Music during Mass & the GIRM - help!
  • I currently work at a Catholic cemetery and we recently started offering "Month's Mind Masses" for the repose of the souls of the people buried here and also for all of the Souls in Purgatory. I work with musicians who come here to sing during the Mass and I also create the "programs" so that people can follow along with the readings and songs.

    I have noticed that musicians generally choose songs that are modern and perhaps could be considered funeral "crowd pleasers" (i.e. On Eagles' Wings, Be Not Afraid, Amazing Grace...etc.). I noticed an article at the Chant Cafe addressing the changes to the GIRM in 2011 which affect music in the liturgy.

    I see the preference for chant in the GIRM (which I personally prefer as well), but rarely ever hear anyone chanting in my diocese at all...so I am at a loss for who to even call to implement chanting the propers or antiphons. Most parishes usually have hymns sung or modern songs sung all throughout the liturgy.

    1) If we continue with our modern "crowd pleasers" here at the cemetery, are we in violation of the GIRM?

    2) Where can I find people with the ability to lead chant here at the cemetery if my diocese doesn't offer much in the way of chant?

    Please let me know your thoughts when you have time. I truly appreciate your advice and only desire to be in accordance with the Church and Her directives.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    Regarding #2, if you feel comfortable, you might find it helpful to post the area where you are, or at least the name of the diocese. There very well may be someone already here on the forum who could possibly help you.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    Welcome to the forum, Christina92!

    Can you offer a list of which Mass parts are currently being sung? Is it a "four-hymn sandwich", all spoken except for conventional songs at the entrance, offertory, communion, and recessional?

    If so, I'd recommend you add music for the Mass ordinary parts:

    (1) First, the most basic is to sing the dialogues of the priest and people ("The Lord be with you", etc.) Do you have a priest working with you consistently, and willing to sing these parts?

    (2) the major acclamations: "Lord, have mercy", "Holy, holy", "Our Father", "Lamb of God".

    The simple music provided in the Roman Missal would be suitable. You can find the melodies at http://www.icelweb.org/musicfolder/openmusic.php . One exception: The Roman Missal for the U.S. uses a different melody for the Our Father from ICEL's version.
    We have links to organ accompaniments at http://musicasacra.com/music/rm2011/ .

    After a few months of using this music, you might make further improvements, such as (1) introducing a sung communion chant or entrance chant from a collection of chant in English, such as "Simple English Propers" or "By Flowing Waters"; (2) adopting the Latin version of the "Agnus Dei", or the Greek "Kyrie eleison".
  • if you feel comfortable, you might find it helpful to post the area where you are, or at least the name of the diocese.


    Good idea, Ben. I am in Florida in the Diocese of Palm Beach.
  • Can you offer a list of which Mass parts are currently being sung? Is it a "four-hymn sandwich", all spoken except for conventional songs at the entrance, offertory, communion, and recessional?


    Yes. Entrance, Offertory, Communion, & Recessional are what the three musicians we have used so far have chosen to use. They use different modern songs for each. Usually a keyboard accompanies a vocalist.

    The priest is of course free to sing any of the parts of the Mass but it is up to him whether or not this happens.

    Do you have a priest working with you consistently, and willing to sing these parts?


    We have a different priest every month since we are a diocesan cemetery. I have almost no contact with the priests prior to the Mass...we just kind of wing it. Should I be contacting each one prior to see if he will chant the parts of Mass?
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,350
    Where can I find people with the ability to lead chant here at the cemetery if my diocese doesn't offer much in the way of chant?

    I am in Florida in the Diocese of Palm Beach.


    It's two hours away, but you might try the music department at Ave Maria University. Given the proximity, you might find some students who are close by when they are at home on the weekends.

    Also (if there really isn't any chant in your diocese) - Abp. Wenski in the neighboring Archdiocese of Miami is pretty Traddie. I would bet they have people down there who know what they're doing.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    As a musician, I usually reach out to the priest in advance to coordinate and ensure that we're both on the same page, and to let him know that if he is willing, the schola/cantor will be ready to respond back to chanted dialogs, along with an encouragement to chant them. I've found this simple measure often gets priests who otherwise wouldn't normally chant the dialogs to give it a shot and chant them, which is always good, liturgically.

    I also ask him, if applicable, which parts will be printed in the worship aids (such as which penitential act option, and the music for lesser known dialogs, like the Domine Non Sum Dignus (Lord, I am not worthy...).

    That's what I do. Your millage may vary.
    Thanked by 2kenstb hilluminar
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    Closer to West Palm Beach is Jennifer Donelson, who teaches in Fort Lauderdale. She has taught chant conducting at our summer Sacred Music Colloquium. Incidentally, you might find it useful to attend the program this year.
  • Who gets paid?
  • Who gets paid?


    What do you mean?
  • Closer to West Palm Beach is Jennifer Donelson, who teaches in Fort Lauderdale.


    Do you think I should attempt to bring someone to the cemetery each month from out of the area to lead the chant?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    I think TCC means: are the musicians volunteers or paid? If they're paid, then it's easier for you to set the program and count on their cooperation.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    Do you think I should attempt to bring someone to the cemetery each month from out of the area to lead the chant?

    Not necessarily, but a contact like that might help you find chant singers closer to you.
  • Are the musicians paid for playing at the cemetery - is one of them "in charge" or the leader? Or is this just a volunteer thing?

    Yes, Chonak, exactly.
  • I think TCC means: are the musicians volunteers or paid? If they're paid, then it's easier for you to set the program and count on their cooperation.


    Thanks for clarifying. We pay the musician $100 for each Mass.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    So that's one musician, playing the keyboard and singing, right?

