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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

September 1, 2020

The Catholic organist’s new normal

evelyn @ 3:17 pm

I once posted a description of my organist’s routine before the start of Mass.  It included porch chat, cantor preparation, organising music for hymns and Mass parts, all working up to the moment when the bell goes, the full church rises to its feet and the first hymn starts.

How different is the routine now, with only a few dozen people spaced out among the pews.  No gossip, no cantor, no hymns or hymn books, no Mass music, no exit voluntary.  Instead:

  • Park car, put on mask and gloves before getting out. Wave to friends in car park (smiling no use in mask), greet ushers in porch.  Up to gallery.
  • Remove mask and gloves, take out sanitiser and disinfectant wipes, wipe organ doorknob, open organ door.
  • Disinfect stops, keys, console, chair, chair lever, wind and light switches. Poor organ – never has this happened to it in the whole of its 146-year life.  Take out organ shoes and glasses.  Glasses on console.  Change shoes.
  • Take out music, what there is of it – a few quiet voluntaries and two sets of improvisation notes. Check time, don organ glasses, play voluntaries until two minutes before bell, then start improvisation no. 1 quietly, building up slowly until bell goes.  Then much stronger build-up – this is the loudest I’ll play all day, must make the most of it – until priest has passed behind altar and is ready to begin Mass. Stop.
  • After this, nothing at all until the Our Father, when I start playing improvisation no. 2 very quietly and continue until Communion. This innovation, the brainchild of our priest, was described in last week’s post.
  • Mask on, down to receive Communion (so difficult not to say ‘Amen’). Afterwards, another wipe down of everything, mask and gloves in place, and back to car, waving at friends and occasionally stopping for a muffled, socially-distanced chat.

Our other, live-streamed Mass is different again, and I have responsibilities there, too.  But that’s for another post.




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