have 4 masses on Sunday morning. 7:00 a.m.: older people, who also happen to be the folks who are financing much of the parish. They didn't want any music originally, but I keep everything low-key and traditional with organ and no cantor. The 8:30 a.m. crowd: Parents with children and many families who have attended this mass for years, but still organ, cantor, and traditional hymns. 10:00 a.m.: This used to be the high mass and is still the most heavily attended. It is an organ/choir mass with traditional hymns and anthems. 11:30 a.m.: These are the folks who have slept late and are glassy-eyed enough that they don't care. It is an organ/cantor mass, again with traditional music. There is a "contemporary mass" at 6:00 p.m. that someone else has handled for years and most of the congregation is from other parishes. It's called the "last chance" mass in town and the music can range from fair to awful, depending on how many musicians show up. It's not in my contract to provide music for that mass, so I leave it to its own devices. Although I do use the more traditional music and hymns, the poor selection of communion hymns in Ritual Song means using some hymns I would rather not use at that point in the masses. The pastor has strong feelings about using the hymnals we spent so much money for, so we don't routinely use handouts. Individuals can choose which mass they want to attend and nothing is being forced down anyone's throat musically. I think a blended approach would tick nearly everyone off, while they are pretty happy with the current arrangements.
  • My 2 cents.. I really hate the blended music Masses. PGA, you definitely would annoy me, but as you say, that's your goal. How do you like having everyone ticked off you? Is it working to make the parish a better place? Just curious. Anyway, the reality of the parishes (except for a lucky few) is that they are filled with entitled Americans who have no modesty when they complain to Church's representative (the priest). Wonder why so few guys are going into the priesthood -- all work and no respect. Communities used hold priests in high esteem and it was an honor to have one over for dinner. The "modern" Church has made their lives so difficult by offering "options" for just about everything. One Mass-One Chant is my mantra from now on. As long their are choices, people as a group will choose the lowest common denominator music. People get uncomfortable when they don't completely understand religion (wonder why Pentecostalism is so popular? It's a simple message). I ask myself every day "How did anyone manage before 1968? How on earth did the Church stick around for all those years when it was clearly so wrong about so many things!"

    OK, rambling today. I tried the unified list of hymns for every Mass at both of my jobs. It worked ok in the place where every Mass was cantor and organ, but in other parish there were different ensembles and the guitars just couldn't do the Victorian hymns. You don't want 6 different parishes under one roof? It's gonna happen anyway with that many people. Parishes never used to be that big when there were more priests. You have a hispanic parish that is segregated by language and culture and family ties no matter how hard you try -- btw why should we deny them their ethnic parishes when our Irish, German and French ancestors had theirs? Also you have age groups that tend to stick together and then the rest. It's gonna happen no matter how you program the music.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    I think most proponents of the blended Mass believe that they can "move the music in the right direction." At the same time, my personal complaint is that the music often seems like a smorgasbord - some of this, some of that, a dash of chant, a bit of a ballad. Of course, I'm exaggerating to make a point. And of course, a great deal of the reverence of a celebration comes from the celebrant - a person beyond the control of the music director.

    My other experience is that there can be a Gresham's Law effect. Organists are harder to find where I live than pianists. Lead-sheet players are more plentiful than musicians who combine lead-sheet facility with a background in more traditional hymnody. And pretty soon the guy who also plays with a combo in a club is your accompanist - and the music has to match his abilities. And no, I'm not making this up. The organ? Oh, gosh we don't use that anymore - no one knows how.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    (Avoiding the temptation excitedly report new empirical research on the applicability under different institutional constraints of Gresham's Law.)
  • "Also, I wonder if by having some Masses feature music that is more in keeping with the "mind of the Church" it will, not unlike Benedict's easing of the restrictions on the EF, create a "gravitational pull" where those who become more steeped in the music of the tradition will draw more people to the Masses where this kind of reverence is heightened, thus making the starkness of the "contemporary Mass" become all the more obvious."

    It is TOTALLY unfair that people must choose between guitar mass and a mass of hymns....and NOT have a choice to sing and hear Chant without having to attend a TLM Mass.

    I do get complaints about why I plan traditional, real Catholic music....and I am quick to point out that it is unfair that there is not another church in driving distance that offers true Catholic music outside of the TLM Mass...and that this is not MY decision, nor my personal choice...but the music of the Church.

