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Our readers asked:

What suggestions might you have to encourage people to sing at mass?

Julianne Wallace Answers:

Two things to keep in mind if you want a singing assembly: 1) musical repertoire and 2) musical leaders. In choosing music for Mass, we must be sure that is easy enough for the assembly to sing. If you choose a piece that is technically challenging, then the assembly is more likely to listen rather than participate. One great way to get an assembly singing is to do dialogical, or call and response, music. Dialogical singing involves a cantor or choir singing a phrase and then the assembly singing another phrase in response to the cantor/choir. Dialogical music invites the assembly to join in the singing and places some responsibility on the assembly to keep the song going. Hymnody is another great way to get assemblies singing because people always tend to sing familiar hymns (and sometimes they even join in on some harmonies!). Finally, teaching the assembly before Mass (even if it’s a piece the assembly already knows) is a simple way to invite the assembly into song. Now, let’s examine the Musical Leadership at Mass. This is possibly the more difficult factor to control, because often we have choirs and cantors that tend to dominate the music than lead the music. Music Ministers are called to invite the assembly into the song and encourage assembly singing whenever possible. They are not called to be the musical entertainers during worship. One simple tip: I often tell cantors that once they have started a song or psalm response, it is time to back off the microphone. For instance, if we are all singing “Amazing Grace” the cantor only needs to start the song. Then the cantor should take a step back from the microphone let the assembly sing the song themselves. When the Cantor backs away from the microphone, the assembly gets the message that this song truly is their song and it is their time to sing! If you want to explore more about assembly singing I suggest you look into John Bell’s books entitled, The Singing Thing and The Singing Thing Too. Both are available through GIA Publications.

The Author : Julianne Wallace
Julianne E. Wallace is the associate director of faith formation, worship, and ministry at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. She earned an M.T.S in Word and Worship from the Washington Theological Union in Washington, D.C. and a B.A. in Music Performance from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia. Julianne is passionate about sharing the joy of liturgy with others and helping everyone to worship well.
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