Music Ministry

Rev. James Dvorscak has served as a church musician since 1962. He has a degree in music from Saint Joseph College in Rensselaer, and is a classical organist. In his retirement, he is available as a substitute organist, and has a more traditional style of church music. Please contact him at CatholicChristianOne@gmail.com. For more information, here are some of his thoughts about church music.

Music is the servant of the liturgy, not the master or it. As such, the music may never delay or interrupt the liturgical action. Musicians should face the altar, not the congregation, as their focal point. The role of the musicians is to enable the congregation to participate in the liturgy to the fullest extent possible. Above all, liturgical music is sung prayer, and those who sing well, pray twice.

The Ordinary of the Mass belongs to the congregation. This includes the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen, and Agnus Dei. This music is sung in its entirety, and should only be changed seasonally, so as to promote full congregational participation in this core Mass music. For special occasions, other parts of the Mass should be sung, such as the Lord’s Prayer and its conclusion.

The Responsorial Psalm is a meditative interlude. As a dialogue between the cantor and the congregation, its texts are taken directly from the Lectionary as a continuing proclamation of the Word of the Lord. The Gospel Acclamation fulfills a similar role, leading up to the proclamation of the Gospel as the high point of the Liturgy of the Word.

The Four Hymns are all processional in nature. They are designed to provide cover music for a specific liturgical action. Once that liturgical action has taken place, the music should conclude shortly thereafter. The entrance hymn concludes when the priest reverences the altar. The offertory hymn concludes when the gifts are brought to the altar, or there may just be instrumental music. The Communion hymn begins when the priest receives Communion, and concludes when the priest is ready for the Post-Communion prayer. There is no such thing as a meditation hymn after Communion, especially not one in which the musicians perform for the congregation. Although the Roman Missal does not mention a closing hymn, something may be sung as the priest leaves the altar, but the Mass has already ended, and we should go forth in peace. As such, the congregation may process out of church during the closing hymn and not necessarily wait for it to be finished.

Incidental Music is also important. Before Mass starts, meditative music is quite appropriate to set a mood for worship. Music should also fill any gaps in the liturgical action as well. For example, if an offertory hymn has concluded, but the priest has not yet washed his hands, filler music should cover this silence. After the Mass has ended, an instrumental postlude is also appropriate. People should be trained to used the narthex for their conversations, and let the worship space remain a place of prayer before and after the liturgy.