Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 480 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Ruth. And she writes:
Today I will be going over hymns not familiar to my congregation. The reason is that I would like to select several for them to learn, but only one at a time.
V: I thought of including this question in the podcast because I think it relates to the challenge of selecting repertoire and hymns that are not familiar to the congregation, and lots of people are in this situation. Not only Ruth, I think.
A: Yes, especially if you don’t have a choir that leads congregational singing. Then it might be hard to introduce new hymns into a service.
V: It’s maybe a different situation for Ruth, because she is an ordained minister, and she selects hymns. And for example, a lot of organists just follow their ministers’ lead, and they work with what they have. But sometimes, organists select hymns, too.
V: If you are a music director.
A: Yes, appropriate for an occasion.
V: Or you work maybe with a minister together, right? And sometimes, a minister might choose readings from the scripture that talk about certain things, and a sermon appropriate too, and the music director would choose some hymns appropriate to these texts. But then the question is either to sing a familiar hymn about these topics or unfamiliar one?
A: Well, I guess it’s probably a wise idea that during one service you will have only one unfamiliar hymn. Because if you would put all the unfamiliar hymns, I don’t think it would work. And another idea that popped into my mind when I was reading Ruth’s question was that it might be a good idea to do rehearsals with the congregation. Like really short, brief rehearsals. Probably before the service.
V: Yeah, music director or organist could come forth in front of the congregation and sing one or two hymns.
A: Yes, and maybe do one line solo, one verse, and then to sing with everybody. That’s a good practice. We did it actually, many years back, you remember?
V: In Vilnius?
V: Have we done this in Lincoln?
A: I don’t think so. Everybody just sang so well, so we didn’t have to do it in Lincoln.
V: Yeah. If you start to teach something before the service starts, people are really attentive in that moment, and they appreciate the care that you're providing, right, they know that organist is doing more than it’s required. It’s not required from you, it’s not in your job description to lead those rehearsals. But obviously, it’s a nice gesture, I think, and people would appreciate it.
V. Maybe not for everybody, and not maybe right away, but if you do this week by week, you will get this tradition of better singing.
A: That’s right.
V: Which means a lot. All right, guys. We hope this was useful to you. Do you think Ausra, this was useful for people who work in churches.
A: Yes, I think so. Rehearsals with the congregation, I think it’s a good idea.
V: And choosing hymns that are not familiar for congregation, but not all of them right away, but just one or two at a time.
V: And please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 423, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Damian, and he writes:
I've been catching up on podcasts lately and I'm very pleased that you've touched the topic of my little device. It is a very simple solution from the technical side and there is nothing revolutionary in it, maybe only the application is unusual ;)
In Poland, displaying song text in churches is very popular, at least in my area there is a display in every church. The ways are different, from the old school slide projector, through the large TV, to the LED displays, assembled by specialized companies in this field. I also know that in some regions of the country the organist only displays the number of the song, and people have the books in which they find the text.
A separate topic is how much such displays help in singing. Decades ago, we didn't have such inventions, and people sang much better. It was because they wanted to sing and sang a lot, and what follows, they knew the lyrics by heart. I do not know how it is in Lithuania, but in Poland, the desire to sing in the church is getting worse, especially among young people. Indeed, displaying the text helps if you sing a less-used song, or further verses, but only to people who want to sing. Sometimes I get the impression that these displays try to "improve" the singing, make people sing more and "as before". Nevertheless, in my opinion, they will not encourage people who do not want to sing anyway, and the problem lies in the fact that contemporary people sing less and less. Thus, technology helps, but to a limited extent, and unfortunately it is not easy to eliminate the unfavorable changes taking place in singing in parishes.
V: Well, this is a deep question, right? Even a little bit...
A: Yes, it’s a very broad and deep question.
V: Yeah. About our civilization too.
A: True, and I don’t think that actually Catholic church in general was intended to sing.
V: Didn’t think that parishioners were encouraged to sing over the ages?
A: Yes, because mass in a native tongue was only held after the Vatican 2nd Counsel, and that wasn’t so far back. And before that what? There were psalms, Gregorian Chant, but they were intended only for clergy.
