Organists vs. Singers?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,649
    Welcome to the forum, Heartfeltsong (new user).

    This new user's comment was posted on an old discussion about soloists, but it really deserves to have its own thread.
  • Heartfeltsong
    Posts: 21
    Hi:
    I'm new to this blog but in church music 33 years. For most of that time I was fortunate enough to have a pastor and a music director who were happy to have me solo on special occassions. This "rule" about what is appropriate or not at Mass is certainly not a religious "must." Violating it won't get you excommunicated or burned at the stake.
    While our choir was not a regular performing one, I often sang solo during Masses at which they did perform.
    I have a real bone to pick with the Catholic idea that the one running the show has to be a keyboard player with or without a degree. You organists have a guild and that has given you a big say-so. Meanwhile we vocalists who have skill and put in the sweat are pushed aside because the orgainist really hasn't the desire to put in the extra time to learn solo repertoire accompaniments that are usually a good deal harder than the choral stuff I have been hearing at Masses where the choir does the vocals. Most choir members are untrained and often don't read music so this keeps the MD (keyboard player) in an authoritative and unchallenged position. It does not make him/her a good choice for training cantors or choirs or for picking good music to sing---yes that is what the parish does. It doesn't play it sings so a singer should be the one in charge of singing.
    Given that situation do you really want to sing at church unless you love being in a choir?
    Where this whole soloing is inappropriate for Mass came from I'd be interested to know.
    It certainly doesn't come from any congregation I have performed for--and yes it is a performance as surely as giving a good sermon is. Sometimes the solo can be done preceeding the Mass like a prelude.
    Organists often find places in the Mass to show off their solo skills but apparently that is appropriate as is drowning out the choir. I had the "gall" to actually tell the organist at a concert in the Cathedral (oh yes he was also the choir director)that he was playing too loud. The next year he toned it down and the choir got a good deal more applause. Well we could finally hear them!
    Thanks for listening. We need good organists BUT we also NEED excellent singers and they should be given some space and respect.
    Thanked by 2PaxMelodious Matilda
  • NihilNominis
    Posts: 364
    I know a certain number of music programs run by a primary vocalist with the organist a paid assistant. Many of them work quite well. My involvement in them also provided opportunities for me to grow as an organist, since I was truly a necessary component, rather than tolerated by a more competent organist for the sake of giving me experience.

    I think the missed point is this: a competent organist should be a sensitive singer and conductor, with an intimate knowledge of the choral repertoire. Otherwise, he's just a recitalist. If he or she then can also understand the accompaniment and the voluntaries, as well as lead the congregational hymnody, then in that sense the organist will enjoy a more full and comprehensive perspective over the whole process of parish music-making, and be able to intervene personally at all stages of the music-making to correct or improve, and be generally speaking better situated to direct the whole program.

  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,861
    Some of us have gotten too old for solo singing, but still direct and play. However, what soloists often do not realize is that every mass is not an opportunity to sing solos. Sometimes they are welcome, sometimes not. Other instrumentalists have the same issue, at times.
  • Carol
    Posts: 440
    Welcome to the forum! I am also a vocalist and choir member for many years in the same parish. You are right- generally speaking, the pastor hires the music director who is usually the organist for Masses. It sounds as though you are frustrated and feeling that your skills have been disrespected in the past. It is important to be willing to participate as a choir member if you have the kind of voice for solo pieces! Choirs are often in need of more skilled voices. Lucky choirs have several members capable of being soloists and opportunities to solo are shared among those able to carry that role. Many choir directors are also trying to develop the skills of all the singers and may give opportunities to sing psalm verses to those who are developing their skills leaving those more capable singing only the response. Tastes of the pastor and music director do come in to play and if you have been in the same parish for many years and seen music directors and pastors come and go, you have probably observed this and may even have felt abused at times by the caprices of one of these individuals. I have other options for performing so it is easy to take a back seat when necessary at church. It is not my only performing outlet though I feel I do my best singing in church where the music comes from my belief in God. A good music program can enhance worship so much that it is sad there are so many places where sacred music is not what it could and should be.
  • Carol
    Posts: 440
    CharlesW why does it say zero for your posts number? I know you are far ahead of most here!
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 743
    Where this whole soloing is inappropriate for Mass came from I'd be interested to know.

