Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Opportunity of the New Missal

Roma locuta est offers "An Open Letter to Music Liturgists..."

There is nothing more tragic than the complete elimination of the texts proper to the Mass. Certainly, we would be horrified if the second reading were to be eliminated and replaced with a generic faith reflection unrelated to the reading it seeks to supplant. Why, then, have we allowed the antiphons that accompany the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion processions to completely disappear from liturgical use? The GIRM, in listing the four options for the Entrance, speaks first of “the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting.” The next two options are also psalms and antiphons. It is not until the very last option that the GIRM mentions, “a suitable liturgical song.” The norms for the other proper chants reference the same principle.

Why have we made the last option the norm for our liturgical celebrations? Moreover, the songs chosen almost universally bear no resemblance of the chant texts in the Gradual. Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, Executive Director of the ICEL Secretariat, observes that these Propers represent the Church’s own thoughts about the readings, that they serve as a sort of lectio divina pointing us towards the mysteries and riches of the day’s liturgy. The problem with choosing hymns instead of receiving the Propers is the temptation to impose our own interpretation of the sacred texts that will be read during the Liturgy of the Word. According to Msgr. Wadsworth, “It is seriously deficient to consider that planning music for the liturgy ever begins with a blank sheet: there are texts given for every Mass in the Missal and these texts are intended for singing.”


A "New" Anima Christi

Peter A. Kwasniewski of Wyoming Catholic College sends in this very beautiful version of Anima Christi, different from anything I've heard or seen. He says it is from a French source of uncertain date. Here is the sheet music.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

How Stable are the Propers?

I would like to draw your attention to "Proprium Missae: Unity, Variety, and Rupture in the Roman Rite" by László Dobszay, which includes three pages of detailed charts from Missals from all ages demonstrating that the propers of the Mass have been remarkably stable since the 8th century. His piece was published in Sacred Music 134.1, starting on page 16. The reader is left with a sense of astonishment that we could have ever found ourselves in the position of leaving out an essential part of the Mass, year after year, replacing the liturgical propers, rooted in scripture, with hymns with texts by poets and chosen by music directors and publishers. Dobszay shows that this situation is essentially unprecedented.

Sacred Music, 134.1, Spring 2007; The Journal of the Church Music Association of America

The Politics of Vovete

We all have our favorites among Gregorian chant propers, and Vovete et Reddite is mine. In the ordinary form, this is the communion chant for next Sunday.

It begins with the Psalmist urging us to gather to make offerings to the Lord but also make vows and accomplish them. So the entire first line has the sound of urging us to act and sustain that action, with the lingering notes on FA, moving to this tricky liquiscent figure on "circuitu." The first half of the chant ends calmly. And truly it could end there and be very beautiful.

But it doesn't end there. Suddenly, matters become much more serious. We start again on FA but this time move to LA on the text "Terribili" and with no break pass through this firery phrase that is extremely intense with drama, especially once we get to "principum." When you sing that, your voice just feels the intensity and the heat of the moment. Then again we sing the word "terribili" and move through another striking musical phrase the burns with the passion of someone singing about an awesome power. Just to listen to it, you know that the story here has taken on a much greater significance at the end that it began with.

And so what are we singing about? Our vows, we are told, are made to "the awesome God who takes away the life of princes; he is greatly feared by all the kings of the earth." Thus does God stand above all states, no matter how powerful they may appear. God can strike down all earthly power, and so should all earthly rulers live in fear. Who then should receive our vows? The state? Or God?

Is it any wonder that Rousseau considered Christians essentially dangerous to the collectivist-secularist civic order he attempted to create? The chant explains why. At liturgy, we are not singing about the glories of the "general will" but rather about transcendent power that reigns over all. We are loyal citizens, yes, but our first loyalty is to God.

Here is an audio of this chant.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Simple Propers for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In continuation with the ideas discussed in Jeffrey’s recent post “Toward the Singing of Propers”, here are two experimental samples of what such a simple parish resource for English propers might possibly look like. You can even sing them in Mass this weekend if you’d like!

Friday, August 27, 2010

An Experiment in Sacred Music Resource Production: Let's Lay an Egg!

If you haven't read Msgr. Wadsorth's recent address on sacred music, you must. The statements made here by the Executive Director of ICEL are full of unrealized potential that could change the world of Catholic liturgical music as we know it.

In this post I would like to uncover one of these potentials and to invite you to help make it a reality, helping change the landscape of Catholic liturgical music publishing.

Among the items in Wadsworth's talk was a call to church musicians to sing the liturgical texts that are proper to the Mass, namely the proper antiphons which contain a portion of the substantial unity of the Roman Rite, a "textual unity", as he put it. In assessing our current state of affairs, where there is virtually no singing of these proper antiphons, he reveals a very interesting dichotomy:

Firstly, on the part of commercial publishers: He stated that "...musical repertoire has for practical purposes largely been controlled by the publishers of liturgical music...this is unavoidable, for a whole variety of pragmatic reasons..."

He also said regarding commercial publishing: "This is something of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. Praxis has governed the development of our resources of liturgical music and for the most part, composers and publishers have neglected the provision or adaptation of musical settings of these proper texts."

The dichotomy comes in when Msgr. Wadsworth offers a solution to this dilemma: "a brief trawl of the internet produces a surprisingly wide variety of styles of settings of the proper texts which range from simple chants that can be sung without accompaniment to choral settings for mixed voices."

How interesting is this dichotomy? Did you catch it?

Desperate Music Director Seeks Help...

The OF offers too many choices. What is supposed to be liberating turns out stifling. What if we would just all write letters to the complaint department at the top? I offer here my musings posted over at NLM.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Toward the Singing of Propers

We are at the beginnings of moment for music at Mass that many have hoped and prayed for over many decades since the close of the Second Vatican Council. Many people at many levels of the Church have begun a new push for singing the Mass rather than just singing at Mass. That means revisiting the propers of the Mass that are intimately bound up with the liturgical calender. In particular, the most neglected of the Mass propers are the entrance, offertory, and communion chants. In most all parishes, the prevailing practice is to replace these chants with hymns.

What Does Sacred Mean?

Jake Tawney believes we lost the sense of the very meaning of the term.

Alexander Blachly's wonderful singers

This is forceful and gorgeous singing. Thank you Rick Wheeler.

Arbogast Propers Open for Business

Thanks to Maureen, a member of the MusicaSacra.com forum, the Arbogast propers, a wonderful book of English propers put together in 1966, has been updated with the new calendar. Now the book can be used in the Ordinary Form. I think we will be using his entrance this Sunday in our parish.

