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Thread: Catholic organist compensation

  1. #31
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear that Padster.. Hopefully they use high liturgical music and form at times to make it more then entertaining the troops so to speak.I was always lucky as my main service was always a "High Litrugical Service" with choir. Hang in there..Hopefully you have a good organ to work with too. That always makes it a plus.
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    The RC church has traditionally been at the bottom of the scale for paid organists. In one parish, I was paid by the "unit" ... one unit being a choir rehearsal, one unit being a Mass. Weddings and Funerals were always extra, and were paid by the family.

    I work in a protestant church (Lutheran ELCA) and although our membership is steadily declining, I still get between 3% and 4% raises every year. I am salaried, so my pay is not based upon the number of "units" played. We have two services year round, and choir rehearsals from early September to the end of May.

    There was a church that recently opened for a very very large RC parish here a couple months ago. I mean, they flock in over 2 thousand people each weekend for Mass (Saturday anticipated and Sunday morning). I was tempted to jump at it, as the choral director is well known locally and across the nation. Then I looked at the pay rate ... I would have had to take a $7,500 CUT in pay from what I presently earn, and that was just not acceptable. I elected to stay where I am.

    I fail to understand why the RC takes this stance. Okay, the huge parishes back East or the major Basilicas and Cathedrals probably pay better, but those jobs are few and far between because the incumbent organist will most likely remain in that lucrative position for many many years.

    Being a church organist takes lots of work behind the scenes - selection of appropriate music, practicing at odd hours of the night (due to parish use during the daytime hours), etc. There was just as much, of not more, preparation time needed on my part getting ready for Mass. The RC parish that I played in for three years did major works like the Mozart Coronation Mass, Schubert Mass, and the like. The Mozart was quite the workout for the organist as anyone here will surely attest to that.

    I am elated to have a pastor who appreciates the finer organ literature. He also appreciates my abilities to play "schmultzy" pieces (roller rink music).

    I have had several close friends who had great positions, superb organs and a growing music program, only to be dashed when the new pastor arrived to take charge. The new pastor in all cases immediately fired all the music people, put a for sale sign on the pipe organ, installed video screens and fancy theatrical lighting, discarded all the pews and installed theater seats, and change to the 'happy-clappy' worship format complete with obnoxiously [too] loud amplified guitars, soloists screaming through their microphones, people jumping and dancing on the stage (yes, the altar was even removed). Of course, membership dropped drastically and within a few years the church went bust and folded. So much for happy-clappy.

    The one thing though that I really loved about playing RC Masses, was the the entire congregation was ghostly silent during my preludes ... you could hear a pin drop it was so quiet ... but there was no opportunity to publish titles in their bulletins. It's completely the opposite in my protestant parish - I could (and have) play Yankee Doodle Dandy and most would not notice. But there are a few who really do listen - so I always publish my titles in the Sunday Bulletins, prelude, communion and postlude (offertories during the summer when the choir is off).

    I do feel very sad for those of us why play in the RC parishes. It could be, and should be, better than it presently is, but I don't see any drastic changes coming about at any time in the future. I quite agree that the $1 raise was, imho, a slap in the face ... being a member of the parish should not make any difference either. I am a member and tither of the Lutheran church where I play, and that has never been entered into the equation about 'donating' some of my time because of my membership.

    Kh ♫
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  4. #33
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Quote Originally Posted by wljmrbill View Post
    Sorry to hear that Padster.. Hopefully they use high liturgical music and form at times to make it more then entertaining the troops so to speak.I was always lucky as my main service was always a "High Litrugical Service" with choir. Hang in there..Hopefully you have a good organ to work with too. That always makes it a plus.
    They don't use 'High Liturgical Music' at all. It is basically all hymns, so I have tried to compensate by playing core repertoire such as Franck's Prelude, Fugue et Variation and I write a lot of my own stuff. This works well in the quiet atmosphere of the evening mass, but is utterly futile at the 11am. The organ loft resembles that of a social club most Sundays as people in the choir like to gossip. They are all older than me so I can't go laying the law down asking them to be quiet. I only started playing at the morning mass last year and I accept that the situation has always been like that. But am I somewhat depressed that my main outlet for expressing myself and my music is about to be extinguished by the Catholic Church's obsession with statistics and numbers. I'll just be a 'human karaoke machine' come September. I do play postludes at 11am, but really, even these are surplus to requirements as we have a recessional hymn.

    The organ I play is of the 'English Romantic' type and was built in 1890. It doesn't have a Swell pedal but rather a hitch-down ratchet. It has combination pedals, flat stop jambs and mechanical action. These days I enjoy playing it more than ever before. Though I still do not have a key to the church after 20 years as an organist there.....

    Best wishes,
    Padster

  5. #34
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Padster View Post
    They don't use 'High Liturgical Music' at all. It is basically all hymns, so I have tried to compensate by playing core repertoire such as Franck's Prelude, Fugue et Variation and I write a lot of my own stuff. This works well in the quiet atmosphere of the evening mass, but is utterly futile at the 11am. The organ loft resembles that of a social club most Sundays as people in the choir like to gossip. They are all older than me so I can't go laying the law down asking them to be quiet. I only started playing at the morning mass last year and I accept that the situation has always been like that. But am I somewhat depressed that my main outlet for expressing myself and my music is about to be extinguished by the Catholic Church's obsession with statistics and numbers. I'll just be a 'human karaoke machine' come September. I do play postludes at 11am, but really, even these are surplus to requirements as we have a recessional hymn.

    The organ I play is of the 'English Romantic' type and was built in 1890. It doesn't have a Swell pedal but rather a hitch-down ratchet. It has combination pedals, flat stop jambs and mechanical action. These days I enjoy playing it more than ever before. Though I still do not have a key to the church after 20 years as an organist there.....

    Best wishes,
    Padster
    Maybe suggest they sang the recessional hymn in place and recess to the postlude..which the National Cathedral is now doing at many services. A thought.
    Last edited by wljmrbill; Jul-19-2014 at 22:37.
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
    - Jean Langlais

    I wish you the Best for each day, now and always.

    Bill

  6. #35
    Captain of Water Music pcnd5584's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Padster View Post
    ... The organ loft resembles that of a social club most Sundays as people in the choir like to gossip. They are all older than me so I can't go laying the law down asking them to be quiet. I only started playing at the morning mass last year and I accept that the situation has always been like that.
    Yes, you can. It should be possible firmly but sensitively to make it clear to the choir members that silence and reverence is expected in the organ loft at all times during services - which would include the whole of the final voluntary. If you are the organist (and with twenty years' service), you should have some recognisable authority over the choir; you may need to request the support of your parish priest in this matter. It may not be easy, and at first you might meet with some resistance. However, the exercise of a combination of diplomacy and firmness should achieve a satisfactory outcome. If it does not, perhaps it is time to seek pastures new.

    Quote Originally Posted by Padster View Post
    The organ I play is of the 'English Romantic' type and was built in 1890. It doesn't have a Swell pedal but rather a hitch-down ratchet. It has combination pedals, flat stop jambs and mechanical action. These days I enjoy playing it more than ever before. Though I still do not have a key to the church after 20 years as an organist there.....
    Why not simply ask the priest (or whatever the Catholic equivalent of churchwardens are) for a key? Presumably after twenty years' service, you are regarded as both responsible and reliable.

    It is pleasing that at least you enjoy playing the organ in your church. Was it, by chance, built by the firm of Hill & Son?

    A thought - if you are that unhappy and you value decent music, notwithstanding the good instrument, why on earth are you playing in the Catholic church? Their music was never the same after Vatican II. There are currently several posts advertised in the Church Times for organists within the Anglican community; most of these have at least half-decent instruments - and most offer rather better musical programmes. Presumably it is the tie of your day job (or full-time career), which keeps you in a certain part of the country?
    Last edited by pcnd5584; Jul-20-2014 at 01:20.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

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  8. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by pcnd5584 View Post
    Yes, you can. It should be possible firmly but sensitively to make it clear to the choir members that silence and reverence is expected in the organ loft at all times during services - which would include the whole of the final voluntary. If you are the organist (and with twenty years' service), you should have some recognisable authority over the choir; you may need to request the support of your parish priest in this matter. It may not be easy, and at first you might meet with some resistance. However, the exercise of a combination of diplomacy and firmness should achieve a satisfactory outcome. If it does not, perhaps it is time to seek pastures new.


    I don't mind people talking over the final voluntary, but I think the atmosphere before Mass should be quiet and respectful. I feel I should take a stand on this instead of going with the flow, though I also feel that the choir (such as remains) would only accept firm leadership from an outsider, rather than a fellow parishioner like myself.

    Why not simply ask the priest (or whatever the Catholic equivalent of churchwardens are) for a key? Presumably after twenty years' service, you are regarded as both responsible and reliable.
    I did ask for a key once, but it failed to materialise.

    It is pleasing that at least you enjoy playing the organ in your church. Was it, by chance, built by the firm of Hill & Son?
    The organ was built by the Preston organ builder Henry Ainscough. With the support of our parish priest it was overhauled in 2000, perhaps for the first time in its history. It reaches its 124th birthday next month. Perhaps we'll do something special next year. I think it is possible it is due a Historic Organ Certificate from BIOS because it is unaltered.