    A better question might be - where is solo singing part of the tradition of the Church music? No one is going to excommunicate you for singing solos at mass - but then it's pretty hard for anyone to get corrected - let alone excommunicated - for anything done at mass. It's more a matter of understanding what the liturgy is and having the music conform to that.

    Looking at Church documents on the liturgy, while the roles of the choir, psalmist, and organist are mentioned, the soloist is not. And with a few possible exceptions, liturgical music (i.e. settings of proper liturgical texts) are written for choir or schola (though they may include solo sections).

    Pope Pius X in his motu proprio on sacred music allowed for solo music, but thought of it as part of a larger choral piece: "it is not to be understood that solos are entirely excluded. Solo singing, however, should never predominate to such an extent as to have the greater part of liturgical song executed in that manner. The solo phrase should . . . be strictly bound up with the rest of the choral composition."

    More to the point, the style of most solo music, what the pope called "theatrical," "is diametrically opposed to Gregorian Chant and classic polyphony and therefore to the most important standard of all good sacred music. The intrinsic structure, the rhythm, and the 'conventionalism' of this style are poorly adapted to the requirements of true liturgical music."

    So Pius X is saying that most music strictly for solo voice is contrary to what liturgical music ought to be. Whereas the liturgy is meant to be the action of the community of the Church, solos - by the fact they are sung by an individual voice an in a style which is meant to highlight that voice - draw attention to the individual singer. Pius X considers this "theatrical" and "conventional" - i.e. too much like music written for secular use. Church music, he says, should "be free from reminiscences of motifs adopted in the theaters, and be not fashioned even in their external forms after the manner of profane pieces."

    As for applause at church, I'll let Cdl. Ratzinger have the last word: "Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment."
  • Heartfeltsong
    Posts: 21
    NihilNominis--is that no name? I took Latin but am rusty. Yes of course the more qualifications a person has the better the experience for them and everyone else.
    But considering all the things you think an organist should be able to do, couldn't you share a bit of that with a co-director vocalist and not work yourself to death for a pittance? Nobody gets rich doing church music. And there's room for everyone to have a chance to shine and be given a little creative freedom without the whole thing becoming a free-for-all mess.
    I don't think I missed the point at all. There may be a few of you out there capable of doing the full monty properly but for the most part priests can't pay enough for your callibre. My point is keyboard isn't all there is and a strong, trained singer might be a better choice than an unqualified keyboard player.
    When I began cantoring I was first refused by a priest who said no one would sing without an organ. A new priest came in who gave me the chance and guess what--the old priest was 100% wrong. People sang just fine and eventually other people who played instruments took turns joining with me--pianists, guitarists and sometimes I held down the fort alone.
    Rich-enough:
    Pius X is pre Vatican II. I know many in the church wish that never happened but it did and the Mass that became more "social and inclusive" allowed for a less stringent adherence to a particular cookie-cutter format. Pius X would not have allowed women on the altar as lectors, servers or anything else. Pius X would not have allowed us to chew the host, receive the host in our hands or take the wine, or say the Mass in the vernacular. Pius the X would have his back to us thoughout the Mass said in Latin. And for most of us most of the time there would have been no music at Mass at all. And we had to be dressed up with women wearing hats or veils nd fasting from midnight on before communion with an inevitable fainter at the eleven Mass. Unless you want to go back to this, why choose to hamstring your musicians/vocalists with yesterday's news?
    I grew up going to the Latin Mass. My father was an altar server as a kid and when he was dying asked for a prayerbook with the pater noster. When he heard the early V-II Masses with guitar singing Kumbaya he left the church and never went back.
    I'm with him on kumbaya but am very grateful V-II took place.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,649
    LOL. That sounds like "Susan from the Parish Council", a fictional character on Facebook who overflows with enthusiasm for crazy '60s and '70s liturgical practices.
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 45
    I don't think there's a camp arrayed on one side clamoring against competent vocalist-directors with all of the church pre VII on their side. A congregation singing with gusto - and without reliance on organ - can be a wonderful thing, is a wonderful thing. I think St Pius X's motu propio is a legitimate answer to your question about sources on the origins of disapproval of certain kinds of solo singing, which is what you seemed to be asking about. He's still quite contemporary - and though there is of course more allowance for musical options in the New Order of Mass, sound principles of sacred music will always be relevant. Church music, new or old, should be guided by different ideals than musical theatre or a pop concert. If you agree with that, well, that happens to be a pre VII notion. And a post VII notion for that matter!
    Thanked by 2rich_enough SarahJ
  • mmeladirectress
    Posts: 651
    >> the Mass that became more "social and inclusive" allowed for a less stringent adherence to a particular cookie-cutter format

