• rogue63
    Posts: 410
    I keep hearing that I'm playing organ too loudly. I reduce the registrations, and keep getting complaints. Last week, I used only 8' and 4' stops, no reeds. Still more complaints. Tonight, I used a combination of all 8' and one or two 4' flutes. One elderly man comes up to tell me that when I play so loudly, the old folks lose heart and stop singing.

    Is this just a matter of perception? Like the priest who swung a censer with no actual incense and still got complaints about the smell? I'm tempted to go up and pretend to play organ while one of my cantors stands in the back with a kazoo.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,648
    As I asked one elderly gentleman who complained the organ was too loud, "Did I ruin your nap?" LOL. I found with some of my older folks, it has something to do with certain pitches and their hearing aids. It creates some kind of distortion. Not wearing one, I am accepting that from someone as truth. Mixtures seem the worst. Not knowing your building acoustics, it is hard to say. But yes, I think much of the loudness issue is perception. With some people, the organ becomes the target for all the other things they are unhappy with in the parish.
    Thanked by 2chonak R J Stove
  • henry
    Posts: 224
    Is it a pipe organ or electronic? I used to get the same comments when playing an electronic in a dry, modern church. Never recall getting one while playing a pipe organ in a traditional romanesque-style church. If it is an electronic, try a traditional 8-4-2 registration for hymns and keep expression pedal almost closed.
    Thanked by 2francis CharlesW
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,481
    One elderly man comes up to tell me that when I play so loudly, the old folks lose heart and stop singing.


    Ask him to turn off his hearing aids. ;)
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen francis Jani
  • With some people, the organ becomes the target for all the other things they are unhappy with in the parish

    Wow! Are you sure you're not at My parish? People complain about the music ALL the time....it's too loud, it's too "Latin", it's too "old fashioned", it's not loud enough....the list goes on. Because we are an upfront, liturgical ministry with a very high profile in the church, the music minister usually gets the brunt of what people don't like about everything. So sorry to hear you are having the same issues. I wouldn't wish that on anybody.
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    I am reminded of an anecdote about an old local jazz legend I studied with. He told me, "If you're ever on a gig and some [expletive] from the audience approaches you to criticize your playing, ask them to sit in with the band and show you how it ought to be done."

    Not sure that's the most pastoral solution, nor would I ever let a whiner program a weekend's music (the horror!), but its an interesting thought. How would those people react if invited to plan the music for next weekend's mass, coordinate the musicians, run a rehearsal, and then perform or conduct at said mass? Oh, and a quick blurb in the bulletin explaining their selections and the relevance to Catholic liturgy, the liturgy of the temple Pope Francis refers to in the video in the thread here called "The Vertical."

    Just one mass. Not too hard. And they clearly know more than any of us about church music, so it should take 10 minutes or less to justify their choices in writing.

    Simple enough, right?

    "You don't like how I'm doing it? Ok, here, you try!"


    Again, not seriously recommended. Strongly discouraged. But just think, if pastoral sensitivity, the dignity of human persons, and the salvation of souls were not at stake, just how funny the reactions would be!
  • Victor Borge famously described Bach's chorale-prelude harmonizations as being so elaborate that the churchgoers "didn't know which hymn they were sleeping through." Happily I seem to have been spared all but a tiny number of complaints from parishioners, but if I get another such complaint (that is, from someone who simply hasn't a clue) I shall adopt either the CharlesW solution or the ryand jazz-derived solution. Or better still, both.
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 462
    Since you will get complaints no matter what you do, might as well pull out all the stops.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,569
    How many complaints are you receiving that the organ is too soft?
  • Good news....they are not complaining about what music your playing.
    But if the choir starts complaining......
  • rogue63
    Posts: 410
    Thanks for the humor, folks! A nice laugh to counter one of our particular job hazards.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,673
    At my present parish (last weekend here), I get complaints that organ is too loud and that the organ is too soft.
    Thanked by 2R J Stove Adam Wood
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,115
    I think some say it's too loud because to them, any organ that makes any noise is too loud for their anti-organ beliefs.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,569
    Well, that's true for some, but I love organ and I've certainly witnessed more organists in Catholic churches playing too loudly than too softly. I can just see PIPs clamming up. American Catholics, in the Northeast at least, tend to not be like Midwestern Lutherans or Methodists who enjoy singing with a big organ sound. Some people's leading is other people's domination; supporting is a better concept.
    Thanked by 2Spriggo ParleyDee
  • Ah! Grumpy Cat! Tardar Sauce.
    You know Grumpy Cat is female, right?
    She has a brother called Pokey.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8E4roEG8vA

  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,673
    Grumpy Cat lives in the Diocese of Phoenix.
    Thanked by 1ryand
  • I love Kathy's marvelous iconostasis image about the worship band.
    Oh, how true that statement is!