    It is not fair. It struck me recently during a rehearsal when I was dealing with yet another bit of foot dragging that WE SHOULD GET PAID MORE FOR THIS....there should be grants offered to those who believe so strongly that the music of the Church is to be available to all...grants from Rome...COMBAT PAY in the Work of the Church....
  • I also admit to defusing arguments by starting to discuss dropping the Hymn After freaks people consider such a thing...pointing out that they have received the Body of Christ and had some time of silence and a prayer and blessing and dismissal....why then do a big HYMN which is a prayer and make those who want to sit or kneel and pray get up, interact and all....just end the Mass, let the choir sing or the organist improvise on chant and go home, people.

    That felt good. Thank you for letting me vent.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I am quick to point out that it is unfair that there is not another church in driving distance that offers true Catholic music outside of the TLM Mass

    I use that line often. My last parish, and every other parish, is paranoid about losing a single person (despite the xenophobic Poles-only-club attitude most members have) and is quick to blame ANYONE leaving on whatever the complainer personally doesn't like. In reality this was due to the fact that, after the Industrial Revolution, no one wants to live in the middle of Nowhere, MI. So the most well-meaning people would say to me "this chant and Latin isn't going to bring in anyone." BUT, as with Noel, I responded "well, I'm doing SOMETHING. We're not going to get ANYONE if we just do what every other parish does!" So I took risks with the music, and at the very least we did some things no other parish in the state did. Some things were even experimental or failed miserably, and I stand by those decisions because at least I was trying something!

    If we want a program like Noel's built up, we HAVE to be willing to think outside the box (but still within the Mind of the Church!) and just DO things.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    I'm pleased by the outcome of the meeting of our parish "temporary advisory committee" tonight. By proposing that the contemporary group be given, within reasonable limits, wider latitute in their music (by not insisting that they use the same "playlist" that all the other Masses use on any given Sunday) while also permitting broader use of Latin chant, etc., at other Masses, all in the spirit of promoting greater peace for the parish, I was hailed for my wisdom in this matter.

    My thanks to Jeffery! I may have just secured both my sanity and my job by this!

    I suspect that things are going to be going swimmingly this program year.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,197
    I sometimes think that what gets lost in all the discussions is the fact that the OF of the mass in the United States is, to note the obvious, ordinary. As beautiful as the EF is, it is extraordinary, not the norm. The OF allows the use of hymns and nowhere forbids their use. Granted, many posters do seem to have a bias against hymns and want to replace them with chant. I believe there is room for both chant and high-quality hymns in the mass. It doesn't have to be an either/or, nor should it be. I'm all for promoting good music of a sacred character in the liturgy, but it doesn't have to be all chant or in Latin.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    I understand your point of view, CharlesW.

    However, the prevailing point of this particular thread is regarding coming up with a solution to diffuse the "I hate hymns/organ" versus "I hate guitars/contemporary songs" battle that wages daily in many parishes like mine on a regular basis.

    I currently don't even have the luxury of introducing chant to our Masses (all in OF), let alone a broader use of hymnody, because there has been for several years now an attempt to homogenize the music so that we have what some call "blended worship" and what I've come to realize is nothing more than an equal distribution of misery. At any given Mass, something gets played that makes someone angry, uncomfortable or resentful. By adopting the philosophy described above by Jeffrey, rather than shackling everyone (including me) to a policy where I have to play music I don't at all like (contemporary) and force guitar players to struggle with hymnody that they don't like and can't play, we arrange it so that one Mass is exclusively "contemporary" music, while most of the remaining Masses will likely employ hymns and the like, and one (or more) of them will eventually employ unaccompanied chant in Latin.

