No Talking During Prelude?

I used to think that the abundance of chattter during prelude was limited to Mormon congregations. It only took a few clicks on the internet to find out that we’re not alone! Here’s a sample of how our organist friends of other faiths feel about their members talking during prelude:

When someone has spent time preparing for the service, s/he would like the music to be heard. For me, it’s a matter of feeling that I have contributed to worship. If the music is not heard, then why include it? Why not just sight-read? Why show up?—Gretchen Saathoff

Worship happens all the time. The prelude and postlude are simply transition pieces from indivual worship to corporate worship and back. God likes to see the Children of God getting along…Those who want to visit can, but they should keep the volume down so that those who want to listen to the music can do so; those who want to listen to the music shouldn’t treat the chatterers like second-class citizens.—The Organ Forum

I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t do preludes and postludes… If you want to spend endless hours practicing music that people are not even listening to…then fine. What I’m saying is that I’d rather make better use of my time.—Jeffrey Coggins

And here’s a fun cartoon from the Music Department of the Lutheran Church of Honolulu:

But, my favorite is this comment found on MusicaSacra Forum:

Don’t play for people…play only for God…always…the people just happen to be there because they are only there for him too. Any “crossover” is then just a blessing in disguise. Francis

My point of view? I think it would be great to know that people are actually listening to my prelude music. But I think the point of prelude is to invite the Spirit of God and help prepare our hearts for meaningful worship. Since music is felt as much as it is heard, I believe I can fulfill the purpose of prelude whether the congregation is consciously aware of my music or not.

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What are your thoughts on the congregation talking during prelude music?

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8 thoughts on “No Talking During Prelude?

  1. (I just discovered this site.)

    I played Jean Langlais (20th century French composer) for the prelude on Sunday and people were uncharacteristically silent. It had odd harmonies and rhythms – I think they were surprised!

  2. I used to be an organist and found it very distracting when people talked all through the prelude. My husband is the organist at the church we now go to….the people talk so loudly that I just don’t go anymore as it upsets me so. I can’t listen to the music, nor can I sit in prayer(with head bowed, even) as someone inevitably yells hello to me or taps me on the shoulder to talk with me. I wish I wasn’t so bothered by it.

  3. I guess I’m a little “inventive” like the person on that Florence posted below. I like to “play” a little with the congregation–and I’m not talking about just “playing” the organ. I play with the volume. I try to see, week to week, if playing softer will decrease the volume of the chatter. Sometimes it works; sometimes not. It NEVER works around Christmas, for instance!

    I change registration and manuals. And often I’ll just stop in the middle of a piece — ostensibly to turn a page or change the registration. If you’ve done that, did you notice how quiet it gets all-of-a-sudden? People think the meeting must be starting. I don’t do that too often because I don’t want it to be like crying wolf.

    But one thing I don’t do is increase my volume to match the volume of the talking. That never works in the Spirit’s favor.

    It’s true that I used to be resentful that people weren’t listening, but now I’ve adopted to the attitude that I’m playing for the Lord and it’s my meeting too. I hear and am affected by the prelude offering. Even if just one person feels the Spirit, it’s effective, don’t you think?

  4. Here’s a different point of view:

    “Personally, I’ve got mixed feelings about quiet during the prelude. Before the change I had fun during the prelude, sneaking in, as a modulation, a line of songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and “Puff, the Magic Dragon” just to see if anyone noticed…Also, I never had to worry about playing the music perfectly. Now that it’s quiet during the prelude, I can’t do that anymore.”


  5. I’m including a link to your post in the one I’m writing tonight. What’s happening is a potpourri of short paragraphs pertaining to different topics. But I wanted people to see your post and be able to follow up easily.

    Take care!

  6. They say we should seek the spirit when we play. Well, I usually listen for it during prelude to make sure it’s there, and on days when the congregation is super chatty, I can’t feel it. Kinda defeats the purpose, if you ask me.

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