One of the most important elements of music in the Liturgy, and often the most overlooked, concerns the flow. The Mass has a beginning and an end, and a lot in between. What occurs musically has to be sensitive to everything that is going on at a given moment.
Typically at a youth-focused Mass, the celebrant and the music leader will lead the assembly in a "warm up" before the formal service begins. Usually, there is a lot of energy, perhaps some fun and/or humor as the assembly learns and rehearses the music. You can be very creative here. Make it both enjoyable and reverent. All in all, teach your assembly the music. This is very important. The assembly needs to know and be comfortable with the music in order to fully participate.
Afterward, the celebrant or music minister will ask the assembly to "focus our hearts" on God and "make ourselves aware of God's presence here this evening." This helps create a quiet, reverent mood or atmosphere. It is then that the music should begin.
If the entrance song suddenly begins with a loud crash or bang, then you will have disturbed the "quiet, reverent" state you just worked so hard to create. Be sensitive to what is happening. Start the song softly with perhaps one instrument, adding others as the song continues.
For example, you could begin with just guitar, a flute could join in by playing the melody, the percussionist can start adding some brushes or cymbal swells, and the voices could begin singing the refrain. As you repeat the refrain, the bass player, keyboard, and everyone else can join in. Build up the music as much as desired, allowing your community to sing at the top of their voices. The musicians could play full and strong as the song continues to build.
Eventually the song needs to come to an ending of some sort. Think about what happens next: The Introductory Rite. Again, you don't want to end with a crash or a bang. Let the song slowly diminish down to a subtle, controlled ending. The musicians should practice and rehearse the ending of the so that they can all "cutoff" together. The piano or guitar can continue playing softly underneath the Introductory Rite.
As the celebrant begins to call everyone to sing glory to God, the music can build up with his words. The "Gloria" should be big and full of energy, depicting exactly what it is saying, "Glory to God!" If available, use brass and percussion along with the entire band. Again, rehearse the ending of the song with a clean cut off.
Gathering Song Reprise
For even greater musical impact, the gathering song can be reprised at the very end of the Gathering Rite. Again, avoid loud crashes and bumps. Begin building up as the celebrant draws the Gathering Rite to a close. As his words conclude, the entire band can enter and slowly build the song up again for a refrain or two, and then let the song slowly diminish to a subtle, controlled ending.
"In the Church's liturgy, the divine blessing is fully revealed and communicated. The Father is acknowledged and adored as the source and end of all the blessings of creation and salvation. In his Word who became incarnate, died, and rose for us, he fills us with his blessings. Through his Word, he pours into our hearts the Gift that contains all gifts, the Holy Spirit."
- CCC #1082
At this point in the Mass there is complete silence. The first reading has just been proclaimed, and the people have responded, "Thanks be to God," and the reader is stepping away from the ambo. It is important to be sensitive to this situation. Don't begin the song with a big, loud crash. Like the Gathering song earlier, ease you way into the music. It doesn't matter if the song is slow or upbeat. A single instrument (i.e., flute, piano, guitar, light percussion, congas, string pad, etc.) can be sufficient to introduce "sound" to this quiet moment. You can choose whether or not to build it up quickly or in a more subtle way. The son can stay slow and prayerful or can be fairly upbeat. What is really important is that the pslam moves smoothly from complete silence to full volume and back to complete silence again. It is then that the second reading (on Sunday) can be proclaimed.
Once again, be sensitive to the fact that you are about to begin music at a point when there is complete silence. Start softly, but build up as full as possible. The Gospel Acclamation should let everyone know that something special is about to happen. Practice a clean, strong ending.
For added musical effect, as the Gospel reading is drawn to a close, the Gospel Acclamation can be reprised for a refrain or two. Again, build up right at theail end of the final words. Play strong and, remember, practice the ending.
