What advice would you give to a new pastor?
  • As part of our diocese’s pre-pastorate training program, I will be presenting a session on “Parish Liturgical Music Ministry” next week. The program is for priests who will soon be assigned their first pastorate, or have just begun their first pastorate.

    If you were in my shoes, what HELPFUL advice would you give these priests about any aspect of parish liturgical music ministry?
    Thanked by 1Matthew
  • If you (the priest) want to sing along with the congregation on hymns and other music, that's wonderful, but please switch off your wireless microphone. When the priest's heavily amplified voice drowns out the organ, choir/cantor, and congregation, it's demoralizing to the musicians who have worked hard to create quality music.
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    1. Doubtless many if not most priests state to the parish at large, "I'm not going to make any initial changes, I'm going to observe." Mean that, do that.
    2. If a priest knows that he is not thoroughly qualified to assess the current state of his music ministry program, it is recommended to identify the most widely respected DM's or musicians in the vicinity for consultation and assistance with whatever concerns that need addressing. For every Chepponis, make sure there's also a lay person to provide that perspective.
    3. Don't make adjustments/changes globally. Think strategically with a bias towards skills improvement rather than replacing personnel. Even if that means bringing in new people for rejuvenation, enthusiasm, skills improvement, make sure their agenda is your agenda, and that agenda has been publicly stated and acknowledged beforehand.
    4. Ask current musicians for a record and accounting of their orders of worship for at least two major seasons. Set a criteria for basic, solid standards. Don't use just the old MCW "judgments," add those to those of CMAA, sacred, beautiful and universal.
  • Respect your choirmaster, organist, choir, and their God-given (and ergo God-ordained???) talents and knowledge.

    Do not assume that those who complain and make a lot of noise actually do represent what 'everybody' thinks. (They usually do not!)

    Remember how the psalmist (Ps. XXVIII: Afferte Domino) said of God that 'everything in his house doth speak of his honour', and strive with all your soul to assure that it does.

    More later...
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640
    Some people are going to hate the music at your parish, no matter which direction it goes. These people are much louder with their opinions than the other half who are just in love with it. Those folks come to church, have a nice experience, and then go home happy with no reason to contact you about the whole thing. If you replace the DM or coax him/her to change course, the complaints won't stop, it will just be a different group complaining.

    People who express their opinions about church music to you as unsolicited advice are non-experts and should find a hobby.

    Don't micromanage. Most musicians don't like working with a laundry list of things they have to do to satisfy your whims. If you are having to micromanage, you might need a new DM.

    Don't be quick to fire the current DM. If you want to hear something different, specify that clearly to them. If they don't accomplish that, specify again. If they're at odds with your vision of music during the liturgy, they will be looking for other work by this point. Unless they're a problematic individual, it's best to let them leave on their own terms and then replace with someone you interview who agrees with your vision and has the skills to make it a reality.

    TL;DR
    Tell your DM what you want them to accomplish, then step back. If they continually impress you, make that known by saying so and also by giving them space to continue their good work. If not, make it clear what you want them to do differently, and they will move on if it's not a good fit. Musicians don't enjoy playing music that's against their ideals any more than you like hearing music that doesn't jive with yours.

    If anyone is unhappy with the music, ask them to pray for your DM, and then leave the conversation.
    Thanked by 1Casavant Organist
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    Learn what the Church's ideals for sacred music are (that is, get acquainted with the documents and the history). I recommend Susan Benofy's article "Buried Treasure" for this. In short, the ideal is a Mass fully sung, start to finish, by the priest, choir, and congregation.

    Gently and slowly make improvements to move parish practice toward the Church's ideals over several years. Be generous to people who, due to age or formation, are attached to less-than-ideal music.