What it Is Like to Study with Scott Turkington

Chant Class with Scott Turkington from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

The Ordinary Form Gets Serious

A line in the current translation of the Roman Canon has always struck me as strange. "You know how firmly we believe in you..." Something is odd about it, almost infantilized in its expression, and also introducing an affirmation of some vague belief in God that one does not expect to be even be up in the air at all at this point in the Mass. I can't entirely put my finger on it but there's something about it that seems peculiar.

In any case, starting next year, this line is gone and replaced with a phrase that strikes me as much more dignified: "and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you."

And that's just the beginning of the changes. What we will hear from the sanctuary, starting next year, is firmer, more dignified, more theologically robust, more mature, more elegant. The effects of this will not be immediate but it could be very profound over the long term. 

This is my own comparison between the current (old) and future (new) translation. By comparison, the old seems like it was edited by a copyeditor at Newsweek with its pervasive and affectedly active voice, wheres the new sound serious and authentic, more like prayer. Again, this is just my ear talking here. For my part, I'm thrilled. P.S. Traditionalists can remove your "pro multis" lapel pins now. 

(This is my own comparison; please alert me to any typos)

Roman Canon

We come to you, Father, with praise and thanksgiving, through Jesus Christ your Son.

Through him we ask you to accept and bless these gifts we offer you in sacrifice. We offer them for your holy catholic Church, watch over it, Lord, and guide it; grant it peace and unity throughout the world. We offer them for N. our Pope, for N. our bishop, and for all who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the apostles.
Remember, Lord, your people, especially those for whom we now pray, N. et N. Remember all of us gathered here before you. You know how firmly we believe in you and dedicate ourselves to you. We offer you this sacrifice of praise for ourselves and those who are dear to us. We pray to you, our living and true God, for our well-being and redemption.

In union with the whole Church we honor Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God. We honor Joseph, her husband, the apostles and martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; we honor Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all the saints. May their merits and prayers grant us your constant help and protection.

Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.

Bless and approve our offering; make it acceptable to you, an offering in spirit and in truth. Let it become for us the body and blood of Jesus Christ, your only Son, our Lord.

The day before he suffered he took bread in his sacred hands and looking up to heaven, to you, his almighty Father, he gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.

When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: Take this all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.
To you, therefore, most merciful Father,we make humble prayer and petitionthrough Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord: that you accept and bless  these gifts, these offerings, these holy and unblemished sacrifices, which we offer you firstly for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world,together with your servant N. our Pope and N. our Bishop,* and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.

Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them, we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them, for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you, the eternal God, living and true.

In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs,  Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all your Saints: we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help.

Therefore, Lord, we pray: graciously accept this oblation of our service, that of your whole family; order our days in your peace, and command that we be delivered from eternal damnation and counted among the flock of those you have chosen.

Be pleased, O God, we pray, to bless, acknowledge, and approve this offering in every respect; make it spiritual and acceptable, so that it may become for us the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

On the day before he was to suffer, he took bread in his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes raised to heaven to you, O God, his almighty Father, giving you thanks he said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying: take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which will be given up for you.

In a similar way, when supper was ended, he took the precious chalice in his holy and venerable hands, and once more giving you thanks, he said the blessing and gave the chalice to his disciples, saying: take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. do this in memory of me.

Tantum Ergo, Kevin Allen

Our local schola continues its exploration of Motecta Trium Vocum with Kevin Allen's Anima Christi. Here is a sample of this pretty piece:

Anima Christi by Kevin Allen, sung by Matthew J Curtis:Sample from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Following the 40th Year

Wikipedia tells us that: "Pope Paul VI promulgated the revised rite of Mass with his Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum of 3 April 1969, setting the first Sunday of Advent at the end of that year as the date on which it would enter into force. However, the revised Missal itself was not published until the following year, and full vernacular translations appeared much later."

The new English translation, then, appears on the first day after the close of the 40th year. Call me cranky or crazy, but I've never been interested in this numerology stuff, and there is a Biblical significance to the number 40.

The "Catholic Public Domain Version" Bible

Does anyone know anything about this translation of the Bible? I just found it this morning and it seems to have been completed in 2009. If I were to guess, I would guess that this is an effort to give Catholics a dignified translation of Scripture, quite possibly in accordance with Liturgiam Authenticam, which they can use without being assessed copyright or royalty fees.

So far the psalms look very nice and are very much of a "modern sacral" character, similar to the texts I've seen of the new Missal translation.

Please share, if you would, any information that you might have about this translation!

Living the Liturgy through Chant

This is a tremendous interview with monks at Clear Creek. Extremely inspiring! Good for EWTN, and congratulations to the skilled producer David Biddle.

Nine Options for Singing the Proper Text for Entrance This Sunday

A brief trawl of the internet produces a surprisingly wide variety of styles of settings of the proper texts which range from simple chants that can be sung without accompaniment to choral settings for mixed voices. Some are obviously adaptations of Gregorian Chant or are indebted to that musical language, others are more contemporary in feel.... Of course, there is nothing to stop us singing Latin chants in a predominantly English liturgical celebration. - Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, ICEL

Let's look at the options for this weekend's entrance proper, Miserere mihi: "Have mercy on me, 0 Lord, for I have called out to you all the day; for you, 0 Lord, are good and forgiving and plenteous in mercy to all who call upon you."

I count nine available for download. Perhaps I'm missing some.

Stile Antico on the BBC

Yesterday, the conductor-less polyphonic chamber choir Stile Antico, recently featured on the Chant Café, performed and discussed some of the music from their latest recording "Song of Songs" on the BBC Proms. I thought it might a good follow up to our previous coverage of this fantastic young British polyphonic group.

Here's the hour long program.

Does this inspire anyone else?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Remarkable Program at St. Mary's, Sydney

Thomas Wilson is only 28 years old but as the new director of music he is bringing glorious things to St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. Trained at Westminster, he is working to bring Gregorian propers and traditional polyphonic music to this very important liturgical venue. Have a look at the full program for this week, and dream.

Plainsong: Midwife to Europe

You do not want to miss this excerpt from Beethovens Anvil by William Benzon:

Two paragraph sample but do read the whole piece:

Medieval Europe was inhabited by a collection of tribes and states, shot through with tendrils of Christianity following the remains of the Roman Empire and with the Islamic world pushing up in Spain. European culture, considered as a specific constellation of ideas, modes of expression, and forms of organization, hardly existed, nor did any of those people think of themselves are European. Europe, as such, originated in Christendom, and the core institution of Christendom, the Christian Church, was held together, not only by religious doctrine, but by religious ritual and practice.

