I don't want to sing!

I don’t want to cantor at mass anymore. I have a background in music and am a good singer. I wouldn’t be crowned the next American Idol, but I can read music and carry a tune. Singing in mass is pure torture because the other singers and instrumentalists are so awful. It is hard not to be pulled off key and we are definitely not making beautiful music. From the perspective of sitting in the pews, I’d rather have no music than bad music. I don’t really buy into the notion that if you are singing for the Lord it is beautiful and it doesn’t matter how you sound. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t really want to tell anybody why, either, because I don’t want to hurt any feelings. Suggestions? Thoughts?

I sympathize.

And there should never be a notion that those leading the singing can be beautiful no matter what. Those leading the singing have a responsibility to be good. Everyone has a learning curve and the occasional off day but that is not what you mean.

I don’t have a problem with people who can’t sing. Daily Mass at the Cathedral here has 1 person who leads the singing a cappella, which means that it’s not going to be perfect perfect. I think it’s incredibly brave that they still put themselves out there.

I’ve also noticed time at Praise and Worship (outside of Mass) that, you know, not everyone is perfectly on-tune. It doesn’t bother me because to me it says “Lord, I know that I am not perfect, but I’m still going to praise you the best that I can”. I think that making people sit back and telling them that they’re “not good enough” to sing would be equivalent to telling them “they’re not good enough” for God.

Some people can’t sing but God bless 'em for trying.

Are you talking about the leaders of the praise and worship or the congregation? There is a difference between a group not singing on key and someone singing loundly into a microphone off key. What is the place for good music then? I’m not telling anyone not to sing. I’m just thinking about not singing myself because I have an actual physical reaction to loud, off-key music.

Beautiful music feeds my soul. For example, listening to Beethoven is the closest to God I ever feel. I also have some beautiful chant CDs that aid me in prayer. There has been a history of amazing sacred music in the Catholic Church. Is that not important anymore?

I don’t know what kinds of answers I’m looking for by starting this thread. I am just discouraged. I do not intend to be mean to anyone about their singing. I’m just thinking of quietly bowing out.

God bless you! Your post comes at a time when I am considering quitting our choir for similar reasons. I can carry a tune and sometimes I sound really good, other times I’m weak. Recently I was told by a choir member who watched us on our internet feed at Christmas that it sounded really bad. People were off-key, singing wrong words. I get really tired after choir practice and after our choir masses. Now I’m next to someone who is all pride in how she’s singing and she sounds like she’s speaking to music. It’s becoming more of a perfomance. How to quit? That’s a tough one. Unlike being a cantor, I’ll be giving up some frequent comaraderie. I agree with you that no music is better than bad music because bad music is unpleasant sounding. I’m also tired of people using the altar like a desk top to arrange their music at Christmas and Easter times. It’s a dilemma I share with you. But someone advised me to make sure I have another church activity to replace the choir if I do quit. So far I haven’t found one and I haven’t quit.
If you want to quit, the best way not to hurt feelings (I think) is to thank everyone for the experience, and excuse yourself to “pursue other interests” (which you can come up with now or later). I’d welcome feedback too. It’s a toughie, especially after doing this for some time (4 years for me).:shrug:

I don’t have an answer for your question, however I wanted to share a joke that our Parish Priest told that reminded me of your situation.

When it was time for all of the teenagers to sing, he said “Now–I really want to hear everyone’s voices today. If you can sing–then sing loud. If you can’t sing, then sing even louder so that God knows he forgot to give you a good voice.” It sounds like some of the people in your group take this joke a little too seriously! :smiley:

I also have a reaction to off-key music and it’s like choir becomes an occasion of sin where I start having very uncharitable thoughts about one or two other choir members, the director’s choices, and some attitudes.:o A priest encouraged me to quit for the sake of my faith. I don’t yet have the guts to do so.
For what it’s worth, my present “M.O.” is to just cut down on the number of times I appear with the choir. For instance, I’ll be in choir at the vigil mass tonight. I will skip the rehearsal for Rite of Election on Thursday and skip the Rite of Election ceremony Sunday afternoon, but will sing at the Sunday morning mass.

In our given choices and professions of life, it pertains to the Cardinal Virtues to decide whether to continue, even when we don’t want to!

When you make a choice, you have to stick to it; this is the virtue of fortitude. If you decide to join a choir and find that the majority of the choir is bad, you have to discern whether it would be more profitable for the faithful to leave, or to stay and try to improve the others; this is the virtue of prudence. How you decide to do it - whether to help or leave - must be guided by a sense of moderation, and done with care for others’ immortal souls; this is the virtue of temperance. Deciding whether to abandon your fellow worshipers (for the sake of your own musical integrity) or to stay and help guide the choir (for the sake of God’s Holy Name being worshiped properly, however long it takes) pertains to the virtue of justice.

You must, in life, exhibit fortitude, prudence, temperance, and justice. You must let these four be informed by the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. You absolutely must have charity towards others, for you really are not all that special in the long run (no one is; we are all made of nothingness, out of nothing, for God’s sake and glory). You must hope that God will help your fellow cantors explode forth with joyous praise in song, by prayer and supplication. You must have faith in Him!!

God calls you to do it with all your soul. Never make a decision like this lightly, especially if it’s something you’ve committed to. Pray with all your heart to be infused with these virtues by the Holy Spirit of God. He will guide, you but you must never ever burn with any fire other than the all-consuming one.

Our Church has several good singers who are spread throughout eight weekend masses.

Then there are some ok singers who get pulled into cantoring. These folks realize that they are doing a service for the Church and are filling in when none of the good singers are there. So far so good. God bless 'em.