    why do I have a feeling this thread is at risk of making a 90 degree turn like a ship on the ocean...
    Thanked by 1Salieri
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 45
    .
  • TCJ
    Posts: 616
    It's interesting to note that Vatican II mostly reworded (in a more loosy-goosy way) what Pius X said. Even that which was stated differently has to be interpreted in light of tradition. People seem to forget that the Church existed prior to Vatican II.

    Oh, and the Roman Missal still indicates that the default is "back to the people." I prefer the much more "progressive" LEADING THE PEOPLE. You want your commander up front leading you. He's your leader, not your stand-up comedian looking for laughs.

    Also, I cringe anytime something says, "take the wine." What wine? What happened to the Real Presence? Did you know that you receive our Lord in his entirety when you receive from one species only?

    At some point, people took a side road that's leading to a cliff and they don't want to "go back" to get back on the right road (which, incidentally, leads forward).
    Thanked by 2Carol NihilNominis
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,772
    Cantor is indeed a liturgical role, and a glance at IMSLP's list of motet collections for solo voice + bc (not even including Mozart & Schubert's works with orchestra, nor Gounod & Saint-Säens with organ) should suggest that Pius X 's views were perhaps another swing of, ahem, taste.

    I agree it's ideal for singer, director & organist to see eye to eye. This calls for a mutual understanding:
    the orgainist really hasn't the desire to put in the extra time to learn solo repertoire accompaniments that are usually a good deal harder than the choral stuff

    considering all the things you think an organist should be able to do, couldn't you share a bit of that with a co-director vocalist and not work yourself to death for a pittance?
    Thanked by 1hilluminar
  • Incardination
    Posts: 604
    CharlesW why does it say zero for your posts number? I know you are far ahead of most here!


    Carol, if you have the thread open when someone posts, it may show them as zero at that moment until you leave and reenter the thread. :) It was something that threw me the first time I saw it as well!
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,861
    Carol, it's 9802. The forum gods must be angry again. LOL
    Thanked by 2Carol cesarfranck
  • Heartfeltsong,

    There are people who take positions you have taken and use arguments you have advanced, but who do so as parody. Assuming that you're quite serious, I shall try to address the main thrust of what you say.

    1) Mass is the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary made present before us. Therefore, any music which draws attention to the performer and, in so doing, away from God, is inappropriate. Full stop. This music can be played or sung, synthesized or produced live, presented by the untrained or the degreed -- it's still wrong.

    2) For precisely the same reason, the priest's common practice of turning to face us all the time (common in the vernacular Mass) and address us with eye contact or handshakes or by strolling up and down the aisles of the church during Mass makes us focus on each other and on him, but not on God, to whom all our prayers should be addressed. "Anthropocentric worship of God" is an oxymoron, even if many people don't see it as such.

    3) Could a skilled singer lead the music in a parish? Sure. I'm much more a singer than I am an instrumentalist. I frequently lead a small number of singers in the choirs I have occasion to direct, and our goal is to use our skill to worship God and lead others to do so as well. To the extent we succeed, we do our assigned task well.

    4) When an organist accompanies singing, should he think like a singer? Absolutely! Singers need to breathe, pause, and so on, but the organist's finger don't need to pause to catch their breath.

    5) Pianos and guitars are utterly unsuited to be used in the church building for the august ceremonies of the Church for the public worship of God. Pianos don't make sound the same way the voices they're trying to accompany do, and guitars (without amplification) can't support choral singing. On your grounds, these instruments fail. As it turns out, His Holiness Pope Pius X insists that anything which has secular connections shouldn't be used at Mass, so pianos and guitars were ruled out long before I came on the scene.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,252
    Aside - curious CharlesW is as I write credited with 9802 posts at 9:22PM, and 0 posts at 9:40PM (both my local GMT+1)
    The traditional Gregorian antiphons are designed for solo cantor, surely. Those abundant melismata are difficult enough for one, (synchronized swimming always appears too mechanical for my taste).
    UPDATE it's been revised to 9803 while I was writing.
    Thanked by 2Carol hilluminar
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,252
    Not only is the Gregorian treasury of music monophonic, but is intended for UNaccompanied singing. And more recently prime place in singing is assigned by the Church to dialogue between priest and people, necessarily solo lead, and according to the rubrics UNaccompanied. Similarly VII required, and got, the Graduale Simplex - designed for cantor and people.
  • Gamba
    Posts: 132
    Let’s see if I can say this without engaging in grotesque stereotyping.