Plainsong was at the center of that ritual, and much religious practice as well. During the medieval period most plainsong was used within religious communities as a daily aspect of their religious life, rather than being performed with a congregation on Sundays. While this body of music has its roots in pre-Christian music of the Jewish service, it is generally known as Gregorian chant, after Pope Gregory I, who played a major role in organizing and codifying the chants late in the 6th Century CE. these chants are generally regarded as the fountainhead of Western classical music, all of whose forms have some link to this Gregorian lineage, though many other musics will eventually be put to classical use. For this reason we can think of the classical music as developing under a Gregorian Contract.


Homily for the Feast of St Pius X, Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth

Homily for the Feast of St Pius X [August 21, 2010] Secondary Patron of the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia Opening Mass of the Southeastern Litugical Music Symposium Preached by Msgr Andrew Wadsworth, Executive Director of ICEL

Towards the Future – Singing the Mass: Speech by Msgr. Wadsworth of ICEL

The Chant Cafe is pleased to post the full text of Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth's speech at the 2010 Southeastern Liturgical Music Symposium, August 21, 2010:

Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth's Speech at the 2010 Southeastern Liturgical Music Symposium

So far as I know, no blogger or news source has yet commented on Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth's speech at the 2010 Southeastern Liturgical Music Symposium . Msrg. Wadsworth is Executive Secretary of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. His speech was given the day following the historic release of the new English translation of the Missal that will be implemented fully and finally on Advent 2011, with no grace period of transition.

I do not have the transcript. (Update: that is now available here.) Nor do I have a recording. Surely both will come in time. I do have my own (inevitably selective) memory, so I will reconstruct the high points for me.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Weekend of the New Translation

It has been a whirlwind of a weekend, beginning with the much-anticipated but still surprising announcement of the final text for the new translation of the Missal.

It is a good time to read through the new order of the Mass. I've read many drafts along the way but now that it is final, my own impressions are becoming much more vivid.

We've had a translation for the Mass for many years that is hazy and obscure at too many points, one that generally strikes many people as somehow less confident about Catholic belief that, say, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Sometimes it is hard to put your finger on it.

Ponitifical High Mass with Polyphony - Cardinal Zen

Of interest to anyone truly concerned that music of the Mass have the widest possible cultural appeal.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Home Brewing: Starting a Schola from Scratch

In our merged parishes, we have a number of choirs, coros and cantor/song leader/psalmist resources. We have only one exclusively Latin-language schola, and that was founded and is led by a truly wonderful, talented, dedicated-Catholic, but musically untrained amateur. I interviewed my friend, Mr. Ralph Colucci, recently about the origins of his chant enterprise, and this is a condensed version of that interview. Just for the record, Ralph's group, the Gregorian Schola of St. Francis, will provide the music ministry for my Requiem Mass whenever that need arises!

CC Ralph , every new endeavor or enterprise results from someone’s perception of a need. Could you sketch out when and how you came to realize there was a “need” and how you processed that and you began your schola?
RC I came back to the church in 1995. Several factors brought me back to the sacraments. I was baptized as a child and kind of fell away from the church. Many factors brought me back, especially the Eucharist, which was the driving force behind my (re)version. I’ve always had a love for singing. My sisters dragged me to church, most often at the 10 AM Mass.

The Ensemble Mass?
RC Yeah, you were directing. I starting following along in the OCP Missalette.
CC So, you didn’t like my music? (laughter)
RC No, no I did like your music! But my sister introduced me to Gregorian chant. She had some cassettes and couple of CD’s and I started to listen to those. I was commuting to Fresno every week for business, and I just listened to the chant during that time, and it was just so beautiful. It was so different, though I liked the contemporary music as well.

Roman Missal recieved by USCCB and Officially Set in Motion

From the Catholic News Service:
Catholics in the United States will begin using the long-awaited English translation of the Roman Missal on the first Sunday of Advent in 2011, Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago said Aug. 20.

The cardinal's announcement as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops marks the formal beginning of a more than 15-month period of education and training leading to the first use of the "third typical edition" of the Roman Missal at English-language Masses in the United States on Nov. 27, 2011.
Read the rest of the story here.

Update: Here's the official press release from the USCCB

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Prayer Vigil for the Pope

Damian Thompson reports on the sabotage of the September 18 prayer Vigil for the Pope on his visit to the UK will consist mostly of pseudo-folk music from the 1970s and 80s. The detailed program is listed here, but what I really do not understand is why it is necessary to trot out huge forces of instruments and singers for such a thing.

This is mostly unison music that most Catholics could rattle off in their sleep. It isn't really choral music at all. It's just a series of small tunes, best performed with a guitar, sitting on a stone by the fireside at a youth encounter thirty years ago.

Talk about over-egging the pudding: "The choir will consist of 160 singers from nearly all the dioceses in England and Wales. Together with 50 singers and 50 musicians from the New English Orchestra, you will provide the majority of the accompaniment to the Vigil. You will also be on stage (under cover should it rain) and in close proximity to the Holy Father. It should be an experience to cherish for many years."

Oh, there is one grand piece: Hallelujah Chorus by Handel. This is also something that I do not understand. There are many good things to say about this piece and they would all be easier to say if this piece hadn't become the world's most notorious musical cliche, second only to the opening notes of Beethoven's 5th.

But even if we consider the intended purpose of the piece, it is a composition for religious theater, by a Protestant for Protestants. This doesn't mean that it is bad, or something that should be banned from Catholic circles, but there is a downside for any community that cannot define itself with its own magnificent forms of cultural expression but instead relies on rehashing other people's traditions. It is not necessary to make Handel central when you have a Catholic musical tradition inclusive of Tallis and Byrd.

I have detected a trend for Catholic gatherings of this sort to use the Hallelujah Chorus as a signaling device, as if you suggest "Lest you think that we only sing small ditties about journeys of love, here's a big classical piece just to show you what we could do if we wanted to."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is the Copyright/Royalty Regime Starting to Crack?

A remarkable and telling story just now appeared on NCR: US Bishops, Biblical Association in Dispute Over Royalties. It seems that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has stopped paying the Association its traditional 25 percent share of royalties that the U.S. Bishops get from the New American Bible, which is at once the most copyright protected and widely criticized translations in existence.

I'm most interested in the actual reported figures of what the U.S. Bishops actually receive in royalties from the NAB and other publications. Mary Sperry actually spells it out: "the budgeted net royalties of the bishops’ conference over the past five years have been $1.38 million in 2006, $1.5 million in 2007 and 2008, $1.17 million in 2009 and $875,000 in the current calendar year."

Two points: the obvious decline in payments and, most strikingly, the relatively small amount of money we are talking about here, especially when we consider the vast distribution of the NAB and the unfathomably high moral costs associated with restricting access to the sacred scriptures.

