Annoying Concert Masses

I went to the Easter vigil mass this year at my new parish and was annoyed by the music chosen for the mass. They were, for the most part, complicated pieces and I had a hard time singing along with the choir. It was beautiful but annoying at the same time since I like to participate at mass not just sit/stand/kneel there and listen to the choir sing all the responses and the hymns.

So What is your thoughts on these Concert like masses?

I’m not sure exactly what the selections were, of course, but you touched a nerve with me. I am often annoyed by the music I hear at Mass because so much of it is vapid, presumptuous, too complex to sing (as you noted from your Easter Vigil experience), or all of the above. The purpose of singing hymns at Mass is to elevate our prayer to a higher level–as one of the Saints is often quoted as saying, though I don’t remember which one, “When we sing, we pray twice.” So yes, the music chosen for Mass should be capable of being sung by the average parishioner. Otherwise, it can easily lead to the choir, cantor or musicians becoming the center of attention, which is definitely a bad thing. I won’t even get into “rock & roll” and “folk music” masses. I’ll just say something I would regret later.

This is why I am against choirs. It seems that many of them like to “put on a show” rather than lead the congregation. There are parts of the Mass that the choir can do alone but there are other parts that everyone should be singing and it really bothers me when they chose arrangements that seem to showcase how good of a choir they are and exclude the congregation.

I notice the same thing. Sometimes it seems as though the choir and the director are performing for audience appreciation rather than praising God with the congregation. I like spiritual music at masses but am equally content with silence. There is a lot of music available to use. Maybe some directors go overboard trying to include so much?

Another thing that contributes to a concert-like atmosphere is when the congregation applauds after a musical piece or after the mass is over. As I was growing up it was impressed upon me that church is a place for reverence; applause was inappropriate always–unthinkable during the mass.

I wonder if it is always a Catholic who directs choirs in Catholic churches? That might explain the strange musical choices and effects. And if it is Catholic converts who start applauding at Catholic masses because it is appropriate in other denominational churches?

I think it is up to the pastor to set standards and hopefully to apply them. If the standards are challenged by ‘forward thinking’ parishioners, then I don’t know what to suggest.

Having the choir sing alone is a valid choice for all the hymns except for the post-Communion meditation piece if one is done. That one is supposed to be sung by the congregation.

OTOH, the responses and acclamations should be sung by the people.

I’m not even in a choir but it’s discouraging to read that the hard work that choirs put in to make their praise to God the best it can be is perceived as showing off by members of the assembly. We expect the best from all our other ministries, why is it that when a choir gives its best it’s shot down? I’d rather listen and meditate to a complicated, well-done piece done by the choir alone than sing some of what passes for ‘hymns’ these days.

I enjoy the music most when it seems as though the whole church is singing along (sometimes when it gets really drawn out though my husband will time it on his watch and that’s annoying in itself). I can’t say one way or the other but I will add that singing the Our Father in Latin upsets me the most because I have no clue what I’m saying. Seriously do you want me praying in a language I don’t understand because then I’m just saying something that means nothing to me. Just my thoughts. :shrug:

I haven’t thought of it that way. Now that I do, I agree well sung beautiful yet complicated hymns are great. In the future when the choir sings them I will listen meditatively.

However I do think arrangements for responses, such as the Gloria, Kyrie and others, should not be so complicated that the congregation has trouble participating.

You could learn Pater Noster (Our Father). I taught myself it in about a week. Now I am more and more interested in learning Latin. I have learnedAve Maria, Panis Angelicus and Tantum Ergo, and I am teaching myself latin from a workbook. Latin is a beautiful language.

Thank you for saying this. That’s very kind of you and I appreciate it after reading the other posts in this horrid thread.

Why do I bother? Reading this forum makes me consider playing more in bars and lounges instead of at Mass. At least I would get paid, and tips to boot. And lounge lizards aren’t nearly as critical as Christians.