    Most universities make at least a token effort to teach organ majors many of the skills beyond performing organ repertory one needs to be a church musician:
    -Conducting
    -Comprehending the liturgical year and the structure of various denominations’ liturgies
    -Sightreading, and particularly open score, so that one can accompany a choir in rehearsal
    -Harmony, so that one can furnish an accompaniment when only the melody is available, and judge whether an anthem/motet is singable or trash
    -Accompanying hymns and anthems, and conducting the choir while simultaneously accompanying them (something one without keyboard skills cannot do).
    -Sightsinging/aural skills courses and required participation in choir mean that the organ major will have the ability to sing the simple liturgical music of the conventional cantor if circumstances require. And, they will have some grasp of choral singing due to their experience in the collegiate choir. This would, of course, be greatly improved if they choose to take secondary voice lessons or coursework specific to choral conducting/voice science.

    So, a person with a BMus in organ should be able to do all these things upon graduation, at a level suitable for the churches which tend to have money to hire a person with only a BMus. And they’ll be able to play organ music for preludes, postludes, weddings, funerals, etc. They’ll get better at them if they go on to further study.

    A person with a BMus in voice, on the other hand, has had a more focused education, geared almost exclusively toward learning bel canto rep in order to pass MMus auditions, in order to pass young artist program auditions, in order to audition for a regional opera house, in order to ultimately sing at the Met or teach future BMus voice students. In most cases, their keyboard skills will be limited to the scales and chord progressions needed to pass class piano.

    So, if I was the pastor at Our Lady of Small Collections, and only had the money to hire one person, I’d want the organ major.

    Now, if I was in charge at a place with unlimited resources, of course I’d want someone with a vocal background and a doctorate in choral conducting running the choirs. But such places are few and far between.
  • madorganist
    Posts: 509
    Just a few selections from what Vatican II actually said:
    The typical edition of the books of Gregorian chant is to be completed; and a more critical edition is to be prepared of those books already published since the restoration by Saint Pius X. (Sacrosanctum Concilium 117)
    The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites. (SC 36.1)
    In sung liturgical services celebrated in Latin: Gregorian chant, as proper to the Roman liturgy, should be given pride of place . . . . (Musicam Sacram 50)
    Steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. (SC 54)
    I'm not even going to address women servers or "taking the wine." You'd better check with Susan on those.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,861
    Gamba, not every organist acquires all those skills you list. There are some I either never did along with some I haven't done in so long, I have nearly forgotten how to do them. So if you spend money learning all that, then go to work for Fr. Cheapskate who won't pay a just salary, you are financially in a hole.

    There is a grind to church music. It's a long year of Sundays, each with different music, issues, and requirements. Add in administrative details and it is a wonder we accomplish as much as we do.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,347
    TBH, this thread reminds me of the dramatic exit of someone in my choir who was bent out of shape because I as DM was taking more time to build and build-up the choir rather than constantly feed her solos from Messiah, Christmas Oratorio, etc., and "treating her like everyone else" and not "as a professional" on "equal terms" with myself--she concluded by giving me a lengthy list of "demands" that needed to be met in order for her to remain (I refused, she left). If I didn't know that it was an impossibility based on her age and the presumed age of the OP (based on remembrance of the Church prior to Vat2) I'd say they were the same person. The N.O., quite frankly, with the loose (or, rather, non-existent) rubrics and the miraculous multiplication of options, is as much a breeding ground for egos as stagnant water is for mosquitoes; Why can't people just be servants of the liturgy, and shut up and say/sing what the books tell them to? This goes for soloists, celebrants, and organists, all.