The NCR story is packed with weeping about those students who are being denied money for archeological digs, the journals that are hurting for funds, and the like. All of this is a given: everyone wants more money rather than less. What the story never mentions is where this money is coming from to begin with. In the end, it all comes from the pockets of Catholics in the pews, who are being taxed to read, listen to, and learn from the Word of God. There is something very wrong here. These institutions all need to ween themselves from attachment to money from this source.

Ego Flos Campi

Many people were taken with the post from Stile Antico, but I failed to identify the piece. It is Ego Flos Campi, for 7 voices, by Jacobus Clemens non Papa. It is on CPDL.

Ego flos campi et lilium convallium.
Sicut lilium inter spinas sic amica mea inter filias.
Fons hortorum et puteus aquarum viventium
quae fluunt impetu de Libano.

[Bride:] I am the flower of the field and the lily of the valleys.
[Bridegroom:] As the lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.
The fountain of gardens: a well of living waters,
Which run with a strong stream from Lebanon.

New Beginnings

This is the time of year where music directors and church musicians are returning home from summer conferences, colloquia, seminars, retreats, possibly trips abroad, or maybe just summer vacations. Over the next few weeks we are planning out the year that lies ahead, recruiting choir members, choosing repertoire, organizing and preparing ourselves for the exhausting stretch of rehearsals and liturgies, especially the privileged seasons that will be here before we know it. Although this time of year is comparatively very slow, it brings with it a certain anxiety because we know that our strategizing and big-picture thinking now may very well determine the course of the coming year.

If your parish is like mine, you might be considering what subtle or possibly profound additions, subtractions, or adjustments you can make that will help steer your parish toward the sacred and more closely toward the musical and liturgical ideals that are given to us by the Church. This might be the creation of a schola that begins to explore the Church’s musical treasures, an implementation of the basic Gregorian ordinary, more singing on the part of the priest and the congregation in dialogue with him, a weeding out of problematic repertoire, it surely involves a thorough agenda of catechesis, and probably also of continued personal study.

And it also is likely to involve some sort of introduction of your parish to the proper of the Mass--perhaps specifically the processional antiphons which form an integral part of the liturgy and which are ideally supposed to be sung at the Entrance, Offertory and Communion.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Why ICEL Needs To Put Its Texts Into the Commons

I've written uncountable numbers of words scolding ICEL for keeping its texts proprietary and charging for access - on grounds that this is a practice contrary to the whole history of Christianity. Even before Christianity, Judaism taught that the teaching of the Torah and the knowledge of the rabbis was not a commodity to be bought and sold. They could charge for the time, for the room in which they teach, and the books that contained the teaching, but the knowledge itself could not be commodified or limited.

"ALL you that thirst, come to the waters, and you that have no money make hast, buy, and eat; come ye, buy wine and milk without money and without any price." Isaiah 55:1

The Christian ideal of the same impulse is embodied in the prohibition against "simony" - a sin named for Simon Magus (Acts 8:18-24) who offered disciples money in exchange for the laying on of hands. Peter said to Simon: "Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money."

But enough with the condemnations and lectures. I would like to make positive case for something wonderful and easy that ICEL could do right now.

My favorite video ever!

Stile Antico illustrates that there is no master and no slave in polyphonic music, taking this so far as to eliminate any evidence of a director, creating something like a perfect small society.

Fontgombault Video in English

With some of the most beautiful chant you have ever heard:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Qui Manducat this weekend

The communion chant this weekend (as an option) has a melody that tends to linger in the head and heart for years and years. It is Qui Manducat, with the text: "He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me: and I in him, saith the Lord." I'm drawn to the clean phrases in this chant: flesh, blood, abide, with the longest melisma on the last phrase. The mode VI here provides a feeling of contentment and joy.

Here is a audio presentation of the above.

However, CPDL also carries two very beautiful polyphonic presentations of this text, both scored for male voices. The first is for TTBB by Claudio Merulo (1533-1604) and it so happens that it has just the same feeling of contentment and joy about it. It is not a difficult piece, given that it navigates the major scale up and down so effortlessly. From the CPDL page you can see the PDF and listen to the midi file.

The second is by Jacobus Gallus (1550-1591). It does a similar thing except for five male voices. Here is the PDF. (The midi file appears to be down).

Whether you sing the chant or one of these polyphonic presentations, you get a sense of what it means to say that a piece of music has a timeless quality to it. The chant is at least 1000 years old, and these polyphonic pieces are some 500 years old, and yet they sound fresh and beautiful, evocative of the text and thoroughly uplifting of the true liturgical spirit.

(P.S. just to underscore the point I'm making in the post just before this one, I can show you all this music and you can listen to it because all of this [text, sheet music, and audio] are part of the commons of the faith. Hence, this evangelization. Can anyone think of any good that would come to the faith by re-copyrighting these things?)

ICEL's Copyright Policies

Sometimes people tell me that my relentless focus on the copyrighting of liturgical texts - which is contrary to the practice of the whole of Christian history and introduces an artificial legal limit on what by nature and God's design is a universal good - is really exaggerated, that this really isn't a big deal in practice. Well, here is some evidence that these policies really are a big deal and have done terrible things to inhibit the spreading of the Gospel and to cartelize the Catholic publishing market. Google's algorithms rank the page for ICEL's copyright policies as number 2 in its search ranking on the term ICEL.

What that means is that there is universal curiosity about these policies. Every time a parish, monastery, school, or small publisher wants to spread the good news, it is inhibited by these policies, which are obscure, strange, intimidating, and potentially very costly. These institutions do a search and read this page, which strangely excludes any information on digital print rights (as if the digital age doesn't exist). It does however include a helpful list of books that ICEL is keeping under wraps, forbidding universalization in complete disregard of Matthew 28:19: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations..." The texts have been artificially commodified and for no good reason. If the Church Fathers have used such methods with regard to texts, sermons, teachings, and the Gospel generally, Christianity might never have stood a chance against paganism, Gnosticism, and heresy.

The Post-Concilar Text Thicket

Adoremus offers a very helpful guide for those confused by the post-conciliar issue of translations. As I look through the list of releases, revisions, commissions, releases, revisions, commissions, seemingly without end, I gain sympathy for the traditionalist impulse to say: down with the new; give me that old-time religion and the stability that comes with it. When you play with the core ritual of a people, and really an entire civilization, you really are playing with fire.

And remember that the textual and translations upheavals compromise on a small amount of what's gone on. There were massive architectural changes that, strangely, find little or no support in the documents but were worldwide. The same is true of the music for liturgy. What was presumed to be the ideal - however rarely reached - was thrown out and replaced with the peculiar view that music of the liturgy ought to sound less like Church and more like anything else.

When one gets frustrated with reactionary impulses alive among traditionalists - and I'm among those who can easily become so - it is good to remember what we've been through. It may or not be unprecedented in Catholic history but it this upheaval has been a defining mark of our age, one that has deeply unsettled the Catholic mind and heart.

