Are pianos approved for the liturgy?


#1

i’ve often read that pius x forbid pianos becuase they were “frivolous”

has that changed now? many parishes ow have pianos

not sure why he thought that in the first place though, i’m a piano player and it’s an elegant instrument. perhpas it depends on the music being played?


#2

I don’t believe the Church issued a document saying that an instrument other than the organ can be used, but I could be wrong.

I’m guessing they’re approved. We use an electric piano at my parish. :shrug:


#3

Yes, you are wrong. The organ holds “pride of place” but other instruments can be used.
Choices such as this are left to the Bishop of the diocese to make, based on the norms for their region.

In the US, you will find this instruction in the GIRM, my emphases added-

  1. Bearing in mind the important place that singing has in a celebration as a necessary or integral part of the Liturgy,[151] all musical settings for the texts of the Ordinary of Mass, for the people’s responses and acclamations, and for the special rites that occur in the course of the liturgical year must be submitted to the Secretariat of Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for review and approval prior to publication.

While the organ is to be accorded pride of place, other wind, stringed, or percussion instruments may be admitted into divine worship in the Dioceses of the United States of America, according to longstanding local usage, in so far as these are truly suitable for sacred use, or can be made suitable.

For the OP, Canada has it’s own Bishop’s conference, therefore the rules where you are may be different. The best thing would be to check with you diocese.


#4

It’s all well and good to speak of “pride of place” and I certainly am not denying what the GIRM says.
But the fact is, most new parishes can barely afford to get the sanctuary up and furnish it. Ever looked to see the price of a beautiful tabernacle? How about the pews? The main crucifix and corpus. Any adornments…the Stations…the altar itself, the ambo…the many candlesticks…it’s overwhelming. Now tack on the cost of a quality pipe organ. For a place that probably has no accomplished organist within its membership, and will mostly likely not be able to afford one from afar.
Yeah. Digital pianos fit the bill. The Kawai pianos have a pipe organ feature that you would be hard pressed to think was not the real thing. Their digital data comes from the pipe organ in Westminster Abbey. All for less than 20 grand.
You can fret about pianos not having pride of place, but you will come across an accomplished pianist sooner than an accomplished organist. Plus, it’s very difficult to fit a new pipe organ into an existing space. The cost for renovations can be almost as much as the instrument.
That’s why church uses pianos. :harp:


#5

Oh, I don’t disagree.
I am fortunate, our cathedral, which is one of my local parishes, has a beautiful, new pipe organ, and we have a music school that is one of the few that still offers advanced degrees in organ performance, so we always have plenty of people who are willing and able to play. However, had it not been for the donations of a few benefactors, who loved and appreciated sacred music, there is no way our diocese could have purchased such an instrument. And without the school supplying students to support our own musicians, the organ would be a big dust collector.


#6

How about electric and bass guitars and a drumset, as well as an electric piano? That’s what they have at our Masses (not all of them, but most)

If I had a preference it would be the organ. These instruments always makes me feel uncomfortable at a Mass.


#7

I have seen this done very well, and not so well, as it is with most music.
I tend to be hyper-critical when it comes to music, because it is important to me, and I have learned to “suck it up” (well, not always, but I try :o ) and be thankful that someone is giving their time and talent to lead the people in song.

I don’t have a preference as to styles so long as it is something that the congregation can join in with relative ease. What I don’t like is when the music/musicians use Mass to “perform”.


#8

I agree, as I love good music as well. Our old Historic Church has an organ nearly 100 years old, tempermental too! (Like a lot of us elderly!) But our more modern Parish Center, used for the elderly and handicapped at first, but now growing, has an electric (digital??) piano with organ digital built in - can be played in either mode. However, the only guitar music I ever have heard at Mass was a local Spanish Mass, which always has a traditional Spanish hymn each Sunday with about 4 or 5 guitars playing – beautiful!! It is usually a hymn to Mary, Virgin Mother. I also heard a Mass in Mexico, had over 20 traditional and classical guitars (no electrics) all playing the Mass music. Some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard in years! I was in tears listening to over 200 voices singing together in Spanish, praising God and 20+ guitars playing the melody with them. Now that type of “non-traditional” Mass music I can appreciate! Don’t think I’d really like electric guitars and drums. (Haven’t heard that done). But some people seem to like them, or perhaps that’s all they have, local musicians and no piano or organ for economic reasons. So long as they are praising God, and not “performing” to show off, I can live with it.


