Monday, July 28, 2008

visiting priests

well, some of you are probably thinking I'm going to say a lot more about this than I actually am. Don't get too excited.

Whenever I have to play organ with a priest I have never worked with before, I go up to him beforehand, and briefly let him know what I am planning on doing in terms of music, and/or ask him what he would like or is planning on having sung.
It seems that about half the time he is like, "Oh that sounds good, what about this...etc."
But the OTHER half of the time, he either acts like he doesn't care at all, or worse, seems to be like, "and why are you talking to me and telling me this and asking me this?"
I HATE it when I get that kind of reaction! I mean, it's hard enough as it is for me to go up and talk to a strange person I've never met before!
And it really baffles me. I think that I'm doing them a favor by giving them a quick run-through of what to expect, and even asking their opinion!
Do these priests who act like they don't care seriously want me to not talk to them before Mass? Like, the time for the Kyrie will come, and I'll look at you, and you look at me, and everything will stop, and then I'll start to play and you'll start to speak it at the same time. yeah, that makes a lot of sense, but could have been prevented really easily... (That's never actually happened to me, since I always do talk to the priest beforehand, but I wouldn't if I knew he didn't want to talk to me, but of course I never know that until I'm actually talking to him!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

more on weddings

Several times, I have had the experience of meeting with a bride (and her mother?) to help them choose songs for a wedding, and while planning the processions are always fun and easy, if it's a Mass and they have to pick hymns, that can be...excruciating. If they just think my voice is lovely, and don't really have opinions about the songs, then I'll be like, "oh, how about this Panis Angelicus? It's pretty famous." or if they like or don't mind chant, I'm like, "or we could even do the Proper Communion Chant for a wedding,..." and I sing it and they usually like it.
But when they say right up front, "oh, we don't really like any of that latin stuff..." (actually, it's usually the mother who says this. And then of course I wonder what the bride really thinks ;-) ) And then they're like, "I mean, what do most Catholics know? Or what would they have sung here at this church 10 years ago?" I can feign ignorance, "well, I really don't know what they did here 10 years ago, I mean, I've only been here for two years. I could tell you what they know here now! How about his lovely song 'Alleluia Sing to Jesus,' it has a really famous melody, and great words about the Eucharist..." And I play it and they wrinkle their noses.
Then I try again, "Well, how about this one, 'At that First Eucharist?' I think most Catholics know that..." Same response.
Finally, I see I'm not getting anywhere...
"Oh! A few people like a song like 'One Bread One Body' Have you ever heard that?"
"Oh yeah! I love that song! Wait, play it for me to make sure it's the right one..."

I mean, the situation itself IS really funny. Like, what am I supposed to do?
Here we are, I've given them several perfectly lovely song choices, and yet I KNOW that the songs they are trying to get me to suggest are precisely those which I hate!
I don't think they actually ARE thinking of any songs in particular, like, they're not being malicious or anything, they truly are just waiting for me to sing a song they're familiar with that they like!
Luckily, most weddings at which this would occur end up being not Masses. :-)
I think that this exact situation which I have just described has only happened to me twice!

I was asked recently if I would rather do a wedding or a funeral, and for which do I get paid more. I get paid more for a wedding, but would rather do a funeral any day. I have heard that priests feel the same.
You couldn't pay me enough to WANT to deal with a bride and her mother who have their idea of a perfect dream wedding...For funerals, people usually just don't care.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

political choral conducting

I was at a choir rehearsal recently, led by a guest conductor.
At some point he mentioned he had recently been conducting some "nice young Baptists," but his tone was...strange. I couldn't put my finger on it. I was waiting for him to insert a comment about Baptists being nice (or not.) But regardless of the fact that I can't adequately describe what it was in his tone or precise wording that made me anticipate this, I didn't have to, because sure enough, a couple girls behind me picked up on this "tone," and inserted that sort of comment.
A few minutes later, (the piece we were singing had something to do with the tragedy of war,) he started going off about how he had a choir member in another choir who had been shipped off to Iraq, blah blah blah, and how terrible it was; making no secret of his political opinions in the matter. In fact, he closed his soliloquy by saying, "well, I mean, maybe that's just my opinion."
Regardless of MY personal opinion, I felt so unwelcome by this supposedly "professional" person who makes no secret of his opinion in political or religious things.
(I ended up leaving, as a result partly of just feeling unwelcome, as well as not liking the piece we were singing, and having a lot to do at home.)
But seriously, I would NEVER even reference anything remotely political while conducting my choir. In fact, I have on occasion tried to "clear the air" after someone else unnecessarily brings up something political (even something like politics/groups within the church.)
But to do otherwise while in such a position of authority is really...tacky. certainly unprofessional.
I seriously thought about going up to the conductor during the break and mentioning that I thought it was inappropriate, but the reason I didn't is that I knew I wouldn't have been able to put my finger on any actual wording he used that was inappropriate, because it was just his tone!
I mean, my brother was over in Iraq and you don't see me getting up on my high horse about it...
I hate it when people assume that the whole world agrees with him!

(lol, I just realized the irony of the post below this... However, certainly the difference is when one is in a "professional" position!)

Monday, July 21, 2008


a couple times recently, I have been in a conversation with someone, and of course it turns to music and liturgy, and I start to say something, and then I realize, oops, they don't exactly agree with me...