Still, this is the setting into which we were born and we must endure with faith and hope. There is much to be hopeful for. In fits and starts, we are clawing our way out of the trouble and into safe harbor. The mistake the traditionalists make is in thinking that safety comes only through an attempt to recreate the past. But time moves forward, and the urgency of examining and learning from the past must serve the project of looking to a brighter future.

Report on Colloquium XX

Here from Adoremus is my report on Colloquium XX. It was impossible to cover everything so I just hit the highlights. Apologies if your favorite motet, setting, or lecture was left out.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Signum magnum apparuit in caelo.

Guest column from Jake Tawney of Roma locuta est.


Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother. The Introit chant from the Graduale is the every timeless Signum magnum. Listen carefully to the chant:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Praise for Trio Motets by Kevin Allen

Last night, at schola practice, we read through a Kevin Allen trio for post-communion from his Motecta Trium Vocum book of motets. We chose O Sanctissima, linked below. In twenty minutes, we had a gorgeous motet worked up. These pieces are absolutely beautiful and very intuitive, modern but traditional. Very fresh and satisfying. I would say that it ranks among the best contemporary music you could ever use with your schola.

We played with various voicing ideas, but we ended up doubling the octaves on each part so: 1st soprano plus 1st tenor | 2nd soprano plus 2nd tenor | alto plus bass. It is probably not the way the composer imagined this happening but it worked with the group we had at rehearsal, and the results were extremely satisfying. And isn't that what it comes down to for the choir? You can stare at pages all day, and even listen to MP3s, but until you actually try it in real time, it is hard to know for sure. Well, we found out for sure. This is why we made a bulk purchase of the book for our group. I strongly recommend this.

O Sanctissima by Kevin Allen, sung by Matthew J Curtis:Sample from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

Chant from Seville

Here is a pretty manuscript from 1450 on eBay.

Recapturing a Vision

A reporter asked me for a few sentences to sum up the driving force of the chant movement. Here is what I wrote:

One of the musical aspirations of the Second Vatican Council was to make a decisive move away from Low Mass with vernacular hymns, an exception that had become the norm, toward a fully sung Mass that made chant the basis of all singing, whether by the celebrant, the schola, or the people. This is why the advocates of Gregorian chant were so excited about the Council's documents on liturgy. History didn't turn out that way, however. The rise of the new chant movement is to recapture that original vision so that Catholics can sing the Mass itself rather than just sing during Mass.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Church and the World Working Together

At Stift Heiligenkreuz, it has made a beautiful combination: commercial fame plus the monastic life. "In recent years Stift Heiligenkreuz has nearly doubled its personnel." Pray Tell has the goods.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

iBreviary for the iPad

Jake Tawney reviews this remarkable tool: "Overall, this is a grand effort and remarkable product by Giani and Padrini. They are to be complimented for their vision and hard work, and commended to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ for their attempt to spread the his Gospel and the official prayer of his Church."

Converts Save Catholic Music

At a chant workshop that I co-conducted last week, I found myself intrigued by the demographics. Most attendees were in the 30s, 40s, and early 50s. In these busy times, it takes a special spark of something to attract a person to a two-day workshop in which you spend your time learning to read Gregorian notation and providing an ideal form of music for the Mass. Not many among the attendees had extensive music education, and this is fine. Chant is sometimes taught most easily to people who are not translating from one form of music to another but rather learning this unique kind of music on its own terms.

What draws the participants to such workshops? All the participants have that special something that causes them to define themselves as singers - a class of people that have been essential to the performance of the Christian ritual since the earliest years of the Church. Their art grew up alongside and integral with the ritual itself. This generation joins countless others from the past to take up this serious and sacred vocation of daring to improve on the beauty of silence with the glorious.

But why these people and why now? I spoke to a substantial number of them, perhaps more than half of the 75, who turn out to be converts to Catholicism, some of them recently and some of them from 10 or 15 years before. Most have come through the Episcopal faith, but that might have been a short stop from a more fundamental starting place in the Baptist or Presbyterian faith. From my conversations with these people, I began to put together an archetype of the convert who gets involved in the Gregorian chant movement.

These people did not convert because they preferred the music in the Catholic church to what they had in their own house of worship. It would be closer to the truth that they converted despite the music that is typical in most Catholic parishes. What attracted them to Catholicism was a different kind of beauty, one embodied in history, theological, doctrine, and spirituality.

Their conversion was inspired by the conviction of truth. Here we find the usual personal revelations taking place. Just to mention a few: The Bible was formed by the Church but the Church came first; the Apostolic succession is real and crucial; the Eucharist is in the body of Christ; the Papacy is a legitimate historical institution that has guarded the faith; the long history of saints and martyrs were faithful to scripture and tradition; the liturgy has been organically grown from the earliest times; it has been Catholic theology that has spawned the greatest developments in human history; grace comes from the sacraments offered by the Church.

To have these truths and a thousand other dawn on your is a transforming experience. And then to follow that intellectual change with access to the confessional and to a new form of intense spirituality is a glorious thing, the greatest event of a lifetime. St. John of the Cross writes that these new Catholics are carefully cradled in the Church’s bosom like children by their mothers. They feel secure and are fed what they need.

Pilgrim Music for the Pope?

I sometimes like techno music but to celebrate the Pope's visit to the UK? It's not even very good. And the second track is just not worth the listen at all. Damian Thompson played this for his colleagues at the Telegraph and they all rolled on the floor with laughter.

So that we aren't all negative, all the time, here is some pilgrim music for the Black Madonna:

The Mass, the Language, the Shattering of Unity

This blogger makes an interesting point:
With the benefit of hindsight, it could be argued that the normal celebration of mass in the vernacular was unfortunate. It seems not to have been the intention of Vatican II, since the official document states only that mass "may" be celebrated in the vernacular, with the implication that it was a departure from the norm, which would for the mass to continue to be celebrated in Latin.
It is increasingly clear to me that the fatal flaw of Sacrosanctum Concilium is 36.3: "These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, 2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language."

Article 22.2, in turn, says: "In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established."

This is what opened the can of worms. The Catholic Church is a universal Church. To grant the regulation of the language within a nation to that nation is going to lead to the very thing that the Catholic Church so successfully mitigated against the whole of the middle ages: nationalism. It is no surprise that in only a few years following the promulgation of these seemingly innocuous words, the entire liturgical structure came to be shattered along language/ethnic/national lines. No single nation has an interest in preserving Latin; rather, the interests of the whole, which only Rome can protect, can defend Latin.

