People who sing in the choir: Why does the music change so frequently?

I’m still kind of flummoxed that parishes in the U.S. are using recorded music.

In our diocese, it’s not allowed.

It’s OK for parishes to play recordings of chant BEFORE the Mass, and I think that’s very conducive to worship and preparation of our hearts towards Mass (although I personally dislike chant, but I know that others love it).

But once the Mass starts, all the music has to be live, both the instrumentals and vocals.

And I’m glad of this! If we can’t even play and sing to the Lord, how on EARTH will we feed the hungry, house the homeless, visit the sick and the prisoner, etc.–all the truly hard stuff. Singing and playing music should be a picnic, a pleasure compared to these sacrificial acts of love (which we should also do with joy for the sake of Our Lord Jesus, Who gave Himself for us!).

Also, our diocese makes it clear when preludes, postludes, and communion meditations are allowed. During Lent, all of these are supposed to be gone as we pare down the Mass to a minimum.

I attended a Mass on Saturday evening this past week (had to attend a funeral right before, so I just stuck around), and I thought it was lovely that instead of a Communion hymn (congregational), the organist played softly (on the piano) during Holy Communion.

Now I love Communion hymns and think that of all the hymns in Mass, these are the most Biblical (Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn following the Last Supper). But I did like the instrumental hymn during Holy Communion. Many in the congregation were elderly, and the instrumental music was much easier for them than trying to get back to their seats, kneel those who could, which means I wasn’t kneeling), open the hymnal, hold it open while kneeling, and sing–that’s a lot!

Anyway, I could become a proponent of an instrumental or even a vocal solo during the Holy Communion time.

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Yes, I agree that music education and liturgical music direction are part of the solution.

And I agree that there are deeper issues. We have become a nation (in the U.S.–I can’t speak for other countries) of SPECTATORS.

We watch TV and movies–for many people, including me, this is our main relaxation (it doesn’t hurt my knee to sit down and watch TV!).

We attend concerts, mainly rock, country, soul, R and B, and all the latest “alternative” music (which I don’t know the names of anymore, there are so many new styles). But we usually don’t sing along, although in some country concerts, audiences will join in on familiar songs like “God Bless the U.S.A.”

If we are classical music or opera fans, we attend concerts–we rarely practice and perform our own classical and opera pieces anymore. (Hey, I’m an exception to this–I and a friend formed a duo and we perform classical pieces and opera favorites! Book us now for your parish social event!)

We listen to music on various devices–some people in my hospital listen to music all day on their headsets! My husband has music on all day long (usually pop music from the 1980s and earlier).

But…we don’t sing. We don’t play instruments. We don’t dance (we watch others dance). We don’t chant. We don’t join choirs. We don’t do self-studies on music theory. We don’t sign up for lessons in reading music. We don’t even fill out church surveys about music.

We just listen. We’re spectators.

So that’s one issue, and the only way, IMO, to correct this, is for parents to raise their children up to be participants, not spectators. That’s what we did, and our children SING OUT whenever they have the opportunity, whether it be in church or at a ball game during the Star Spangled Banner.

Funny–when my daughter’s skating team won Gold in France years ago (she’s grown up now), when they played the anthem, the team SANG OUT with all their hearts! But that was 20 years ago. I don’t see the teams do this now–of course, I don’t see American teams winning Gold overseas lately. It seems that many of our American skills have gone downhill in the last decades.

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One other issue that’s a little bit dicier and controversial–it seems to me that many males do not sing because they consider it…sissy. Women’s work. Red-blooded, football-loving males do NOT sing!

(I won’t use the “g” word because I think it sounds hurtful, but I do think it’s in the minds of the men and boys who won’t sing–they don’t want anyone to think that they are ___).

Think about it–when Dad stands there like a stone statue during the hymns, not even opening the hymnal to follow along with the words and meditate upon them–what’s Son going to do? Imitate his beloved Dad, of course! That’s usually a good thing–we want little boys to imitate their daddies.

But daddies who don’t and WON’T sing, or even open the hymnal, are WRONG WRONG WRONG! They are teaching their boys to disregard liturgical music, which has been the task of the MEN in church for many centuries before the men in the United States in the 20th century decided not to sing or play anymore because “the music is toooo hard for me! Why don’t they just sing songs that we know? I’m not capable of learning anything new.”

So IMO, one of the main reasons why people don’t sing at Mass (Ordinary Form) is that the MEN don’t sing at Mass.

I suggest that any parish music “reform movements” or music education movements should be targeted toward the MEN, not the women.

