Hiring a New Music Director

Our parish is looking to hire a new music director.

What questions would you ask candidates in an interview to determine if they are faithful to the rubrics or the guidelines the Church has established?

“How often do you play Gregorian?”

“How often do you play ‘Gather Us IN’”

[quote=MrS]“How often do you play ‘Gather Us IN’”
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:rotfl:

Seriously, though… is “Gather Us In” in moderation (no more than three-four times a year) really that bad? I once went to three different churches over the span of three consecutive Sundays. Each one had it as the gathering song. I banned it from my church choir for an entire year.

Onto the question at hand. I would assume your Music Director has submitted a resume. I would review that and ask questions based on their accounting of experience, training, and other litrugy and pastoral music positions they’ve held.

Ask them what settings of the Mass they are familiar with and would have your congregation sing. You may ask them to plan a sample liturgy for an upcoming Mass. Provide for them the liturgy resources the parish expects them to use. Ask them what they would use for liturgy resources.

If you’re going to quiz them on the GIRM or RS, however, make absolutely sure you understand what Rome has legislated in those documents. Make sure you don’t accidentally make yourself look silly by being ill-prepared.

And I don’t think a check of general knowledge of the GIRM or RS would be out of line… “When does the Agnus Dei begin?” Things of that nature. “Where do you stand on parishoners holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer?” “What do you think about the use of Latin texts during the music at Mass?” “Is the Gloria sung during the season of Lent?”

I’ve also seen interviews for this type of position where the candidates were to show how they would teach a new hymn/Mass setting to the congregation by a “mock” instruction session where they taught the interviewing committee.

Will you use the Psalms designated for each Mass, or instead opt to sing alternate Pslams?

[quote=Elzee]Will you use the Psalms designated for each Mass, or instead opt to sing alternate Pslams?
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FYI, some of those of us who do this do it because we are limited by our parish’s limited liturgy resources (ie the hymnal) and we want to make sure that we sing a Psalm that is set in a way for ease of congregational singing. Given a choice between an unsingable setting of the Pslam specific for the Mass or a singable setting of the common Psalm for that time, I’m picking the later.

I am not, however, someone who just picks a random Psalm out because I don’t “like” the one designated for that Sunday. I would rather sing a singable setting of the proper one than anything else. Please understand the limitations in which pastoral music sometimes exists.

Now that I’ve said that… this is a good interview question.

In addition to the other documents mentioned it would be good if the candidate is familiar with “Music in Catholic Worship” and “Liturgical Music Today”. They are somewhat dated but I would expect any competent music director to be familiar with them.

If this music director’s duties will include leading a choir I would have the candidate audition with whatever existing choir you have. And then ask the choir for their input.

[quote=MusicMan]FYI, some of those of us who do this do it because we are limited by our parish’s limited liturgy resources (ie the hymnal) and we want to make sure that we sing a Psalm that is set in a way for ease of congregational singing. Given a choice between an unsingable setting of the Pslam specific for the Mass or a singable setting of the common Psalm for that time, I’m picking the later.

I am not, however, someone who just picks a random Psalm out because I don’t “like” the one designated for that Sunday. I would rather sing a singable setting of the proper one than anything else. Please understand the limitations in which pastoral music sometimes exists.

Now that I’ve said that… this is a good interview question.
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Does the Psalm have to be sung? Can it be read if it is one that does not have a singable setting (hope I’m using the correct music lingo!). I just noticed that in our parish we miss out on a lot of beautiful and meaningful Psalms because we tend to sing the same 3 or 4 all year. We rarely - if ever - sing the Psalm designated for a particular Sunday.

Are you here as a performer or do you have a great desire to please Christ with your music.

Basically are you here for the applause. I see this in many parishes.

If you play for childrens Masses do you lower the standard to He’s got the whole world in his hands, instead of teaching liturgical music to the children.

The Psalm can be read. There’s nothing that says it MUST be sung. I believe that the Church prefers that it be sung whenever possible. This is one of the reasons why I am not afraid to use a common psalm for the season (usually the one suggested by the good folks at NPM) in the event that setting in the hymnal of the Psalm for the Sunday isn’t singable. By singable, I’m not considering the choir’s ability to sing it or my ability to play it, but the ability of the CONGREGATION to sing it. That being said, I strive to use the Psalm for the Sunday whenever possible, and I certainly don’t approve/support singing the same one for an entire month or season. :shudders:

I think it is very important to consider your congregation’s ability to sing a part of the Mass when selecting settings and hymns. This is something that the OP may want to think about and then ask questions about the candidate’s philosophies here.

