A new diocesan guide for Music Ministers is now available. Read extracts of the text of the resource. Full resource and Music Planning Sheet available for download.

Downloads

Click on link to download full resource A Guide for Music Minsters

Click on link to download Music Planning Sheet

Planning Sheet – Along with guidelines for Ministers, the back page of the resource has a useful template for your regular music planning sheet for individual celebrations.

Why do we have music at Mass?

Music has always played a key part in people’s worship. Whether sung or instrumental, it’s task is to serve and support the prayer of the people as they give thanks and praise to their God.

When we sing as a congregation during the Mass we are drawn together. We are united both in the action of singing and in the belief that our song expresses. Our songs express the faith of the Church. They help to nourish and strengthen this faith.

Within the celebration of Mass, music can heighten the liturgical texts so that they speak more richly and fully. Well chosen music can be one of the most effective ways of communicating the tone of a particular Church season or the occasion being celebrated. The joy and enthusiasm which music adds to a community’s worship of God cannot be gained in any other way. So St. Augustine was right when he said: “One who sings well prays twice.”

What does a Music Minister do?

The task of music ministers is, quite simply, to serve the prayer of the people. Music plays a vital part in facilitating, encouraging, enhancing and deepening the people’s prayer. This is why we can refer to music as a ministry (service) in the Mass.

A choir does not replace the congregation but it can enrich the assembly’s singing with artistic beauty and complexity. There may be times when a choir will sing without the congregation joining in but it needs to always made sure not to deny the people sung texts that rightfully belong to them.

In order to do its job well, the choir needs to know when singing is called for within the liturgy and what pieces belong to the whole assembly. It also needs to use appropriate texts that support what the liturgy is about at that particular time in the Mass or within the Church year. Clearly a familiarity with the Mass, with the Sunday readings and with the different emphases of the liturgical year will help a choir enormously in making decisions about what to sing and when to sing.

Very often a choir will use a cantor who will help animate and encourage the people’s song. It is often through the support and affirmation among choir members themselves that a good cantor emerges naturally from the group itself.

Instrumentalists support the people’s song. They can also powerfully assist contemplation and express praise and a variety of human emotions before God. While there is the need to technically “perform” a piece well, music ministry has more to do with prayer than performance. A helpful question for music ministers to ask is: Did our music help people to enter deeper into the prayer of the liturgy.

When should we be singing at Mass?

Musically, certain parts of the Mass demand our attention ahead of others.

The absolute first priorities for singing are the following:

  • The Gospel Acclamation,
  • the Acclamations within the Eucharistic prayer
    (i.e. the Holy, Holy, Memorial Acclamation & Great Amen)
  • and the psalm.
  • The Gloria, like the psalm, is a hymn so, when used, it really only makes sense to sing it.

Following these priorities, it is appropriate but not essential (i.e. instrumental music or silence could be used) to sing at the following times: The opening song, during the preparation of the altar, during communion, post communion and after the dismissal.

If resources allow, other opportunities for sung prayer include the penitential rite, the response to
the Prayer of the Faithful and the song during the breaking of bread-the Lamb of God. When using hymns, for example at communion time, make sure they support and speak to the liturgical moment rather than draw people’s attention elsewhere.

How do we decide what music to use?

When looking to the suitability of a particular text it is helpful to consider the following:

THE MUSICAL JUDGEMENT

Here the questions that need to be asked include: Is the music technically, aesthetically and expressively good? Only good music will be effective in the long run. Yet, to quote St. Augustine, “Do not allow yourselves to be offended by the imperfect while you strive for the perfect!” A caution! Although all liturgical music should be good, not all good music is suitable to the liturgy.

THE LITURGICAL JUDGEMENT

The nature and shape of the liturgy itself will help to determine what kind of music is called for (hymn, acclamation, call & response, processional), what parts are to be preferred for singing and who is to sing them.

THE PASTORAL JUDGEMENT

In this the choir considers the particular situation – the people who are worshipping, their overall repertoire, the available resources. In these concrete circumstances, will the music we are choosing for this celebration enable this community of people to express their faith?