Sunday Mass Without Music

cantor at STA MassPondering that (usually early) Sunday Mass without music, I was thinking back to the parishes I’ve served over the years. My first parish had music at the 8AM Mass, even the Gloria. But the repertoire was basic, and generally different from the other Masses. That was 1983-84.

For my first full-time position, the 8AM had music year-round. A small ensemble twice a month, a quartet of singers from the big choir once. The other one to two posts were taken by cantors with accompanists–the only time cantors were scheduled, as every other Mass had choirs of various sizes, a dozen to thirty-ish.

Clicking off the boxes of the next parishes: music at all of the Sunday Masses. Then I was hired by a priest who was a nationally-regarded organist, composer, and liturgist. He explained the difficulty  in making headway against the expectations of the 8AM community. One year, my third I think, we had a particularly brief spell between Baptism of the Lord and the First Sunday of Lent. I thought, why not take a stab at it. People noticed, and not in a good way. We got critical communication for those four Sundays, because of the music.

I know there are yet a few Catholics from around the world who still visit here regularly. What’s the practice in your parish now?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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7 Responses to Sunday Mass Without Music

  1. Liam says:

    I am glad that my erstwhile territorial parish’s 7:30AM Mass has been without music (other than a chanted Alleluia or dialogues, a capella) for over a year. When I attend Mass there, it’s usually because of logistical difficulties going to Mass where I normally attend in town about 20-25 minutes away from here, but mediocre music (hymns I can normally deal with, as they are not terribly important, but the quality of service music and psalms matters (much) more to me, and the musicians appeared to be afflicted by a love for Schutte’s Mass of Christ the Savior, which I cannot abide – there’s a lot of underwhelming service music out there, and while the Missal revision did help cull some of the deadwood and force people to reconsider what they had been doing for too many years on autopilot, its slower going in suburbs where inertia is powerful) was not an additional burden I embraced joyfully.

    My parish of choice has no hymns (other than on Christmas and Easter) for its 8AM Mass, and not much more than an Alleluia and maybe dialogues, and I sometimes attend that Mass when my usual Mass (9:30AM) promises-threatens to be thronged or to be a celebrant-improvisation fest….

    And I understand the shoes being on the other foot, too.

  2. Liam says:

    My druthers, such as they are, for the first Mass of Sunday morning: no keyboard or instruments. No sandwiched hymns except them that the congregation sings well and that sound excellent sung a capella (which thins out a lot). Otherwise, plainsong vernacular Missal entrance/communion antiphons a nice touch; beats recitation, but I’ll take recitation over omitting them. Celebrant and congregation chant the well-known dialogues/responses. is chanted a capella (vernacular or Latin – preferably, the parish has been empowered over a period of years to learn a simple and festive version of each), and also the Sanctus – they are hymns, the texts yearn to be sung, and those moments (especially the Sanctus) beg for a musical dimension.

    I am quite used to not getting my druthers. Even when I had “power”, it was never about getting my druthers.

  3. Melody says:

    We have four Masses on the weekend; Saturday evening, 7:00 am on Sunday, 9:00, and 10:30. All but the 7:00 am have music. The regulars for that early Mass prefer no music, and to be honest, none of the musicians want to cover it, there’s not enough of us to regularly schedule music for it and still cover the other Masses.Even the pastor said he likes that Mass to be kind of basic and quiet. So it’s a matter of not fixing something that no one feels is broken. Now that we have a new pastor, though, things might change.

  4. FrMichael says:

    Music at all Sunday Masses, plus the vigil. Previous parish had one quiet Mass at 7 AM.

  5. Mary says:

    Brand new parish, so no early Mass has been established. There have been calls for an additional Mass – but it’s unlikely to be approved due to priest numbers, so we don’t have the face the question of how it should be.

  6. Vincent says:

    I much prefer Mass with no music. I find it more reverent and more peaceful.

  7. Paul says:

    As a musician, who used to sell records all over the world, I love Mass with music. It helps me connect, as music stirs huge passions, easily, in me. I have recently started RCIA and have been attending Catholic Mass for maybe 6 months. I am hoping to go play worship music, in a blues style and witness in prisons. I understand people who don’t want it, but I really think it is beautiful, and a finely timbred mezzo soprano, singing How Great Thou Art or Come As You Are, never fails to make me weep..

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