Ave Maria!
There have been a lot of discussion here on guitars at Mass. Now I would like to discuss organ at mass. Why do we have organs at Mass and how should it be played?
Let’s take this video for example In the begining you will hee the organ being played and I think it’s too fiery, not as solemn as it could have been. And I’m not even sue if everything being sung at that Mass is Gregorian chant.
If you watch this video you will see something awesome. A Mass without organ. Only Gregoian chanting. There is an organ but not at Mass.

please discuss this.

I have just started taking pipe organ lessons, so I will be interested in seeing how this thread goes.

I am not convinced that the Catholic Church really believes that the organ deserves a prominent place in the Mass. I have had no luck whatsoever finding a Catholic Church that will allow me to practice.

OTOH, one of the Lutheran churches, where only one person knows me, has actually given me a church key to go into the church whenever I can to practice. I gave the key back last week thinking that I finally had an “in” at my parish, but it hasn’t happened yet, and so now I have to go back to the Lutheran church and ask if I can have the key again.

Frankly, I don’t think this makes the Catholic Church look good at all. I’m embarrassed. I wish I had never started pipe organ lessons, but I do enjoy it and I’m willing to swallow my pride and practice whereever I am allowed to practice. I’ve actually considered asking if I can practice at the Unitarian Church, which is within easy walking distance of my house. The Unitarians would EAT that up, and that’s why I’m not doing it yet.

And like I said, if the Catholic Church REALLY wants the pipe organ played at Mass, it seems that they would encourage the PRACTICING of the pipe organ by students like myself who have expressed the clear goal of eventually being able to play the pipe organ instead of the piano at Mass.

OTOH, maybe they don’t understand that the pipe organ doesn’t just play itself, or that a pianist can’t just get up and play the pipe organ. I sometimes get the feeling on CAF that some posters believe that.

As for the OP’s query, here’s my answer as a beginning organ student who is working with an excellent Lutheran organist and music minister. The pipe organ should be played correctly, with the proper registration for each hymn or anthem. I’m guessing that problems occur when the organist selects inappropriate registrations for the hymns and anthems.

I also think that it’s important for the music director to make sure that the hymns and anthems are appropriate for the Mass.

I also think that in the U.S., there is a lot of confusion as to what musical literature is appropriate for Mass. I’m not just talking about contemporary music. There is a wealth of gorgeous organ literature that I’ve heard in Lutheran churches, but never in Catholic churches at Mass. The only organ music that I’ve heard in Catholic Mass is the most bland of music. I’m guessing that this is partially because there are not very many organists who can play Bach Preludes, and partially because when someone DOES step up and play a Bach Prelude, half the congregation applauds (which makes the other half angry), and half the congregation complains because the noise of the prelude made it impossible for them to pray before Mass.

And heaven forbid that the organist plays a postlude. After all, a Catholic is supposed to spend 15 minutes in silent prayer after Mass, and how can this happen if some prima dona organist is up there blasting Buxtehude!

:mad: !!! I find all this frustrating and confusing, and I can understand why there are so few musicians willing to take a position in a Catholic Church. (Also, there is the fact that Catholic Churches don’t pay anything to musicians.)

I hope this thread will clear up some of the questions about the pipe organ in the Mass.
that’s how organs are supposed to be used.

So you already know the answer to your OP?

i know what i think. what do you think?

I stated in my post that I believe the pipe organ should be played correctly, with correct registrations for each hymn or anthem.

But I am only a beginning pipe organ student (but I’m a good pianist). I think it would be more valuable for experienced organists to post. I’m guessing that, just like in real life, there are very few of them on this forum.

So perhaps you would like to ask experienced organists. I will pm you a link to one.

But Cat, wouldn’t that require Catholic’s to actually stay in the church for more than 5 seconds after the Priest (or Deacon) proclaims “The Mass had ended.”


Interestingly, whenever I play a (piano) postlude, which is usually loud and joyous, a lot of people stay to hear it.

And they clap, which makes all the people trying to pray even madder because not only did they have to put up with my loud, joyous prelude, but with that awful worldly applause.

So I usually don’t play anything. I just hide, hoping that no one even noticed the music.

No wonder Catholic Church music is so wretched. We’re all a bunch of neurotics, worried about the “liturgy police” hauling us out and flogging us.

I don’t know why Rome doesn’t just write down some directives and make them more specific. It would make a big difference in the U.S. just to have some guidelines about Mass music. Instead, we have a stack of documents dating all the way back many centuries, and they contradict each other, and everyone interprets them differently–it’s like Sola Musica!


The Asperges me in the video is definitely one of the standard Gregorian settings for it. It’s the first setting, in mode VII, from the Graduale Romanum, with psalmody in mode VII in the solemn mode. The words are all from Psalm 50(51).

