Seeking Wise Counsel - Where do we go from here?
  • Hi everyone - I'm new to the forum, and have been reading a lot of posts the last few days. I'm so happy to have found a web site that is so passionate about music in the Church. I'm pastor at a Catholic church in Madison, Wisc. Our current music director retired after 24 years of service. One can only imagine the emotion from this past weekend. He was a good man, but knowing that this was coming, I've spent a lot of time in prayer, and I know that we need to move in a somewhat different direction, but I'm having a hard time discerning what that direction is and how to change course because I simply am not skilled enough in the nuances of Church music. I am sound in the liturgy, am faithful to the rubrics, and know what music I like, but I don't really know how to move that in a way that would be of benefit for the parish - especially when the parish, as a whole, is more on the progressive side.

    I am a great lover of chant and classical music. Our adult choir has done a myriad of more classical choral pieces, but we've also done a lot of modern stuff as well (not exactly my favorite). The Honduras Alleluia comes to mind. :) The parish has been used to one style, one way of playing and one way of doing things for 20+ years, and as we start to search for a new person, I fear it will be an eternal comparison to our old director for the next 10+ years.

    Right now, we're using Word and Song. We've been using it for years, and we're kind of stuck in a rut. We've more or less done the same thing year after year (at least since I came to the parish in 2013).

    I'm not on the best footing with members of the choir who are far more progressive than I. I'm also wearing too many parish and diocesan hats as it is, so I've pretty much stayed out of the music world in the parish so as not to cause more friction. Our previous director didn't necessarily "direct" - he let the choirs call the shots, and when that happens ....... it's no longer the director running the show.

    Now that it's time to move forward, I think we are receiving a wonderful opportunity from the Holy Spirit. I truly want to do what is right and is good for the parish. Compensation is "fair" I would say - mid-40's. I know that parish musicians are worth every penny, and if we had more, we would certainly pay more, but I'm faced with an older parish population and a very limited budget. I know that's nothing new for many who work in the Church.

    I'm hopeful that some of you could help steer me in the right direction as we look for a new person. I'm happy to receive any advice and counsel that you could offer, but I do have some specific questions:

    1. Where are good places to advertise our job posting? I've advertised here, through the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, through, our diocesan web site, our parish web site and Facebook. Would anyone have any other suggestions of where might be a good place to post our position?

    2. The planning of weekend music is going to fall to me - at least for the next few months. Would anyone have some good online resources that I could consult in helping me select appropriate hymns or for hymn ideas based on the hymnal we're using.

    3. Part of the struggle with our choirs is that the last director was very "performance oriented". How do I encourage our choirs and musicians to understand their proper role in the Sacred Liturgy without offending them? They are products of their leader ... I'm not sure how to approach helping them understand their true role without causing a mutiny.

    4. I've always been leery of purchasing hymnals as I'm afraid that more changes will be coming and our investment won't be a good one. Those paper hymnals are a big drain to the environment, however, so I know that as well. I have thought about perhaps doing a book with the antiphons and readings and a separate hymnal. If things change, we'd need only replace one of them and not both. I have this balance I have to meet with more traditional hymnody and more "progressive" hymns that everybody likes. People are well attuned to music around here, and if they don't like what they hear, they leave the parish and go elsewhere. We have two parishes near us who do the "praise band" kind of stuff, and in this part of town, that's appealing to people. I want to be faithful to good hymnody, but it seems like I have to appease, too. Maybe my thinking is wrong here ...................

    I'm excited for this opportunity, but also a bit apprehensive at the same time as this is a bit over my head, and I'm feeling overwhelmed as it is without dealing with this. I did a quick search this morning and there are a plethora of music positions that are open across the country. I fear that we may be waiting awhile.

    Thank you very much for taking time to read this, and for your counsel. As a priest and pastor, I value the gift of music so much - it can shape and beautify the Church's Sacramental life when done correctly and with the right heart. I look forward to receiving your replies (and your resumes if you are so inclined!! :) ).