    And I assume there isn't a choir of any sort yet? If you have some people who attend regularly, acting as a choir, that could make a good difference.
  • At risk of sounding overly cynical, the type of music you get generally depends on the type of musician you hire. If you hire a "cantor" from a local church (i.e. a song leader) you are more likely to get crowd pleasers and possibly a resistance to chant and Latin. These individuals can be highly experienced and are generally good at what they do: lead songs during Mass. However, they are generally not trained musically, and gauge their success on how many people sing with them. They generally do not have an understanding of the history of church music, or the gamut of what is possible to enhance the liturgy: they believe the only church music is the hymns they have grown to know and love. On the other hand, if you want chant you must ask for it. Say that up front before you hire your musicians. If they tell you they don't do chant, or are unwilling, then they aren't what you're looking for (if you want chant that is). A trained musician is likely to understand more of the history of church music and is usually more willing to sing in different styles and genres than those that are not.

    One important caveat: the above are generalizations, and it should be noted that it depends ultimately on the individual you hire, what their abilities are and what they're willing to do.
  • See if you can recruit some choristers from local choirs from the diocesan cathedral church or from colleges/universities that have choirs. You'll often find that student singers are quite keen to sing (they love it) and quite keen to get paid (they love that too!)
  • See if you can recruit some choristers from local choirs from the diocesan cathedral church


    Our cathedral is no different from other parishes in regards to music.

    from colleges/universities that have choirs


    Secular universities?
  • So that's one musician, playing the keyboard and singing, right?


    Yes, but also sometimes two musicians (one vocalist and one keyboardist).

    And I assume there isn't a choir of any sort yet? If you have some people who attend regularly, acting as a choir, that could make a good difference.


    No choir...If we were to get people who regularly attend to sing would it be feasible to have them learn chant? Would it be difficult for them? Would they need classes?
  • I'd suggest finding a person to play and lead the music for $100 a service.

    Then mount an area-wide publicity campaign to create a monthly choir or people to come and sing. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised at the response.

    Do something special for these people - possibly coffee and donuts before the warm up for the Mass or afterwards. Making this a social event for like-minded Catholics from area churches, manny of whom may have family interred at the cemetery would be very meaningful.

    A set music plan, possibly using 23rd Psalm every month and the same music throughout month after month would be effective. Since the congregation will change, repetition is not a problem. Give the "choir" half the music to sing, half to the choir and congregation. If the choir music is slightly demanding, it will help.

    You've got a great project going there and I am sure that the community appreciates your efforts!
    Thanked by 1Christina92
  • You know more than me since you LIVE down there but -

    I went to a Sunday mass at the Palm Beach Cathedral this past summer and I'd have to believe that it's a LITTLE different than most parishes down there.

    I'm not saying that the music was really "traditional" or anything but the organist played the organ for most of the mass (piano was used only twice) and three out of the four hymns were actually HYMNS, with only one contemporary type song (The Summons, I think it was.) The cathedral used OCP, so they used the "respond and acclaim" psalm and gospel acclamation, and I don't remember what the ordinary was. But I do remember that the organist played some organ literature before and after mass.

    I've heard (but haven't seen firsthand) that most of the parishes down there use praise and worship music with drums and bands and what not. So it seems like the cathedral is at least one step up from that?
  • I've heard (but haven't seen firsthand) that most of the parishes down there use praise and worship music with drums and bands and what not. So it seems like the cathedral is at least one step up from that?


    You may have went to one of the cathedral's more traditional Masses. Were they chanting at all?

    I've only been to their 'Lifeteen' Mass and it is drums, guitars and the like.
  • A set music plan, possibly using 23rd Psalm every month and the same music throughout month after month would be effective. Since the congregation will change, repetition is not a problem. Give the "choir" half the music to sing, half to the choir and congregation. If the choir music is slightly demanding, it will help.


    Since I know almost nothing about music should I a) learn the basics or b) find someone to lead this effort? Right now the only people willing to lead this would be those who are not familiar with chant at all.

    If I gathered a choir I would have no idea what to tell them to do...
  • It was one of the morning masses. They weren't chanting and I don't think the priest chanted his parts.

    Like I said I wouldn't label it "really traditional," and it would count as "middle of the road" where I'm from, but the organ was used more than the piano and hymnody was used more than songs, which makes it more traditional than most of the masses that I've heard about down there.
  • Try the local American Guild of Organists (AGO). The Palm Beach County chapter has a webpage:

    http://www.agohq.org/chapters/palmbeachcounty/

    and it has instructions for obtaining a list of substitutes from the Dean (the executive officer). The substitute list probably indicates whether the organist is familiar with or prefers the Catholic Mass. Call a few of the likely ones, and have a discussion, telling them what you're looking for. If they can't help, ask them for the names of others.

    I applaud your desire to move away from the crowd pleasers, but there's no violation of GIRM in using them.
    Thanked by 1Christina92
  • Hire someone to do it AND to train you for the day that they leave. That would be a good investment for the future.

    Also to prepare you for the, "why can't we sing Happy Birthday at Mass" people.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    Secular universities?


    Yes, sending an announcement to the music department at a nearby university, secular or Catholic, may help you recruit some singers for a start-up choir, especially if the director's able to teach them some chant and polyphony. On the other hand, if your monthly Masses are generally held on a weekday morning, that won't be compatible with students' schedules.

  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 990
    Right, Chonak. Many Catholic students attend secular Universities. We get some great singers that way.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    (For that matter, I attend a state university.)
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    (For that matter, I attend a state university.)


    I do as well! Don't overlook the faithful remnant here! :)
  • G
    Posts: 1,389
    Actually, PGA, it's very much of a piece with the average parish, both in its strengths and... otherwise.
    I'm not going to describe in a public forum.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Both of my scholastic degrees were State U's. That's where God led to me Frank LaRocca! Deo gratias.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen