“Be filled with the Spirit as you sing Psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making music to the Lord in your hearts, and giving thanks to God” – Ephesians 5:18-20
What is Music Ministry?
The term “Music Ministry” takes on a dual meaning within the context of the liturgy. Music serves to enhance the experience of the Eucharist and the Word in our weekly gathering, finding expression both vocally and instrumentally. Through this art form we minister to those who gather at mass in a spirit of service, promoting the active participation of the assembly – all people who gather together for the liturgy, including the liturgical ministers and the priest – in musical liturgy.
Music Ministry is not about ‘performance’ in the sense that a community or professional choir would view it. While both share a commitment to excellence, community choirs would typically prepare for a concert in which the audience is essentially an observer, whereas Music Ministry is concerned with the active integration of music into the ongoing spiritual life of the parish community and assembly. The objective of Music Ministry is to enhance the liturgical experience by encouraging and leading the gathered assembly in song, and consequently, deepening our relationship with God.
The role of the choir is primarily one of support, providing the foundation for the song of the assembly. We all form a single chorus, raising our voices in songs of praise and thanksgiving at our weekly gathering. As Pope, Benedict XVI has said:
“To sing together in chorus and to have all the choruses sing together demands that we pay attention to each other, to the composer, to the director, to the whole complex of music and culture. In this way, singing in chorus teaches us about life, about peace and about walking together.” *
In the spirit of St. Joseph’s Parish, one could add to this, “walking together” in solidarity for peace and justice in a world of mutual understanding and tolerance. The ideal and mission of our parish, calls us to be a proclaiming, welcoming, discerning and ministering community to each other as well as to those who live in the broader context of our community, especially the marginalised members of our society. This spirit, manifested through the Paschal Mystery, forms the inspirational core of the Music Ministry. By raising our voices in songs of praise, thanksgiving, peace, and justice, we bring our hearts closer to God and to the teachings of Jesus Christ in our weekly celebration.
* Comments after a concert at his summer retreat in Lorenzago di Cadore, Italy, as quoted (unofficial English translation) in Notebook, September 2007.
Who can take part and minister?
Every member of the Music Ministry is a parishioner. Our Ministry consists of new and experienced singers. Some have training, many do not – but all feel called to make a joyful noise to God. We do not require that you have any previous vocal training or choral experience. As much as our ministry is devoted to encouraging the song of the assembly, we also recognise the desirability for the choristers to develop their musical abilities. As such, our Music Director is devoted to promoting musical and liturgical education and ensemble development for all levels of experience and ministry, including those who have limited experience or who have never sung in a choir.
Participation in the Music Ministry requires a willingness to do the work necessary to be able to lead the assembly in musical prayer and liturgy. Such work includes regular attendance at rehearsals during the week and immediately prior to mass. Choir members often find that their voices and their skills grow as a result of their involvement in the choir. While many people simply choose to join the choir from the mass they most frequently attended in the past, you can also discuss with the Music Director which choir might best suit your availability, interests or skill level.
St. Joseph’s Music Ministry welcomes people of all ages from children and youth to seniors and from a broad spectrum of ability and gifts – such as those who have never sung before to those whose talents lie in playing various instruments.
While choristers bring different levels of musical skills and talent to the Music Ministry, as an ensemble and as a ministry we are called to maintain a high quality of music-making in supporting the assembly in song. Some singers may benefit from further development of their skills before joining the Music Ministry. Our Director is happy to work with you on a one-on-one basis to determine where you would best contribute and be most fulfilled within the Music Ministry, and can refer you to resources to help develop your skills if necessary.
St. Joseph’s Parish Music Ministry is fortunate to have four musical ensembles, each ministering at their respective weekend liturgy. The choirs join together as one ensemble during the Christmas Season and the Easter Triduum.
Saturday Evening 5:00pm Mass Choir:
With fewer than ten regular members, this tightly knit and disciplined ‘family’ is nonetheless increasingly able to deliver SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) harmonies. While the 5 pm choir successfully tackles works that would challenge a larger choir, their greatest strength lies in bringing ‘heart’ to every mass at which they sing. This choir rehearses every Saturday from 4:00 pm – 4:45 pm before the 5pm mass.
Sunday Morning 9:30am Mass Choir (Children’s and Family Choir):
The 9:30am choir is a multi-generational group of singers and instrumentalists. Our mission is two-fold: to support the assembly in their song; and to call forth and develop the musical talents and leadership abilities of our younger parishioners. Each Sunday, our goal is to sing out gladly! This choir rehearses at 8:45am before mass and for approximately 20 minutes after mass each Sunday.
Sunday Morning 11:30am Mass Choir:
The Sunday 11:30 am choir is a traditional SATB choir that in addition to the St. Joseph ‘canon’ of beloved hymns, also leads the assembly in singing decidedly un-traditional music. The choir sings selections from recent compositions by Canadian composers to songs from every continent, reflecting the cultural diversity of the St. Joseph community. With its more difficult repertoire comes higher expectations of commitment to practice and learning. This choir rehearses every Thursday evening from 7:30pm- 9:30pm, monthly sectionals and again on Sunday mornings beginning at 10:45am.
Sunday Evening 7:00pm (University Mass) Choir:
The University Mass Choir is comprised mainly of university students who enjoy music. We welcome all members of the community who wish to join us in our music-making. We rehearse every Sunday evening an hour before Mass, at 6:00pm, in the church.
In order to maximize the efficiency of our limited rehearsal time, choristers are expected to prepare for their respective rehearsal and liturgy during the week. The Music Director will send the music selection via email for each rehearsal at the beginning of the week. All members of the Music Ministry are encouraged to study their music prior to each rehearsal and to review their music after each rehearsal in preparation for the weekly liturgy.
Choir members are reminded that during mass, the choir is at the front of the church and microphones are turned on. Members should be aware of the following:
• Even whispers to another member might be captured in the microphones; and
• We set an example, and looking at watches, cell phones, etc. sends a negative message to the parish.
The Music Ministry requires a significant commitment of time. Each choir is a team and every member is essential in ensuring the unity and blend of the ensemble. Attendance and punctuality at each rehearsal during weekdays or prior to mass is vital to the success of our ministry. Frequent absences affect not only the individual chorister’s music-making, but also that of the entire choir and can negatively impact the prayer of the assembly and the overall quality of the liturgy. If a singer misses the presentation of new material or directions, they will, at the very least, slow the choir’s progress in the next rehearsal while they are learning missed material.
If a chorister must miss a rehearsal or mass, they must notify the Music Director in advance.
As this is a ministry to the assembly that occurs at the masses, choir members are expected to be present for mass. If choristers cannot attend and participate in mass regularly, they should reconsider whether this ministry is appropriate for them.
Attendance Policy (11:30 Choir)
If a chorister misses two Thursday evening rehearsals in a row, the chorister will be asked not to sing the following Sunday. However, if a chorister misses two rehearsals in a row, they may request to have a one-on-one rehearsal with the choir director, which would qualify the chorister to sing on Sunday despite the missed rehearsals. Choristers may miss one or two rehearsals during Christmas/Easter/Concert preparations. If a chorister misses more rehearsals, they will be required to rehearse with the Music Director on their own individual basis or withdraw from singing in the choir for the particular event.
Being on time means you are in your seat and ready to sing at the scheduled rehearsal time.
Our Music Ministry has not adopted specific attire for the choir at weekly liturgy. Our view is that the choir is an integrated part of the assembly, and as such “whatever you normally wear to Sunday mass” is our general policy, although, we may occasionally request that choristers wear, if possible, a certain ‘colour scheme’ to reflect and enhance the liturgy (e.g. black on Good Friday).
In a world of environmental stressors, many people are finding themselves hyper-sensitive to scented products. For such people, the presence of scents can mean that they cannot participate in our ministry.
Further, many singers, even those without a specific sensitivity, find that scented products can produce negative reactions that inhibit their ability to sing.
For this reason, we ask that choir members avoid the use of scented products as much as possible at mass and rehearsals. The ‘usual suspects’ when talking about scented products are:
• perfume, cologne, aftershave
• scented soaps, shower gels, some shampoos
• scented hand creams, bath powders, body lotions
While we encourage ‘good personal hygiene’ among all our choir members and do not want to make the ‘scent-free environment’ a burden to choir members, it may be useful to be aware of other potentially strongly scented products such as antiperspirants, deodorants, laundry detergents and softeners.
