Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Letter to Substitute Organist

This is an e-mail I sent out to one of my subs at my old parish. This mess occurred at the beginning of Holy Week when I was absent for a concert.

Dear Sub,

It is with much regret that I write the following. After speaking with a number of people that were present for mass last Saturday (Palm Sunday Vigil Mass), I'm afraid that due to certain events, your services will be needed rarely, if ever, at St. X from here on out.

Three things have prompted this response:

1) The extended organ solo at the end of the offertory. It was conveyed to me that at the conclusion of "O Sacred Head Surrounded", you proceeded to play a lengthy organ piece that extended well beyond the allotted time for such an interlude. What was reported to me was that Father was clearly ready to move forward into the Eucharistic Prayer, but was made to wait for a significant period of time due to the ramblings of the organ. Not only are the rubrics clear that, " During Lent, . . . the use of musical instruments is allowed only to support the singing." (Ceremonial of Bishops 252--in other words, no solos), but the fact that the presider had to further delay what was already a lengthy mass puts into question the liturgical judgment of the substitute organist. Common sense seems to say one of three things:

a) Due to CB 252, no solo piece should have been played in the first place.
b) Since an offertory hymn was sung by the congregation, a shorter interlude should have been programmed.
c) If a longer interlude was scheduled, a suitable cadence should have brought the piece to an end when it became clear that the piece was becoming a detriment to the liturgy.

It was also reported to me that congregants were actually laughing as the debacle was unfolding. The fact that the whims of the organist became primary over the needs of the Holy Mass is reprehensible.

2) A recessional was sung against the express wishes of the regular organist. I know that I made it very clear over the phone, on the music board, and on the planning sheet on the cantor stand, that WE WERE TO RECESS IN SILENCE! Regardless of whether or not you had good intentions to plan a sung recessional, the fact that you would do so after it was made very clear that this was against my wishes is very offensive to me. To draw an analogy, imagine if you had invited me over to house-sit your place, and returned to find that I had remodeled the living room according to my tastes. To learn that you have such little respect for me and my liturgical judgment is disappointing to say the least.

3) Pressuring the cantor to announce and lead a recessional after she was given instructions by the regular organist to allow the priest to recess in silence. Cantors are volunteers who give of their time and talents to assist with the liturgy. As if standing in front of a hundred people to sing solo wasn't stressful enough, the fact that one would be put into such a last-minute dilemma due to the pressure put onto her by a guest organist, personally I find despicable.

If the previous three points are inaccurate as I have written them, I would welcome you to provide a defense and clarify anything that was conveyed to me incorrectly. If I have conveyed them accurately through my writing, then I am afraid that you will be moved down the sub list at St. X from "first to call", to "only in case of emergency." I have many other subs who are fine musicians and more importantly, have respect for the liturgy, have respect for the presider, have respect for me, and have respect for the cantors that I provide them with. They will be scheduled in your stead in the foreseeable future.

Good luck with the Easter Triduum at your parish.

God bless,

I never heard back . . . needless to say, he was not hired again.


At Tuesday, September 05, 2006 7:02:00 AM, Blogger Brian Michael Page said...

I don't blame you one bit.


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