Catholic Mass

Posted In: Performing

  • Participant on #213176

    I am sometimes asked to play at a Catholic Wedding or funeral. To date I have had to politely refuse as I am not Catholic and don’t know when to play and when NOT to play since I haven’t a clue what is going on. Anyone know of any resources out there for musicians which would give me this information? Thanks, Sharon

    Sylvia on #213201

    I sympathize completely. I know this will not help much, but here goes:
    Prelude (while people are arriving) 1/2 hour
    Marches (padrinos, bridesmaids, bride)
    Unity Candle
    Sign of Peace
    Flowers to the Virgin (Schubert Ave Maria)
    Exit march

    Prelude: Sylvia Clark-Harp *
    Gathering/Entrance Litany of Saints-Chant*

    Presentation of Gifts Now We Remain (Marty Haugen)*

    Sign of Peace La Paz Este Con Nosotros
    Lamb of God Cordero de Dios
    Communion: Pescador de Hombres* (Spanish)
    Commendation of the Body Song of Farewell
    Recessional You Are Mine (David Haas)*

    When I came here in the 80s (S. TX), I had no idea. People would give me the order and music, and I kind of bungled along.
    Then in ’91, a choir director at a local church wanted harp and took me under his wing. I played for 5 yrs …every feast day and special occasions. The order of the mass is the same, and I collected appropriate music as I went along. He left to go to Ohio (his family is here, so he comes back to visit), and a different director took over, ending my choir career. (I play only on Xmas Eve now w/the choir.) I improvise off the choir music.
    Anyway, it was a total blessing because I got familiar w/the mass.
    (the funeral one above was for his sister’s funeral a couple of years ago, but it does show the order…some of the choir sang, so there were also mass parts, but I didn’t include them because I don’t play them unless there is a singer.)
    You really need to be there. I suggest you might find a Catholic church near you and attend the mass and/or ceremonies. You can go online and check their schedule. A Catholic mass is open. You do not need an invitation. Just sit in the back…hopefully where not too many are seated. If someone does question you, that would be a good time to make it known you play the harp and are observing the music. Who knows? You may get to play w/the choir.
    They get up to go to Communion. I freaked out the 1st time I played because I didn’t know that, and I thought they were all leaving!
    Almost all my church weddings are Catholic…I seldom have Protestant ones because they use their own musicians, and their music people get hurt feelings if someone else is brought in (I’ve been told this).
    Here, the Schubert Ave Maria is the one they know and the one they want. It is a must. It may not be for your area, but my area is Hispanic.
    I know this probably doesn’t help much, but I had a real struggle, so your post kind of hit home. I was very fortunate to learn. I hope you will find a way into the Catholic music.
    The songs I use for Offertory, Sign of Peace, and Communion (unless they request something else) are included in my website. The Pescador is Fisher of Men in English.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 7 months ago by Sylvia.
    • This reply was modified 3 years, 7 months ago by Sylvia.
    balfour-knight on #213301

    Very nice response, Sylvia! I am an Episcopalian (Anglican), so the Catholic order and also the Lutheran, are very similar. I get called in to do all of these since I understand the order of service, so it is indeed a nice thing to know how to do. Best of luck, Affeltranger!

    Participant on #213306

    Sylvia, I can’t thank you enough. What a fantastic reply – even with suggested tunes. This is a wonderful help and I shall get myself to a Catholic church. Also, it is helpful to know (Balfour-Knight) of the similarity to Anglican. I feel more confident I could do this now and as I play in Mexican restaurant each week (Yes, curious, a Celtic harp in a Mexican restaurant???) a large number of the people who contact me are Catholic. Many, many thanks. Shaorn

    Gretchen Cover on #213307

    I played for a friend’s daughter’s full mass Catholic wedding that included unity candles. I was totally intimidated at first but l simply called the music director, introduced myself and asked to meet to go over the wedding music. The director graciously walked me through the 25 steps and I wrote them down one by one. I asked the length of time needed for each piece, found what I thought was appropriate and had her approve what I played. I always work with the church music director to avoid any surprises and to be respectful.

    balfour-knight on #213599

    I agree, Gretchen–always work with the music director of the church where you are going to be the guest musician. Also, I used to play Celtic harp (and piano) at a Mexican restaurant owned by a dear friend of ours, Maria. I played all the Spanish and Mexican tunes on the harp like a classical guitar, and the customers loved it! Since I cannot play the guitar, the harp has to do, ha, ha!

