Cantate Domino in Ottawa!

Join St. Clement Parish in Ottawa for a Weekend of Sacred Music, November 22 – 23, 2019.

Featuring organist and chant director, David J. Hughes, the workshop begins at 7:30 pm on Friday, November 22 with Vespers, followed by an organ recital.

On Saturday, November 23, the parish will celebrate the Feast of St. Clement with a High Mass at 10:00 am, followed by a Chant Workshop beginning at 11:30 am. The workshop will culminate with 5:00 pm Vespers. Lunch is provided.

Pre-registration is required. Please call 613-281-3766 or email ottawachant@gmail.com to register. The registration cost of only $20/person includes lunch.

St. Clement Parish is located at 528 Old St. Patrick St., Ottawa.

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A February conference with Peter Latona

Musicians looking for an educational event next February may like to consider a conference NPM is putting on February 10-12 in Washington, with Dr. Peter Latona, the director of music at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. The program includes four talks by Dr. Latona, two of them at the Basilica, and features the opportunity to observe a choir rehearsal on site. More information on the program, costs, and accommodations are in the event brochure.

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New Office hymn texts in English

For several years work has been underway to develop a new edition of the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH) in English for use in the United States. The version currently in use dates from the mid-1970s and is overdue for revision, since the second post-conciliar Latin edition was issued 34 years ago. So the new edition is coming with numerous positive changes, many of them based on the 2001 document Liturgiam authenticam.

One part of the work has reached a milestone: the task of translating the office’s Latin hymns into English has been completed by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and the results will be up for approval by the US bishops this month at their meeting.

These are great hymns, nearly 300 of them, full of theological significance and suited to the various feasts and daily observances, so they will be a true enrichment for the Liturgy of the Hours. They will replace the English-language hymns, songs, and poems that were used in the current edition, nearly all of them unrelated to the corresponding Latin texts.

As with most things in the world of church music, there is debate. Happily, the hymns are being put into English with an eye to preserving the original meter of the Latin hymns. This will make it so that the original melodies, simple Gregorian tunes, can be used with them. But in a move that inspires misgivings, the hymns are being rendered as unrhymed text.

Here’s an example:

Iesu, redémptor sæculi,
Verbum Patris altíssimi,
Lux lucis invisíbilis,
Custos tuórum pérvigil :

Tu fabricátor ómnium
Discrétor atque témporum,
Fessa labore córpora
Noctis quiéte récrea.

Qui frangis ima tártara,
Tu nos ab hoste líbera,
Ne váleat sedúcere
Tuo redémptos sánguine,

Ut, dum graváti córpore
Brevi manémus témpore,
Sic caro nostra dórmiat
Ut mens sopórem nésciat.

Iesu, tibi sit glória,
Qui morte victa prænites,
Cum Patre et almo Spíritu,
In sempitérna sæcula.

Demo videos from ICEL for nine of the new hymn texts are available on the net.

Of course, the decision to avoid rhyme in the English translations of these hymns was not made without reason. In some cases, obtaining a rhyme can force the translator to change conventional English word order. This is commonplace in hymnody and poetry, but, it is said, it could arguably make the text seem artificial for the many clergy who observe the daily office alone, who read it rather then singing it.

One must concede that that is a reason, but it reflects a sad state of affairs: that now, as in the liturgical reform of the 1960s, the celebration of the liturgy with music is treated as something good but secondary, as somewhat less important than the desire to celebrate the liturgy in merely spoken form.

As a consolation, I am told that the new unrhymed English hymns will not be mandatory: that it will be permitted to use other translations, including the classic rhyming translations by greats such as Neale and Winkworth, or more recently those from the nuns of St. Cecilia’s Abbey in Ryde or Stanbrook Abbey.

More information on the status of the LOTH is available at the site of the USCCB.

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Seek always the face of the Lord

Fair souls arrive at home at last
Their trials and labors in the past.
What joys transcending joy amaze
When on the face of God they gaze.

The Ancient One upon His throne,
The Son of Man upon His own,
Between Them, Love Himself, the Lord,
Are not by faith, but sight, adored.

The elders praise the One in Three,
Their crowns thrown down upon the sea.
The thrones are borne on cherubim.
The hosts of heaven sound the hymn.

And when the trumpet fills the skies
The human body shall arise,
And eyes that once sought vanity
See, all unveiled, the Trinity.

That day, all mistiness will clear
From taste and touch, from eye and ear,
And those who lived by love and grace
Shall plainly see Him face to face.

c. 2019 Kathleen Pluth

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Franciscus, vir catholicus


Before October is out, here’s an office antiphon in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, sung in a church in northern Italy:

Franciscus, vir catholicus
et totus apostolicus,
Ecclesiae teneri
fidem Romanae docuit,
Presbyterosque monuit
prae cunctis revereri.

Francis, a man Catholic and entirely apostolic,
taught that the faith of the Roman Church be upheld,
and admonished that priests be revered before all.

It’s unusual in that it’s rhymed (aabccb, 887777): for more information about the source in a Franciscan antiphonary, see this page at Boston College Libraries.

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St. Ambrose on St. Agnes

We only have 4 hymns that we know conclusively come from the pen of St. Ambrose,  because the writings of his son St. Augustine attest to them by name. Many others bear his name but are not definitely Ambrosian in authorship.

