"Thou shalt sing at Mass"

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"Thou shalt sing at Mass"

Post by oopsorganist »

MaryFA said on the Liturgical Tourism thread -

.......as far as I know 'Thou shalt sing at Mass' is not one of the Ten Commandments or the Precepts of the Church.

So as not to go off topic, so easily done, I put it here.
We were musing the pros and cons of choirs and such. I think MaryFA and myself both noted that in churches where there is no organist or accompanying music, the congregation is more likely to sing. Which is interesting.

Catholics are well known for not singing. Well, actually, they pretend to sing. You just mumble into your hymn book. Actually explicitly not participating in a Liturgical activity takes a bit more purpose and intention.

I have to look up Precept now.
uh oh!

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Re: "Thou shalt sing at Mass"

Post by alan29 »

Well, our lot sing their lovely Catholic heads off, sometimes in spontaneous harmony.
I wouldnt attribute that to any of the following :wink: ........ no choir, deliberately tuneful and singable repertoire, no organ or organ loft, guitar-piano based band situated among the congregation, a singing priest.
No siree, not at all, its purely accidental.

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Re: "Thou shalt sing at Mass"

Post by JW »

Singing is no longer part of our everyday culture, so perhaps it's not surprising that people are reluctant to sing at liturgies. I've started to wonder why bother having hymns at funerals and weddings when the only ones singing are the priest and the organist?! If singing isn't part of the culture, perhaps we should abolish it and go back to said Masses unless the parish has a reasonable singing group? If the singing doesn't add to the prayer of the people, then it doesn't have any point- it's just a clanging symbol (to misquote St Paul..).

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Re: "Thou shalt sing at Mass"

Post by contrabordun »

oopsorganist wrote:I think MaryFA and myself both noted that in churches where there is no organist or accompanying music, the congregation is more likely to sing. Which is interesting.

The word you're looking for is "meaningless". What you probably meant to say was:

it would have been more accurate if oops wrote: in the necessarily small - and therefore statistically unrepresentative - number of churches that MaryFA and I have visited, at the - again small sample of - masses at which we have been actually present, where there is no organist, then in our subjective memory the congregation was more likely to have been singing than on those occasions at which we experienced it in the equally small sample at which the converse applied. It hasn't occurred to either of us that either the selection of churches visited or this memory may have been affected in any way by our personal biases about the types of musical setup with which we are comfortable, and so we are happy to generalise from these experiences.

FWIW, my experience is
1. that unless you have a PP who makes it clear that singing is an expected congregational activity, there very probably won't be any.
2. that if you have such a PP and some competent musical leadership in any genre then there will probably be decent congregational singing.
3. there are so many other factors involved that further prediction is pointless.

But that's only my experience. To get any meaningful data, you'd have to send researchers to scores of churches simultaneously and repeat at different times of the year, and even then you'd have to be very cautious about applying observations made in a status quo situation to the question of whether/how to go about changing a status quo somewhere else.

My apologies if this seems like a rant, but if you're going to make assertions implying that one form of music (specifically, the one espoused by Sacrosanctum Concilium) is bad for congregational singing then your basis for making them had better be robust.
Paul Hodgetts

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Re: "Thou shalt sing at Mass"

Post by oopsorganist »

Mary said that her parish would sing organ or no. I think. Or something like that. This thread began over the issues around congregations being willing to sing and what factors facilitate that.
Also the issue of how important or not important, is it, if the congregation do not sing.
My Snap Shot data-
Two parishes singing well with no organ or instruments or choir
One singing OK with harmonium thing
Two singing a bit with organ and choir
One reluctant to sing with organ and choir

In my own experience the keyboard was better than organ for getting the parish singing. Unless it was Hail Queen of Heaven which is not suitable for all situations. Or "All that I am".

So definitely looking for all those other bits in Sacro Sanctilium that are not the bit about Pipe Organs being bestest thing. There's quite a few to go at before we burn all the Pipe Organs! :lol:
uh oh!