    A thought - if you are that unhappy and you value decent music, notwithstanding the good instrument, why on earth are you playing in the Catholic church? Their music was never the same after Vatican II. There are currently several posts advertised in the Church Times for organists within the Anglican community; most of these have at least half-decent instruments - and most offer rather better musical programmes. Presumably it is the tie of your day job (or full-time career), which keeps you in a certain part of the country?


    I agree that the RC Church has trashed its musical heritage, but the 1960's did a lot of irreversible damage in many areas of life, not just in church. One only has to look at the vandalism inflicted upon Euston railway station, whose 1960's incarnation was described as "being designed on the back of a cigarette packet by someone with a vampiric loathing of daylight". However, as a former paid Organist and Choirmaster in an Anglican church for ten years, I can honestly say that the situation there was on the slide too. When I started we had canticles and anthems, but a new vicar came in and things began to change. My current problem is not a day job. My problem is that I am ill. So rather than jeopardise my PIP which I desperately need to survive, I play for free in my parish church. And believe me, with all the hoops you have to jump through to get PIP, you wouldn't want to risk losing it in any way. That is not to say that as a Catholic I am happy with the musical situation in RC churches. I am not. In fact I am appalled at times.

    Best wishes,
    Padster

  9. #37
    Captain of Water Music pcnd5584's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Padster View Post


    I don't mind people talking over the final voluntary, but I think the atmosphere before Mass should be quiet and respectful. I feel I should take a stand on this instead of going with the flow, though I also feel that the choir (such as remains) would only accept firm leadership from an outsider, rather than a fellow parishioner like myself.



    I did ask for a key once, but it failed to materialise.



    The organ was built by the Preston organ builder Henry Ainscough. With the support of our parish priest it was overhauled in 2000, perhaps for the first time in its history. It reaches its 124th birthday next month. Perhaps we'll do something special next year. I think it is possible it is due a Historic Organ Certificate from BIOS because it is unaltered.



    I agree that the RC Church has trashed its musical heritage, but the 1960's did a lot of irreversible damage in many areas of life, not just in church. One only has to look at the vandalism inflicted upon Euston railway station, whose 1960's incarnation was described as "being designed on the back of a cigarette packet by someone with a vampiric loathing of daylight". However, as a former paid Organist and Choirmaster in an Anglican church for ten years, I can honestly say that the situation there was on the slide too. When I started we had canticles and anthems, but a new vicar came in and things began to change. My current problem is not a day job. My problem is that I am ill. So rather than jeopardise my PIP which I desperately need to survive, I play for free in my parish church. And believe me, with all the hoops you have to jump through to get PIP, you wouldn't want to risk losing it in any way. That is not to say that as a Catholic I am happy with the musical situation in RC churches. I am not. In fact I am appalled at times.

    Best wishes,
    Padster
    Dear Padster,

    Thank you for your reply - and for the information contained therein.

    Do not give up on the choir - surely the fact that you are the organist (and not simply a fellow parishioner) should carry some weight? However, I agree entirely regarding quietness before the service.

    The key - ask again - politely but firmly.

    Ainscough - sounds interesting. Could you point me in the direction of a stop-list, please?

    I agree with you regarding the damage inflicted in the 1960s. Specifically the destruction of the former entrance arch to the old Euston Station. It is true that in the Anglican Church the arrival of a new and musically unsympathetic priest can do great damage. However, there are a good number of places where there is cause for encouragement and hope for the future - and I do not write this glibly.

    I am sorry to hear that you are unwell and understand entirely regarding the value of your PIP. Is there perhaps a local (or reasonably local) choir which sings choral services on an itinerant basis and which occasionally requires an organist? Failing that, what about contacting the RSCM and asking if they could use your services - perhaps for regional courses or something similar. I doubt that they would worry about which denomination you serve presently.
    Last edited by pcnd5584; Jul-22-2014 at 00:35.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Padster View Post
    . . . organ loft resembles that of a social club most Sundays as people in the choir like to gossip. They are all older than me so I can't go laying the law down asking them to be quiet.
    Yes you can, and should. That is "your time" to offer music for the Mass - and it needs to be respected.

    I had this very problem in several parishes ... I solved it by starting a piece out softly, then gradually build the registration - as I got louder, so did the din from the choir - I kept adding more stops until I was at full plenum, then I instantly and suddenly took my hands of the keyboards - by that time the choir people were yelling to each other to be heard ... and they were indeed heard, all the way to the front of the chancel. All the parishioners turned around and looked at them ... that's all it took, and the problem was solved.

    Though I still do not have a key to the church after 20 years as an organist there.....
    I agree with Sean ... ask again, nicely, but firmly. It should come with the key to the organ - just common sense imho.

