Monday, September 15, 2014

Magnificat Monday: Garau

Saturday, September 13, 2014

See, CMAA's been right all along

Author David Ryan Gutierrez over at RELAVENT BLOG argues forcefully for the "church as patron of fine arts" in the article linked below. What's interesting is that his perspective addresses issues from the perspective of the megachurch, praise team, Hillsongs model of church.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Saint Benet Schola

I'm sort of amazed at the rapid development of a fantastic new initiative I'm delighted to be involved with, the Saint Benet Schola, named in honor of our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict.

This group of 12 (and growing) women sang the proper chants in English for the opening Mass of the Ordinariate parish of St. Luke's in its new location, in the heart of downtown Washington DC. There are actually 2 choirs, and the other group is singing wonderful polyphonic motets and ordinaries while we take care of the propers.

Here is the plan for this Sunday's feast day, Sunday September 14:

After last Sunday's Mass I ran into Skip West, who runs the Suspicious Cheese Lords:
Me: So, how did the schola sound?
Skip: You sounded like nuns!
Me: Um, what kind of nuns?
Skip: Benedictines! French Benedictine nuns!
It felt pretty good too, the way music is supposed to feel when a singing group is doing well. The church that hosts the Ordinariate parish is a large and beautiful church called Immaculate Conception, and takes a certain amount of vocal power to fill it.

This is what the National Catholic Register had to say:
The St. Benet Schola, named in honor of the Benedictine tradition with a nod to Pope Emeritus Benedict, is composed of women and specializes in plainchant.

“Alongside our polyphonic choir, who sang a Mass by Hans Leo Hassler and a motet by Victoria during Holy Communion, the schola sang the Propers,” said Father James Bradley, an ordinariate priest from England, who has been involved in establishing the schola, referring to the parts of the Sept. 7 liturgy that were specific to that day’s Mass. Father Bradley added, “The Propers are integral parts of the liturgy, and we are using the ancient chants of the Roman Gradual as set to English by the sisters of Wantage, who are now part of the Ordinariate in England. The result is music that is at once Catholic in origin and Anglican in flavor; [it is] universal and particular.”
The rest of the article is here, and if you are in the DC area, the Mass is sung each Sunday morning at 8:30 am. Immaculate Conception is just 2 blocks north of the Mount Vernon Square metro stop at 1315 8th Street NW.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

CMAA Forum Highlight: Simple Latin Propers

For those of you musicians out there who haven't already joined and become a member of the CMAA forum, you should! In addition to learning from others, and networking with other musicians, you get to see many of the newest projects in the sacred music world, even before they are "publicly" released. Many of the creators even ask the forum for input.

Just one cool example of this is Richard Rice's "Simple Latin Propers" for the ordinary form, where the texts from the Graduale Romanum (introit, gradual, alleluia, offertory, and communion, with two verses). He's been releasing these weekly. By frequenting the forum, you not only can help be another set of eyes on these new works and help refine them, but you also get access to them before they are published into a full book!

Here's a few he has completed for the future:

There are also some older ones that are past, but you can look through the thread to find them.
For more in the future, follow the thread here

Monday, September 8, 2014

Magnificat Monday: La Rocca

Magnificat by Frank La Rocca on this special occasion of the Blessed Mother's birthday!


Saturday, September 6, 2014

"The first problem was the intelligibility of the text." Msgr. Charles Pope reflects on the historical reception of new forms of sacred music.

I'd forgotten about this fantastic essay until yesterday. Msgr. Pope thinks about the modern musical controversies by looking backwards over the centuries.
This controversy took place during the years of the Council of Trent, and though some scholars are dubious of all the details, it is reported that there were Council Fathers who were serious about seeing that sacred polyphony was forever banned from the Catholic liturgy. Among those who came to the rescue, I am happy to report, was my patron Saint, St. Charles Borromeo.
Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Hymns Do We Have in Common?

As an Assistant Editor of the forthcoming Lumen Christi Hymnal, my main responsibility was the initial "build" of the hymnal: choosing those hymns that would best serve the needs of the hymnal's projected constituents.

As any Music Director knows, this is not an easy process. For different people, different hymns are important and meaningful. For rather a long time, we've had something of a "do it yourself" religion, with a sense that "one song is as good as another"--as long as it feels right.

