In my last parish, the music listings included a brief instruction for nearly every congregational song or hymn: “whole refrain” or “second-half tune” or “whole tune.” I haven’t used these in my new parish. I enjoy the benefit of a single person as accompanist for the four English Masses. And using OCP materials, the publishers give a bracketed introduction. In hymnals, you get nothing of that.
Over the years, I’ve determined that those brackets are usually there to be ignored. Usually expanded upon. I watch the people finger through pages of thin paper (annual music issues) to find the correct number, and the given introduction would be over already. And that’s many of the choir members. What determines the right length of a music ministry’s intro? I watch the people in the pew.
Unlike my last parish, my new one has number boards on either side of the reredos. Some parishioners (and some singers) are prepared in advance for the coming song. But not all. The verbal announcement is still needed–not everyone has the eyesight, and many people are seriously listening or praying up until an announcement is given.
Sometimes, it makes sense to give people a longer period of time. We used this hymn this past weekend. It hadn’t been programmed in some years, but was well-used about a decade ago. I asked the violinist to play the whole tune, the pianist joining in at the halfway mark.
It wasn’t just about reminding people of the tune, though there was that. New diocesan collection procedures have lengthened that time of the Mass for us. Some of our four priests like things to be … complete. But it wasn’t just filling time. (At one Mass, we went through “six” verses, including a four-bar interlude after each sung stanza.) Familiar songs generate memories. There’s a spiritual component to music, even when nobody is singing. Instruments alone communicate, and if the players are good, the message gets out there.
If I ever ditched hymnals or annual books and printed music in the bulletin, I’d consider brief introductions on some, but not all things. As musicians or non-musicians, what are your church experiences? Do you get enough time to find the page? Or does it seem mindless or automated or even random?