Tuesday, July 22, 2014

S. Maria Magdalena - Apostle to the Apostles

Saint Mary of Magdala, in debated multiplicity of biblical character, is honored in both East and West as first among the disciples of Jesus.  Even the Saints share a variety of ideas on her life as "the woman who was a sinner", sister of Martha and Lazarus of Bethany, footwasher at Simon's house, etc. Regardless of the debate, one which continues to add interest to this very day, she remains a supreme model of conversion, servitude and faithfulness for us all.

We do know for certain our Lord cast seven demons out of her, after which she became a faithful and inseparable disciple. Mary Magdalene stood at the very Cross of Christ, witnessed the burial of Jesus, was the first to discover the empty tomb on Easter, and the first to see the risen Lord. (Mk 15:40, Mt 27:56, Jn 19:25, Jn 20:1-18).

St. Augustine, mirroring several before him, gave Mary Magdalene the title "Apostle to the Apostles" for her blessed place as steady and devoted servant, during, throughout and following the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

It is no surprise therefore that in Sacred Art, Sacred Architecture, and Sacred Music, we have been gifted with numerous treasures in her honor.  Think of the many glorious churches dedicated to her, notably in Italy, Spain, France, and the Americas to name a few.

In Sacred Music, we find a wonderful musical depiction of her quintessential servitude on Earth, with "the other Mary" in Francisco Guerrero's six-part Easter Motet Maria Magdalene et altera Maria, 1570.

With homophonic mastery, Guerrero was ahead of his time in the use of a through composed, non-repetitive, and highly emotional narrative.  The motet has two main sections, a true feast for all the human senses.

In the first part, Guerrero transports us with the two Marys to the tomb of the buried Jesus Christ.  The scene is vividly painted in sight, sound, touch, color, and most interesting, smell.  The sweet embellishment of the words "emerunt aromata" ("they bought sweet spices") depicts an importance of their loving and virtuous charism to adorn the Divine body.  One also receives a colorful sense of time, foreshadowing the Resurrection with the rising of the first morning sun, ushering a new beginning in weekly and Eternal time.  The entire first section one can easily hear and feel the simple rising sun, growing in musical and supernatural crescendo, granting light, peace, and newness of life to God's faithful.  The close of the first section completes our initial honor and praise of the Almighty with a well adorned Alleluia, ending in half cadence.

In opposition of the first section, the second begins with entrance of stacked voices in reverse order, this time low to high, creating a varied mysterioso.  As we are now at the tomb itself, rather than an introductory surrounding, we are drawn into the incomparable suspense of Mary Magdalene and the other Mary seeking the Holy crucified Jesus.  Guerrero draws out the text "viderunt iuvenem" adding to the exciting uncertainty and fear of the man in white.

As the stranger speaks ("qui dicit illis, Iesum..."), metrical and harmonic rhythm slow to a suspenseful new sound, again showing the Spanish composer's mastery of simple, yet emotionally complex use of homophonic musical structure.  A series of surprising key changes as well as a gorgeous 20-note flourish in the tenor, ushers in the climax, breaking the news of Jesus' Resurrection and thus absence from the tomb ("crucifixus, surrexit...").  

May we honor St. Mary Magdalene and follow her example as devoted servant of our Lord, willing to accept present sorrow, face the Cross, and eternally proclaim utmost joy!

Text & Translation:

Maria Magdalene, et altera Maria
emerunt aromata,

ut venientes ungerent Iesum.
Et valde mane una Sabbatorum,
veniunt ad monumentum,
orto iam sole, alleluia.
Mary Magdalene and the other Mary bought spices, intending to go and anoint Jesus.
And very early on the first day of the week they came to the tomb just after sunrise, alleluia.
Et intro euntes in monumentum
viderunt iuvenem sedentem in dextris,
coopertum stola candida, et obstupuerunt.
Qui dixit illis: Iesum quem quaeritis
Nazarenum, crucifixum:
surrexit, non est hic,
ecce locus ubi posuerunt eum. Alleluia.
And as they entered the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right dressed in a white robe, and they were afraid.
He said to them: You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified: he is risen, he is not here, see, this is the place where they laid him. Alleluia.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Where Are You When You Sing? Proprioception for Beginners

Proprioception is the awareness of one's body in space. It's the sense that we all use continuously (otherwise we would wander into walls and tip over sideways all the time).  The problem is that we don't use it consciously.  Using this "Sixth Sense" consciously in preparing to sing can give you both support and freedom of movement that will improve your sound and your stamina.  If you're also a director, effectively communicating this to your singers will take the ensemble up a notch.
 (Perfect singers and ensembles need read no further.)