    I believe that if this approach is employed, over time the Masses that feature the purest music of the Church will begin to exert a "gravitational pull" on the others, and people will out of curiosity begin "sampling" the other Masses to find out what they are like. Eventually all of the Masses (or perhaps all but the "contemporary" music Mass) will draw into conformity with the principles of the use of music most in keeping with the "mind of the Church." And, it will be the people that will make this happen, rather than a forced program.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,197
    I don't support blended worship, and it sounds like you have a very good approach to all this. However, I don't support archaelogism either, and some of the extremes here smack heavily of that. There was no golden age in the church when everything was peachy and wonderful. In the earlier days, they had problems I am glad we don't have. And music did not stop developing with the death of Palestrina - or Bach, if you want to make comparisons to another unmentionable group - a plague on their house and a murrain on their cattle. ;-) It's one thing to keep alive the treasures of the past and apply them to today. It's quite another to live in the past and act as if the rest of the church is still there.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I think this thread went sour fast, which says a lot coming from someone as pessimistic and cynical as myself. However, David just mentioned why: we see a program like Noel's and instantly think "Oh gosh, I can't pull that off!" But David, and others, I suspect Noel's church isn't without the annoying folk people. 3000 people? I bet he gets SOMEONE after every Mass to tell him how his music destroyed Christianity for them. But he still forged ahead.

    I've been there. I suspect that the majority of people at my old parish HATE me. It seemed every parish council meeting had some large group of people present demanding my immediate dismissal. There were many families I avoided walking by in the parking lot lest I get an earful. And I saw what happened if we used Latin or chant: the next week, the pews would be EMPTY at the offending Mass. I lived and worked with the assumption that some 100 or so (it was a very small church by Catholic standards) people despised me. I had dwindling resources because fewer and fewer people would step up to do the unpopular work.

    But I still accomplished things. The people who attended the late Mass now KNOW the Latin Gloria. The whole parish KNOWS the Sanctus and Agnus Dei. People aren't in the dark about what the Church wants anymore. The priest IS the driving factor in this - you need a guy with chutzpah, which most priests seem to lack (I thought we only ordained MEN??) When someone complains about chant, you NEED a priest who will say "The Church requires chant have pride of place" and when they respond "I don't care what the Church says!" is willing to call the person on their lack of faith. You also NEED a guy who isn't going to follow the Gregorian introit with "Good morning everyone, how about this weather?!!" But all the same, I suspect that no, Noel's church ISN'T any different from any of ours.

    I'll just flat out say it: If I work in a Catholic church again, particularly one where I need to "fix" things, I won't do it with a weak pastor. I won't do it if I'm reporting to a committee. But if the pastor is willing to back me up and wants a correct, reverent liturgy, I know I can do it. There is a HUGE social change that needs to happen in Catholicism again. And it's many MANY generations away. But we can still get work done in the here and now, and Noel's proving it. We all need to say together: "YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN! YES WE-" ummm maybe not that!
  • Gavin, I really feel for you. That must have been tough. I recall hearing from some that I didn't program the right hymns at times and having to deal with a priest who was afraid of losing a single person (even though people were leaving over bi-lingual Masses, but I digress). I think we all can work on our tactics. Changing a person's Sunday experience is a very touchy thing. Most folks don't keep up hymn wars or liturgical movements, but if you change something that they have known for most of their lives, you are going to get a reaction. I think that the really successful shifts to really sacred music have come from those who knew how to prepare people. If they were smart, they probably made it seem like it was the parish's idea to do it, not some guy or gal straight out of music school or the new priest foisted on them from the diocese. If we want the reforms to last, we must learn from the mistakes made by those that came before us. They are entrenched now and their job is easy. The status quo with music that appeals to the simplest emotions is really easy to maintain. A foreign language with music that you have to learn about requires change (always difficult unless you are a Democrat these days) and work.
  • "It's one thing to keep alive the treasures of the past and apply them to today. It's quite another to live in the past and act as if the rest of the church is still there."

    Charles, first of all, thank you for permitting me to serve as organist for the recent have a lovely, traditional sanctuary. The family was very pleased not to have to celebrate this the gym!

    We are doing a choir school right now, using only music that falls under the guidelines of the Church. It includes music of Bruckner (1824-1896), Tchesnokov (1877-1944), Adrian A. Cuello Piaquibis, living in Colombia, work composed May 2007 in Zaragoza, along with chant....

    It is our job to discover and include music that is either Chant or Polyphonic of the ages...and of today that easily falls within the guidelines of the Church. I'm sure that there are people who would prefer to only do chant from spider-web covered tomes...but you and I agree that the the Church is a place for Sacred Music.

    And also, I know that Harmonia Vocal Quartet enjoys singing at Holy Ghost as well...thanks again.
  • Ah...

