Friday, January 23, 2015

St. Paul's Cathedral Choir Tour in USA

The St. Paul's Cathedral Choir (London, U.K.) will be making a major tour through eight cities in the U.S. during the month of April 2015.

BOSTON, MA Trinity Church Thursday 16th April 7.00pm
ATLANTA, GA Cathedral of St Philip Saturday 18th April 7.30pm
MACON, GA Vineville UMC Sunday 19th April 4.00pm
SHREVEPORT, LA First UMC Tuesday 21st April 7.30pm
HOUSTON, TX St Martin’s Episcopal Friday 24th April 7.00pm
WASHINGTON, DC National Cathedral Sunday 26th April 5.00pm
ST PAUL, MN Cathedral of St Paul Tuesday 28th April 7.30pm
VALPARAISO, IN Valparaiso University Wednesday 29th April 7.30pm

There has been a choir at St Paul’s Cathedral since 1127. Thirty boy choristers and twelve vicars choral provide music for eight sung services a week with regular recordings and broadcasts. The choir is regarded as one of the best in the world and regularly leads services of British national importance from State occasions such as the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen to the funeral of Baroness Thatcher.

For many years St Paul’s Cathedral has held a close relationship with the USA. It is home to the American Memorial Chapel and hosts the annual Thanksgiving Service for the American Community in London. Indeed it was the first British cathedral choir ever to visit the United States (in the year of The Queen's coronation, 1953).

This tour will be the choir's first visit to the USA in twelve years and marks the first of three visits over the next 6 years. The choir is active in communicating updates on its work. You can follow their progress via the following channels:

Twitter: #USA2015

In case you want a preview, they will be broadcasting live over the internet on 4th February via BBC Radio 3. Mark your calendars so you don't miss these wonderful concerts!

You can download the brochure about the tour here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Women in the Liturgy; Women in the Church

One of the problems in dealing with underprivileged groups is that it's pretty hard to say anything that doesn't strike a chord of sensitivity. The valuing of the gifts of women in the Church is one of these third-rail issues that no man can handle quite delicately enough for every woman, sorry to say. That's the cost of hegemony, I'm afraid, and hopefully one day bygones will be bygones.

In the meantime, recently two senior churchmen have said things that I think are somewhat unfair, on diametrically opposite sides of the same issue.

Pope Francis, who is actively promoting the legitimate rise of women in the Church, and who is eager to address a leadership imbalance that is really inexplicable on any reasonable criterion, nevertheless said something that I think is just a little problematic. In his characteristically colorful way, he spoke in positive terms about the outstanding women scholars who have recently been named to the International Theological Commission. Noting that there were more than before, and emphasizing that their presence was necessary, and also saying that there ought to be more, he nonetheless said that we are like "strawberries on the cake." You can see that this was kindly meant--and if he had said that they were strawberry cake marbled in among the usual vanilla, no woman, I suppose, not the most sensitive woman, could possibly take offense. Different kinds of cake; feminine perspectives on reality; scholars among scholars. Not decorative, not adorning fruit, not necessarily more delightful than any other theologian, but real, true cake: this is what women are able to contribute to theology, I believe.

Given that understanding, I was baffled by the remarks of Cardinal Burke in a recent interview, particularly as the endless internet discussions surrounding the interview were crossed by the Adoremus Bulletin in an issue largely dedicated to the memory of one of the most powerful women of our times, Helen Hull Hitchcock. Here is a beautiful conceived and written article  in her honor by a diocesan priest and co-worker in their hugely successful campaign to restore the sacral language of the Liturgy. No one I know of has had more influence over English-language liturgy than she has. Which is one more reason why the good Cardinal's negative statement that the Liturgy has been "feminized" and under feminine influence is so bewildering and hurtful.

Personally I am in favor of an all-boy altar server corps, because there is a certain age at which the polarities and fears between the sexes is almost insurmountable. Twelve year olds, for example. However, those conditions of fear should not be in place at the time of entering the seminary, and to the extent that they are, is there truly no remedy? Certainly these fears and hesitations can and must be overcome. Certainly there is some hope that a man who is called by God to the priesthood of Jesus Christ can overcome small hesitations, particularly when these hesitations would eventually become barriers to collaboration.

