Going down to one Mass

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IncenseTom
Posts: 194
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Parish / Diocese: Diocese of Leeds

Going down to one Mass

Post by IncenseTom »

Due to the retirement of a local Priest, our PP is taking on responsibilities for another parish and we are going down to one Mass on a Sunday morning. I am after any advice/ experience of others on how best to manage this liturgically. We are loosing our 9:30 Mass.

The present situation is:

9:30am Mass
Local congregation
I usually play the organ
Choir
Children's liturgy
Mixture of hymns - traditional and contemporary (but not too contemporary)
Occasional sung proper or choir item
Good Congregational singing
Alternate between Missal tones in english and the St. Anne's Mass

11am Mass
2 other organists rotate
Much more ethnic congregation
Polish/ Slovakian choir who sing from time to time - piano, guitar, quite hands in the air
Adult altar servers - lots of incense :D
Very poor Congregational singing - only a handful of very traditional hymns used
Missal tones in Latin every week


Now, I hope that we will be able to marry the efforts of the choir and reasonably good singing from the 9:30 crowd with the solemnity of the 11:00 Mass with the Polish choir coming in every now and again to do their thing for the Eastern European community. However, one or two people are already mumbling that we'll "have to go more happy-clappy to get the children engaged" and that the incense will have to go because "it would not be fair to put children through that", etc, etc.

Is it possible to have it all, or at least an element of everything? Do we go for the missal tones in Latin or English?

My plan would be to stick to the missal tones in English and use the Missa de Angelis (which we have done before) if we ever wanted to sing a Latin setting.

Any thoughts/ advice would be welcome.

JW
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by JW »

No. you can't have it all!

Firstly, the PP needs to appoint a Director of Music with overall responsibility for the music at the Mass. PP and DOM also need to jointly agree on the future direction of the music. Then, as a parish, I would suggest that all groups come together to jointly provide the music - otherwise you run the risk of an "us and them" whereas in any parish there should only be "us". Hopefully the Eastern European group can get more involved Sunday by Sunday as well as providing music for any specific community Masses. Hopefully the other organists can play or sing on a rota basis.

This means a considerable amount of sacrifice on the part of the D.O.M. to bond everyone together and to ensure that everyone is musically included. Nevertheless, there is likely to be dissent and friction.

I guess that you are in Westminster as you are using St Anne and Missal tones. It might be time to incorporate another setting? Frankly the Missal tones are lacklustre; you will have been singing them for two years now and have fulfilled any requirement for everyone to know these two settings.

How is incense a problem with youngsters present? When I was a teenager in the 60's, joss sticks were considered quite acceptable!

We closed a church two years ago and merged their 'folk group' with our traditional choir. It was difficult but we consider ourselves one music group now. I was asked to lead the new grouping and I needed considerable support from the PP and goodwill from the musicians and congregation to make it work.

I really hope this works out for you.
JW

IncenseTom
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Parish / Diocese: Diocese of Leeds

Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by IncenseTom »

Thankyou for your reply and encouragement.

We are actually in Leeds. Another mass setting would be a good idea but it just seems to take so long for anything to embed (choir included) that I think that will be a priority for the next few months.

Incense should be no problem at all - I actually think that the mysteriousness of it might intrigue the youngsters a bit - just a few folk from the 60s/ 70s way of doing things who think that we really ought to have moved on from all that fuss and nonsense by now.

dmu3tem
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by dmu3tem »

Yes, this is a difficult one, and the advice given above looks pretty sound.

However, could I suggest looking at an alternative approach.

Years ago (in the 1970s), when I was a student, I used to go to the 'family Mass' at Blackfriars, Oxford. The routine there was to have a rotation of 'music directors' (about 3 in all) for each Sunday. When your turn came round it was your job to plan the music, write out the parts, rehearse the musicians (and the congregation - 3 minutes flat before the service) with the Priory printing off music sheets for all the congregation on its Gestedner machine. Usually you rehearsed your musicians the previous Sunday after Mass and had a quick check through on the day.

