Tuesday, May 3, 2016

What is Sung and When?

Perhaps one of the most frequently heard questions regarding Sacred music is something to the effect:
"Is there a priority for what we are supposed to sing at Mass?"
This of course, presupposes an understanding of Sacred music as greater than singing hymns and a Mass setting. It also is more than simply providing music for the congregation to sing while the clergy say the black and do the red.

At a typical Sunday Mass, it is commonplace to expect the people to actively participate as follows:
  1. Entrance Hymn
  2. Kyrie
  3. Gloria
  4. Psalm
  5. Alleluia/Gospel Acclamation
  6. Offertory
  7. Preface Dialogue (if sung)
  8. Sanctus
  9. Mysterium Fidei
  10. Amen
  11. Agnus Dei
  12. Communion Hymn #1
  13. Communion Hymn #2
  14. Choir sings nice piece here
  15. Recessional

Wow!  That is quite a lot of music.  What do the clergy sing?  On occasion, perhaps the preface dialogue or blessing on larger feasts?

All of this is quite opposite from directives following Vatican II.  In 1967, the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued an Instruction of Sacred Music:  Musicam Sacram.  In it, there is a plan for achieving a sung Mass, which can be described in three degrees:
  1. The Acclamations (Clergy)
  2. The Mass Ordinary (Faithful)
  3. The Mass Propers (Choir)
Now this is much more manageable!  The difficulty lies in the 1st degree: the Clergy.  Without the Clergy singing the orations and dialogues, music at Mass becomes secondary--a liturgical filler.  The presidential prayers to God as well as the call and response "the Lord be with you", etc. are an essential element to the sung Mass, perhaps the most distinguishable one!  

When neatly divided into Musicam Sacram's three categories, or perhaps a fourth by separating the priest's part from the deacon, each group is left with a manageable repertoire of roughly 4-5 musical offerings!

The same division of roles is true for the choir and people, making the sung parts more manageable. 

For more information, visit:  dnu.org/sacred-music


Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Really New Evangelization

I don't usually say sentences that begin, "If I were the Pope..." However, an idea has occurred to me over the years that I think is sound and would have long-lasting effects for the Church in Europe, aiming as it does at middle schoolers.

Here it is.

If I were the Pope, I would require all English-speaking diocesan and religious seminarians to go two-by-two into the towns and villages of France and Germany this summer, and spend two weeks, in full habit/ clerics, doing nothing but speaking English and playing soccer.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Peter Kwasniewski's Sacred Music Work at NLM

Two recent sacred music projects by NLM contributor and friend-of-the-Cafe Peter Kwasniewski bear repeating here.

The first is the full-color facsimile edition of the 1903 Cantus Mariales. This reproduction contains 50 Marian chants for use throughout the liturgical year. Prof. Kwasniewski also produced several recordings of chants from the collection, with (beautiful!) harp accompaniment.

The book is for sale on Amazon.

The second is a collection of works by Kwasniewski himself. His collection of sacred choral music was published by Corpus Christi Watershed in 2014. A series of recordings has now been made.

You can find the rest of the videos at the New Liturgical Movement.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tribute to Mother Angelica

Join the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale 

for a tribute to Mother Angelica

10:00 am, May 8, 2016  | St. Agnes Parish, St. Paul, MN


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sacred Music from the Heart

Our human emotions are an important criterion for the continued renewal and development of Sacred music. There is a great chasm in many places distinguishing the Church's patrimony, her Heart and Mind, from a more popular view.

Church music and other liturgical arts are easily mistaken in their aim and goal.  Contrived, emotional and superficial, the aim is to entertain, fill a void, please an audience, rather than a humble service to the liturgical ceremony, glorifying God and sanctifying the faithful.

An aforementioned source is Msgr. Guido Marini's address to a liturgical conference in Mileto.  Translated into a compact book, his reflections are worth reading, re-reading and passing around:

"Thus, singing and music in the liturgy, when they are truly themselves, are born from a heart that searches after the mystery of God and become an exegesis of this same mystery, a word that, in musical notation, opens onto the horizon of Christ's salvation. Therefore, there is an intrinsic bond among word, music, and chant in the liturgical celebration.
Music and chant, in fact, cannot be separated from the Word of God, of which, indeed, music and chant ought to be a faithful interpretation and revelation. Chant and music in the liturgy stem from the depth of the heart, that is, from Christ who dwells therein - and they return to the heart, that is, to Christ, And from the question of the heart, He comes as the true and definitive response. 
This objectivity of chant and liturgical music should never be consigned to the superficial and extemporaneous nature of our sentiments and fleeting emotions, which do not correspond to the greatness of the mystery being celebrated."  

Rev. Msgr. Guido Marini, Liturgical Reflections of a Papal Master of Ceremonies, English Translation © 2011, p.40.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Musica Sacra Florida Conference May 20-21 in Tampa

Join Musica Sacra Florida for our 7th Chant Conference!  

We'll be meeting at St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Tampa, Florida this year.  Over on the west coast of the state and easily accessible to one and all.  You can find all the details - and register - over at www.musicasacra.com. There are four different workshops, two Masses - one Extraordinary Form and one Ordinary Form.  Chant choirs at both beginning and advanced levels. Fellowship with other singers. A fantastic faculty (of which I am a modest member) and propers for the Friday evening Mass sung by the Florida Pro Musica Schola, directed by Larry Kent.

Beginner or advanced or somewhere in-between - all are invited to join us. It promises to be a wonderful little conference. So come on down, up, or across!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Happy birthday, Pope Emeritus!

Thank you, and all the best!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"Which Hymn Is Your Heart Singing?"

I was amused at the conceit, and so intended to post a link to a quiz at EpicPew with that title when I saw it.