Because at heart, I believe, the problem is not about justice for women. The problem is justice for the Holy Spirit. Gifts are given as God wills, not according to our comfort or conventions. One of the first apostles was a Samaritan, and a woman. The Church is meant to benefit from the gifts that are given, and when truly arbitrary customs prevent this, then the People of God are missing out on what God wants to give them. For this reason I am very thankful for Pope Francis' efforts to initiate a balanced view, in which the best candidate for a position--cleric, lay, religious, whomever--is not artificially excluded from consideration.

The Liturgy itself is a feminine act of worship, an act of reception. As the final chapter of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church teaches, we are like the Blessed Mother, but on pilgrimage. She who prayed in the midst of the apostles prays among us now. Like the virgin martyrs and all the angels and saints, she is in our sanctuary.

The Church, as in the Song of Songs, is a "she"--and she has a Bridegroom.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Singing the GIRM

One of the many ephemeral phases of liturgical music theory during the second half of the 20th century--phases that flowed in on one another's ebbs like waves upon the shore--was the one that a friend calls "Singing the GIRM."

Under this paradigm, it was of vital importance that at each layer of the 4-hymn sandwich, we would all note in song the liturgical action. At offertory, for example, we sang songs about the offering of bread and wine, and about our offering of ourselves.
Take our bread, we ask You. Take our hearts, we love you. Take our lives, O Father, we are Yours, we are Yours. 
All that we have, and all that we offer, comes from a heart both frightened and free. Take what we bring now, and give what we need: all done in His name.
A shorter-lived example of this phase occurred in the Recessional hymns that described the meaning of recessing.
The Mass is ended, all go in peace.We shall diminish, and Christ increase. We take Him with us where e'er we go, that through our actions, His life may show. 
Go forth among the people. See men of every nation. With the gift of faith He gave, tell them how He came to save. Tell them how He came to bring salvation.
Communion was celebrated by songs of sharing and eating and caring, etc. That wave formed a tidepool that lingers still on our shores, as did the later idea of the "gathering hymn."

The element that seems usually missing from these texts is the very important idea of why we would do all these things.

There are parallels to the Gathering Hymn in Scripture. The Church in fact perennially uses the greatest of these in the Liturgy of the Hours, as the invitatory Psalm 95.
Come, (it sings), let us bow down. (why?) "The Lord is God, the mighty God, the great King over all the gods. He holds in His hands the depths of the earth, and the highest mountains as well. He made the sea; it belongs to Him. The dry land, too, for it was formed by His hands."
Why worship? Because we, and everything that is, are His creatures.

A different kind of Gathering Psalm is in the Psalter, the Psalms of Ascent. These would have been sung by pilgrims going up to Jerusalem.
Why? "For Israel's law it is, there to praise the Lord's name. In it are set up judgment seats: seats for the house of David."
See the difference? The reason we "go to the Lord's House" is spelled out in the Psalms. It's not because "new light is streaming" or because we bring "our tears and our dreaming," and it's certainly not so that we can "build a house where love can dwell." It's because of our relationship with God. In Israel's case, this covenant was expressed in the giving, and the fulfillment, of the Law. In our case, Jesus said, "Do this in memory of me."

I really believe that focusing on that relationship is the key to ending the liturgical feeling of restlessness and contingency that still plagues many parishes, the sense that we are putting things together in our own weekly skit instead of worshipping the living God.

The propers constantly sing about the relationship we have with God our Creator, Savior, Redeemer, the One on Whom we can rely, the One in Whom we hope. Rather than narrate the liturgical action--which surely can speak for itself--our singing ought to express, with thanks, what we have been given.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Random thoughts and a review of SACRED MUSIC, Winter 2014 Issue

In another thread (over at MSF) I quipped about having to "slog through" two articles on Viennese Masses in the most recent issue of SACRED MUSIC. In any case I did my slogging and save for Dr. Jenny's article, read it cover to cover just yesterday. There is much to ponder, both in content and as regards intent.
I was surprised and gratified to again hear Prof. Mahrt publicly mention "circumambulated" Introits as a potential betterment of the Entrance Rite that is commonly practiced. His whole article could be easily shared with skeptical celebrants wary of fussy, "traddie" musicians always yammering on about the Benedictine altar and ad orientem. His recollection of one particular Colloquium Mass (I believe Fr. Keyes was celebrant) that reflected the value of a prominent Altar Crucifix even when the OF is celebrated "versus populum" would likely sway a few hearts of non-stolid celebrants.
The article profiling Fr. Louis Boyer was an eye-opener. For non-academics such as myself, the revelations of ritual "sausage making" are of extreme interest. Such detail (not dissimilar to Dobszay's explication of Bugnini) gives insights by which we now can re-consider "why are we doing this as such?" Boyer's own internal struggles with the value of the Pauline Missal, on one hand endorsing SC and on the other making this incredible declaration, "What people call liturgy today is little more that this (embalmed cadaver-a reference to the pre-conciliar Low Mass one supposes) same cadaver decomposed." Yikes! What may be even more frightening is that the "slap-dash" liturgies (of the Dutch?) that were "cobbled together at the last moment by a gang of three) would be now considered "High Church" by comparison to Mass at St.Suburbs.
The articles on the Viennese Mass were informative if a tad anachronistic. What both authors could not resist were suppositions of how abuses in the 17th century among others in regions other than just Wien, automatically bring to mind comparisons to presumably all contemporaneous service music in the 21st century and globally so. There is an undeniable amount of truth in linking such denunciation, but what is overlooked is that the processes of "action/reaction" and "problem/solution" that were in process then are also in process now. Thankfully, as CMAA has a clear ethos centered around the primary and secondary genres of "genuine Roman" music, the default to those makes excursions into "what place does the Viennese Mass" have as a standard of beauty for Masses in this era a brief consideration. Msgr. Schuler's spirit lives on, but not pervasively so. But to advocate for this model of Mass to be resuscitated, well.....
The article about the very definition and nature of "art" seemed, to me, very sketchy and of dubious value. I'm just going to leave that discussion open to others. It does have some passing interest by a loose connection to the issue of free speech brought to the fore of the news cycle by the recent tragedy. (One digression as I type is the incredulity of the media gleefully exhibiting the cover art for the emerging issue of "Charlie Hebdo." Would they have done that three weeks ago?
Mahrt scores again with his brief and helpful analysis of Factus est repente by Gallus. Goes to the top of the pile for next rehearsals.
I very much appreciate the standards of SACRED MUSIC being maintained at a lofty scholastic level. Perhaps down the road, some enterprising young scholar might apply those rubrics to examining the body of music that is significantly employed not only here in the states, but in their own ways, the inculturated accretions that are routinely and generally excoriated in forums such as this one. There is no doubt that what Benedict predicted about unfettered inculturation would "do" to the "Spirit of the Liturgy" is spot on. However, I've yet to see any comprehensive discussion of inculturated musical elements that have been properly vetted and not found wanting. Now that would be interesting reading. Cheers.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Something for next year

Te Deum Tuesday: Bruckner

This week, the Te Deum is by Bruckner. Thanks to Dr Peter Kwasniewski for sending it in!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Announcements of Easter and Movable Feasts - 2015 Score

The proclamation of the date of Easter and the other moveable feasts on Epiphany is one of the many things that was a practical necessity in time of old, but is kept within liturgical use (similar to candles providing light at Mass). It is something that any parish can use this Sunday after the gospel.

There are two scores in the file, depending on which day your Diocese celebrates the Ascension.

Download a PDF here or a practice Mp3 (courtesy NPM)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

See Amid the Winter's Snow

This beautiful and gentle Christmas hymn was written by the convert to Catholicism Edward Caswall, better know to many as the translator of hymns such as Pange Lingua Gloriosi, O Salutaris Hostia, Quicunque certum quaertis, and the Stabat Mater Dolorosa.