    I apologize to the O.P. if this critique seems overly harsh, but having been on the receiving end of things, and having witnessed similar displays in other choirs, community, and college choruses that I've directed, accompanied, and sung in, I don't have much patience.
  • Gamba
    Posts: 132
    CharlesW, of course; just saying that’s been my experience of the BMus program in the past ten years since I started and ended my student life in three different (fairly large and worthy) organ departments.
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 182
    I've been singing for 40+ years, solo, cantor, and choir. I have no degree in music or voice, only my tenure. I never go to church thinking I'm there to perform. Singing solos or solo part in a choral piece, even as a cantor, all was done at the direction of the parish organist or music director, they are the ones in charge. I've earned the respect of organist's and music directors over the years and become good friends with them. If I make any suggestions for hymns or whatever it might be musically, it's always for thier consideration. I don't know if any of what I said helps you but as my mom would say, "You get more with honey than you do with vinegar".
    Thanked by 3CharlesW Carol SarahJ
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,616
    To be a good choirmaster one must have -

    A passionate faith
    A passionate love of liturgy and its lore
    A passionate love and knowledge of our patrimony of choral literature
    A passionate love of chant
    A passionate love of hymnody
    A passionate love of the organ and its lore (the organ, the king of instruments, is the instrument of the King of kings - it alone was singled out by the recent council)
    A passionate love of choirs and choir lore (especially one's own)
    A passionate obedience to competent authority (one's pastor, bishop, or abbot)
    A passionate love of one's congregation
    A passionate joy in leading one's singers to do the very best of which they are capable
    A passionate competence in voice and organ
    A passionate recognition that the object of all glorious music is the splendour of the liturgy and the glory of God.
    There are other 'passionates', but these will do for now.

    If a singer has these passions then he or she may be a choirmaster.
    It goes without saying that, as someone noted above, the normal foci of a singer's education are opera, art song literature, solo performance, and so forth. None of these are of value (in fact, they are a hindrance) in church music.
    A typical choirmaster and organist will have a passion for liturgy and a thorough knowledge of its lore that exceeds that of many, but not all, priests.
  • Heartfeltsong,

    I don't know if these are news to you, so I will apologize in advance if you already know them:

    singing a solo with an accompanist is NOT the same thing as singing as part of an ensemble.

    Soloists often make dreadful members of an ensemble

    Chant, sung by a properly-trained schola, is a beautiful thing.

    Hymns sung by musical parishioners can be beautiful.

    There is no necessary conflict between scholas singing beautiful chant and polyphony (on the one hand) and congregations singing Ordinaries and hymns (on the other).




  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,772
    singing a solo with an accompanist is NOT the same thing as singing as part of an ensemble.
    Well, that very much depends on whether one's pulling one's weight.
    Thanked by 1JL
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,861
    I have to agree with Chris on

    singing a solo with an accompanist is NOT the same thing as singing as part of an ensemble.


    I have had those soloists sing with the choir. One in particular sings solos quite well but can't seem to control her volume to blend with the choir. She also puts all the ritards and dynamics in that are often found in solos, but not in conformity with what the choir is singing. This can be a problem although some soloists seem to be able to overcome it.

    There is no necessary conflict between scholas singing beautiful chant and polyphony (on the one hand) and congregations singing Ordinaries and hymns (on the other).


    Been doing it for years. No conflict at all.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • Carol
    Posts: 440
    In many ways it is easier to be a soloist than a choir member. Especially if you have a good accompanist who follows the soloist well. The discipline of singing in a choir is to blend and to sing as one voice which requires attention to detail and to the direction of others.
  • tandrews
    Posts: 20
    Meanwhile we vocalists who have skill and put in the sweat are pushed aside because the [organist] really hasn't the desire to put in the extra time to learn solo repertoire accompaniments that are usually a good deal harder than the choral stuff I have been hearing at Masses where the choir does the vocals. Most choir members are untrained and often don't read music so this keeps the MD (keyboard player) in an authoritative and unchallenged position. It does not make him/her a good choice for training cantors or choirs or for picking good music to sing


    This is why I never went the organ performance route for my graduate studies. Taking voice and conducting lessons while being an organist helped me to appreciate more greatly what singers do at church and in turn, help them improve with cantoring, blending, reading music, breathing, et al, to make the music ministry more appealing to those in church and bring greater beauty to the Mass.

    To echo what's been said previously, musically speaking, a church music director should be a well-rounded individual in playing, choral conducting, and singing. He shouldn't be "just an organist" or "just a singer." The organist DM should learn how to sing, train cantors, and conduct, and the singer DM should learn to play, train cantors and conduct. But this only addresses the musical aspect, not the theological aspect, as has been addressed in previous posts.