    "I suspect that the majority of people at my old parish HATE me." the club....we ALL deserve a little ribbon to wear in our lapels...
  • "If we want a program like Noel's built up, we HAVE to be willing to think outside the box (but still within the Mind of the Church!) and just DO things."

    It helps if you have a VERY supportive organist who is equally concerned with the life of the church, the choir and cantors, and your work....

    And a thick skin when you DO things....

    We are still building...and not just a new Sanctuary.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Noel, the bottom line is that I hate to see anyone say, as David did, "I can't do what Noel/Gavin/Jeffrey did in my parish, the people won't like it!" I suspect many of us have been in nasty situations, but we just have to face the music and do something. A supportive, or at least laissez-faire, priest is necessary of course. And the support of laity and volunteers is helpful. But we still have to put our foot forward and take the heat - and that also mandates that we have to KNOW we're doing the right thing!

    You know, I thought about my comments and that isn't really fair. The people who didn't like what I was doing were very good at leaving me with the impression that "everyone hates me", but there were so many good people at that parish too. People who, agreeing with me or not, made my day great just to be around them. Those stories deserve mention too:

    - Rusty, a really old lady who gave me the best compliment on my playing ever: "Gavin, we need more money for the building fund, because you keep raising the roof!"

    - B., a visitor who quickly learned to love chant and had an eagerness to help out with music.

    - Kathy, a convert who loved contemporary music but told me how moved she was to hear "O Breathe on me".

    - All of the choristers and cantors, who always gave their 100%, both those who completely agreed with me and those who completely disagreed.

    For all the curses we're under as musicians, these people can really make the job worthwhile.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,197
    Noel, you are most welcome. I have no problem with anything you are doing, and it sounds like you are doing good music from all the ages, which is what I have advocated for years. I don't have the "chant vs. non-chant" battle at Holy Ghost, since the majority of the congregation actually likes chant. If anyone hates me, it's the contemporary crowd because I never give in to them. They have their mass, and need to stay there. But the EF is off the table for now because the powers that be feel it's available elsewhere in town for those who want it. So, I work within the framework I have - OF, with some chant, some polyphony, some hymns, and even the occasional Anglican anthem.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193

    I don't think this thread went sour at all. Quite the contrary.

    At first I felt certain that while Jeffrey and Noel had great success with their programs, I was feeling as if this was an impossible dream in my mega-parish environment.

    What I came to discover over the course of the discussions here, and realized more fully last night was, as long as I explained the philosophy of "peaceful co-existence" for the benefit of advancing music appropriate for the liturgy and in keeping with the "mind of the Church," people actually understood what I was trying to acheive, and more importantly, why I was trying to acheive it. It was a tremendous moment, a paradigm shift of great proportions.

    CharlesW, I'm not sure what has led you to think that I or anyone who regularly participates on this board is interested in creating a "fly in amber" situation. There is a terrific treasury of music of all periods worthy of the temple, but unfortunately it's been crowded out by the nonstop din of "hum and strum" music that is cheap, trite, cliched and not worthy of the temple. I'm all for your framework (OF, with some chant, some polyphony, some hymns, and even the occasional Anglican anthem), but for those of us working in a parish situation like the one I described early on in this thread, it becomes an impossibility because of all of the in-fighting, back-biting, water-poisoning acrimony that, as Jeffrey was quick to point out, nearly destroyed his parish in a short 5 years. That was what I saw becoming a great threat in my situation. It was no larger than a man's hand at the beginning, but I'll tell you, we were well on the way toward creating an unredeemable, polluted, hot mess in our parish.

    So, the punchline is, it CAN be done, and it SHOULD be done, and now that I'm feeling much more confident, I'm ready to roll up my sleeves, get to work, and plan on sticking around long enough to see it happen.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    …and that also mandates that we have to KNOW we're doing the right thing!

    Having this forum sure helps in that regard.
  • Getting new people into your program helps defuse the people in place who are not going to want to cooperate. As I turned for the organ introduction to the hymn after mass the Sunday Amy Wellborn was in the gym I was not heard by those but the very closest as I hissed to the cantor, "This is the LAST time you will EVER announce a hymn in this church."

    We are so held back by the use of Breaking Bread that I am creating seasonal inserts for the Masses that include the list of hymns, the Ordinary, and anything else I want them to have. At my own expense. This is also serves to wean them off the NUMBER BOARD. There is considerable opposition to this by almost all the musical new people come in and they too question why we do things as we do, which helps break down the barriers.