We're told endlessly to "stand up straight" or "put your shoulders back."  At that command, many snap into a parody of military attention for a few seconds. Others just shuffle about.  Melanie Malinka gave her ensemble at this summer's CMAA Colloquium the best directions I've ever heard and which are now engraved in my heart.  Ms. Malinka is the Director of Music at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City.  She works with bright and able children.  You can't give them vague directions; they want specifics.  And here they are:

1. Stand with your feet under your shoulders, hip width apart.

2. Put your weight over the arch in your feet.  This is critical!  You may feel as though you're falling forward because most of us lean back on our heels.  Don't worry - you won't fall down.

3. Tuck your tailbone under.  Check this by putting your hands behind you and making an inverted triangle with your thumbs and index fingers at the base of your spine. A nicely tucked tailbone will engage your core muscles.  It will also help raise your sternum, getting rid of the curled-up slump that most of us have from driving, working at the computer, etc.

4. Bring your chin down and lengthen the back of your neck.  Again, we tend to crank our necks heads back (counterbalancing the slump).  Balance your head by putting your hands on the two "bumps" on the back of your head and feeling them rise to their natural position as you lower your chin.  You can look down at your music without bending over it.  Lower your eyes.

5. When singing without music, e.g., warm-ups, put your hands even with the side seams on your pants.  That will also help move your shoulders gently back and raise your breastbone (aka sternum). (This is a suggestion of my own.)

You and your singers will have a supported frame for your singing, the space for your lungs to do their job, and an open passageway for the sound.  Your body will be working with you, not against you.

"Wait, wait," you cry.  "I can't remember all of that and it will take me forever to get lined up. Choir rehearsal will be over before we ever get ready."  Okay.  Start with steps 1 and 2.  Take your time.  Add an additional step each week.  And keep up the reminders.  Be a bit of a "body nag."  If you can, write these steps in abbreviated form on a white board or poster in the front of the room.

Remember to practice what you preach.  And may Melanie Malinka and her singers live long and prosper!

Magnificat Monday - Victoria, with Cardinal Burke

Gregory DiPippo, the managing editor of our sister site, New Liturgical Movement, posted this wonderful video of the Dublin-based Lassus Scholars singing the Magnificat octavi toni by Tomás Luis de Victoria, as His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke incenses the altar during Pontifical Vespers. Click here to enjoy the rest.

DC Prayer Vigil for Iraqi Christians:

A Vigil will be prayed Monday, July 28 for the victims of the overwhelming anti-Christian violence in Mosul and other areas of Iraq during these difficult days.

The Arabic letter for "Nazarene" marking the buildings of Christians for destruction in Mosul
 The Vigil will be held at St. Thomas Apostle church just off the Woodley Park / Zoo metro stop (red line), and will begin with Mass at 7 pm. Prayers will continue until midnight, and there will be opportunities for confession.

At the US Bishops' meeting in June, when this episode of violence was just arising in Mosul, our Apostolic Nuncio used his entire time at the podium to plead with the international community for help in Mosul. That was over a month ago now--a month that has seen an ancient diocese wiped completely away in fire and blood.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Music Minister (Part Two) To live, breathe and have one's being in....

This is a continuation of reflections upon a reprinted article from 1972 currently in the Summer 2014 Issue  of SACRED MUSIC, authored originally by Fr. Ralph S. March S.O.Cist. I’m only remarking upon catch-phrase quotes excerpted in the current issue.

Part the third. The music minister must live, breathe, dream sacred music.

I believe that if that sentence was mounted on a large billboard outside of both the CMAA Colloquium and the NPM National Convention, you’d have absolute positive consensus were you to take a poll about it. But, as in all things, there are layers and depths of meaning and implications of how that imperative ought to be made manifest. Giving the benefit of the doubt to all regarding dreaming of sacred music, could it ever be possible for David Haas and Peter Kwasniewski, or Mary Ann Carr Wilson and Janét Sullivan Whitaker to share the same dream called “sacred music?” All of us, amateur and professional alike, must be publicly immersed in our vocation as a minister of music, but to whom or what are we held accountable for all that entails, particularly as articulated by Fr. March above?