    Best wishes! -Fr. Michael
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 149
    I will keep you in my prayers. I think the core issue is to educate your parish with what liturgy is. Just before the Sanctus is sung, you say words to the effect “We join with all the choirs of angels and saints as they sing to Your glory.” At that moment the distance between what is going on in your parish and in heaven is nil. If we believe that, then the rest flows from acknowledging and acting on that belief. Does the music played reflect heaven or is in the the style of “Cats”? Does the environment reflect that we are surrounded a cloud of witnesses or is in the case of the former UW Catholic center in Madison, more redolent of the bottom of a municipal swimming pool. If your people believe and try to, in your liturgies, demonstrate the transcendent nature of what is being done, the rest should fall into place.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,393
    This is not part of what you asked, but offered in a sense of perhaps expanding your range of flexibility: you are inviting resources on hymn selection, but how the unchanging parts of the Mass are sung may be more important as a place to start. (I don't know how much of the Ordinary is sung at your parish, and whether any of the dialogues and orations are chanted. But, for example, considering asking all of the choirs to prepare to engage - over time - the English language Missal settings of the Ordinary - or other similar options available in your pew music aids (if none, consider programs/pew cards) - in the name of allowing the congregation to become familiar with these settings that are used in many other places they may visit can be justified as a form of congregational empowerment/enrichment. I am not a traditionalist, and have witnessed what would likely be considered fairly progressive congregations engage well with the Missal chant settings and their ilk - both English and, with some rotation, Latin - without significant indigestion.)
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,776
    Have you looked at the CMAA section Chant Cafe ? Kathleen Puth's post on June 24th has five good points to start from.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 382
    A great opportunity you've got, and a big challenge ... just my humble comment to this point:
    3. [...] How do I encourage our choirs and musicians to understand their proper role in the Sacred Liturgy without offending them? They are products of their leader ... I'm not sure how to approach helping them understand their true role without causing a mutiny.
    I think the 'field work' needs to be done by the new director, this should be an important discussion point in the job interview.

    He/she should (1) subscribe to the goal and (2) take an active role the transition process and educate the singers on this way.
  • My advice is to proceed slowly, but in the right direction. Perhaps adding the Entrance and Communion Antiphons is a good place to start.

    Also, I would explain why you are making a change each time you do. Lack of understanding about changes is why the liturgy has strayed so far afield from what the Council Fathers had intended.
  • I'm with Liam. Make the Ordinary your focus; you will have more success convincing folks that music in those spots must be prayerful in character and not vehicles of entertainment culture. Your decision on a music director of course is crucial, as Elmar suggests, but this is an area where priests can make mistakes. (I've auditioned at Catholic parishes without ever being asked to demonstrate the very skills needed to do the job!) If your director is expected to play the organ, be sure he or she is a real organist; if the director is expected to be a cantor, make sure he or she knows a great deal about singing. Ideally, a successful candidate will demonstrate expertise in both areas.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,393
    One could also direct that fewer verses of familiar but questionable hymn settings that are not composed as a complete arc of prayer (cough) be offered.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,400, our diocesan web site, our parish web site and Facebook

    This is not casting the net nearly wide enough. The local AGO (American Guild of Organists) chapter will run free ads for you, and you should contact nearby music departments and local teachers.
    Thanked by 2MarkS winglet
  • Reverend Father,

    Welcome to the forum.

    May I suggest that one part of the process of choosing a new director of music would be to have a retreat for the choir? In this way, you can present to them the spiritual mission of the choir. Mass, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, confession and the like give you an opportunity to focus on addressing the underlying problem before the new hire arrives.

    Another possibility is a series of sermons preached about the importance of music in the Mass, and the theocentric nature of it. When you're preaching about music, you're giving the musicians some of the recognition they think they deserve (although you can't give them all the recognition they think they deserve, because they apparently think they walk on water) while helping to form the parish as a whole.

    Since the parish population appears to be more "progressive", start with either the clear statements of the latest Council (Latin must be preserved; organ should have pride of place, the treasury of music is greater than any other art). Teach them about participation, and how it must first be interior. I'm reminded of a line from the movie War of the Vendee: "One Paternoster".
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,862
    Fr., I echo what CGZ said above: If it doesn't come from the Pastor first, then it will simply seem like the the new DM is just trying to stake his claim. Talk first to the choir: don't have a meeting, but have a picnic or something (people usually don't get to snippy if they're given free food!), thank them copiously for everything that they do, and tell them that they're doing a good job (assuming you believe that they are); then tell them, as Pastor, about some of your feelings about church music, don't be too specific and run the risk of picking on someone's favorite "hymn". Talk to them about what role the choir and sacred music play in the Mass: start from Vatican II and the GIRM. Read to them exactly what the Council said; read to them exactly what the GIRM says. BUT (NB!) don't outline any specific change or plan (until you've hired the new guy and decided on a plan of action with him), but all the while thank them and build them up. Then preach a few sermons on the same subject, and on liturgy in general. This transition might also be a good time to institute and other liturgical changes in the parish as part of a "Master Plan": Cutting down on EMHCs, more Incense, Confiteor + Kyrie (penitential act, form A), etc. But don't just preach about it; write articles for the bulletin, etc., etc.

    After you have hired the parish's new DM, meet with him personally, and discuss a plan of action. DON'T CHANGE ANYTHING liturgically for six months to a year. Let him get used to the choir, and the choir get used to him. Obviously, if the choir haven't had rehearsals regularly, and he wants to start that up again, or is wanting to work on vocal technique, etc., it might be good to wait a month or so before going into that, but be sure to have his back when the fixtures of the choir come complaining that he's a dictator.---I was accused of this when I took over my position, just because I insisted that everyone show up on time! But the rule of thumb is to proceed very SLOWLY. Now, slowly is relative--some places move slower than others--so your plan should be flexible.
  • davido
    Posts: 532
    You want 3 things in your musician:
    - high level of musical ability
    - leadership skills
    - ability to play well with others.

