The Warm-Up

Sausages frying in pan on camping stove at Hollands Wood Campsite, New Forest, Hampshire, England, UK.

Sausages frying in pan on camping stove at Hollands Wood Campsite, New Forest, Hampshire, England, UK.

Paul Inwood writes up nine “healthy” pre-liturgy practices he has noticed. I’d like to peel out number 2, the warm-up.

Three minutes before the starting time, the cantor does a brief (one-minute) warm-up, preparing the assembly to celebrate, followed by silence for reflection.

This is one practice I wish I could avoid totally. I don’t know why. Yes, I’m an introvert, but that’s less a public persona and more a realization of where I draw energy and have it drained. I suppose I wish new music would arise organically from an assembly of music-reading people.

And yet it is an act of courtesy to the assembly. 99% of the time we fail to prepare the assembly to celebrate. This means we are treating them as passive spectators instead of active participants. To participate actively, you need to know what is going on. The brief “warm-up” (a better expression than “rehearsal”, which can imply an overemphasis on performance or a “teaching” environment”) tries to give people a simple way-in to the celebration by running through one or more of the items that will be sung during the liturgy, ensuring that there will be some familiarity when they actually encounter that singing later on.

I do think the “warm-up” is necessary for the five to ten times a year when new music has been prepared. On the other hand, I think Mr Inwood exaggerates the 99%. “We” don’t always need to prepare the assembly. Many people come already prepared to celebrate the liturgy.

The other thing: we can call it a warm-up, but I don’t mind “rehearsal” as a term. The main thing is that this whatchamacallit be rehearsed by the cantor and the choir as well. In my recent adventures with teaching a new Mass setting, I prepared the music ministry and did exactly what I planned at the end of the pre-Mass warm-up with them. They knew to be prepared to sing along with the other people.

Let me reiterate that point: any rehearsal with the assembly really must be planned and choreographed to make maximum use of a minimum of time.

Image credit.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to The Warm-Up

  1. Liam says:

    The best way to “rehearse” a piece (very much including parts of the Ordinary) is to permit the schola/choir to sing it with such participation from the congregation as the latter pleases (this doesn’t work as well with cantors or accompanist-as-cantor, however, sad to say). Rinse and repeat. If done regularly, people will pick it up if and as they will. It’s an organic process.

    One problem is a bad habit of liturgy folks of evaluating active congregational participation in the Mass as a one-time, specific-event, rather than a long-term thing. I found a lot of Paul Inwood’s analysis cherry-picked and forced, as it so often is; while I hope he’s great to work with in person, in blogdom I find he’s more ham-fisted (doing Vatican II(I) in a Vatican I way, to borrow your wife’s immortal phrasing, IIRC) than I would care for a fellow liturgical progressive to be – more like an example of how *not* to promote progressive liturgy (I am talking here solely of his blogging rhetorical style, not him personally).

    • Liam says:

      Oh, and of course, give the congregation the music. Just to be clear. Singing should be invited with resources and familiarity, but not made an imperative.

      I have to say, observing in my parish of the last 3 years, how readily the congregation picks up on chant versions of the Ordinary. Even though it lacks what would seem to be the safer framing of meter, the patterns of chant seem to get more deeply familiar with regular exposure, so that it seems that, even if not expressly taught, PIPs get a feel for the likely arc of a given chant phrase and the longer arc of the piece. I’ve been impressed – and this is not a traditionalist congregation by any measure. Part of it is having good material that is imbued with a sense for tried and true patterns of chant (some people lack the gift, even when they are traditionally inclined, sad to say).

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