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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

April 13, 2010

Should Catholic organists be paid?

evelyn @ 6:44 pm

A recent comment from Paul on the Funeral fees post has decided me to tackle at last the tricky but important subject of organist remuneration.  It will probably take a few posts to cover it all, and any comments turning up along the way would be very welcome.  Particularly interesting would be information about what happens in other countries, especially those where Roman Catholicism is the established religion.  So emails or comments from readers abroad (apart from Ivan, Boris and friends) would be appreciated. See Commenting at the top right of this page for how to make contact.

Some organists playing for Catholic liturgy are paid, of course, in cathedrals, major churches and the occasional smaller parish where the priest believes in paying for a skilled service. Elsewhere, an unpaid parish organist might get a ‘thank-you’ in the form of an honorarium or a box of chocolates at Christmas.  But others get nothing at all, the philosophy being that ‘this is done for the Lord’.

OK, so virtue is supposed to be its own reward, but the real importance of a ‘thank-you’ to an unpaid organist cannot be emphasised enough, as one or two comments on this blog have already signalled. The ‘doing-it-for-the-Lord’ attitude, if it means there need be no token of appreciation on this earth, is rather poor psychology. A small present in cash or kind at Christmas or Easter reaps goodwill a hundred-fold, to everyone’s benefit. If this were generally realised, fewer organists would be lost. You’ll notice that Paul, a youngster playing the organ for his parish for several years, had received absolutely nothing in appreciation, not even an Easter egg.

The next post on this subject will look at just why the organist’s job is so special, and eventually we’ll consider the question of real payment.

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