    I’ve seen things end badly when a priest made changes quickly. Also when changed styles rapidly.
    Slow is the key. Education is also important.

    But in the end, baby boomers aren’t going to change their musical tastes. If you can rebuild your parish with young families, traditional music has a chance. Older generations will tolerate it under certain circumstances, but probably not exclusively. Even if they aren’t hippies, boomers like eclecticism, and informality. It’s true in how they dress, the architecture of the houses they build, and in their taste in music.
  • cesarfranck
    Posts: 136
    My suggestion is to find a competent interim musician for six months to a year. Make it clear that the interim will not be considered for a permanent position. This will allow space between your long-time person and a replacement who can incorporate more of your desires for changes in music.
  • If you wish to be delivered from the wasteful and expensive tyranny of the missalette habit an excellent alternative would be the Lumen Christi Hymnal and its companion, the Lumen Christi Missal. (You may want to acquire reference copies for yourself and your new musical director.) The former consists of about 200 impeccable hymns and about 200 Office hymns translated into English with their historic Gregorian melodies. The Missal is a complete missal with all readings and propers for the three-year cycle.

    The counsel here to go cautiously and provide much catechesis is sterling. However, having a plan which includes getting the hymnody that you want placed in the pews should be a part of your vision.

    If you have a parish news letter or a weekly bulletin you may want to put regular articles in it about the nature and role of Vatican Two's actual vision for music and liturgy. Also, you may want to include a talent for swaying people and educating them in your new musical director - as well as competence in liturgy and organ and choral music. Regular, weekly meetings with your new MD should be a fixture of your relationship and mutual bonding.
    Thanked by 1cesarfranck
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 360

    You might check out and see if it suits you.
  • When I was asked to lead a vernacular-Mass choir by the then pastor of the parish (I attend the TLM), one change I made quickly was the removal of the choir to the loft. The musicians were puzzled, but I had anticipated this, and went at it head on. I asked them why they came to Mass (answer: to worship God); and did it seem right to have their backs to Him the whole time they were downstairs (answer: now that you mention it, no, it doesn't make much sense). They adapted to the fact that they weren't the center of attention anymore, but wondered how they could possibly lead the psalm from upstairs. I said that they would lead musically, rather than visually, and they did.

    Contrary to what Salieri advises (and many others here advise) the speed of the change isn't so much the issue as the organic-ness. He (and others) are right to advise that the parish has to know that the new director has your full faith and credit for implementing a plan of growth for the music (and the liturgy more generally).

    Announce a change before you implement it (most of the time) so that people have the chance to adjust mentally. (For example, don't introduce Latin in Lent as a penitential act, because Latin and chant are every bit as joyful in the joyful seasons as they are penitential in the penitential seasons.) As the parish recovers its liturgical sanity, the squeaky wheels will see that you're not simply trying to "turn back the clock", or that you "hate Vatican 2" or any such thing, but merely trying to lead them closer to Christ.
  • hilluminar
    Posts: 111
    I think the most important thing to do is to chant the Mass yourself. You will be leading by example. If you need to, take music/voice lessons; but if you can't do that, just chant everything on one note. It will convey that chanting is vitally important and an integral part of Holy Mass.
  • rich_enough
    Posts: 889
    chant the Mass yourself

    I can't emphasize this enough, and consider it the cornerstone of any success I've had implementing good music at my parish - for the reasons given by hilluminar. Little of the other music really makes sense without this.

    In a nutshell, it's the most concrete expression of singing the mass itself, not just having good music happen while mass is going on in the same room.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,862
    Just to clarify, what I mean by proceeding slowly is: If on the 23rd Sunday of O.T. everyone does what they're used to: say, 4 St Louis Jesuit "hymns", a Marty Haugen Psalm, Honduras alleluia, and a Dan Schutte Mass setting; you can't suddenly give them on the 24th Sunday the Latin Introit, Offertory, Communion, Gradual & Alleluia from the Graduale Romanum, a Palestrina Mass, and a recessional hymn they've never heard before by Herbert Howells. If they are used to one thing, a sudden change to the exact opposite will do nothing but send everyone away and close the parish. Scorched earth is never the best pastoral policy.
  • KARU27
    Posts: 160
    I think part the question is, what would happen if 25% of your parishioners (and donations) go off to Our Lady of Praise and Worship? Does the bishop look at these numbers, and think something is wrong, and advise you to reverse course? I really have no idea, and I see you have a new bishop there, so I suppose it is hard to know. I think it may take a while to build a new group of young families, so will there be a transition time when the positive changes seem to be taking too long to draw people?
    Sometimes there are other things you could do, in addition to chanting the Mass. I see you have a lot of carpet there. What are the acoustics like? I would imagine they're all right, since it is an older structure, but are there improvements to be made there? If the previous music director was more performance-oriented, does that mean that the parishioners don't sing / chant? What happens if you chant the "Our Father", will the parish join in?
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 521
    Here at St. Paul's in Akron, Ohio, our pastor, Fr. Pfeiffer conducts a Liturgy class "open to all in the parish but is mandatory for all current liturgical ministers" They are held annually on different days of the same week at different times in order to give opportunity for everyone to come.