The advantages of this sort of procedure are as follows:

(a) You catered for different styles and approaches amongst your musicians - and for that matter - your congregations. This can be a significant factor if there are tensions between 'folk' group musicians and more orthodox 'Organ and Choir' type musicians. In two Catholic parishes where I once worked I noticed how,if two different groups like this were merged, in the long run one style came to predominate and the other musicians either 'knuckled under' or 'voted with their feet'. So, if you can keep separate (but overlapping) 'teams' running by giving them their head on particular Sundays, that is likely to be to the good.
(b) Less pressure of work is put on the person responsible for the music on the day (he/she only had to produce stuff once every 3 weeks).
(c) In turn this freeing up of time gives more scope for experimentation - and recruitment of overlapping (and expanding circles of musicians) according to the contacts available to each 'music director'. Certainly I pulled in an extra Bassoonist, Oboist and Violinist on occasion.
(d) Developing from this you can accumulate (and train) more music leaders in the skills of arranging, preparing and rehearsing programmes of music, if only by giving them opportunities to 'practice their skills'. You can also all 'learn from each other'. This sort of setup is particularly valuable for training by experience young musician leaders. I myself learnt more about the practice of composing, arranging, preparing parts and rehearsing musicians in this way than in any subsequent training that I undertook. The key point was that 'you learnt the hard way!' You found out from practical experience what worked - and there were other people around with appropriate skills whom you could consult. Merely observing someone else is not quite the same thing.
Conversely the presence of a single music director can prevent this from happening, with the result that potential (and precious) leadership talent remains concealed. I myself have seen this happen on several occasions, including cases where potentially much better qualified leaders have been kept out (and eventually left in despair) by mediocre incumbent music directors.

The (very real) snags are:

(a) It is a bit complex; and there is scope for misunderstanding. You therefore need a very efficient and accommodating coordinator who feels 'free to give people their head'. These difficulties are compounded if the parish priest has a very 'hands on' approach and if you have an active liturgical committee. The system only worked at Blackfriars (and in other parishes where I have seen this done) because the officiating clergy were very 'free and easy' and because there was no liturgical committee (although there were periodic meetings where the whole congregation had the opportunity to express their views). In addition the coordinator was himself a Dominican priest so he could make sure that things were kept liturgically 'on side'.
(b) At Blackfriars the system worked reasonably well because the styles and approaches of the various 'leaders' were fairly congruent. If they were to diverge significantly this would affect congregational attendance - different sets of people would come to particular services depending on who was taking the music. Certainly I have seen this happen in Anglican parishes, especially when differences in musical style overlap with significant differences in liturgy week by week. For instance 'All Age Worship' produces a younger clientele than Book of Common Prayer Mattins!
T.E.Muir

IncenseTom
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by IncenseTom »

Thanks for your reply. Definitely food for thought.

Perhaps I should have given a bit more background info as i'm struggling to imagine the Blackfriars scenario at my parish.
Myself and two or three members of the choir get together every now and again to plan the music for the 9:30 Mass. At the 11am Mass the other two organists who take turns are happy to show up and play whatever the PP (or MC!) has chosen. Whilst they can both play the organ, neither are trained musicians in terms of university/ performance, etc and neither would be very willing to take on a leadership role although they would both still like to play fairly regularly. Stylistically/ repertoire-wise, we are all on the same page so variations in terms of musical style/ worship wouldn't necessarily be an issue (it's more a handful of busy bods in the congregation who think their way is the only way).

The eastern European choir provide one or two items at Mass about twice a month and the PP's intention is that this will continue alongside what we currently do (even though this is in a somewhat different style to the rest of what happens). He is quite keen for all to continue to be involved.

I will give some thought to handing over a bit of decision making to others and look forward to the opportunity to get into the pews (maybe even at the Cathedral) once in a while. I suppose a bit of separation can be a good thing.

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Nick Baty
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by Nick Baty »

You won't really know what to do until you see the shape of your new assembly. Not all the 9.30am folk will come to the 11am – they might well move to a neighbouring church with a time which suits them. Others from elsewhere might join you as their own Mass is now earlier etc.

Our Sunday Mass moved from 11am to 11.30am to 11.45 am, working with other parishes in the pastoral area. Each time, the assembly changed slightly. Some drifted away and sought an earlier Mass elsewhere. Others came along as we're the latest in the area.

dmu3tem
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by dmu3tem »

Just a couple of further thoughts relating to your particular situation.

[1] Don't forget that you have the opportunity to try something new, or at any rate a new development from what already happens. For instance I see you are already thinking about how to make use of your East European traditions.

[2] I see that with your 9.30 Mass you also cater for children. If they are sufficiently old why not encourage those who play instruments to use them in church?

You can then start experimenting with combining instruments with organs (and singers of course). This might encourage your other organists to try different things and in the process acquire a taste for using their initiative - and from that to exercising some degree of leadership.

