Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Technology for the Church Singer: Choral Singing from a Tablet

I use a tablet for 95% of all my music, and I have to admit, I love it, and would never go back to paper for most uses. At the suggestion of Adam Wood, I am using this post to outline my setup, in case anyone else would find it useful. Here it goes....
Some may remember me as "that guy" at the last colloquium.
You can see my tablet peeking out behind another singer
in this pic from the 2014 Colloquium, singing with
the esteemed Scott Turkington

I have a dropbox folder filled with tons of resources. SEP, Graduale Romanum, Graduale Simplex, Liber Usualis, Liber Brevior, Offertoriale Romanum, Chants Abrégés, all the gregorian ordinaries via the Kyriale Romanum, a decent amount of simpler organ music (example), parish book of chant (1st and 2nd editions), Richard Rice's communion books (with english and latin verses), Cantus Selecti, The Simple Choral Gradual, The Parish Book of Psalms,The American Gradual, The Gregorian Missal, The Palmer-Burgess Plainchant Gradual (pt 1, pt 2), The Revised Grail Psalms, Secunda anthologia vocalis (three voice motets), Fr. Kelly's Missal Chants (entrance, communion), Nova Organi Harmonia, the entire collection of organ scores for the ordinary for when I sub at my parish, random resources downloaded from the forum, the entire repertoire for each of the several choirs I sing in, as well as any specific music for Masses for which I plan to sing/direct/play for (which rotates around depending on what I'm doing), and a ton more (for example). Additionally, you can find a large number of motets on CPDL and other locations online.

It's between 1-2GB in all.

This collection lives in my dropbox on my computer, and also thanks to a third part app called DropSync, it is contained entirely offline on my tablet (Nexus 7, 2013) and my phone (nexus 5) and phone as well. I have used both of them at Masses, though obviously the nexus 7 is what I typically use. I use dropsync because the native android dropbox app only allows you to download individual files, not keep your entire collection offline on your device and synced.

Also, if you use THIS  LINK to sign up for dropbox, you can get an extra 500mb free.

I'd recommend the Nexus 9. I think it's a great option, and is quite fast. My tablet, the Nexus 7, is now being discontinued. It should allow you to store all these things offline and keep them synchronized like I doubt you could on an apple tablet. Adobe's PDF reader on android also allows me to take and edit notes (both typed and scribbled) allowing me to fully take notes like any other singer, but also to sync these notes to my computer and phone, so that they follow me no matter what device I use. Depending on how fast things are running I also use an android task manager to kill all background apps when I am getting ready to sing to ensure there is absolutely no lag or delay in the processing to change pages or change files (for example, from the graduale PDF to the PDF of my next motet).

I am very satisfied with this system. If anyone wanted to set themselves up with a similar system, I'd be more than willing to answer questions here or by email. I've used this for upwards of 2 years, so I am very comfortable with it and know all the tips and tricks related to this!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Correction on Early Registration Deadlines

I was wrong (yes, it happens) about the early registration deadline for the Colloquium - if you weren't in as of midnight last night, you missed it.  But you could still save on the Chant Intensive early registration this month.

Soooo, why not register for both now?  You'll have saved on one and helped us out on the other.

Apologies for any confusion.  It's late Sunday afternoon.

Time & Tide Wait for No Man (or Woman) - Early Registrations for Summer Events

Tomorrow is the 1st of March.  There is one month left for early registration at the Summer Chant Intensive and/or the Summer Colloquium.  This year both will be at Duquesne University in beautiful  Pittsburgh - the city of 27 bridges, a splendid cathedral, a new organ in the campus chapel - and all the delights of sacred music.  Monophony, polyphony, vocal, organ, chances to sing your heart out, to learn semiology and principles of chironomy, to network with like-minded folks for all over the country (and even other countries).

What are you waiting for?  Hie thee to the CMAA site and get on board the train now.  Early registration saves you $50 (or fifty Washingtons, if that's the way you talk).

