First communion music

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organist
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First communion music

Post by organist » Mon May 22, 2017 9:54 pm

In response to a letter in The Tablet this week I wrote as follows:
Tim Gillett is appalled at the lack of singing at the first Holy Communion service at Thames Ditton. I looked up the parish website and a choir sings at one of the Sunday Masses. No audition needed and no mention of who organises the music. This is typical of most parishes. If you want people to sing they need good leadership from those who accompany and preferably with an animateur, i.e. somebody who will indicate when the people should sing. The Society of St Gregory and others have done much over the years to encourage this leadership but the blame must lie with bishops and priests who have not encouraged musicians with financial support for training. The result is patchy with some lights in the darkness doing their best.
Tim does not mention what people were asked to sing but I suspect that it was a mixed bag of school items. Many teachers have had no training in music for the liturgy and will teach children what they know or what is easily available. The great music of our church is gradually being lost to new generations. Just ask anyone who deals with wedding couples and their knowledge of hymns is extremely limited.
There is also another problem with first communion Masses where the vast majority of the congregation are simply unfamiliar with Mass. This weekend I had the misfortune to attend an afternoon Mass which turned out to be a First communion celebration. A greeting from the priest “Good afternoon, Nice to see you, nice!” gave the flavour of what was to come. The small music group did their best but were hindered by an out of date booklet containing items which we did not sing and at one point the celebrant asked the children to join him in song in “Blest are you Lord God of all creation” which he lead. The musicians were left silent and so were the congregation. Even the well-known “Soul of my saviour” was not included.
The worst aspect was that each child went up alone to receive Communion with an official photographer in attendance. Apart from the fact that this took ages it turned the whole event into a performance by the children and the priest and deacon. Far better for the family to go together to communion and share this precious moment together. Why have a special Mass for this? Why not celebrate at the Mass the family normally attends? Why encourage the expenditure on clothes? Is this really the church for the poor?
I absolutely agree with Tim that we need to turn this state of affairs around but we need to start by training the clergy, teachers and catechists. And we need to start employing competent musicians and paying them properly. I write as a church musician and organist for over 50 years. I should love to play again in the Catholic church but I have found a more congenial environment in the Church of England. With their limited resources they are willing to pay for music. It seems the Catholic church is not in general willing to do so and that is very sad.

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Re: First communion music

Post by organist » Mon May 22, 2017 10:03 pm

I might add various other liturgical horrors at this service. First item This is the day and the tune then used for the Alleluia and the Great Amen. Clapping Gloria replaced the Lefltly in the booklet. Sanctus unknown to me and tricky to sing. Acclamation in the Eucharistic prayer "He is Lord". After the deacon had administered the chalice to each first communicant he put it way and reappeared with a bowl of hosts. Message - it's OK for the special children to receive the precious Blood but not for the rest of you plebs! The deacon's homily was not child friendly and included a rambling story about a pyx which would not close during his ordination retreat. The celebrant added numerous prayers after the intercessions including much we had already prayed for! Performance was very much on the agenda with children reading and saying prayers. At communion the first item was As I kneel before you - completely unsuitable There was nothing traditional at all. I did stay to receive communion but I was not a happy bunny! By the time I left the service had lasted 90 minutes and most of that can be blamed on the celebrant for talking too much.

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VML
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Re: First communion music

Post by VML » Mon May 22, 2017 11:45 pm

I know our FHC Masses are looming- we need two weeks to cover the number of children. We used to sing the psalm every week. Now it is hit and miss on alternate Sundays when the other music leader is in charge, and for FHC I know I will be told that the children are reading it, as well as the Alleluia verse. I had to fight to get to be allowed to sing Alleluia.

Your point about the need for someone to get the people singing is so important. I used to do as I saw at Clifton, either say a few words of encouragement and/or run through a couple of any new bits before Mass, but now we have a prayer five minutes before, which is supposed to lead to a period of silence but never does.

On the plus side, the other music leader is a very experienced youth mission music leader, and teaches in the school, which means that when they enter to Matt Redman's 10000 Reasons at FHC, the children will sing with gusto.

alan29
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Re: First communion music

Post by alan29 » Tue May 23, 2017 3:23 pm

Parish schools have alot to answer for.
And so do parishes that hand over sacramental preparation and planning to schools.