Te Deum Tuesday: Howells

This week, we have a Te Deum in the Anglican musical tradition, from Howells.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Giving Liturgically

With just a few days left in the tax year, I thought I would mention some liturgical giving opportunities for those interested in making some last-minute donations.

1. The Church Music Association of America, through its scholarly journal, enormous bank of free online musical resources, its support of publishing initiatives, its Winter Chant Intensive, Colloquium, and other learning opportunities, and its three online discussion forums including this blog, is the leading and most effective voice for sacred music in the world.

Through the energetic work of the CMAA, uncountable congregations have benefitted by a renewal of their liturgical life. I hope that you will consider joining us in this work that combines evangelization, scholarship, and prayer, for the life of the world.

2. The Magnificat devotional aid, which has brought the texts of the Mass, art, and music into the homes, purses, and pockets of millions, is now through its Magnificat Foundation the sponsor of Magnificat Days, which celebrate beautiful liturgies that are broadcast through EWTN. Imagine an immersion experience like the CMAA Colloquium, for non-musicians--with full TV coverage.

(Evening Prayer begins at 3:13.) The Foundation also provides copies of the company's publications to those who cannot afford them.

3. The Pope Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music has been busy preparing, among other things, the Ignatius Pew Missal. The Institute has a local outreach for Bay Area musicians and a seminary presence--and its work has only just begun. Find out more by email here.

4. Meanwhile, the newest initiative of all, the St. Cecilia Academy for Pastoral Musicians, is just beginning its work on the other coast. Those in New York who might wish to enroll in their credential or Masters' programs may find the information here.

Scripture says that we should love in deed and truth, and not merely talk about it. In the way of loving known as "the new evangelization," it is the same. These organizations are not just talking about evangelization: they are doing it, here and now.

May God bless us all throughout the coming year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

An Apology for The Propers - Dominus Dixit at Midnight Mass

Besides the rubrical idea that the GIRM, church documents, and traditions of the church lean strongly towards toward the singing of the propers at Mass, there’s also another important point that is missed in this discussion: important texts of the liturgy are being dropped. When the propers are not sung, it’s almost as if you’re skipping 3 short readings from the Mass (or four, if the tract is to be sung). For example, take a look at the introit for the Christmas Mass during the Night (ie, midnight Mass) that is prescribed to be sung tonight.
Ant. The Lord said unto me: You are my Son, today I have begotten you.

Vs. Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The Lord said unto me...

Vs. They arise, the kings of the earth; princes plot against the LORD and his Anointed. The Lord said unto me...

Vs. Ask of me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession. The Lord said unto me...

(continuing along with Psalm II as needed)

Translation: Gregorian Missal (ant), Revised Grail Psalter (vs)
Here's a recording rendered wonderfully by the Westminster Cathedral Choir (this is one of my favorite chants, by the way), giving you a feeling of how well it works during a procession, in the context of the Ordinary Form:

Most parishes this Christmas will probably singing some Christmas carol like O Come All Ye Faithful. There’s nothing bad about that, per se, but it really just covers the whole "Christ is born, let’s all come worship Him" idea. Not that it's bad, but I find it's a little surface level for fully expressing the meaning of Christmas that the church gives us. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a wonderful carol. Carols have their place. But that place should not be replacing the music and the text the church gives us for the sacred liturgy.

On the other hand, look at the introit for this Mass. The antiphon is a rarely heard in most parishes around the world, but contains a reasonably Christmas-themed text as we may think of it: Christ is the son of God, coming to us from heaven in the incarnation. But continue to read on to the verses (the first few are above, and the first one of those is almost always used). We see a clear foretelling and reference of Christ’s passion and resurrection. We’re joyful at Christmas, but at the same time, we must keep things in perspective: this child came here to die a horrendous death for us. It’s certainly not the primary focus of the feast. But at the same time, this is the introit setting the tone for the Mass and the feast. Even in the ancient melody itself, you can hear a reserved joy, but with a touch melancholy hidden within the beautiful melody as well.

That’s just one small reason we should be singing the words of God instead of the words of men at Mass.

Merry Christmas!