Recorded music in church, etc

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Southern Comfort
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Recorded music in church, etc

Post by Southern Comfort »

A recent thread mentioned the use of recorded music in church. It appears that many people have overlooked church legislation on recorded music, hymn-playing machines such as Synthia, projection screens in church, etc. This legislation has never been supserseded or rescinded as far as I am aware, and so remains in force.

A few choice extracts from De musica sacra et sacra liturgia, 1958:

Paragraph 60c:
Only instruments which are personally played by a performer are to be used in the sacred liturgy, not those which are played mechanically or automatically.
elaborated on in paragraph 71:
The use of automatic instruments and machines, such as the automatic organ, phonograph, radio, tape or wire recorders, and other similar machines, is absolutely forbidden in liturgical functions and private devotions, whether they are held inside or outside the church, even if these machines be used only to transmit sermons or sacred music, or to substitute for the singing of the choir or faithful, or even just to support it.

However, such machines may be used, even inside the church, but not during services of any kind, whether liturgical or private, in order to give the people a chance to listen to the voice of the Supreme Pontiff or the local Ordinary, or the sermons of others. These mechanical devices may be also be used to instruct the faithful in Christian doctrine or in the sacred chant or hymn singing; finally they may be used in processions which take place outside the church, as a means of directing, and supporting the singing of the people.
For those with projection screens, paragraph 73 says this:
The use of any kind of projector, and particularly movie projectors, with or without sound track, is strictly forbidden in church for any reason, even if it be for a pious, religious, or charitable cause.
Peter
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Re: Recorded music in church, etc

Post by Peter »

After 65 years, this legislation is surely due for review. Surely no-one uses phonographs these days, and though I do have a gramophone and various open-reel tape recorders at home, I wouldn't use them in the liturgy!

On the other hand, some churches (not mine) do project words of hymns onto a screen or blank walls to save printing hymn sheets - CCLI and OneLicense include options for reporting such use as part of copyright returns. Surely there's no intention to prohibit these, though paragraph 73 would appear to do so?
Southern Comfort wrote: Thu Mar 23, 2023 9:01 am For those with projection screens, paragraph 73 says this:
The use of any kind of projector, and particularly movie projectors, with or without sound track, is strictly forbidden in church for any reason, even if it be for a pious, religious, or charitable cause.


Paragraph 60c:
Only instruments which are personally played by a performer are to be used in the sacred liturgy, not those which are played mechanically or automatically.
A church I visited a while ago had an electronic keyboard that could also play back recorded hymn accompaniments, which sounded indistinguishable from a live organist, particularly as other instrumentalists in the church played along "live" to it. Could it be argued in that case that the keyboard, even in “playback” mode, was being operated by a live performer?

I've also known other churches where a mixture of live and recorded music has worked very well; see viewtopic.php?p=21148#p21148.

While I certainly wouldn’t advocate playing recordings of secular music at funeral Masses, a case could be made for including recordings of appropriate sacred music, particularly if sung by relatives of the deceased unable to be present themselves. My aunt, who left detailed instructions for her own funeral service, specifically wanted “O rest in the Lord” from “Elijah” – it wasn’t possible to play it in church but we did have Kathleen Ferrier's recording of it at the crematorium, where the operators seemed to react with some surprise at our wish to hear the whole aria, after they initially faded it out after about half a minute.

I've also known families insist on including secular recordings in church funeral services (not Masses) on the grounds that the deceased had specifically asked for it, as if that trumped all liturgical considerations, though in such cases the ones making the request are not usually regular church-goers. Would the ill-will generated by a refusal of a PP to grant such requests make it even less likely that the family members concerned would attend any other services in future?

Does the legislation apply to committal services in crematoria? Paragraph 71 would seem to imply that it does:
The use of automatic instruments and machines, such as the automatic organ, phonograph, radio, tape or wire recorders, and other similar machines, is absolutely forbidden in liturgical functions and private devotions ... outside the church, ...
It also implies I can't play recorded music at home as part of my own prayer, whether it be Taizé chants or the St Matthew Passion. Really? Who is going to enforce that?

