Friday, May 20, 2016

Dominican Priesthood Ordinations Live on EWTN this Saturday

Tomorrow morning the Dominican Province of St. Joseph (Eastern Province) is scheduled to ordain 11 of their brothers priests of Jesus Christ.

The Ordination Mass will be broadcast live, at 9:30 Eastern time, on the Eternal Word Television Network. The venue is the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Our readers may be interested in viewing for any number of reasons liturgical and otherwise, including the consolation of the beautiful witness of so many excellent young men dedicating themselves to priestly service for the salvation of souls.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Hymn for the Morning

St. Robert Bellarmine's office hymn Orbis Patrator optime, in honor of the Guardian angels
Trans c. 2013
O best Perfector of all things,
who out of nothing being brings
through your almighty strong right hand;
who rules by provident command,

Come here to sinners, Lord, we pray,
assembled at the dawning day.
As day breaks through the dark of night,
Lord, give our minds a newborn light.

And may the angel guard you give
be with us all the days we live.
May he be ever close to win
protection from the plague of sin.

May he exterminate that claim—
the dragon’s envy and his blame—
and keep our hearts, caught unawares,
from walking into lying snares.

To exile let our foes be sent;
let illness share their banishment.
Let people prosper and increase
in realms of health and lasting peace.

To God the Father glory be,
who cares, by angel ministry,
for all those ransomed by the Son
and whom the Spirit’s unction won.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Spirit of Truth

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Death of the Proper Religious Funeral

Excellent piece in the Spectator of the value of liturgical rites for the dead, from an Anglican POV.
Today’s emphasis is more on celebrating a life past than honouring the future of a soul. While I am not averse to a celebratory element, the funeral is morphing into a spiritually weightless bless-fest. 
Having "done" or attended my share of Masses of Christian Burial where there was a need for me to explain why Little Drummer Boy, Somewhere Over the Rainbow or Toora-loora-loora might not be the best choice for the Offertory procession; or where Mardi Gras beads were distributed, (not with the usual quid pro quo from the ladies, at least); or where the eulogist told a slightly bawdy story or toasted the deceased by popping open a malt beverage, may I salute those of you, priests and musicians, still in the trenches, and thank you for "proper religious funerals," where the "ancient formulae" offer,
liturgical material which reassures us that the man with the scythe will not have the last word.
(All the above examples of dysliturgy, by the way, taken from life.)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Colloquium 2016!

For those who haven't yet attended a Colloquium, it is often a life-changing experience. The sheer joy of singing beautiful music with hundreds of other like-minded musicians builds up an energy capacity that can carry a parish musician through all of the challenges of the coming year.

The Colloquium is a learning opportunity as well, with serious breakout sessions on the necessary "tricks of the trade," including conducting and organ.

Come join the movement of sacred music! Attend the 2016 Church Music Association Colloquium.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Making a School Musical

I've spent the past year working at a wonderful independent Catholic K-12 school in southern California. I thought I would write about some of my experiences there, for those who are hoping to build a musical culture in a similar situation.

The students have a history of singing the simplest Gregorian Mass ordinary, and I decided to leave that alone for the time being while we focused on some other elements of sacred music.

I teach K-8 music once a week per class. In K-5 we've focused on repertoire in preparation for Mass. 
  1. The 4 seasonal Marian antiphons, sung at the end of Communion time.
  2. Chant hymns including the Adoro Te, Ave Verum Corpus, Attende Domine, Veni Creator Spiritus, and Rorate Caeli
  3. Communion proper chants, seasonal responsorial Psalms
  4. A very  limited repertoire of English hymns, with outstanding text and music. Tunes include Duke Street, Jesu dulcis memoria, Salzburg, Hyfrydol, Old Hundredth, Passion Chorale, and Land of Rest.
The students have also learned some theory, using ideas from the Ward Method.

The middle schoolers have learned all of the above, plus some modern theory. They can identify all of the notes using both chant and modern notation. The eighth graders can sight sing chant notation.

For the usual Christmas pageant we used excellent Christmas carols, including Resonet in laudibus, the Carol of the Bells, and In dulci iubilo.

The high school choir has focused on SATB harmony. In addition to harmonizing the non-chant hymn tunes, which is itself a musical education because of the musicality of the arrangements (several by Bach), we've learned several classic motets: Sicut Cervus, If Ye Love Me, Mozart's Ave Verum, and O Sacrum Convivium.

Although we've had some good luck, and I've had some practice at this sort of thing, the main strength of our program has simply been the vision that school music can and should aim at a high level of quality.

I'd certainly be happy to advise anyone who is interested in implementing a similar program. It's not as hard as you might think--and it is definitely worth trying!

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.

*Hymns are the last option given (GIRM 48) and steps should be taken toward singing the proper texts.

For more information, visit:

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 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!