Join us for one or both conferences.  Summer Chant Intensive with the incomparable Wilko Brouwers, June 23-26,2015.  Summer Colloquium XXV with a plethora of talent and brain power, June 29-July 4, 2015.

Take the plunge!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Most Clever Sacred Music Concert Commercial I Have Ever Seen

Common Non-Denominator

This video will be interesting to our readers for many reasons, particularly if they hail from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, or sing a lot of funerals. I understand from a close Minnesotan friend and nun that Minnesota funerals generally have a great number of jello dishes at the receptions.

But I digress. What intrigues me personally about the video is something Marty Haugen has to say (beginning at the 1:00 mark) about the consciously denominationally non-specific character of his music:
I have several hundred pieces of published music. It's used mostly in Roman Catholic and Lutheran circles, although it's used in other denominations as well. I try and write to those common threads. (Choir sings: "An open hand, a willing heart...) So I say, "What do we share, what can we all sing?"

Haugen's attitude, while laudably genial, should be of concern to Catholic musicians, whose music accompanies words of faith--words that help congregations to make acts of faith.

Faith is content-rich. What Haugen seems to be saying here is that some of this content--that which is not shared among Catholics and non-Catholic Christians--usually does not make its way into his music.

Thankfully, a lot of the Catholic faith does overlap with that of non-Catholic Christians. But some of it doesn't, and Calvin and Luther would be (and were) among the first to insist upon this.

Intriguingly, a lot of what does not overlap has to do with sacramental practice. For example, at Mass.

And overlapping with this difference is a marked distinction in soteriological convictions--of how we are saved. And soteriology is central to how we pray.

Personally I am an ecumenist. I strongly believe that the Lord intended for all Christians to be one, and that our divisions are scandalous. But I as equally strongly believe that pretending that our real differences do not exist does not contribute to our ultimate unity. Instead, they make all of us weak in our Christian faith.

It seems to me that some of the academic disciplines have been led by similar concerns that Haugen mentions regarding his own writing, and that these studies have been weakened by them. Perhaps we are witnessing something of a recovery from this, among Catholics and non-Catholics alike. All the better. It seems to me that true dialogue occurs most fruitfully when each speaks out of his/her own convictions, rather than when we avoid messy or difficult subjects.

Our unity, when it comes, should be one of richness, and not reduction.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bread From Heaven: New Book of English Eucharistic Motets

An announcement from my colleague Heath Morber:

At the behest of (and with the help of) my colleague Ben Yanke, I've just released a collection of motets entitled "Bread From Heaven", drawn from existing works from the Renaissance masters and set with English Eucharistic texts.

These are two- and three-part motets from des Pres, di Lasso, and Palestrina, drawn mostly from excerpts within their Latin Mass settings. Using seven Eucharistic texts (the "Ad Libitum" antiphons in the Roman Gradual), I fitted the English text to the original notes (modifying some rhythms) and transposed each for multiple voice configurations (SA, AT, SAT, ATB, etc.) Each text has a two- and three- part setting and multiple editions for a total of 14 different motets with 49 total settings!

I've sung nearly all of these with students here at St. John's in Champaign, IL and they've been perfect for times when I can only round up a talented cantor or two and want something dignified to use for communion.

The collection can be found at, direct link here:

Coil-Bound | Paperback

Please note the extensive sample (also available here); it gives you a good feel for the flavor of the whole collection.

I do hope that this will be a great resource for your music program!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Lenten Exercises of the Roman Curia

The Holy Father and his closest co-workers are on retreat this week.

