Economic sign of the times?
  • Since my principal involvement in church music follows the academic calendar, I generally do sub work from June to mid-September. Usually by the month of May I have booked almost every weekend playing the organ somewhere in the Boston area. Because funerals and weddings still happen when the resident organist takes a vacation, they often come with the packgage.

    This year the situation is radically different. I am engaged for only two weekends and, being mid-June, that probably will not change. I've been in this business for twenty-five years and have never experienced anything quite like it. I'm also hearing reports of parish cut-backs, lay offs, and of parish volunteers (usually pianists) filling the music needs usually served by professionals.

    I have the good fortune to be married to someone who makes a handsome salary (another field, naturally), so this reversal will not have not have disastrous personal consequences. My concern rather is with colleagues who struggle to make ends meet. Not everyone in the CMAA of course lives in a large city where sub work is a component of the musician's livelihood. I also wonder whether this phenomenon is just a local aberration. Have any of you seen a parallel in your area? How has the new 4 dollar-a-gallon reality impacted your liturgical music scene?
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    yes, it is really bad out there. The economic data is always two months behind. We are only now getting the evidence of how bad things have been for months.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,371
    I have three organists from other churches who come to my church and do weddings. I figure I will suffer enough in purgatory, and so don't need to do it now by playing for weddings. The economy is in a down-turn to be sure, but I think there is still plenty of work for substitutes in my area.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    At the risk of being grossly offensive to everyone here, I wonder how big of a problem this really is. While we don't get the whole protestant "Give 10% or God will break your legs" thing in Catholic churches, a lot of people will still give money to churches as they can. I confess, I'm more than guilty of sneaking a peek at people's contribution envelopes and calculating out "Oh gee... if they're giving 10% they make less than I do!" But we all know parishes are run by the rich families. Just ask your priest to be honest with you why he doesn't celebrate Mass ad orientem. It's because of Hippy McMoneybags. And in the "Spirit of Vatican 2", the laity think they're empowered to boss around clergy, particularly if they're writing out big checks each week. So in the OF parishes, things will remain the same because the people REALLY in charge know that if they cut their donations, they lose their power.

    Also I'm reminded of St. John's Episcopal in Detroit. The church there is rather empty for Mass, but yet the parish is rolling in money. The (mostly elderly) congregation will shell out tons of dollars each week because that keeps their Anglican tradition alive. I wonder, is it the same way in the EF? Do the people there REALIZE that if they don't write the big checks they're not going to have anyone to direct their scholas or buy some more fiddlebacks? I would guess so, but then again this is just a guess.

    I'm totally pro-religion, but I think it's an observable fact that religion is a good way to separate a believer from his money. It's been the cause of corruption, charges of corruption, apostasy, and anti-religion books. But still I think that basic fact will keep us musicians (and particularly traditional ones!) well-employed. And if you're not offended yet, I'll also point out that people don't stop dying when the economy turns bad.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Gavin asks -

    Do the people there REALIZE that if they don't write the big checks they're not going to have anyone to direct their scholas or buy some more fiddlebacks?

    This is mindful of the considerable discussion when a bishop - in Maine was it? - recently announced that the celebration of the EF in is diocese would be contingent upon the faithful raising the necessary funds. Your approach is pretty pragmatic. It might not always take the big checks of which you speak. Churches may well find themselves digging more deeply into true volunteerism for a while. If the economy continues to downsize, the Gregorian Soup Kitchen may be in our future.
  • I for one would cough up the cash for a regular Missa cantata in my area. Maybe that is an approach that should be tried, but I find the biggest impediment to the EF is the inability of priests to do it. Our bishop seems to be OK with it but we have only one in the diocese, but it's unfortunately on the frontier about an hour's drive one-way from the larger population center. My favorite priest in the diocese, however, just returned from the FSSP workshop in Chicago, so I have high hopes. There are probably other priests in the area who would be interested in doing this, but are restricted by funds. I say all this since I have little hope for the OF in this area. The people and priests prefer a pretty Pentecostal or at best, status quo, version and have little interest in changing. They seem to feel a need to compete with the huge non-denominational (come on, they are all Baptist in all but name) churches for people so they ape their music and service style. So, I'm more interested in getting a good solid EF working here and I think I'll start up a Latin Mass Society to raise funds for priest training. BTW does anyone know of a confraternity like Knights of Columbus dedicated to the EF (outside of the priestly fraternities)?

    See some of you in Chicago soon!

  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'm asking a question of facts, not stating an opinion. If you want an opinion, I say anyone who doesn't want to see the EF die had better be forking over the cash to places like Assumption Grotto and St. John Cantius. Or any other church that invests the resources into an EF Mass. I'm asking if people who attend the EF think the same way, or if they expect that they can keep putting $10 into their family envelope and then complain about Gothic vestments. I'm not a priest, but I figure if I were and introducing the EF drove away the rich people and brought in plenty who don't put a dime in the basket, I'd pull out the rainbow poncho and tambourine in a heartbeat.

    I do recall talking to someone about playing for the EF back when I was in high school. I was offered $50/Mass for it. Hardly sounds like they wanted to preserve the chant heritage.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Mike: see, that's what I'm talking about. That sounds like a healthy care for the EF. So my question is, is this a typical attitude? I would say that if it is, I think the EF will do well for us and we needn't worry too much about the economy affecting us.
  • Somehow the discussion has drifted toward parsimony and EF communities. The question was a bit more straightforward. Is the present economic downturn diminishing the prospects of liturgical musicians? From my narrow vantage point in the Northeast, the answer seems to be yes.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    My point is that the downturn theoretically wouldn't, but I don't have the data on EF communities to make a good guess. If the people attending the EF care about music enough to support it, then I don't think there will be an impact. As I mentioned above, people in the OF are going to keep the cash flow stable, so I don't think OF communities will be impacted.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    In our area, there has been a downward pressure on the payment for substitutes in the Catholic churches (some, not all). However, this pre-dated the economic downturn. It's more a matter of pastoral priorities.