Hey, church music composers: no more second endings, please

I recently introduced this excellent hymn to my regular church:

Well, I introduced 95% of “We Belong to You.” I skipped out on one part: the second ending, to be played and sung after the last refrain. Except for those hymns that have been around forever, I never play the second endings, and no one seems to complain about it–probably because they don’t realize they’re there. I’m not talking about choir-only versions, where the congregation is listening more than participating; I’m talking more about hymns that are regularly scheduled for the people in the pews to sing.

BAD. DO NOT FILL IN WITH DIFFERENT THINGS.

I’ve realized, over the years, that very few people sing those second endings. Part of it is that if they don’t know it’s coming up (say, the hymn ends before the last verse comes up), they won’t be able, let alone willing, to sing it. You can’t sing that which you don’t know is happening.

Even if they figure out it’s coming, then the next issue is whether the second ending is a repetition of a part of the refrain or something that plays off it but doesn’t use the exact same melody. But if a congregation member can’t read music (and remember, most people can’t), it doesn’t matter. They again won’t be able to sing it.

All of this effort is moot, though, if your cantor or choir misses the cues from the musicians to go to the second ending. Then, you get a confused muddle between musician and cantor. It sounds bad. It is bad.

So here’s my request to Catholic composers and publishers: if it’s for the congregation, knock off the second endings. Choir pieces? Fine and dandy. But if you want the congregation to pick up your pieces easily, it’s a good idea to make it as easy as you can.

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One response to “Hey, church music composers: no more second endings, please

  1. Yup. Says another music director.

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