    Best wishes for a very happy New Year!

    Harp Hugs,

    jessharpgirl on #216811

    The order of any Mass goes like this:
    Prelude if desired (time can very from about 5 to 30 minutes [shorter time for regular Mass; longer for special occasions])
    Processional (either a hymn or antiphon (depending on the priest/music director/special occasion)
    General Confession,
    Kyrie (Lord, have mercy; usually said, but sometimes sung, sometimes no General Confession before),
    Gloria (sung)
    first reading,Psalm (usually sung but not always),
    second reading,
    Gospel Acclamation (alleluia and verse, usually sung),
    homily (sermon),
    Nicene Creed (may be sung, but most often not),
    prayers of the faithful (a few churches sing the “Lord, hear our prayer” response, but not most)
    Offertory (usually a hymn, but sometimes a spot for special music)
    prayer over the Gifts (said by the priest),
    Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy; usually sung),
    a few more prayers,
    Memorial Acclamation (there are three wordings possible; melodies similar, depending on the Mass setting used, but vary a bit to accommodate word choice),
    Great Amen (usually sung),
    Our Father (sometimes sung)
    Sign of Peace (greet the people around you),
    Agnus Dei (Lamb of God, usually sung),
    Communion prayer (everyone says this),
    Communion (usually one hymn for sure and either another hymn or two or a spot for special music),
    closing prayers and dismissal,
    Recessional (usually a hymn, but could be solo/instrumental depending on situation),
    Postlude (usually one piece played as people leave) if desired.
    I hope this helps! Usually for the Mass parts, (Gloria, Gospel Acclamation, Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Great Amen, and Lamb of God) are often all taken from the same Mass setting, but, if anything is different, it’s usually the Gloria, Gospel Acclamation and Agnus Dei. Unless there is a choir, there is at least one cantor to lead the responses and hymns. Usually an organist/pianist leads these, but you never know! Hope this helps!

    Participant on #216860

    Thank you so much Jessica. Answers I have received have given me more confidence (or at least knowing the questions to ask) which is a big plus. Have also made a “friend” of the music director of a very prestigious catholic church in the area. He is extremely helpful.
    Thanks again so very much everybody.

    Jerusha Amado on #216873

    Hi Sharon,

    I was thinking of playing Celtic harp at a Mexican restaurant. What songs do you play while there, besides “Cielito Lindo” and “Guantanamera”?


    Participant on #216875

    Hi Jerusha

    Here are the songs I play (in no particular order)with arrangers.
    I have noted key when it is two or more flats as I know many lever harpists do not tune with 2 or more flats.
    Habanera for Jose Eb Song I wrote for the owner of the restaurant
    Don’t cry for me Argentina – Sylvia Woods
    Latin Folk Song Medley – Duermete mi NIno, Arroz con Leche, Mulher Rendeira, Canto del Pilon. my arrangement
    Pescador de Hombres (Lord you have come) Angie Bemis
    Maleguena – Louise Trotter
    Cien Anos – my arrangement but not out of copyright so I don’t share.
    Danza de Luzma – Alfredo Ortiz
    El Condor Pasa Ab – my arrangement
    Pena de los Amores my arrangement but not out of copyright so I don’t share
    Camanito, probably still under copyright
    Besame Mucho – don’t remember but could probably find it
    Solomente una Vez (You belong to my heart. arr Lou Ann Gramann
    Juanita – Eb -my arrangement
    La Paloma- Eb – my arrangement
    Ceilito Lindo – Louise Trotter
    La Cucaracha – my arrangement
    La Jesucita – my arrangement
    Amado Mio – my arrangement but still under copyright
    Juventud Antiguena – my arrangement
    Love me with all your heart (Cuando Calienta el Sol – still under copyright – my arrangement
    Any of the old folksongs not under copyright I would be happy to share. Others you should purchase from the harp arrangers. Otherwise, find piano music to purchase and then arrange it for harp which is what I have done in many cases.
    The Mexican restaurant where I play has a clientele of 40% Latinos, 40% Caucasian,with the other 20% being Filipino, Chinese and Japanese. I play a lot of general pops and show tunes as well as some light classical. I don’t play this entire list above in one 3 hour evening as it would be a bit much for a general audience.
    Good Luck and let me know how it goes.

    Jerusha Amado on #216876


    Thanks so much for your help!
    I would certainly be interested in any old folk songs you could share. Would you email me at

    Sylvia on #217317

    I have a list of Mexican songs on my website.

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