A story: Once when I was a Music Director, I was contacted by one of the ladies in a senior's lunch club. Speaking for the group, she said that they all agreed that they wanted to hear "the old familiar songs" at Mass again. I answered that I wasn't opposed in principle, but I would need a list of the songs they meant. I expected that she would mean some of the more casual songs from the 80s--the 35 year old songs we sang in the "contemporary" choir. But as things turned out, there was almost no common ground among the group. There was only one hymn that they all agreed they missed, and asked that we would sing it from time to time.

The hymn was, O Lord, I Am Not Worthy--the very last title I expected!

Eventually I became responsible for choosing the hymn tunes as well, which is often conventional enough, but sometimes interesting. Once I was in an English chapel outside Rome on Christ the King, and we were all set to sing Hail, Redeemer, King Divine. I knew that one, I thought, and didn't think to practice until our group rehearsal. Turns out "everybody" in England sings the hymn to the excellent but challenging tune King Divine, just as "everybody" in the U.S. sings it to St. George's Windsor--and as I write this I'm well aware that someone will protest that they sing it in the U.S. to something completely different!

So if you were going to make your own list of "songs everyone knows," what would it be? Any thoughts?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Choral Year- Onward!

For many of us, the choral year is about to start again.  To all the directors, accompanists, and singers,  here's wishing everyone a year of musical growth and rich spiritual rewards of our hearts' desire.  Thanks to those who, week after week, dedicate time and energy toward preparing the sacred music.  Welcome to the newbies, those experienced singers joining a choir, and the veterans of many seasons.   With joy and sacrifice, we accomplish a great work of love for God!

This year, let's sing with hearts decided on loving The Lord and His Church, in a way that is deeply joyful and courageous.  Let us be all the more fierce in our resolve, in solidarity with suffering Christians of our times.  Sing strong and carry them in all your prayers.  Where false religion hides behind masks and cowardly- heinously!- terrorizes the innocents, destroying all in its path, let our True Faith shine brightly, building up the weary, heartening the confused, and pointing all to the Heart of Jesus.

Many would say that we have a small part to play in the drama of our times.  But what a glorious task- to praise God, to make Him known!  This choral year, may God give us an increase of love, and courage and joy needed to advance the gospel through our work in sacred music.  Onward!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Just what is the new evangelization, anyway? (Where is it going, this nouvelle évangélisation?)

I'm sitting at my desk before beginning the day's work, looking out the window and watching a man in a suit who is reading the flyer I put on the door of our meeting rooms building. This happens all day long. It's a regular sheet of white typing paper with words and a little picture of St. Thomas Aquinas on it, put into one of those plastic sheet holders so it doesn't get wet, and scotch taped to the door.

Since I've written the above a lady in jogging clothes and a young man with a backpack have also read the sign.

Even though we don't actually get people coming in off the street at these classes, the flyers have reached many more people than the classes ever will.

On the other hand, the attendees at the summer classes--60+ people per week on average--have once again shown the considerable gravitas of the faithful Catholic. My class on St. Thomas today is at 1 pm, and a nice-sized group of mostly retired Catholics will come and think about how to move forward in their studies. There are hundreds of excellent resources out there. The Sophia Institute has remarkable resources.

So here are these two quite different levels of interest, both compelling to those of us who dedicate ourselves to the Gospel. First, there are the drive-by folks almost desperately looking for any sign of life and teaching, who are not committed but reachable. Secondly, there are the committed, dedicated Catholics, those whom God won over some time ago, who are willing to do the initial hard work it takes to make St. Thomas' Summa Theologiae accessible.

And most folks are in between, living daily life and coming to the Church on Sundays, soccer permitting.

What I think we should do is, whatever time is given to God by His people, let's make that time count. Let's not pander to the easy road of mediocrity on any level. Sunday Mass is and should be the high point of the week. All right, then, let's act like it. Let's have music that is special to the Liturgy and conducive to prayer. Let's refuse to use the pulpit for any agenda but God's. And let's leave room for the Holy Spirit to speak quietly to the human heart.

When the people who walk by and show a flash of interest come through the Church doors, let's make sure there is something deep and true for them to find. Even if it's only the light of faith burning brightly in the obvious prayerfulness of another Christian, let's do all we can to foster that faith.

Too much time, heaven knows, is being spent on blogs and websites rather than where evangelization really happens, as in the passing of the Easter flame, in direct Christian witness.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Let the Rumor Mills Begin

This morning the Holy Father appointed the former Prefect for the Congregation for Divine Worship to a cardinalate see in his home country of Spain.