Maybe this can be seen better with the benefit of hindsight, but it strikes me that it should have been obvious that turning over the issue of language regulation to organizations organized along language lines was a grave error. Again, this is not a matter of faith or morals; it is a matter of management. Plainly, it was misstep.

With the forthcoming translation into English, we see steps away from this practice. The power to regulate language is being taken away from the national conference and is going back to Rome. This is happening in view of the obvious and undeniable incompetence that has thus far been shown in responsibly managing the language of liturgy: one only needs to look at the Latin vs. the English of the Gloria to see the point.

In this sense, the "progressives" are correct: the methods used to bring about the new translation are indeed steps away from Sacrosanctum Concilium, or at least this part of it. And it's a good thing too. To save the document, it has become necessary to reign in some parts so that other parts may flourish. After all, the same document in section 23 says: "There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing."

One wonders what an alternative history of the postconciliar era might have looked like if 36.3 never existed.

A Primer on Church Architecture

All the better that this video promotes the building of a new Church for a parish.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chant Camp!

The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius held a chant camp for kids (sounds fantastic, doesn't it?). Here is a report.

St. Gall online

You can look at the prehistory of modern chant editions, with manuscripts from the first millennium of Christianity, by browsing the full Paleographie Musicale in PDF. This is, in so many ways, the fulfillment of the vision of Mocquereau and Pothiers, who imagined a future in which everyone in the world could examine these manuscripts without needing to travel to farflung places. It took more than 100 years, but at last that dream is a reality. Also, the availability of these books underscores the reality that this kind of detailed study of pre-Guido chant signs was not something pioneered in the 1950s but has been of central concern to Solesmes from the very beginning.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Workshop Report, Charlotte, North Carolina

We are at the end of one of the most inspiring chant workshops I've ever had the privilege of being part of. It was at St. Ann's in Charlotte, and was attending about some 75 new chanters. Only a few had ever sung this music before. After two days, thanks to Arlene Oost-Zinner's excellent teaching, we finished the workshop with a full Missa Cantata in the extraordinary form, with a full sung ordinary (Mass IV with Credo I and Gloria XV) and chanted propers (with Chants Abreges for the Gradual and Alleluia), plus two pieces of polyphony (I conducted these). It was an impossible undertaking that somehow worked in every way.

I gave two or three (or more?) talks on various aspects of chant in modern life. I'm again struck by what a strange situation we've inherited, living amidst a broken tradition and trying our best to cobble together knowledge from the past as a way of playing a role to assure the survivability of tradition into the future. Of course there will be missteps: we are talking about 2000 years of history and attempting to recreate the musical tradition in two days. But given the task, the results were just fantastic. Everyone learned; certainly I did.

Necessary ingredients here included a great pastor, a wonderful acoustic, happy parishioners, a regularly schedule extraordinary form about one year old, a welcoming environment. The parish itself is a thriving place; truly, we have a Catholic parish in its full glory doing the Mass of the ages and loving it in every way. A workshop like this convinces me that it can be done.

From Mater Ecclesia

Mater Ecclesiae’s Tenth Annual Solemn High Mass of the Assumption

On the Feast of the Assumption, Sunday, August 15, 2010 at 1:00 PM, Mater Ecclesiae Roman Catholic Church will celebrate the Tenth Annual Mass of Thanksgiving at Saint Peter Roman Catholic Church, 43 West Maple Avenue, Merchantville, New Jersey. The Solemn High Extraordinary Form of the Mass will be celebrated according to the 1962 Roman Missal and will once again feature the Ars Laudis Festival Chorus and Orchestra.

For the tenth consecutive year, the Reverend Robert C. Pasley, KHS, Rector of Mater Ecclesiae, Berlin, NJ, will celebrate this Solemn Mass in thanksgiving for the canonical establishment of Mater Ecclesiae.

The Music for the Mass is:
Gregorian Propers
The Missa brevis septorum sanctorum dolorum B.V.M by Carl Heinrich Biber
Alleluia Assumpta est and the Dilexisti iustitiam by Heinrich Isaac
Offertorium de Sanctissimo Sacramento by Leopold Mozart, the father of A. Mozart
Dulcissima Maria – Francesco Guerrero
Sonata VII of Heinrich Isaac Biber
Ave Maria by Johann Joseph Fux
Sonata in D for two trumpets IV and Sonata in D for two trumpets II by Franceschini
O Sanctissima and Hail Holy Queen arranged for Brass and Orchestra by Timothy McDonnell

The orchestra and choir will be conducted by Dr. Timothy McDonnell. The singing of the Gregorian Propers will be directed by our Cantor, Mr. Nicholas Beck.

For more information, please call 856-753-3408 or visit the website: www.materecclesiae.org.

Mater Ecclesiae, in the diocese of Camden New Jersey, was established on October 13, 2000, the anniversary of the final apparition of Our Lady at Fatima. All Masses and Sacraments are celebrated according to the liturgical books of 1962.

Friday, August 6, 2010

How copyright and (attempted) royalties are destroying music

A very interesting piece in the NYT Magazine this week. If liturgical music is part of the commons, it will stand while others fall.

The Fundamentals of Chant: A Lost Classic

Here is a wonderful reduction of the principles of Dom Mocquereau, a publication of uncertain date but perhaps 1910ish: The Fundamentals of Gregorian Chant by Lura Heckenlively.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Music from the Templars!

I'm sorry that you can't buy this from Amazon, from what I can tell, but Presto Classical has this wonderful CD that is certainly worth grabbing: The Dedication of the Temple, Music from the Templars' Jerusalem Breviary. The director and lead singer is Jeremy White and the group is the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, as formed and directed for years by the great Mary Berry.

The recording is the fulfillment of a project that Berry had in mind in her last years, so this recording is dedicated to her memory. The book in question is the actual Breviary of the Knights, dated from 1240. It follows very closely what Roman Catholics are used to hearing but with a special spirit and approach that is very appealing.

The order of liturgy chosen for this presentation is the Dedication of the Temple. It begins with a striking piece of organum and the moves to Gregorian chant sung by an all male schola (obviously for the Templars). There are people who regard chant as mood music for chilling out, but this performance sets that impression straight. Here we have the knights of legend at prayer. There is no mistaking the culture of the group.

As the liner notes remind us, this legendary order was not only military but also profoundly religious. David Hiley, who worked closely with Berry, writes the liner notes. This is not only an artistic triumph but also a scholarly one as well, the fulfillment of dream to unite history and performance art in one wonderful package. It is a grant success in every way.

Gregorian Chant Wins the Trial and Error

Everyone knows that there are musical choices to be made within the ordinary form of the Roman Rite. You can do the normative thing, you can do a substitute for the normative thing, you can do a translation of the substitute of the normative thing, or...you can do something else deemed appropriate.