There’s nothing wrong with the music. The organ doesn’t sound all that great (though I’m far from being a connoisseur), and I’ve heard the Asperges me much better sung in our local Benedictine monastery (in the Ordinary Form Mass no less).

However, the words, and music are all licit and Gregorian.

That said, the EF Mass back when it was the only Mass, did not always use Gregorian chant.

Honestly sometimes the nitpicking on this forum drives me nuts.

If you want to hear a Mass without organ sung in Gregorian chant, I suggest Advent or Lent (except Gaudete and Laetare Sundays). The weekday Masses at the local abbey are also sung in Gregorian chant without organ, unless it’s a solemnity or feast.

You’re right though that Gregorian chant is really meant to be sung a cappella without organ accompaniment. However that depends on the skill of the choristers. I noted in the first youtube video that the choir was composed mainly of children. Organ accompaniment would probably be useful in that context. At our abbey all the Gregorian chant is sung a cappella, the organ only being used before the entrance procession, at the offertory, and for a postlude. However the abbey has a very skilled and experienced schola.



Psalm 50 is the Vulgate/Neo Vulgate bible numbering and psalm 51 is the Hebrew bible numbering system.

As for the music, traditional hymns (non-Gregorian, sometimes even in the vernacular) would be used at the EF Mass; as would sacred polyphony.


Tell it like it is!!!

any example?

Here are a few excerpts from The Musical Prelude to Vatican II: Plainsong, Participation, and Pius X by Walter W. Whitehouse, concerning the condition of church music in the United States in the 1800s. Footnotes omitted, emphasis added. The book (actually a doctoral dissertation) is extremely interesting in toto for people who are interested in documentary accounts of the state and development of liturgical music “on the ground”:

There was cultivated music in certain places from very early on (John Adams writing to his wife in 1774 that “the assembly chanted most sweetly and exquisitely,” and later in his diary that “the Scenery and Musick is so callculated [sic] to take in Mankind that I wonder the Reformation ever succeeded.”), but also reports, such as from Bishop Fenwick of Boston in the 1830s, claiming that there was no singing at all in two-thirds of American Catholic congregations, who “know as much about music of any kind as they do about Greek.”
. . .
The use of European concerted music in church served in some measure to give a sense of social elevation and pride for immigrants, as well to provide literally a “concert hall” for those who otherwise had no means or opportunity to hear “great music”; it quickly became an established feature of US Catholic worship in the larger urban centers. Archbishop John Glennon of St. Louis would later quip, “On big occasions, the choir was buoyed up and sustained by a great orchestra. Everybody came to the Mass – Turks, Jews, Protestants, and even some Catholics, and all went away from the performance delighted.”
. . .
Hyde among others agrees that both choirs and people in late nineteenth-century America seem to have a distaste for Gregorian chant:
[INDENT]They say this is all new to them. They ask, how are they to know the [Propers]? And some of them add that, anyhow, those [Propers] are set only in the Gregorian Chant, which is a strange language to them – and even if they could sing the chant they would not do it, as the people in the pews do not like it! . . . The people in the choir sing for the people in the pews, and this is why** they cannot, and would not, anyway, sing the Gregorian music**. . . .[This] is not a mere fancy of mine, but an actual fact. Gregorian Chant is going out of our choirs, and very fast. And why? Because the young singers of our choirs, who cannot sing it because they do not know it, are permitted to banish it.
Another writer in 1901 confirms this picture: “One often hear expressions of regret from the clergy that they never hear the Proper of the Mass from one year’s end to another, because their choirs cannot or will not make a proper study of the plain chant.” Archbishop Glennon again recalled, “Such composers as Gounod, Haydn, Cherubini and Giorza – reigned supreme. The music of the Mass was something wonderful and wonderfully rendered”:
If one should have said at that time, “How would it be to have some Gregorian music?”, the answer would have been, “Why that is all right, I suppose, for those who do not know any better – for monks and nuns that sing in choir, but for us people of intelligence – Catholics – why, we must please the people and we have to resort to these grand illustrations of music.”
. . .
A common reason given for the non-reception of chant, its distinct unpopularity both during this period and following the motu proprio, is the “vitiated” taste of the general public: “The stream [of chant tradition] has long been choked,” says Stockley, and quotes an English priest to the effect that “the taste of our Catholics in general for Church music is too vitiated, or perhaps rather totally corrupted by opera music and fiddling jigs, ever to relish serious tones.”

Another oft-cited reason for the unpopularity of chant recalls its poor performance in churches: “Why,” asks Stockley, “is Gregorian chant often so horribly sung, higgledy-piggledy, with no rhythm, even free, and with such braying noise, and such barbarous accompaniments?”[/INDENT]

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