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Monday, 6 October 2008

Talking During Music in Church, or Music During Talking, or Talking During Talking, or...

A contributor to The New Liturgical Movement has written about the apparently widespread problem of people talking over organ preludes -- people in authority, you understand, priests, announcers, MCs, etc., as opposed to chatty cathy's in the pews.
(Though of course it launched a thread about the latter, as well.)
I'm fortunate in that regard, in my position, it seems -- neither of the priests would ever, I think, talk over a prelude, (of course, one of them could not, even if he wished to, since I will never, ever, ever again play a quiet, slow, somber, gentle, depressing prelude for one of his Masses. And I don't think even the latest villain on Heroes could talk over the Casavant if I chose to crank'er up -- you want cheerful and peppy, I'll give you cheerful and peppy.)
Seriously, they are lovely men, when it has been necessary to make announcements before Mass, they will let me know, via intercom, and ask if I could pause at a convenient time.
And one will even climb the endless stair to the loft, if he has a question or a request (and he's no spring chicken.)
After Mass is a different matter... talking to the Faithful after Mass is an eighth sacrament, gabby fellowship a greater good than the proper purification of the sacred vessels in our diocese, and the priests don't always turn off their body mic's, (one of them doesn't need it, he could be heard over virtually any sort of singing. His voice has an interesting placement...)
And our congregation will talk full voice over a sung postlude, which surely feels more personal, ruder than to to do the same would seem with a purely instrumental piece, so I really would never expect it.
Once, a sacrament was to be administered after Mass, and the pastor several times asked those who remained in the nave to chatter to respect the sacred space.
Example would work better, if you know what I mean....
Yesterday at the choir Mass I revised the dynamics on our choral postlude, it generally starts pp, and I said we'd take it at least at f, at least for the first 4 phrases -- several singers said they preferred it, that the very quiet following section was much more effective.
But it ended fff, high notes, (and we had our "big gun" sopranos and tenors; for once, their reluctance to moderate their volume welcome,) an almost piercing mixture added to the accompanying organ -- and I'm sure it could barely be heard noise made by occupants of the the bowling alley below... er, I mean, the lingering worshipers.
We used to have a parochial principal who had no problem getting up and shouting announcements into the sound system while a children's choir was singing after Mass, so I don't know that the next generation is going to have any better manners.
I really don't have a point to this, there is no connecting thread in my relating my experiences or expressing my thoughts...
A few random, (and sometimes conflicting,) quotes from the combox at TNLM:

rudeness in general is more in vogue these days than it has been in the past, these kinds of problems are, ultimately, probably older than dirt. "Wisdom, be attentive!"
Many people feel they CAN talk during Organ voluntaries, simply because the organ is so loud it drowns them out. And that sort of talking is not distracting to the organist, but rather to the faithful still trying to pray in their pews.
organists really don't have to fill every conceivable space with music. A lot of people find continual organ playing distracting.
Rudeness has always been more in vogue in whatever present as compared to whatever past. The kind of rudenesses differ.
preludes and postludes and interludes remind the people of our day of soundtracks, and we all know that how people talk over soundtracks. The less an instrumental piece sounds like a soundtrack, it seems, the less likely people are to talk over it. [Brilliance! and I am resolved to stop MY pre-Mass, more meandering style of improvs as a way to work in tunes I wish to teach by stealth -- "soundtracks" are exactly what they sound like!]
While it is very rude to cut off the organist to begin the Mass....the organist should make sure the prelude is completed before the scheduled Mass time. We had an organist who, on a regular basis would go three to four minutes over. Also, if anyone has any suggestions to get the people to be quiet and pray and/or listen before Mass begins I would be happy to hear them. [that, from a priest.... you should hear our pastor trying to elicit some sort of respect or reverence from the audience (yes, that's the word I choose,) at our confirmations - since he won't do the one thing that might work]

Disagree. Totally.

Preludes, postludes, and vamping in between are cover music. ...I think the actual question here is whether people should be talking in church before or immediately after the service, to which the answer is no, [THANK you!]

organ solos. When you first walk in the Church, you hear the sound of Church and it puts you in the mind to pray and prepare for the mysteries.

to label organ music simply as a noise dampener and atmosphere maker would be wrong, because these might be the effects of organ playing, but they are not the essence of it. Why? Ultimately because the music is a prayer, and is made so (if the composer did not expressly wish it) by the reverent and prayerful playing of the organist. It is therefore PART of the prayer

bringing a cup of coffee into the church ... I was just very young and stupid. Now as I reflect, I must have been thinking, "well, if they're going to treat it like a coffee shop and jabber over my
organ prelude, I might just as well enjoy the coffee!"

someone suggest that we use pre-recorded music before mass to "set the mood." The idea that silence itself can set the "mood" is almost completely lost and I think is tied tightly to the whole post-VII idea of "active" participation. It seems to mean "frenetic" or "overwhelming" participation.

the problem is not with the congregation (they are well behaved before Mass, and they generally appreciate organ music) but with the choir, especially the sopranos. They seem to think that because they are out of sight in the choir loft, no one can hear them talking, when in fact the building is designed to amplify any sound coming from the loft.

And I, naturally, agree with... the last person I heard or read on any given subject, you're ALL right!
So, one last story -- yesterday, while this wonderful Bach postlude was being played, a baptism was being celebrated, and the priest administering the sacrament had to project in such a loud voice to be heard by the family, that it was almost shouting.
But it was all done with decorum, and didn't seem at all out of place.
Why is this?
Is it because in my crush on that place I'll give anything that happens there the benefit of the doubt?
I don't think so.
I think it is because nothing is louder than it needs to be, and everything that is done belongs there -- it's not someone shouting a golubki recipe over a priest singing tin pan alley standards while a seven year old runs wind sprints in the front of church. (I know you think so, but I'm not making any of it up...)
When I first became aware of the liturgy wars, I read a RadTrad in a combox say something very snidely like, why don't you... oh, that's right, I forgot, you can't do two things at the same time in the Novus Ordo!
And I didn't understand it. And when I did understand it, I thought I disagreed with it.
But then I went to confession during Mass.
And then I saw a priest take a congregant aside to show him something while vespers was being sung and prayed by a group of brothers.
And then, yesterday, this beautiful polyphonic choral Mass was being sung, (not sure what it was,) and I was finally "getting" the rhythm of the Tridentine/EF/Gregorian Mass, whatever you want to call it, it didn't bother me, okay, the priest just got to the Incarnatus so we all genuflect, okay now the CHOIR got to it, oh, good, we'll do it again, fine, everything is lovely, I was following it better, the low Mass a couple weeks ago that I, ingrate, complained about, was a BIG help...
And suddenly, we're all kneeling for the EP, and the choir is still singing the Sanctus, and I'm thinking, hey, that's not bad, because of course we're joining our voices with those of the angels, and they sure as shootin' don't need to stop singing to hear the celbrant's words, and then the consecration, and the elevations and genuflections, and He become Real-ly Present on the altar, He has come -- and the angels lift their voices! Blessed is He who comes....!
(Am I becoming a trad???!?@?$?%??^??)

Anyway, there's noise and then there's noise....


Mary Jane said...

In response to your tiny question at the end, I've never doubted your inclinations. I shall be forwarding a complete dossier on your attitudes to the St. Louis Jesuits for immediate action. :)

Anonymous said...

Are there any St Louis Jesuits left?
Didn't all their heads just explode from Abp Burke's mere presence, for however sadly short a time?