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First Topic: Effect of music on the priest.

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  • Stan Takis
    Topic One: Does four-part polyphonic music with organ accompaniment negatively affect the priest in the performance of his liturgical duties and thus diminish
    Message 1 of 9 , Jul 13, 2005
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      Topic One: Does four-part polyphonic music with organ accompaniment
      negatively affect the priest in the performance of his liturgical
      duties and thus diminish the essential work of the liturgy?

      We can get a good definition of the purpose of the liturgy from the
      first two sentences of Nicholas Cabasilas' 14th Century commentary on
      the Divine Liturgy:

      "The essential act in the celebration of the holy mysteries is the
      transformation of the elements into the Divine Body and Blood; its aim
      is the sanctification of the faithful, who through these mysteries
      receive the remission of their sins and the inheritance of the kingdom
      of heaven. As a preparation for, and contribution to, this act and
      this purpose we have prayers, psalms, and readings from Holy
      Scripture; in short, all the sacred acts and forms which are said and
      done before and after the consecration of the elements."

      In his introduction, Cabasilas goes on to state:

      "All these things, which make the souls of both priest and people
      better and more divine, make them fit for the reception and
      preservation of the holy mysteries, which is the aim of the liturgy.
      Especially, they put the priest in a proper frame of mind for the
      accomplishment of the sacrifice, which is, as has been said, the
      essential part of the mystagogy."

      Essentially, therefore, the role of the choir is to make a
      contribution AS PART OF A WHOLE PROCESS that prepares the priest and
      people for the work of the liturgy.

      I had an interesting conversation last Sunday with a choir director of
      over fifty years in an American Greek Orthodox parish. He said it was
      the responsibility of the priest to follow the choir, not the other
      way around. His reasoning for this was that the choir, accompanied by
      the organ, is following music in a book with specific pitches.
      Therefore, since the notes in the book cannot be altered, it is
      incumbent upon the priest to follow the choir so that his chants would
      be in "symphonia" with the choir.

      If this is so, it brings up a number of questions. First, with all of
      the grave responsibilities the priest carries in the performance of
      his duties during the liturgy, is it appropriate to give him the added
      responsibility of listening to the musical pitch of the choir at every
      moment in the liturgy in order to determine the pitch of his chants?
      Also, isn't this a little bit backwards? Aren't most of the things the
      choir does responses to what the priest is saying and doing?

      Second, is it the musical notes that help to make the people and the
      priest better and more divine, or is it the words and sentiments of
      the petitions, prayers, psalms, and readings? Is music that draws
      attention to itself detrimental to this process?

      Third, does the new music put the priest in the proper frame of mind
      for the essential mystagogy as well as the traditional music, and if
      not, is there any kind of music other than the traditional music that
      can accomplish this purpose?

      And fourth and last for now, since the proper execution of four-part
      mixed choral music requires voice training and musical technique, must
      the priest be a trained musician in order to prevent a distracting
      disconnection between his chants and those of the choir?

      I have a few thoughts about the answers to these questions, but before
      expressing any of them, I encourage you to comment first, because I
      must confess that I do not feel I've considered all of the arguments
      that these questions raise. Please try to keep your remarks focused on
      these questions about the priest in relation to the current popular
      American church music.

      Stan
    • Justin Bates
      ... Sometimes. More on this question in Part 2. ... The choir director is misguided. I ve seen this before in Protestant churches. Some choir directors and
      Message 2 of 9 , Jul 14, 2005
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        > Topic One: Does four-part polyphonic music with
        > organ accompaniment
        > negatively affect the priest in the performance of
        > his liturgical
        > duties and thus diminish the essential work of the
        > liturgy?

        Sometimes. More on this question in Part 2.

        > He said it was
        > the responsibility of the priest to follow the
        > choir, not the other
        > way around. His reasoning for this was that the
        > choir, accompanied by
        > the organ, is following music in a book with
        > specific pitches.
        > Therefore, since the notes in the book cannot be
        > altered, it is
        > incumbent upon the priest to follow the choir so
        > that his chants would
        > be in "symphonia" with the choir.

