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Leaving church before the postlude ends

Jeffrey Thomas blasts parishioners who leave church early:
Catholics have also developed the habit of leaving Mass even before the celebrant says "The Mass is ended." They receive and skedaddle, like consumers at a take-out buffet. This offends the celebrant and the entire community gathered. It is dismissive of everyone's efforts, and, especially, disrespectful toward the mystery of the Eucharist and the astonishing privilege of receiving. 
But he also thinks it's essential that everyone stay for the organ postlude, which is going to be a hard sell. He also evidently thinks there was some golden age in the past (i.e. before Vatican II) when everyone stayed for the postlude and afterwards for silent prayer. Anyone care to confirm or deny?
 
I go to a very musically-sophisticated Lutheran church. There's a big crowd which always stays for the entire postlude, but it's nowhere near the whole congregation. Should it be? The postlude is after the service ends. (We had an interim pastor a few years back who thought it was horrible that people stayed to listen to the music — in his opinion, it was much more important to socialize at coffee hour and those who stayed were being anti-social, or unwelcoming to visitors, or something. That idea went over like a lead balloon, luckily.)
 
Organists practice their postludes as much as any other part of the service (even more, sometimes), but often it's treated as wallpaper muzak behind chatting. What's your experience with having people listen?
 
Photo: the organ in the house of a friend of mine. Yes, in his house. It's not the best photo; the pipes are copper.
on November 11, 2009 2:57am
It seems to me that the postlude is always played after the conclusion of the service specifically for the purpose of encouraging the people to leave the church with an uplifted spirit of dedication to carry on the Lord's life and ministry in the world outside.  It is a recessional,  "walking out" music, not originally intended to be a final meditation leading to private prayer at the end of a communal celebration.  Those who choose to stay and listen to the whole piece do so because they love the music, not because it is liturgically or politically indicated. 
 
on November 11, 2009 5:53am
 Our minister does not go to the back of the sanctuary for the closing words.  He speaks them from the front and then SITS DOWN.  So does the congregation.  No one leaves before or during the postlude!  At the close of the postlude, he walks to the back of the room (I'm not talking about a huge cathedral...) and invites everyone to coffee and conversation, etc.  This works!  (The postlude is never very l-o-n-g -- but not too short, either.)  In a larger church, the congregation could easily be cued to follow him out.
 
Ruth McKendree Treen
Unitarian Universalist Meeting House
Chatham, MA
 
on November 11, 2009 6:45am
Ah! There's the rub. I would argue that the postlude is NOT after the service ends - it's the ending of the service. I require my choristers to remain in the loft while the organist plays the postlude. At my last position in Indiana, the pastor (who sang in the choir and was a very good musician himself) mad it very clear that the servie was not over until the postlude concluded.
 
You are right - it is a hard sell. I try and explain this to my choristers in the two ways you have mentioned - 1. The organist puts in a great deal of effort to enhance the service with her/his gift...and 2. The time can be used for reflection on the communial nature of the service - the gift of the sacrament(s), the message of the readings and sermon - a generally quiet time which can strengthen the sense of community in the church. Isn't that one of the points of worshipping together?
on November 11, 2009 7:35am
After 43 years of playing Masses (and sometimes non Catholic services and liturgies), I'm totally fine with the fact that people walk out during the postlude. Yes, it would be nice if they stayed, but the postlude is not the mpost important piece of music in the liturgy. That's where skills in improvisation come in very handy. My practice for nearly  25 years has been to do a short improvisation after the closing hymn, and then have time to greet people.
 
As for getting Catholics to remain in place during the closing hymn, that takes practice and diligent training, and it must always be reinforced by the priests. Once we finally get the clergy and ministers to remain in place until somewhere near the final stanza, the people will most certainly leave. Although I don't like doing it, one thing that has helped has been to list in the bulletin (music bulletin) that we will only sing stanzas __ and __, and post a request for people to sing those stanzas. It always takes time and patience. In all my years on the bench, I've nearly always been successful in getting the number of people who remain for the final hymn, to increase dramatically over time.
 
To quote an old song title, "you've got to be carefully taught."
 
on November 11, 2009 3:05pm
Paul Manz had a different take on this.  He would wait until the bulk of parishioners left, and then play his postlude.  He maintained that the happy sound of voices was important after the dismissal, and those who really were interested in listening to a good Postlude could wait until the general populace cleared out.  We would wait and take our seats once the postlude began. 
on November 12, 2009 6:32am
Terry's dead on about the postlude (and the prelude, for that matter) not being a part of the "liturgy" (or as we are now saying in Catholic communities, "the liturgical action" - sheesh!).  The liturgy technically begins when the celebrant says (or intones) "In the Name of the Father...." and ends when he says, "The Mass is ended; go in peace to love and serve the Lord" and the congregation responds "Thanks be to God."  Therefore, the processional (or entrance) and recessional (or sending forth) hymns are OUTSIDE the liturgy.  Now, I appreciate that in other denominations this may not be the case, and the Prelude and Postlude may be part of the (shudder) "liturgical action."  For those people, this ought to be a teaching point that they make to their congregations that this is indeed a moment to consider giving thanks to God for having spent a mere moment of our time with Him and, if the postlude is well done, using this as a "lift" to get us out into the week (and at least it's to be hoped that the understanding of what we've just been through lasts through the parking lot!).  It is indeed, as Stephen said above, a teachable moment - and this is where we need to be in sync with our pastors and ministers and priests, that they shouldn't lead the rush out the door, at least through the concluding hymn.  If their concern is they'll miss the folks who "leave early" it's likely these folks wouldn't stay in the first place to chat (although perhaps the ministerial view is that these are the very people who need their attention....hmmmm.....), so no point worrying about that.  However, at Fort Belvoir, where I direct, it's amazing how many people who are clearly on the balls of their feet ready to rush the doors (and the ushers) seem to think it's not entirely right to leave until the celebrant processes back up the center aisle, and if he doesn't do it until at least the third verse of the hymn, well, maybe this ONCE....
 
Ron Duquette
Catholic Choir Director
Fort Belvor, VA
on November 15, 2009 5:24am
 I fall into the "it would be nice" if people stayed to hear the postlude, but don't think it would be productive to make it a big point of discipline.  My peeve (not quite my "pet peeve") is that the handful of people who stay and listen applaud every single week. I am certain that these same folk would think it would be anathema if people applauded some element within the service.  There seems to be to be some kind of message in that about the organ/organist that goes beyond the experience and focus of worship. 
on November 15, 2009 5:44am
Sorry folks. I repsectfully disagree, and it has nothing to do with egos - I'm not a keyboardist. I am not claiming that the postlude is part of the liturgy - but I am claiming that it can be considered as part of the broader service. I was raised Cathilic, went to a Lutheran college, and the pastor I mention above was a Methodist. He felt the postlude was certainly part of the broader service - and I came to agree with him.