Personally I would be happy to see the Congregation's Secretary, Archbishop Arthur Roche, take the Congregation's headship. This is for a number of reasons. I've been in small congregations where the Archbishop has said Mass, and found it easy to pray there. The Archbishop studied in Spain and is fluent in Spanish, which is very important for a curial head these days. He is anglophone, and English is the key world language of our times. Most important for me is his energetic role in fostering both priestly vocations and especially children's singing in his former Diocese of Leeds.

Although I would imagine that the Prefect has already been chosen and is currently in pectore, God, who is beyond the confines of time, hears prayers in His eternity. So let us pray that the new Prefect will be a champion of freedom: freedom for a diversity of forms of the rites, freedom for beauty and truth, and freedom from the shackles of rigid, ill-considered progressive liturgical ideologies that for decades now have pervasively kept the people of God from praying at the very source and summit of Catholic faith and life, the Sunday Mass.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Women's Schola in DC

As the Saint Luke ordinariate community moves to downtown Washington DC next month, a new initiative is beginning, to build on our existing tradition of Sacred Music. Named in honor of Saint Benedict and the Benedictine tradition of Gregorian chant, and with a nod of gratitude to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI (who founded the ordinariates), the women of The Saint Benet Schola will provide the chant at our 8.30 a.m. Sunday Mass at Immaculate Conception, 8th Street NW. The group will draw on the Anglican plainsong tradition, whilst at the same time emphasizing the universal, Catholic nature of our worship, by singing the ancient chants and texts of the Sacred Liturgy. If you would like to learn more about this exciting project, please speak with the clergy or musicians after Mass, or visit our website for contact details.

Whistling Into the Wind? OCP responds.

As I've spent time offering two articles about whether the "grass roots" of RotR folk/CMAA/Progressive Conservationists (should I copyright that? ) could actually influence via direct dialogue with the "Liturgical Industrial Complex" of publishing companies, I feel obliged to share also the reply I received yesterday from an officer at OCP with the readership. I realize my second article, an attempt to provide a sort of template for others who might wish to also personally get involved in helping the Big Three (and others) towards paradigm shift, was a source of misunderstanding and mockery to some. It was not intended as such. But for the record, we should know the effect and result of such efforts. This is the letter I received from OCP:

Thank you for your email. Please allow me to reply at the request of John Limb. I am the Manager of Worship Publications; I oversee the publication process for our pew resources.

We appreciate your feedback on specific songs in our Breaking Bread and Music Issue publications. This comes at a propitious time as we are in the midst, as I think you know, of receiving input from our missal subscribers via the annual Music Issue Survey. We take this input very seriously. We read every survey and carefully note all specific song suggestions (whether additions or deletions). These titles are gathered and shared with our music selection committee, which reviews them before making recommendations for the contents of the following year’s missals. Even if a song is suggested only once by one subscriber, it is included on the list. Please know that the songs you suggested for removal here will be included on that list as well.

As you can imagine, it is challenging to produce a single-volume sacred music resource that meets the needs and satisfies the expectations of every subscribing parish in the country. The needs and expectations vary widely. Our goal is produce an annual resource that addresses the needs of most of the parishes we serve, knowing that not everyone will be entirely happy with the result. The music selection committee works hard every year to add and remove songs, with much debate and careful consideration of many factors.

We understand the importance of chant and have striven for many years now to include it in our publications. We also, as you know, offer specific publications that offer chant options together in single volumes. There is, of course, Laus Tibi, Christe, with more than 70 chant settings. The most recent example is the St. Meinrad antiphonary. These books are designed to be used in conjunction with our various missal and hymnal programs. In fact, our hymnals include a plastic pocket in the back cover to accommodate these supplemental publications. This provides a means for parishes to access additional music that better addresses their specific needs. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s the best compromise under the circumstances.

I note that the 2014 edition of Breaking Bread includes more than 45 chant pieces and Latin hymns. We continue to consider chant pieces for inclusion in our missals and have added several in recent years. That said, I will also forward to our committee your suggestion that we increase the number of Latin chant pieces. (emphasis mine)

Thank you again for taking the time to contact us and for using our publications these many years. God bless you in your ministry!

Wade Wisler

Worship Publications Manager

Well, my friends, what think ye?