Saturday, November 17, 2018

MICROPHONES: Do We REALLY Need Them to Sing?

I'm sure many have gone into another church from time to time, whether out of town on vacation, or visiting family, friends, etc., and find that the person "leading the singing" is standing up front, blaring into a microphone, waving arms when it's "your turn to sing" (even when there is an able choir present).  I've seen it live.  I've seen it on TV.  I've seen it on YouTube.  And every time I see and hear these things, I utter one word: WHY?

At 11 years old, I sang tenor in a choir of boys and men at (the now closed and demolished) Holy Trinity Church in Central Falls.  We had a wonderful organist/choirmaster, Mr. Reuel Gifford.  The church, though not huge, was larger than Sacred Heart, but still a bit smaller than, let's say, SS. John and James in beautiful downtown Arctic.  The acoustics were no better nor worse than those of Sacred Heart.  We were accompanied by a 26-rank pipe organ (this organ most likely had around 1,400-1,500 pipes).  There was not one microphone in the choir loft, yet we were well-heard, even over a generously registered organ.  There was no one up front to lead the hymns into a microphone (the lector/commentator announced the hymns from the lectern, but that was all).  Many of the Responsorial Psalms were sung a capella (no instrumental accompaniment whatsoever).

I had the pleasure of singing in the chorus at Cumberland High School under the venerable Mrs. Nectar Lennox.  Again, not one microphone was in use.  Why is that?  Mrs. Lennox taught us that to get the sound to carry, we need to project our voices to the audience.  This was effective not only to our 100+ voice full chorus, but to the 20+ voice Clef Singers, which I also was a part of.

I was also lucky enough to work as organist/music director at Precious Blood Church in Woonsocket, a church a bit larger than SS. John and James, with a pipe organ about the size of that of SS. John and James (only difference: the pipe organ at Precious Blood still works and is well-maintained).  In the eight years I was there (1989-1997), there were, once again, no microphones in the choir loft.  Didn't need one, even with that strong organ.  Didn't want one.

The ability to project creates a natural amplification when needed.  I refuse to sing into the microphone I have at the organ console.  I use that contraption to announce the hymns only.  When singing, I shut it off and push it aside.  Otherwise, you'd all be fleeing town in fright.  When the singing is really good from the congregation, and I DO hear it, especially at the 5:00 and 11:15 Masses, I tend to shut up for a line or two just to listen and just let the organ lead.  The singers (who will still sing with us on major feasts, like the forthcoming Solemnity of Christ the King), though mic'd, are far enough away from the mic not to "blare".  (Yes, I'm still trying to form a parish choir!)

The other problem with having someone in front "leading song" is that these "song leaders" or "cantors" in conventional churches have quality voices but still use the mic.  Couple that with the hand gestures they use to cue you in, it is merely drawing attention to themselves.  And again, they're still up front, bellowing and waving (I hope they use deodorant), even when there is an able choir present.

I met an organist - a really good organist - in fact, he was a predecessor from Precious Blood three organists before me, George Beaudet.  When he would work alone at the console, he would sing the first couple of words of a hymn, then stop singing, and let the organ lead, especially in his later years.  It worked for many, many years.

Finally, in another Woonsocket church (Our Lady of Victories, which folded around the year 2000-ish), the liturgy committee chair (brother of the pastor of Precious Blood who hired me there) once told me that if your singing is strong enough, people tend to "start listening and stop singing" (this, of course, pertaining to when the congregation should be singing).

Does the music leadership (organist, singers, etc.) really need to blare into a mic up front and flap their arms like a cuckoo bird?  The short answer is NO.  The long answer is, NO, especially if there is an able choir present.  I will consider in very large churches or cathedrals, but 1) only for Psalm verses, not while the congregation and/or choir is singing, and 2) not up front where attention is attracted visually.

Unmic'd, I remain,

PS: Quod scripsi, scripsi!  (What I have written, I have written!)

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Next Couple of Weeks


Common to all dates below:
Ordinary of the Mass: Messa Populare "Laus Tibi Christe" (Federico Caudana)
Alleluia: from Gelobt sei Gott (Melchior Vulpius)

The rest:

Sunday XXXIII of the Year
Saturday, XI-17, at 5 PM; Sunday, XI-18, at 7:30, 9, and 11:15 AM

Entrance hymn: When morning gilds the skies (Maroon hymnal, #367)
Psalm 16: R./ You are my inheritance, O Lord (BMP) (PDF)
Offertory hymn: Lo! he comes with clouds descending (Maroon hymnal, #5, second tune)
Psalm 61 (Communion): R./ Whatever you ask in your prayers, believe that you shall receive it, and it shall be granted unto you (BMP) (PDF)
Meditation hymn: Thine for ever! God of love (Maroon hymnal, #427) (Listen)
Recessional hymn: Soon may the last glad song arise (Maroon hymnal, #539, second tune)

Thanksgiving Day
Thursday, XI-22, at 9 AM

Entrance hymn: We gather together (Maroon hymnal, #315)
Psalm 113: R./ Blessed be the Name of the Lord for ever (BMP) (PDF)
Offertory hymn: Come, ye thankful people, come (Maroon hymnal, #137)
Psalm 96 (Communion): R./ Bring your offering and enter his courts; adore the Lord in his holy temple (BMP) (PDF)
Recessional hymn: Now thank we all our God (Maroon hymnal, #276)

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Saturday, XI-24, at 5 PM; Sunday, XI-25, at 7:30, 9, and 11:15 AM

Singers and brass trio at all Masses except 7:30.

