Music does indeed cost

Christchurch choir

by Louise Campbell

The heading “Music costs” was given to a letter published in NZ Catholic (June 26, 2016). It is a fact that “music costs” and it is a wise parish whose finance committee includes “music” as a budget item. However the reason that “music costs” is much more wide-ranging than the single and possibly least expensive item of a music budget; payment of an annual licensing fee for the right to copy music, project melody lines and words or create handouts for a celebration of worship. Let’s put this in context. Music enriches our lives and our worship. It has the amazing ability to reach deep into our hearts: to heal, console, give strength and confidence, to unite . . . to touch the very core of who we are. Music plays a central role in our Catholic worship, serving to draw us more deeply into the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and helping us remember who we really are, as the baptised people of God (See New Zealand Directory of Liturgical Music).

This “priceless” gift of music, intrinsic to the tradition of the Catholic Church, is richly blessed by those who offer time and talents to the Church, but it still requires resources and therefore a budget.

Most of our parishes provide a piano, organ or other instruments to support our singing. These instruments need to be maintained and serviced at least annually; it is also prudent to build in a fund for replacement or restoration of instruments after several years of use.

A much more “touchy subject” to a community that has relied for long years on the generous service of amateur or even professional musicians, is that of paying at least a stipend to musicians, in particular to those who are required to work with the priest, liturgy committee, and musicians to coordinate music for parishes, and be available to play at funerals and weddings in addition to Mass/es on Sunday. The director of music of a large parish or cathedral, with all the work this entails, is in fact being asked to undertake a part-time job. Their salary / stipend needs to be factored into the music budget. Liturgical music ministers value the opportunity for professional development. Assisting with costs to attend liturgical music workshops or conferences is another practical way for a parish to foster expertise in this ministry.

Some parishes offer scholarships to encourage young musicians to love and serve the liturgy of the Church. The parish pays for their music lessons. The music scholar takes his or her place on the music roster for Mass.

Provision needs to be made for the purchase of new music, such as the recently published hymnal, Catholic Book of Worship II from Australia or for purchasing sufficient electronic copies of new music for musicians and music groups.

We are blessed with a number of composers, both national and international, who gift their music to the Church — but once this music is placed in the hands of a publisher in order to reach the wider Church, it must be purchased for use either in book form or downloadable as
individual titles.

The right to copy this music, project melody lines and words or create handouts for a celebration of worship requires the purchase of an annual copyright licence. This copyright licence is a civil and legal requirement that schools and churches must satisfy. Once parishes are registered to a liturgical music licence provider, a whole world of choice opens up — access to thousands of song titles, helpful planning tools, extensive online shopping for new music titles and coverage of special events, easy reporting systems and therefore royalties for composers, limited though those royalties may be.

In very small parishes the cost of this licence is significantly less than the cost of one cup of coffee a year for each parishioner . . . in very large parishes the equivalent is closer to $1.00 per year, per parishioner. Failure to purchase a copyright license and report copying of liturgical music can result in very large fines . . . now that is one cost we can all avoid!

Louise Campbell is director of the National Liturgy Office.

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