A: And clergy assistants.
V: And choir.
A: Yes. And cantor organist, whoever helped priest to read the service. And in Lithuania for example, we had this strong folk tradition of some folk hymns that people knew by heart and we sang them well, especially elderly women, as I remember them from my childhood. But now this tradition is dying. All those elderly ladies are already pretty much gone.
V: So the songs, these songs, were probably older than Vatican too.
A: Yes. I believe they were older. And I don’t think that they sang before, in a mass itself. Maybe before mass or after mass.
V: Mmm-hmm. Like devotional practice.
A: Yes. That’s right. So especially in the months, for example, like a May, which is…
A: Dedicated to Holy Mary.
A: So we had special songs for Holy Mary and sang them entire month, I think at the end of each day. And I know that there were gatherings started in church but in peoples houses, were, let’s say entire village would gather in the house and they would sing these sacred songs.
V: Mmm-hmm. On Saturdays maybe.
A: I know that it would be in the evenings after all the work was done.
V: Yeah. In May, they would call it something like, May services. But then in peoples houses, not in, not necessarily in the church. But today, it’s more like in the church, at the end of each mass, during the month of May. And I could say the same thing about the month of June, dedicated to the heart of Jesus.
A: That’s right. Sacred Heart of Jesus. And then of course, November for All Saints and the Eternal Church.
V: And October for the month of rosary, probably.
A: So we have all these occasions to gather together and to sing, but now I think all these old traditions are dying.
A: When I was a little, somewhere around 1985—I still remember—at one place visiting my grandparents, during the month of May. It was probably end of my primary school, you know, students in primary school had earlier vacations, recess, right? Their school year ended, would end earlier than other people, other older students. So my mom would take me to her parents village earlier then in the summer. So I still remember during that time, one particular May service held in our place, around 1985, where neighbors gathered together, and mostly elderly people, but not necessarily all were old, but some were middle aged, but younger people were playing outside, like myself, for example. And afterwards they were talking and chatting. It was a nice tradition which was very active before Second World War, I would say—independent Lithuania tine. And the people would dance after, even after those services, right? Your parents should remember this too.
A: Well, how could we remember what was in between two world wars if we were born after that?
V: Ah, right.
A: So you are really funny. My grandparents might remember that but they are dead already so I can’t ask them. But anyway, nowadays, people sing less and less and that because of the technology. They don’t have that need to sing.
V: Because technology entertains them very well. With the stroke of the finger, you can scroll the screen and find entertainment all day long, and all night long.
A: I know. And like earlier, at least you had to have like, CD or vanilla…
A: Vinyl, yes.
A: Or something. And now you don’t need that anymore. You just need to have your phone and that’s it. And you can be entertained at any moment to find any song that you want and to think about those programs that can identify any music for you, if you play it to that program.
V: For example, when two musicians are in the family like we, can we entertain ourselves more than other people?
A: Of course, I think. But, do we do it?
V: Yes. We play organ together. This is sort of entertainment too.
A: But it’s also our profession.
V: It’s even better, right? You get paid to do what you love!
A: That’s right. But anyway, I was surprised how well equipped Polish churches are...
V: Uh-huh, with screen and projectors.
A: Yes, I know. You wouldn’t find that in Lithuania.
A: That would be more like an exception, but not a rule. And, well…
V: The best people have, is probably numbers on the board of hymns, that they could then search in hymnals.
A: I wonder how Lutheran churches are doing [in] English tradition, that had stronger support of congregational singing through ages. Are they still singing?
V: When we were in America, we had also numbers.
A: And hymnals. People had hymnals.
V: Yes. I once visited our Lutheran church, and saw numbers too—not too long ago.
A: But I wonder if we are singing during service—every member of congregation.
V: Ah. We need to go.
A: We need to go and check.
V: Yes. We need to go to Lutheran services in Lithuania too. Alright! So, guys, maybe you could also send us some feedback about your place. What, or how strongly people are singing in your country, and how is it varying from denomination to denomination. That would be interesting to know, right?
A: True. And do you yourself think it’s important for congregation to sing, or not?
V: Alright guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember; when you practice...
A: Miracles happen!
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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