    Right now we are phasing out the SATB Acclamation and Amen that I composed and replacing it with ones from By Flowing Waters. And then new people are going right along with it. Why do it? This makes the Mass a Capella from the Preface to the litugically useless HYMN AFTER MASS. Increases the flow and lack of interuptions by the organ giving one note or phrases of pitch.

    But there is another aspect to doing things that bring in new members and life to your program...the Choir School was intended to let other churches in the Diocese send people here to take back and idead of what is possible. In the news releases to the Catholic paper and ALL the newspapers around here, Mary Weaver inserted the phrase "of all faiths".

    I have had people come up to me, 6 so far, who want to stay on and sing with our choir in a regular basis. Have I ticked off as many as 6 Catholic church music directors?

    All of them are Protestant. All of them have a connection, though often tenuous, to the Romand Catholic church....and they all want to stay and sing.
  • I'd credit these things in order of happening for the music at SJN

    First of all, banning microphones and amplification of any sort for choir or cantors at all times, which lowered the sound level in the sanctuary and made it a lot gentler and prayerfull just being in the building.


    1. Pastor who welcomed change but with a clear view of pastoral keeping it on an even keel.
    2. A Catholic Organist, Mary Lewis, who knew the parish, played at least 8 years there, humble and hard working.
    3. Choir willing to accept that everyone attending Mass would know from the music that they were in a Catholic church from the style, the theology, the singing and the absence of rhythm instruments, including the piano.
    4. Mary Weaver joining the choir with her Chant Terrierist Attitude.
    5. Making the trip to the St. Cecilia Workshop last February with singers from the choir.
    6. Knowing from day 1 that I would have to reeducate everyone in the choir to get the ready for the live acoustics of the new church.

    And more than anything else, being willing to be in a position in which I realized that I might be fired any day at any time because of my views on Catholic Church music. And trying not to let it affect my job performance. Knowing that what I was doing had to be the right thing to do no matter what other people thought, but making sure that It was happening at the right time and to the correct degree.

    At this point I'm just a part time employee [with benefits!] at the church and have to restrict my church work time dramatically [the string chamber orchestra, the brass ensemble, children's choir, adult choir and cantors rehearsals are all crammed into Wednesday evening and Sunday morning in a matrix that almost requires a computer to keep track of] and work other jobs just to be able to stay on there. My background as a Morgan combined driving horse trainer, a composer-arranger, a tonal designer of digital organs-especially when combined with pipes, has kept us financially afloat.

    Please keep Ellen (my CAGO wife organist/choirdirector and now Board Member of the Sewannee Church Music Conference as well as part-time employee as o/d at an Episcopal Church) and me in your prayers in the hope that someday I will be blessed with a full-time position in this work that I love.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193

    Thank you for all of your valuable information.

    Much of what you're offering makes terrific sense, and I'm taking notes and thinking through minor modifications where applicable. For instance, given the odd acoustics and shape of our church, it's impossible for the cantor to chant the verses of the psalm without the use of microphone. Also, because our church seats around 1,400, and at some of the Masses at least 1/3 is crying, keening, fussing babies, infants, toddlers and poorly disciplined children, to do anything without being armed with an amplification system is an exercise in futility, unless we decide that it's not important for those who want to hear to be able to do so!

    Beyond that, its "roll up the sleeves" time!
  • marymezzomarymezzo
    Posts: 173
    As a cantor and chorister, I just want to say how unbelievably good it is to sing for Noel. He's the reason I'm at St. John Neumann Parish. And he's the reason the choir has more than doubled during his tenure.

    Also, lest you think he can't spell the word "terrorist" in reference to me . . . he's making an inside joke about the inordinate number of dogs I live with.

  • It's not a joke...Mary Weaver holds on to the supreme need to sing chant with the tenacity of a rat terrier with a rat...clutched in its jaws....
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Well . . .

    Just as conversations began to take place regarding the different music at different Masses issue, our know-it-all, meddlesome sacramental prep person has chimed in and stated, without equivocation, that

    We can't have that conversation until the broader implications on the catechesis we've been doing on unity are discussed. Besides, you start changing the music at the 9 AM to more traditional, and you'll have people who are lectors, servers and EME's calling and asking to be moved to other Masses because they don't like or want the more traditional stuff.