    When starting the celebration of Mass, let your words lead the people directly into the sacred ritual and away from everything else. Do not use your own personal secular greetings such as "Good morning" during the rite, but simply begin, as a priest, with "In the name of the Father...".
  • Learn to sing correctly like Russian orthodox clergy do, sing the entire mass, insist to the congregation that the congregation sings OUT and never forget that a truly well trained, educated and highly skilled traditional classical musician has more education, training, self discipline and skill development than yourself and thus should be highly respected, appreciated, supported and retained.

    And for goodness sakes, please don't place them at the bottom of the staff listing on the parish website, printed materials or bulletins below the secretary's name or the administrator name. Such a person could easily do any of those jobs but few could ever successfully do the job of such a musician!

    I personally know several such GOD-loving, self-sacrificing, humble musicians that were each treated so shamefully, poorly and inhumanely that all of them left the Church and are the heads of great orchestras and college positions making far more than what they were offered and with far greater respect, dignity and honor.

    New pastors - you are but a humble servant unto GOD and His people!
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,050
    Make trust contagious, rather than distrust.
  • P.S. - Set up a music trust fund and contribute to it regularly even if its only a widow's mite.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,641

    When starting the celebration of Mass, let your words lead the people directly into the sacred ritual and away from everything else. Do not use your own personal secular greetings such as "Good morning" during the rite, but simply begin, as a priest, with "In the name of the Father...".


    If you just sing the Mass, these concerns go away. Nobody is going to sing "G'morning everyone."

    So.. the obvious best advice is to sing Mass, especially on Sundays, Solemnities, and Feasts.
  • Do not assume that those who complain and make a lot of noise actually do represent what 'everybody' thinks. (They usually do not!)


    Yes, yes, yes.
  • A few more thoughts...

    Don't be the sort of priest who routinely asks for changes to the music five minutes before Mass starts, or worse, the sort who calls out spontaneous requests for songs during Mass. (I've had to deal with both, and it's exasperating.) Agree with your music director on a plan ahead of time, and then stick to the plan.

    Always make sure the musicians know if you're going to use incense, since that usually means adding verses or improvisation.

    If you are able to chant your parts of the liturgy, please do! However, know your limits. If you truly are tone-deaf, please don't attempt the preface dialogue, as no one will know what note to begin the responses on.

    Finally, I think it's a nice gesture when a pastor (especially a new one) makes a brief visit during a choir rehearsal to express his appreciation to the singers.
  • [1] Don't change anything in the first 12 months.
    [2] Music, choirs and directors are [almost] always difficult. Be prepared.
    [3] Don't harbor strong opinions.
    [4] If you know something about music, suppress it because...
    [5] In music, everyone is an expert in his own mind. Listen to the "experts" in the parish. Affirm them to the degree you are able.
    [6] When it comes time to make changes, let music follow larger changes. Don't use music as the primary agent.
    [7] You will have to replace the incumbent music director(s) eventually. Prepare yourself to say, "You're fired!". And don't be a weasel.
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,142
    If you truly are tone-deaf


    ...chant recto tono!

    (c) MJM. All rights reserved. (PURPLE BOLD)
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,181
    I was writing the below as advice to pastors, and then I realized that it applies, mutatis mutandis, equally well to pastoral musicians.

    1. You are going to hear a lot of things from a lot of people in your parish. You don't yet know whom to trust. If you knew some people in the parish before, you did not know them as parishioners--as you do now. If you knew some of the clergy in seminary, your relationship with them has also changed. Do not trust anyone--at least not for a very long time. Get to know everyone, but don't take anyone's word as gold until it is proven. Be cheerful and be a VERY good listener. But do not take anyone's point of view as your own.

    2. Take some time to question your assumptions about all the various aspects of parish service. This is especially important when coming into a different kind of parish than your last. "Success" in different areas may differ significantly from one parish to another.
    For example, demographics govern the success of young adult ministry more than any other factor: if there are many young adults in your parish, you can easily have success in this area; if not, not.