    Finally, the accompaniments for many choral anthems can be outrageously difficult, especially part reductions (Haydn's Creation, Beethoven's Alleluia from the Mount of Olives, anything from Brahms' Requiem). I reject your argument that sacred solo repertoire (Schubert's "The Ave Maria" and the Bach-Gounod Ave Maria are the most common in my neck of the woods) is harder to accompany than choral repertoire.

    All that aside, if your DM is a keyboard player and knows nothing about singing and conducting, and you want him to improve as a well-rounded musician, you should encourage him to attend church music conferences like the CMAA Colloquium in Philly this summer to make him aware of the sweat that singers put in. I would encourage you to also attend and learn more about singing's role in the liturgy. Your church will probably even foot part of the bill as you can consider it professional development. Never stop improving!
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,649
    I know parish organists who have probably never sung in a choir under the direction of a professional choral conductor, so I'd urge organists without a vocal background to join a local community chorus and learn from the conductor's good example.

  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,252
    Neither of the community choirs I am in has a professional choral conductor currently, so that may not be a good guide. And the last professional we had was fresh from training in Hungary, had superb methods of improving our voice production and blending, and somehow I could not easily follow her conducting.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,649
    Those methods are what many parish organists can benefit from learning.
  • Heartfeltsong
    Posts: 21
    Although musicians have been conducting from the keyboard for centuries, it is better for the choir to have someone that is there solely to conduct them. I am grateful for the honesty of CharlesW who is a lot closer to what is going on around my neighborhood of parishes. Many organists aren't even organists--they play keyboard and do not specialize. They took some kind of keyboard lessons and are facile but often have no knowledge of liturgical practices. Don't suppose all parishes are lucky enough to get liturgically trained organist/directors. Maybe so in metropolitan areas of big cities.
    To suppose a vocalist is trained only to sing only shows your prejudice--I won't mention names--there seem to be a good many of you there. I was trained in conducting and playing instruments, along with courses in music history, sight reading etc. Many of us vocalists, I would presume, were Music Ed majors with a voice major. We aren't all Pavarotti's who can only sing and can't read. And I'd venture to guess the level of singing
    you get as an organ major would match the level of playing we got as singers...or did you all double major in voice as well? People who are trained as you characterize voice majors mostly are ooking for a job at the met and not as an unpaid member of a local parish.
    As for the poster who notes piano shouldn't be used but organ is okay because it produces sound which more closely resembles human voice I beg to differ. Many are not wind driven any more and a voice can't sing more than one line of melody at a time. If you want an instrument closer to voice I found the trumpet to be close.
    You posters who wish to characterize me as some sort of ignorant cartoon person are not showing a Christian attitude I would venture to say. My husband would call that argumentum ad hominum.
    There are many frustrations with being a DM and trying to minimize them is something I can appreciate. Dealing with people who want to solo but really lack the ability is a tricky thing and it's easy to offend whole families who want Johnny or Susie to shine but the dears have a range too limited for the piece or some other drawback.
    On the other hand there's a good lot of vocal music for soloists that adds to liturgy and does not detract no matter the ego of the vocalist.
    The drive toward everybody sing or keep silent dummies the music down to the level of the least musical. Please there's room for everyone who wants to use their talents a bit. Why suppose because a soloist asks to sing they expect to be up there all the time doing their thing? I suggested once every two months--that would fit in with how many feasts might call for a little extra. If an organist can play the Bach-Gounod as a meditation after communion and enhance the liturgy so can a good vocalist.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 440
    You make some good points. The MusicaSacra website takes a definite opinion that the organ is THE instrument for church music. It can be supplemented by other instruments, but that organ is best. When reading this blog you just have to understand where the posters are coming from. I come from the "4 hymn sandwich" with some ICEL chanted Mass parts which is frowned on by some here. That's just the way it is in my parish. I still come here to read, to learn and to comment occasionally. Don't take the comments personally, most people here are just passionate about what makes the best liturgy.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 182
    Heartfeltsong, are saying that you want to sing more solo's or that you want to have a more active role in the music program at your parish? I can recognize that you have a passion for what you do and the role it plays in church music, liturgy and the Mass. Perhaps what I would do, if I had your qualifications, is have a sit down meeting with your DM and express your desire to have a more active role in the direction music is taking in your parish. You may find that he or she to be very receptive and would welcome any help you could give. If you have a choir, I bet they would benefit greatly by having a conductor. I know our choir does. It's much better to have someone conducting than to read head bobs and other gestures from the DM while she is playing and trying to conduct from the organ or piano. There are many possibilities for the role you could play in your parish music program, but whatever the outcome there can only be one leader, one captain of the ship. Just my two cents, hope it helps.
    Thanked by 2Carol irishtenor
  • Heartfeltsong,