    As I said in my last post on another subject, it is better to be influenced by the Eastern Catholic or Orthodox Church in liturgical practices than a "low" protestant church ("high" anglican/lutherans not included.)

    There is a simple thing to do to see if your organ is too loud.
    You don't need a cantor with a kazoo , you need another person to play it while you stand toward the nave far away from it. They don't have to play it well, a few simple notes of any melody should be enough. Listen and see how it sounds, than you'll have an answer.


    If I never had to hear an organ again - I'd be a happier person.
    What I mean by this is that I'd rather never hear an organ again that have to hear another organ drown out whoever is singing.

    This does not mean I hate the organ, however ...
    I know many reading this are organists as their means of income, so I will concede that if the organ is not a substitute for good singers, is not poor quality, not too loud, but plays mostly interludes or soft accompanying bass notes - I do not mind them. If you go back in history that's mainly what organs were ment to do anyway, Whatever church leglislation exists that allows organs to "take over" all the music, especially "four hymn sandwiches" is going against the spirit of the law and conceding to an abuse that is either hard to eliminate, or that bishops are too timid to eliminate, in the vein of "altar girls".
  • The single biggest complaint that I get is "I didn't know one of the songs" or "Can we do more stuff that I know?" I do know that for some reason, some people don't like the organ, but I think Ve recently re-sold the instrument to the parish where I teach, because in the last couple of months, especially since the celebration of eternal life for one of our beloved priests, I have met several people who have come up to me while practicing and encouraged me to continue playing. I am also quite sure that there are some parishioners that know when I practice each day and make it a point to be in the church when I do.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • deleted
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,900
    Well, I thought it was an unclear statement too, but readers understand that comments on a net forum only reflect their authors. We don't even require CMAA membership for forum participants.
  • My predecessor was big on P&W music, along with the guitars, flutes, tambourines and a conga drummer who knew next to nothing about keeping beat. Recently a parishioner came up to me and told me the music was too loud. I asked him if he had found it too loud in the past and he said "yes, but that music was good, so I never complained". Bottom line....it's not HOW it's played, it's WHAT is played. To some, even Latin chants that are barely audible will be too loud and anything that's played on an organ (GASP!!!!!.....what an awful instrument for worship!!!), will be considered hurtful to the ears. It reminds of of people who can sit through hard rock music in a small venue and enjoy every minute of it, yet find listening to a philharmonic orchestra in a huge concert hall is too much on the ears.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,648
    With a couple of individuals, I have had to point out that I work for the pastor, not them, and am implementing his instructions for worship. I invite them to discuss their differences with the pastor, which they decline to do. They know they won't get anywhere with that. I even told one soul that her music preferences are performed every Sunday at the St. Smarmy by the Pond parish a few miles up the road, and made the suggestion she might be happier there.
  • Unlike your parish, Charles, my parishioners WILL go the pastor. My pastor, however, will not back me up, even with me "implementing his instructions for worship". He tells the unhappy parishioner that "the music director makes those decisions", which gets him off the hook and puts it back on me. Needless to say, it's been a very difficult situation.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,648
    Then your pastor is a spineless weasel, sad to say. Prayers for you.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    This concern, I believe, is best addressed when a parish has both a competent organist and competent choir director who, of course, see eye to eye and hear ear to ear on how to accompany singing by any number of singers, from one to hundreds.
    Regarding the accompaniment of hymns what catholics (and likely more and more prots that haven't heard an organ in a generation) don't fundamentally get is the notion that each congregant should be purposefully listening for two sounds, one: that of the organ; two: that of his/her own voice conjoined (that word okay, Richard C?) to it singing the hymn.
    But "in the moment" hand and eye communication between director and organist can mitigate aural imbalance immediately and positively, which would include increasing organ volume as well.
    I don't know if Chris McA. is a card-carrying CMAA'er, but I get his POV and don't disavow it. I don't agree with it, as I believe "organ sez 'CHURCH'" definitively. But to think such a POV would cast a shadow over CMAA is simply silly.
    What things that don't reflect well on us who are CMAA are intolerance, incessant griping, disingenuity, intransigence in argumentation, stereotyping, and a host of other normal Christian behaviors.
    After deciding that an organ postlude was to permanently replace a dismissal hymn, I've been pleased to hear more incredible works, played superbly which has, if nothing else, shut the PIPs' up from gabbing away while they file out mid-piece. It makes a statement: this piece on this instrument is one of God's voices singing to our souls.
    Thanked by 1Wendi
  • "I get complaints that organ is too loud and that the organ is too soft. " So Goldilocks is one of your parishoners?
    Thanked by 2canadash R J Stove
  • This concern, I believe, is best addressed when a parish has both a competent organist and competent choir director who, of course, see eye to eye and hear ear to ear on how to accompany singing by any number of singers, from one to hundreds.


