The Congregations Gets It!

I recently had a conversation with a church musician friend about her parish.  She is a Protestant cantor in a Catholic church.  At one point she exclaimed, “I don’t know what’s the matter with most of those people.  They sing all the Mass parts, but they won’t touch the hymnals.”

Lacking time for a detailed review of liturgy and history, I just said, “It’s a Catholic thing.”  I guess I’ll catch her up later on the integral role of the ordinary parts of the Mass.

4 Replies to “The Congregations Gets It!”

  1. Perhaps, deep down they understand that the ordinary is part of the liturgy and the hymns aren't. Maybe she should start singing the communion antiphons – at least the 7 ad libitum ones – and see what happens.

  2. Well, hymnals are generally awful! I am self-taught at reading music, but I mostly get along. If a hymn has a copyright at the bottom, I just put the Hymnal away, because there's going to be "too many notes", too many pitch and time changes- it becomes an endurance test. I like what seems to be the German hymns- always 4 lines, the notes go up and down in order and the notes are all the same…would it be "length"…I think they're quarter notes? You don't have to be a pro musician to be able to sing these by the start of the 2d verse.

  3. That's interesting, because I've had the opposite experience. In my large suburban parish, people tend to sing the hymns and songs much more than the ritual music. The favorites of youth and young adults tend to be upbeat, syncopated songs that sound something like they might hear on the radio. The adults tend to sing whatever music was in vogue when they were young–boomers enjoy the St. Louis Jesuits, the older folks like traditional Catholic hymns. We sing a variety of musical styles including chant, but I would not argue that chant-based propers or ordinary gets anyone to sing above a quiet murmur. You can make a good case about which kind of music is more conductive to the sacred liturgy, but I've never known anyone to argue the point on the basis of vocal participation and enthusiasm.

  4. OLCOrganist –

    Oh, that this was true. I certainly wish it were. Unfortunately, I think the main reason they sing the Mass parts more is because they are the same, reliable tunes every week, and therefore learned. Hymns are less familiar, and we all know how lazy we Catholics can be with unfamiliar music. Especially in parishes where they strive to "introduce new music" every Mass. It seems that if they don't know it inside and out, most won't sing it. Perhaps that's why, whenever a Marian holy day involves Immaculate Mary and /or Salve Regina, you'll hear even the most hippy boomer of parishes sing out (or at least at my bongo drum-loving parish). Though it is almost never sung anymore, it is a perennial hymn (pardon the pun) that they know inside and out.


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