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The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

February 28, 2012

Organist fees: is this Paradise?

evelyn @ 2:59 pm

UPDATED 7 JUNE 2019 – Fees: just checking

I’m busy updating the Music for the New Mass page, and while mending the broken Irish link, I discovered, to my utter and complete amazement, this:

The Irish Catholic Church’s guidelines for payment of their church musicians.

And just look at them:

  • Annual salaries ranging from approx £3500 to £6750 (by my very rough calculation)
  • Wedding fees (basic) £170
  • Funerals £93.  If previous evening included, £135  (and they’ve informed the Irish undertakers)
  • The only area that even approaches my Scottish experience is the deputy fee: £58

OK, I’m no mathematician and euro/pound rates are changing all the time.  But even the most accurate figures must show that the average parish organist in Scotland is absolutely nowhere near this league, though doing the same job.  His or her salary is only too frequently zero, rien, nada, zilch.  Or just possibly a box of chocolates at Christmas – if you’re lucky.

But there’s more.  Look at some of the Irish recommendations:

  • They distinguish between amateur and professional musicians.  The latter should be paid more.
  • If an organist does not wish to be paid, the church should be aware that this is exceptional, and
    “in such cases the parish should pay the appropriate level of fee into a separate fund as, when the present musician leaves, it is probable that the successor will have to be paid.”
  • Where a position is shared by two people, each musician should receive 75% [not 50%, note!] of the fee.
  • If a wedding couple bring their own organist, the church organist should still receive a fee.
  • Expenses should be paid on top of fees.
  • There can be contract arrangements.

All in all, this set of rules is very similar to that of the Church of Scotland and other Protestant denominations.  And of course salaried organists in all churches have real responsibilities written into their contracts, and they can be sacked.

Even so, the gap between nothing at all and these Irish figures is so wide that there would be plenty of room for intermediate levels.  This may even be happening in Ireland; their guidelines are only guidelines.  But out of all this comes one definite statement that has been made by the Irish Church authorities to all their parishes: church musicians should be paid.  Or as the guidelines put it, “it is essential that the value of music in the worship of the Church and the musicians’ training, skill and commitment are realistically recognised in monetary terms.

And by the by, I nipped over to the English Bishops’ website to see what their attitude was, and – would you believe it? – they give a link to the Irish guidelines!    (Or at least, they try to – it’s broken.)



  1. This is great news indeed. It’s about time. The RC church isn’t exactly impoverished. 🙂

    Comment by Paul morrison — March 4, 2012 @ 3:21 pm

  2. Indeed, Paul, but we don’t yet have the formal acknowledgement in place in Scotland (assuming you’re in Scotland). Someone once said to me ‘What’s given for nothing is valued at nothing’, and that is so true when it comes to organists.

    Comment by evelyn — March 4, 2012 @ 4:11 pm

  3. Hi Evelyn, yeah I am in Scotland.. I’m the same paul who left the RC church as a teenager because the didn’t buy me an Easter egg…. lol

    I have to say tho, that I’m not convinced musicians in a nearby cathedral are paid for what they do… Just a hunch… 😉

    Comment by Paul morrison — March 4, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

  4. Yes, I remember you commenting about that. There aren’t many youngsters showing an interest in playing the church organ, and when one turns up they should be encouraged, not the reverse.

    Cathedrals are usually different – certainly the one or two I know of do pay reasonably well. The playing-for-nothing in my experience mainly happens in the parishes. Another Catholic organist I know left his church (though remaining a Catholic) to play for the Church of Scotland because he needed the money. When he announced this, his priest immediately offered to pay him – but it was too late.

    Comment by evelyn — March 5, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

  5. Yeah, I may be wrong about the cathedral … I haven’t been nosey enough to ask yet… But I will.

    I’m just wondering if pressure will be applied to those people currently unpaid to remain unpaid… If the Irish scheme comes here.

    I hope not.

    Comment by Paul morrison — March 5, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

  6. The Irish scheme has been going for some years. England seems to want to go along with it, but Scotland is independent, as far as the Church is concerned, and shows no signs of following suit. Not yet, anyway. And even in Ireland, the guidelines are only recommendations. But let’s live in hope ,,,

    Comment by evelyn — March 5, 2012 @ 8:49 pm

  7. Amen. 🙂

    I have noticed RC parishes advertising paid positions both in Ireland and in England before. Let’s hope all this ‘complicated’ music that is coming along will force the hands of the Scottish Church too. Haha

    Comment by Paul — March 5, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

  8. A survey on fees by the ISM

    Comment by Bruce Fletcher — June 3, 2013 @ 11:45 am

  9. Thanks, Bruce. Very interesting. See latest post (10 June).

    Comment by evelyn — June 10, 2013 @ 12:04 pm

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