Theory put into practice at Music Ministry Masterclass

By Mary Brazell, 14 August 2019
Participants during the CYP Music Ministry Masterclass at Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill-Schofields. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


30 musicians from parishes across Western Sydney, the Blue Mountains, and the wider Sydney region have strengthened their skills and showcased their talent at a music masterclass.

The Music Ministry Masterclass, hosted by Catholic Youth Parramatta (CYP), was held on Saturday 3 August at Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill-Schofields.

The masterclass, the first run in the diocese for over five years, was a full day of keynote addresses, workshops and formation.

The first keynote address of the day was presented by special guests Louisa and Marilyn from Diocese of Wollongong musical group Gus & Iggy, who spoke about evangelising through music.

“Music brings people together, but also it’s a sense of community and it helps us to connect to this greater thing outside of us,” Marilyn explained.

“When I was going through my time of conversion years ago, what really helped me was actually worship music. I didn’t know how to pray. I was a ‘cradle Catholic’ but didn’t really know how to have a personal relationship with God. But what helped me was listening to worship music. The words were there, but they were there to facilitate prayer and facilitate something greater.”

Louisa added, “Music taps into our emotions like that – communicating on a more emotional level it can allow us to connect in a way that’s actually really important. I know that some people say ‘faith isn’t meant to be about emotion,’ but we believe in an integrated self – we are a body and soul person – and that our mind and our heart should be engaged in our prayer, and I think music can really help us do that.

“In terms of evangelising and outreaching, I find music can often connect to people and they can be like ‘something’s moving in me and I don’t really know why’ and we can talk about the Holy Spirit having that impact through music, through this creative thing,” she said.

Louisa (left) and Marilyn from Gus & Iggy during the CYP Music Ministry Masterclass at Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill-Schofields. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Marilyn then highlighted the importance of music to the Church as explained in the Catechism.

“As music ministers, if you’re ever wondering ‘why am I doing this? Why am I selecting songs for this Mass today? Why wouldn’t you say a Mass and not worry about music in the liturgy’, I want you to remember Catechism paragraph 1156:

1156 “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy.”20 The composition and singing of inspired psalms, often accompanied by musical instruments, were already closely linked to the liturgical celebrations of the Old Covenant. The Church continues and develops this tradition: “Address . . . one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.” “He who sings prays twice.”21

“We are given this gift by God, we need to foster it, we need to protect it, we need to nurture it and we need to share it with the Church,” she said.

Louisa then explained the importance of having a relationship with God which can be shared through music.

“We must first become worshippers before we can be evangelists. There’s no point in using music to evangelise if you do not first have the relationship with God.

“There’s a difference between knowing someone or knowing about them. We can talk about God until the cows come home, we can talk about God as much as we like, but if we don’t know him personally, our worship won’t be genuine and it won’t lead people into relationship. We can’t lead people into a relationship that we don’t first have.

“Before you use music to evangelise, use it first to connect to God Himself, use it first to nourish your own relationship with God. We cannot and should not be using music to evangelise and to share the Gospel unless we first have heard it ourselves, and let that sink in and change our hearts,” she said.

Alison Ryan, who has worked in music ministry for several years, then spoke to the group about music as ministry and its liturgical principles.

Alison Ryan during the CYP Music Ministry Masterclass at Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill-Schofields. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

“Music is a wonderful medium that enables us to bring life and energy and active engagement to our liturgies,” she said.

“It is so important to understand liturgy as ritual activity, that we take part in, as human activity, human expression which points to something bigger. And it’s important to really appreciate the beauty of this ritual as leaders in music because we have such a vital and active role in bringing the liturgy to life! And engaging people, the congregation, in this beautiful prayer of The Church.

“The musician stretches the human imagination about God. Because music invites us to be conscious of God with our ears, and our bodies and our skin…not just our intellect.

“Music is often the primary way that we “embody and express and learn what we mean and believe” (Gabe Huck). So then as music ministers we have a responsibility to really think about what it is that we are communicating through our music. That we are responding in the most appropriate way at any given point during the mass.”

Attendees then broke into the first of a series of workshops. Workshop one, led by St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta musician Matt Bretania, discussed ways of leading worship through music.

Matt Bretania (right) during the CYP Music Ministry Masterclass at Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill-Schofields. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Workshop two, led by Alison and St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook, musician Claire Brown, spoke about cantoring and composition for liturgy, which highlighted the musical elements of a Mass.

Following lunch, Louisa and Marilyn spoke presented a song-writing workshop, where most of the session was given to participants to work on their own music.

In the session workshop, participants discussed with members of CYP ways of learning new songs and were able to get recommendations from other parishes.

The group came together again for a final keynote address on succession planning and longevity by St Bernadette’s Parish Castle Hill sacramental coordinator and parishioner Alice Bradshaw.

The last session of the day involved participants putting the theory they learnt into practice through a band rehearsal for the evening’s parish Mass with the CYP team.

Participants during the CYP Music Ministry Masterclass at Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill-Schofields. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.

Julia Hoban from St Luke’s Catholic Faith Community, Marsden Park said, “it was a fantastic opportunity for musicians across the diocese for networking, formation and prayer.

“The masterclass sessions would be specifically great for new musicians entering into ministry.

“As someone who has been in music ministry for about seven years, I really appreciated the opportunity to meet other musicians in the diocese and share the different experiences we have had. Also to pick up some new tips and music suggestions for the liturgy.

“I definitely think this should be at least an annual event for future!” she said.

Music ministry participant Jess Pacheco, from Mary Immaculate Parish, Quakers Hill, said “I had expectations before attending this event – for instance, how music and liturgical worship would be presented for this masterclass.

“But throughout the day, I was able to step into the presence of God with other individuals from various parishes, youth groups and movements who have the same love for music.

“In addition, it was nice to understand and experience the idea of music being conveyed within a liturgical context – for example, how to choose the right hymns to be used within a particular season or how these hymns that a music ministry group has chosen could fit in with one of the readings that’s being said during Mass and how it can target and cater to a specific audience.

“After experiencing this event being run by CYP I would recommend that this event would be ran again in the near future,” she said.

View images from the CYP Music Ministry Masterclass here or below.

CYP Music Ministry Masterclass (03.08.2019)

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