        The choir director is misguided.
        I've seen this before in Protestant churches.
        Some choir directors and ministers of music
        see their role in the church as equal to that
        of the church's pastor. Depending on the
        pastor's personality, this can often lead
        to friction in the church administration.

        > If this is so, it brings up a number of questions.
        > First, with all of
        > the grave responsibilities the priest carries in the
        > performance of
        > his duties during the liturgy, is it appropriate to
        > give him the added
        > responsibility of listening to the musical pitch of
        > the choir at every
        > moment in the liturgy in order to determine the
        > pitch of his chants?

        No, he should only have to pay attention to the
        content of their response (to make sure that they are
        both on the same page and stay in sync--although come
        to think of it, the choir should really be doing most
        of this for him as well).

        > Also, isn't this a little bit backwards? Aren't most
        > of the things the
        > choir does responses to what the priest is saying
        > and doing?

        Isn't the Divine Liturgy an inherently communal,
        interpersonal, social experience. The priest is
        leading us in our worship of God. We are all supposed
        to be actively praying and participating during the
        liturgy.

        This reminds me of what one Orthodox priest told me
        once. He said that one of the many differences
        between Catholic and Orthodox priests is that Catholic
        priests can hold a personal or private mass with
        themselves as the only one present. Orthodox priests,
        according to my friend who is one, cannot perform a
        private liturgy. The priest AND AT LEAST ONE other
        communicant must partake of the Holy Gifts. So if the
        sanctuary is full and yet no one goes up to partake of
        Holy Communion, then they've got a problem. They must
        find someone to partake of the communion with the
        priest.

        Assuming this is correct (Father Ephraim, I hope you
        will comment on this), it seems logical. I mean, the
        word communion implies more than one. I would have
        thought that someone would have made the rule that at
        least two other people (besides the priest) would have
        to partake, as sort of a living icon of the communion
        of the Holy Trinity. Along similar lines, I thought
        that hermit monks had to come together with other
        monks or at least other Orthodox to either perform or
        partake in Holy Communion. Is this correct Father
        Ephraim?

        On the other hand, the choir can be a blessing to the
        priest. If the congregation is sitting there in
        silence or not paying attention, someone needs to be
        audibly giving the correct responses to what the
        priest is chanting. At least the choir is sort of a
        designated, go-to group for the priest as he is
        performing various services if chanters are not
        present.

        By the way, if I say something theologically odd
        and/or un-Orthodox, please tell me. As a convert, I
        am often unsure if my opinions about topics are
        consistent with Orthodoxy.

        Thanks,

        Justin
      • Father Ephraim
        Dear Chrysostomos, Yes, you are right in saying that a priest is not allowed to serve the liturgy by himself. Besides, the word in Greek that the Holy Fathers
        Message 3 of 9 , Jul 14, 2005
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          Dear Chrysostomos,

          Yes, you are right in saying that a priest is not allowed to serve the
          liturgy by himself. Besides, the word in Greek that the Holy Fathers
          chose to describe this service ("leitourgia") originally meant "a public
          service" or "a work of the people". But I have never heard the rule that
          says that more than one person MUST receive communion. In many
          monasteries on Mt. Athos (and here at our monastery in Arizona), there
          is a liturgy every day, but the fathers receive only every other day. So
          on "non-communion" days, the priest serving is the only one that
          communes.

          As for the word "koinonia" in Greek (communion), the two primary
          pre-christian meanings of the verb "koinoneo" were "to have or do in
          common with, to share, to take part", and "to take part in a thing". It
          was in the sense of this second meaning that the Church Fathers used the
          word "koinonia" to mean "communion". Whereas they used the first meaning
          of the word to mean "community". But just because the Greeks used (and
          still use) the same word (koinonia) for both "community" and
          "communion", this does not mean that only a community (i.e., more than
          one person) can receive communion.