Who is to decide what is appropriate? Well, there some degree of fighting about this in every parish environment. Every parishioner with a voice has a view about what is appropriate. Sometimes the pastor prevails. Sometimes the music director or pianist prevails. Most of the time, the process of deciding works a lot like democracy: the most well-organized pressure groups prevail. Needless to say, this is not a good framework for the fulfilment of liturgical ideals.

The U.S. Bishops have added what is considered a reliable guide: a three-fold judgement. The music must meet the criteria of being good music, pastoral music, and liturgical music. This famous test was heavily emphasized in the now-defunct document called Music in Catholic Worship; it is much downplayed in its replacement document Sing To the Lord. In any case, I’ve never really been convinced that this three-fold judgement puts much in the way of limits on anything, since all three of criteria can be easily rationalized by whomever is selecting the music in question.

The provision that the music must be “pastoral,” while not technically prejudicing the choice against Gregorian chant, seems to indicate, in American parlance, something that meets the community’s immediate need for some kind of gratification. It doesn’t have to mean that kind of prejudice but the hint is embedded in the long use of the word “pastoral” in the American context. This test, moreover, puts excessive focus on the people who are present at the liturgy without regard to the millions of people who have been driven from the Catholic faith by bad music. What about the pastoral needs of those who have been long alienated by others’ choices of what constitutes an appropriate substitute for the normative ideal?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Help a wonderful group of singers

The Portland-based, all-women singing group In Mulieribus, specializing in early music, has done amazing work on their two CDs. I've listened to them constantly. They will be now producing a Christmas CD and they are trying to raise money for this. I hope that Chant Cafe readers can help!

Letters from my Windmill

I have loved most of my life in cities. As a child, when I had to go and visit my grandparents in the country, visits which came with an alarming frequency, I always grumbled because I knew I would be Bored with a capital B. Accustomed as I was to television, cassette players, friends in the neighborhood and prank calling on the telephone, I never came to appreciate the pastoral beauties of rolling green hills, the smell of fresh hay, and the sounds of rivulets of water and whinnying horses. In fact, I pitied the country folk with the same kind of childish compassion that I had for the starving famine victims in Ethiopia my mother called to mind when I refused to eat collard greens. How sad that they could not live in a city.

The first time I came across Hilaire Belloc’s Path to Rome, I expected a book detailing the intellectual Sturm und Drang that accompanied converts to Catholicism like myself. Instead I found a travelogue which read like an enthusiastic anthropologist’s account of joys of Catholic peasantry. While I appreciated the oft-quoted line, “Wherever a Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine,” I imagined myself sipping a meticulously bioengineered Bordeaux at Café Flo in Paris while explaining why St Anselm’s arguments for the existence of God were meaningless, not drinking pastis out of a jug at a game of petanque with old men in Nimes.

Belloc’s “How to Travel Disguised as a Catholic Peasant” meant nothing to me at the time, because my own experience of the faith was wrapped up in extracting myself from fundamentalist Protestantism of the South and the spirit-eating virus of secularism everywhere.

I am firmly convinced that there is a way to develop a Catholic culture in the heart of the city. European immigrants to America had a Catholic culture in large cities like Boston and New York. Some will argue that such a culture still exists. My own experience of what remains of it has led me to see it as a Catholicism of convention rather than a Catholicism of conviction, something unable to sustain neither the convention nor the conviction in the long run.

I would like to think that celebrated liturgical centers like the Oratory in London and St John Cantius in Chicago can provide an oasis in the desert for urban-dwellers, that curious creature whose name is disturbingly close etymologically to bottom-dwellers. Yet, at the same time, even as I participated in a glorious Rogations Procession in an Anglo-Catholic garden in Manhattan, I still had the sense that there was a disconnect between liturgy and life.

There is a lot of talk about how to bring the liturgy to the people where they really are. If I live in the city and my idea of harvesting is a sale at Dean and DeLuca, can I really appreciate the earthy language of Rogations? Would it not be better then to scrap Ember Days entirely and replace them with something more “relevant,” like a protest against nuclear war? Need the language of faith be tied to an ancient agricultural world that none of us, including today’s farmers, inhabit?

It was reasoning like that which led Annibale Bugnini to argue that, since the hours of the day are no longer divided into seven Roman-inspired hours, the Breviary had to reflect that we now live in morning, afternoon and night. Prime was suppressed, and Terce, Sext and None have become Mid-some time of-day Prayer. Liturgical progress was declared a fait accompli because finally the liturgy was adjusted to the real life of believers. Just as no one would ever build a library of cassette tapes today when one can do marvels with MP3s and MP4s and I-things and other abbreviated devices that make our lives more efficient, many wish to remake the Church according to the mind of reason and plain common sense.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The trouble with atheist music


Monday, August 2, 2010

Explanation of the Ceremonies of Holy Mass, Part 5: Communion and Dismissal

No one was there when Jesus rose from the dead. But he appeared on the evening of His Resurrection to two disciples walking on the Road to Emmaus. They do not recognize Him until He breaks bread with them. In the Mass, no one sees the Resurrection, even in symbol, for no symbol could ever do it justice. But the priest breaks the consecrated bread so that we may recognize the presence of the Crucified and Risen Christ in the Eucharist as surely as the disciples knew Him in the breaking of the bread. Just as the angel, removes the stone from the tomb, the deacon removes the pall from the chalice. The priest breaks the host into three parts, signifying that Christ was in three parts: His body was in the tomb, His Blood poured out upon the earth, and His soul was freeing the just from hell. The priest places one section of the three into the chalice. Jesus’ Body and Blood are reunited in the Resurrection and this commingling of Body and Blood is the eloquent and simple sign of that Resurrection.

All the while, the choir and people sing, Agnus Dei, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. The priest raises the Host, the sacrificed Lamb, and exclaims in the words of John the Baptist when he sees Jesus: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! The people respond with some of the same words as the Centurion said to Jesus when asking Him to heal his sick child: LORD, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

Explanation of the Ceremonies of Holy Mass Part 4: Offertory and Eucharistic Prayer

The altar must be prepared for the sacrifice. The Missal, the book out of which the priest signs the prayers, is placed on the altar along with the sacred vessels, all made from precious metals. The chalice in which the LORD’s Precious Blood will become present is placed on the altar under a veil. There are many veils in the church, and all of them have the same symbolism. A veil partially or completely covers something, pointing to the fact that what is beneath it is a mystery not entirely accessible to man. Thus, much of what has to do with the sacrifice is veiled. The chalice is veiled. The tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is veiled, like the tabernacle of old. Inside the tabernacle are to be found veils, which symbolise the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple. The ciborium which contains the Sacred Host has a veil on it after the hosts inside are consecrated.