The Music Ministry promotes mutual respect among all of its members as well as the accompanist, the director, the presider (priest), other ministries and the assembly. We encourage each other through positive support and guidance and we respect the value that each voice brings to our sung prayer both during the liturgy and in our relationships more generally.
Any observations regarding another singer’s performance or technique may be shared with the Music Director outside of mass or rehearsals. Such comments should not be publically raised, whether during warm-up or other settings, as they may negatively impact on the singer’s confidence prior to mass. Concerns will be dealt with by the Director privately. Our desire is to make the choir itself a secure, supportive environment.
During both rehearsals and liturgy, we ask that choristers please refrain from unnecessary talking and other forms of disruptive behavior while others are singing or when the director is giving instructions. While we recognize that there is a “social” aspect to being part of the music ministry, choir rehearsal time is exclusively devoted to the task at hand—preparing properly for liturgy and performance.
During liturgy it is important to remember that as music ministers we are located at the front of the church and are visible to the rest of the assembly. Consequently, any unnecessary disruption from the choir can negatively impact the prayer of those to whom we minister as well as each other.
The Music Ministry has access to an extensive library of scores (octavos) and hymn books. All members of the Music Ministry must sign-out their music with either the choir manager, music librarian, or music director. If you lose any octavos or your hymn book you will be asked to pay for the lost item.
St. Joseph’s Music Ministry operates in accordance with copyright law. We ask that you NOT make ANY photocopies of your music. Our parish mission calls us to justice and fairness, which means that we recognize that illegally photocopying music is detrimental to the livelihoods of the composers and publishers of our music. We are also aware that such copying is illegal under Canadian law, putting both any choir member doing illegal copying and the parish at legal risk. This risk is very real; certain American dioceses were nearly bankrupt as a result of a judgement against them for their failure to respect copyright.
How to join the Music Ministry
If you would like to join our Music Ministry as either a singer or instrumentalist, please contact our Music Director (Jamie Loback) at 613-233-4095 ext. 228 on weekdays and Saturday or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or see him after one of the weekend liturgies. Jamie will meet with you and together you can discern which ensemble is best suited for your gifts and your time.
Each new choir member will be given an orientation session to the Music Ministry, its resources, as well as the parish facilities by the Music Director or Choir Manager. We serve each other as much as we serve the community. Come join us in this ministry, build new friendships, deepen your faith and help others in the mission to be “bread, broken and shared with each other”.
Our parish usually charges for parking throughout the regular work week and on Saturdays to those using our lot for personal use. Parking is, of course, free to all parishioners during regular liturgies and for parish meetings or rehearsals throughout the week. Choir members who attend the weekly Thursday evening rehearsal may add their name and license plate information to the choir parking list. This is to ensure that you do not receive a City of Ottawa fine while parking during this important parish activity.
On Sundays, parking is available in the main lot next to the church as well as behind the school (now used as a University of Ottawa building). Additional parking on Sundays is located in the University of Ottawa’s Parking Lot B, located off of Cumberland St. The lot is labeled as P (b) and you may park here until 1:30pm on Sundays free of charge. After 1:30pm your vehicle may receive a ticket from the University.
Jamie Loback holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music (specializing in piano, choral conducting, and music theory) from the University of Ottawa, where his principal teachers were Andrew Tunis, Laurence Ewashko, and Roxane Prevost. Since 2005, he has served as Director of Music at St. Joseph’s Parish, where he conducts the Church’s three choirs. In addition to his work as a liturgical musician, Jamie directs the Ottawa Catholic School Board’s Chamber Choir, an auditioned ensemble of advanced secondary school musicians from the Ottawa region. Jamie was the Children’s Chorus Master for Opera Lyra Ottawa’s summer 2012 production of Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme and will be preparing the children’s chorus for the company’s upcoming production of Bizet’s Carmen in September 2013. In December 2012, he prepared the Children’s Chorus for the Alberta Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, in collaboration with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Jamie was recently appointed Artistic Director of the celebrated Ottawa Regional Youth Choir (founded in 1982 by Barbara Clark, C.M.). In early May 2013 Jamie completed his first season with the Capital Chamber Choir (a 24-voice semi-professional ensemble) after having been appointed Artistic Director in the autumn of 2012.
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