Does the Church have any legislation on opening cans of worms?
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Nick Baty
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Re: Recorded music in church, etc

Post by Nick Baty »

I've used midi for years. Not sure anyone knew. Is it OK if nobody spots it? :lol:
Southern Comfort
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Re: Recorded music in church, etc

Post by Southern Comfort »

Yes, the legislation is 65 years old. However, it's worth bearing in mind that it was drawn up in an age where the liturgy was far less participatory than it is now. Presumably the intent behind it was authenticity. No artificial aids, but real people doing real things to support the prayer life of the community. It's the same sort of thing as not having electric candles or plastic altar cloths.

It's possible to argue that in today's far more participatory liturgical context this sort of legislation is actually needed rather more than it was back then. You could say that modern technology has made us lazy, that we are in fact far less authentic than our predecessors, that participation today suffers much more than it did even back then.

The question is, where does it end? If you can have the Huddersfield Choral Society in your parish church, it's only a short step to a video'd homily by your favourite preacher, or even a pre-recorded presider who might never have been in the parish at all. The point is that it's not true to the resources of the community. For better or worse, this is who we are and what we can or cannot do.

As far as electronic keyboards that can play back pre-recorded accompaniments are concerned, these have been around for decades. The problem with the recordings is that they don't, because they can't, take into account the actual congregation present at the service, what sort of mood it is in, let alone how much it may or may not slow down at the end of the final verse, etc. It can't allow for the early ending of a hymn, nor for its prolongation where necessary, because there is no flexibility. The machine is, in fact, not part of the worshipping community., even if the recording is made by someone who is.

In pop music, people habitually sing along to a backing track, and lip-syncing is an art of its own, but is it appropriate for use in the liturgy, in an act of prayer and praise? The key word, once again, is authenticity.
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Nick Baty
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Re: Recorded music in church, etc

Post by Nick Baty »

Agree with all SC says above. Should have stressed, I only used midi for accompanying Psalms and Communion Songs. Hymns and songs were played live.
justMary
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Re: Recorded music in church, etc

Post by justMary »

I wonder how the legislation would apply to livestreams, or videos for that matter, of church services - especially if for some reason the vast majority of people in the country were unable to attend church in person for some reason. :wink:

If a radio, tape or wire-recorder is not OK, then I cannot see how a video camera is.
Southern Comfort
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Re: Recorded music in church, etc

Post by Southern Comfort »

justMary wrote: Tue Mar 28, 2023 1:24 am I wonder how the legislation would apply to livestreams, or videos for that matter, of church services - especially if for some reason the vast majority of people in the country were unable to attend church in person for some reason. :wink:

If a radio, tape or wire-recorder is not OK, then I cannot see how a video camera is.
The legislation is all about not using instruments that don't have real players, not playing recordings, and not projecting stills or movies in church. It is not concerned with broadcasting — on radio, TV or, these days, the internet — whatever happens to take place live in the church. All of that is approved by the Church (with appropriate cautionary safeguards).

Cf. "Televising the Mass is a ministry by which the Church uses modern technology to bring the Lord's healing and comfort to those who cannot physically participate in the liturgical life of the local Church and who often experience a sense of isolation from the parish and its regular forms of prayer and worship." (US Conference of Catholic Bishops Guidelines for Televising the Liturgy)

In the UK, we have our own Televising the Mass: Guidelines for Broadcast Worship, available at https://www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Resour ... e_Mass.pdf. I was one of the two people responsible (we were the "Broadcast Worship Subcommittee of the Pastoral Liturgy Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales") for drafting this document, finally published in 1993 after a delay of several years. We even ran training courses for TV producers, not all of whom were familiar with church practice (and some of them felt very threatened at being told what they should be concentrating on!). Today, there is little or no guidance for TV producers (diocesan religious broadcasting advisors seem to have gone by the board, perhaps because radio and televised Masses are much fewer in number than they used to be) and so we have reverted to the camera going for a walk during a piece of music such as the Holy, holy instead of focusing on the community singing the acclamation. The Lamb of God is another one that is ripe for a little tour of the church, looking at stained glass, flickering candles, etc, instead of the principal action which is the breaking of bread. Commentators simply cannot resist the temptation to blather on when music is being sung. You get the picture.
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