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Re: "Thou shalt sing at Mass"

Post by VML »

John Ainslie wrote:I feel strongly that, where a Sunday Mass is normally sung, some singing should be provided every Sunday. Music leadership is a ministry to the community, helping them to praise God. Does God take August off? I think not. In my 29 years as music leader in my parish, I made it a point of honour and faithfulness to arrange for a music leader every Sunday, and to my recollection only failed once.

I have taken the liberty of copying this from the 'Liturgical Tourism' thread, because my reply is more appropriate here.
I was persuaded for a few years to take August off, but never wanted to, for the reasons stated here. This year and last we kept going right through.

The voice is the first instrument, and I have spent much time and energy getting people singing, and encouraging the reluctant singer, both in and out of church.
I play the organ, but I would not dare to call myself a proper organist, rather, a singer who bashes the organ.
However, one of my inspirations has been the great accompanist Gerald Moore whose memoir is titled, 'Am I Too Loud?'
There is plenty of scope on the organ for encouraging the assembly to sing. Reinforce the tune; if it is unfamiliar, play it through before Mass so they absorb the melody, pull back for at least one verse so they can hear the sound they are making, and most of all, as an accompanist you are not giving a recital. You do not have to be as loud as possible with every pedal stop shaking the church.

Also, with encouragement and goodwill, any assembly can be helped to sing without accompaniment. There are plenty of (fashionable) local choirs and groups singing for health and fun, many unaccompanied. This crosses all genres. Singing is now 'cool', so grab that while we can and keep our parishes singing.

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Re: "Thou shalt sing at Mass"

Post by organgrinder »

I have been plugging away in my parish for quite a few years and have always had an assembly willing to sing. I have found that the following works:

1. Have a choir (if possible) but not every week. We have them about once a month to lead new material, sing irregular verses and belt out refrains. But the other weeks the assembly has to sing on its own.

2. Make sure the assembly knows what is expected of them, rehearsing any new material before mass, and explaining why we are doing so-and-so in this way and at this time.

3. Give a good strong lead with the accompaniment. I find the organ encourages them most, varying the registration to suit the verses/text, but playing both loudly and more restrained as appropriate. I use piano at times but the response is less good. Either way, weak playing results in weak singing.

4. Use a variety of styles, even within one celebration: we try to use the best of the old and the best of the new, with some chant, plainsong but not too much Latin. We've don't use responsorial Glorias because the assembly has to sing all of it when there is no cantor or choir (and through-composed ones are shorter!).

On the whole our people are enthusiastic about singing on Sunday morning (perhaps less so on Saturday evening) and would be horrified if we went back to said masses. I admit much less success with singing during communion, except when the choir is present. So I just provide reflective/atmospheric organ music until the hymn after communion. We don't usually have a final hymn.

As someone else mentioned, it is helpful to have confident and competent music leaders/singers/players - and perhaps that is the challenge in many places.

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Re: "Thou shalt sing at Mass"

Post by Keraulophon »

One of our organists postulates that people are more likely to sing when the organ is played at maximum volume ... ... because they then think that others cannot hear their mistakes or observe their inability to simg in tune!

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Re: "Thou shalt sing at Mass"

Post by Southern Comfort »

Keraulophon wrote:One of our organists postulates that people are more likely to sing when the organ is played at maximum volume ... ... because they then think that others cannot hear their mistakes or observe their inability to simg in tune!

Absolutely disagree with this. The number of times I have heard over-loud organs bludgeoning the congregation into silence.... People (including me) just give up trying to compete.

Basic rule of thumb: When you're playing, if you can't hear the assembly singing, you're playing too loud.

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Re: "Thou shalt sing at Mass"

Post by liturgyprof »

Quite agree. Loud playing does discourage singing. Generally it seems to me accompaniment needs to be clearly audible doc gregarious doesn't have to guess at tempo, intervals, even melody but not be so full or substantial as to make singing less attractive than listening

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