          I hope this helps.
          +Fr. Ephraim

          On Thu, 14 Jul 2005 18:18:43 -0700 (PDT), "Justin Bates"
          <justinraybates@...> said:
          > > Topic One: Does four-part polyphonic music with
          > > organ accompaniment
          > > negatively affect the priest in the performance of
          > > his liturgical
          > > duties and thus diminish the essential work of the
          > > liturgy?
          >
          > Sometimes. More on this question in Part 2.
          >
          > > He said it was
          > > the responsibility of the priest to follow the
          > > choir, not the other
          > > way around. His reasoning for this was that the
          > > choir, accompanied by
          > > the organ, is following music in a book with
          > > specific pitches.
          > > Therefore, since the notes in the book cannot be
          > > altered, it is
          > > incumbent upon the priest to follow the choir so
          > > that his chants would
          > > be in "symphonia" with the choir.
          >
          > The choir director is misguided.
          > I've seen this before in Protestant churches.
          > Some choir directors and ministers of music
          > see their role in the church as equal to that
          > of the church's pastor. Depending on the
          > pastor's personality, this can often lead
          > to friction in the church administration.
          >
          > > If this is so, it brings up a number of questions.
          > > First, with all of
          > > the grave responsibilities the priest carries in the
          > > performance of
          > > his duties during the liturgy, is it appropriate to
          > > give him the added
          > > responsibility of listening to the musical pitch of
          > > the choir at every
          > > moment in the liturgy in order to determine the
          > > pitch of his chants?
          >
          > No, he should only have to pay attention to the
          > content of their response (to make sure that they are
          > both on the same page and stay in sync--although come
          > to think of it, the choir should really be doing most
          > of this for him as well).
          >
          > > Also, isn't this a little bit backwards? Aren't most
          > > of the things the
          > > choir does responses to what the priest is saying
          > > and doing?
          >
          > Isn't the Divine Liturgy an inherently communal,
          > interpersonal, social experience. The priest is
          > leading us in our worship of God. We are all supposed
          > to be actively praying and participating during the
          > liturgy.
          >
          > This reminds me of what one Orthodox priest told me
          > once. He said that one of the many differences
          > between Catholic and Orthodox priests is that Catholic
          > priests can hold a personal or private mass with
          > themselves as the only one present. Orthodox priests,
          > according to my friend who is one, cannot perform a
          > private liturgy. The priest AND AT LEAST ONE other
          > communicant must partake of the Holy Gifts. So if the
          > sanctuary is full and yet no one goes up to partake of
          > Holy Communion, then they've got a problem. They must
          > find someone to partake of the communion with the
          > priest.
          >
          > Assuming this is correct (Father Ephraim, I hope you
          > will comment on this), it seems logical. I mean, the
          > word communion implies more than one. I would have
          > thought that someone would have made the rule that at
          > least two other people (besides the priest) would have
          > to partake, as sort of a living icon of the communion
          > of the Holy Trinity. Along similar lines, I thought
          > that hermit monks had to come together with other
          > monks or at least other Orthodox to either perform or
          > partake in Holy Communion. Is this correct Father
          > Ephraim?
          >
          > On the other hand, the choir can be a blessing to the
          > priest. If the congregation is sitting there in
          > silence or not paying attention, someone needs to be
          > audibly giving the correct responses to what the
          > priest is chanting. At least the choir is sort of a
          > designated, go-to group for the priest as he is
          > performing various services if chanters are not
          > present.
          >
          > By the way, if I say something theologically odd
          > and/or un-Orthodox, please tell me. As a convert, I
          > am often unsure if my opinions about topics are
          > consistent with Orthodoxy.
          >
          > Thanks,
          >
          > Justin
          >
          >
          >
          > Yahoo! Groups Links
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          --
          Father Ephraim
          frephraim@...
        • Justin Bates
          ... I think the traditional answer is yes. But I have to admit that I find Gregorian chant very soothing and in some sense inviting to contemplation and
          Message 4 of 9 , Jul 14, 2005
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            > Second, is it the musical notes that help to make
            > the people and the
            > priest better and more divine, or is it the words
            > and sentiments of
            > the petitions, prayers, psalms, and readings? Is
            > music that draws
            > attention to itself detrimental to this process?