#9

That was a long time ago and just because you read about an opinion from the past doesn’t mean that it a final statement on what instrument is or isn’t considering that there have been changes in the liturgy since then. One must consider that it is harder and harder to find a proficient organist because fewer and fewer people study it. A piano is much more accessible. Usually I see the organist bounce between the organ and piano based on the song and part of the Mass.


#10

I’m not sure, but I suspect that when the piano first came out, basically the old “pianoforte” it was used primarily with waltz music, and young ladies studied the “pianoforte” and played it for guests at dinners in wealthy homes. This was definitely “frivolous” style of music, and prior to many of the great compositions which were written for the Grand Piano with orchestra. Perhaps that is why it was considered unsuitable for Sacred Music at one time, and few churches had pianos. Nowadays, an organ can be close to 1/3 or more of the cost of building or renovating a Church. They are not only extremely expensive, but musicians who are actually trained on the organ are getting rare. In our area, we have one organist in a 60 mile radius, he drives to 2 Churches each Sunday, both are over 40 miles from his home, and he is in his 70’s. In large cities, there are probably more who are trained organists, but in most smaller towns and rural areas, they are basically a dying breed. That’s why either piano or the newer “digital” pianos which do sound like organs are played. They have only one keyboard, where a large pipe organs have at least 2 keyboards, I believe, multiple pedals plus knobs which must be adjusted for the music being played. They are not as easy to learn as piano, and piano is still studied by many young people, who often become quite skilled and can also learn to play the organ sounds of a “digital” piano. I’m afraid that in smaller, rural areas, the organ may very likely become more rare, while the piano will replace it.

That may have been the opinion of Pius X, but it was not, I don’t think ever made a Canon law which forbade piano. Local Bishops may allow piano, primarily because so few can play them in rural areas and small towns, and the prices are extremely high. The down payment on a nice house is approximately equivalent to a small pipe organ, and often less.


#11

Take a look at Psalm 150 and you have your answer. (Thank you Cash for this answer, I knew I some day would need it, God bless your soul.)


#12

Amen! Psalm 150 is the perfect answer!!


#13

Just to give you a head’s up–there are people (some on this forum) who will use history and apologetics to prove to you that Psalm 150 does not apply to the Mass, but only to occasions outside of Mass. :rolleyes: I’m not sure how to respond to them, since I really don’t know. I think that the answer is to trust the bishops, who have the authority to determine which instruments are appropriate in the parishes in their dioceses.

I agree with much of what has been said on this thread by many posters. Organ has pride of place, but if there is no organist, pride of place doesn’t matter. Organs don’t play themselves.

Organists are becoming rarer in the U.S., and I personally think that the Catholic Church in the U.S. should embark upon a deliberate action campaign to “grow” a new supply of organists, *IF the Catholic Church takes the GIRM seriously and truly wants to continue having organ in any Masses outside of the Big Cities/Big University towns. *

Cat wishes that someone would listen to her!. :frowning: She feels like a tiny little kitten voice in the wilderness!

If the Catholic Church in the U.S. doesn’t take the GIRM seriously, and would just as soon see use of the organ in the Mass die out, well, then never mind. I do wonder if this is the case.

But I honestly believe that most Catholics (and many many Protestants as well!) love the big organ sound/feel and truly WANT to hear more organ in the Masses. Many of the hymns sound best when accompanied by an organ. A piano can sound good on those hymns (I consider myself a good pianist for traditional hymns!). But piano sounds best on the contemporary hymns (and these same hymns sound dreadful on the organ, unless the organist is quite skilled at playing contemporary hymns). Organ is best for the really rousing German/Dutch hymns!