Please remember them in your prayers and sacrifices.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Three Marian hymns by Saint Peter Damian

February 21st is the feast of St. Peter Damian, Doctor of the Church, reformer of the Church--and writer of hymns. Although his feast is not often celebrated in most parishes, when it falls during the privileged season of Lent, he is well worth knowing, particularly as we begin this prayerful season. As the Pope Emeritus said of him:
In study and in the daily meditation of Sacred Scripture, Peter Damian discovered the mystical meaning of the word of God, finding in it nourishment for his spiritual life. In this regard he described the hermit's cell as the "parlor in which God converses with men". For him, living as a hermit was the peak of Christian existence, "the loftiest of the states of life" because the monk, now free from the bonds of worldly life and of his own self, receives "a dowry from the Holy Spirit and his happy soul is united with its heavenly Spouse" (Ep 18, 17; cf. Ep 28, 43 ff.). This is important for us today too, even though we are not monks: to know how to make silence within us to listen to God's voice, to seek, as it were, a "parlor" in which God speaks with us: learning the word of God in prayer and in meditation is the path to life.
The Liber Hymnarius includes nine hymns of Saint Peter Damian, of which two are parts of the same original hymn, the Good Friday hymns for Sext and None: Crux, mundi, and Per crucem. All of the hymns commemorate a special saint or mystery; none is sung throughout the year.

Here are my translations of the three Marian hymns among those in the Liber Hymnarius. One of the special features of St. Peter's Marian hymns is his idea of Mary's mediation of Christ, Who came through her. This idea is evident in the first and third hymns below.


Just like the morning’s dawning bright
She rises to the heav’nly height,
Maria, splendid as the sun,
Just like the moon, most lovely one.

Today, the queen of all the earth—
Who to that Son has given birth
Who is, before the daystar shone—
Ascends unto her glorious throne.

Assumed above the angels, higher
Than every heav’nly angel choir
This single woman has outrun
The merits all the saints have won.

The One Whom in her lap she fed
And laid within a manger bed.
She sees as Lord of everything,
Now in His Father’s glory, King.

Virgin of virgins, intercede,
And with your Son with fervor plead.
He took up what is ours through you.
May what is His come through you, too.

Praise to the Father and the Son
And Paraclete, forever one,
Who in the saints’ and angels’ sight
Have clothed you in their glorious light.


O Theotokos, Mary blest,
Our human nature’s shining crest,
Through you we have our liberty,
Free children of the light to be.

O Virgin, Queen of heav’n and earth,
Though of King David’s stock by birth,
Your royal dignity has come
Not from your fathers, but your Son.

Remove us from the ancient root.
Graft us in Him, the newborn shoot.
Through you may we become by grace,
A royal, priestly, human race.

O offer holy prayers to win
Release from all our bonds of sin.
We praise your merits to the skies:
May we in heaven share your prize.

Exemplar of virginity,
Give glory to the Trinity,
Whose endless treasure-stores of gifts
Through you our human nature lifts.


Joy of creation, new star in the heavens,
Moth’ring the Sun, and parenting your Maker,
Stretch forth your hand to lift the weak and fallen,
O virgin Mother.

You were created as a living ladder
By which the Most High reaches us, the lowly.
Give us God’s ladder. Let us climb, returning
To the high heavens.

All of the chorus of the blessed angels,
Orders of prophets and the blest apostles
Claim you in honor as their only sov’reign
After the Godhead.

Praise to the highest Trinity eternal,
Who crowned you, Virgin, honoring you greatly,
And whose provision gave you as our Mother,
And Queen forever. Amen.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Don't Forget: Early Registration for the Colloquium Ends in TEN DAYS

Have you been to the Colloquium before? Never been, but always wanted to? If you want to come this year, now is the time to get ready! For all the information you could need, visit the CMAA's site here. In order to make deadline for the early bird registration, you must have your registration in by March 1, 2015, and you can save $50 from your registration fee. I'm currently working on my arrangements to be there, and I hope to see you there!

Check out all the old Chant Cafe posts on the colloquium here, including some videos I created last year, including the one below:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Dad, that song's weird."

(An imaginary conversation.)

"What do you mean?"

"At my school. Every year they sing this song about ashes. It's so weird."

"Oh. Do you mean the one that goes 'We rise again from ashes...'?"

"Exactly. Why do they have to sing it? It's not good."

