Funerals and autocrats

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organist
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Funerals and autocrats

Post by organist » Fri Dec 14, 2018 12:11 pm

From now on when a friend dies I am immediately going to contact the family and offer to play at the funeral. I have suffered 3 funerals where the local player has murdered the music! There also an important point here in that one wants to help the family and show respect for a good friend and not being allowed to play does not help! The same applies to serving at the funeral Mass.
Yesterday's funeral was dominated by the priest who refused all outside help. There was no server - deacons not allowed. Hence he did everything - incense, clearing up after communion, the lot. He included the eulogy in the homily. Worst of all he left out the Peace! And he refused to change arrangements so none of the family read. The organist (very elderly) murdered Mozart, Purcell and Bach beforehand and there seemed to be only one volume and range of stops on the organ. I feel strongly that friends and family should be encouraged if they wish to take part in the liturgy.

markyboy2000
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Parish / Diocese: Middlesbro

Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by markyboy2000 » Sat Dec 15, 2018 4:01 am

Sorry, did you just insult 90% of the organists in the country who struggle through and provide faithfully some degree of music, week in week out, in their parish, with no stipend just the fees for funerals and weddings?
Did you enquire properly why the organist couldn't play Mozart, etc - heavy action, poorly maintianed instrument, unfamiliar instrument because they were supplying? Or they are only playing in church because they can play the piano a little, and couldn't refuse when Father asked?
In my neck of the woods there are few organists, and often they are on an undertaker's list - I've done it myself. I find it nerve-wracking enough sometimes without having to have a strange instrument as well.
And shouldn't proceedings be dominated by the priest? That's what they are trained for. He probably has a routine that works for him. He maybe feels overwhelmed by funerals, strangers as so many 'parishioners' are these days. Maybe hed already had a difficult interview with the family and just wanted to do HIS best, and get through it. He's only human after all.
Our sacristy has a large notice about Celebrets and safeguarding, might that have been the reason for no deacons? (Did you have yours?) And weekdays, where the servers are at school or work? I have had occasions where a family member or friend has asked to play - and were terrible; perhaps this is why you were refused to play? I've been refused at family funerals, and although it hurt at the time I fully appreciate why.
I had no training to play in church, I hold no musical qualifications. After 40 years (I'm 60) I've found it's best to play pieces at funerals I can cut or lengthen, because timings are usually awry. My attention is on the door not necessarily the music, so mistakes happen - most people are too busy catching up with long lost friends or family to notice. I sit there in the cold and draughts of our Victorian church because the open door has let all the heat out, which doesn't help my fledgling arthritis. No-one joins me in the loft to lead the singing beacuse often funerals are not at Mass time (if they are Mass at all), and the congregation won't join in, leaving the priest singing into the microphone. And the number of eulogy breakdowns you wouldn't believe - which I find personally embarassing whether I know the people or not - no wonder priests prefer to read something themselves.

organist
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by organist » Sun Dec 16, 2018 8:18 pm

I have no desire to insult anyone. I did not speak to the organist - what could I possibly say to her? Even suggesting that she try some different stops might have sounded condescending! My point is that the priest REFUSED all outside help even when there were competent deacons, servers and organist in the Catenian congregation. How does that make us feel? It is NOT his parish or his funeral. The church belongs to the people and he should learn to listen to people. The omission of the Peace sums it up really. He is not building community. Also the common practice is for the Catenians to form a guard of honour outside the church for our deceased brother if the family agree. He vetoed it but we did it any way! I would never take a fee and insist that the resident organist got the fee. This priest needed help especally after communion so why did he refuse it? Insecurity? Or maybe he is an autocrat. :( I am told he does not like deacons. So what ! And why upset the family when they are distressed enough. Family members should be encouraged to take part.

