Laity squeezed out?

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

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

Re: Laity squeezed out?

Post by High Peak »

JW wrote:Says a lot when everyone sings unaccompanied and without printed word, at a football match, but nery a squeak in church!

Because everyone at the football ground is an "intentional disciple" of their team. :D

Southern Comfort
Posts: 1928
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2008 12:31 pm

Re: Laity squeezed out?

Post by Southern Comfort »

organist wrote:Westminster cathedral does provide text and notes for the Masses. The High Mass is of course choir orientated but at the other Masses the people are encouraged to sing by the cantor. Unfortunately a lot of the large congregation do not join in. One reason for this is that when in the congregation even a singer like me can feel isolated in such a huge space!
Recent experience elsewhere confirms that only a few actually sing despite a good lead from the priest. This same priest commented to me that the Bishop thought the congregation really sang!! Annoyingly they did when the Bishop came! Another issue with unaccompanied singing is setting the right pitch initially also some people anticipate in the gap between hymn verses. But why can't people who sing hymns be taught to sing a simple Sanctus?

There is, of course, no such thing as a High Mass these days. It's just an excuse to avoid keeping to the Church's stipulations. In times gone by, WC ignored all legislation by saying "Well, it's the Capitular Mass and no one else has one of those, so we don't need to take any notice of all that stuff".

But more to the point, the main reason people don't join in at WC is (a) the repertoire, and (b) the style of animation, or lack of it. Both of these are easily fixed, but the spirit has to be willing....

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Location: Wirral

Re: Laity squeezed out?

Post by alan29 »

The church is broad enough to include places that worship like WC.

Posts: 778
Joined: Mon May 16, 2005 9:55 pm
Location: Leeds

Re: Laity squeezed out?

Post by oopsorganist »

Yes yes yes. But but but...
They don't have to spend all their time curating, so they? They need to do some gardening too.
What if they had a service which was for a Missionary organisation which was now rooted internationally and in less advantaged places and continents - would they not be reinforcing this Western orientated musicality on those nations we oppress with our lifestyles and advantages? And Victorian hymns.
You can include but you also have to have some equality. As a role model. A bit of equality maybe. Just a bit.
After all, entering into the Cosmic field, won't the angels be adding anything left out? In the perpetual ongoing thingy of praise. Sort of thing.
uh oh!

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Joined: Fri Mar 04, 2005 3:11 pm
Location: Frozen North

Re: Laity squeezed out?

Post by dmu3tem »

Always remember that Catholic congregational singing - at least by reputation - has often not been as wholehearted as in Protestant denominations. This is especially true in the North of England; where I have encountered congregations who point blank refuse to sing or attempt to sing anything they think they do not know. The 'have a go' mentality required for a different Gospel Acclamation and Psalm every Sunday and present in Catholic Southern Suburban parishes I have been to is much weaker where I live in Lancashire - though it can be developed.

Another thing to note is that, in my experience, Anglican congregational singing is often not as good as it is sometimes cracked up to be. Anglican congregations I have dealt with are unused to singing congregational settings of the Eucharist, let alone responsorial psalms and gospel acclamations. The tradition is still very much that congregational singing is something done for hymns only.

Some other factors - in no particular order:

[1] Yes, Catholic congregational singing has been built up over the past 50 odd years, helped by congretional Mass settings, responsorial psalms, gospel acclamations, and new hymnals (many Anglican parishes still depend half the time on Hymns Ancient and Modern or The English Hymnal).

However, I suspect this may have been dented by (a) the introduction of the new Mass translations in 2011 accompanied by more prescriptive and restrictive instructions about singing from the devotees of Liturgiam Authenticam. (b) Attempts to substitute Antiphons for Hymns - in other words the general campaign against the Four Hymn Sandwich.

[2] The general shortage of competent Church Musicians at parish level. Many parishes (including the one where I work) still do not have cantors, let alone singers who can project sound effectively. There has also been a worrying decline in the availablity of instrumentalists (other than keyboard players) due possibly to the general decline in musical education and the growing decrepitude of the Classical Music tradition - which is the main source of supply for musicians of all types who can read musical notation. The behaviour of publishers and composers has not been of much help here either - far fewer items seem to be published incorporating parts for instrumentalists other than keyboard players. Those that are supplied are all purpose parts that are, by definition, less suitable for particular instruments - in other words 'musical colour' is being sacrificed in a bid to accommodate different instruments on the same part.

In essence the solution to this difficulty lies in the capacity of musicians at a local level to make their own arrangements. It is a worrying phenomenon that bids to offer training in instrumentation often fall on stony ground. This also applies to the need - at a local level - to provide keyboard parts that suit the keyboard types that are available. The trouble with hymnals is that they can only supply all purpose accompaniment parts designed to suit a variety of different instruments (Pipe Organ, Electric keyboard, Digital Organ etc).

[3] I agree that often choirs, cantors, keyboard players and other specialist church musicians seem to generate an 'us-and-then' atmosphere. This is inevitable due to the physical separation from the congregation that has to take place; it is also the 'reward' for the extra time they (hopefully) put in rehearsing the music. Nonetheless, extremes in this direction should be resisted. For example it is right that a congregation should hear the first few bars (not the last few) of each hymn before attempting to sing it. Congregations should also - as a matter of course - be supplied with the music for responses to Psalms, Gospel Acclamations etc., given that they should usually be different every week.

Note though that all congregations (even Anglican ones) dislike 'rehearsals' of new music before services. They are necessary, but the 'dose' has to be administered with some care.

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