Which sort of music would you rather hear at Mass?

Hi, all. I come from an Episcopal background, but went to a Catholic high school, and have been attending the Catholic church exclusively for 2 years in preparation for conversion to the faith. In my former churches, I was accustomed to hearing hymns sung by a choir and congregation, accompanied by organ, brass, and very occasionally other orchestral instruments. When I went to my first Catholic Mass 7 years ago, I was struck by how different (almost starkly secular were it not for the obvious references to the Bread of Life and so-on) music performed in many parishes, complete with barely any congregational singing, piano and guitar accompaniment, and frankly very folkish lyrics.
I later learned of the Traditional Latin Mass and the Gregorian chant, polyphony, and other music therein, much of which is more satisfying, and feels more reverent to me than something like “On Eagles’ Wings”, “We are All One Bread”, “You Are Mine”, etc. And I’d love to know your preferences on same.

Folksy style music is not my cup of tea. If I had a choice between traditional liturgical music and the contemporary, I would choose traditional. I’m intrigued by Gregorian chant. :wink:

I prefer the older traditional hymns and I like Gregorian chant. I am not particularly fond of the contemporary music.

I also like traditional better! Both chants and the comforting songs that everybody knows how to sing. In Poland especially, all they sing are songs everybody knows by the word, to the point that few books are needed. In America churches still trying to stay trendy, and this will probably come around soon.

My parents don’t take me to church often (unfortunatly), but in the 3 or so churches I remember, I’ve never heard drums or guitars or anything, the most unorthodox instrument I’ve ever heard was a piano, and thats not so bad.

I was brought up in the Catholic Church before V2 and loved and still love the traditional latin mass with chants or beautiful songs, sung by the Nuns’ choir. I don’t appreciate the contemporary music or mass, but still so very happy to be Catholic. :thumbsup:

I like the older songs too. Most of the time I can’t follow the words unless I use the song book. It would be nice to have more songs that I know the words to.

I don’t think there’s anything to stop one liking both. The modern hymns might not be as musically sophisticated as Gregorian chants and the like, but as I’m a youngster they’re the hymns from my not so distant childhood and I look on them fondly - they can be rather fun :slight_smile:

My local church is enthusiastic about music, and they manage to do both traditional and modern music very well.

Music that has lyrics that are theologically sound and appropriate for the part of the mass and/or feast of the day. I hate starting to sing an older hymn and finding out the words have all been ‘updated’ in the songbook. And for goodness sake, sing at a decent tempo. Don’t drag it out.

I like many types of music if done well.

traditional hymns that allow for congregational singing, in familiar melodies, and Gregorian chant. something I will probably not enjoy very much in my lifetime, and which I have missed for 40 years. The biggest obstacle for me in my participation at Mass during my adult life has been the abysmal quality of music in the average American parish, and it is I know for a fact the reason several of my siblings have stayed away from church for years, and participate in Protestant congregations that retain (why I don’t know) the classical musical tradition of Christendom. Not a good reason perhaps, but their reason.

If it is a choice between traditional music offered by an organist and untrained choir who do not communicate and cannot read and play the music as written and whose preformance makes it impossible for anyone else to sing
OR
a contemporary music ensemble that plays and sings well and selects songs suitable for congregational singing, and does not perform so much as lead the singing, I will take the latter any day

Welcome (almost) home!

I would prefer if the propers of the Mass were sung, the antiphons sung at the Introit, the Offertory, and the Communion. If hymns must be used, I’d prefer hymns that are reverent in musical style and theologically Catholic in substance. I vastly prefer the organ to the piano. I’d love for the Ordinary of the Mass to be sung in Gregorian chant.

Do I get my wishes at my current parish? No. But I’m sure I’ll experience it on a regular basis eventually.

That’s the key to any music - that it be done well. If not, reverent quiet is preferable.