Preparation of the Gifts
This is really a transition point in the Mass where we begin the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The assembly sits down and the collection (on Sunday) begins. This is not as subtle a moment as we have had up to this point, but it still deserves sensitivity. The gifts are being brought up to the altar by a group of young people. Again, start softly and build up. If you began with piano on the last song, perhaps begin with guitar this time or vice-versa. Use variety, but remember: we don't want to distract; we want to enhance. If possible, allow your attention (as the worship leader) to focus on the setting of the table as you sing. (This is even more appropriate if the lyrics to the song you are singing speak directly of the gifts of bread and wine, or the gifts of ourselves,) Engage the assembly. Help them recognize the importance of what is happening through not only your singing, but through your whole demeanor as well.
Holy, Memorial Acclamation, Amen
There are many, many, different settings of the parts of the Mass. The most important thing to remember is that they should reflect what they are intended to say. It is also important that the assembly knows the settings; try not to rotate them too frequently.
With regard to the 'Holy, Holy,' we have found it vbery effective to enter singing right at the tail end of the celebrant's words, "May our voices be in one with theirs' in their triumphant hymn of praise..." It can be very awkward right after these words to wait while the musicians play a four-bar introduction before anyone can sing. With the musical introduction already occurring while the priest is speaking, you and the entire assembly can begin singing at precisely the right moment. You need to practice to get the timing right. Sometimes it can just mean vamping on on chord over and over until it's time to sing. Rehearse this. It has a very powerful effect.
The Lord's Prayer
You should have just finished singing a very big and powerful setting of the 'Great Amen.' Your congregation is primed and ready to sing the Lord's Prayer. There are many different settings and arrangements. Choose one that is easy and inspiring to sing. It should have a verey prayerful tone, preferably at a slower tempo. Avoid fast or jumpy settings here.
Lamb of God
The Sign of Peace may take a little longer than usual if there are a lot of young people present. As music leader, you need to decide when the 'Lamb of God' will take place. If you start too soon, not everyone will be with you, and you don't want to leave them out of singing the 'Lamb of God,' but you alos don't want to wait too long either. This is a good time to play a longer introduction. Start softly and build up slowiy. Perhaps play the whole melody through once or twice as everyone begins to return to their places. Begin to sing when it appears the assembly is ready.
The assembly proclaims, "Lord, I am not worth to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed." There is a moment of silence as the priest takes and receives the Body and Blood. Again, it is up to the music leader to decide when to begin the Communion song. Don't necessarily 'jump right in' and startle everyone. This is a very prayerful moment. Start softly and build slowly (maybe with just a piano or guitar). Allow a long enough introduction to helop set the tone. Feel free to build up the song as much as desired. Just remember to bring the volume back down and rehearse a smooth ending.
Song of Thanksgiving
In many parishes, after the 'Prayer After Communion,' the lights come back up to full (if they were dimmed at all during the Liturgy of the Eucharist) and the mood is generally al little more relaxed. All that remains is the Final Blessing and the conclusion of the Mass. Typically at a youth-focused Mass, the youth minister will come up and invite the youth to come to the Life / Edge Night and make any further announcements. Once this has finished the celebrant gives the Final Blessing.
The priest then closes the Mass. As music leader, you might choose one of two things:
- You may choose to begin the introduction of the song as the assembly is reponsding (not too loud to drown them out) and then bring in the full band
- You may choose to have a much stronger beginning right at the conclusion of "Thanks be to God. Alleluia!"
Either works well. Regardless of which method you choose, encourage the assembly to clap along with you. Coach them a little if you need to. This is a very inviting and exciting time. Pull out all the stops. Make sure that the congregation is singing and that you are not simply performing a 'fun' song for them. The assembly's participation in the Song of Thanksgiving, as in every other song, is crucial! You may choose to have breaks in the song where you just hear the vocals and the assembly. It's important that the assembly hears the entire house singing. Encourage full participation
Don't forget to practice a clean, rehearsed ending!