For reasons unknown to me, God places the oddest people into my life. I suspect it’s to teach me something or have me grow in a specific direction from meeting them. Two years ago I was asked by the Knight’s of Columbus to play for their annual mass on Memorial day, to honor our servicemen
The plunge into In Ear Monitors
I present to you the worlds greatest tool for a musician… Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend… In seventeen years of music ministry, my experience has been that music teams either rehearse on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, or just before mass on Sunday. What did you
I am old fashioned. I was raised in the old school. Thanks be to God. I will say in advance that this blog is dedicated to music ministry, with the occasional tale of my training for running and triathalon events. However, it is also my voice to the world, and I have something to say
Here is the setlist of songs the band and I used on the St. Brigid Confirmation Retreat “Emmaus”. If these songs led you into prayer, I encourage you to pick them up at iTunes and continue praying them over the next several weeks. The band and I were blessed to be with you at Covecrest.
God is doing amazing things in my life. As I sit at my kitchen table this morning staring out into the green space around my house, I am completely humbled, grateful, wow’ed, and in awe of everything that has happened over the last few weeks.
On Friday, I had the privilege of leading worship with a great team for the healing service at the Eucharistic Congress. It was a time of tremendous grace as we gathered for mass and anticipation of receiving the Lord and all that He had prepared for us. In my own life I have recently received a great deal of healing from the Lord, both physically and emotionally. On the retreat day we had in preparation for the congress, I received healing for an injury I’ve been carrying since I fell down my stairs in December. There’s a tweak every now and then, but I am almost completely rid of that pain now. I also received a great deal of peace and healing over an emotional wound I have been carrying for many years. The Lord healed a memory. The memory isn’t gone, but I know that He has taken it from me, and I am finally at peace with it. Praise You, Jesus.
On Saturday, we woke early after the late night we had Friday and motored towards Atlanta for the #LIFT Conference being hosted by Passion City Church @ 515. This was my second time at the conference, but my first time attending at the new church home of 515. Our experience began in the parking lot, where 20+ people were smiling and greeting us as their orange parking guides moved us into our space from the day. More smiling faces held the door open for us as we walked into the church for registration.
The conference began with a peaceful and powerful acoustic worship time. After the main sessions and breakouts, we returned from dinner to the evening worship session where they were recording Matt Redman’s new album. Recording a national release in these circumstances would imply that the focus would be on the quality of the recording. What we found there was that the focus remained on the worship of Jesus Christ. So much so, that during the worship program, Louie Giglio stepped out to share a prophetic vision of healing for someone in the gathering. Imagine changing the flow of worship during this “recording session” to bring those words to faithful that were gathered there. Grace was abundant and overflowing into the community.
Sunday morning I was back home at Holy Trinity. There’s no place like home! After the mass celebrations in my parish, I packed up and headed over to Mercy High School to lead music for the Catholic Heart Workcamp being hosted in Atlanta. I’ll be leading worship there throughout the week. It is an amazing evangelization experience for young people to gather from all over the country, and work in service to people in need throughout the local community.
My heart is overflowing in gratitude for all the God continues to do in my life. So grateful to be in His presence, and for the amazing things that He continues to do.
God is faithful. God is good.
Title: Summer Youth Palooza
Location: Holy Trinity Catholic Church
Description: South Side Youth Rally with Fr. Leo Patalinghug!
Start Time: 13:00
End Time: 20:00
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend Matthew Kelly’s “Passion & Purpose”. Truthfully, the event was held at Holy Trinity, so I was there taking care of the tech needs. Otherwise, I may have taken the opportunity to rest on that Saturday morning. I am so glad I was there.
One of the quotes that Matthew used during the day is one of my favorites, from Saint Catherine of Siena. “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire“.
So, why mention that here? Because being our authentic self isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially in music ministry. It’s easy for people to compare us to their favorite worship leaders. From our eyes, we see the success of people like Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Ed Bolduc, Jackie Francois, Ike Ndolo, etc, and we think that by aiming our ministry at what they are doing or what they have done will bring us the same results. Imitating someone that has found success in a field is a way to start down the path, because certainly they have found a few best practices and jumped over some pitfalls. We can all learn a great deal from one another as we journey in worship and liturgical leadership.