My personal preference - chant, polyphony, traditional hymns - in that order. I am a Music Director at a small parish, and since it is part of my job to help engage the congregation into the liturgy, I polled them with this same question. From a mixed age congregation, the vast majority preferred traditional music, even though the former MD changed everything to a much more contemporary style. So now, I’ve gotten back our old hymnals, our hymns are mostly traditional (95%), the acclamations and responses are chanted, and our instrument is the organ, with violin and/or brass for special occasions. :thumbsup:

A mix of traditional hymns and contemporary gospel, done with skill and enthusiasm by the musicians and the congregation.

I also love choral works done by good composers like Rutter, but often the sound system in Catholic church buildings is so bad that it’s difficult to fully appreciate the choir.

I personally dislike hymns (singing them or listening to others sing them) in languages other than my own heart language. That’s just my personal preference–I’m certainly not saying that Holy Mother Church should abandon the language of the Church just for li’l ol’ me.

But if I have the choice between a parish that does mainly music in English and one that does music in a different language, I’ll take the comfortable and familiar (for me) English-singing parish. I dislike what I don’t understand, and I dislike trying to read a translation at the same time I’m singing or listening to foreign languages. It leaves me confused.

I respect the opinions of others who do prefer a different language during Mass than their heart language, and I ask that you please respect my opinion, because that’s all that it is–my opinion. Respecting my opinion doesn’t mean that you agree with me. It merely means that you do not accuse me of keeping one foot in the Protestant world, or telling me that I need to study the true meaning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or referring me to the many documents of the Church regarding music (which I have read). Based on my experience playing piano in quite a few Catholic Masses, I think that quite a few Catholics agree with me about music preferences and languages, but this is not obvious on this particular online community, which seems to be dominated by Catholics with a more traditional leaning. I am not in the minority in the Catholic Church in the U.S. by preferring English to Latin…

Music that is either Gregorian Chant or polyphony styled along similar lines: reverent, awe inspiring and tending towards the choral rather than single instruments or long solos – using of course, the instruments that are most sacred rather than secular.

The music should be that old music which we have plenty of books of that is meant to support the liturgy rather than prove a distraction from it.

In cases where good music is not available, a mass does not need music at all. Silence is beautiful and better than the inappropriately distracting.

I’d prefer to have no guitar players and music at all, than guitar players – even a group of classical guitar players.

Nothing like the bells ringing after a long silence.

Ideally for me and as a musician - A decent choir (volunteer or professional) which does sacred choral/congregational repertoire from chant/polyphony to modern day classical composition. Good organ repertoire. The music must uplift and inspire spiritually and/or be “other-worldly”, ethereal, something which can’t or won’t be mistaken as something that could be a secular work, like a love ballad, pop song, rock song, folk song, Broadway musical piece, operatic aria, etc. The music should be refined to fit the reverence, depth and seriousness of the Mass.

If this can’t be attained (it can be if a parish is financially able or willing to pay a good music director and musicians) either because of lack of funds, lack of talent, etc., then to do their best with what they have, using more of the simpler repertoire, which can be some chant, traditional hymns with a solid rhythm and melodies that are easy to sing for a typical congregant.

Other than that, silence is golden.

It’s interesting that you would say “silence is golden.”

A few years ago, a dear priest, the priest who presided over our RCIA classes and “loved us all into the Church,” a priest who came late in life to the priesthood, was celebrating Holy Mass. The musician was an elderly gentleman who plays piano by ear (doesn’t read music) and with not a lot of skill, but he is a beloved man in the parish for all of his good works and his lovely family. There was no cantor (didn’t show up). So the elderly gentleman did his best, but it obviously wasn’t glorious or ethereal or even tolerable at times.

However, our priest, who is supposed to be standing in the Person of Christ, right?–at the end of Mass, thanked the elderly gentleman and said, “It’s just so nice to have music at Mass.” I think Jesus was speaking through him that day.