    "It is a great faith formation opportunity that we continue to be formed in and by the Liturgy of our Church. Going deeper into how we pray helps us to know our faith and our Lord better. All Servers, Sacristans, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Lectors, Choir members, Cantors, Musicians, and Usher are required to attend one of the three meetings offered. Please call the rectory to RSVP which date you will attend. All are invited for this opportunity especially if you are interested in joining one of these fulfilling ministries"

    The reason for the RSVP is so that he can prepare materials accordingly. They run this announcement in Sunday's bulletin up until the dates specified. Usually, we have them in November just before the start of Advent. Some of the first of such classes were set up to go over what each minister's role is during the Mass. It was also an opportunity for the ministers and parishioners to get to know our pastor. We learn about the "rhythm" of the Mass, we learn what "mystagogy" means, and much more. Perhaps this is something you could do as well.

    When our Fr. Pfeiffer was installed (almost 5 years now) he had the task of setting straight some misconceptions of people's understanding of the Mass and the "do as you please" attitude that seemed prevalent at the time. Needless to say there was some fall out. But today, the choir has learned to chant and continues to learn, we have an EF Mass on Friday evenings, we have Latin in our Mass during Advent and Lent "ad orientem". We recently installed statues of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph on there respective sides outside of the Sanctuary, we have a statue of St. Gerard, Sacred Heart Devotions, May Crowning, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament once a month after each Mass, Holy hours and more. A lot has happened in 5 years. We love our Fr. Pfeiffer.

    Our parish recently purchased the Ignatius Pew Missal ( to save money and the environment as you alluded to.

    I hope these few ideas are helpful and I hope you find a good music director who you can place your trust and confidence in. Do you have a good parish council and finance committee to help advise you? Always keep our Lord's interest first.
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • Somewhere in the mix I think you should introduce the idea that you and the entire congregation (including all the liturgical "ministers") are servants of the liturgy, not its masters.

    Thanked by 2Don9of11 hilluminar
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,100
    (For example, don't introduce Latin in Lent as a penitential act, because Latin and chant are every bit as joyful in the joyful seasons as they are penitential in the penitential seasons.)

    And while we're on that topic, Mass XVII/XVIII is for Lent and Advent; it's more 'spare' than the other Chant Masses.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,797
    After you have hired the parish's new DM, meet with him personally, and discuss a plan of action. DON'T CHANGE ANYTHING liturgically for six months to a year.

    I'm going to suggest something slightly different. You're in an interregnum right now; presumably you have a cantor and guest organists keeping things going. Whatever you've been doing for an Ordinary setting is probably not good. NOW is the time to introduce the ICEL English Chant setting. Don't tip your hand. Explain to people that this is mandated to be included in all hymnals, so that Catholics have a mass setting in common, and summer visitors here will more easily fit in. By doing this, you're taking ownership of the situation, and it won't be blamed on the new DM. THEN hire your guy and let people get used to him before making your change.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,393
    Of the ICEL settings from the most recent English language missal, the two I recall catching the most flack from musicians (given that, of the main parts of the Ordinary, the Creed is very widely spoken rather than sung) were the Gloria and the Our Father.

    The latter setting is more closely drawn from the simple melody of the Latin Pater - the justification perhaps being that it would then be easier for PIPs to participate in a sung Latin Pater at multi-lingual Masses; given how well I've heard many Catholic congregations sing the former version authored by Snow back in the 1960s, I do wish the latter would not be lost to posterity, as its worth as ritual music was proven.

    Now, as for the Gloria: I will admit I found it homely on first and early encounters, but over time was finally persuaded of its ritual value when I realized that its limited compass and melody made it more likely to be "owned" (as it were) more readily by the PIPs; Richard J Clark did a lovely job of just adding a simple pentatonic-ish descant for the final part of that Gloria that added a lovely shine when sung a capella.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • It is almost impossible for any organist/choir director to fill the shoes of one who has been entrenched for years and years.

    Monthly, or even more frequent meetings with her/him and you are absolutely necessary to give this new person a chance to become a staff member and not be looking for a new position before the year is out.

    Making changes will not be a problem and if you are working hand in hand with this new person and together you both and weather the storm.

