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Author Topic: Congregational Singing  (Read 3362 times) Average Rating: 0
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Robert
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« on: November 06, 2002, 05:06:49 PM »

Hi All

I started this thread, because the topic of music in the Liturgy absolutely fascinates me.

I am pretty well accustomed to the major Russian composers, and having studied their music, I do know it takes a lot of practice and hard work to get them sounding good. Thus it is very difficult to implement entire congregation singing with arrangements as such.

At my OCA parish, we use a mix of composers, but again since most of the works are composed, it is rather impractical to use congregational singing.

Personally though, I think congregational singing is the best, especially when everyone sings with his/her own natural harmony. I know in the ruthenian prostopinije tradition, this occurs.

I'd like a survey of how the music gets performed in your churches, and if possible any comments on your perception and views on congregational singing vs. choir.


BObby
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« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2002, 05:19:19 PM »

Since I started studying Eastern Christianity, I've always loved the Ruthenian prostopinije style the best, in both the congregational aspect of it as well as the tones themselves.  At the church I frequent, we are led by a cantor (as well as unofficially by a few babas!).  The tones are so easy to pick up, too.  I was singing in my own near tone-deaf way in no time.  My girlfriend, who has a beautiful voice of her own, always wondered why I loved going to "that Byzantine church that sings" knowing that I can't sing.  When she found out there's no music, she finally got it.  I can sing away and as long as I don't overpower anyone, no one's the wiser (except maybe the baba in front of me who is constantly trying to make me sing in harmony with her).
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« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2002, 05:21:26 PM »

In my church? Russians do not congregationally sing. Period.

I think a good compromise for places like Bobby's OCA church, which uses the same Russian music as mine, is to have the congregation join in the simple stuff that's the same every week - the 'Lord, have mercys', Creed and Our Father, for example - or that is cyclical, like the eight tones for the tropar' and kondak, while leaving the fancy stuff like the Cherubic Hymn to the choir.
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Anastasios
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« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2002, 06:42:06 PM »

In my opinion, choral works that cannot be sung by the people have no place in a parish.  In a catheral-- maybe.  Choral works that can be sung by people are okay.  Znameny and other original chants--those are still the best, however.

Here at St. Vlads we use all English (although honestly I wouldn't mind a little Slavonic, but we have Antiochians, Greeks, Africans, Japanese, etc. here so English is it), and we do use some choral works.  The choral works used though are simple enough that people can learn them and sing them if they choose.

As someone remarked to me, it is wrong for no one in the congregation to sing, but it is equally wrong for reformers to force everyone to sing.  Some people are just not used to it.

I once heard the argument that one cannot sing Byzantine chant congregationally.  I told them to visit Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek Catholic Church, where they sing Byzantine Chant congregationally.  Now only the choir of chanters does the stikhera at Vespers, but that to me is a cultural preference that could be overcome as well--I oftentimes find myself, when knowing the text, singing right along.

As far as Russians and their polyphonic singing--even this can be maintained in a congregational sense.  One option is to have the people grouped together for parts.  That might not work if you don't have a close-knit community.  Another is to have only 2 parts: melody and drone, which works well with Obikhod melodies.  A third option is to have the choir lead and people "pick" their parts, which can be done if they people are supplied with music books.

Liturgy literally means "work of the people" and if no one in the congregation is participating in even a Lord have mercy, you know something is wrong.  I'm not saying you'll be able to change things (for instance Serge's comment that NO ONE at his parish in the congregation sings--how are you going to change older generation Russians?), but that nevertheless no participation by the laity is NOT healthy and NOT the Eastern ideal.

In Christ,

anastasios
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« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2002, 03:32:46 PM »

I currently belong to a Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic parish (see my earlier post on 'doxing), so we use prostopinije.  I think this is ideal - it allows untrained voices to participate as fully as possible in the Divine Liturgy.  In my parish, the printed music is available to everyone.

The cantors are there only to lead and move the congregation through the parts where the rubrics are unfamiliar.

I believe the structuring the music such that the people cannot participate is an abuse.  Musical beauty should give way to worship.

At the RC parish in which I grew up, the pastor used to say about congregational singing:  "If God gave you a bad singing voice, give it back to Him!"
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« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2002, 03:40:24 PM »

At the RC parish in which I grew up, the pastor used to say about congregational singing:  "If God gave you a bad singing voice, give it back to Him!"


HA!  I think I'm going to use that one the next time my girlfriend tells me I should stop singing! Smiley
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« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2002, 03:47:55 PM »

I see a lot of reflection of the Schmemannite ideal - which influenced and mirrored the pre-Vatican II Catholic liturgical movement - but combined with at least some acceptance of the way things are, as I described them, just making an observation, not a judgement. -Ñ-+-Ç-+-ê-+.
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2002, 04:34:48 PM »

In my church? Russians do not congregationally sing. Period.

I think a good compromise for places like Bobby's OCA church, which uses the same Russian music as mine, is to have the congregation join in the simple stuff that's the same every week - the 'Lord, have mercys', Creed and Our Father, for example - or that is cyclical, like the eight tones for the tropar' and kondak, while leaving the fancy stuff like the Cherubic Hymn to the choir.

I agree.  In my "old" OCA parish the congregation was very much invited and encouraged to participate in the "simple stuff,"--and did so happily!-- and it was deliberately kept "simple" (a lot of Obikhod or Plain chant) so that there would be congregational participation.

In my present "very Russian" OCA parish, *no* congregational singing--period.  Anyone who does so stands out like a sore thumb.  The choir does all the responses.  Even at Vespers a reader in the choir chants the "Our Father" all alone, no congregational participation is suggested or invited (The "Our Father" comes off more like "MY Father").  A lot of very difficult chants at Liturgy done by an aging, sometimes off-key choir!  (And I'm a chorister too!)

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« Last Edit: November 07, 2002, 04:38:50 PM by Hypo-Ortho » Logged
David
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« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2002, 03:17:47 AM »

In my parish (OCA) there are some hymns that we only use a few settings and the congregation usually joins in.  At Divine Liturgy usually the antiphons, litanies, and Nicene Creed.  50% of the time we use the Rimsky-Korsakov Lord's Prayer and the congregation sings along with that.  The congregation always sings "God Grant you Many Years" and "Memory Eternal" when the occasion arises.  For hymns with more variety in setting(our choir binders have 11 cherubic hymns right now!) the congregation usually listens to the choir.  

As someone earlier said, this is a compromise, but I think it is a good one.  Much of the music is sung by all and then we have moments for rehearsed masterpieces to shine through.  Of course, three years ago when we were a tiny (10-15 active members) mission we mostly stuck to obikhod but now that we have just under a hundred faithful and routinely have over 10 at choir rehearsals we can use beautiful settings like the Bortnianski Cherubic Hymn.  The priest and/or choir director must make a pastoral decision on what level of music the choir can sing well.
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« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2002, 12:59:06 AM »

An advocate of congregational singing is Archpriest Roman Galadza.  Visit his parish, St. Elias in Brampton, and see congregational singing at its finest.

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