    Kh ♫

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  12. #39
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Thanks for all your input. Here are the details of our organ:

    Builder: Henry Ainscough, Preston.
    Completed: August 1890

    Stoplist: Great: Open Diapason 8', Lieblich Gedackt 8', Dulciana 8', Principal 4', Fifteenth 2'. Swell: Open Diapason 8', Gamba 8', Voix Celestes 8', Oboe 8', Flauto Traverso 4' Pedal: Bourdon 16'
    Couplers: Sw to Gt, Sw to Ped, Gt to Ped

    Combination Pedals (iron 'paddles' or levers): 1: Sw to Gt, 2: Great Open Diapason (reversible), 3: Gt Lieblich & Sw Diapason, 4. Full Organ.

    Hitch down ratchet swell

    The organ has speaking pipes throughout, including the façade which carries the Great Open Diapason. The latter has an ample mouth and is used mostly as a solo stop or for crowning full organ occasionally. It should really have been labelled 'Large Open Diapason' on the drawstop in my opinion. The drawstops themselves are mechanical and are of the Cavaille Coll type. The action is tracker.

    I suppose I should be pleased that I have helped give this instrument a new lease of life. Before I became organist in the 90's, it hadn't had an overhaul since it was built. Certainly, there was no record of one, just occasional maintenance. I just wish I had started before re-ordering took place, as I would have ensured that the organ was better protected during it. Fortunately, the vandalism that took place was largely cosmetic: the organ's façade pipes (remember, they aren't dummies) were painted white in a rather slapdash manner. So too was the organ case and console. (You can perhaps see now why I get so despondent!) The façade pipes were once a rather unusual teal/aquamarine colour before the 'painter' got to work with his whitewash. They were carefully painted a Hammerite-type gold colour by the organ builder Sid Reeves of Liverpool during the overhaul in 2000 and look much better. The case remains in its whitened state though Mr Reeves was happy to take it back to down to the wood. But I am afraid an over-keen organist was too eager to get his instrument back! I have to say, in all fairness, if I hadn't complained about the state of the instrument to our parish priest it would simply have not been overhauled. This is why I like to feature the instrument in its own right with solo repertoire. The only thing I would perhaps like to add to the organ are sub and super-octave couplers for the big French toccatas, but I know it is impractical with mechanical action. I wouldn't change any of the speaking stops. They were perfectly designed for their location.

    Best wishes,
    Padster

  13. #40
    Captain of Water Music pcnd5584's Avatar
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    Thank you for this. It looks to be an interesting instrument.

    Wit regard to the extra couplers: since many French toccatas tend to lie high in the clavier tessitura, you only really need a Sub Octave coupler. This may not be as impossible as you think.
    Pierre Cochereau rocked, man.

  14. #41
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    Interesting read. At my current Congregational church, my salary for one worship service and its choral warm-up is about $190/week with 4 paid vacation weeks. Once I assume all of the duties, it will be about $265/week. My previous Catholic churches paid $320/week for three weekend Masses. Prior to that, my Methodist church in 2010 paid $125/wk for a rehearsal and service, back-to-back. As early as 2001, another Catholic church paid $450/week for three weekend Masses and provided lodging. My colleague's saying is that he does not put on a tie for less than $100. Have I been paid less than $100 per service/Mass? Not in the last 15 years, save for a Catholic church I was a candidate for (found out the offer was $40/weekend Mass and $25/daily Mass - that ended my candidacy! Some churches just don't get it.). I make my living as an adjunct college professor, organist/choir director, accompanist, conductor, piano/voice instructor, and classical and jazz pianist. Hope this helps.

  15. #42
    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
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    Sounds like you have a very good set-up KMB BUt with your qualifications you should be paid well IMHO
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
    - Jean Langlais

    I wish you the Best for each day, now and always.

    Bill

  16. #43
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Thanks for the kind words, Bill. I have been on an organ bench for services since I was 10. I suppose 40 years of experience is worth something, yet I still do not consider myself an organist. I have no idea what my colleagues are playing, but hope that I am playing worthy repertoire (Vaughan Williams and Couperin in the morning). I'm grateful to be able to make ends meet through music in rural Vermont.

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  18. #44
    Apprentice, Piano
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    Hi,

    Just another update relative to compensation. I casually inquired about my recent $1 raise, and heard back from my priest that the church receives specific Diocesan guidelines as to pay increases. If this is indeed the case, I had no idea. I just assumed the compensation rates were determined by the church council and priest.

  19. #45
    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Guidelines, yes. All Catholic churches I have played for, same Diocese, 50 miles apart: 1) 2000-03, $150/Mass 2) 2003, $100/Mass and $100/choir rehearsal 3) 2004, $40/weekend Mass, $25/weekday Mass (I immediately ended my candidacy once I the rates were leaked) 4) 2010-13, $130/Mass 5) 2010-13, $60/Mass Sounds like you have a new or young priest.... --KMB

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