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CNP Feedback - Piano in Church?

The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians. From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.

Q. Dear CNP:

Our parish is moving into our first church building – it seats about 500 people. What is the best instrument for the congregation? Some want an electronic keyboard, some a piano. What is best?

Eighty-eight Under Hand.

A. Dear 88:

Congratulations on your new church building.

You raise a concern about what instrument would be best to lead the congregation in sung prayer. There is no question that a pipe organ is most effective in both accompanying the assembly, cantors and choirs; and in presenting noble and worthy music of its own. A good (not necessarily large) pipe organ, well-installed, has no match in supporting and complementing Christian worship.

The Second Vatican Council agrees:
120. In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things [Constitution on the Liturgy].
There are many fine organ companies [see Pipe Organ on the Net] which would be happy to discuss an appropriate instrument for a 500-seat church. If the parish cannot afford a real pipe organ at this point, then I would suggest starting an Organ Fund with a view toward acquiring a quality instrument in the future.

A pale substitute, a very distant second-place in terms of effectiveness, would be an electronic organ.

No Catholic parish should consider purchasing either a piano or an electronic piano as its sole worship instrument. The piano is not within our tradition, and is not an effective way to lead the congregation or to present solo literature. Where piano is used, it should be considered a temporary substitute until a pipe organ can be purchased. I would certainly not spend a lot of money on a substitute like this. Better that the finances go toward a pipe organ fund.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

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