That really put things into perspective for me. Right now, we’re going through a dreadful time musically in our parish. The organists do NOT know what they’re doing and it’s so awful and grating. I’m not sure why we don’t hear piano anymore–I wonder if the new music director has decided that really BAD organ (I mean REALLY BAD ORGAN!) is better than really good piano for some reason of “reverence.”

At any rate, it is decidedly unpleasant to attend any Mass other than LifeTeen, where the rock band does a very nice job.

However, I keep remembering what Father said that day–“It’s just so nice to have music at Mass.” The musicians are trying their best. I’m sure they don’t sit down at the organ and say, “How badly can I play this music today?” So I try very hard to appreciate their musical offerings and their willingness to help out at Mass.

Frankly, I think that if the Vatican decides that “contemporary hymns,” (meaning those that are 50 years old, like a lot of the hymns in the OCP that people here keep referring to as “contemporary”) are “OUT” and that organ is the only acceptable instrument, then our parish will be silent at all Masses, because I don’t believe any of the current musicians in our parish are capable of playing or teaching chant or any kind of music other than the simplest of gospel hymns (and by simple, I mean our current musicians can’t even play the 4-part harmony to Amazing Grace that is standard in every hymnal! We’re talking barely playing with two hands here!)

And think that would be a shame. Silence IS golden, during some Masses (our 6:30 A.M. Sunday Mass has no music.) But like Father said, “It’s just so nice to have music at Mass.”

Hi Cat - I think you might have misunderstood what I meant by "silence is golden"and I realize I didn’t go into detail of what I meant. When I mentioned that if the ideal couldn’t be attained, then to do the best with what they have, that included even the old-lady organist/pianist who can’t really play as well as she used to or the rough, untrained cantor. If a parish can only provide that and it’s the best they have in the parish, then you can’t ask for much more. I spent half my childhood at a country, farming parish where a cute, old farmer played the organ. He wasn’t great, but he played uncomplicated hymns that were simple and easy to sing and play, which were usually mostly traditional hymns. No cantor, but the small congregation sang very well. Then when there was no organist for a while, everyone sang a capella with a couple of young girls once in a while plunking out the melody line to the hymns. They are doing their absolute best with what they have and who they have and I have respect for that. Quite honestly, I preferred this simple display much more so than the secular-sounding music you sometimes get in the the more affluent, suburban communities.

When I said “Silence is Golden”, I meant that I’d rather have silence than to have to secular-sounding music at Mass. That means from any period of music from the Renaissance to 21st century. As much as I think Verdi’s “Requiem” is brilliant, for instance, it sounds way too secular to be used at a Mass. It’s like an opera and has often times been referred to as his greatest opera. There are some newer hymns that can be played to sound like a hymn and not like a broadway song or ballad. In that case, I welcome those hymns, but any religious pieces that do not have the other-worldly quality or sacred quality (no matter what era), I just don’t believe they should be done during Mass. I’d rather attend a Mass with no music. Or if the Mass feels too much like a rock concert with over-the-top amplification where I can feel my body vibrating with the bass, sorry, silence is truly golden for me. If I want to feel that way, I’ll attend a rock concert - either a secular one or a Christian rock one.

I do understand having horrible organists. We once had some substitute who made the organ sound so ugly and loud. It was just horrible. Silence would have been golden then. Although I don’t mind the sound of a piano in smaller churches, especially if that is all they have, I just can’t stand it in a cathedral. First of all, they usually can’t be heard if a real piano, and if they they are electric, it is just the most hellacious sound in a huge room like that. As bad as someone using the worst stops and pedals for an organ.

This is how I see it:

Liturgical song

  1. In the ars celebrandi, liturgical song has a pre-eminent place. (126) Saint Augustine rightly says in a famous sermon that “the new man sings a new song. Singing is an expression of joy and, if we consider the matter, an expression of love” (127). The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration (128). Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons (129). Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (131).

This comes from Sacramentum Caritatis. We also need to have some instances of sacred silence. One does not need to fill up every part of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with noise. It is a great idea to have some silence after Holy Communion.

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