Saint Paul in even instructs women to veil their heads when they pray: any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonours her head . . . a woman ought to have a veil over her head because of the angels . . . if anyone is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God.

The altar itself is often veiled with an antependium, a covering over the whole altar. In the Middle Ages a large veil called the hunger veil hid the entire sanctuary from the people at Mass during Lent, to highlight the separation of man from God by sin. In the East, an iconostasis, a large wall covered with holy images, blocks the view of the people so that they may not gaze on the mysteries and have contempt for them. In the West, rood screens and grilles are often seen in churches to underscore that God and the things of God are sacred, removed from the profane, wholly other. The language of Latin also serves as a veil; the words which are used in sacred worship are different than ordinary words, consecrated for divine use to emphasize that the actions that are taking place now are truly from another world.

In ancient times, the faithful often made the bread and wine for Mass and brought them, along with all kinds of gifts for the poor and the needy, to the altar. The deacons would distribute them from the altar while the priest went with the bread and wine to the altar. In the Ordinary Form it is common to have a procession during which monetary offerings for the good of the parish are brought up along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist. The bread is unleavened, just like the bread used by Christ at the Last Supper on Passover. The wine is ordinary wine made from grapes with nothing else added or taken away. The bread is fashioned into smaller and larger hosts. The word host comes from the Latin hostia, victim, because the bread of the host then becomes Christ who is both Priest and Victim. A larger host is placed on a paten, a large dish, and smaller hosts in ciboria.
In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the subdeacon takes the paten away from the altar and stands with it wrapped in a humeral veil placed around his shoulders. During the entire Eucharistic Prayer, he stands with the paten over his face, to symbolise the cherubim who covered their faces from the Divine Presence in the Book of Ezekiel, again calling to mind the mystery of the God hidden underneath the sacramental veils of bread and wine.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gregoriano-Monastica: l'Abbaye de Solesmes ~Mille ans de Grâce

Gregoriano-Monastica: l'Abbaye de Solesmes ~Mille ans de Grâce

Singing into the Sunset

Announcing the CMAA Fall Practicum: Gregorian Chant at the Houston Cathedral. October 21-23,2010 This three day event is sponsored by the CMAA Houston Chapter, the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, and St. Theresa Church in Sugarland, Texas.

Faculty includes Dr. William Mahrt, Scott Turkington, Arlene Oost-Zinner, Rev. Robert Pasley, Dr. Crista Miller, and Jeffrey Tucker. There will be separate courses in beginning Chant for women and men, an advanced chant Master Class, Training for Priests, Deacons, and seminarians, as well as lectures and fellowship. Vespers will be sung in Latin and English on Friday evening; The event will conclude with a Missa Cantata in the ordinary from on Saturday, October 23rd.

The 10-minute Mass in Ireland

For years I've heard apocalyptic stories about how awful the "old days" were because Father would begin and end Low Mass in 20-minutes flat - an illustration of how uninspired liturgy was in the days before the New Pentecost. So I'm understandably astonished at Phil Lawler's report (hat tip Pray Tell) on the ten-minute Mass in Ireland. You have to read this. When a culture has no time and no concern for sacred spaces and prayer...well, I'm not sure how to finish this sentence.

Guest Column on Anglican Chant

Noel Jones offers this guest column on the important topic of Anglican tones for the Responsorial Psalm.

The Case for Singing English Chant Tone Responsorial Psalms

The Anglican Church has perfected the art of singing psalms in English and the suitability for their psalm tones for this purpose has caused them to be adopted for use in churches of many other denominations, including the Roman Catholic Latin Rite Churches, when singing in English vernacular.

For that reason, though they are known as being Anglican Chants, they deserve to be called English Chants as they, like hymns, have escaped the bounds of being associated with one denomination.

Why consider singing these compact and concise psalm tunes for the Alleluia, its Verse and the Responsorial Psalm?

They are eminently adaptable to your musical circumstances. They may be sung by a semi-professional SATB choir but also by a middle school cantor in unison, melody only, unaccompanied. They are English psalm tones for all reasons and seasons.

But even more compelling is that they greatly increase the ability of a congregation to respond in song. In simple terms, this is one way of satisfying the pressure on many of us to get the congregation to participate in the Mass in song.

Why are these easier and preferable to the printed pulp missal psalms that are out there in most pews?

They are written solely to be sung in support of the psalms rather than being musical works on their own, just as the Gregorian Psalm Tones were written to serve the psalms without attempts by a composer to elaborate and adorn the music.

Yes, the Gregorian Tones may be used to sing the Alleluia, Verse and the Responsorial Psalm in English, however, the English Psalm Chant Tones are more suited to English. It is a matter of the structure of accented syllables in Latin versus English. For English, these psalm tones win out.

But the best part is this, they are sung to simple melodies of 10 notes in most cases. And they can be repeated for a series of weeks until people become familiar with them. Do they become boring? No, because the organist traditionally changes registrations to reflect the meaning of the words and the singers also interpret the text and music more so than is common with Gregorian Chant.

Why are they not included in current Catholic hymnals? Some feel that they, like Gregorian Chant, are to a large part in the public domain, meaning that publishers cannot control their use and charge for using them. Others recognize that it is merely because they are not Catholic. This attitude must be confusing to Catholics in Great Britain who hear them commonly, if not in their home church but in broadcasts from Westminster Cathedral, whose choir appears on YouTube singing these English Psalm Chant Tones.

But what's the best reason for singing them? They are based upon Gregorian Chant as it evolved into a form that suited the English language. One famous Gregorian Psalm Tone, Tonus Peregrinus, survived the transition and it exists as a Gregorian Chant and an English Chant unchanged. What better to sing than Gregorian Chant that has evolved through years and years of singing into a unique form by the work of people that speak the language?

While the Roman Church ignored the centuries of work of putting the liturgy in English done by the English Church, the Roman Church has failed to provide music for English texts just as they have failed to provide authorized translations for singing. There is no rule against using English Chant Tones and common sense says that in the interest of improving music in the vernacular, they are the natural replacement for what most people have in their hands on Sunday morning in the United States and the rest of the English-Speaking World.

I have felt this way for a long time and used these psalm tones at Mass for four years at parish Masses and at high school Masses. As a result of this I am in the midst of finishing a beginner's guide to singing these psalm tones, pointing (marking) the text of the psalms for singing them and providing many of the psalm tones in the public domain for copying, sharing and use.

How hard is this to put into place and get up and working in a parish? After four weekly school Masses, the high school choir students knew enough to take over the marking and rehearsing of the choir singing the psalms each week and rehearsed the psalms in parts under the leadership of a sophomore and sang them at Mass for the entire semester, also led by the sophomore, unaccompanied.