My experience of over four decades has almost been premised by my early formation as a musician/student exposed at a very early age in the classics, big band jazz, true American folk music (Stephen Foster), some church music (in an unchurched family) and the big kahuna, rock ‘n’ roll from day one. So, by five I could (as Mr. Rogers asked) say: “That’s Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, ooh and that’s Moonlight Serenade by Glenn Miller, that’s Swanee River by Jolson, or Have some Madeira, my Dear by the Limeliters, oh, oh, oh, that’s Peggy Sue by Buddy and the Crickets, and Lucille by Chuck Berry. Well, how is that germane? Probably because it’s the quintessential American thing to do, absorb lots of cultural stuff. But by the time I finished high school and entered college, my actual pedagogical achievements enabled me to be able to play, and even more important at the time, gig with instrumental and vocal skills any type of gig thrown my way. And because of that, I landed the most important gig of my life at Oakland’s late, and by some, lamented St. Francis de Sales Cathedral. I would have added another patron, “Our Lady of the Holy Eclectics.”

Though essentially I wasn’t part of a church-going family, and only mildly a “seeker” during my high school years (uh, I was 15 in ’67, The Summer of Love in Oakland across from San Francisco) in 1970 as a college frosh music major I discovered the beautiful scaffolding (then I called it the “skeleton”) of the liturgy, the rituals, the mystery and yes, the joy that worship can provide the soul. And from then on, basically, my whole life re-oriented around loving, learning about, discovering and evolving in my faith life alive in the traditions, rites and catechisms of the Church Christ Himself founded. Now four decades later I could paraphrase our British friend Paul Inwood, “Sacred music, as well as Our Lord, is indeed the center of my life.” However, I have often come to the two paths in the woods of my musical journey, and by comparing and contrasting the exemplars of Mr. Inwood versus Mr. Salamunovich, have had to face the reality that though both roads may prove worthy, one of them is the better path.
Dr. Kwasniewski has written extensively* on the theology and aesthetics that can guide us towards the better, nee holier way that edifies our personal souls that we may best serve the faithful. But, from the composite of my association with CMAA, I think the guiding principle boils down to “When you hear this music, do you automatically associate its qualities as ‘sacred, universal and beautiful,’ in other words- music one would hear in a church at worship?"

I rarely actually dream of music. Would that I could and then, as apparently some do, write it down upon awakening. But when I first heard the Vierne Mass in Salt Lake City, was I not dreaming in the midst of its glorious expressions? Then through that, I am led to other works such as Missa Pulchritudo by Menotti (thanks to Fr. Jim Chepponis for sharing that dream.) I dream to conduct this work one day. I dream to conduct or sing the Monteverdi Vespers of St. John Baptist, I dream to…


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Colloquium 2014: Positive Reactions!

Horst buchholz directing Victoria's Requiem
This year was my first colloquium, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED it. I met so many new people, made lots of new friends, and met several of the other Café authors too, including Adam Bartlett, Mr. C, Jenny Donelson, Fr. Smith, and lots of other people too from the MusicaSacra Forum. I learned so much from the breakout sessions, and singing chant under the skilled Scott Turkington for the whole week. But I'm not the only one! Many other attendees had great things to say about it as well!

Tommy Myrick, a fellow cantor of mine during the Colloquium in Scott Turkington's Schola had, among other things, an interesting reflection that struck him during one of the Colloquium liturgies.
On this day, it sunk in why the Church has to be something not of this world. Outside there was loud music (which could be heard inside the church), the hustle and bustle of this fast paced world, and hundreds (if not thousands) of souls wandering here and there. In the midst of this modern chaos, we who were attending the Colloquium were assembling to take part in Holy Mass. Here, we had stepped out of time and space to be with our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. It was not like anything you could find on the streets of Indianapolis at the time.
Fr. James Bradley, who speaks about his experiences in learning more about liturgical music, and his great experiences. Fr. Bradley also wrote more about his experiences here and here in other posts on his blog.
Jeffrey Morse's daily solfège warmups
Last week’s CMAA colloquium, I think, provided a number of key ways to implement this sound principle in an authentic way. First, we know that liturgical paradigm articulated by the CMAA could be well described as ‘sing the Mass, not sing at Mass’. This is something that has been spoken of before by Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth regarding the revised English translation of the 2002 Missale Romanum, and it is a principle that we should take very seriously.

In the chanting of the proper texts and, where possible, according to the proper chants, the faithful participate at a deeper and more profound level in the liturgy of the Church, than when the prescribed liturgical texts are supplanted by hymnody or, even, silence. I am yet to be convinced by any argument that prefers non-biblical texts at any point in the Mass, over those antiphons and psalms that flow from sacred scripture and which have been an integral part of the western liturgy for hundreds of years.