            I think the traditional answer is yes. But I have to
            admit that I find Gregorian chant very soothing and in
            some sense inviting to contemplation and worship of
            God. I don't speak Latin, so it isn't necessarily the
            words that are being said. I have to admit, though,
            that it is probably significant that good Gregorian
            chant is accapella. So maybe a necessary condition
            for music to inspire in us reverence and remembrance
            is that it at least have the human voice as a main
            feature?

            > Third, does the new music put the priest in the
            > proper frame of mind
            > for the essential mystagogy as well as the
            > traditional music, and if
            > not, is there any kind of music other than the
            > traditional music that
            > can accomplish this purpose?

            That probably depends on the priest, although I think
            most modern forms of music could be ruled out.
            Listening to Britney Spears doesn't exactly lead me to
            focus my thoughts on God.

            > And fourth and last for now, since the proper
            > execution of four-part
            > mixed choral music requires voice training and
            > musical technique, must
            > the priest be a trained musician in order to prevent
            > a distracting
            > disconnection between his chants and those of the
            > choir?

            If your choir director friend was correct, then yes.
            However, as you indicated earlier and I concurred, he
            is incorrect. It is the choir who should be trained
            in Byzantine music, not the priest who whould be
            trained in Western music.

            I think, as I said earlier, that the choir can be a
            great help to the priest, but to my mind they are
            filling the role that chanters and a good active
            congregation SHOULD BE filling.

            (My parish doesn't have a Greek festival, in part,
            because the priest feels that this leads parishes to
            rely on external funding rather than stewardships. I
            believe he is correct. I know that the money earned
            at the Greek festival contributes a significant amount
            to the budgets of many Orthodox parishes. We expect
            others to help us pay for our churches expenses, and
            develop a budgetary dependence on a successful Greek
            festival. If bad weather happens those few days, what
            does a parish do? So perhaps we shouldn't have choirs
            because we parishoners can become dependent on the
            choir to respond and to pay attention during the
            liturgy as we let our thoughts wander.)

            One problem I have with polyphony and choirs is that
            polyphony usually gives the melody to the soprano--at
            least in Baptist hymnals--leaving the other voices to
            fill out the rest of the chord. So women with
            high-pitched voices usually get to sing the entire
            melody. Altos and men have to sing the other parts.

            I should confess, though, that sometimes (even when I
            wasn't singing in the choir) I would focus intently on
            trying to sing my part correctly so that I could
            create a pleasant harmony with the melody. I would
            pay more attention to the notes than the words.
            So, for easily distractable parishoners like me,
            multiple parts can tempt us to focus on the music more
            than the message.

            Relatedly, and I think Kathy Najimy's character in
            "Sister Act" was guilty of this, some sopranos seem to
            be trying to get to heaven acoustically. They drown
            out all the other voices. Of course, this is a
            problem also if any of the other voice parts are too
            over-powering precisely because they are usually not
            carrying the melody.

            Chant on the other hand allows EVERYONE to sing the
            melody. And if you come to church often enough, you
            can start to learn these melodies (although even after
            4 years as an Orthodox Christian I feel like I've got
            a lot to learn). A particularly over-powering voice
            is less of an issue, because everyone is singing the
            same melody, unless the person with the over-powering
            voice is trying to chant the ison. And, for the
            musically inclined, they could learn the nuances of
            chanting a good ison line.

            Well, these are my long-winded thoughts and opinions,
            for what they are worth.

            Have a good evening,

            Justin
          • Justin Bates
            Dear Father Ephraim, I minored in linguistics as an undergraduate, and I love languages, historical linguistics, and etymology. So please share your knowledge
            Message 5 of 9 , Jul 14, 2005
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              Dear Father Ephraim,

              I minored in linguistics as an undergraduate, and I
              love languages, historical linguistics, and etymology.
              So please share your knowledge of these things with
              me whenever you wish.
              I find this stuff fascinating.