    Abandoning the praise band music of neighboring parishes and making your choir a liturgical choir - and moving them out of the sight lines if that is possible - will result in gaining new members to the congregation who uproot themselves and plant them in your parish along with their financial support when word gets out.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,776
    have a retreat for the choir
    That could be very beneficial in the long run, but the initial effect is likely to be dissension. People will be challenged, that's what a retreat does, they will feel uncertain and vulnerable, and find others they thought were allies do not agree with them. The process has to go on long enough to resolve the tensions which always arise.
  • Read The Renovation Manipulation by Michael Rose, to learn what not to do.
  • awilliamsawilliams
    Posts: 98

    From one priest to another, if you want a place to start with changing a music program, start with your own celebration. The place to start is what is in the Missal, the first thing in the order of the Mass: the sign of the cross. If you are chanting the sign of the cross, you are making a good first step. Why? Well, firstly because you are fulfilling the desire of the Church in Musical Sacram by starting with the principal dialogues. But, secondly because you immediately set the tone for the Mass. Do that for a few weeks, and people are going to start to notice it sounds really strange to move from "Lord of the Dance" to "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

    In this parish I started immediately when I arrived with chanting the opening and closing dialogues, the collect, the preface, and the concluding prayer. When I reached my first Christmas here, I went to the choir rehearsal one night and practiced the dialogues before and after the Gospel. They became a fixture at the principal Sunday mass after that point. When we reached Easter, I went back to the choir rehearsal, and we went through the other dialogues: the "peace of the Lord be with you always", and the Lord's Prayer. They are fixtures now as well.

    If you start with the parts the Church wishes you to sing, then you set a tone for the music of the parish.

    Next, all that is said above about hiring a music director is good. Some points: first, if you are like me and in a parish with limited resources, its possible you also are limited in your selection of candidates. In my situation, knowing a bit more about music than most priests, I find it better for the parish to seek a director who is a competent musician and willing to do what I will pay him/her to do over finding a candidate that may be a good parishioner--even if that means hiring a non-Catholic. At this point, if you want to really affect the musical landscape of a parish, you need a good musician. It may require you to do some planning in the forefront. If you find a Catholic, thats good, but quality is important here.

    Why? Because the parishes and other churches around you have quality. You say people are interested in music in other parishes. This is probably somewhat due to the style, but I bet more than anything its because the music is done well. Most Catholics have never heard Catholic music done well. Aim for that. There are many great programs and conferences you can send a less than competent liturgical planner as long as they are already a competent musician.

    Then comes the hardest part: introducing better music. I find the best approach is to start with big feasts: Christmas and Easter. Start the choir several months before with 1-3 pieces that are not familiar. Let the rest stay as it is. For example, for Easter here I found a simple setting of the Vidi Aquam in English, the Easter Sequence, and the Communion antiphon. The rest of the music stayed as it has for the past few years. The Vidi Aquam setting was used each week during easter. I let them rinse and repeat the communion antiphon even on sundays when it wasn't proper. People have been commenting on how beautiful of an Easter Sunday it was. This, of course, was aided by non-musicial elements: training servers a week before, beautiful vestments, etc.

    If you use Christmas and Easter as the hinges of the year, I find it practical to introduce bigger changes on those days, because people expect things to be a little different. But, then you can take that opportunity to make those changes lasting.

    This gradual approach can lead you where you need to go. Then you can start taking on bigger issues: propers, better hymnals, etc.
  • Words cannot adequately express my thanks and appreciation for all of the helpful comments and the food for thought that you've given me. A lot of things to reflect on. Perhaps I can "paint the picture" a little better, which might give even more insight as to where we were and where we've come.

    I might be biased, but I think we have one of most beautiful churches in the city, with a few notable exceptions. Our location isn't the best, however. Madison is the capital of Wisconsin, and it's a crazy city which is hostile as a whole to the Church. Our parish is located in one of the largest homosexual neighborhoods in the city. Mind you, I have absolutely nothing against our brothers and sister who identify this way, but it's certainly not a two-way street. It's a challenge to say the least.

    When I first arrived at the parish, the previous pastor had tried to "modernize" a traditional cruciform church. It had undergone many hideous "renovations" throughout its 90-year history. The original church was breathtaking, and if you can believe it, it was all ripped out within TWENTY years of its installation! It was magnificent in 1927 ... by 1947, to "celebrate" the creation of the Diocese of Madison, it was all ripped out. Truly sad. In 1967, someone thought it was a wonderful idea to move our pipe organ from its heated chambers in the choir loft to the sanctuary. The pipes were installed ... you guessed it ... ON AN OUTER WALL. When it gets really cold out, the organ begins to honk like a gaggle of disoriented geese. It's virtually unusable for weeks. I have no idea what the wisdom was in doing that, but it was very poorly thought out. Shocking!!

