One of my pet hates in visiting other Catholic Churches is when there is no musical accompaniment and hymns and parts of the Mass are sung unaccompanied (usually led by the priest). On a positive note, I see no reason why this can’t be done and done inspiringly but there are two inevitable problems which seem to always occur and spoil things. Both could be easily overcome . . . .
- No introduction is ever given. The person leading the singing just starts, and people join in when and if they feel like it as the first verse progresses. The result is untidy and unconfident singing, and the longer you delay joining in the harder it gets and the more you have to endure listening to a very ‘amateurish’ start. When there is musical accompaniment, there is invariably an introduction given, which sets the pace, style and pitch. So why cannot the person leading just sing over the first phrase on his/her own before the hymn starts. The introduction needn’t be too long, but just long enough for the words to make sense on their own, and to enable everyone to feel confident in starting together and singing well together as a congregation.
- Pitch is invariably a disaster. The person leading’s ‘guess’ is usually far too low. You are then left with the choice of not even attempting to sing the ‘low’ bits (and enduring the ‘growling’ noises from the rest of the congregation) or joining in these strange noises yourself. It isn’t difficult to train someone to give a starting note to the person leading. This could be from something as simple as a child’s xylophone, a descant recorder, or a short ‘roll up’ piano.
So what do you think? Am I alone in my views that these two factors usually ‘wreck’ unaccompanied singing? And I would argue strongly that if music is not led to a certain standard, it would be best omitted.