    In some circumstances, it is better to have separate conductors and organists. On the other hand, given how many squabbles break out between conductors and organists, there are certainly situations in which it would be better to have one person fill both offices.

    I agree that many people who put their hands (and feet) on an organ to use it as an accompaniment instrument (and some who use it for a recital instrument) aren't properly trained organists.

    I agree, also, that many parishes can't afford "liturgically trained" organist/directors. I will settle very happily for those with a Catholic heart. Those who insist that the choir must be surrounded by microphones, and that cantors must sing with arm-movements -- and so on -- may have liturgical training, but they're letting that deaden their proper sense of the sacred.

    Around here there are many people who have completed college-level music programs, so they aren't merely stereotyping when they speak of vocalists having (or not having) certain training.

    You'll find that calling a non-wind-driven organ an organ may get you into a (very old) argument around here. Rather than turn this thread into a replaying of that argument, I think I should ask you a question: Is a picture, even a hologram of your husband the same as your husband?

    Carol,

    When the CMAA takes the position that Organ is the instrument of Church music, she merely agrees with what the Church has taught her.


    Heartfeltsong,

    Perhaps you are referring to my comment about parody when you say someone is treating you as a cartoon. What I meant (and still mean) is that your line of reasoning is used by some not with a straight face but as a parody of the argument with which they disagree. The sad part is that your presentation could be taken, without changes, and used to lampoon "Vatican 2". I don't think you're a buffoon or a cartoon or anything of the sort.
    Thanked by 1Heartfeltsong
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 228
    The organ's similarity to the voice is in its ability to render a sustained sound vs. the percussiveness of a pianoforte, not because of its monophonic quality.
  • davido
    Posts: 158
    It is worth noting that the primary instrument of Christian worship is the human voice. Our Eastern brethren still maintain it as the ONLY instrument of Christian worship. Although hallowed by long western tradition, the organ is a bit of an interloper.

    I an a conservatory trained singer, and have worked in as solo cantor, choir director only, and organist only. Even thought I have been “in charge” in all positions, it is only as organist that I am actually running the show. The keyboard player is always in charge, really, because they are the one controlling most of the notes. It’s analogous to an opera singer on stage. The singer is the star, but the conductor is the one telling him what tempo to sing at to be successful and facilitating that tempo with the orchestra.

    Now an organist that cant/won’t sing is a whole other problem...
  • Heartfeltsong
    Posts: 21
    Davido--I hope you will take this as a quip although I have had to put up with organists who used this quality as a club--the organ can drown out everybody else so don't bother arguing with the king of the jungle. Chris Garton-Zavesky made the post about nixing pianos and guitars. I really think his post was saying organ makes sound using wind like the voice ergo it's okay for church.
    To me this entire discussion has become like saying only beeswax candles can go on the altar. Trying to tell me VII was not a game changer but just a recap of what was said before is to miss the whole spirit of what we who are old enough to have experienced pre VII and post VII liturgies were all about.
    There are musical styles and works that don't blend well with liturgy. .
    Sometimes listening is a better path to contemplation than a community sing. For me, communion should never be a community sing, but that's just me. For me I feel communion music should set the parishioner free to meditate on the Eucharist and not be reading and singing from a hymnal.

  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,252
    Heartfeltsong - I am 80, lived through and welcomed VII. What the bishops asked for was that the preceding century of the Liturgical Movement, as endorsed by popes over the previous 60 years, should be put into general practice. They were very clear that this should be in a continuity of developement. The principles were not changing but being fulfilled. The involvement of the congregation, as against their mere presence during the sacred mysteries, was explicitly called for by the Council of Trent, but that had been generally ignored.
    The bullying of a congregation by an organist misusing the power of his instrument is sinful, and always was. So is the diva singing solo to gain the admiration, or even just submission, of a congregation. I am not suggesting you do this, but there are plenty of people who want to be seen to have an individual role.
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 45
    Trying to tell me VII was not a game changer but just a recap of what was said before is to miss the whole spirit of what we who are old enough to have experienced pre VII and post VII liturgies were all about.