And I also suggest, with boldness, that Catholic schools do NOT allow the boys to play sports unless they are members of the school choir! It used to be this way in school–the boys who were the sports stars were also the leads in the school musical. No more—again, the boys seem to think that performing music (other than ROCK!) is for the women-folk.

Men, time to step up! You want chant? Then seek out a trained musician and start studying and practicing it! You want good Mass music? Then join the choir ! When there are enough of you, the music will sound strong and bold, and people in the congregation will be edified by it and join in with your leading of the hymns!

Oh, I hope to live to see the day!

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That was a hard one, and in my opinion, a bad decision. I understand the need for a more literal translation in most areas, but in music, a more dynamic translation allows for a more melodic rendering. The Gloria is the great hymn of the Church and deserves to the best music allowed in any culture.

This Christmas I took a stab at that. Communion was going long and I was running low on carols. I grabbed my son and his friend, both 14, an we engaged in a baritone version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and led the congregation with it. I noticed a lot of men’s voices on that one.

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I’m learning about the Byzantine liturgy. Thankyou!

That clip was beautiful and it’s wonderful to think this is possible in a parish liturgy. :heart:

Maybe we could learn more from the Byzantine Catholic church. :+1:

The Anglican Ordinariate also has good traditional singing (of hymns, with organ), and chanting of the ordinary.

:cry:

A great insight into the underlying problems. Thanks!

But we do play sport! Sport… sport… sport! And we watch it and talk about it endlessly. Perhaps our schools could cut back a bit on sport and give more attention to music (and theatre, dancing, etc…).

The future for parish singing really does look bleak. In my forty years it’s got steadily worse.

I don’t know that we can encourage singing in families (as much as it’s a great idea!) but the bishops can promote singing, and music in general, in the schools. It’ll probably take movement at that level.

Families which do foster singing, performance and lessons are giving their kids a huge advantage, but it would be good if this were also available to the kids from families where the parents aren’t interested or can’t afford it. (I was one such kid, fifty years ago, and was given the opportunity, in an excellent Anglican choir).

Thankyou! I’ll keep at it, and encourage other men to do so. :smiley:

As to why men don’t sing, I think you are correct that it is considered “sissy”. There are other problems we’ve both already covered.

Thankyou, most sincerely, for the encouragement.

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I mostly go to classical concerts where there’s no opportunity to sing along, but in the streets when I encounter a good busker I’ll stop and listen, and, if I get just a nod of encouragement from the busker I’ll sing along.

I’m always on my own singing with the busker. There may be a crowd of 5, 10 or more (if he’s very good), and they may be tapping and bobbing a little - but they won’t open their mouths.

On the subject of “culture”, I was in Salzburg and there was a great Oompah band playing. The music just begged to be danced to! Kids were in front of the crowd dancing along but the adults all stood stone still and listened as if at a concert. I guessed that the German/Austrian culture enforces that? :thinking:

Like this…

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Glad to hear it! :heart:

Even defensive rulings such as this can be helpful, and help turn the tide.

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Coincidentally, today I heard a remark from one of the old ladies in our parish. She’s at least 70 years old. She was commenting about the BBC program “Songs of Praise”. It’s very popular here in Australia. If you don’t know it, each week they go to a location in Britain (eg. Edinburgh, the Lakes District) and build the program around the singing of one of the churches. It is apparent that the congregation has been assembled and trained for months to put on their best show.

This lady in my parish today remarked about “Songs of Praise”:

  • The Catholic congregations sing poorly, compared with the others
  • The Catholics “don’t participate”.
  • “In the old days” (sic) Catholics used to sing much more and be more active.

I wanted to share this independent comment, from someone over 70, on the matters we’ve discussed here.

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You said a lot in those first two sentences. :blush:
Seriously speaking, I leave what the choir chooses to sing to the choir.

*shudder*

:scream: :scream: :scream:

wait, whaaaatttt???

NOT having to to that was one of the terms of union under Brest ant
Uhzrod!!!

:scream: :exploding_head: :rage:

The proper byzantine catholic response to wooden clappers during Lent is a match!

I suspect that it was driven, at least in part, by a need to drive a stake through the heart of some of the banal and abusive “settings”, many of which did serious damage to the underlying prayer . . . (Hey, let’s cut it up to use a part as a refrain! . . . We can make it longer by splitting this line in two–never mind that it changes the meaning!)

One of my twins, at about two years old, reacted to hearing Dwight Yokum the first time by dancing–and I don’t think that she would ever have seen anyone dance at that point . . .

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I think there’s an overemphasis on machismo being a factor. I don’t feel I sing well. And the songs typically go up to ranges I can’t hit. And for me to sing at a lower octave I need to really project (and I hate being the center of attention or calling attention to myself, I get very socially anxious), and hardly anyone else is singing above a whisper already.