Entrance hymn: Rejoice! the Lord is King (Worship hymnal, #493)
Psalm 93: R./ The Lord is King; he is robed in majesty (Sam Schmitt) (PDF)
Offertory hymn: Christ is the King (Worship hymnal, #500)
Music during Communion:
- (except 7:30): Laudate Dominum (Giuseppe Pitoni)
- (7:30): Psalm 29: R./ The Lord will bless his people with peace (BMP) (PDF)
Meditation hymn: We praise thee, King of kings (on sheets provided) (Listen)
Recessional hymn: To Jesus Christ, our sov'reign King (Worship hymnal, #497)


Beginning with the First Sunday of Advent (December 2), I will try to offer regular musings on music and liturgy, pertaining mostly to the Ordinary Form of the Mass (which we celebrate), and on occasion incorporating tidbits pertaining to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (according to the Roman Missal of 1962).

Quod scripsi, scripsi!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Sunday XXXII

Looking for a few good singers to form a choir for the 11:15 Mass on Sundays. So far, got one. Need more! Feel free to come upstairs and see me (Brian Page, organist) after any weekend Mass!


Ordinary of the Mass: Messa Populare "Laus Tibi Christe" (Federico Caudana)
Alleluia: from Gelobt sei Gott (Melchior Vulpius)
- (aka the tune used for the hymn Christ is the King)

The rest:
Entrance hymn: God of our fathers (Maroon hymnal, #143)
Psalm 146: R./ Praise the Lord, my soul (BMP) (PDF)
Offertory hymn: Almighty Father, strong to save (Maroon hymnal, #513) (Listen)
- (This is familiarly known as The Navy Hymn.)
Psalm 23 (Communion): R./ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want (BMP) (PDF)
Meditation hymn: I vow to thee, my country (on sheets provided) (Listen)
- (The hymn itself is popular in the UK, but has good relevance here in the USA in the first verse.  The second verse, which sings of "another country", refers to heaven.  The music is part of the movement "Jupiter" in Gustav Holst's The Planets.)
Recessional hymn: My country, 'tis of thee (Maroon hymnal, #141)

Quod scripsi, scripsi!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The FOUR-Day Weekend

Two announcements:
1) Looking for a few good singers to form a choir for the 11:15 Mass on Sundays.  So far, got one.  Need more!  Feel free to come upstairs and see me (Brian Page, organist) after any weekend Mass!
2) Don't forget the BAZAAR: Friday from noon to 7 PM, Saturday from 10 AM to 7 PM!

All Saints, All Souls, and Sunday XXXI, all in one little bundle!


Ordinary of the Mass:
- (except All Souls): Messa Populare "Laus Tibi Christe" (Federico Caudana)
- (All Souls only): Mass XVIII pro defunctis

- (except All Souls): from Gelobt sei Gott (Melchior Vulpius)
- - These are the alleluias sung at the end of each stanza of the hymn "Christ is the King"
- (All Souls only): Theodore Marier

The rest:

All Saints (Holy Day of Obligation)
Thursday XI-1 at 9 AM and 7 PM

Entrance hymn: For all the saints (Worship hymnal, #705)
Psalm 24: R./ Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face (Carroll/Gelineau)
Offertory hymn: By all your saints still striving (Worship hymnal, #706)
Communion responsory: R./ Remember, Lord, thy servants, when thou dost take thy throne (BMP) (PDF)
Recessional hymn: Ye watchers and ye holy ones (Worship hymnal, #707)

Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
Friday XI-2 at 9 AM and 6:30 PM

Entrance antiphon: Requiem aeternam (Mode VI)
Psalm 23: R./ The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want (BMP) (PDF)
Offertory hymn: Jesus, Son of Mary (Maroon hymnal, #223)
Communion responsory: R./ May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord... (BMP, adapted from Lux Aeterna) (PDF)
Recessional hymn: In Paradisum (Worship hymnal, #178, in Latin)

Sunday XXXI of the Year
Saturday XI-3 at 5 PM; Sunday XI-4 at 7:30, 9, and 11:15 AM

Entrance hymn: Immortal, invisible, God only wise (Worship hymnal, #512)
Psalm 18: I love you, Lord, my strength (Schmitt) (PDF)
Offertory hymn: Sing praise to God who reigns above (Worship hymnal, #528)
Communion responsory: R./ Lord, you will show us the path of life (BMP) (PDF)
Meditation hymn: To Christ, the Prince of Peace (Worship hymnal, #491)
Recessional hymn: From all that dwell below the skies (Worship hymnal, #521)

Quod scripsi, scripsi!