              God bless you,

              Chrysostomos


              --- Father Ephraim <frephraim@...> wrote:

              > Dear Chrysostomos,
              >
              > Yes, you are right in saying that a priest is not
              > allowed to serve the
              > liturgy by himself. Besides, the word in Greek that
              > the Holy Fathers
              > chose to describe this service ("leitourgia")
              > originally meant "a public
              > service" or "a work of the people". But I have never
              > heard the rule that
              > says that more than one person MUST receive
              > communion. In many
              > monasteries on Mt. Athos (and here at our monastery
              > in Arizona), there
              > is a liturgy every day, but the fathers receive only
              > every other day. So
              > on "non-communion" days, the priest serving is the
              > only one that
              > communes.
              >
              > As for the word "koinonia" in Greek (communion), the
              > two primary
              > pre-christian meanings of the verb "koinoneo" were
              > "to have or do in
              > common with, to share, to take part", and "to take
              > part in a thing". It
              > was in the sense of this second meaning that the
              > Church Fathers used the
              > word "koinonia" to mean "communion". Whereas they
              > used the first meaning
              > of the word to mean "community". But just because
              > the Greeks used (and
              > still use) the same word (koinonia) for both
              > "community" and
              > "communion", this does not mean that only a
              > community (i.e., more than
              > one person) can receive communion.
              >
              > I hope this helps.
              > +Fr. Ephraim
            • Dana Netherton
              Hi, Stan, and all. Sorry I ve been so quiet lately. My computer developed mechanical problems and I had to replace it ... with the usual growing pains. And
              Message 6 of 9 , Jul 17, 2005
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                Hi, Stan, and all.

                Sorry I've been so quiet lately. My computer developed mechanical
                problems and I had to replace it ... with the usual growing pains.
                And life got, well, lively. Nothing bad, just ... things happening,
                you know? But I have a little time here, so ...

                For the newcomers, I'm a 6-yr convert (showed up at the door 6 years
                ago, late July 2000, after 25 yrs as an Episcopalian suffering under
                the delusion that Anglicanism was the English form of Orthodoxy), in
                the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, in St Louis MO (Metr of Chicago). My
                priest asked me to join the chanters in Fall 2001. I'm largely self-
                taught, as probably all of us converts are. I sing mostly in English,
                though I join our Greek chanter in his Greek from time to time.

                But I also sing in our choir. (At my priest's request; he thinks
                (rightly, I think) that this will help soften the rivalry between
                chanters and choristers.) So I have Some Thoughts on Stan's
                question(s), from both sides of the aisle, so to speak.

                And Stan and I met a few months ago, when he and Nancy were passing
                through St Louis. (Dana waves in the general direction of Detroit.)

                Now then ...

                On 14 Jul 2005 at 2:13, Stan Takis wrote:

                > Topic One: Does four-part polyphonic music with organ accompaniment
                > negatively affect the priest in the performance of his liturgical
                > duties and thus diminish the essential work of the liturgy?

                There are two aspects to this question. One aspect is the "four-part
                polyphonic music." The other aspect is the "organ accompaniment."
                I'll handle them separately, if that's OK.

                First, the polyphony. I think that our Slavonic (Russian etc)
                brothers and sisters have shown that four-part polyphony does not
                *necessarily* detract from the priest's ability to serve well. But I
                do think that the polyphony used in the GO Archd. can, and very
                probably does often, detract from etc. Why? Here's why.

                This morning, Sunday July 17th, we had a supply priest while our
                usual priest was out of town. This priest meant well, of course (I
                have never encountered a priest who has not), but he was utterly
                incapable of chanting his litanies on a note higher than concert
                pitch E below Middle C. Once, by a great effort, he managed to climb
                all the way up to F# ... and from the unusually strength of his voice
                it seemed that he was making a huge effort to get there. Soon
                thereafter he dropped back down to his Es, and his Ds.

                My priest knew this, and so he advised our choir director to let us
                chanters take the Divine Liturgy. During the coffee hour I touched
                base with one of the choristers, who said she understood why, having
                heard him. The choir would simply have been equally incapable of
                singing *with* him. Why?

                Consider. The Anastassiou (sp?) hymnal we use typically puts things
                in the keys of A-major or D-minor. This puts the bass line on low A
                fairly often, with occasional brushes with low G for harmonic
                cadences. It also means that the priest's basic pitch for his
                litanies is expected to be *A* below Middle C.

