Annoying Concert Masses

Based on my experience in my church, I’ve spent a veeeery long time thinking the opposite. I can’t remember EVER singing to the post-Communion meditation. The ones we usually use require a fair bit of rehearsing to do properly. :blush:

I don’t mind elaborate hymns sung by the choir. Sometimes it’s so beautiful I get moved to tears. I love music so much. I love making it. I love listening to it.

What I do mind the clapping after the fact. It’s so impressive I understand people can’t help themselves. But if it’s not supposed to be a performance, we should not treat it like one. :o

My father-in-law is a singer in an Episcopal choir as were my husband and brother-in-law with they were little. Like Cat before me, the thing they have that I wish we did were harmony lines written out in the hymnal so the congregation had every opportunity to actually sing with the choir if they so desired.


For those who share their considerable talents and time for the ministry of music. (Because, of course, I would not clap in church . . . :wink: )

I can’t carry a tune in a bucket . . .

Do you know what you’re saying when you say “Amen” or “Alleluia” or (maybe more rare these days) “Kyrie eleison”?

If you know what you’re saying when you pray the Our Father in English, then you know what you’re saying when you pray the Pater Noster in Latin. And Latin is the official language of the Roman (i.e. Latin) Rite, and the Church has continually requested that our pastors educate us in singing or saying certain parts of the Mass in Latin. (Yes, even at and after Vatican II!)

The fact that so many musicians have made a point of how upset this thread makes them kinda of underlies the point of the main poster.

If you are offering your talents up to God to the best of your ability, what do your care what the rest of the congregation thinks of you or if they appreciate you or not? I don’t go to Mass to “appreciate” the works of the musician. When the music is good, I thank God. When the music is bad, it can be a real distraction to Mass. Does is not cocern you at all when the rest of congregation cannot pariticipate in the Mass? Those are your brothers and sisters who are trying to worship God but haven’t been given the same “talents” as you have.

But always remember the purpose of the Mass is about God, not about the music.

Yes this is true, if you pray the Our Father out loud in another language that you do not know but you do know it in English then, technically, you do know what you are praying.

What bothers me, is that if you are praying the Our Father in a language you do not know then it is most likely that you are not pronouncing the words correctly, especially when you do so in a tonal language, so even though you know what you should be praying what you are saying might not actually be what you think you are praying.

For example, in our community every third week we pray the Benedictus (MP), the Magnificat (EP), and the Our Father (both MP and EP) in Vietnamese (a tonal language). I have been told by one of our Vietnamese brothers that when we pray the Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, that because we are getting the tones wrong, some of us are actually saying Glory to the Dog…and so on.

So the issue is not just knowing what your praying, the issue is also praying it correctly.

Oh, certainly! Learning Latin prayers should be accompanied by learning how to pronounce them properly.

Actually, it doesn’t. Most musicians are still not trying to make it into a concert or show, so it doesn’t make any point to the original post.

Actually, it’s not about caring what the rest of the congregation is thinking. Quite honestly, for me and for other colleagues, we try to keep away from everyone after mass or beforehand. The reason why so many musicians have posted on this is because of the fact that it is automatically assumed that musicians are a bunch of egomaniacs who are up there for self praise. We are just doing our best for God and to help add to the focus of the mass and prayer - not trying to garner accolades if we are doing a good job. \

The negative and often wrong presumptions spread very quickly until it is believed as truth and it makes it much harder for musicians to just do their jobs. Some bosses will have this wrong presumption and they will immediately assume the worst of a church musician and can make that person’s life in regards to sacred music ministry a very negative experience.

I have sat in sacristies hearing people talk dirt about the organist or choir director with negative and wrong ideas about him/her when they don’t even know them. I have seen this kind of attitude spread from the lay people who work in the sacristy to the lay people in the pews until this hostile attitude is formed for the musicians. Because of this, musicians have to keep a tough shell when they enter the church, focus on God, the mass and the prayer they are making with music. Yes, it is sometimes very difficult to just ignore this attitude. It is always a surprise when someone actually treats them with respect and actually doesn’t assume that they are an egomaniac, and so it keeps me upbeat and hopeful. But I know for some who are much older than me, after so many years of being beat down and working hard to be strong, faithful and above it all, there is only so much a human psyche can take.

I’m very glad you don’t. No one is expecting you or wanting you to do that. It’s a shame you have been given the wrong assumption that this is what musicians want you to do.

When the congregation is supposed to sing, we should sing and can participate through their voices. When the organ is doing an instrumental work, we are “participating” through our inner prayer. When the choir is doing a motet, we are also “participating” through inner prayer by allowing the musical prayer to add to the focus of the mass. Sometimes - actually many times - for me, when I am not singing, hearing the prayerful music is very meaningful and more spiritually focused towards the sacrifice of the Mass. I prefer choir, especially when they do chants and polyphony. It’s much more prayerful and focused for the mass, at least in my humble opinion. Of course, if the chosen music is meant for the congregation to participate, then the music should be more clear-cut, the cantor should back away from the mic and the organ and/or choir should serve as a good support.