[quote=Toni]Are you here as a performer or do you have a great desire to please Christ with your music.
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With all due respect, I disagree with the wording of this question. If you desire to please Christ with your music, then you really aren’t doing your job as a pastoral musician. The task at hand is to facilitate the congregation’s musical worship of God.

[quote=Toni]Basically are you here for the applause. I see this in many parishes.
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His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI hates this. He has commented that if the congregation offers applause, then the liturgy has somehow failed to be appropriately reverent and to connect with the people. The congregation always offers applause after Mass at my church and it drives me NUTS. With all the effort my choir and I make to facilitate the congregation’s musical worship of the Lord, the congregation still claps for us like they’re at a concert. I am told that it’s “tradition” and how they’re just showing their appreciation for our time and talent. If they want to show their appreciation, I would rather they put more money in the collection plate so that Father can pay the heating bill. :thumbsup:

[quote=stjosephtomasi]Our parish is looking to hire a new music director.

What questions would you ask candidates in an interview to determine if they are faithful to the rubrics or the guidelines the Church has established?
[/quote]

While the rubrics and liturgical guidelines are important… the very first questions should be if they can actually physically do the job… can the person read music? Do they know how to conduct… do they know how to play an instrument? We would hope that the applicants can do the job if they apply but sadly that is not always the case. We had an organist/director who could only play chords by ear and only certain songs… as result the same music at every Mass, every week. (It has taken our current director ten years to bring those hymns back because the congregation couldn’t bear to hear them again too soon!)

It would help if you ad someone with a musical background to help you with your interviews.

Holly

Is it written anywhere that music for Mass must be dreadful?

My wife isn’t Catholic and she criticizes the lousy music. I realize that Mass is not a concert but can’t we be reverent AND have good music? I say if there is no organ then no music. Sung Psalms are ALWAYS ALWAYS horrible and that is whether it is a psalm for the day psalm for the season or one they picked. Also do they have to find the absolutely worst singer to lead the psalms?

I have only been to the TLM with indult twice but noticed there was not this issue and my Byzantine local parish twice and they too had beautiful music.

Ask him what his user name is on the Catholic Answers Forums :smiley:

DaveBj

After looking at all of these responses, I can only conclude that you should offer the job to me.

I CAN physically do the job. I have decent organ chops, and the conducting skills that make me particularly effective as a HS Band Director I actually learned while doing church choir gigs in collge.

Armed with a proper music budget and the resources to plan good liturgies, I would select music that is reverent, faithful to the GIRM, singable by the congregation, and appropriate for the readings and spirit of the particular Mass.

I also have the GIRM bookmarked on my computer, and I have a copy requested on my Amazon wishlist.

Where was your parish again? How much does the job pay?
:smiley:

[quote=MrS]“How often do you play Gregorian?”
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Should be “never”- gregorian chant, if done properly, is unaccompanied.:stuck_out_tongue:

In addition to the standard qualifications for this type of job (good public relations skills, etc.) the following qualifications are extremely important…
[list]
*]be a practicing Catholic
*]show signs of a strong faith and deep spirituality- a music director is a very public member of the church, and must be a good example of a pious, reverent, faith-filled Catholic.
*]have a good grasp on theology- they don’t have to have a theology degree or anything, but they should be well-versed in the teachings of the church (the required knowledge need only be acquired through reading in one’s spare time), and they MUST know the liturgy exceptionally well (the history of it, the significance of each part, etc.)
*]education and experience in music- especially choral conducting, acoustic technology (they have to be able to know how to operate the sound system- if there is one), vocal and choral techniques and literature, and piano/organ techniques and literature.
[/list]

When they are being interviewed, ask them the following questions:

Why did you go into music? This job requires someone with a great passion for music- you’ll know the right answer when you hear it- because of how passionate it is- and how they look when they give the answer.

Why do you want to direct music for a Catholic Church? They should say because they love the Church- that it means everything to them.

What does the Church mean to you? EVERYTHING!!!