                What happens when he can't make A, can't make G, can't make F# ...
                can only make E?

                If a 4-part choir is going to continue to sing the chords they're
                used to singing, then the male bass line is going to be singing low
                *E*, with occasional brushes with low *D*.

                Sorry, folks. Maybe a skilled Russian bass might hit those notes,
                but not your typical male voice in a typical amateur church choir.
                I'm talking Episcopal cathedral choir (I used to belong to one), not
                just the Baptist "praise bands" ... it ain't gonna happen.

                Now, a really really skilled choir might be able to reshuffle the
                chords on the fly, in order to let the lower parts sing pitches they
                can actually reach. But "a really really skilled choir" is a
                description that does not apply to my church's choir. Knowing all
                this, our choir director saw the wisdom of giving the service to us
                chanters.

                Mind you, it wasn't a piece of cake for the chanters, either.
                Sometimes a melody would take us down awkwardly far below the
                priest's favored chanting note. But with just two or three people
                there, we could fall back and regroup with far greater flexibility
                than a choir with eight to twelve voices.

                How do the Slav four-part polyphonic choirs handle that? Dunno,
                haven't been in one. Maybe their harmonic settings don't push their
                bass parts down as low as the Anastassiou book does.

                But it can be durned disastrous with our choir.

                That was the first aspect. Since it was pretty long, I'll put my
                discussion of the second aspect, the organ, in a separate e-mail.

                -- (Mr) Dana Netherton, dana@...
                -----
                I'm not a member of any organized religion.
                I'm Eastern Orthodox.
              • Dana Netherton
                ... In my previous post, I said that this has two aspects: polyphony and organ accompaniment. There, I addressed polyphony. Here, I ll address the organ.
                Message 7 of 9 , Jul 17, 2005
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                  On 14 Jul 2005 at 2:13, Stan Takis wrote:

                  > Topic One: Does four-part polyphonic music with organ accompaniment
                  > negatively affect the priest in the performance of his liturgical
                  > duties and thus diminish the essential work of the liturgy?

                  In my previous post, I said that this has two aspects: polyphony and
                  organ accompaniment. There, I addressed polyphony. Here, I'll address
                  the organ.

                  Unlike polyphony, where some Orthodox Churches have adopted it and
                  have made it part of an Orthodox phronesis (Gk, roughly "mind-set"),
                  organs have only been used by one part of one Orthodox Church -- the
                  American Archdiocese of the Ecumenical Patriarchate -- and that, for
                  less than a century of the Church's 2,000 year existence.

                  I will admit that my personal experience with the organ in Orthodoxy
                  is limited. I have attended Sunday morning services in only 2 other
                  GOA parishes, and one of those visits was so early in my
                  catechumenate that much of it is a blur for me, now. In my own
                  parish, the organist was a different person from the choir director,
                  and she resigned from her position as organist after I had been in
                  the choir for perhaps a year. We have not found a replacement, so
                  our 4-part polyphonic choir has sung a capella for nearly the whole
                  time, since. I'm going to talk about several parts of this situation.

                  First, the organ itself. I'm sorry if this sounds harsh, but the
                  organ we have is an expensive toaster. A kitchen appliance. It's
                  electric, and it has one speaker ... which is placed directly behind
                  the last row of the choir. (Our church is built with a balcony/choir
                  loft.)

                  Sound quality? Think of your Hammond Organ outlet in your favorite
                  neighborhood mall. Sound usefulness? Put it in the negative
                  numbers. Here's why.

                  1. For the organ to be loud enough to be heard, down in the nave, the
                  speaker's gain has to be cranked up fairly high.

                  But when it was cranked up that high, the choristers could hear each
                  other. (Shucks, we could barely hear ourselves.) So we could not
                  judge whether we were singing in or out of pitch with the rest of the
                  choir.

                  Turning that durned thing OFF was the best thing we ever did for
                  getting our choristers to sing In Tune.