You’re preaching to the “choir”. I think all the musicians on this thread know that. That’s the whole point of why they even posted on here. It’s this attitude which again perpetuates the negativity towards church musicians - the wrong assumption that we actually don’t know what the purpose of the Mass is about and we’re all there for only ourselves. We just want to make clear that this is not the case.

One of the men in the choir at my church really gets into the prayer behind the music. Not just inwardly, but outwardly. (Closes his eyes, raises his hands, etc.) I know him well enough to know that he is not doing this to gain more attention, but rather to focus more on God. He simply cannot hold his prayer inside. People know this, and don’t think for one minute that he’s showing off.
Maybe if more choir members would let their prayer be shown on the outside, people wouldn’t think such things. On second thought, if the members aren’t known very well by the congregation, it may just encourage such speculation.
I suppose some choir somewhere is showing off, but the choir I’m in isn’t.
But even if they are not, I realize that some choirs are choosing more modern music for the Mass. Alot of the older people don’t like that (my parents included). It does worry me sometimes that some may be coming to church for the music only. But then if gets them to church… (makes me think of Sister Act…“Oh, Maria!” :D)

Our choir works really hard to draw people into the particular season, feast of the mass. Everything is a capella on Good Friday; everything is full of joy and alleluias for Easter (and we used the piano AND the organ). One of my jobs as the piano player is to report to the choir just how much the congregation was singing during mass (where the choir sits, they can’t hear the congregation very well). We care very much about our ministry.

Contrary to the popular usage of the term “musician” and “instrument,” the human voice is, in fact, a musical instrument. The choir is comprised of a group of musicians; the choir director is also a musician whose instrument is the choir.

I’m sorry for those whose parish musicians either have the wrong focus in their ministry, or who simply aren’t aware of the negative effect of their own music. Most church musicians, however, are truly trying to lead the congregation into a deeper participation in the mass, either through singing or meditative prayer.


Some use this terminology, I chose not to. See I would love to get back into playing the guitar and using it in worship settings but many people think that if you play an instrument then you must also sing and be able to lead that. This is not where my interests lie so I am forced not to take up the guitar.

I’m sorry for those whose parish musicians either have the wrong focus in their ministry, or who simply aren’t aware of the negative effect of their own music. Most church musicians, however, are truly trying to lead the congregation into a deeper participation in the mass, either through singing or meditative prayer.

Yes, may choirs do a good job, I have a problem with those that chose arrangements for parts that the people should sing but because of the arrangement chosen they can not because only someone trained in singing and who has been practicing it can do so.

First let me state that it is possible for choirs and cantors to “show boat”, but this has to do with an interior attitude and not with the volume amount that is sung, or with the degree of technical difficulty of the works being sung, or even with the aptitude of the individual members. It is an interior attitude that determines whether one or a group is “show boating” or not – and it is very difficult for anyone to peer into the hearts of others to determine whether there is that attitude or not. Remember, we are all meant to do our absolute best for God – and this go especially for the Liturgy, and this includes choir members.

Second, the choir (schola cantorum) is a special ministry (like lectoring) that not everyone is called to. And one that not everyone participates in. Do we always join in reading aloud the Scriptural readings when the lector is? Or do we listen attentively. So why complain if you can’t always sing with the choir and must sit listening attentively.

Third, it has been mentioned here by others that they feel cheated if they cannot participate by singing with the choir (this was touched upon above). Why is there the thinking that to fully participate that you must be actively doing something? Sitting listening attentively or reflecting in silence the Mysteries unfolding in the Liturgy is just as fully and actively participating as the lector reading or the choir singing or even the Priest consecrating.

It’s ok that you choose not to equate the human voice as an instrument, but actually, most musicians (especially classical and jazz musicians) would disagree. If you look at Bach’s compositions for the voice, he treated the voice exactly like any one of his other instruments. If it wasn’t considered an instrument, then voice wouldn’t be part of music programs in colleges or music conservatories. It would be part of a trade school. It is literally the first instrument and the first instrument used in the church, as well one of the hardest instruments to master and really do well especially if you are in training. The musical exercises in classical singing are the same as with any other instrument not part of the body. Technique has to be learned like in any other instrument. Intelligence is needed just like in playing any instrument. The body works as a resonator much like the body of a string instrument. In fact, the violin is considered the closest instrument to the voice. I could go on, but it would be entire thesis.

But it is totally understandable why people would think that singers aren’t musicians and that the voice isn’t an instrument. The problem lies in the fact that there has been a perception for centuries, which is partially true, that singers weren’t musicians. Unfortunately, there ARE singers who never really studied music theory and don’t really know how to even read music. But most professional singers I know, including myself, do read music and know our theory. There are even non-professional singers who are true musicians. Many of us started studying music at a very young age. I started at the age of 4 with piano and began studying voice at 13. And the majority of professional choral singers in churches are some of the best sight singing readers around. That may not be the case with most volunteer choirs, but you will always have a mix. That is why many will have section leaders who are actually musicians and treat the voice as an instrument.