My own attitude is often to take the hymns and other music that I have been 'assigned' and then see what I can creatively do with them using the musical resources at my disposal. In other words I leave liturgical leadership to those more expert than myself (e.g. the clergy) but exercise greater initiative in the area of my particular competence - music.

Apropos my Blackfriars experience please note the following points:

[a] This was not the University Catholic Chaplaincy; so it did not naturally have much student input. This meant that you had musicians of all abilities - some beginners, others more advanced. One of the best was a Flautist aged only about twelve.

[b] I have seen this system operate in other parishes; so you are not necessarily dealing with something suited only for a university scene. In this context it is worth resisting the assumption that 'normal' parishes only have one or two musicians of any competence. More important factors seem to be things like the class/social background, the quality of music education in local schools, and connections between the parish and those schools. I know this is politically incorrect, but I have a strong suspicion that better educated families produce a higher proportion of competent musicians and amongst them there is a greater chance that some will be prepared to exercise leadership roles.

[c] Leadership qualities are not just something that happen by chance, although genetic/character traits are clearly a factor. They can be inculcated, promoted - and discouraged. Key elements here seem to be not just such matters as self confidence and practical experience (practice makes perfect); but the development of relevent musical skills. There is nothing like seeing something done (in performance, rehearsal procedure, selection of repertoire or arrangement) that you reckon you could improve to make you want to 'take a lead'. Indeed self-knowledge that you possess certain musical skills is an essential ingredient in the emergence of the necessary degree of self-confidence.
T.E.Muir

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VML
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by VML »

Wise words as ever Thomas.

IncenseTom
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by IncenseTom »

I feel I ought to report on the first Mass of our combined Sunday congregations.

As mentioned on 'Traditional or Contemporary', the music was:
I, the Lord of Sea and Sky
Brother, Sister, let me serve you
Choir piece - Frisina's Anima Christi
Christ be beside me
Holy Virgin by God's Decree (last minute change as PP wanted a hymn to Our Lady for her birthday!)
Ordinary - Missal tones in English

Full church.
Singing was the best I have ever heard it on a Sunday in this parish.
The Eastern European choir were not there and I have not heard from them when they will be singing or how often, so a certain amount of planning will have to work around this.
Congregational feedback was all very positive and encouraging. The only person who grumbled (to me anyway) was our MC (do other places even have these any more?) because the ordinary was in English instead of Latin and because we included a recessional hymn which they had not had at the 11am Mass for a couple of years. He felt that we had 'imposed' our 9:30 ways on the 11am Mass a bit too much, but really, I think he would only be happy if it had been a Pontifical Sung Mass in the Extraordinary Form :shock: ......and some of you think I'm bad!!!

All in all, I was very pleased. The plan going forwards is:
* To continue to select hymns which are a balance of modern and traditional, or right down the middle, as far as possible.
* To alternate between the Latin and English ordinary reasonably evenly - a few weeks at a time on each. I reckon this one will have to be judged as we go along.
* To continue to have a 'choir item' at the start of communion as this now takes some time. This could be a good place to get a bit of chant in, but not every week, I promise :wink:

Today was one of those Sunday's which reminds you that you're not doing quite as bad a job as you might think. I'll try not to get too carried away!

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VML
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by VML »

It sounds like a really good start to your new situation, and I know we will appreciate hearing how you progress. We are going to have to amalgamate with a parish whose organist, as of 6 months ago, 'hasn't learnt any new Mass settings yet.'
And at least you weren't lumbered with 'As I kneel before you,' which is our PP's favourite Marian song. (To be fair, it is one of only very few faults. :D )

Southern Comfort
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by Southern Comfort »

It sounds as if you have made a very good start, IT.

May I say that I disagree with Thomas's "rotation of three resources" suggestion. This approach often leads to trouble, especially when one resource is more talented than another or when people are away sick or on holiday, and it also makes it more difficult to combine resources on occasions such as Christmas and Holy Week.

But the biggest snag about it is this:

You are talking about three different musical styles. Anyone in the congregation (like the MC IT referred to) who likes only one of those styles (and there will be plenty of them) is condemned to have only what they like one on Sunday out of three. The other two Sundays they will suffer through the whole of Mass. IMHO it is far, far better to integrate the different styles into one celebration (and doing that needs considerable skill and judgement, and may be the subject of another thread) so that everyone has at least something that they can identify with every week. This also means that everyone will have to make some sacrifice for the good of the whole, and while this can be painful it is nevertheless an excellent way of helping everyone to grow together.