    And so on, and so on, and so on.

    It was the same old saw . . . "We need to be concerned about the unity of the parish, and if we start dividing, like they did 10 years ago over at St. Swithen's-in-the-Suburbs, we'll have the same problem they did . . . multiplicity of divided communities worshipping under one roof. They're not a community at prayer anymore, and it's had a profound impact on their spiritual life."

    So, now what?
  • I'm sure you could cite examples of many people in the parish who have denounced the contemporary material with vehemence. Perhaps you could point this out, but decline to go this route. You might reiterate that peace is indeed a priority but that will not come by forcing people to worship with music that offends them. The contemporary music people have their space and time and that's fine. What is needed is fertile ground to permit a full flowering of the sacred music tradition in a way that is consistent with prevailing teaching. Point out again that you are not interested in crushing the aspirations of others, but that you do have an obligation to pursue pastoral musical progress in line with the broadest possible tradition in accordance with Church documents.
  • Well, if they want unity then you have to schedule one Mass. And cancel all others. Otherwise people will choose to go to early Mass because they like to go four wheeling, late Mass because they party late, and Saturday night Vigil because they hate getting up at all on Sunday.

    So let's force them to UNIFY!

    And where, oh where, is the Rubric that establishes the office of Sacramental Prep Person? Why is it important that ALL Masses must function at the lowest level of music that the parish is capable of?

    And what was the church doing, having High Masses and Low Masses any day of the week in the old days?
  • I've been at my place for 15 years. I don't think the number of people who've ever personally engaged me to complain about me or my music leadership would add up to the number of fingers on one hand. 6000 Registered families and counting.
    Of course, being 300 pounds +, bearded, long-haired, wild-eyed through round John Lennon specs, tattooed (Oakland Raider's shield, right forearm) etc., sort of projects a quasi Sumo-John the Baptist demeanor. Anyone who really gets passed all that knows I'm a wuss at heart. They let me teach at the school. Still.
    Can I get a witness?
    I believe CharlesW is both right and wrong on one premise: the OF invites banality, but not via a pun-like identity with its newly assigned title, but because of two overarching factors- poor and inconsistent liturgical catechesis in seminaries (might I add world-wide in general) and that itchy feeling that its efficacy is dependent upon external issues such as the cult of personality, innovation, invention, enculturation yada yada yada.
    It may be just me, but I'm really cozying up more and more to "Read the black, do the red." Then some of us might be less inclined to wonder as we wander. I also agree that the number of performance options in the GIRM for the OF could bear a serious overhaul.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    I'm afraid this is a battle (or a catechetical moment) I'm completely unable to seize. I'm up against years and years (over 20 at the hands of this particular sac. prep doyenne at our parish) of poor formation in the Faith, and I'm simply not up to it. I'll give you an example . . . she's convinced that it's more engaging to move the location of the lector from one place to another within the body of the church when presenting the readings at the Easter Vigil because it "represents God moving through history." I simply can't make this stuff up. If she's that convinced of her own cleverness as against the inherent mystery and beauty of the received Tradition of the liturgy, and people for the most part either support her, or are afraid to challenge her, what can I do? She'll challenge or block any attempt I make to bring a modicum of the Tradition into her comfortable, suburban, dumbed-down liturgical understanding. (Above all else, I believe she's afraid of the mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, an expression that makes her cringe. She walked away when I dared to suggest that the architecture of our building was more reminiscent of the theater style common among the "Protestant Brothers and Sisters" as she calls them, than a proper, recognizable Catholic architecture. Of course, this deteriorated into the "priest with his back to the people and the people being alienated and detached from the action at the altar," as opposed to my suggestion that it was really about all facing God together in prayer, but I digress).

    I'm reminded of the instructions the disciples were given. They were told to go into a town or village and preach the Gospel. If they weren't received, or if their message was rejected, they were to leave the town and at the gate stop and knock the dirt from their sandals and move on.

    While I understand the obligation to do everything we must with humility and charity, there is also the reality that some will actively try to thwart our efforts and in the process unknowingly (or knowingly) reject important tenets of the Faith. As the disciples were told to only stay as long as they thought was prudent, I think too that we shouldn't stay in a place where we're not wanted or are met with wantonly cruel treatment by folks who wish to reject out of hand what we represent.
  • This person needs what is called a "Come to Jesus Meeting" here in the South.