I’m afraid that someday in the very near future, the Catholic Church in the U.S. will wake up and realize that no one is playing the organ in any parish other than in the Big Cities and university towns.

These are some of my ideas about how an “Action Campaign” could be done in the U.S.: Again, I wish someone with influence would listen. If they have a better idea, fine–I’m open! If it works, even better!

  1. A study should be done to assess the need for organists. I personally think the results of such a study would sober up in a flash Catholics who love traditional/organ music in the Mass. I think that such a study would convince Catholics that money and time should be allocated to growing more organists. I also think that such a study would demonstrate that without more organists, it will be difficult to hold TLMs unless they are “Low Masses.” This could impede the growth of the TLM in the U.S.

  2. The U.S. Church should create a vigorous and engaging campaign to encourage people, mainly children and teenagers, but also adult pianists/keyboardists, to take up the study of the organ.

  3. The U.S. parishes with organs should be encouraged to publish “Practice Hours” during which the parish organ can be used by approved students (Catholics, members of the parish, etc.) at no charge for practice and lessons. During these hours, the students should be able to easily access the organ without having to hunt down a maintenance person or a secretary to open the door. Evening hours should be provided, as many people, especially students and working people, cannot practice during the day.

  4. The U.S. parishes should raise funds to provide scholarships to organ students. The money for these could be raised many ways, but one obvious method would be a series of concerts by current competent organists in the community (who would be paid a stipend from the proceeds of the concert), and recitals by the current organ and piano students in the parish (who would NOT be paid since they’re students!). Many Catholics families are large, and it is difficult or impossible for them to afford organ lessons for one or more of their children.

These concerts would create more “hunger” for the organ in the parish, and help make all the other points in this action plan happen.

  1. The parish schools should enhance their music programs, hiring full-time teachers who will teach correct singing techniques and liturgical music (both ancient–yes, chant–and modern.) In addition, the schools should HIRE a piano/organ teacher, who will come to the SCHOOL and give lessons to interested students.

  2. The U.S. parishes should work to include current organ and piano students into the Mass liturgy, especially if these students are children or teenagers. An experienced organist or pianist could work with the students and train them to play the Mass parts at the appropriate time, and train them to accompany the hymns.

  3. Parish organists and pianists should be paid for their services at a level commensurate with the expected pay scale in their community. This is probably the best way to attract and retain good organists (and pianists), and to make the study of the organ appealing to young people.


#14

As far as I am able to understand it is a question about tradition. A organ kind of fit in to a Church, mostly because before we got loudspeakers and all the trimmings to make music sound better, and above all, louder, the organ was the best option. And with time, it became the only “right” thing in a Church.

Tradition is a blessing and a curse, we do things everybody have done for as long as anyone can remember, and with time, tradition turn into teaching. That is not a bad thing, if someone have time to think about it. Since musical instruments are not a part of official doctrine, and please correct me if I am wrong, nobody really think about it. (What music to play in a Church is a totally different issue.)

Personally I like the organ and how it sound, and it is, and will always be, the only “real” Church instrument, but I reckon a piano is okay, and if we think about the story behind “Silent Night, Holy Night” we can say that a guitar is also acceptable in a Church, even though the story connect it with The Protestant Church in Germany. But all in all, music and the joy of faith do belong together, and I think God is not angry if we sing a psalm or any other religious song, or Carol, using only our voice or a guitar, all we do to His Glory is good and pure, and nobody can deny that.


#15

Cat wishes that someone would listen to her!. :frowning: She feels like a tiny little kitten voice in the wilderness!

If the Catholic Church in the U.S. doesn’t take the GIRM seriously, and would just as soon see use of the organ in the Mass die out, well, then never mind. I do wonder if this is the case.

But I honestly believe that most Catholics (and many many Protestants as well!) love the big organ sound/feel and truly WANT to hear more organ in the Masses.

  1. Parish organists and pianists should be paid for their services at a level commensurate with the expected pay scale in their community. This is probably the best way to attract and retain good organists (and pianists), and to make the study of the organ appealing to young people.