    When I arrived, the choir was directly behind the altar - completely visible. So was the music director, who thrived on being visible. That was a big enabler in the performance attitude that our musicians suffer from. Not to mention that no one could really pray with all the craziness going on behind them! That renovation took place in 1995, and I got there in 2013, so almost 20 years of that. I did what someone mentioned above - we did a restoration project based on what the parish could afford to try and restore some of its beauty. We were doing another campaign for our seminarian endowment, so we simply rolled this in, and to be honest, I was shocked at the response. We received all the money we needed to do the project. We built a reredos and new side altars for our Lady and St. Joseph. New statues of them. New angels and candles for the reredos. New statue of the baptism of Christ by St. John the Baptist. One of our parishioners made a beautiful niche which houses St. John Vianney and St. Bernard, with their first class relics beneath it.

    When I first rolled this whole thing out, I was very democratic - I allowed the people to see what my vision was, and I did my best to encourage it. I responded to every single person who had a question, comment or gripe. Our tabernacle was one of those that was off on the side, and it was covered in these hideous green and opaque white gems - looked like it belonged in Star Trek! The tabernacle regained its place of prominence in the center of the sanctuary, housed in the reredos and completely refinished with a beautiful lamb holding the banner of victory. New carpet, new wood sanctuary, new lighting and sound upgrades. For our little place, I couldn't have been more pleased with the results.

    Not all were happy, however. Many screamed and yelled about what I was intending to do. I get it - not everyone will be happy, and I'm way beyond the "trying to please everyone" stage. But I also know that I can't have everyone angry, either. The biggest adjustment came for the choir. We looked at a lot of different options, including a return to the choir loft. Because the loft wasn't up to code, it would have taken $6,000,000 to make it work, and that just wan't realistic for us. The only real solution was to keep them where they were - behind the altar, and now, behind the reredos.

    They went from being completely visible to being completely out of sight. We installed a camera system and a large screen TV so they could easily see what was happening in the sanctuary. The faithful always complained that they could never understand what the choir was singing. We installed new state-of-the-art microphones which picks them up very well now and the people can easily understand what they're singing. They also have their very own set of speakers, and they can hear everything at Mass with great clarity.

    I didn't just slap this on them. I tried to spend time with them and to catechize them at that time on the meaning of sacred music and the role of the choir. I told them that when I sang in the seminary for big Masses, I didn't see anything! They kept griping that they're not really participating at Mass if they're watching it on a screen. I told them the story about how I would see very little or nothing at all when I was directing the choir or singing myself, but I never felt like I wasn't a part of what was happening. That was a dig that I was taking their limelight away more than anything else.

    To my amazement, only a few people quit. The majority continued on - not very happy with me, but also not willing to relinquish their opportunity to perform, even if they weren't visible. That will take a very long time to get over ... beyond the time I'll be there, that's for sure.

    I found it very interesting that the other priest who commented suggested the possibility of a non-Catholic as a musician. I've actually got an inquiry from a now Episcopal (former Catholic) seminarian who is a very accomplished musician. I didn't really give it much consideration at first, but perhaps I should allow him to apply and we can evaluate his musical skills. How prevalent are non-Catholic musicians in Catholic music ministry? Maybe it's more widespread than I know.

    I didn't receive the best training with regard to sacred music in the seminary. I went to Mundelein, and we're pretty much singing the same stuff now that I did back in the seminary. I'm not foreign to music - I can sing, and as Fr. mentioned above - I do sing quite a few parts of the Mass. Mundelein taught us progressive solemnity - that you should never place a Sunday in Ordinary Time and a solemnity like Easter on the same playing field. All of the parishes I've been in have followed this continuum, and that's what I have done. I'm beginning to realize, however, that my liturgical catechesis was poor and not well-formed. I've heard of some of the musical sources that you've mentioned in this thread, but I've never actually used them, nor have the parishes I've been in previously. It's not that I don't want to, it's that I'm not sure, and those who have supported me in music haven't used them either.
  • What I really need to do is to find someone who is a good musician and who can help me learn so I can teach. All I've known in 14 years of priesthood is Breaking Bread, We Celebrate, Word and Song, and so on. I would get excited when we'd use a Gelineau psalm from the Worship hymnal because those were among my favorites.

    I always chant the opening prayer, the prayer over the gifts and the concluding prayer. I always chant the Penitential Rite, I always chant the preface. On big feasts, I'll add in the preface dialogues and the Lord's Prayer. I even have my own chant setting of the consecration that I use as well. It took some time, but the parish has grown accustomed to it. I would say that the assembly is engaged in the music - one of the best parishes I've been in with regard to that. Most everyone is singing, responses are very good. We also use the Latin Mass Parts during Lent. I even chant the mystery of faith and the doxology in Latin! I've also introduced chanting the entrance and communion antiphons.
    So we've made some strides in this regard.

    I like what was said above - I think we can introduce some new, but we have to hold on to some of the old as well. That is - until the old begins to sound funny, and it simply fades away to its well-deserved forgotten place! That will come at its own time.

    My prayer is that I can find someone who is well-versed in sacred music and is a good teacher and who is patient and willing to understand where the people are and lead them to where they need to be. That's what I had to do before I proposed all of the changes I did in the church - I had to gently help them realize that we would truly have a beautiful space of worship once again, and with time, even some of the original haters have come around - and that's nothing but the grace of the Holy Spirit.