Or maybe instead of working my butt off to pratice the occasional “special prelude”, I should just limp my way through some simple kid’s Bach piece…oh, sorry, Bach isn’t Catholic. Now I’m afraid that if I play a piece that has guts, I will be accused of showing off and trying to be the center of attention. That is such incredible bull. Don’t you realize that we who are musicians are merely offering God the talent that He Himself has given us? Why would we play badly, or simply, or beneath the abilities that God has given us? That would be like the man who hid his one talent in the ground instead of investing it to make more talents?

Please don’t ever accuse a good musician, or a musician who is trying their best, of showing off. That is a horrible thing to say. It makes me never want to play in church again and face the possibility that someone who is thinking this is sitting in the congregation wishing me ill.

Good night, Catholics. Sleep well.

Actually I believe that the people are to do the Kyrie, eleison, they should have a part of the Gloria, they should sing the Alleluia before the Gospel reading, the Sanctus is also done by the people, and finally I believe the people should have at least a part of the Lamb of God, just before reception of the Eucharist.

All of these things I have seen arranaged in such a way that only the Choir sings them.

I have seen no accusations made against musicians here. I believe this is about Choirs, at least it is for me.

I have seen no accusations made against musicians here. I believe this is about Choirs.

Well, you do know the Our Father, right? So how is it that saying it in another language means you are saying something that means nothing to you? I attend the Latin Mass regularly, and I never feel as if I’m praying something I don’t know, even though I don’t know Latin fluently. But learning is a beautiful thing - consider it, you may enjoy an aspect of the Mass you never knew before.


The Gloria is also a hymn that may be done by the choir alone. But the litanies, such as the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei as well as the Eucharistic Prayer acclamations and the Gospel Acclamation are supposed to be done by the people.

But is that because they are too difficult or because a specific setting is used too infrequently for the people to become familiar with it?

Some of the sung Latin responses that were familiar to me from daily Mass when I was in grade school would have people today complaining about the level of ‘difficulty’ when in fact it’s the unfamiliarity that that’s a problem. And you have the same problem even with today’s hymns if they are only sung once in a blue moon.

I would love to have my parish take the Jubilate Deo setting that was provided to all parishes by Pope Paul VI and really make a stab at learning it. Have us singing it at Mass each Sunday until we’re so familiar with it that it’s our first response. Heck, that’s how they got us to sing the Mass of Creation, which takes liberties with the text of the Ordinary, you’d think they’d be willing to do it with the setting that was a gift from the Holy Father.

I, for one, think that we should appreciate the hard work and effort it takes to have a well-sounding choir. These people give up a lot of their time and put considerable effort into learning the music and practicing, and I don’t get the impression at all that they are just “performing” or showing off. They SHOULD sing their very best for God. I think the assumption that the people in the choir are showing off is unwarranted. Our choir practices twice a week and show up every Sunday faithfully. Many of them also cantor for other Masses, so they are at church a lot. And during the holidays, like Christmas and Easter they are extremely busy. It takes a lot of commitment to be a member of a good church choir, and they add so much to our worship.

I realize the choir is not supposed to put on a concert, but they are supposed to do their best. Sometimes this just looks like a concert. As I sing in my church choir myself, I notice alot how many people are singing along, and they actually sing more when we do lively pieces. Also, the more we sing those complicated songs, the better they learn it, therefore singing it. However, while Latin is a beautiful language, I think it best not to sing in it too much, as the others don’t really know what we’re saying. But every once and a while… Tantum Ergo is a lovely song.

Actually, choir directors are usually musicians and some choir are actually made of very good musicians. Just because they are volunteer choirs doesn’t mean they are people who don’t know how to read music.

Having the choir sing alone is a valid choice for all the hymns except for the post-Communion meditation piece if one is done. That one is supposed to be sung by the congregation.

OTOH, the responses and acclamations should be sung by the people.

I’m not even in a choir but it’s discouraging to read that the hard work that choirs put in to make their praise to God the best it can be is perceived as showing off by members of the assembly. We expect the best from all our other ministries, why is it that when a choir gives its best it’s shot down? I’d rather listen and meditate to a complicated, well-done piece done by the choir alone than sing some of what passes for ‘hymns’ these days.