What music do you like to hear in church?* A diverse selection of music that is God-centered, not man-centered, and with profound meanings that both the common man and the theologian will recognize and appreciate.*

Finally, have them prepare, then play or sing (whatever

their strength is) a piece of sacred music that has particularly inspired them, and that they feel sums up their faith. If the song is so powerful it makes them cry (or at least you can tell they are really passionate about it), and it’s orthodox and the musical quality is good, hire them. If they start singing Alle Alle Alleluia, (an annoying song that GIA or OCP came up with- it sounds much like those little ditties we sang in preschool- and it’s just as hard to get out of your head too)- or anything by Marty Haugen…(does your church happen to have a trap door or something?:smiley: )

Oh - one more thing…if you ever anticipate this person working with a children’s choir or even just a couple ‘kid performances’ throughout the year (our preschool kids sing a few songs around Easter, for example), be sure to ask what experience they have working with children, what ‘children songs’ they like for Mass (this will give you a clue as to their musical preferences as well).

Now that I think about it, even if your church doesn’t do a ‘Children’s Mass’ or anything with kids, I’d still ask this question, and even expand it to how they would approach music for a weekly Children’s Mass should your parish ever decide to do this.

Hmmm…this also leads in to Life Teen (even if your parish doesn’t do this…you never know…)
What do they think about it? What music would they use?

Oh - something else - can you tell I’m thinking on the fly here…have they been to any music director conferences? Which ones? What did they think about them? I’m guessing there is a wide variety of pastoral music conferences available around the country and which ones this person has attended will give you some insight as well.

Sorry if some of these are redundant - I haven’t had time to read all the posts to date.

[quote=Elzee]Does the Psalm have to be sung? Can it be read if it is one that does not have a singable setting (hope I’m using the correct music lingo!). I just noticed that in our parish we miss out on a lot of beautiful and meaningful Psalms because we tend to sing the same 3 or 4 all year. We rarely - if ever - sing the Psalm designated for a particular Sunday.
[/quote]

No, the Psalm does not have to be sung. Music directors have resources for getting other music, as well. Furthermore, if the setting in the music books that the parish has is not singable, a qualified music director will be able to pull out a sheet of staff paper, and write a setting for the psalm in a matter of minutes. It’s not hard for a qualified musician to write a simple melody for the response, plus the harmony (4-part) to go with it, and 4 chords (in 4-part harmony) for the psalm tones.

Sometimes parishes use the same psalms over and over again- they want the congregation to learn them, or maybe the music director can’t read music or the accompanist can’t learn music quickly, but surely if there is music at all they can handle some variety.

OK, for the record, the GIRM specifies that psalms are prefered to be sung, as they are the original somgs of the church. I do not have a specific reference, my GIRM is at home right now, but I can post it later if you like.

I think questions about general familiarity with the GIRM and ruberics are great (I deal regularly with people who have no clue what rubrics even are, not just what they contain). However, I don’t think it is fair to ask about their position on things they have no control over- really, how is the music director going to keep people in the pews from holding hands during the Our Father?

Also, things like alternate psalms are allowed in certain cases. I don’t see why proper use of them would be bad. Abuse- like only doing 2 a year is bad.

Also, choice of music is HIGHLY personal. One parish I was at LOVED Haugan, Haas, et al. If you do not like one composer, etc., someone else will surely think they are GREAT.

I would ask “How do you choose music?” Whatever I like, whatever is appropriate for the readings of the day, do they even know that music is supposed to be from the approved USCCB lists, not just anything they find in a song book?

The parish is in greater-Cincinnati.

Many parishes will need the Music Director to also be the organist or play whatever instrument is used for accompaniment. My parish is currently searching for such a person. As a cantor, one of the most important things I will ask is whether or not the applicant can transpose on the fly. My voice is in the baritone/bass range and at times the psalm may be in a range higher than I am comfortable with. My current director has no problem with transposing the psalm down a half or full step - whatever I need - and he can do it on the fly without needing the sheet music in the new key. It’s a wonderful thing to know your organist can be that flexible. If the new organist can’t transpose, it will make things more difficult.

When testing their performing capabilities another talent that is good to inquire about is whether the applicant can improvise. Have them show you examples of how they might improvise a certain hymn - or do an improvisation on their own right there. Improvisation is a great skill to have.

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