    Regarding music, if the "soundtrack" of your Sunday Mass sounds foreign, why is that? Is there an actual problem, or is it a matter of taste? If it is a matter of taste, it is worth examining how your own preferences were formed. Do you think of your seminary's music as the ideal? What is your ideal, and how did it come to be your ideal? Is it ideal according to the documents? Is it musically excellent?

    3. Do not be afraid to do #2 above. It will stand you in good stead when you have hardball discussions with your staff. You will know what your convictions are about the different areas of parish service, and what they are grounded upon. It will make you strong.

    4. Have hardball discussions with your staff. Tell them what you expect of them in terms of excellence. Do not be afraid to set the bar high.

    5. Pay your staff a decent salary. Look at their cars. Are they mostly 12 year old Saturns? If so, why is that? What is the median salary of professionals in your area? What is the median salary of your staff? Do your staff members have masters' degrees? What is the median salary of professionals in your area with master's degrees? Don't your parishioners deserve to be served by professionals?

    If you have a school, look at the cars in the carpool line. Are they mostly 12 year old Saturns? If not, why is that? If your staff has dubiously reliable basics, like transportation, and your school parents have spiffy basics, like late-model SUVs and minivans, your staff salaries should be raised before you subsidize the school. If the children in your school bring expensive lunches to school and your DRE brings a sandwich every day, why is that?

    6. Take some time to consider whether you feel you are a) very musical, z) not musical at all, or, as is likely, somewhere in between. I will tell you a trade secret: your music director and everyone else in the world, except for Mozart and that sort of thing, is also somewhere in between. This is perfectly true. Music is a craft, a trade, an art, and people can be very good at it, but you can still supervise them because you are also musical. Supervising engineers is different, because not everyone is an engineer. Supervising a musician is supervising a peer who has spent more time at your common ability, musicianship. You are human, you have a heart that beats--you are musical.

    I mention this because there seems to be a misunderstanding about music, that the world is divided into those who can do music and those who cannot. This is not true (except in really really rare cases that are as exceptional as Mozart is). You can do music, and it is part of your pastoral responsibility to do music. Your music director is there to help you do that. And also to play the organ properly, etc.

    Knowing this should be of some help when having hardball discussions with your musicians. It will also help you to agree when the DM asks if s/he can help you learn to sing the Preface.

    7. Two stories.
    a) When I became a DM the pastor made me read the recently taken parish survey. An equal number of people said, "We need to sing more of the classics by the St. Louis Jesuits," and "I love these great oldstyle hymns they sing in this parish." An equal number said, "We need more Latin" and "We aren't supposed to sing in Latin since Vatican II." An equal number said, "I love the wonderful hymn we sing to our patron saint" and "Please DO NOT EVER sing the hymn to our patron saint again. EVER."

    b) Once at their monthly meeting the over-50 lunch club complained about the parish's music. Apparently we weren't singing the songs that everyone knew and loved, etc. So I said, "What songs does everyone want to sing?" The person I was talking to did not have specifics, so I asked her if she would ask the group to make a list. After the next meeting, she told me that they only agreed on one hymn, and it was the last one I expected: O Lord I Am Not Worthy.

    The moral of the stories is, in matters of musical taste there is hardly ever one agreed-upon consensus. There will be complaints, but there is not a positive consensus.

  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,454
    Keep your door open and encourage some conversation between you and your DM.

    Encourage the good musical education of youth.

    Thank your volunteer choir often, especially if they are good and dedicated. Offer to pay for a catered end of the year party for them and allow them to bring their spouses and children, because they sacrifice too (think only bass has six kids, four of whom sit with mum who is alone in the pew)

    You get what you pay for.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    That is the longest post Kathy has ever published! :-) It needs to be part of her dissertation, I thinks.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    If you truly are tone-deaf, please don't attempt the preface dialogue, as no one will know what note to begin the responses on.

