Hypothetical Congregation that does not sing.
  • A congregation that comes together from a variety of other parishes. 1 out of 15, at most, sings no matter what the style of music. Music program has a wide range of music at Mass from Contemporary to Hymns, Catholic and Protestant, and Chant.

    No matter what it is, they do not sing.

    The choir is quite good and it is supplemented by others for Mass who just sit in and sing though they are not able to rehearse. Choir and musicians sit behind the congregation, a small group of singers goes to the ambo and leads the psalm. Few in the congregation respond though a singable psalmtone is repeated over a period of weeks.

    There are no "groups" within the congregation, it is pretty well homogenized, so there are few if any social/economic divisions that might divide them. The music director was well-liked by all and was involved with many in the congregation on another level.

    What steps have you taken that worked for you if you have faced this?

    A printed sheet is used for liturgies, so they are not tied to any hymnal.
  • I should add that I have consulted Sing Like A Catholic in considering this issue already and found it helpful.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'd suggest the answer is catechesis. If we were faced with a congregation that did not say any responses, would that not be the answer? I suppose I would take the time to say to people, perhaps in the bulletin, "this congregation does an excellent job of internally participating in the sung portions of the Mass. But I encourage you to consider the importance of your external participation. You may find it spiritually beneficial" or something less ridiculous sounding.

    It should be kept in mind that this is hypothetical. All congregations WILL sing something, whether it's the Snow Pater Noster, the Simplex Mode VI Alleluia, or On Eagle's Wings. However, I think considering the proposed hypothetical is a worthwhile pursuit. Also, I don't know about anyone else, but it sounds to me like this is a congregation that will not sing, as opposed to one that cannot. Hence I think catechesis (more than, for example, making the music easier or a concerted teaching effort) is the way to go.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    If the congregation is completely set in their ways, like some elderly old-world-ethos parishes I have been in, it is not a sin to let the choir do all the singing. Far from ideal, but sometimes it is not helpful or beneficial to press the issue.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,641
    Just chant the Propers and Ordinary yourself. That 1 in 15 will help you with the Ordinary. The rest can participate internally.
  • It is not a sin for them not to sing and they know that.

    But those in charge of their development as Catholics want them to sing and participate in that manner.

    It is, of course, a real insult that they will not sing...as bad as refusing to take the hand of someone offering to shake hands.

    In a diocese where people are expected to sing and people do not, eliminating the role of the people singing is not acceptable. And since these people remain involved in their home parishes, permitting them to not sing here would, hypothetically, empower them not to sing in their home parishes, putting a bad light on these Masses and the leadership here. It would trickle down.

    The people in charge have an expectation that the congregation should sing. The congregation has been discouraged from singing and the choir has taken over. The people in charge are aware of that, but they want the congregation to sing.

    Catechesis sounds like the way to go, Gavin. The key is trying to figure out how to do this...you are right, this is a group that definitely can, but will not. A ton of peer pressure.

    They do have a lot of respect for the priest and would do anything for him. Except sing! But leveling with them about his desire that they participate would seem the way to go. However, I am not sure that a priest would be able to verbalize this to them. And if someone else were to do it, then it becomes a guilt issue...."Father wants you to do this and you are letting him down...." but surely there is some way to word this? Maybe?

    [Why hypothetical? This "group" is a compilation of difficulties seen in different parishes and schools in this diocese and outside this diocese to protect the innocent and the guilty. Please do not assume otherwise.]
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    I'd rather respond to real situations than hypotheticals. This one sounds like it has several negative factors at once, which might not be the case with a real situation.

    But prescinding from that: does the priest sing the dialogue portions of the Mass?
  • This article is one of the best I've read and which, I think, addresses concerns hypothetical and real.


    Scroll to page 27
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Here's another question: Need this be a concern? I'm all in favor of robust, loud congregational song, so I'm only asking as a question... do they really need to sing? You specified there is a good choir, so surely they can come up with something for the processions. Choral ordinary as well. I have a hard time imagining a situation where one cannot transition to totally sung responses, so one can actually wind up with a very good program even with this hypothetical congregation. I'm just asking, what would be wrong with the priest and music director accepting that the congregation will not sing?
  • The desire is that this congregation should sing as well as the congregations that they are drawn from.

    I apologize for stating this hypothetically, but it does represent two congregations that I work with directly and nine others that I also also have some involvement in and this is a common thread that appears in all of them to some degree. Essentially three schools, two "normal" parishes, and four ethnically-oriented groups.

    This hypothetical congregation has evolved through discussions with leaders of music in these places.

    The only thing that distinguishes them from other parishes is that none of them for some reason have a strong "I am the cantor, follow me." person in place, probably to the strength of the choral programs. I do not believe that a strong song leader lay person at a microphone is ever a solution for anything.