                  How do Other Churches (non-Orthodox Churches) handle that? The ones
                  that can't afford true pipe organs (1) get higher-end organs and (2)
                  put their speakers *elsewhere* in the nave of the church. If you
                  must go low-end on an organ, folks, then suck it up and do without.

                  2. Vamping with the organ.

                  As many folks here probably know, "vamping" is a term musicians use
                  to refer to "marking time" or "filling dead air" with music, while
                  waiting for something to show up or finish or the like. When the
                  music is a capella, human singers pull out their music. Orthodox
                  music comes with texts, often either from Scripture or from hymns
                  that have darned good teaching materials in their texts.

                  But when the music is accompanied, then it's easy for the singers to
                  "take a rest", and to let the organist noodle non-verbal chords.

                  When is this likely to happen? During the Divine Liturgy, it's
                  likely to happen when the priest is occupied behind the iconostasis,
                  usually with the "secret" prayers of the Liturgy.

                  In my parish, and, I gather from comments I've heard on other
                  Orthodox mailing lists, in lots of other parishes, the priest chooses
                  to keep his microphone turned on during those prayers, so that the
                  people might hear those beautiful and uplifting prayers of the
                  Liturgy.

                  Now then. What happens if the secret prayers are "covered over" by
                  the chanters? The people get *other* beautiful and uplifting texts.
                  (The "language" issue is one to be handled separately ... )

                  What happens if they are "covered over" by the *organ*? The people
                  get chord progressions. Beautiful perhaps, but uplifting? C'mon.

                  (This probably addresses some of the questions you asked in your
                  Second Question, Stan.)

                  So ... the organ did not prove nearly as useful as its proponents
                  thought.

                  Now, the customary argument for the organ is that it can serve as a
                  "crutch" for our not-well-trained amateur choristers. Indeed, the
                  Anastassiou hymn book is written with that expectation, because the
                  music in the book is not written in the format of choral music: it is
                  written in the format of organ music. The choristers are supposed to
                  echo one of the harmonic parts being played by the organ.

                  Sometimes this is ludicrous, as with the Cherubic Hymn which begins
                  with a pedal note on low D. Often it is difficult or awkward, as when
                  a treble-clef chord suddenly grows from two notes to four, and then
                  back to two. (Are we now suddenly talking First and Second Soprano
                  and Alto lines, here? And have the "Second" lines just disappeared,
                  here?)

                  But I digress. One of the curious things about psychological
                  crutches is that they can foster a psychological dependency. People
                  who are capable of doing without them, can persuade themselves that
                  they cannot.

                  Our choir thought we could not do without the organ. Until we lost
                  our organist. When I urged us to continue to try to sing, without
                  waiting for a new organist, we discovered (some of us were quite
                  astonished and delighted to discover) that we *could* sing without
                  the organ, and that we could sing *better* without the organ.

                  A keyboard instrument can be useful for a 4-part choir -- *during
                  rehearsals*, to correct problems or to learn new music. That's the
                  proper setting for a "crutch" -- in a physical/musical therapy
                  setting. But once you're healed ... don't need it any more.

                  So ... the "crutch" argument doesn't carry a lot of weight with me.

                  3. Staffing

                  In my experience in Episcopal Churches, the Music Director was
                  generally an accomplished organist who was also able to lead the
                  choir from the keyboard. He (most often "he", not "she") was also an
                  accomplished teacher, who could plan and execute rehearsals
                  effectively to teach his choir to sing new music in many months of
                  the year.

                  (Do keep in mind that these choirs generally did not sing responses --
                  responses were generally said, by the congregations -- and they were
                  generally not responsible for the primary execution of hymns --
                  hymns' melodies were generally sung by the congregation; the choirs'
                  role for hymns was as the "crutch" for the *congregation*. Further,
                  all hymns that would be used in services were published in a one-
                  volume hymnal which used English and had clear musical notation. The
                  principal musical challenge for these choirs was a choral "anthem",
                  which changed each week and which was usually sung while the
                  collection was being taken, often after the gospel-and-sermon, before
                  the sacramental part of the service.)