Fr. David Friel, one of the bloggers at CCW, also wrote about his great experiences in Indianapolis, specifically one of the breakout sessions session given by one off my new friends, Charles Cole, on chant harmonization:
Charles Cole's chant harmonization breakout session
Yesterday, I chose to attend the breakout session led by Charles Cole in Christ Church Cathedral. The topic was how to accompany chant on the organ for which Charles gave us a number of “rules” to follow. He also acknowledged that not all of these rules must always be strictly followed.

First among the “rules” is the need to stay within the notes of the scale pertinent to the mode. Also, as in all composition, parallel octaves and fifths are to be avoided. Perfect cadences are not advisable. Registration and harmonization, we were taught, ought to serve the melody and text (which are always paramount in chant), striving to remain unobtrusive. It seemed to me that the underlying thrust of the presentation was this: a skillful organ accompaniment can actually help to reveal facets of modality within a particular chant.
Father Friel wrote several posts about his experiences that you can find in 4 parts: I II, III and IV.

Were you there? Did you enjoy it? Share your experiences below too!

Liturgy of the Hours Hymnal

New on Lulu from Fr. Samuel Weber, O.S.B. is his Hymnal for the Hours.  It's a print-on-demand published by the Benedict XVI Institute of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

Have I seen it yet?  No.  Do I look forward to it?  Of course.  This is just a sweet and short heads-up for those who are interested.  More later.

Here's the link over at Lulu.  I didn't find much of a preview except "front matter," as we call it in the trade.

NEWS FLASH - 14 pages from inside the hymnal have been uploaded as a sample for your viewing on Lulu, thanks to Peter Kwasniewski.  And don't forget the point of sampling is buying!

Monday, July 14, 2014

On Fr Ralph March's "Are You a True Minister of Music." Part One

Here it is, Monday after Colloquium 2014, and in the mail are two issues of SACRED MUSIC, Spring and Summer of this same year. Thank you, Bill Stoops, for having such quick access to your status reports at Indianapolis!

All I can manage right now is a perusal of content, particular of V.141.2 which celebrates CMAA's 50th anniversary of its amalgam merge of the St. Caeilia and St. Gregory Societies in 1964. There is much wheat to harvest in this volume and its predecessor. As I was skimming the Summer edition I noticed a title that reminded me of a former CMAA attendee's great essay about being a so-called "Pastoral Musician," that being the article by Rev. Ralph S. March, S.O. Cist, "Are You a True Minister of Music?" That is a captivating, challenging and still relevant question as there is yet and still great, likely more division between folks who left Indy and week ago and those situated in St. Lousis this week. It occured to me that Dr. Jenny or someone else responsibly excerpted certain quotations from Fr's discourse of 1972 and just by entertaining those quotes one could respond via an article's length here at the Cafe.

Part the first: A music minister should be familiar with the most important musical styles of any given century.

That maxim still and ever shall stand. However, who could have seen in '64 or in '72 the curve of instability to stability that 50 years of contemporaneous composition, exposition and distribution of an unheard-of concept of sacred "song" by Lucien Deiss, the SLJ's/Dameans/St. Thomas More, the Minnesotans, the Californians and so forth could become bedrock in Anglophile parishes and others back then. (I leave out the seminal folkies purposefully.) Surely not Westendorf nor Lindusky who were there in BoysTown in '64. How does one deal with the compositions of not just these but those of Howard Hughes, Thomas Savoy, Leo Nestor, Jeffrey Honore, and then multi-faceted, schooled composers such as Janet Sullivan Whitaker, myself, Jan Michael Joncas, Richard Rice, Jeffrey Quick, Francis Koerber and many, many others whose genres aren't so easily categorized? The simple response is that Fr. March's advice still stands, but the demands are much more upon us. Some will argue that the Conciliar documents of the Second Council are unequivocally clear: Primacy of place to chanted forms, and their inheritors generically designated polyphony (a term of actually little pragmatic significance.) Yes, surely that seems clear. But under the lenses of the legislative options provided by those same documents, who can stand and call themself the final arbiter of a music's suitability? (That's a rhetorical question, no need to actually engage it, really.) But to purposefully remain ignorant of both specific genres and pieces in the last 50 years actually doesn't pass Fr. March's muster. The catch qualifier is the adjective "most important" music styles of all centuries. I've always maintained that cannot be fulfilled by wholesale dismissal based upon any prejudicial criteria.