"No, I don't think so either. Sit down for a minute and I'll show you what I think is wrong with it. Now let me write down the first verse:
We rise again from ashes, from the good we've failed to do.
We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew.
If all our world is ashes, then must our lives be true
An offering of ashes, an offering to you.
And here is the last verse:
Praise be to the Father, who made us like himself.
Praise be to the Son, who saved us by his death.
Praise be to the Spirit who creates our world anew 
From an offering of ashes, an offering to you.
Okay, when you look at those two verses, which is worse?"

"Well, the last one isn't too bad. But the first one is terrible."

"I agree. Can you say exactly what is wrong with it?"

"Well, for one thing, it makes us look terrible. I mean, I know we're sinners and all that, but if you say 'all our world is ashes' it just sounds too strict."

"I agree. If we thought that being sinners made us totally depraved, well, that might be okay to say. But as Catholics we believe that there is a lot of good in the world. And in us."

"The other thing I don't like is it reminds me of a phoenix. I mean, phoenixes are cool, but is that right to sing about in church?"

"I don't think so. Hmm, I wonder if phoenixes ever were Christian symbols? Could be, I'll google it later. But I would at least say that I'm not crazy about that image, because if I remember right, phoenixes rise out of their ashes as their exact same selves. But the New Testament is clear about the fact that when we rise, we shall be changed. We'll be ourselves, but different. But anyways there's something else that I think is a real problem with that verse."


"Look at the last two lines of the last verse. Who is doing the action?"

"The Spirit. I guess they mean the Holy Spirit."

"Right. And who is doing the action in the first verse?"

"We are. That's it, that's what I don't like."

"Exactly. When was the last time I created something? Never. I make things, and I have children, which is as close as I come to creating anything. But I've never created something from nothing. I've never caused something to rise from the dead. The last verse gets it right. The first verse, I think, is completely wrong. It's misleading and it's wrong. I won't even go into the second verse."

"Okay, that makes sense. I mean, that it's God's job to change us, even if we try to do what we can. I mean, I try, but I can't do it all.

Anyways, I hope they don't sing it next year."

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Massive Improvement from the Sistine Chapel Choir

The Sistine Chapel choir is the choir who sings for the papal Masses at St. Peter's Basilica and other papal ceremonies in Vatican City. Unfortunately, it's common knowledge among musicians that while their selections of music have typically been very good (such as gregorian ordinaries and polyphonic motets), their performance of said music has, in the past, often been overly operatic and low in quality.

However, I woke up yesterday morning, and saw a notification on my phone that the Papal Music youtube channel had uploaded a new video from the Consistory in Rome, so I opened it and expected more of the same. But I opened it up and was shocked to find their quality had massively improved:

I am not sure what is going on there with their choir, but whatever is going on, their gradual improvement is going very well, and I am very interested to see where this goes in the future.

For comparison, here are a few past performances of the same piece: 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Serenades for Your Sweetheart: A Clever Valentines Sacred Music Fundraiser

Fundraising is something many choirs often deal with to help provide a budget for their program. One CMAA member is doing a clever idea this valentines day: Serenades for Your Sweetheart. For those who might be interested, I'd encourage you to check this out! All orders must be received by Friday, February 13th.

Over 30 young choristers from the Cathedral Children's Choir in the Diocese of Joliet-in-Illinois are preparing to travel to the Vatican this December to participate in the 40th International Congress of Pueri Cantores.

You can help them raise the funds for their trip by ordering your loved one(s) a live phone serenade for Valentine's Day!

For a donation of just $20/call, you can surprise your special someone with a gift they'll remember far more than flowers. Make your selection from a dozen classic love songs including broadway, folk, and ballads. Click here to view details and order online, or to order by phone call Laura at 815.341.4140.

This gift is great not just for spouses/fiancés/boyfriends/girlfriends, but also parents, grandparents, siblings, children, godparents, godchildren, or friends!

You're also invited to like the CCC on Facebook here, where you can follow their preparations, and where photo and video will be shared from their pilgrimage later this year.