    I may have missed it, but for now, we're stuck in the Word and Song world. If anyone has any suggestions on web sites or liturgical resources I could use to help me pick out appropriate hymns for the weekend, I would be grateful for any suggestions.

    I'm willing to continue gently guiding and helping people love the holy Mass more - I just have to pray that I can find someone who's a great musician and has that same love and desire.

    I am truly grateful to all of you who replied and offered such good counsel. God reward you for your labors!
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,225 for music selections
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,373
    Wishing you all the best along with prayers for your success. East Tennessee is too far from Madison for me to be of any personal help to you. However, it sounds like you are on the right track. Prayers that you find the right musicians who will form a team with you to implement your vision.
  • pfreese
    Posts: 147
    Father, from your description of your present situation it sounds like you’ve already come a long way and it looks like you’re doing all the right things. As for your way forward, I’d like suggest three things.

    1) When casting a wide net to find that perfect DM, consider posting to other nearby dioceses’ job boards. Since you’re in Madison, I’d at least post on the job board for the nearby Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which as larger diocese probably has a fair number of qualified prospective DM’s. It also might not hurt to try the Archdioceses of Chicago and St. Paul-Minneapolis (as a current resident of the latter, I know it’s fairly common for Madison parishes to post up here). While hiring a like-minded and qualified non-Catholic is certainly an option, I’d try to exhaust your Catholic ones first.

    2) It sounds like your music program might be ready to move on from Word and Song. Though you certainly know your parish’s budget better than me, I’d seriously encourage a hard bound hymnal, which both gives your congregation a sense of permanence in their music and will save your parish tons of money in the long run (as well as paper). Since your parish comes from more of St. Louis Jesuits background, a good option might be Worship 4th ed. by GIA. It’s not a perfect hymnal but it’s a significant improvement from W&S and it seems like you’re willing to play the long game with your music program (many traditional revival parishes in my area have made good use of W4). If your congregants like to have pew readings, W4 has a pew reading edition (with your favorite Gelineau psalms) or you could supplement it with GIA’s Sunday’s Word for $2/copy/year. If you’re worried about blowing your parish’s budget on this in the short term, GIA has fairly generous financing options that will still pay off in the long run. Again, keep playing the long game, but it looks like you might be ready to take next step.

    3) Many priests on the more traditional half of the spectrum over the past few decades have tried to reintroduce Latin and/or chant during Advent and Lent. While well intended, I think this is a mistake, because in the eyes of the Sunday mass-goer it ties these beautiful aspects of the Church’s liturgical tradition to austerity and penance (because that is often how parishes frame these seasons). This has the additional problem of, in the eyes of your typical Sunday mass goer, bringing together two things that baby-boomer and liberal Catholics have long associated (usually negatively) with the old pre-VII days, though not necessarily together. IMHO a better idea is using the ICEL missal chants or Missa Jubilate Deo during at least part of Ordinary time or even during Christmas or Easter (if you’re really bold). The more people associate Latin and chant with beauty and sublimity, and not (rightly or wrongly) with the old days of “pray, pay, and obey,” the better.

    Just some things to think about as you discern the next steps for your parish. Godspeed and let us know how everything turns out!
    Thanked by 1KARU27
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,776
    irishtenor suggests Cantica Nova, I see that half some of their hymn suggestions for this Sunday (low down this page) appear in Word and Song.
  • Father,

    Don't feel the need to rush in new music. Merely having less music (at first) and more chanted dialogue will prepare the ground for new seedlings. In fact, I think you can make the case persuasively for a new approach to music in Catholic worship if you merely sing the dialogues (and anticipate that the congregation will do its part).

    May I suggest also ( since I haven't seen the suggestion in the plethora of things already said) that you invite someone like (or perhaps, such as) Mary Ann Carr-Wilson to conduct a workshop on chant?
  • Palestrina
    Posts: 338
    Father, the biggest issue you’ve highlighted is that your retiring Director of Music was not truly in control of the program. That’s a massive red flag.

    The new Director must be able to take control immediately or they won’t be able to do their job.

    Whoever you employ will need support and structures around them. It needs to be made clear that the Director reports to you and takes direction from you. And you ALONE. Singers can make suggestions but must also understand that the Director does not report to them.

    Without this, you’ll have a civil war on your hands.

    I’d strongly advise you to speak to an HR person in your diocese about how to make things work properly.
    Thanked by 3Elmar Wendi KARU27
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,737
    There's a helpful book about conflicts within churches called "When Sheep Attack" which you might read as a preventative measure. It's about how small cliques of disgruntled people can foment conflict in order to get their way (and even get staff or clergy removed). You may find it helpful to have your new DM read it too.