    On the other hand, most people who think they are tone-deaf can benefit from some basic lessons in voice skills -- for example, learning to match a pitch or repeat a short melody that you hear. You'll probably need to get a voice teacher outside the parish, because most organists don't have much training in this area.
  • Be careful! The music director, choir member, organist and or choirmaster you might inherit could very well be proven to be the next Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Yo Yo Ma, Robert Shaw, Palestrina, Bruckner or even Dr. Mahrt, regardless of the car they drive or the sandwich they bring to lunch. And don't forget, Adolph Hitler was once a choirboy! What we sow, so shall we reap.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,027
    1) Don't change anything (aside from correcting really, really severe liturgical abuses like desecration issues, etc.) for the first year. Related to that...
    2) LISTEN
    3) After a year, DO start changing some things that seem to need it. Otherwise, people will assume the status quo is what you want.
    4) DO consult experts in the competencies you're looking to address (finance/construction/music/PRAYER); DON'T consult them, then totally disregard their advice, then whine when things inevitably hit the fan. Even our Blessed Lord needed collaborators, choosing only to correct when strictly necessary.

    ...related to music...
    1) Call in the current musicians. Encourage them (regardless of what you think of them), thank them for their gifts, see if they need anything. Mention that any changes you request would be for the good of the Church and the local parish, not your personal taste.
    2) Encourage singing of the communion antiphon at some, if not all, weekend Masses, and at times definitely with an antiphon/psalm tone verse construction. This is a relatively non-controversial change, as people are less likely to sing at that time anyway. The case made for singing the Word of God while one receives the Word of God in Holy Communion is a pretty hard one to argue against if one is really honest with oneself.
    3) Ditto for the responsorial psalm.
    4) If you need to hire a musician, bring in another trusted director of music (who is a good musician!) to consult. They can help you avoid pitfalls that might not be obvious.
    5) When faced with a decision between an excellent musician who is relatively clueless about liturgy (assuming scandal or some other circumstance is not present) and an excellent Catholic who is not a good musician, take the better musician. It is easier to encourage virtue than to discover (or provoke!) talent! Option A will take up more of your time, but will also show that person (assuming you dialogue with them as an equal) how much you care about their work.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,641
    Learn to take vacations, relax, and do something fun and enjoyable on your days off. Your level of stress being extraordinarily high doesn't just make you feel miserable - it makes everyone around you very uncomfortable. The parish won't fall apart if you go to the beach on your Tuesday off day, or spend the whole day at a coffee shop reading, or drive out to the country to go antiquing. Coming in on your Tuesday every week and then complaining about it makes your staff go insane.*


    * - footnote - I have to say that this seems more prevalent in certain dioceses than others. Oddly, in a certain revolutionary southwestern diocese I find all the priests I've met to be very calm, cool, and collected.
    Thanked by 1BruceL
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,050
    I have personally witnessed on more than one occasion a pastor coming in who's been taught or advised to be distrustful. It doesn't end well; distrust is toxic and pandemic. People (staff and congregants) are naturally apprehensive about change, and a pastor who allows himself to feed that feeds a cycle of vice rather than virtue.

    There's a difference between being trusting versus being credulous. A trusting person can accept what people say as a piece of information without radiating distrust on the one hand or on the other hand lapsing into credulity. It's a subtle skill, but almost all good managers I've know are highly skilled at it. Good EQ helps.
    Thanked by 2BruceL CHGiffen
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    With Richard's indulgence I'd like to amplify his comments-
    Discouraging a priest/deacon from singing because of pitch issues is wrong-headed to begin with. We aren't protectors of the art or aesthetic, and he is an ordained and inspired persona doing his office. I don't care if he's on mic and off pitch, he's making the effort to go deeper into those duties, and if that causes a DM/choirmaster/"cantor" irritation, then that person should be confident to lead the PIP's responses with surety and clarity. I have a 1%er deacon, absolutely tone-deaf. But when he arrives at the ambo with the Gospels and that grating, worse-than-any-tri-tone sound comes through the PA with "Alleluia," I rejoice. And every one of those occasions makes it a transforming moment whenever he actually does something correct. Easter Sunday last he stumbled into interval accuracy with the Ita Missa est. Glorious.
    Then we WORK with these guys. I worked for the last year with an associate, one on one (the first ever who actually followed through) plowing through his orations in the Missal. He has aural matching issues while on the mic during hymns and such. But alone, he's quite accurate and pleasant. His last Mass was last Sunday, he chanted every oration perfectly. Work with priests, cajole slackers with persuasion and Port.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,510
    As a Byzantine working in a Latin parish, I find it amazing that priests and deacons can not sing. Since the eastern liturgy is chanted and not spoken, those guys would not have been ordained without learning to chant. Ours have to take courses to learn it, so I am surprised Latin seminaries don't always teach singing/chanting.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,596
    Here is my Laundry List:

    (NB: many of these suggestions are based on real-life occurrences known to me, either personally, on this board, or from other colleagues).

    1) Be courteous, kind, calm: in short, be a decent human being.
    2) Understand that you are the New Person, not the DM, the choir, or parishoners, therefore there may very well be a strong parish culture (for better or worse) that you have inherited. This includes liturgical/devotional life.
    3) Look at how long the choir has been in existence: you may be inheriting an institution 100+ years old, that has maintained parochial customs and traditions, and most likely views their mission as safeguarding and handing on a patrimony.
    4) Don't change anything liturgically (except the most egregious things, like wooden chalices) for 12 months.
    5) Expect there to be miscommunications. Everyone, including Pastors and DMs, are human. You might say something that makes sense to you, but the DM might need it to be translated into musician-speak, and v.v.
    6) Don't give mandates that have to be carried out immediately, such as, next week I want the choir to sing XYZ - the choir might need a month to rehearse XYZ in order for it to sound decent.
    7) Respect the professional opinions of your musicians, particularly paid staff. We are not servants to carry out your every whim or doormats to be tread upon. There is a difference between a supervisor and a slave-driver, though some don't know the difference (in any job); and also, you are Pastor to the musicians in the choir, too, not just the bullies in the K of C or Ladies' Guild who make their (usually feebly presented) opinions known to everyone who doesn't ask.
    8) Be kind, courteous, and respectful. (Did I say that already? It's really important.)
    9) Don't call the musicians in for a beating, erm, meeting every time something goes wrong. Life happens, and people are people; live music is not a recording (I think we've forgotten that in the era of MP3s), and sometimes things go wrong.
    10) Don't tell the organist how to play the organ and what stops he should use. Presume that he has training and a modicum of taste. The organist doesn't presume to tell you what to say in your homilies, does he?
    11) Don't yell at employees (of any stripe), when something doesn't go your way. You are a priest running a parish, not a bully in infant school.
    12) Have a sense of humor, and let your day of be a day off.
    13) Don't waste people's time. Make sure any meetings are well organized and to the point - this is important for Liturgy Committee, Parish Council, or anything else.
    14) Communicate personally, particularly when delivering anything that could be seen as "bad news", NOT via e-mail, where tone can often be misconstrued.
    15) There are no "sides" to things; DMs and Pastors may disagree on certain things, even very strongly at times, but disagreement doesn't mean that the DM is "not on your side" and is out to get you.
    16) Try to build a rapport and friendship between yourself and all your employees/volunteers. In addition to meetings (which are often boring), have get-togethers with people, like a Christmas Party for Staff or a Summer BBQ.
    17) Pray, don't Prey.
    18) Say thank you, every once in a while. I have never met any good musician working in a church who is there to stroke their own ego -- If that were the case, we wouldn't be working for the Church -- but a simple Thank You once in a while is a nice gesture, and really, a common courtesy.
    19) We (musicians) aren't here to make money -- If that were the case, we wouldn't be working for the Church. Realize that the Music Ministry is as much a vocation as the Sacerdotal Ministry or Religious Life, and we have often given up much (even marriage) to do this and be able to survive on the salary, and often have to take another "real job" in order to just get by.
    20) Be a Christian.
  • Don't "let the tail wag the dog" (applicable not just in music ministry but the whole of the parish), i.e. don't let a vociferous few make you believe they speak on behalf of the entire parish when they complain.

