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I'm kind of torn by that kind of thinking. Poor preaching and shoddy liturgy are issues, to be sure, but I am not sure what to do about the music. I've visited megachurches with professional musicians and they are nice, but not really where I would choose to put my stewardship dollars. I have also had talks with people who are completely put off by my parish's mediocre sound system to the point where they don't want to attend. It is an okay sound system, but you wouldn't mistake it for a music hall. Again, it would be nice in a world with limitless funds but I have trouble making it make-or-break priority.

There are many ways to attack a music problem, and there are many considerations that are involved here.

>> 1. The distinction between "professional" and "amateur" is not particularly relevant since it refers only to payment for performing. Most parishes have members who are capable amateur musicians who would be willing to volunteer a couple hours per week to rehearse as a small ensemble that provides music for a particular masses on Sundays and major holy days. Conversely, I have encountered many parishes with professional organists who were extremely poor musicians -- the kind who make the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony sound like a funeral dirge. There's also tremendous value in having liturgical musicians who are believers and members of the parish community entering into the spirit of its worship rather than non-beleivers playing only for their own financial gain.

Of course, this does not exclude the possibility of a parish retaining a professional organist and a professional soloist for weddings, funerals, and other services of a similar nature. The church most assuredly should pay those engaged in full-time ministry in a manner that allows them to maintain a decent standard of living and to provide for their families.

>> 2. In many cases where there's a problem with music, the problem rests with selection of music that it is not within the musical competence of the musicians or the congregation. Of particular note, I have seen instances where some parishes have tried to use the same music at every mass on a particular Sunday even though each mass has a different music ministry. Invariably there are some selections that suit the talents, abilities, and blend of instruments of one music ministry but not another. It is ofen better, in such situations, to allow each music ministry to select music for its masses.

>> 3. It's also amazing what the music leaders habitually taking five minutes before the start of each Sunday and holy day mass to go over music that might not be familiar to the congregation can do for the quality of music during worship. This practice first sends a clear, but unspoken, communication that the members of the congregation are expected to sing, and it avoids the situation in which the members of the congregation are attempting to sing a new piece for the first time, and thus making mistakes, during the mass itself. It also affords an opportunity to correct any "rough spots" where the congregation does not sing a part correctly and even to teach the congregation to sing simple multipart harmonies. When done consistently, this practice gradually builds up a repertoire of music that a congregation sings well.

That said, I really think that there's no excuse for not fixing a sound system that's deficient or for doing something about bad acoustics in a building. Decent equipment is not all that expensive, and it's an investment that will last for many years. Note, also, that accoustics that distort music also distort the spoken voice, badly impairing the ability of the members of the congregation to hear and to understand the readings from scripture and the homily. If a bad sound system or bad accoustics is what is driving people away, contributions from those who come back will soon pay for the cost of correcting the problem many times over.

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