Pes’s plan for preventing popular singing
(Title changed from “popular participation” to reflect better the idea that singing and participation are not necessarily coincidental.)
Copied from TNLM:
1. Do not distribute anything with musical notation because most people can't read music. When you have an illiterate group of people, the last thing you want is for them to learn from seeing examples.
You’d be amazed (or, maybe not) how many people seem not just uninterested in learning to read music, but unwilling. It boggles me.
2. Do not distribute the words to any song not found in the missal or missalette. If the cantor sings a different responsorial psalm or text than that given in the missal/missalette, by no means should you provide it.
Actually, I have found responsorial psalms not to need musical notation or even words for the congregation. I would prefer to give it to them, but we don’t have a reprint license or the infrastructure for having weekly worship aids. And our hymnals don’t have music for the responses.
3. Have the cantor and choir seize responsibility for singing as much as they can that is licit.
Enh, I’m not sure this is that much of a problem. We expect congregations to sing too much, IMO.
4. If the cantor is female, pitch the melody to suit her range, not the congregation's. Especially if she is a soprano.
Time and time again, I find that male cantors are more effective in stimulating popular song, and their words are clearer for people to understand.
5. The cantor should sing as operatically as possible, so as to suggest that anything less than operatic is of lesser quality.
Being a classically-trained singer myself, I take some offense at this. :)
There is, of course, good operatic singing and bad operatic singing. Lamentably, we hear far too much of the latter, even on recordings.
6. Have the cantor hound the congregation into singing with histrionic gestures, thereby a) distracting focus from the liturgical action, and b) belittling the majority of faithful Catholic regularly-attending worshippers.
Gestures and cues need not be over the top. Just raising the arm does the job nicely. As I explain to my cantors, it should be seen as going along with a breath. Just as in choirs, if you encourage good breathing, better singing results.
7. Select melodies that are:
a) catchy and trite, so more than half the congregation will feel foolish for singing them, or
Catchy and trite are not the same thing. ENGELBERG is, to me, very catchy, but far from trite.
b) virtuosic in intervallic and/or rhythmic complexity, so that after a few bars 98% congregation will feel inadequate to the task, or
True enough - this infects much of the pop-ish stuff they put in hymnals. At the same time, a few guys, like Proulx, do a fine job of creating music that is contemporary, singable, and elegant.
c) blatant parodies (in the technical sense) of popular melodies, so that all the congregational (particularly the young's) focus will be consternation at the similarity, or
Maybe not “consternation”, but yeah. I do think a lot of people just don’t want to be reminded that they’re in church.
d) simply unknown to most of them.
Unknown melodies are part-and-parcel of music in the Church, I think. Yes, there should be a common repertoire, but we need not to emphasize it at the expense of the Mass Proper.
8. Have the musical choices at Mass careen wildly from genre to genre. When the congregation expects chant, pelt them with polyphony. When they expect contemplative beauty, shake them up with something contemporary. Nothing so effectively confuses and confounds as pastiche.
I’m not sure I agree with people who say a variety of styles in the same liturgy is problematic. I can see the argument, but I think counter-examples can easily be found.
9. Deploy unusual choices of instrumentation, such as guitars, bass guitars, synthesizers, drums, and of course obscure varities of percussion. The novelty and incongruity of this will strike many in the congregation as worth more notice than the words being sung.
Novelty only lasts for a short time. The first time we had timpani in our church, the people sang heartily.
10. Above all, deploy maximum volume. Cantors, especially if they have operatic voices, should belt lustily into a microphone. Choirs should always be amplified, no matter what their position. Organs, naturally, should "lead" congregational singing by effectively drowning it out.
Tom Day’s article in the latest Pastoral Music elaborates on this point. Good read.
Oh, and everything should be in 6/8.
The following all use compound meter (i.e. 3/8, 6/8, 12/8) and are sung very well in most parishes:
Glory and Praise to Our God
O FILII ET FILIAE
Mass of Light
Mass of Creation
Like a Shepherd
Away in a Manger (not one of my faves, but it gets sung)
IN DULCI JUBILO
THE FIRST NOWELL
Sing to the Mountains
VICTORY (The Strife is O’er)
LOBE DEN HERREN
LAND OF REST
Canticle of the Sun
The list goes on and on .... 6/8 appears tried and proven for congregational singing, just as much as 4/4.