This week’s column will summarize the feedback that the parish survey yielded regarding music.  Music often tends to attract the most comments and impassioned responses when people talk about liturgy, and our parish survey was no exception!  Jessica and I are very grateful that so many people offered honest and constructive comments in this section.  Here’s a summary of your answers.  (Answers were on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being Strongly Disagree and 5 being Strongly Agree.)

  • Our cantors are well-prepared and do an effective job leading the congregation in song: 3.9
  • Our musicians (piano, organ, choir) are well prepared and do an effective job leading the congregation in song:  3.9
  • I like the hymns we sing at Mass: 3.3
  • I am able to sing along with most of the songs and responses we use at Mass: 3.7
  • Most people around me sing at Mass: 3.0
  • I can hear and understand the music clearly: 3.9
  • Cantors are easy to hear when they are singing in the front of the church (the ambo and cantor stand): 4.1
  • Cantors are easy to hear when they are singing from the choir loft: 3.7
  • The two antiphons sung at Mass (one before the opening hymn and one before Communion) add to the liturgy:  3.4
  • The choir adds to the beauty of the liturgy: 4.0
  • Overall, the music at Christ the King helps me to pray better during Mass: 3.4

The most frequent comments suggested that the music overall has too somber of a feel (88 comments to this effect), whether due to the selection of songs or the tempo at which they are played.  The other most frequent comment (made by 83 people) regarded the song selection specifically.  While people expressed preferences for a wide variety of musical styles, the common thread among these comments was that people found many of the hymns unfamiliar or otherwise difficult to sing along with.  Here are the other comments that were made by many folks in the survey:

  • Favorable comments about the music (43)
  • General/non-specific negative comments about the music (34)
  • The organ is too loud (29)
  • Complaints about the antiphons (25)
  • Some cantors are too loud (16)
  • Issues of synchronization between cantor and accompanist (12)
  • Complaints about the Gloria used during Ordinary Time (11)
  • Suggestions to add different instruments (10)
  • Requests for a Mass with no music (10)
  • Favorable comments about the antiphons (8)
  • Requests to sing fewer verses (5)

We will review these comments in much greater detail once Jessica returns from her leave in April, but in the meantime there are a few changes that she has already made in response to this feedback.  Specifically, we will no longer use the opening and Eucharistic antiphons, and we will change the Gloria setting that we’ve been using for Ordinary Time.  Also, we’ve gotten some anecdotal feedback from parishioners that the new organ has eliminated some of the volume issues they’d previously noticed with the organ (i.e. the new organ hasn’t been as loud or overpowering as the previous one), so hopefully this will continue to improve.

Many thanks to Jessica, David and all of the wonderful volunteers who contribute to our ministry.  It’s a tough ministry that not everyone can do, but as we have seen in this survey, it’s one that is very important to so many of our parishioners.  Know that we will continue to put a lot of energy into this critical part of our common worship.