How do we attract people to Sacred Music?
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    > ...I need to attract people toward sacred music rather than push people into it.

    > A very astute observation. Just for my own edification, do you have any tips on how to go about this?

    Well, Zapman, I thought I'd start a new discussion topic on this, as it was diverting away from that other thread. I don't have any magic answers, but here's some of the things that I do...

    1. I admit to everyone my own ignorance. I describe my role as "staying 5 minutes ahead of the rest of the choir," by which I mean that I'm learning just as fast as everyone else. I'm discovering answers as I go along.

    2. I try to be supportive of everyone's approach to music. It's not that I'm right and others are wrong, or even that I'm more right than anyone else. This Gregorian Chant that we're doing is beautiful, wonderful, holy and sacred - but that doesn't exclude any other music from being the same thing for our parishioners. I know that this is different than some of the discussions that take place here on this fantastic forum, which is why I tend to be pretty quiet.

    3. When I write something about Gregorian Chant for our parish, which I've done a couple of times, I only state why Chant is so beautiful and sacred, and I say nothing about any other form of music.

    4. I have been able to accept all schola members, even though this does cause tension at times. I try to give each person a voice in the direction of the group, and remind them that it's always a challenge to balance the strength of my leadership with accepting inputs from the members. This summer I made sure to have an indepth discussion with each person about their personal interest, commitment, and desires for direction. Of course people didn't agree, so I've had to make some choices - but hopefully people will see that I listened to their inputs and needs.

    5. Finally, I try to be persistant without pushing faster than our priests and DoM are willing to go. Their support has been improving over the last 3 years, but I've learned from my experience in business that it's far more important to build a groundswell of supporters than to focus exclusively on the leaders. Our Priest will be moving on to a new parish next year or retiring, and the momentum we're building is designed to last beyond that. We've had 5 Priests since our parish was formed, but many things have carried on since the beginning because of the momentum of the 2000+ parishioners.

    I'd be very interested in finding out what others on the forum do to make our Sacred Music ministry attractive. Clearly this is something many of us are struggling with.
  • Wow, Carl, this is just a great summary. I hope everyone reads this. All your points are good ones, but #1 is very important, and it is also very true: all of us are "ignorant" as compared with the cumulative knowledge embedded in the music itself. We must all be humble in the face of it. This is the atmosphere at the colloquium too: there are not experts and novices but rather a large community of people who are all striving for betterment. Your other points are great too. I had to actually train myself to adhere to #2 and #3.

    I must admit, though, that it sort of makes me sad that you sense that your thoughts are somehow unwelcome here. Actually, I think that most everyone would agree with you, or should in any case ;)
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    Thanks, Jeffrey, and it was fantastic meeting you and the other World Class Experts :-) in Chicago. Such a welcoming group!

    The place where I have to bite my tongue here on the forum is where we get into a mode of bashing others' musical contributions, especially when they aren't even present to defend their point of view. These threads crop up very often, and are lively because they tap some kind of inner need we have to feel like we're better than others. I don't believe it's very healthy, nor very Christian. But I'm not going to jump in, because I don't believe that would be healthy either. I've seen too many flame wars in my years on the Net.

    I have received a great deal of value from this group, even by being passive. At the very least it lets me know that there's others who know so much more than I. I have no formal musical training, I don't have the skill to accompany a Mass, and everything I know about Chant and Latin has been picked up in the last three years just by doing it. Despite that, I find a great number of supporters in the Sacred Music community, which is incredibly encouraging.

    Despite the fact that we're all human, this is an amazing group. Scratch that. Because God has blessed us as fallible humans, this is an amazing group.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I don't think this is something we can "sell". It really needs to be a conversion - to say "yes" to what the Church wants. Sure, there's the occasional chant nut (most of us here), and an exposure to chant and an attitude of "you can do this" will breed more of us. But ultimately people need to come forward and do what the CHURCH wants, not what the priest, magazine, workshop presenter, or individual wants! And that takes some SERIOUS catechesis and leadership from the priest.

    In the mean time, as I said we should have an attitude with people of "you can do it". I remember when I got my first Roman Graudal. All written in Latin, with Latin music and Latin names and words I don't know like "Introitus" and "iij" and even the instructions were in Latin! And the music was some weird stuff that looked like poorly written music. Still, I knew the book was important, just that it was something the Church hasn't needed for 40 years and couldn't POSSIBLY use again. Then at a Lutheran college I attended a workshop introduction to chant. The presenter showed us how EASY it was, and that made an instant nut out of me. So present it as something easy - skip the neum names, tell them "this is a C, everything above it is higher, everything below is lower, if 2 notes are on top of eachother, sing the bottom first." Bam - instant chant nuts.

    Also be specific about language. I hate reading articles where someone talks about the "beauty" of chant, and we need more "beautiful" or "truly sacred music". I could take a poll of my former congregation, every member no doubt thinks "Let There Be Peace on Earth" is beautiful and truly sacred. So don't just SAY chant is beautiful, but describe the quality that makes it beautiful. Don't say it's sacred, but show its link to the liturgy.
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    Right on Gavin!

    I agree that catechesis is important to set the context. I don't have any position of authority for doing very much catechesis, but that's something I need to explore more.

    I think the name "Sacred Music" is actually quite brilliant, because there's too many people who have been scared off by "Gregorian Chant" and have no clue what "Polyphony" might mean. So I'm starting to use "Sacred Music" more and more as the preferred term, because it helps to communicate that this stuff has a very special purpose. Not just that it "sounds churchy".

    I haven't even attempted to introduce the congregation to square notes. Everything published for them is in modern notation. Not because most people can read it, but because at least they recognize it as being more familiar. I also have removed anything that might strike them as weird - it's just quarter and half notes on a five-line staff, with no words. Hopefully they won't notice that there's no measure bars every 4 beats. :-)
  • See Fr. Ruff on the long history of the phrase Sacred Music.

    We only publish square notes and nothing else in our liturgy programs. The idea is to convey the sensibility that this music is different. It looks different because it serves a different purpose from any other music.