    Yup. What Melo said.
    Organists can neither completely trust their own judgement of volume, nor can they rely on subjective feeeeeeeelings of parishioners, many of whom (regretably) do not like organ very much. A choir director as colleague is often best suited to help give realistic feedback about accompaniment issues.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,648
    Typical Sunday.

    The organ is too loud
    The choir is flat
    It's too hot
    It's too cold
    The sermon is boring
    The sermon is too long
    The communion line is too long
    There's nothing to read in the bulletin
    That cantor looks like trailer trash
    He's asking for money again?

    It never ends. :-)
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    As the youth say, CW:
    "THIS."
    And don't forget one of our all time faves:
    "I don't care, I'm the priest and I want it done my way, now!"
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,138
    Organists can neither completely trust their own judgement of volume, nor can they rely on subjective feeeeeeeelings of parishioners, many of whom (regretably) do not like organ very much. A choir director as colleague is often best suited to help give realistic feedback about accompaniment issues.


    I take some offense to this idea. While I agree that it does help to have assistance to ask a colleague, a competent player should be (or least I hope) paying attention to this question of dynamics in his or her own space. The problem is that many of us as Catholics, have not been well-trained to "accompany" a singing congregation. On this note, we would do well to pay attention to our Lutheran or Anglican or Methodist brethren with regards to the intricacies of hymn and/or service music playing, which really is an art unto itself.

    Sadly, the organ world is at times divided by those who play in church and those who play AT church.

    From the mouth of an organist celebrating 30 years of playing as of Christ the King 2013. Its not an easy job-my only advice from the 30 years.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,424
    This is not specific to organs. Performers can NEVER tell what they sound like to "the audience." No matter the space, no matter the instrument, no matter the performer.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,423
    I was working with this guy who played guitar (sorry) and we kept getting complaints that the voices couldn't be heard over the guitars. I'd do a sound check, everything would be fine, and then we'd get complaints again. Finally I found out the guy would consistently crank up the guitar after the sound check. Took weeks to figure out what was going on.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,423
    By the way, also, nobody's mom is a good judge of whether an instrument is loud enough.
  • Blaise
    Posts: 439
    He would crank up the guitar after you received complaints that the voices could not be heard over the guitars? *gulp*
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,569
    Adam

    True, but, except for amplified instruments (cough, gag, cough, spit), it's tough for any acoustical instrument to reach the decibel level that an organ can hit with ease.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,648
    I have listened to my own organ from the congregation. I grew up in that church, and heard that organ for years before I started working there in 2001. I know where the volume drops off and by how much. The number of bodies downstairs changes everything. The place has been so packed at times, that full organ was not loud enough. Nothing stays the same and every mass can be different. But I will note that many of my complaints over volume came from a shrieking 3-rank mixture. I have had that mixture voiced down twice, and still can't couple the thing or it is overpowering.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • Kevin, of course there was no offense intended, and you are right that players should be paying attention to their situation.
    You are also right about accompanying being a subtle art, and that many lack needed training.

    The thrust of my point was clarified by Adam:
    This is not specific to organs. Performers can NEVER tell what they sound like to "the audience." No matter the space, no matter the instrument, no matter the performer.


    One can have a good idea of the basic sound, but levels and other feedback will be more precise as observed by an educated listener.