But that’s not always the case. When the congregation really knows a song, more people sing. And Christmas songs or classic folk songs or popular hymns sometimes get much more participation. Sometimes.

But then the mass settings change, and they’re doing new hymns every week.

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Ahhh the simply joys of plainchant… :innocent:

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Yes, it’s simple, but it’s not melodic. It’s just prolonged talking. It’s just not…pretty.

After many classic children’s movies, Disney fell into a rut where none of the children’s musical movies were succeeding, and one of the reasons is that the songs were not melodic. Oh, there were exceptions–“Candle on the Water” from Pete’s Dragon was nominated for an Oscar for “Best Song,” and deservedly so–it’s beautiful! But most of the Disney songs were just not very pretty because they had no melody.

Then along came The Little Mermaid, with beautiful, soaring melodies in the songs written by Menken and Ashman. I took my Pioneer Girls club(with my daughters) to see the movie (yes, I went to a Protestant church that loved movies!), and afterwards, I went home and told my husband, “Go see that movie right now!” He did, and loved it as much as I did.

The songs won many awards, and to this day, are popular, and the movie put Disney children’s films back on the charts–all of which featured those beautiful songs with soaring melodies.

It’s certainly “traditional” and back to the roots of the early church to plainchant at Mass. But it’s just not very pretty, and in this world, especially right now, we really need more beauty, especially in the Church.

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Yes, but this is why an overall musical direction for the Church is untenable. The idea of beauty, particularly in music, is very subjective. I find plainchant to be exceedingly beautiful. In addition I find most melodies to be trite and uninteresting.

But who’s right? Can one say that this or that form is objectively more beautiful? Or perhaps more importantly, who has the authority to judge?

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True.

German Catholicism has a strong tradition of congregational singing. It’s where some of the most beloved Catholic hymns like “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” hail from.

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Well, beauty is subjective, but the Church has said plenty about music.

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Even if various ethnic groups didn’t sing hymns in their home, the “Songbooks” that I’m referring to had many secular favorites that everyone was singing; .e.g, “Yankee Doodle,” “Comin’ Thro” the Rye," “The Last Rose of Summer,” “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms,” “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes,” "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (with all 4 verses!), etc. etc.

And rounds, lots of rounds, e.g., Scotland’s Burning," “Row Row Row,” etc.

These songs were known and sung by many Americans, often around a piano in the parlor or dining room, and just as often on the front porch in evening.

The Songbooks are printed in four part harmony so that all can join in.

Also, Laura Ingalls Wilder describes “Singing Schools” in her book “These Happy Golden Years,” and a glance at music history books (U.S.A.) also describes “Singing Schools,” held in the local schoolhouse or one of the local churches. Although the obvious reason for these “schools” was to give courting couples a chance at a wholesome date (!) and fellowship with other courting couples (or the opportunity to meet someone and become part of a “courting couple”!), the schools were serious about teaching how to read music and sing in harmony.

I doubt these kinds of things will ever happen again in mainstream U.S., although I know that in some of the Mormon and Amish/Mennonite areas, this kind of “gather around” singing still happens.

Sigh. I wish it would happen. We did a lot of singing around the piano when my girls were growing up. Good times.

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Beautiful! Yes, something precious, for individual growth, for childhood and for families has been lost.

I’m sure this custom must have been practiced around the world, but I suspect it was particularly strong in the US.

And, that’s a list of great songs. Each has strong words and melody, and is good for developing musicianship.

I remember singing some of them, including Yankee Doodle, in primary school in Australia in the 60s.

Lovely post! :grinning:

Canadian here. In my area there was no tradition of congregational singing. We never experienced a dialogue Mass. The parish I grew up in still has no hymnals and the choir does all the singing unless the congregation is really familiar with that week’s selection.

But almost every home had a piano and singalongs at house parties were frequent. Few could read music, most, if not all the musicians I knew, except the parish organist, played by ear. We had songbooks, for lyrics. In my home we had volumes of La Bonne Chanson with just the melody line, at least one Protestant hymnal, and, even more valuable, Mom’s handwritten scribblers containing songs from the 30s —>60s (My Old Brown Coat and Me, All Because You Kissed Me Goodnight, Lily Marlene, Wedding of Lily Marlene, etc. etc.) We rarely sang hymns at home.

It was a rare day when Mom didn’t sit at the piano and play and if she was playing something I particularly liked, I’d often sing along. Though Mom used to say that if I was singing she had to “play in the crack”, because I don’t recognize one key from another. :rofl:

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How hard would this be for a choir to sing out of curiosity?
This was somehow shared with me when I’m not Catholic.

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