So here it is…All of the artists I named above, and countless others, have gifts that given to them by God for their specific journey and message. Now, here’s the awesome thing. So do you. So do I. We have gifts that were given specifically to US to go and build the Kingdom for our parishes, congregations, and the people in our ministry reach.
Be the authentic original God created you to be (The Masterpiece), not a cheap copy of someone else. That is what the world needs. More artists being themselves, and using their gifts to build His Kingdom. After all, the Lord called us to where we are, right? So lets use our gifts, and be ourselves. Let us set the world on fire. Amen.
Be part of the discussion. What unique gifts did God give you?
Let’s face it, the vast majority of Catholic churches weren’t designed for the acoustical needs of a contemporary music group. In truth, the acoustics in most Catholic churches are less than stellar, even for chant and spoken word. Many of our worship spaces are built with hard surfaces like marble, glass, and wood that add to the reverberation of sound in the space. It can be argued that a reverberant room can “assist in encouraging sustained singing of the faithful”, but this most often brings with it a sacrifice of clarity in spoken Word. All around, a tough problem to deal with.
At my home parish of Holy Trinity, we have recently completed a sound system installation, done in 3 phases, over the last 12 months. The speaker choices and placement have given us great results for clarity of spoken word and musical reproduction. After all the hardware went into the space, we had just one more wall to climb over. The WALL of SOUND coming from the music ministry area.
Our church is very reverberant, and the physical location of our music teams amplifies our problems with the acoustics in the room. (deliberate play on words). Our area for music ministry would easily approach the high 90 decibel range, which is way too loud for Mass. In addition, the acoustic drums and guitar amps added so much energy that it was impossible to get a good blend of the vocals. If you can’t make out the words of a song used in liturgy, you’re doing it wrong. All of these things were literally and figuratively causing headaches, so we took a risk and tried something new…
At a rehearsal one night, I made the decision to turn off all the amplifiers and we moved the electronic drum set we use in our rehearsal space into the church. Next, we turned off all the monitors (our team has been transitioning to an in ear monitoring solution over the last few months as budget has allowed). We shut off the guitar and bass amps and plugged them in using direct boxes (DI’s). Then, what happened next, was amazing…
We played one of the worship songs from our rehearsal time, and the audio coming from the main speakers was crystal clear. Pristine. You could hear every word, every note on the guitars, every detail. We haven’t looked back since. Here are some of the Pro’s and Con’s that we have found with this model.
- Complete control of the overall volume of the mass.
- Easier mixing
- The vocals can hear one another and blend. Ahhh.
- You can hear everything
- One of our musicians in the parish was attending mass in the pews, and noted that it was odd to be sitting with the music ministry towards his right side, but having all the sound coming from his left. (He was sitting between the band and the speaker array). To fill in some void. I have a 12″ speaker in the music ministry area that I use to send an aux mix into. While this may sound defeating of what we were trying to accomplish, it seems to give the corner where we are setup a natural sound.
- Musicians, like anyone else, respond to ‘feeling’ the air moving around acoustic drums, bass amps, and electric guitars. Playing in a quiet environment can really cause a musician to question whether what they are playing is translating well. Not having the wave of sound around can even lead to uninspired playing. It is critical to get your ear mix right so you’re comfortable.
- There is a little time delay between the notes we play and sing, and what we hear coming out of the main speaker array. Without using our in ears, it can be tough to lock in a tempo.
There’s no doubt that I love the ‘feel’ of live music, especially with the congregation singing God’s praises. Going direct has been an adjustment, but it has definitely served our parish better than the Wall of Sound we had before.
Share your experiences with managing monitor and band volume…
How do you invite and welcome new members into the music ministry at your church?
Props to my good friend, and confirmation ninja @ecbuergler for aiming me at this video…
I read Seth Godin’s blog daily. He is a great marketer, but also an instigator, button pusher, and box poker. So how does this relate to music ministry?