Part the second The music minister must be a student, an educator, and a diplomat.

Uh, yup. Student? Check! Educator? Check! Diplomat? Huh.......? We are not just diplomats representing philosophies and idealogies of CMAA or Mother Church at the level of parish practice. We a diplomats first and foremost of Christ Jesus, who trumps any objectivification of the rule of worship and the rule of belief. When the Pharisees tried to pigeon-hole Him in order to discredit Him according to the Decalogue, Christ veni, vidi and vici'd their folly forever. Diplomats don't deal (despite the political machinations of our current era or federal government) with policies, but with people.

To these 63 year old astigmatized, far-sighted and strabymus (crossed) eyes this is our largest failure even with Fr. March's criteria back in '72. Unfortunately there's loads of evidence in cyberspace CMAA and even at Colloquia that many of us think "we da Bomb." We move from place to place like Yul Brynner's character in the "Magnificent Seven" taking on noble causes for ignoble recompense thinking that we're not just saving the plebes and peasants from their gross, feudal and outlaw occupying fascist lords, but we're going to change their whole attitude about "musicam sacram" in less than a fortnight. Not. Go to the MSForum, three to six RotR gigs are posted there at any given time. Why?

Because we have to love and forgive our people and their pastors. We have to speak to them honestly, in both truth and love. But in my experience, many of us in CMAA equivocate truth with love. No, going to hell is not an automatic consequence of singing "On Eagles' Wings." Coaxing their sensibilities towards "Qui habitat" via whatever sensory input (remember the second of March's admonitions, "teacher," requires skills that can influence the receptors' many modes of intellectual and spiritual acquisition. I'm a bit tired now....will resume this tomorrow.

Magnificat Monday - Howells

This week we have another anglican submission, by Herbert Howells.

2015 Advent Calendar of Hymn Tune Introits

Wondering what to give this Advent to that Music Director who seems to have everything but propers? Know a pastor who would like to add a quiet solemnity to his Advent daily Mass routine but doesn't know quite what to do about it?

Well, look no further, because here is the 2015 Advent Calendar of Hymn Tune Introits, available here in PDF format.

Feel free to copy off a hundred Advent calendars and put them at the end of the pews, or on a table at the entrance of the church, and sing them to any number of familiar tunes at daily Mass. Since it's Advent, the tune for Creator of the Stars of Night might be a good choice.

The Hymn Tune Introits are a user-friendly, low/ no-resistance way to bring the beautiful expressions of the proper texts of the Mass into use in parishes where hymns have always been the norm.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Kids' church model looks better than some real ones

Fr. Finigan in Blackfen has a fun post with photos of a cute church model built of Lego blocks.  He writes:
It struck me that families like this should be employed in preference to the experts who have designed some of the more egregious "worship spaces" the People of God have had to endure over the past few decades.

More photos at The hermeneutic of continuity...

Why I Don't Care If You Sing Praise and Worship at Mass

Several weeks ago, my family and I were at a wonderful camp in Ohio called Catholic Family Land (it's a real place!), an outreach run by The Apostolate for Family Consecration. Of course, every day begins with Mass, and later in the day, right next to the sports fields that are used all afternoon, there's a small adoration chapel. Overall, it's a lovely wholesome, Catholic atmosphere.

The music used at Mass was typically of the praise and worship style, which is less than ideal. But you know what? I was ok with it. That's right.

If I am given a choice between folksy Haugen and Haas, Glory and Praise songs and praise and worship  genre songs, I'll take P&W any day, for one major reason: in the Catholic liturgical music paradigm, text comes first.

One of the reasons gregorian chant is so uniquely suited to the liturgy is it's nature as principally elevated speech. The rhythm of chant comes from the speech. The simplicity of the melodies allows the text to be heard more than any other form of music. The relative simplicity of the melodies (compared to polyphony) allows the the text to be highlighted even more. All this to say, while the melody and idiom of the music matters, the text is most important. And with the unique scriptural tradition of Roman liturgical music, the text of P&W makes it oddly suited to the liturgy, more so than other sentimental hymn texts.

Look at Blessed Be Your Name, by Matt Redman. The text is based on Job 1:21, as well as other imagery from the psalms ("streams of abundance"). Or look at Shout To The Lord by Darlene Zschech. More imagery from the psalms.

Is Praise and Worship a massive improvement on schmaltzy hymns from Haugen and Haas? No, they are far from ideal. But they are definitely an improvement in the text, the more important of the two primary aspects.