    Congrats on 30 years! From what I've gathered over the years via your posts, you have done and are doing really great things for Jesus and His Church.
  • Where is the Grumpy Cat when we need him?
    The organ is NEVER to loud.

    Sometimes it is softer and sometimes it is louder, but it is not ever too much of one or the other.
    Some people will readily tell us that they love it when we pull out all the stops.
    Others? Well their complaints are incredibly subjective and objectively inaccurate nonsense.
  • Years ago when I started (at the age of 9, playing keyboard for mass) I received complaints that all the music was too fast and others that ir was all slow and dreary at the end of the same mass.
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,424
    I suspect most instances of "too loud organ playing" are really "too soft hymn singing."

    I attended an RSCM course several years ago. Lots of good things, lots of bad things.

    Hymn singing with 200+ enthusiastic choristers changed my perception about a lot of things, like organ volume and tempo.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,424
    I received complaints that all the music was too fast and others that ir was all slow and dreary at the end of the same mass.


    How many times have I said it:
    People don't know what they need. They usually don't even know what they like.

    You cannot trust complaints from PIPs. They may be indicate the presence of a problem, but they will never be accurate about what the problem is.
  • CharlesW writes:

    With a couple of individuals, I have had to point out that I work for the pastor, not them, and am implementing his instructions for worship. I invite them to discuss their differences with the pastor, which they decline to do. They know they won't get anywhere with that.


    Hallelujah. Preach it, CharlesW!

    It's amazing how few troublemakers will bother to keep complaining about the organ - or about almost anything else if it comes to that - when they know they'll be expected to take the matter up with the padre. Okay, sometimes a padre will indeed be a spineless weasel; yet should enough people inflict their mouthiness on him, then he might well cease to be a spineless weasel, if only out of self-preservation. (Perhaps my situation has been unusually fortunate, but I've been blessed with a near-total absence of spineless weasels among clerics of my immediate acquaintance.)
  • I've recounted the story before, told by the estimable Gerre Hancock of happy memory, who was approached after his first service at St. Thomas 5th Ave by a dowager of the congregation. She said, "Mr. Hancock, we're so glad you're here, but . . . Mr. Hancock, you simply play the organ too loudly." He responded, without hesitation or acrimony, "Why, thank you so much for your feedback. I shall do my best to address your concern."

    Several weeks later at coffee hour, the same dowager came up to Gerre and said, "Mr. Hancock, I must say your playing has improved since you arrived!" He said, "Why, thank you so much for your kind remark."

    He'd changed not one single thing he was doing. He didn't change his registrations or his approach to hymn-playing. The woman clearly became used to his style and, having voiced her opinion and Gerre having had it acknowledged, she felt vindicated.

    Priceless!

    People who don't know and don't know that they don't know are often the easiest to deal with. It's the "one-book experts" you have to be very, very wary of!
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,569
    I see people engaging in rationalization.
  • Thank you, Mr. Andrew, I had not encountered this Gerre Hancock anecdote before (and, to my sorrow, I never heard him live), so am glad to have discovered the story.

    As so often, Aesop got it about right centuries ago:

    http://blog.iloveqatar.net/2013/01/the-man-the-boy-and-the-camel-lesson/
  • I had a gentleman come up to me after my postlude once and told me that my postlude was too loud, that "the people in the back can't hear themselves talk". My question is, why can't they just take the idle chat outside?
    BMP
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,648
    My response in one instance to the "can't hear themselves talk" was "didn't your mother teach you to not talk in church?"
  • donr
    Posts: 969
    I used to play rock music in night clubs and controlled the sound board. When customers or club owners would come up to me and tell me it was too loud, I simply leaned over to the board and pretended to turn it down. Later on a break I asked if it was better and they would all agree it was much better now. Weddings were the worst, there is always someone there who thinks its too loud.

    I love an organist who plays with dynamics. The subtle and not so subtle changes in volume add movement to a piece and keep it interesting. I believe that when there is one volume all the time it can appear loud (or be unpleasing).
  • Steve QSteve Q
    Posts: 109
    I am pretty sure that in my mostly Polish parish, the same people who complain about the organ being too loud are heading out right after church to hear a Polka band that is twice as loud.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,900
    If one wished to make an objective assessment of organ loudness, how would one set about it?