    This person needs to be locked into a room with the GIRM and told to read it and then, when understanding seeps in, quietly leave the room, putting the lights off on the way out the door, close the door quietly, go to her office, empty all the drawers into a bankers box, leave that office and go out the front door, being very, very careful no to let it hit in the .....posterior.... on the way out.

    Then she should proceed to a Buddhist Temple, and spend quite a few years meditating in silence on the fact that she has been holding a position, that of interpreter, choreographer when at best she should be a curator, a preserver of things as they were.

    The wheel...and the Mass....have already been invented. Refined over the years to the point that there is little left to challenge one....but much to study and master as to how it should be...not could be by creating a stunning Disney production....little puffs of smoke wafting through the air during the readings at Pentecost....a dry-bed stream that miraculously spouts water at Easter.

    What? It's a little electric pump recirculating water out of the faucet in janitor's closet?

    If it is not a miracle, it should not be there.

    And I will wager that she is a volunteer. They get more rabid than paid employees.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    And I will wager that she is a volunteer. They get more rabid than paid employees.

    And that's a wager you'd loose. She's paid. Handsomely. And has been on staff for 20 years. Paid to have the kids in First Communion class create an altar cloth complete with their hand prints (in various primary colors) which is then carried up and placed on the altar during the First Communion Mass the offertory whilst the cantor(s) wail away on that hoary chestnut, "We bring to your taaay-bull . . . a gleaming cloth of gold." (I should point out that despite the fact that I'm the DM for the parish, she is given a say in what music is used for the celebrations of first sacraments, what with her vast knowledge and understanding of the subject. Eh-hem.)

    I'd rather lock her in a room, bound to a chair, forced to listen to the complete works of John Henry Cardinal Newman and all of the writings of the Holy Father (including what he wrote before he became Supreme Pontiff) that talk about the evils of the deformed liturgy, and what about our current situation can be blamed on folks like her.

    Then I'd restore the application of bastinado as a way of eradicating heresy.

    However, charity requires that I pray for her conversion.

    On another thread I called for a novena to St. Cecilia and Our Lady. Somebody suggested that it be a monthly occurrence, commencing on the 22nd of each month, the date in November that St. Cecilia is commemorated.
  • Ah...the one who prepares the children...we have a very holy person in charge of that here....thank goodness....
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,197
    We have one who prepares the children, too. Why is it that they are old flower children? Nothing is more unappealing than an old dried-up flower. However, she has no say in the music or the liturgy. I hate to harp on this in post after post, but it all comes down to the pastor. If he is solid, orthodox, and has a spine, then the nonsense stops.
  • My sympathies. I've been fortunate to not have anyone between me and my boss. He was about 50-50 on things I wanted to do, but the problems were not quite as large there. Good luck and keep praying. If the Spirit wants change there, he'll find a way to make it happen. Keep looking for signs.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    There is one thing you can do about her: go to seminary and become a priest. Unless you're willing to do that, you have to wait until a priest with the willpower to suppress her comes along.

    It's not at all Christian, but I'd be the sort to push her buttons subtly. I had a discussion with a rather liberal priest after Mass where he asked if I do "contemporary music". "What do you mean?" I asked. "Well do you ever direct like a youth ensemble?" "Oh yes! Absolutely, at my last church I directed the children in some Gregorian chants, they loved it!"

    I'm reminded of the old saying: "Convert your enemies whenever possible. If you can't convert them, render them harmless. Destroy them only as a last resort." I suspect this woman will not be converted, but I'd do what I can to render her harmless. And that means saying no to her suggestions - presuming you report to the pastor. If you can't convince the pastor that someone with a doctorate in music doesn't need to be taking orders from someone who can't play an iPod and is functionally a heretic, then that's not the guy you want to work for. And if, as I understand to be the situation, you don't have a pastor, just cut her suggestions.

    Anyway, I'd point out to her that you ALREADY have lectors and servers choosing which Masses to go to, so what does it matter if they make that decision based on personal preference in music as opposed to wanting to sleep in or "get Mass out of the way"?
  • Gavin, that's a really good old saying that I'm not sure I've ever heard.