Look up the NPM. National Association of Pastoral Musicians. they are in the business of doing everything you list except…wait for it…
MONEY.
A parish has to be large, and have plenty of money.
I see you live in the North, where Catholics, and Traditional Catholics especially are in great numbers. this is not so in other parts of the country.
Many parishes struggle just to pay the musicians any sort of stipend, much less a salary, and certainly have no funds for education.
And as for practice times? My parish is booked solid, every available night of the week, in the salon, the meeting rooms, the chapel, AND the church with standing ministries and music groups who need to practice for the Saturday and Sunday Masses.
I studied the organ. I began at 10 years old playing for the Jesuit priests of my home parish. I was excused from school to play Masses, funeral, etc. The last time I was in a parish with a huge organ was over 30 years ago. Parishes with organs around here are in the 6000 family plus range. They are the only ones who can realistically afford everything you have suggested. And they are rare.

Plus, here’s the real question: How many congregations and pastors really want this? How many parishes would not like it, despite the fond memories of a few people? The last 2 interviews I had for Music Director, it was very clear that the parishes looking for a musician clearly were not interested in organ music, except to play the odd wedding processional. I think that’s why young people don’t bother to look into organ music. There’s just not a lot of demand for it. Kids go to college to study something that will earn them a living.
You can’t make a living as a church musician. Not unless you work for a huge Cathedral in a big city. :shrug:


#16

It depends. If you don’t have the proper acoustics for it, then an actual pipe organ would be a waste of money. In a low-ceiling, carpeted, high-crowd environment, the digital stuff would probably work better. Just saying.


#17

It depends. If you don’t have the proper acoustics for it, then an actual pipe organ would be a waste of money. In a low-ceiling, carpeted, high-crowd environment, the digital stuff would probably work better. They can trick the ears into hearing the same reverberations and harmonics of a pipe organ. Just saying.


#18

Look up the NPM. National Association of Pastoral Musicians. they are in the business of doing everything you list except…wait for it…
MONEY.
A parish has to be large, and have plenty of money.
I see you live in the North, where Catholics, and Traditional Catholics especially are in great numbers. this is not so in other parts of the country.
Many parishes struggle just to pay the musicians any sort of stipend, much less a salary, and certainly have no funds for education.
And as for practice times? My parish is booked solid, every available night of the week, in the salon, the meeting rooms, the chapel, AND the church with standing ministries and music groups who need to practice for the Saturday and Sunday Masses.
I studied the organ. I began at 10 years old playing for the Jesuit priests of my home parish. I was excused from school to play Masses, funeral, etc. The last time I was in a parish with a huge organ was over 30 years ago. Parishes with organs around here are in the 6000 family plus range. They are the only ones who can realistically afford everything you have suggested. And they are rare.

Plus, here’s the real question: How many congregations and pastors really want this? How many parishes would not like it, despite the fond memories of a few people? The last 2 interviews I had for Music Director, it was very clear that the parishes looking for a musician clearly were not interested in organ music, except to play the odd wedding processional. I think that’s why young people don’t bother to look into organ music. There’s just not a lot of demand for it. Kids go to college to study something that will earn them a living.
You can’t make a living as a church musician. Not unless you work for a huge Cathedral in a big city. :shrug:

There is a difference between the fantasy some posters are having verses the reality of the situation where there are smaller churches with smaller budgets. I think you hit the nail on the head, how many pastors and Catholic Churches really want some organ style music besides some of the posters on CAF?


#19

You have nice ideas but none of them are realistic unless you live in a large area with big churches and Catholic Schools. Most elementary Catholic schools could not afford a full time teacher that has organ experience. Most Churches are not going to open their sanctuary for people to go into to “practice”. There isn’t money in any diocese anyway to sponsor organ scholarships, what money is available needs to go to general scholarships just to have children even attend Catholic Schools. Having the sanctuary open an available for people to practice cuts against the sacredness of the sanctuary itself and with todays crime and vandalism concerns, I highly doubt any priest is going to open the Church up for people to come in and practice willy-nilly. You are also assuming people want this type of music. Reading the post from someone that is actually a Church musician and her experiences says that isn’t the case or reality.
Back to Catholic schools, most of the elementary programs focus on singing. There is not the time or available to even begin to teach keyboard instruments to students which would be the basis for piano and organ. When even reading music is introduced, it is done in the form of plastic recorders for a year or two. Even availability of having a band and doing band instruments is tough and there are not the bodies to do it many times.