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Re: First communion music

Post by alan29 » Sun May 28, 2017 4:27 pm

Was at a FHC in France today. 36 kids from all ends of the geographically massive parish, 19 village churches.
The music was as simple as could be. Paraphrased ordinary with many hand-clappy alleluias. The roof was raised by the congregation. Led by a man at a lectern up front and an organist in the gallery. Despite having no parish schools and despite coming from all over the mountains the kids were immaculately behaved and prepared.
Some interesting bits of liturgy happened. The communicants processed in with the clergy, carrying candles. They were re-lit after the homily when all repeated our baptismal vows.
The altar was bare until the offertory procession when the kiddies brought up everything to prepare it, which they then did .... with help. Other children brought up grapes and loaves.
At the Our Father the communicants were invited up with one parent to stand round the altar ... big sanctuary. All raised their hands in prayer at the Our Father and lifted them higher at "for the kingdom etc." There was something about the innocence of their praise that I found moving. They remained there for their own communion while the rest of us communicated. Their comunion took as long as the rest of us, it was done carefully and devotionally.
There were no little princeses in wedding dresses, though they all wore white .... even the lads.
It was a terrifically joyful and uplifting experience. And all done by parish catechists. Bravo to them.

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VML
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Re: First communion music

Post by VML » Sun May 28, 2017 9:21 pm

Well done indeed. There is hope, somewhere.

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Re: First communion music

Post by High Peak » Sun Jun 04, 2017 9:48 pm

VML wrote:
Mon May 22, 2017 11:45 pm
Your point about the need for someone to get the people singing is so important. I used to do as I saw at Clifton, either say a few words of encouragement and/or run through a couple of any new bits before Mass, but now we have a prayer five minutes before, which is supposed to lead to a period of silence but never does.
I had a very unpleasant experience today, with neither the (uncharacteristically full) church singing when appropriate nor observing a dignified silence. The few singing during the Offertory Procession were drowned out by the many who were openly talking and laughing. :(

This will need some comprehensive thought and reflection.

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Re: First communion music

Post by VML » Sun Jun 04, 2017 10:38 pm

:( It is truly horrible when no-one sings. It throws me at funerals. But having people behave as your congregation did seems to be part of FHC these days. It has happened in our church, at FHC and also a few weddings.
Seasonal/ feast day music is, quite reasonably, of the day or the season, so not much used. A knotty problem.

I know one PP, not ours, who makes it very clear at FHC that this is a solemn day for the children, not a photo opportunity, and in the nicest possible way demands reverence.

And we have 59 for Confirmation this Tuesday... I have been discouraged from going to the rehearsal to ask them to sing, as there 'won't be time' to talk about music...

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Re: First communion music

Post by High Peak » Sun Jun 04, 2017 11:26 pm

VML wrote:
Sun Jun 04, 2017 10:38 pm
And we have 59 for Confirmation this Tuesday... I have been discouraged from going to the rehearsal to ask them to sing, as there 'won't be time' to talk about music...
Ah! In that I have an advantage; as well as being MD for the Confirmation Mass I am a Confirmation Catechist - so we jolly well DID make time!!! :lol:

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Re: First communion music

Post by alan29 » Mon Jun 05, 2017 2:57 pm

It is for the priest to call people to order during Mass if they aren't behaving appropriately.
There is no excuse.
Did he not meet the parents in advance and lay down guidelines? Surely a session with the priest should be a part of any parish FHC preparation.

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Re: First communion music

Post by High Peak » Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:15 pm

alan29 wrote:
Mon Jun 05, 2017 2:57 pm
It is for the priest to call people to order during Mass if they aren't behaving appropriately.
There is no excuse.
Did he not meet the parents in advance and lay down guidelines? Surely a session with the priest should be a part of any parish FHC preparation.
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High Peak
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Re: First communion music

Post by High Peak » Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:17 pm

Sorry..................I mean "no".

JW
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Re: First communion music

Post by JW » Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:20 pm

Don't forget, a lot of people at FHC Masses have little connection with Catholicism. How can we reach out to them and their children because our efforts haven't really worked over the last 50 years or so?

The Eucbarist is source and summit of all that we do, but it is also a place of sending. We are called to be Eucharistic people, living out the Eucharist in our lives and being Eucharist to those we encounter after Mass. Children receiving FHC are taught nothing about this. I suspect that most of us adults haven't properly grasped this and the Eucharist is seen purely as a place of gathering, with the priest having all the responsibility for Jesus' commission to 'go'. The traditional model of a parish centred almost exclusively around the priest needs to change so that the laity will assume their proper role in the Church.

However, I don't think we should be worrying too much about it. We are where we are despite so much prayer for the Church: the Spirit will use us as He wills.
JW

alan29
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Re: First communion music

Post by alan29 » Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:28 pm

High Peak wrote:
Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:17 pm
Sorry..................I mean "no".
Why not?
Is the whole thing left to the school by any chance?

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Re: First communion music

Post by High Peak » Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:43 pm

alan29 wrote:
Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:28 pm
High Peak wrote:
Mon Jun 05, 2017 6:17 pm
Sorry..................I mean "no".
Why not?
Is the whole thing left to the school by any chance?
Two parish catechists.

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