I usually play piano on the Wednesday Service in University of Hartford Catholic Campus Ministry. From my personal experience, I think the most important thing before get ready to play piano/organ in the church, is to familiar with the order of the mass. The pianists/organists needs to know when is the proper time to play also with the right music.
Here is the order of Roman Catholic Mass:
- First Reading & Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading & Gospel
- Profession of Faith
- The Liturgy of the Eucharist
- Holy, Holy, Holy (Eucharistic Acclamation)
- Memorial Acclamation
- Great Amen
- The Lord’s Prayer
- Sign of Peace
- Lamb of God (Agnus Dei)
Before the mass service, I will work with the music ministry to select the music I will play for today’s mass. I often play four hymns: 1. Opening Hymn 2. Preparation Hymn 3. Communion Hymn 4. Closing Hymn. Opening Hymn is before Greeting, Preparation hymn is before the Liturgy of the Eucharist, Communion Hymn is a part of Agnus Dei, and the Closing Hymn is the end of the mass.
The second important tip is make the music adjust with the progression of the mass. Sometimes the timing is not that precise, I need to watch the Father’s behavior. If he is still doing something, I need to repeat the phrase to let the music keep moving; If I see he will ends, I will be prepared to play the cadence to end the music. I have been practicing in this way for a long time to be perfect:)
Music makes the service better.
I have been a church musician for 13 years starting as a cantor/chorister and for the past 5 years I’ve been the music director at my current church. We are a small operation, I am the cantor and organist and hire professionals for holidays and special services. I play 3 masses every weekend as well as special Catholic feast days, weddings, and funerals. I find that selecting scripturally fitting repertoire is a key component of being a conscientious church musician/music minister. Having a knowledge of hymns and sacred pieces and cross-referencing your selections with scriptural passages for that week’s service or religious season (lent, advent) is very important. I have primary experience in the Catholic church and use the following resources weekly.
- https://www.giamusic.com/store/hymnals-worship (I have many donated copies of these at my church, far more than we need. If anyone is interested in having a hymnal for your library please let me know!)
- https://www.ocp.org/en-us/collections/dg/71/respond-and-acclaim In a Catholic mass there is a Psalm (different for every day of the year) and a Gospel Acclamation (a short phrase taken from the readings of that day sung after the Alleluia). These change every week and are set in many different ways, I use this resource just because it is user-friendly and organized.
- https://www.ccwatershed.org/ This is another great resource for service music like psalms, chants, hymns, and antiphons. They are constantly adding new resources.
- I also consult the Lectionary and Missal especially for Advent and the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil) as these days are different from the usual mass.
- I am always searching for new resources and like to incorporate a good mix of classical sacred music, traditional hymns, and contemporary Christian music into my services. I have attached the sheet music packets I will be using this weekend for the Triduum if anyone is interested in seeing the outline and programming. Good Friday Packet 2023.pdf Easter Vigil 2023 Packet UPDATED.pdf Easter Sunday 2023.pdf
- And a clip of Bach BWV 4:II Den Tod niemand zwingen kunnt from Christ lag in Todes Banden from our Good Friday service.
When we gather to worship God, we do so as His covenantal people. God has bound us to Himself through the saving work of His Son. The Bible attests to this covenant and can be seen as a continual dialogue between God and His covenant people. God speaks and His children respond. It is out of this principle that we structure our worship service as a conversation of sorts. It usually contains two main parts, the praise (Christian music) and the sermon, with periodically the Lord’s Supper. Usually, service music included hymns and motets.
Hymn playing on the church organ is the most important role of a church organist because, for many people, singing hymns is the most enjoyable part of the church service.
Importance of bass pedals
Gathering notes and timed rests – intervals between the verses
A timed interval between each verse allows the congregation to take a breath or two and know exactly when to start singing the next verse. Each interval should be the same amount of beats.
Simplify the music In this case, it is quite OK to simplify the music you are playing. Sometimes however, by simplifying, you can make your music even more difficult to play. Perhaps you are changing what you already had begun to learn, or maybe it’s the time it takes to prepare the music rather than the difficulty, so changes made should be done with care.
Registration – The Stops Registration is an important consideration when playing hymns.
Use at least three different registrations or sound settings and make each one available at the pull or change of just one stop. You don’t want to be pulling and pushing too much in the middle of verses!
These can also be soft, medium and loud settings which reflect the meaning of the hymn’s words.
Phrasing – don’t forget to take a breath Phrasing is also a consideration when playing hymns. Leave gaps where the commas come in the words to encourage the choir and congregation to breathe in the right places.
Remember, the congregation is following you and they’ll soon catch up if you leave them behind!
Tempo Control the tempo – we generally try to play the more difficult passages faster without realising (it’s called panic!) – making them even more difficult to play! Being aware of this can help.
As an organ scholar, my role will be to provide music during the service, including preludes, postludes, hymns, and other liturgical music. I work closely with our music director and other Organists,also the priest or minister to help them select appropriate music for each service and ensure that the music supports the overall theme or message of the service. In addition, I support our Wednesday night choir rehearsals to help our music director creat more balanced sound with choir for Our Sunday service.
Throughout my almost one year as an organ scholar, I had the opportunity to experience the richness of Episcopal worship and to contribute to the spiritual life of the congregation through the service music. I also had the opportunity to learn from experienced musicians and to deepen my own understanding of the role of music in Christian worship.
The Episcopal Church has a rich tradition of music that is incorporated into its liturgy and worship services. The program for Episcopal music order typically includes a variety of musical genres, from traditional hymns to contemporary songs and anthems. The music program is designed to support the overall theme of the service and to enhance the spiritual experience of worship for the congregation.
The Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer provides the liturgy for each service, and the music program typically includes music that complements the readings and prayers of the liturgy. The hymns and other musical selections may be drawn from a variety of sources, including the Episcopal hymnal, other Christian hymnals, and contemporary Christian music.
In addition to hymns and anthems, the music program may also include instrumental music, such as organ preludes and postludes, as well as choral and instrumental solos. The Episcopal Church also has a long tradition of choral music, and many churches have choirs that perform during worship services.