RECENTLY RECEIVED AN EMAIL from another priest asking if I knew of someone to recommend to him as a possible organist/music director for his parish and I had to email back that I knew of no one available at the time. I believe this is a common problem in some parishes that are perhaps smaller or in more rural settings. It is difficult to find sufficient qualified help because large quantities of church musicians have not been formed.
Another problem I encounter is the pastor who has musicians in his parish who faithfully show up every Sunday, but who have been formed in the “if the congregation can’t participate and the actual music isn’t of the lowest common denominator we refuse to use it” attitude. These scenarios are especially hard for the new pastor who hasn’t had time to build relationships with his musicians and parishioners and therefore is reluctant to implement any changes. This begs the question, should the priest simply give up? Fortunately not.
One musical advantage for the priest celebrating the Ordinary Form is that he can play an active role leading the music, yet still celebrate Mass. While I realize this isn’t ideal, one must take every advantage one can. If you are a priest in a rural parish with no musicians to speak of, you could still lead an a cappella hymn during the Entrance, sing the Introductory and Penitential Rites before leading the Kyrie and Gloria. If you were to proceed in the same manner through the Mass, you would probably have a greater portion of your Sunday Mass sung than most American Cathedrals.
If you already have musicians who provide music for your parish, it is probably of the “four hymns and Mass parts“ variety. If you are new, don’t fight what your musicians are doing unless it is outright heretical. Just begin singing the Mass piece by piece (I think starting with the Preface Dialogue and Preface has the most impact). I firmly believe this will help people to enter into the Sacrifice of the Mass much more than merely changing the hymns and who plays them. It amazes me that Cathedral musicians sometimes take this approach. They play the same four mediocre hymns as the average parish, only they use the organ, strings, tympani and a trumpet. Immediately following the Entrance Hymn the rector speaks the Introductory Rites and what could have been an uplifting moment comes crashing back to earth.
I obviously don’t have the clout of Cardinal Sarah, but I nevertheless challenge you to begin singing at least a part of Holy Mass this Advent when you turn East to await that glorious day when Christ shall come in all His Glory.