However, I like to think that the beautiful tribute to an early virgin martyr, Agnes Beatae Virginis, usually attributed to St. Ambrose, is his. It has a certain clarity and declarative vigor that sounds like him. Here is my translation.

The blessed virgin Agnes flies
back to her home above the skies.
With love she gave her blood on earth
to gain a new celestial birth.

Mature enough to give her life,
though still too young to be a wife,
what joy she shows when death appears
that one would think: her bridegroom nears!

Her captors lead her to the fire
but she refuses their desire,
“For it is not such smold’ring brands
Christ’s virgins take into their hands.”

“This flaming fire of pagan rite
extinguishes all faith and light.
Then stab me here, so that the flood
may overcome this hearth in blood.”

Courageous underneath the blows,
her death a further witness shows,
for as she falls she bends her knee
and wraps her robes in modesty.

O Virgin-born, all praises be
to You throughout eternity.
and unto everlasting days
to Father and the Spirit, praise.

 

 

 

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Hymn Tune Introits: A First Step to the Propers for Hymn-Singing Parishes

As the new parish year is about to begin, I thought I would mention again my 2016 booklet published by WLP, Hymn Tune Introits: Singing the Sundays of the Liturgical Year.

Many pastors are aware of the benefits of “singing the Mass,” as opposed to simply singing at Mass. The Church opens the Scriptures to us in many ways at the liturgy, not only through the lectionary, but with particular generosity through the Propers of the Mass.

Over the last two decades the Church in the United States has experienced an historically important publishing explosion in English-language versions of the Propers for use at Mass for the benefit of the People of God. While the Graduale remains the gold standard for singing the Propers, composers such as Paul Ford, Richard Rice, Adam Bartlett, Jeff Ostrowski, Fr. Samuel Weber, Bruce Ford, Aristotle Esguerra, Andrew Motyka, and many others have worked out ways to bring the Proper texts closer to the people, making these wonderfully rich texts available for choir and/or congregational singing. Ben Yanke maintains an enormous database with links of these resources for singing the Propers.

The Hymn Tune Introits go one step further, making the Entrance Antiphon of the day accessible to every congregation in the English-speaking world. 

Every congregation knows at least one Long Meter hymn tune. And every text in this entire book can be sung to that tune.

If a parish knows All People That on Earth Do Dwell, they can sing each of these texts to that tune. They work equally well with the tunes for Creator of the Stars of Night, or Jesus Shall Reign. Or On Jordan’s Bank, Lift Up Your Heads, O Sun of Justice, When I Survey–many others. A lack of musical resources is therefore no obstacle for any parish.

Experience shows that the introduction of Propers can be unsettling for congregations, for two reasons. First, it offers something new, which always causes some initial resistance. Secondly, and this is important, it takes away something the congregation is used to. Of course, the point is precisely the opposite: making the riches of the Mass available to the congregation–but it will not be perceived that way initially, and this is the pastoral problem that the Hymn Tune Introits are designed to solve. Congregations that are accustomed to singing a hymn to begin the Mass, and would be unsettled by any chanted Proper, may much more readily make that transition by singing something that sounds just like a familiar hymn.

Imagine it is Sunday morning, and time for Mass to begin. The organ begins to play, the Entrance Procession begins, and as the musical introduction reaches its conclusion, the people think, “Oh, I know that song!” They pick up their worship leaflets and find the Entrance Chant, and without any rehearsal or fumbling they sing it straight through. The ministers have reached the altar, the organist improvises as the altar is venerated, and the priest reaches his chair.

Alternatively, imagine that a parish that is poor, and between organists, is ready to begin Mass. Someone designated as cantor, or the priest, sings out the first line of the Hymn Tune Introit. Once again, everyone “knows this song,” and all join in.

A “contemporary ensemble” of guitar/piano would have equal success.

For too long, the People of God have been deprived of some of their rightful meditations: those provided for them in the Proper texts of the Mass. I’m happy to be involved in some small way in helping to spread this banquet of the Word of God for the nourishment of all.

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St. John Henry Newman

A glance at some of the observances surrounding the canonization of St. John Henry Newman:

The London Oratory Schola Cantorum sang at Sunday’s canonization Mass in Rome, under the direction of Charles Cole:

Fr. James Bradley of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham appeared on EWTN (Great Britain) in a series of reflections about Newman’s life and importance:

And Mass at the Oratory itself was followed by a solemn Te Deum:

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The Ukrainian Catholic SingCon

In September, CMAA board member David Hughes and I had the pleasure of attending the second annual “singing conference” for musicians of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church held at St. Basil Seminary in Stamford, Connecticut, presented by the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission of the UGCC. For us Westerners, it was a beginner’s opportunity to become acquainted with the music of that Church, characterized by its traditions of harmonized chant.

For the eighty or so attending, it was a time to share with each other their experience as parish musicians and to learn from recognized experts, many of them connected with St. Basil Seminary or with the Sheptytsky Institute based in Toronto.

The program included sung celebrations of Vespers, Matins, some of the Little Hours, and of course Divine Liturgy, which on Sunday was celebrated by Bishop Bohdan Danylo of Parma, Ohio. That liturgy included some works by New York-based composer Roman Hurko, who directed one of the choirs at the “SingCon”:

Next year the conference will be held at the Ukrainian Catholic cathedral in Philadelphia, October 1-4.

More information and videos from this year’s conference appear at our sister site New Liturgical Movement and at the site of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission.

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