However, upon completion of the quiz, the song, (not a hymn,) that it assigned me was so dreadful, and every single possible alternative offered so shudder-inducing, that I will not, (but it will be easy enough to google if it interests you.)

When I've recovered I may go back and take it again, and see if it's my own fault, if the suggestions for some better person might be finer hymns.

But the question intrigues me.
Weekday Mass of late has featured both the spoken propers and a hymn or two, (and then, mirabile dictu, the Marian antiphon to close!)
Anyway, I'm feeling warm fuzzies regarding hymn singing and I'm curious - what hymn is your heart singing?

Not "do you like," not which tune sets your soul dancing, but which text best expresses the feels you're feeling - and is it always the same one?

Mine is My Song is Love Unknown, but only the first 2 verses most of the time, and to some joyous, mystical tune that I can't actually hear - somehow it is ebullient, lit by fireworks rather than candles. (Very unsuitable, I know. It just makes me so danged happy.)

So what's yours?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Polyphony and Chant at World Youth Day

The following is from Chris Mueller:

Many of you know that World Youth Day is an event convened every 2-3 years, where high school and college-aged kids and young adults from all over the world gather in some large international city (e.g. Cologne, Sydney, Madrid...) for a week, to celebrate Mass, meet the Pope (or at least be near him), and grow in their faith. This event is huge - millions of young people convene every time it happens! In fact, World Youth Day 1995 in Manila held the record for the largest-ever papal event, when over five million pilgrims gathered for Mass with Pope St. John Paul II. (That record was recently broken when Pope Francis celebrated a Mass for over six million people… in Manila!)

This summer World Youth Day will be held in Krakow, Poland, and I have the honor of having been invited to conduct all the music at the English-language Masses! There are so many English-speaking pilgrims that these Masses will be held in a giant stadium. There will be a morning Mass each day, for five consecutive days.

Additionally, my family, which sings polyphony and chant together as the Mueller Family Schola, has been invited to give a concert as one of the cultural events that take place each evening at this enormous gathering. And my wife and kids will not only be present for our concert, but they’ll be joining me to sing at all the Masses I’ll be conducting as well.

One of my goals is to incorporate polyphony and chant into every Mass. I think it would be amazing to set a kind of liturgical template that youth from all over the world would take back to their parishes. “We heard all this beautiful music at the Masses in Poland - can’t we have that same music at our own church?” I’ve been working closely with Dominican Friars from the United States and Poland as we carefully plan all these liturgies. And we expect a pretty big choir!

But here’s where I need your help:

In order to direct the wonderful music this July in Krakow, my family and I first have to get to Krakow. And so I’m asking if you would support our Kickstarter campaign, to help us raise enough funds to bring gorgeous polyphony, beautiful chant, and ourselves to Poland. We would be very grateful for your help, and we promise to pray for you unceasingly in our gratitude!

Thank you for your kind consideration and for your support -

Chris Mueller and the Mueller Family Schola

tl;dr Support Traditional Sacred Music at World Youth Day by contributing to this Kickstarter Campaign.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Live, from the orphanage

There is an interesting discussion going on about the reformed liturgy as practiced since Vatican II. The discussion concerns an expression of Cardinal Sarah's: "too much man and not enough God."

I would like to propose that this expression, while accurate, does not reach to the heart of the problem, which is philosophical and theological. The real liturgical question is this:

Is the firmament permeable, or not?

1) If God is absent from the world, separated by the bright line of an unbridgeable horizon from earthly life and in a noumenal realm, then we are on our own. We are orphan children of an absent God, making our own way, and depending primarily on each other. Petitions and hymns are discussions among ourselves about values. The congregation is the primary instantiation of community. The most appropriate posture is humans facing humans, closing the circle. Intelligibility is of highest importance.

2) If God is actively at work in the world here and now, on earth and in earthlings, continually strengthening and raising us, then liturgy is a privileged opportunity to meet God. Liturgical language expresses our dependence on God's help. Petitions and hymns ask for more and more divine intervention, and not only for those present in one time and place, but for all people, living and the dead. The most appropriate posture involves all of the people facing the divine presence. Receptivity to grace is our highest action, and God Himself is of the highest importance.


Obviously there are multiple possible reasons for believing in one or another of these admittedly schematic theories of life, the universe and everything. But may I suggest that one possibility is the error of Esau, who sold his birthright for a nice dish of stew.

If God were absent from the world--which He is not--then we would be able to make our own morality. Right and wrong would be up to us. But it is not. And the cost of license would be much too high to pay.

One of the motivations for the reform of the reform--certainly my motivation--is that the reformed liturgy in its casual iterations leaves us feeling lonely for God. It distracts from prayer, rather than fostering recollection. It proposes a worldview in which we are stuck, alone, with what we have and who we are, rather than accurately expressing the truth, which, thanks be to God, is this:

the sky's the limit.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sacred Music vs. Praise and Worship

On our sister site New Liturgical Movement, Peter Kwasniewski posts excerpts from his intriguing analysis of musical styles suitable for the Liturgy.
When we hear chant, there is no ambiguity or ambivalence about what it is or what it is for; it breathes the spirit of the liturgy and cannot be mistaken for secular music in any way.
 Much more--follow the links!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Ward Method at Catholic University of America

This just came to my attention.

Ward Method Certification and Gregorian Chant Practicum
The online registration for the Summer 2016 Ward Method courses and Gregorian Chant Practicum is now available to interested persons at http://music.cua.edu/ward-method.cfm. Complete instructions are posted following the course descriptions. For scholarship requests, please email Fr. Robert Skeris at skeris@cua.edu.

Check it out if you're interested.