Noises off

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keitha
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Noises off

Post by keitha » Wed Feb 24, 2016 5:59 pm

Some years ago a priest told me that people were complaining about after-Mass organ voluntaries because it made it hard for them chat with their friends in church. I suggested that they should be told that if they wanted to socialise after Mass this was a good thing and they should head for the coffee bar that the parish ran after Mass on Sunday, and that the Church was for prayer and worship.

Last Sunday, because (being Lent) I was not playing before Mass, I was very conscious of a significant amount of foreground noise from the many conversations that were taking place in church. I and one or two others to my knowledge were finding it very hard to prepare for Mass by prayer and reading. This was not just noisy children from the earlier "family" Mass (which is bad enough), but seriously noisy adults. I began to wonder whatever happened to the idea that a Church is a house of prayer. Is this a problem? Is it getting worse? Or am I just plain out of touch?
Keith Ainsworth

organist
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Re: Noises off

Post by organist » Wed Feb 24, 2016 7:50 pm

This is an increasing problem. One of the reasons for leaving my present post is inconsiderate behaviour while playing. The worst was laughter very near to me in the choir loft on Remembrance Sunday. I find playing on this day demanding as I remember all those who lost their lives and this was just too much. I have noticed too that people after service are restive and noisy. Our society has encouraged short term concentration -sound bites rather than concentration for a long time. Listening really listening seldom happens - it does happen at the Proms e,g, the Ring with a rapt audience which Barenboim remarked upon! We need to teach children and adults and a simple note in the newletter might help. Talk to God before the service, talk to your friends over a coffee afterwards. :D

nazard
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Re: Noises off

Post by nazard » Thu Feb 25, 2016 11:15 am

We certainly suffer from this problem. Unfortunately, the choir are the worst offenders. I whinge at them about it on a regular basis, but this just seems to make them think I am some sort of nutter. Although I support their conclusion, I would prefer them to arrive at it by some other route. Perhaps my moaning on about intonation, timing, diction and generally singing what's on the page in front of them have already convinced them of my imminent insanity...

organist
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Re: Noises off

Post by organist » Thu Feb 25, 2016 2:56 pm

Dear nazard, I tried putting up a polite notice pointing out that playing the organ requires complete concentration. It got taken down by the priest in charge but I think he did speak to the offenders privately i.e. the small choir. They seem to have been quiet since! :D This doesn't stop the same people being noisy downstairs! I am not a jukebox! :(

IncenseTom
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Re: Noises off

Post by IncenseTom » Thu Feb 25, 2016 4:03 pm

This is certainly a problem.

I too have noticed a lot of chatter before Mass (including amongst the choir). I seem to have found a small solution in often playing loud, 20th Century voluntaries at the end of Mass. I look around when I'm finished and the church has emptied!

During Lent, I may have mentioned before, that we don't have a final hymn or a voluntary - only silence - and it's interesting to watch how unsure people are about when they can sit down or start to move. They never seem to leave quietly. One lady commented last week about how much she misses there being any music at the end and how odd it feels. I think that's the point - it is a challenge for a few weeks, and it marks Lent as being different from the rest of the year.

High Peak
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Re: Noises off

Post by High Peak » Thu Feb 25, 2016 11:20 pm

You are not, by any means, alone, Keith. I find it to be a significant issue in our parish. I am less aware of it when our group is playing as we are up in the choir loft and I'm running round like a headless chicken; but on the weeks when we are not playing and I'm sitting in the nave I am struck by the loud, jovial conversations that go on for up to ten minutes before Mass starts. The reverential silence and consideration for those who are in quiet prayer are quite lacking. In fact, the weeks when we are playing and I welcome the congregation and go through any new music, I am also struck by how many totally ignore me and carry on with their conversation!!! :x

The last time I was present for the Triduum it was even occurring before the Good Friday liturgy.

I'm less worried about chatting in church after Mass - we serve no tea or coffee and we live in a cold, damp part of the country so, if people were "encouraged" to have their conversations outside the church, there would be no social interaction what-so-ever.

oopsorganist
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Re: Noises off

Post by oopsorganist » Fri Feb 26, 2016 10:03 am

A long time ago, one of my children followed me back from communion - on her knees.! She must have been all of 2 years old. It did make me smile.
An elderly lady protested as the child was slow and in her way.
She said "Some of us are trying to pray".

You need to be able to pray in a noise and hubbub and crisis and disaster as well as a contemplative silence.

Another time in a northern and rather famous institution, we attended a friend's wedding with our family. There was silence and then the bell and then we all stood. My baby chose that moment to bring up his feed onto the bench in front with the sound of vomiting echoing around the vaults. We cleaned up very well being prepared and equipped. However, it was quite difficult not to suppress a fit of the giggles. Those giggles in the wrong place kind of giggles.

I like the sounds of people being together and if there can be a decent silence before the start of the Mass and a prayerful atmosphere for the service then surely it is job done? In fact more so because the contrast and tension is more apparent than if people come, reverent for sure, but also cowed and awkward. It means they understand what they are at. That is a deeper engagement.
As well as poor listening skills and short attention spans, most parishes only meet the other parishioners at Mass once a week so there has to be a social element to this encounter.
uh oh!

oopsorganist
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Re: Noises off

Post by oopsorganist » Fri Feb 26, 2016 10:05 am

That should read that is was difficult to suppress the giggles.
uh oh!

alan29
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Re: Noises off

Post by alan29 » Fri Feb 26, 2016 3:54 pm

Many parishes don't have a hall. We don't, nor an organ, so we don't have that particular problem. We have coffee at the back of the church. Since our hall was condemned because of asbestos, our church building has become multi-use.
It may be worth remembering that as our congregations get older, it is really important that individuals who might be living alone get the chance to chat and check each other out. I doubt that God would frown at it.
Private preparation for mass might be more appropriately done in a private place rather than a place of gathering and communal worship.
Just saying.