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VML
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by VML » Sun Dec 16, 2018 8:53 pm

I imagine when you are a cathedral organist it can be irritating to have to suffer the rag bag of us who fill in to provide music in our parishes. Not every excellent musician can have the temperament to be encouraging or accepting of less accomplished players.
(Mea culpa here, in a way, as I sat in the congregation at Mass this morning and seethed as the psalm which began,'Sing and shout for joy....' was spoken....) Next week I will sing the psalm, but I wasn't in charge this week. We all have different strengths.
I take your point regarding autocrat priests. My parents were daily Mass goers, and had worked in many areas of parish work, including serving and choir, in a place they had been for over fifty years. Yet when my mother died, the PP would not allow flowers on the coffin. He insisted they were left outside the church. Dad was furious and very hurt. In the same parish, more recently, a new priest has dismissed the sacristan and another regular daily server. The sacristan's father had brought the guild of St Stephen into the parish in the 60s, and the server was at that time in the parish school. Two faithful servants lost to autocracy.
Re funerals, I consider myself a singer who accompanies, rather than an organist. I am an active practical musician, who gets people singing. I don't try to be clever with performance music for voluntaries. I try rather to improvise around hymns that I hope may be familiar to the waiting assembly, or will strike a chord in the circumstances.

JW
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by JW » Sun Dec 16, 2018 11:01 pm

The problem of autocracy is a structural one. The church isn't a democracy and Canon Law invests all authority over a parish to the bishop and parish priest. Clergy aren't accountable in the way that members of professions are. The Pope condemns clericalism but hasn't taken measures to address the underlying issues.

At the moment it takes Government action to move church thinking: just consider how Church thinking on abuse has been changed by criminal and civil proceedings and by Government legislation on safeguarding. Even then, the Church has been slow to catch up.

It's difficult to see how this can change. Organisations seeking greater dialogue and influence on behalf of the laity are ignored. The people of God have been voting with their feet and I fear that we are entering a watershed period in which the Spirit may surprise us in a very uncomfortable way.

As for organists, I try not to criticize organists who are doing their best for little reward. If they really aren't up to the job, then it's up to the priest (clergy again) to gently make this clear.

I got sidetracked wondering what the Bach, Mozart and Purcell were especially the Purcell. Here's a guess: Jesu joy of man's desiring, Ave Verum and When I am laid in earth??
JW

blackthorn fairy
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Parish / Diocese: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Wellingborough Northamptonshire

Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by blackthorn fairy » Tue Dec 18, 2018 5:58 pm

The Purcell could have been Thou knowest Lord the secret of our heart. I sometimes play that.

oopsorganist
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by oopsorganist » Wed Dec 19, 2018 10:26 am

Oh dear.
Some bad experiences there.
It is a shame that there are any priests who cannot nurture people when grieving. Maybe a service where people are upset is best carried out by others who are not so directly involved. It is more than that really. Priests have so much to carry and a funeral must take up a whole day. Critical care though both of the mourners and the future of the church.

After enduring an uber shallow crematorium ceremony at the death of my beloved MIL two Christmases ago I told Mr Oops that I would like a full and impersonal Requiem Mass, with or without music.

My SIL choose a humanist minister (hmm) to conduct the service for my MIL and it left me in bits. Yes, she did give us an opportunity to say the Our Father but otherwise we were left with no God but some stupid poem about being in the raindrops. And a Eulogy that reduced my MIL into someone who liked shopping and sometimes went to restaurants. Totally shallow. Why is that the world does not believe in God but believes that feathers falling are signs that dead loved ones are still there somehow. Tinkling in raindrops.

So last year I attended the funeral of a rather distant relative where the funeral was conducted by a non conformist Minister whose vocation has become conducting funeral services. He was amazing. He managed to be firmly within his Christian faith and to comfort and encourage the family with very perceptive words about the deceased and those who mourned. Gave things some purpose and meaning without recourse to tinkling raindrops.
uh oh!

blackthorn fairy
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Parish / Diocese: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Wellingborough Northamptonshire

Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by blackthorn fairy » Thu Dec 20, 2018 5:15 pm

Well said Oops! I have it in my will that I want a proper Requiem Mass then it doesn't matter what they do at the crem - they can't spoil it. BTW, to return to original topic about playing at funerals - I played for one this morning (a Mass) when a friend/relative of the deceased played the coffin in on a tin whistle (O Danny Boy) and out again to one I didn't know - but it was fine. I just played for 10 mins prior to the tin whistler, plus two hymns, and Mozart's Ave Verum at Communion.

alan29
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by alan29 » Fri Dec 21, 2018 1:16 pm

Me too.
I want the full works and Verdis Requiem.
Its the least I deserve!

dmu3tem
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by dmu3tem » Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:42 pm

Several 'off the cuff' reactions.

