It was the moment Jamie Ochoa was waiting for since the Covid-19 shutdown began…the moment when she could sing again in Mass.
Effective Monday, March 15th, the diocese lifted its ban on live music and by Sunday the choir director was back in business.
“I cried on the way here. I cried through practice. I thought I was going to cry through the whole Mass,” says Ochoa, a choir director at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church in Yucaipa.
But Ochoa, accompanied by her husband, Gaston, did make it through the 11 a.m. Mass that served a small and socially distanced crowd. The diocese amended its live music policies after state guidelines allowed San Bernardino and Riverside counties to go from the purple tier to the less restrictive red tier. Counties switch tiers based on their Covid-19 positivity rate. The updated diocesan rules state singers performing indoors must maintain six feet of physical distance from each other and 12 feet from parishioners. No more than ten singers can share the stage and face masks are mandatory. Outdoors, masks are not necessary if singers are 12 feet apart and unlike indoors, parishioners may sing along if wearing a mask. Diocesan officials hope the return of performers will mean the return of more parishioners.
“I think the live music experience will cause people to go into church and not just watch it on a live stream video,’’ says Ann Marie Gallant, director of the diocesan office of emergency operations collaborative. “Especially at this wonderful time of the year; spring, summer, Holy Week, Easter – all of which means so much to the Catholic Church.”
Nancy Locurto was inspired to come to Mass with her husband and three children. “It was lovely, so nice,” says the St. Frances parishioner. “Music enhances the experience. We enjoy it and the kids enjoy it.”
When the changes were announced, diocesan officials say excitement quickly spread among church worship leaders.
“The parishes are so excited about these new protocols,’’ says Chris Estrella, coordinator of liturgical music in the diocesan office of worship. “They are hitting the ground running; prepping music, starting rehearsals. They have to get their choirs together out of nowhere.”
Estrella adds that choir directors are “strongly encouraged” to have their members get Covid-19 tests prior to Mass. Performers should also skip sheet music and opt for using digital devices instead. Then there’s the challenge of singing with something over your mouth.
“I had to make a lot of adjustments singing with a mask,” explains Ochoa. “I felt like I had to sing louder.”
Yet many say they are willing to do what’s necessary because singing hymns is so deeply tied to their faith. Throughout the pandemic, Estrella gave “Worship Wednesdays” concerts on the diocesan YouTube channel but now looks forward to singing at his parish, Our Lady of Assumption in San Bernardino.
“There’s a saying when you sing you pray twice,” says Estrella. “Music helps people dive deeper into the message…I love that.”
He notes that besides changing the altar’s color scheme, music “defines the season” of the Church calendar. That’s exactly why on her first day back, Ochoa wanted to sing the hymn “Into the Desert.”
“We had practiced that song but to sing it live,” Ochoa’s voice breaks off as her eyes tear up, “It just really speaks Lent to me….”
The above comes from a March 30 story in the Inland Catholic Byte.
Whenever the choir uses percussion or a rain stick or twanging guitars, and especially if the vocalists can’t sing well, I walk out. Fulfilled my obligation. I’m not going to endure bad music at Mass. If the church wants to oblige Catholics to go to Mass, it needs to make Mass a good experience and not assault my ears with insufferable sounds or music that isn’t dignified. I wouldn’t last much past the entrance hymn at that parish, in all likelihood, based on the picture. The song “Into the Desert” speaks Lent to the choir director? Shows how badly educated in liturgical music most music directors in parishes are. OCP is not a trusted resource for good music.
You know, the quality of the music, like the NO liturgy so much depends on the pastor. When pastor changed at one parish I attended, they quickly went from a relatively orthodox folks who could carry a tune to the “come on come all” mode where none of them could.
It’s not entertainment. The Mass is prayer. If you can’t endure music you don’t like, how are you going to endure til the end? Pray for yourself. Have you done your First Fridays?
Yeah, back when I used to attend a NO Mass, I often wanted to cry as well.
Pretty sure it was not for the same reason as this lady, though.
No more than 10 can share the stage? This is the problem. The church is a house of worship of almighty God. It is not a theater for performers on a stage. I can remember very few churches where I recall the music being prayerful. We need a return to chant. I don’t think a return to the common music used in most Catholic Churches is going to cause many to return, and if they are just returning because of the music, they are not returning for the right reason.
My Eastern Rite Ukrainian Church has not stopped singing since we reopened in July. And the choir at the FSSP parish I attend at times hasn’t missed a Sunday. God has been good to our town…not in California.
Are you sure it’s God? Why would God favor your town?
I like the silence at NO Masses since Covid. And the lack of the “victory signs” flashed around and the omission of holding hands during the Our Father is a big relief. The unsacred music distracts and angers me.
I wish the TLM was more available.
Have you heard of the SSPX?