It can be easy to phone it in. Play the same list of pocket songs that you know by heart. If our reasons for choosing songs is familiarity for the assembly, then that is a good thing. If we are choosing songs that are familiar because we don’t have the time, drive, or skill to adapt less familiar songs to our music groups or assemblies, then that needs some examination on why we are there.
All this being said, I do occasionally have big events to manage on either side of a weekend liturgy plan. Best way to avoid getting stuck with a need for “go to” songs…
- If you’re planned a month in advance, you have plenty of time to learn any newer material, and so will your ministry team.
- If you serve at youth night at your parish, that’s a great time to introduce the new songs to the teens and get them familiar with the tunes. If they already know it by the time you introduce it at mass, you have a choir singing in the pews.
- If time prohibits getting the entire song nailed down during rehearsals, you can introduce the chorus before mass, or if it’s appropriate, pray the chorus as a second communion song. Again, only if it’s appropriate for that part of the mass.
We have to do more than show up.
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” – John Wooden
The three things that knock me off my game and take my head away from being in a place to lead worship are
- Running late (Being irresponsible)
- Not having charts ready (Being Unprepared)
- Having sound issues
Really?! When I was in the Marine Corps, I learned a valuable habit (the hard way) that has served me well in my life. To this day, I lay out my clothes for the following day before I call it a night. In the same way, I make sure that my gear is put together, ready to use, and staged to go out the door the day before.
I eliminate the causes for me to run late, and in doing so, get out of my own way so that I can be relaxed and ready to pray music.
Perhaps running late doesn’t bother you, but I can assure you that it bothers other people. I have found that when I am running late, it makes a statement to others that whatever I was doing and causing me to run late is more important than the other persons time.
If the leader is late, the others are sure to follow.
Not Having Charts Ready
Picture it, you show up to rehearsal before mass and go through the hymns for the week. Perfect, all is ready.
Mass begins. After you sing the Kyrie, you calmly turn the page to begin the Gloria and… it isn’t there. Surprise. It isn’t there because you took it out to make an illegal photocopy of it at Tuesday night rehearsal because your oboist (or whatever you call a musician that plays one of those things is called) didn’t print his charts out of planning center. Well, certainly your copy is around somewhere?! Perhaps it’s behind your 4″ binder on your security blanket. Too late now, because Father Pastor has already realized it’s been more than a 5 second pause and is now looking in your direction to see what the delay is.
What now? Wing it? Nah, we’re still just getting used to the new missal translation. Sounds like a bad option.
Turn and ask the Oboist to lead it, since after all, they started this disaster? Can you imagine a congregation singing to the solo instrument part, after the 9 measure rest? Not so much.
Father Pastor bails you out and begins reciting it. You’re bound to make a great recovery and be able to pray the rest of mass.
Having charts ready means they are in order, that they have whatever notes you need to lead (or follow) and execute the music you have prepared well.
- Lay your stuff out the night before.
- Show up early and get setup in a relaxed atmosphere. This will enable you to greet all the people in your group in a calm and welcoming tone.
- Have one set of extra charts made up so that when Chuck the flugelhornist needs something, you can calmly hand him what he needs without interfering with your own setup.
Greet your people, pray the music. Breathe in Jesus. Amen.
So here we are at the beginning of a new year, and a new liturgical year (which began the first week of Advent). I’m sure this blog finds you steadfast in your resolutions for better health, tighter relationships, and more balance!
A new year is a great time to welcome people to participate in music ministry, and re-set what your expectations are of your teams. Conversely, it’s a great time to refresh people on what they can expect of YOU this year as a leader in ministry. Here’s another blog post I wrote on expectations that you can reference.
We have added several people to our music ministry at Holy Trinity, and each person tends to ask the same questions with regards to serving…
- When is practice?
- Is there a dress code?
- What would you like for your birthday? (ok, they don’t really ask that)
So, to save myself some work and prevent any miscommunication…I created a PDF called “Holy Trinity FAQ”, which you can look at HERE Music Ministry FAQ. I’ll also share it as a template for you to use and customize (it’s a Word doc) HERE Music Ministry.
What expectations do you have of your music ministry teams, and how do you lead to those expectations? Until next time, Greg