Thank you, Phemie, for saying this. I think most people who make these kinds of complaints that the choir is up there for a show probably have never been part of music ministry. My husband and I are musicians and were part of the choir for many years. It was a mixed bag of musicians and non-musicians (mostly non-musicians) - all volunteers. Our choir director/organist is one of the most brilliant and humble musicians I know. He does incredible things with the choir and does the most spiritually inspiring music I’ve heard in a long time. He has them do easy to very complicated music beautifully. When we do hymns, it’s straight-forward, traditional hymns that everyone can sing. When they do motets, it’s just the choir.

Working as a musician and knowing many musicians in ministry, most of us are not doing it to “show off” or to get “praise” from anyone in the pews or in the sanctuary. Quite honestly, many of my colleagues and I don’t like it when people clap because we aren’t doing it for the praise and also because we know that there will be people like on this thread immediately judging us for something that the people in the pews are doing. And really, most people in the pews don’t even realize it’s wrong.

On Easter Sunday, the music was beautiful. There were a couple of beautiful hymns, some antiphons, motets, chants, etc. I personally get more spiritually out of the complicated motets and polyphony then anything else, although I do like singing some hymns. At the end, of course, people started to clap. My Dad began and I stopped him, saying, “Dad, ----------(the organist/choir director) doesn’t like it when people clap. It takes away from the prayer.” He sat for a second and then said, “You know, you’re right. This wasn’t a concert. But it is a little like Pavlov’s response. I wasn’t even thinking when I started clapping. I heard someone doing it and just joined in.”

What really saddens me is the fact that because I or any other musician does his/her job and do it beautifully, they are immediately judged as being show-offs. We were given a gift and to use it to the best of our ability for God, no less. What an insult to God if we gave a mediocre or half-hearted rendering of the music or of our instrument. And here’s the kicker… many times you lose both ways. If you do a beautiful job, you’re chastised for being a show-off and putting on a performance. But if you have a bad day and do a mediocre job or are just not up to par with your normal ability, people are very quick to pounce on you as well. It’s absolutely ridiculous.

Would we be judgmental of a priest who did an incredibly beautiful liturgy or would we say he was showing off? Are priests chastised for giving inspiring and uplifting homilies or would we rather them just give half-hearted homilies so as they don’t appear to be showing off? When a doctor performs his duties as a physician with excellence and utmost ability, do we say that he must be showing off his ability? Why would it be any different for a musician?

Of course, I’m not denying that there are musicians out there who may not be doing it for the right reasons. I’ve worked with a few myself. But I can honestly say based on the many colleagues I have who have been working in music ministry, most are doing their absolute best with the utmost humility in giving inspirational prayer through music whether they are musicians (paid/volunteer) or people who just want to give back to their parish and to God with music. Most of the directors I know are balls of stress all year long because of people ready to pounce on them with assumptions that aren’t even true. It’s this kind of attitude which make a lot of musicians just want to put their hands up and give up. Knowing what my director friends go through, I wouldn’t have their job for the world. Some of the nonsense you have to deal with is insane. And we wonder why Catholic music ministry in many parishes are so bad or some directors are depressed. This is one of the reasons. The sacred music and God is what keeps them going.

Thank you, Sarabande. :thumbsup:

When I started this thread I didn’t mean to say the choir was showing off. I was just complaining about the music picked by the music director. I now know my thoughts against complicated hymns were off base. I will now enjoy meditatively the beutifully sung hymns the more complicated hymns.

I apologize to all the choir members. I don’t think that choirs are showing off when doing their best.

Once again sorry.
God bless and continue to make a joyful sound unto the Lord.

Choirs and conductors ARE musicians.

THANK YOU! Nice way to start the day off here on CAF. Thank you thank you!

My feeling about complicated congregational hymns, or for that matter, ANY congregational hymn, is that the MUSIC (not just the words) should be available to the congregation.

That way, those of us who read music (rather than sing by ear) can sing out boldly, and thus help all the other members of the congregation who do not read music (or sing by ear) to learn the song, or at least, appreciate the song.

I hate it when missalettes don’t have music (with parts) written out, or when the congregation receives only song sheets with words, no music. A lot of Protestant churches project the words onto a screen, but never music. Arrgh. Give us the notes and we’ll read 'em and sing 'em!