[1] Organists are more likely to be paid at funerals than in regular services - and usually they are paid more. The going rate was about £70 a few years ago. In such circumstances 'he who pays the piper should call the tune'. In such circumstances I also think it entirely right that if the relatives and friends can produce music of their own (even for nothing) they should be allowed to do so and not compelled to use the church organist.

[2] The same point applies to clergy and other 'official people' involved in a funeral. They are all being paid - in some cases pretty reasonably. According to the TV adverts I repeatedly see funeral and burial costs can run up to £3,000-£4,000!

[3] When someone dies the funeral often happens shortly afterwards; and usually at that point relatives and friends are not in a state to think very coherently about the service; so the bottom line here surely must be for whoever is playing to fit in as best as possible with their perceived wishes. These should not be ridden over roughshod to suit the convenience and taste of performers and clergy.

A useful way round this difficulty is to have first a funeral service and then - much later on - a more carefully considered memorial event, which does not need to take place in a church! This was what was done with my father some 20 years ago.

[4] Another aspect is the distinction between the wishes of the deceased and those of mourners, which can be two very different things.

[5] There is plenty of scope - as in other services - to have music produced using players and electronic media other than or in addition to organists. There is also scope for something new to be composed/arranged. The tendency with funerals (and weddings) is for the organisers to opt for a 'standard' or 'traditional' format. Usually this is justified - perfectly reasonably - on the grounds that many attendees will not be regular church goers and therefore are unlikely to be able to sing along with the music. A traditional approach also appeals to people's 'comfort zone' at a time when they are likely to want the 'certainty' of what seems familiar. However the danger with this is that it merely confirms non-churchgoers in the assumption that church music has not changed and is 'out of touch' with current taste: so a sensitive balance needs to be struck between 'ancient and modern'.
T.E.Muir

justMary
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by justMary » Sun Jan 06, 2019 10:26 pm

I played for one this morning (a Mass) when a friend/relative of the deceased played the coffin in on a tin whistle (O Danny Boy)
I am sure that they were actually playing John Bell's "Go Silent Friend" or perhaps Fullerton's "I Cannot Tell".



:)

alan29
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by alan29 » Mon Jan 07, 2019 9:20 am

Or even the Londonderry air.

blackthorn fairy
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by blackthorn fairy » Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:37 pm

Indeed! Actually it was barely recognisable as he played it with so many ornaments (like a very very self-indulgent singer!) - but none the worse for that. That's maybe why I didn't recongise the going-out piece he played. BUt it sounded fine and did the job.

Peter
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by Peter » Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:48 pm

alan29 wrote:
Mon Jan 07, 2019 9:20 am
Or even the Londonderry air.
A few years ago a violinist played this tune at the funeral of her mother, who was Irish. A friend, also with Irish ancestry, remarked that the name Alan29 used above was not acceptable south of the border, to which the priest, who had trained in France and therefore spoke good French, replied: "Well, you can hardly call it the "Derry Air!" In the service sheet I prepared for the occasion I used the name by which Percy Grainger referred to it in his arrangement: "Irish Air from County Derry".

alan29
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Re: Funerals and autocrats

Post by alan29 » Tue Jan 08, 2019 10:58 am

Peter wrote:
Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:48 pm
alan29 wrote:
Mon Jan 07, 2019 9:20 am
Or even the Londonderry air.
A few years ago a violinist played this tune at the funeral of her mother, who was Irish. A friend, also with Irish ancestry, remarked that the name Alan29 used above was not acceptable south of the border, to which the priest, who had trained in France and therefore spoke good French, replied: "Well, you can hardly call it the "Derry Air!" In the service sheet I prepared for the occasion I used the name by which Percy Grainger referred to it in his arrangement: "Irish Air from County Derry".
The London derriere wouldn't have gone down too well either!

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