    Personally, I'd say take an appropriate interest in the music program and musical liturgy. Trust your DM until/unless (s)he proves untrustworthy - especially if/when the time comes you have to hire your own! Promote musical liturgy by example, i.e. singing their parts, if possible. If you arrive at a parish that is in the rut of "singing at Mass" instead of "singing the Mass" (a very likely scenario) and/or if you yourself aren't comfortable yet, do it incrementally (e.g., singing the dialogues, recto tono if you have to - it's amazing how that seemingly minute aspect adds to the reverence of the sacred liturgy).

    Finally, everyone has to understand that this is a time of transition in the parish, and that there may be a few bumps in the road (especially for a first-time pastor or, on the flip side, working with a DM who is in his/her first full-time position out of college, etc.). This is where prayer and respectful dialogue are key.
  • Buy each of them a copy of When Sheep Attack and have them write a book report on it to make sure they read it.

    [In case this is unfamiliar: it's about how a small clique of disgruntled parishioners can sometimes unjustly force the removal of a minister or church staff member. --admin]
  • Pay attention to the training of children.
    It is not a good use of resources to spend all your time an effort trying to get the choir to sing different things if their average age is ninety. Instead train up the children in the way they should go and that will keep paying dividends for decades.
    Thanked by 2canadash hilluminar
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,027
    Can't believe I forgot this, but at least after a few months, make sure you establish a Mass where you sing the collects/preface/etc. This is an essential part of proper ars celebrandi. We have a retired priest in residence who does not sing at all. He is a very, very holy priest and celebrates Mass with reverence; nonetheless, there is a tangible difference in the mode of celebration (and prayer of the assembly) since he refuses to sing.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    I would say singing the Mass is very important as well. My pastor does it every day, and it's not that hard, and makes a large difference.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • New advice:

    Visit the parishioners in their own homes -- that is, make a point of visiting them, even if it means that you don't have dinner at your house for a while. You'll get to see who they really are. That way, you'll know the squeaky wheels from the actual Catholics. You won't plan new programs based on squeaky wheels.

    Visit the poor in your parish, the ones who can't afford to make a sumptuous party for you. There's nothing wrong with visiting the wealthy, of course, but they will expect to be first, and the poor (especially in our day of only asking about financial bottom lines, and not indices of leading Catholic indicators) expect to be left behind.

    Focus on the liturgical beauty of a parish, not a buzz of new programs. The wheel doesn't need to be reinvented, but if the parish is running on square wheels, they will need to be replaced.

    Somehow I forgot to put this first. Remember the example of St. John Vianney, who prayed for the conversion of his parish. Spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, because when people see you worshipping God, they will want to do so too.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    Thanks to all who have posted comments on the topic so far. For a reminder, here it is again:
    what HELPFUL advice would you give these priests about any aspect of parish liturgical music ministry?

    (I've moved off-topic comments to a separate thread.)
  • Thanks to all who have offered helpful advice so far. My presentation is on Tuesday morning, so more on-topic reflections are still welcome!
  • donr
    Posts: 944
    Always take the advice of a highly trained Sacred Musician with a true vision of Vatican II over your parish council or anyone else including the choir members. It doesn't really matter what peoples opinions are. Do what the church is asking of us.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Always take the advice of a highly trained Sacred Musician with a true vision of Vatican II over your parish council or anyone else including the choir members. It doesn't really matter what peoples opinions are. Do what the church is asking of us.

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  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    Charles, can you put that into words so Fr. Chepponis can present it as helpful advice for new pastors?
  • How about, "get ready to be in conflict with influential parishioners if you promote Sacred Music. And be ready to let them walk if that's what they choose to do."