Then we have the cantors who really cannot sing who work themselves into the rotation, singing in place of the good ones who are also in attendence. These are the one’s who flail as they “lead” the congregation in it’s part, run all over the accompanyist, have no sense of time (but the accompanyist is supposed to follow me) and lean way over into the mike so as to give us all a good blasting of terrible singing.

Needless to say that the sound board is getting no attention.

The choir director, our music expert, needs to step up.

I’m with you that a service without bad music is indeed a better service than one with bad music.

Not telling you what to do, but have you ever tried the Kyrie VIII or the Credo III (Latin)? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone being off key there. Just a suggestion as you asked for.

I strongly sympathize as the walrus said to the carpenter, this has been the situation in the majority of parishes we have attended for the last 40 years, and sadly still faced today. for me, for the most part, it is purgatory

I don’t know why we can instruct readers, altar servers, lay ministers in every other area that they must perform properly or not at all, but for some reason volunteer music people are considered too sensitive for any criticism whatever.

I love love love daily Mass where there is no singing

the solution is for those with the necessary skills and talents to volunteer, and those are the very people put off by the situation you describe. I know our pastor would love someone like you to take charge of a choir for one Mass, not just sing, but while plenty want to participate, nobody wants to lead. That is changing, at least for one Mass, and the group that came together ad hoc for confirmation were wonderful, I hope the change continues.

this is part of the wider problem (that is a condition of my employment) of how to fire volunteers, and is the most under utilized charisms exercised in the typical parish. When the parish as a whole adopts a mentality of discerning this and all other ministries with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the situation will begin to change, as entrenched people are removed–with kindness but firmness–and the new people the Holy Spirit is raising up are allowed to act.

The most effective way we have found, DH and I, in 40 years of paid and volunteer ministry, and now as a member of pastoral staff, is what we learned in the business world: create vice presidents. That is, promote people to a position of responsibility which is not critical to the mission of the organization but which does have potential to utilize their unique skills.

Example: were I the music director (and some parishes don’t have one, a mistake) I would invite those unwilling or unable to serve adequately in Mass choirs, to form a new group–a funeral choir, children’s choir, schola, bell choir–anything you can come up with. If it succeeds and is good enough to add to the rota sometimes, fine, if not, at least you have put their energy to good use, may even have attracted new volunteers, and made way for improvement in the existing choirs.

I do this in CCD all the time. I do not fire volunteers except for cause such as breaking rules, or teaching untruth. But I have in the past had to deal with entrenched people who refuse for instance to incorporate diocesan policy on sacramental preparation, or who prefer to teach an age group for which they are not suited or for which they no longer have the time and energy required. Usually simply by implementing necessary schedule and program changes such people simply quit, but for some, the solution has been to ask them to take on a new challenge. Actually some terrific things have resulted, and I find the person who is a dud with middle grades is the very person for a new adult class. Or I ask them to come up with a new plan for a group that is not being served at present, this has been particularly successful. I hate to see real talent and ability underused even more than I hate to see a project ruined for lack of knowledge and ability.

The point is we make such decisions, changes, appointments, requests, even disciplinary type discussions in the context of asking the Holy Spirit for guidance before, during and after the process.

I agree with you that no music is better than bad music. If I have choice I always attend Mass with no music. Interestingly St Pius X pushed for singing (Gregorian) but until recently always was choice of recited only Mass, and for my mindset that fit better. I am sure, that I am not alone.

If you are the cantor, and you do not like what you do, why don’t you quit. You should not tell your folks that they are inadequate, you can tell that you burned out, have other conflicting obligations, such is always true. Being a cantor is to serve God. We keep up in case of spiritual dryness, but extra service with half heart is worthless.

Naturally the truth is always between opposites, and any advise without the knowledge of details is opinion only.

It is my understanding that a cantor sings alone and leads the congregation is singing.

You are not in a choir where other bad singers are affecting you.

So what other singers are you talking about?

IMHO the cantors and choir should be able to sing well. If the congregations singing is bumming you out then I think you have an issue of pride going on here. As far as the congregation is concerned, being a good or bad singer is not applicable. They should do the best that they can. If this bothers you so much then I say quit.


This is a very inspiring post and I thank you for it. I think it’s better to stay, especially if one is an asset to the choir. I’m just going to take a “time out” now and then if it gets to be too much for me physically or otherwise. I’m going to cut and paste your post so I can read it now and then. God bless you!:slight_smile:

I totally relate; I do as well - I have a desire to put my hands over my ears and I can actually catch myself cringing. I think there is another important aspect to this, especially after communion. One of the ends of the Mass is adoration of our Savior. If we are so distracted to the point it is disturbing our personal prayer of praise and thanksgiving, where is the merit in allowing bad singers to have this affect?

Our pastor has often said there is nothing that should be spared when it comes to giving glory to God. When our new church was dedicated and we needed an altar and ambo built, a call went out to the community. But you needed to prove your skills before being given the task so that the final product would be a thing worthy of God’s presence. Same thing with the flower arrangements. Everything should compliment the sacredness and beauty of the liturgy.

Another thing while I rant! Our choir director is really into the contemporary, hand-clapping, “dance rhythmic” style of music - it’s hard not to start moving your feet at times…I actually like it, but NOT at Mass. Wherever did the solemnity of the celebration go?

If it’s hindering your ability to worship, get out. That’s what I did, and I have no regrets.

Some food for thought in the following thread. The situations obviously differ, but there is some common ground too.

Should elderly cantor be asked to “retire?”

Are you at the liturgy to pray to God or critique other people’s singing ability? Perhaps it’s just a ego thing that you don’t want to be associated with singers whose skills are inferior to your own? :shrug:

Thank you, friend. :slight_smile: I only hope it helped the O.P. as much as it inspired you…

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