                  This Music Director was generally the only paid musician on the
                  staff; it was usually a part-time position (the musician had a "day
                  job", often teaching music at a school, to make ends meet). In some
                  very ambitious Episc parishes, some professional or semi-professional
                  singers might be paid to be part of the choir; they usually had
                  special responsibilities as well, such as Section Leader (lead the
                  tenors, or the altos, or whichever; help them learn new music and get
                  old music right). I met someone who had such a role in such a
                  parish, once; but I never belonged to such a parish in my 25 years in
                  that Church.

                  Long introduction. What's my point?

                  So. If we already have an accomplished musician to lead the choir,
                  why do we need a separate person to play the organ? ;-)

                  Bottom line -- ditch the organ.


                  And of course, the next question (once we have) is ... what happens
                  to the music we're using? (Remember that low-D first note in that
                  Cherubic Hymn? Who's gonna sing that note, *now*?)

                  If we have allowed ourselves to become dependent on the organ because
                  our music sounds bad without it ... then we *do* have a problem.

                  IMHO, YMMV, and the rest of the usual disclaimers, of course. :-)

                  Yours,

                  -- (Mr) Dana Netherton, dana@...
                  -----
                  I'm not a member of any organized religion.
                  I'm Eastern Orthodox.
                • Justin Bates
                  Dana (and everyone), It occurred to me while I was reading your post that the organ situation may resolve itself in less than two decades. As I understand it,
                  Message 8 of 9 , Jul 17, 2005
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                    Dana (and everyone),

                    It occurred to me while I was reading your post that
                    the organ situation may resolve itself in less than
                    two decades. As I understand it, decades ago here in
                    the US people used to take organ lessons like they
                    used to take piano lessons. But, for reasons that
                    aren't entirely clear to me, people interested in
                    learning to play a keyboard instrument began to favor
                    the piano, and fewer and fewer people were learning to
                    play the organ. (I suppose the piano was always more
                    popular than the organ in this country.)

                    I took piano lessons when I was growing up in north
                    central Kentucky. I know that my piano teacher also
                    played the organ in her church, as did most piano
                    teachers in that area at that time. I never learned
                    to play the organ, although I always wanted to. And
                    I'm not aware of any people my age growing up that
                    were specifically taking organ lessons. Many people
                    took piano lessons, but usually not long enough to get
                    really good.

                    What is my point? That organists are an endangered
                    species in the US. I think there is a shortage of
                    them, even in Protestant churches. So, in a decade or
                    so, there may not be anyone around with the necessary
                    training to play one. Problem solved?

                    BTW, for those organists on this list, I don't intend
                    for what I state on this list to offend you. I do
                    believe that you have talent and that you have
                    something significant to contribute to the church.
                    I'm just saying that when we are discussing
                    traditional orthodoxy it is difficult to make the case
                    for the use of the organ during the liturgy. Special
                    non-liturgical concerts or plays or whatever are a
                    different story.

                    I know that several of you, particularly Stan, have
                    expressed that some things have come up that will
                    limit your ability to respond for a while. I'm
                    perfectly happy to resume these exchanges whenever you
                    have the time.

                    God bless,

                    Justin "Chrysostomos" Bates
                  • Stan Takis
                    ... Yes, Justin. I ve been living at my mom and dad s house for a week and in that time, we ve had two flat tires, a broken washing machine, lost medicine, and
                    Message 9 of 9 , Jul 17, 2005
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                      > I know that several of you, particularly Stan, have
                      > expressed that some things have come up that will
                      > limit your ability to respond for a while. I'm
                      > perfectly happy to resume these exchanges whenever you
                      > have the time.

                      Yes, Justin. I've been living at my mom and dad's house for a week and
                      in that time, we've had two flat tires, a broken washing machine, lost
                      medicine, and several trips to the hospital. The good news is that my
                      mom's operation was successful and her recovery is proceeding at a
                      good pace, although she's in a lot of pain and discomfort.

                      I have some thoughts I will post soon. In the meantime, I hope some of
                      the lurkers out there will drop a thought or two. But we don't have to
                      hurry the discussion.

                      Stan
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