  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Well, my little jest there was actually a response to donr's comment. Though his advice may be truthful, I'm pretty sure that a DM who advances that advice to most pastors will immediately be targeted by any number of attack sheep. I've seen it in my diocese with one of our forum friends. There are folks I consider to be pinnacle level directors, above my paygrade, who've lost gigs suddenly (not just dear KevinKY.) Add to that, it may be risky if not wrong-headed to totally disregard people's opinions. PIPs don't speak Magisterial for the most part. So, it might be a better path to win friends and then influence people.
    OTOH, a DM's frustration level with resistance to doctrinaire management could result in the DM calling out a pastor or other clergy, which results in a near death experience for one's career. Such as I found out up close, and personal a year ago.
  • OTOH, a DM's frustration level with resistance to doctrinaire management could result in the DM calling out a pastor or other clergy, which results in a near death experience for one's career. Such as I found out up close, and personal a year ago.


    Not saying it's necessarily our job to do it, but some of those clergymen need to be called out.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,181
    I think Richard's point is that the only on-topic remarks in this thread are those consisting of advice to new pastors.
  • Ok, then.

    1. Embrace real Sacred Music. Period. Encourage chant, polyphony, and use of the organ.

    2. Mass isn't about what people like or don't like. This includes the music. Toss the theology of the Mass as Assembly, and return to things that remind that the Mass is a Sacrifice, and is not about the people who show up on any given Sunday.

    3. Hire competent musicians, clearly articulate that you want true Sacred Music: chant, polyphony, and use of the organ, and then trust them to do it for you. Release from service those who aren't capable of that and refuse to learn how, or those who refuse to perform Sacred Music, even if they have the capability.

    4. Be prepared to let people walk out of your church because they don't like the items mentioned in this list. There will be people who do exactly this, but don't get caught up in the popularity contest that it can become. Do not let people threaten you in order to get what they want. Normally, they will threaten to leave, or pull their financial support, etc. if you continue to support the items in #1. See #2.

    5. The church building is a house of prayer. Period. Do not allow music that destroys this.

    6. The people don't have to sing everything, and congregational hymnody is not the pinnacle of music in the Catholic Church. See #2 regarding Mass as Assembly.

    7. If you aren't already capable, learn to chant. There are great books on how to do this, and there are many people on this forum (and in communities around the country) that can help you learn. You must chant the Mass. Everything in its entirety.

    8. If your church building doesn't have an organ already installed, immediately begin the process for acquiring one. A Catholic Church should have an organ, and it should be used all the time. There are people on this forum (and in communities around the country) that can help you research your options, and also begin the project.

    9. If your choir isn't already singing from the loft or in choir stalls, immediately place them there. I realize that especially with lofts and with older choristers, there may be issues with people being able to climb stairs and an alternate location may be necessary. If your choir doesn't have a legitimate reason for not being in the loft or in stalls, they should be there. Also, do not allow general parishioners to sit in the choir areas if they are not in the choir, even when the choir is not using the space.

    10. If your church does have an organ, see that it is used regularly and is kept in top playing condition.

    11. If your church doesn't already have a choir, take steps to begin one immediately. Ensure that this group understands they will be responsible for singing chant and polyphony (two-part music is easier to grasp than four-part, and can be just as beautiful).
  • Fr. Chepponis, I'd love to see an informal report on your presentation and how the priests received the information. Great idea that I hope to incorporate in my own diocese. Thanks.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,109
    two-part music is easier to grasp than four-part, and can be just as beautiful)
    Is this really advice for the pastor? He should be aware that there are expert musicians that might disagree.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,983

    If your choir is full of untrained singers (like me), and is unauditioned (like the community choir I sing in), an expert choir mistress/master will get us to beauty more quickly with two part music.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,109
    It might seem counterintuitive, but if (like me) you've taught unauditioned choirs of untrained singers you might have had the experience that it's far easier to get (for examples) Silent Night up to speed than O come, O come Emmanuel. That is, it is unless one's supervisor happens to know better...