JW
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Re: Noises off

Post by JW » Sat Feb 27, 2016 4:19 pm

Difficult one this.

60 years ago, no one spoke in church at all. The view was

(1) It was disrespectful to Jesus, present in the tabernacle
(2) It was uncharitable towards those trying to pray, the church building being first and foremost a "house of prayer"
(3) It is appropriate to spend some time preparing quietly in the minutes before Mass.

The view now seems to be that:
(1) As parishes are lacking in elements of community, it is appropriate to converse in church to build up the community, including touching base with people who may be lonely. After all, Jesus himself encourages us to reach out to our neighbours. Though I have to say that many of us chat with our friends in church, not with those who may appear to be friendless.
(2) The Mass starts with the entry procession and ends with the recessional procession: this is the time when we concentrate on matters spiritual. Provided we keep that time sacred, there is nothing inappropriate about talking before and after Mass in the church building.

Each parish seems to resolve these tensions in its own way. It is surely up to the clergy and people to jointly decide what is appropriate in their own parish community.

We musicians should not be upset that people aren't listening to the beautiful music played before or after a Mass. At times we need to accept that we are a jukebox or muzak. And I speak as an organist who does get irritated by this sometimes. Past attempts in our parish were to go through music with the people 15 minutes before Mass, and then, 5 minutes beforehand we asked for quiet preparation; that didn't work. Neither did the decision to expose the Blessed Sacrament before Mass.

In the few Anglican Cathedral services I've attended in recent years, a voluntary before the service can be quite jolly, rather than reflective, as if the organist is trying to keep people quiet. People will stay for the beginning of the final organ voluntary but will leave if it goes on for more than a couple of minutes. Of course, in Catholic cathedrals they're out the door like a shot! For big services at St George's Southwark, where the Diocesan choir is used, Canon Alan McLean will direct the whole community in practicing and Gathering Music for 30 minutes before Mass starts, however, this doesn't allow for private prayer and preparation either.

Though fiercely loyal to my own parish, I am sometimes tempted to try and find somewhere else which suits my own views better. However, a parish is a community and I'm of the rather old-fashioned view that we should work, if we can, with the community that we've been allocated!

Anyway, this is all probably a bit academic from a musical point of view. The few musicians in the deanery I live in are mostly well over 70 and no one is coming through to replace them. The organs already lie virtually unused in a considerable number of these churches; others have people playing who can hinder singing rather than assist it.
JW

dmu3tem
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Re: Noises off

Post by dmu3tem » Wed Mar 02, 2016 10:24 am

I really do not see what the fuss is all about. I regularly play before and after services in both Anglican and Catholic churches. Everyone chats away quite happily during this; so, if anything, it reduces the 'concert type' pressure on me. I am just providing 'background music' with vaguely religious overtones. Obviously it is quite impractical to have any last minute choir practice type checks, so one has to have these somewhere else or at another time. I note that sometimes before a service if you play quiet music this induces a more reflective mood.
T.E.Muir

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keitha
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Re: Noises off

Post by keitha » Wed Mar 02, 2016 1:41 pm

I think that you may have misunderstood my original point. My issue is not with what happens when I am playing - like you, I find that if I play quite, reflective pre-Mass music people automatically quieten down if they are influenced by the mood that I have managed to create (even if I am providing the musical equivalent of 'white noise'). The problem is when I am not playing before Mass (ie in Lent) when the noise level is, I (and many others) find, just too intrusive.

Over the last week or so, I have been getting requests to play again! This Sunday normal service will be resumed!
Keith Ainsworth

oopsorganist
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Re: Noises off

Post by oopsorganist » Wed Mar 02, 2016 11:32 pm

I wonder what is the relationship between the chatting and noise prior to Mass and the participation in singing together?

At one time, my old PP liked to play CDs via the PA system. Very loud. Very very loud. Lots of chant and such like, most holy. It was like stepping into a holy musical box of some sort. Quite bizarre.
uh oh!

High Peak
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Re: Noises off

Post by High Peak » Wed Mar 02, 2016 11:52 pm

oopsorganist wrote:At one time, my old PP liked to play CDs via the PA system. Very loud. Very very loud. Lots of chant and such like, most holy. It was like stepping into a holy musical box of some sort. Quite bizarre.


A former PP of one of our parishes didn't appreciate the musical and liturgical taste of an available organist/keyboard player so he wouldn't allow him to play and, instead, had a Walkman on the altar that was plugged into the speakers and we all sang along to Harry Secombe!!

Now that really WAS bizarre!! :?

alan29
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Re: Noises off

Post by alan29 » Thu Mar 03, 2016 7:36 pm

High Peak wrote:
oopsorganist wrote:At one time, my old PP liked to play CDs via the PA system. Very loud. Very very loud. Lots of chant and such like, most holy. It was like stepping into a holy musical box of some sort. Quite bizarre.


A former PP of one of our parishes didn't appreciate the musical and liturgical taste of an available organist/keyboard player so he wouldn't allow him to play and, instead, had a Walkman on the altar that was plugged into the speakers and we all sang along to Harry Secombe!!

Now that really WAS bizarre!! :?


You win! :mrgreen:

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