    VII was of course a game changer in a historical sense. Changes happened after VII. Some of those were sanctioned by the council documents, many were not. To insist that VII was a game changer in the sense of mandating discontinuity in spirit with the Church prior, as a generalised approach to all future faith and liturgy, is to insist on something that VII does not itself say and in fact explicitly rejects.
    There are musical styles and works that don't blend well with liturgy.

    Indeed! I think a point of disagreement is on what precisely those styles are.
    Sometimes listening is a better path to contemplation than a community sing. For me, communion should never be a community sing, but that's just me. For me I feel communion music should set the parishioner free to meditate on the Eucharist and not be reading and singing from a hymnal.

    Couldn't agree more!
  • m_r_taylor
    Posts: 45
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  • rich_enough
    Posts: 743
    Like Chris Garton-Zavesky, I don't consider you a cartoon character, but I have to say that your response to my post was more or less cliches, as if pointing out that Pius X lived before Vatican II and mandated the mass in Latin with the priest facing the altar was somehow self-evidently unacceptable and a refutation of my position.

    And while I'm always interested in people's opinions about how the liturgy should be done, in the end the Church actually tells us what is most appropriate and fitting.
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Heartfeltsong,

    I'm glad we've cleared up the confusion.

    One example of what rich_enough calls a cliché is the idea of the priest having his back to us. Of course he has his back to us, but to see it that way is like saying that the people in the orchestra pit have their backs to the stage!

    As to whether Vatican 2 is a game changer, I think that depends on what we mean. Vatican 2 didn't reform the liturgy, but gave instructions that it should be reformed.

    On the other hand, changing the game can mean:
    1) Playing Monopoly; desisting from playing Monopoly; Playing Poker; desisting from playing Poker; Playing football.... etc

    2) Playing European football with an American football.

    3) Improving one's play such that a previously losing effort becomes a winning one.

    The one of these that Vatican 2 didn't do is #3.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,616
    ...their backs to the stage!
    A good analogy, Chris. No one complains that the orchestral conductor or the choral director at a concert has his back to 'the people'. It would likely result in disaster if he did. Rather than 'back' we need to think in terms of 'front' and 'facing'. The priest 'faces' the altar, which is where God is making himself present. With the priest we all are doing the same thing, communing with God. Why should the priest face the people when its not at all about the people. The people face the same altar that the priest does. The very fact that so many people complain about not being faced by the priest illustrates that they just don't get it. This is where the so called 'spirit' of Vatican II has got us - far out on a very shaky limb.
  • madorganist
    Posts: 509
    No one complains that the orchestral conductor or the choral director at a concert has his back to 'the people'. It would likely result in disaster if he did. Rather than 'back' we need to think in terms of 'front' and 'facing'. The priest 'faces' the altar, which is where God is making himself present. With the priest we all are doing the same thing, communing with God. Why should the priest face the people when its not at all about the people. The people face the same altar that the priest does.
    I sometimes joke that my priest and I work with our backs to each other. It's mostly true!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 9,861
    From Apostolic times, the priest AND the people faced east, the direction from which Christ would return. Somehow, and I suspect the crazy Scholastics may have had something to do with it, the west developed the concept of "liturgical east," which seems absolute nonsense. With that, you could be facing Hawaii and never know the difference. East is east and I suspect it really wasn't about facing the altar, but all facing east.
  • M. Jackson Osborn
    Posts: 6,616
    Bravo for that, Charles!

    How far we've fallen.
    Some people know (most don't) that churches once-upon-a-time faced east, but they attach no particular importance to such an impractical hindrance..
    It's just something that 'they' used to do.
    The Galveston-Houston archdiocesan co-cathedral faces north.
    Most churches face any way but east.
    Even Walsingham faces south.
    But the new ordinariate cathedral, whenever it is built (maybe in the next five years or so), will very definitely face east.
    Thanked by 1Matilda
  • tandrews
    Posts: 20
    From Apostolic times, the priest AND the people faced east, the direction from which Christ would return.


    Ahh, one of my favorite Advent carols: "People look east, except the priest!"