#20

Look up the NPM. National Association of Pastoral Musicians. they are in the business of doing everything you list except…wait for it…
MONEY.
A parish has to be large, and have plenty of money.
I see you live in the North, where Catholics, and Traditional Catholics especially are in great numbers. this is not so in other parts of the country.
Many parishes struggle just to pay the musicians any sort of stipend, much less a salary, and certainly have no funds for education.
And as for practice times? My parish is booked solid, every available night of the week, in the salon, the meeting rooms, the chapel, AND the church with standing ministries and music groups who need to practice for the Saturday and Sunday Masses.
I studied the organ. I began at 10 years old playing for the Jesuit priests of my home parish. I was excused from school to play Masses, funeral, etc. The last time I was in a parish with a huge organ was over 30 years ago. Parishes with organs around here are in the 6000 family plus range. They are the only ones who can realistically afford everything you have suggested. And they are rare.

Plus, here’s the real question: How many congregations and pastors really want this? How many parishes would not like it, despite the fond memories of a few people? The last 2 interviews I had for Music Director, it was very clear that the parishes looking for a musician clearly were not interested in organ music, except to play the odd wedding processional. I think that’s why young people don’t bother to look into organ music. There’s just not a lot of demand for it. Kids go to college to study something that will earn them a living.
You can’t make a living as a church musician. Not unless you work for a huge Cathedral in a big city. :shrug:

And this is why a study would be the place to start. A study could be done cheaply, online. The biggest cost would be the labor costs of analyzing the study and preparing a report of the conclusions.

I can’t say whether you are correct or incorrect about this. I am a pianist, too, and many people tell me that they prefer piano. But whenever I play the organ (all I can play is preludes or postludes), people come running up to tell me that it’s so good to hear the organ again.

So I’m not sure.

What I am sure of is that, regardless of the preferences of the people, the GIRM says that the organ has “pride of place” in Mass. I don’t think we can just ignore that, and I think we need to work on it.

I’m not sure that the “style” of the parish (traditional or modern) has anything to do with it. Some of the most vibrant church organists play in churches that are extremely liberal and modern. Many liberal and modern people still enjoy well-played organ music.

Again, that’s why a study is necessary. If no one wants the organ, then perhaps the Church should consider adjusting the paragraphs in the GIRM so that parishes will be in peaceful compliance with the rubrics. The GIRM is not dogma, therefore it can be adjusted.

Our parish is very busy, too, but there are still several hours each week when the nave is empty and the organ is available. We also have many evenings when other rooms in the church building are used for classes and socials. And there are always the early early morning hours (pre-dawn). I know homeschool students who study music and start their days at 4 or 5 in the morning practicing (especially when there are many children in the family who must share a piano). All those times should be published as practice times. What is the alternative for young organ students?! Buying an organ for the home is impossible for most families (cost and space limitations). Without an organ and practice times, there will be no organists.

If indeed there is no money in the parishes, then it should be made clear to the people that the parish organ is un-used not because “the priests are liberal,” or “the OCP is pushing their banal music onto unsuspecting parishes,” or some other reason that some traditionalist-leaning Catholics often seem to claim. The parish should make it clear, in writing, in the church bulletin, that the organ is not being used because there is no money to maintain the instrument and hire an organist. It would be interesting to see what would happen if such an announcement was made in a parish. I’m betting that the money would start rolling in!

I think the worst thing we can do is what we seem to be doing now–waiting and hoping that a great revival will occur and all the Catholic parishes in the U.S. will return to the glorious days when the pipe organs rang out in every Mass. This won’t work.


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