I mean, sometimes it's unavoidable (like, I'm not being obnoxious about the topic in the conversation,) but a couple days ago I was chatting with someone at a party, and I was telling her about my plans for the rest of the summer, and I mentioned I will be going to a conference in August, so of course she asked me what kind of conference, so I had to tell her it was a music/liturgy conference, and then she asked what kind, so I had to tell her it was for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass...and then she went, "ugh," and made a face.
So I certainly couldn't leave it at that! (awkward...)
These situations are probably actually really good for me, just to remind me that not everyone even that I think of as a "good Christian/Catholic" agrees with me.
Of course, the moment I get a response like that, I tone it down.
But actually, most importantly, it provides me with an opportunity to politely explain to people more of the mindset, and reasons, and personal experiences (which can be the most powerful arguments) of someone like me, who certainly didn't grow up with any sort of Latin Mass. And why it has become so fascinating. (this lady in particular was very interesting. She has daughters my age, who are also somewhat interested in Latin and things, so she actually seemed like she wanted to know a bit more about what exactly it was that makes our generation like Latin and stuff.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I did just update the sidebar a bit, it's been a long time. In fact, I have been updating my own blog and commenting on and reading other blogs a lot less than I would like to for the past year (approximately.)
I am happy to say that I anticipate a particular situation in my life to change in about 6 weeks, so that I can return to more regularly surfing the internet, specifically good Catholic and music blogs!

Friday, July 18, 2008


When I started my job, I expected and anticipated criticism about all sorts of things, such as songs I pick and introducing new things. However, I believe that I have avoided most of that, I'm not really sure why; perhaps I have just been shielded by it. I like to think that any changes I have made have been less than disruptive.
But I didn't really expect criticism about my own personal character. I think I wrote about that once before, about how I anonymously received some strange but VERY brutal anonymous criticism, but since it was so false and anonymous, it was relatively easy to brush off.
I mean, when you get a job as a music director, you don't really think about how you actually are visible to the parish, whether you try to be or not, and that people create an image of you based on a very small amount of relating. And after you have been at a church for two years, people have gathered enough interaction with you, to have a perception of you.
And so of course people talk about you. You're a figure-head!
So when you really hear your first bit of true criticism of your character, it's hard. Especially if it's something that you know on some level to be true, that people have observed character flaws that you have been struggling with for your whole adult life.
I mean, no one else (except the priest) is under the microscope constantly, and ones every action and word being analyzed.
But of course, it's true, and a necessary reminder that you DO represent the whole parish, and you DO need to watch your every word and action.
Overall, you have to love people, every day

Monday, July 14, 2008

The liturgical landscape of Metro Detroit

is, I believe, a wasteland.

Not to be harsh or anything, there are oasis' in any wasteland, but I am speaking from my experience a week ago.
Last week, I spent a few days babysitting a couple of my cousins, and I had a few hours for three mornings to go to daily Mass. I prepared myself for what I would find, and searched for churches nearby that offered Mass at a time when I could go, and I went to three different churches. There does seem to be a different church about every 2 miles!

The first church I went to was having a funeral at the time for the normal daily Mass, so that was interesting. Nothing too terrible, just the expected (sadly) typical funeral songs, and the priest canonizing the deceased.
The second day was probably the best, except that it turned out to be just a deacon doing a communion service. The reading had to do with asking for "more laborers for the harvest," and his homily was about how that actually meant that lay people need to get more involved...uhhh...yeah. But there was no liturgical silliness.
The third day was definitely the worst. I've never actually heard a priest say, "The Lord IS with you." And it just went down from there... I mean, how am I supposed to respond? Something like, "And obviously not with you." Cuz I don't want to say "And also with you," cuz I certainly don't know that! It's the difference between assuming something, and PRAYING for it: "MAY the Lord BE with you!" And then he proceeded to ad lib at EVERY possible least that made the Mass shorter so I had to suffer less.

I reflect on all of this NOT just to complain or mock or pity these other churches, but honestly because it makes me ponder how these situations will affect my own future life.
How, I am SO lucky/blessed/thankful to be in the church where I am, with the priest I work with.
But what won't always be like that...
And then where will I work? I think I would absolutely die before working for a priest who began every Mass with "The Lord is with you."
I suppose I can only trust God, that He has the perfect plan for my life, and most certainly I will have to suffer through difficult liturgical situations in my life, even as part of my job, but He will take care of me, and every difficult situation is an opportunity for growing in holiness, and as long as I listen to and obey Him, He will use me to bless others and help them grow in holiness.
Wherever I am.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A really serious questions that NEEDS some answers!

what do other organists do in those old hymns where the congregation adds long breaths/fermatas and pauses that aren't written?

I am speaking of two hymns in particular, they are both very old, which would make sense that they have had a lot of development/changes over the years. Have others actually seen them notated as people sing them?
I have actually come to dread playing these two hymns since I don't quite know what to do with the rhythm!

Let me try and describe it here:
Nun Danket Alle Gott:
"Now that we all our God (dotted half note, which is natural to sing,) with hearts and hands and voi-CES" the "CES" is where there is only a quarter note written, but everyone wants to make it a dotted half note! A similar problem after "in whom his world rejoi-CES." It would make perfect sense to give it three beats, (not necessarily in our modern 4-4 rhythmic notation, but certainly for when Nun Danket would have been written!) but also since all the other places resembling a cadence or half cadence in the song get three whole beats!

Old Hundredth:
exactly a four phrase hymn, however, all of the ends of the phrases are notated as only a half note (two beats,) while the congregation wants to give them 4 whole beats. ("All people that on earth do dwell--and I end up cutting them off to come in with--Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice", etc.)

After doing either of these songs I occasionally get comments like, "there's something about the rhythm/way you play that song that makes it hard for me to sing it..." (of course people don't know how to properly musically describe things.)
SO this is my dilemma! I DO actually know exactly how these songs should sound to be sung naturally/comfortably, BUT I am so attached to doing things exactly as notated! Are these two songs somewhat mis-notated? (Or have we lost some of those possibly misunderstood, ancient fermatas?) Or have other people seen other rhythmic notations?

WHAT DO OTHER ORGANISTS DO IN THIS CASE? These two hymns in particular?