    And Charles, I had forgotten about Mary Jane Ballou's excellent article and I have printed it out for distribution and discussion with all involved. Thanks!
  • Just realized that all the congregations this group are part of have the choir/guitar group/organist and singers up in front of them. So one element that leads them in participation, if they do participate back in their home parishes, is missing visually here.
  • Gavin's comment is useful.
    Why force people to sing?
    Extending that to a comment entirely my own: most (if not almost all) of the attempts at encouraging people to 'participate' amount to social engineering by the folks who cook up much of what passes for liturgy and music in the Church today. Why on earth would I feel obligated--or even willing--to sing/say texts chosen, arranged, and/or written by 'liturgists', local pastors, busybody committees, simony-tainted commissions, huckster-publishers, or the like?
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I think the most natural way to have the congregation sing is to have priest chant his part and help him to do so. It is impossible not to respond in chanting when priest chants. About two years ago I heard for the first time priest chanting in English, of course in NO Mass (It was Daniel's previous parish where he was the director.). It was such a wonderful experience for me. The whole Mass was a beautiful prayer. (with Propers, Ordinaries and a couple of motets and hymns). Chanting responses is so easy and natural and gives the reluctant congregation a confidence. (also because chanting is very close to speaking.) After they get used to chanting the responses, I think people can move on to other singing more naturally. I've seen enough parishes who failed, musically and spritiually,to have congregation sing by forcing them to sing many hymns and 'casual , pop style' contemporary music. Maybe it worked in protestant churches, because robust hymn singing IS their tradition. But in Cahtolic churches non musical people are happy with more listening, contemplation and interal participations, it is very unrealistic to expect Catholics to do robust hymn singing like protestants. If we want the Catholics to sing our Liturgies, so 'Sing Like Catholics,' I believe we need to help priests to chant their parts first. I noticed when my pastor started to chant and sing Kyrie and Agnus Dei, people sing much more than when the choir and even schola lead them. So if the pastor and the music director think congregation singing is important in their parish, the pastor has to make time to learn to chant his parts. Many priests are busy and don't realize this, so musicians in parishes need to help them (probably just a little bit at a time), also because what I heard from this forum is that they don't get much help in chanting and singing in the seminary, even if the bishops' "Sing to the Lord" clearly put emphasis on priests' singing.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    You had better keep the people singing, otherwise your program will get attacked.

    Priests and others today, in this country, measure the effectiveness of the music program by congregational participation.

    If you sing Byrd, Palestrina, and Tallis AND you can get the congregation to sing hymns wonderfully, you have a great program. If you DON'T get the congregation to sing, then the next thing you know they are telling you to drop Byrd, Palestrina and Tallis and get some more "upbeat" music that will make people feel compelled to participate - because, don't you know, after all, that Vatican II talks about "active participation"?

    If only for self preservation, do what you can to make them sing.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I respectfully disagree with Paix. In this case, the congregation is not singing. The last thing that should be done is to ignore that fact. Take away the congregational singing, and if they object say "We will return a congregational Gloria when the responses are well sung," then "We will return to a hymn after Mass when the Gloria is well sung," etc. Of course, Noel's situation seems to presuppose that the priest and music director are both of a mind to improve the liturgy and not merely make people feel smug.
  • JamJam
    Posts: 636
    That article is a wonderful one. I find it interesting to note that Miss Ballou parallels description of Western practice with Orthodox practice. It is definitely an Eastern strength to preserve a sense of sanctity and holiness in the nave and prepare the faithful for the liturgy to come. It is good that Orthodox parishes start with the hours and Matins so that when the faithful arrive, prayer is already going on, and there is no time for chatter, etc, because they are entering a place where liturgical action is already taking place.

    Nevertheless, there are still many Orthodox parishes where the singing is entirely the function of the choir, and the congregation is silent except during the Creed and Our Father. There is an old-world ethos I think, a certain ethnic ethos, that has just generally left the singing to the choir. Taking advantage of this, choirs started doing wonderful, difficult, polyphonic pieces--but even when you simplify it and try to get the congregation involved, they still just have it in their head that singing is for the choir, and if they wanted to sing they would join the choir.

    I think that the fact four of these congregations are ethnically-oriented is important to note. Techniques that might get average Americans to sing may not work. You will have to work within their cultures to foster change, which will look different from what people do in other places.
  • Two things to try, both have worked for me within a parish and especially with a mix of people from several parishes

    1- *basic* shared repertoire of chant hymns and tradtional (solid older) hymns
    2- unaccompanied chant ordinaries, our Father, etc.
    Without an organ doing the work for them, the average person in the pew will often feel nudged into singing what the choir is singing, so long as it's basic enough.

    I agree that instruction from the pastor is important, too.
  • My thought is also to start with the sung dialogues and work out from there. The pastor is the only one, btw who can "encourage" the congregation to take part. Exhortations from the cantor or DM usually fall on deaf ears. The pastor needs to offer a homily on the topic, and then use of 5 seconds of subsequent homilies to remind and thank the congregation on their participation as it improves. A culture of congregational singing will take time. My own opinion is that the people's singing role needs to be clearly defined and kept that way. Even in the best singing parishes, most of the congregation doesn't sing for many reasons -- doesn't like it, self conscious, lazy, etc. If they only have to sing a few things, and realize that those things are THEIRS, not just doubling up the choir, they will take ownership IMO.
  • WGS
    Posts: 243
    For the N.O., if the celebrant proceeds in accord with #29 of Musicam Sacram, I'm convinced that the congregation will sing. That instruction by the Sacred Congregation of Rites mandates that all of the 1st degree of participation must be sung before any of the 2nd or 3rd degree may be sung.

    29. The following belong to the first degree:

    (a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.

    (b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamation at the Gospel.

    (c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

    N.b. No hymns, propers, motets, anthems, etc. unless all the above are being sung. Notice too that all the above in the 1st degree require the active participation of the celebrant.
  • All of these comments are helping me, while some of them mention things I already know, many of them were things I had forgotten that I know! And other insights are giving me a better view to what needs to be done...

    Don't stop...