    Of course you're welcome to announce the job opening here too! We'll keep it visible on the main forum page for about a week.
  • @chonak: At least two books with that title show on Amazon ..
    Thanked by 1chonak
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,737
    I'm referring to the volume by Dennis Maynard.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,100
    you’ll have a civil war on your hands.

    Palestrina, no words can describe the minefield that is an east-side Madison parish. A mere "civil war" is a picnic compared to what happens if you tweak the nose of one of the Permanently Aggrieved in that town.
  • Scott_WScott_W
    Posts: 462
    Gonna be contrary about the moving slow thing, which just sounds like being sneaky. Rather, let me offer a different model: how the new (and improved imo) English translation was implemented. One day the pastor announced point blank that the translation was changing. This would happen in six months and in the time between the pastors and priests would be explaining the changes and why it was being done. They handed out literature, and side-by-side translations with the changes highlighted. Six months rolls around, the new translation was used without a hitch.

    Yes, a choir and a music program is a little more complicated, but the principal is the same: Tell everyone that change is a coming. Give them a change date set in a reasonable future. Use the time between to prepare and educate both yourself and the parishoners. When the big day comes, no excuses. Git 'r done.
  • When Sheep Attack has an expanded edition which includes those holding music positions. The first (and excellent) book was based upon surveys of Episcopal priests who had been ousted. Search under author Dennis Maynard.

    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 147
    Just a comment: do not be afraid to "make" people leave the parish to get what they want at those nearby parishes you mentioned. Provided you have done all you can to educate and prepare parishioners for changes in music, this is not a bad thing.

    I would like to tell you about the parish I worked for, as organist and assistant music director, for 2 years. When I arrived in summer 2014, the pastor had been there for about a year and had brought in the new music director soon after. He made a number of changes rather quickly - including dis-allowing non-traditional hymns, using propers and some Latin, and dis-allowing girl altar servers. Needless to say, the parish shrunk quite a bit in numbers. This parish is in the KC area where there are plenty of other parishes to choose from, and many left to go to those parishes.

    Not too long after I arrived, Father started a Sunday traditional Mass in the evening, and I directed the choir for that. Meanwhile, the main morning Mass became more and more like a "High Mass," eventually doing the whole ordinary (minus the Creed) in Latin, Entrance and Communion antiphons and psalms done in English chant from the Lumen Christi Hymnal/Gradual. He made the Christmas and Easter midnight Masses traditional Latin Masses (!).

    I am telling you this because I want to let you know, 6-7 years after this priest began making major changes causing many parishioners to leave, what the situation is there.

    Even while I was still there in 2016, while many had left, others slowly began arriving - mostly (but not exclusively) young people/families. Having the weekly Sunday Latin Mass attracted more of the same, and two of the weekday Masses also being the TLM exposed others to see its beauty and value. Shortly before I left, Father began a big renovation of the church. He redid the whole sanctuary area, putting in a baldachino over the tabernacle, a communion rail, and artwork covering nearly the whole front of the church. Took out carpeting and put in beautiful tile...redid/refinished the very old pews, etc.

    After he got rid of altar girls, for a while there were only 1 or 2 regular boy servers. Even by the time I left, there were only 3 or 4. However, it has exploded in the past 3 years, with all the young families, and between the very "traditionally-celebrated" Novus Ordo morning Mass and the evening Latin Mass, there are 15-20 boys now serving - many of them, I might add, only becoming interested once they discovered the Latin Mass.

    The morning Mass is almost entirely sung, except for the 1st and 2nd readings and the Roman Canon (Father never does any other "eucharistic prayer"). The parish choir now knows Latin chant Masses I, VIII, IX, XI, and parts of XVI and XVIII from the Gradual, and now always sings the Creed in Latin chant. They only sing traditional hymns and polyphonic/similar music. There are almost as many people, attending the 5pm Latin Mass as 11am Ordinary Form; and that does not take into account the fact that many people at the 11am Mass would have no problem with a traditional Mass but prefer a Mass earlier in the day. Oh, and Father began celebrating all Masses ad orientem 3 years ago.

    Anyway, my whole point is, again, do not be afraid of people leaving the parish just because you make a major change that is the right thing to do. To my mind, throwing out bad music is non-negotiable and should be done as soon as possible. Others have given some good practical advice, but I just wanted to emphasize that if more priests would just do the right thing and not be fazed by what seems to be negative results - i.e. if they just had some patience - they would see results similar to my parish. God will abundantly bless those who give first importance to beautiful worship! All else will fail - or at best, struggle to be effective - without the Liturgy/worship of God given its rightful attention.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,612
    To my mind, throwing out bad music is non-negotiable and should be done as soon as possible.
    hmmm.... this looks extreme to me.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,066
    Father, my brother is actually very near you in Milwaukee, and is starting at Holy Hill now, My friend Christopher Berry is also there. Either would be good people to bounce ideas off, or have on a prospective committee to hire a musician at one point. Just PM me if you'd like their contact info.
    Thanked by 1Salieri