Teaching New Music.....

Well it does to the people who post here... dispassionate and reasoned debate, with a good deal of humour thrown in for good measure.

Moderators: Dom Perignon, Casimir

Post Reply
Do Not Be Afraid
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:31 pm
Parish / Diocese: Nottingham Diocese

Teaching New Music.....

Post by Do Not Be Afraid »

Hi all - a number of recent posts have discussed the subject of New Music, and also I note people talking to the congregation before mass with appropriate messages like "Don't stop singing when the organ stops, etc" - which is all brilliant.

As I have become increasingly braver with music selections, I am really trying hard to try new things, even if the opportunities for "re-use" are relatively limited, my focus I suppose being that it is better to have something very appropriate, rather than something that we can do a good few times (maybe a bit easier), which may not be so appropriate. I am sure you get my drift. Two very current examples would be As I Have Done To You (200% perfect fit for the Washing of the Feet last week), and We Walk by Faith (for 2nd Sunday Easter tomorrow).

This leaves a predicament though in my part of the world, that Father tries very hard to build a quiet and prayerful time BEFORE Mass starts, and it is becoming harder and harder actually to "interrupt" people from their prayers whilst we just have a couple of quick sings through the "new" material. The alternative is NOT to do it, and hope that they "pick it up" by the time we get to verse 3 etc.

We don't have a choir - our congregation really do sing up, and will basically now I think try anything, but we do always have this little hurdle of the "first-hearing" to get across.

So my thread here isn't about reactions to new music (I'm sure we have all had interesting experiences there!), but rather the introduction of it to the wider congregation.

I would be interested in any views/thoughts/suggestions.

User avatar
Posts: 717
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2004 12:57 am
Parish / Diocese: Clifton Diocese
Location: Glos

Re: Teaching New Music.....

Post by VML »

The quiet time before Mass, coupled with a 'choir' that cannot make time to practise, is a problem here too.
If we try to run thorough new responses or settings with the assembly before Mass, only a fifth hear it, because the greater majority arrive in the last five minutes. I applaud the quiet few minutes, which in this parish is preceded by a short seasonally relevant prayer on the front of the weekly bulletin. And if you have a confident choir who have practised and can genuinely support the people, fine, but I really don't think it is possible to have a properly rigorous practice in the time before Mass. Learning, e.g., a whole new Gloria needs more work than that. A few here, seven of us in fact, have been in the choir for most of 25 years, but one of our new leaders decided no practices were needed for Easter Sunday, and the older members did not realise that the planning group had decided on a new setting of The Lord's my shepherd. Frustrating.

High Peak
Posts: 178
Joined: Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:49 pm
Parish / Diocese: Diocese of Nottingham
Location: Derbyshire

Re: Teaching New Music.....

Post by High Peak »

We have two churches in our small town that have, traditionally, had a very different repertoire of hymns - north side more 19th/early 20th Century, south side more late 20th Century. Family commitments meant that we switched from south side to north side where I now run our music group for the Vigil.

I have often used the tactic of introducing a brand new hymn (to the assembly) by myself or the other cantor singing it as a Communion reflection piece once or twice so that, when we use it in another part of the Mass, it is a little familiar. But that does require a fairly confident soloist.

Posts: 1180
Joined: Fri May 27, 2005 8:04 pm
Location: Wirral

Re: Teaching New Music.....

Post by alan29 »

If its something for communion, then using it as a piece of instrumental offertory music can work. If its something that is going to be a repertoire piece, then they will pick it up if you have it a couple of weeks running. You can always have a run through at the end of the preceding weeks mass, especially if you mention it to a couple of likely singers.
When the new translation meant learning new glorias etc, we had a couple of evening practices. Not many came, but they were all strong singers and keen. People who come to those things tend to be good. We sometimes run them before Lent to learn new seasonal music, too.

User avatar
Nick Baty
Posts: 2162
Joined: Sat Jul 22, 2006 11:27 am
Parish / Diocese: Everton, Liverpool

Re: Teaching New Music.....

Post by Nick Baty »

I believe it's all in the planning. If you work 3-5 months ahead, you can spot recurring themes and, therefore, recurring musical items!

Posts: 259
Joined: Fri Mar 23, 2007 6:05 pm

Re: Teaching New Music.....

Post by Peter »

Do Not Be Afraid wrote:Two very current examples would be As I Have Done To You (200% perfect fit for the Washing of the Feet last week), and We Walk by Faith (for 2nd Sunday Easter tomorrow).

If the congregation don’t know the tune in the book, try to find one they do know that fits the words! I don’t know the first of these but the second fits to any Common Metre (CM) hymn tune. We've just done it to “Horsley” (a.k.a. There is a green hill far away) at our Vigil Mass.

Most hymnbooks indicate the metre of hymn texts and include an index of tunes that fit most metres.

Sorry if this has arrived too late to help you out this week, DNBA: I tried posting earlier but the system gremlins wouldn't let me in. :(

Do Not Be Afraid
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun Feb 09, 2014 9:31 pm
Parish / Diocese: Nottingham Diocese

Re: Teaching New Music.....

Post by Do Not Be Afraid »

Dear all - thanks for the great suggestions.

Peter, in particular, thanks - what a great idea - I had not noted that it was CM, although looking even at the way the words are laid out in the Hymn Book I should have realised sooner!! But in general you do give there a really useful tip which I appreciate.

Some years ago I was asked to find a suitable hymn for the opening of a Parish "Flower Festival". I googled a bit as one does these days, and I found a tremendous poem which was very appropriate, which a kind Anglican enthusiastic musician had slightly adjusted to fit to the tune of Londonderry Air. You can imagine, despite the fact that nobody can possibly have known the words before, we almost lifted the roof off!!!

Picking up Nick's point about planning ahead, we certainly try and do that here. With new music too, even with or without practises, I think the other thing that are congregation are coming to terms with is the fact that (eg) with new Mass settings, we ARENT going to just do them once or twice - we tend to try and tie a new one up with a "season" as it were (Did I mention we were doing Haas "Mass for a New World" over Eastertide ??!! :D ). This also gives a chance for the musicians to learn it well etc, and also it gives us a (mental) target in our minds which whilst not ever stated, is nonetheless a goal in our minds.

When people are moaning about new hymns, my standard answer now is that "Be still for the presence of the Lord" was new once......

Posts: 85
Joined: Sun Apr 25, 2010 9:53 pm
Parish / Diocese: Republic of Ireland

Re: Teaching New Music.....

Post by justMary »

You have no choir (just like us!) - but is there any chance that you could interest a smaller group of people in meeting occasionally to learn the new pieces (hymns, Mass parts etc) for the next week weeks? So even though the majority would be hearing 'em 'cold, there would be some confident voices spread through the congregation who know the work already, meaning the rest would pick the tune up more quickly.

FYI, We Walk by Faith actually does have a few opportunities for re-use through the year. I can't name 'em off the top of my head, but I know there are some ordinary time weeks where it supports the readings well.

Personally I'm not a fan of the "pick a common tune with the same metre" approach for hymns that you want to re-use, because I've noticed that a few hymn texts that didn't get uniquely associated with a particular tune early in their lives just don't seem to have got the role that they deserve. The one at the top of my mind is "Hail Redeemer King Divine", but I've noticed others, too. (Imagine if Amazing Grace was sung to HOTRS 50% of the time - do you think it would be as well-known as it is today?)

Of course it works well for special festivals, where you have a particular one-off text and a tune that's associated with lots of hymns. But IMHO that's different from "regular" hyms, which need their own tune.

Post Reply