Very nicely said. With your first point, it is especially true. Although most musicians do not “showboat” as you call it, I have mentioned that I have on occasion worked with egos. But you really don’t know that they are like that until you experience them as a person - not as a musician. Their ability and talent really says nothing about what’s going on with the egos. Some of the worst “musicians” have the biggest egos. Although I will say, sometimes one can feel a person’s beauty, warmth, giving and prayer if it is truly coming from the heart and the soul. You really have no idea what the ego is like, though, until you actually talk to them and discover the kind of attitude they might have. AND working with them really shows what kind of person they are. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the most humble and beautiful musicians. And honestly, you can’t be a good musician unless you are truly humble.

the only type of music that I find distracting at Mass is when it’s contemporary and “folk music”… with a guitar… from Glory and Praise… lol

I like the music to be more traditional. Apart from that, I don’t really mind how it’s done as long as it’s done well so it’s not distracting. I don’t really mind not singing along with the choir…if the choir is singing a really beautiful piece of music that lifts my heart and mind to God.

imho :slight_smile:

I do not feel cheated when the choir is singing its parts but when it takes the parts that are for the people and does them in a manner that excludes the people, then the people are cheated.

You are correct, when the lector is reading we are listening and this is full active participation but if the lector was the only one to say, “Thanks be to God”, at the end of the reading then the people are cheated out of their part, which is the same thing when the choir sings the Kyrie in an arrangement that the people can not join in singing as the rubics call for them to do.

Personally, I am more spiritually touched by hearing the choir do a Kyrie and Gloria from a Palestrina mass or a mass of any other good composer. I am participating through reflective prayer asking God for his mercy while the choir sings from the choir loft. It hits home to me more. I close my eyes and pray along. I’m much more focused on the mass and the prayer that goes along with hearing the singing of the Kyrie and Gloria. This is often the case at cathedrals and even in some smaller churches in the US and in Europe. If the Vatican does this for Her own masses, I don’t think this is really as bad as people make it out to be - and I think they know a little more than us in terms of liturgical music.

Of course, when it is chanted and repeated by the congregation it is also spiritually fulfilling.

I try not to weigh in on L&S threads since I have my own rather firm opinions. Brother David, I am older than you and grew up with the Missa Cantata in which the congregation sang most of Mass in Latin. People did sing before Vatican II otherwise I would not have learned all those Latin warhorses I learned as a kid.

I have also sung for twenty years in a cathedral choir. Three hours of practice every week. I can assure you and the OP that our practice and our “performance” was in service to the Most High. Yes, we did sing concerts and, yes, we busted our patouts even more for those concerts.

As a traditional choral musician, I am perfectly content to still myself and be “spiritually touched” as Sarabande put it. I would far rather have a choir singing a motet than I would having a bunch of folks up front strumming away on guitars and banging away on drums.

Brother David, I simply don’t understand where you are coming from with this

but when it takes the parts that are for the people and does them in a manner that excludes the people, then the people are cheated.

The populace sang along with the choir in a Missa Cantata. We were all on the same page musically. Are you referring to some of those ghastly GIA productions that we, as a cathedral choir, are forced to endure during the Chrism Mass.? I can assure you as a cathedral choir member that I would much rather revert back to the chant I learned as a child before Vatican II.

I have a clear memory of the music I heard and sang when I was a kid before Vatican II. I will keep my mouth shut for that which happened after 1967. I give thanks and praise to God that He allowed me to serve him for twenty years in a cathedral choir. In our music God was glorified…not us. God bless all choristers who pour their hearts out and bust their patouts practicing.

We have a wonderful Chior Director & Liturgist. We often go early to things just to enjoy the chior practice. Especially the Children’s Chior. They are being taught so well. And being taught to be reverant and to contrubute and that it is their church, too.
I’m willing to learn & to take part.
During the recent pre-Easter masses we sang the Agnus Dei & the Sanctus in Latin. I love that. It’s nice to have some Latin.
It is all a gift from God!

I am speaking of the use of arrangement for the music that are not given to the people so they can not sing along.

Here is an example I had to endure when I would attend the Mass that the Choir sang at, at a parish near my parents’ home.

They would sing the Kyrie with the Women taking the first part and then Men taking the second part and would sing it in such a complicated way that without the music the people had no hope of joining in.

I have seen this sort of thing done in at least 5 different parishes. Granted I can not say that this is going on everywhere but where it is happening I do not like it and chose to avoid those Masses with Choirs because of my experience.

Believe me, I understand what you are saying though as the Divine Liturgy has some very complicated music but as it is something we learn it is not hard to sing along with.

Just got back from the Saturday afternoon mass. The cantor didn’t show up, and due to lots of other community activities today, there were only about 25 people in attendance. Thank goodness Father has a great voice and isn’t afraid to belt it out. But, whenever he was busy and unable to sing along, the hymns just sort of faded away to nothing. Even a “showboat” cantor would have been appreciated.

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