What I'm advocating is what is sometimes referred to as the "Mixed Grill" type of liturgy. Think of it like this: Sunday 1 has been a "Red Mass", Sunday 2 a "Yellow Mass" and Sunday 3 a "Blue Mass". How much more enriching to have a multicoloured celebration every week!

IT's task is slightly easier as he only has to combine two different Masses rather than three, and one proof of the pudding will be how he manages to integrate the Eastern Europeans with what is going on. Let's wish him good luck!
Last edited by Southern Comfort on Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Southern Comfort
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by Southern Comfort »

IncenseTom wrote:* To continue to have a 'choir item' at the start of communion as this now takes some time. This could be a good place to get a bit of chant in, but not every week, I promise :wink:


May I suggest that a much better place to have a choir item is at the Presentation of the Gifts, not during Communion.

As we know from GIRM 86, the purpose of the Communion Song is to "express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices [my emphasis], to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the ‘communitarian’ character of the procession to receive the Eucharist." That means everyone sings, at least some of the time.

The ideal here, then, is to have an antiphon + Communion psalm, with a refrain for all and verses for cantor or choir. Assuming that the Latin Gradual Romanum and Graduale Simplex are not normally going to be an option, the Psallite resource provides an English antiphon + psalm for every Sunday and major feastday of the 3-year cycle; and there are other resources out there too, as well as a whole raft of Communion songs (with refrains) which do the same kind of thing and which can be extended to span the length of time that the distribution of Communion takes.

Singing a choir-only piece at Communion not only prevents the Communion queue from becoming a true procession by providing liturgical background music only but also takes the voice of the assembly away from them.

IncenseTom
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by IncenseTom »

Southern Comfort wrote:May I suggest that a much better place to have a choir item is at the Presentation of the Gifts, not during Communion.


I would also welcome this, and there has been the odd occasion when we have done it this way in the past.
Yes, I think some thought will have to go into the way we 'do' communion. Up until this point, there has only ever been time for a short organ piece while the choir are receiving communion and then we normally went into the communion hymn about a third of the way in. Now, there is much more time to fill. I do like to come down on the side of singing the communion hymn towards the end with most verses being sung once everyone is back in their places.


The Eastern European choir will also take some thinking about. Fortunately, the PP is very good at handling things like this so his ideas will be very welcome.
I also agree that the 'mixed grill' approach seems to be the way forward. Part of my trying to argue for chant as 'official' music, etc, etc, (I won't get into again!) was to try and take the decision out of my hands so I didn't have to balance up the 'sausages' with the 'steaks' so to speak and hope people didn't go away 'hungry' because there wasn't enough of this or that for them.
Still, it's not just ingredients which make a good meal but the way they are prepared.

Thank you for your encouragement!

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Nick Baty
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by Nick Baty »

IncenseTom wrote:...and then we normally went into the communion hymn about a third of the way in. Now, there is much more time to fill.
This is the most unsuitable time for a hymn as the form, generally, doesn't allow for movement, as SC says above. Have to admit, I'm generally very anti-hymn – I just don't think they work in our liturgy. But I'd be lynched if I suggested that in the parish. However, we generally avoid strophic hymns as much as possible and, often, there will be no more than one.

To be honest, Tom, in your attempts to use a broad selection of genres, I think you've given yourself an almost impossible task. I select items, text and music, based solely on their suitability for the day's liturgy, taking into account the fact that it works (or doesn't!) in the parish. I rarely have to justify my choices because, generally, the pieces speak for themselves – they just slot in. I honestly don't think I've ever had a complaint. A few requests, yes, but never a grumble.

Southern Comfort
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Re: Going down to one Mass

Post by Southern Comfort »

IncenseTom wrote:Up until this point, there has only ever been time for a short organ piece while the choir are receiving communion and then we normally went into the communion hymn about a third of the way in. Now, there is much more time to fill. I do like to come down on the side of singing the communion hymn towards the end with most verses being sung once everyone is back in their places.


But the choir should be receiving at the end of Communion, not the beginning. Their function is to support the sung prayer of the community during the distribution. The Communion song is begun immediately while the priest is receiving (as stated at the beginning of GIRM 86), not several minutes later.

Following on Nick Baty's comment, the only time a hymn is specified for use at Mass is as one of the options for a possible sung item after Communion (cf. GIRM 88).

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