Sunday, October 31, 2010

El Rosario de los Esclavos and Baroque Spanish Piety

When my Peruvian friend Guillermo suggested we go to the Cathedral of Pamplona to pray the Rosary last Saturday night, neither of us knew what to expect. Both of us had the experience of coming across people who were constantly asking us, “Are you going to the Rosario de los Esclavos?” as if it were a big deal. Cynic that I am, I thought we would mumble through five decades of the rosary like the Irish washerwomen before Low Mass in olden times, and then we could afterwards be off on our merry way to have a nice glass of Rioja and debate theology in the Plaza del Castillo so loved by Hemingway. Was I wrong!

The Esclavos who were “animating” the Rosary are actually a pious association of the faithful, to use the modern canonical jargon, whose origin is really rather lost in the midst of time. They have been saying the Rosary every night in the Cathedral of Pamplona for so long no one seems to be bothered with asking how long they have been doing it. Maybe I have some residue from being raised as a Baptist, so the thought of slaves of Mary, I found a little, well, interesting. And being raised in the South, the idea of slaves of Mary was even more perplexing. But thank God the Hispanic world does not revolve around my complexes, and it is much the healthier for it. Pace to fans of St Louis Grignon de Montfort who read this blog! The point is that the Slaves of Mary love their Mother, and on the last Saturday of October, the month STILL dedicated to Our Lady (pause for liturgical Nazi rationalist shivers up spine), I was in for a treat.

At precisely 1930 hours, a bell rang and a procession made its way to the Altar. The banner of the Immaculate Conception flanked by two candles headed up the procession from the neo-Rococo riot of a sacristy through the stately Gothic nave into the walled and gated Quire where the solid silver canopy topped by a caped and mantilla-clad Virgen y Niño presided over a silver altar which looked curiously like a pulpit with a top on it. But behind it was a procession of young people, sweatshirt and jean uniformed, each with an enormous lantern encased in stained glass, each one representing a mystery of the Rosary. At the end of the Procession, the Archbishop in green cope, mitre, and crosier, accompanied by altar boys in cassock and fine lace surplices and two canons with their flat Spanish birettas and red pompoms and red and black mantelletas.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Introit Recordings: All Saints & All Souls

This afternoon a few friends of mine and I put together a couple of recordings of the Simple Propers for Jeffrey's Sirius Radio interview on Monday (and with hours to spare before the deadline!). We recorded the Introits for the feasts of All Saints and All Souls which are being celebrated on Monday and Tuesday, respectively, of this week.

Here's a preview:




Pitch In: The Simple English Propers Project

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One of the most remarkable innovations the digital world has made possible is to combine the power of commercial reach with artistic micro-patronage, probably for the time in human history. A leader in this effort is ThePoint.com, which is rather new but has already made fantastic things happen, from funding seminary students, to cleaning up parks, to making renovations happen in parishes and more.

ThePoint can also be used for music, and let's all chip in and demonstrate how this works. The Simple English Propers Project of this site is a great test case. Adam Bartlett has been making these wonderful chant settings available week by week, publishing them not with traditional copyright but straight into the commons of the faith so that everyone can use them for free. The texts are also being made available for everyone in a special database to which many have already contributed.

Let's use ThePoint to help Adam to see this project through to completion and in plenty of time for the release of the new translation. I've set the campaign goal at $5000, but if that seems like it is too high to raise, think again. If 50 people give $100, we are there. If 500 people give $10, we are there. The power of digital media can make this happen. Please contribute and send the campaign to friends.

Folks, this is a new method, a new way, and you can help be a pioneer this approach. We all know that there is no future to the traditional copyright-restricted and royalty-funded sheet music methods of the past. The future is with music put into the commons of the faith for free, and this is for both technological and moral reasons. Let's be the first to show how it is done.

When the goal is reached, we'll conclude the campaign. The money goes to the composer/engraver and then he puts the entire work into the commons. We'll make it available for purchase too, at the exact cost of the paper and printing and no more. It's like a combination of how the great works of the Renaissance were accomplished combined with the merit of commercial drive. It shows that Catholics value new music that is in keeping in our native voice.

The result will be something you can use every week in your parish - a way to sing the propers of the Mass in a beautiful way.

You can tell I'm excited about this. I have every confidence that this can work. And think of it: once it is done, it is done forever, for all Catholic musicians forever.

I've already made a pledge. Join me.
Your card will not be charged until the goal is reached.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Liturgical Institute: Toward a New Era of Liturgical Renewal

Here's a wonderful new promotional video from the Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Chicago:



Watching this is very sentimental for me because it was filmed during the summer session of this past year while I was on campus as a student at the Liturgical Institute. It truly is a remarkable place and I believe that the vision of the institute is the way of the future in the liturgy and in the Church.

I strongly encourage anyone who seeks to be thoroughly imbued with the Spirit of the Liturgy to consider studies at the Liturgical Institute. Though not a school of music I find that it offers something to church musicians that they will not find anywhere else–a thorough study of the theological foundations of the liturgy; a training perhaps not in the how of sacred music, but a firm grounding in the what and why of the liturgy, and of the sacred music that is in service of it. Highly recommended!

(By the way, did you catch Kevin Allen in the video who has directed the institute's sacred music retreat over the past two years?)

“Ancient Chant and Hymns for Guitar” by Gerard Garno

This volume of arrangements is a studied, serious and comprehensive necessity for the future of guitarists whose earnest desire to advance the instrument’s “value” to the liturgy will eventually come to terms, and merge with the growing enthusiasm for restoring “pride of place,” or even “primary place” to the use of Gregorian Chant that is burgeoning in this century. The author does not hesitate to equate the revival of chant with the revival of Christendom (“Save the Liturgy, save the world” come to mind?) and sees his work allowing guitarists to “participate more effectively” in that aspect of the worship life of the singing church.

Mr. Garno gives a not-just-a-nod introduction to chant and its current revival in his introduction, and then states, “My goal…is to aid the working guitarist…..(whose)….economic success….depends upon their ability to be flexible in a wide variety of performance situations. Having the potential to play Gregorian chant melodies….will broaden the possibilities of performing in churches, or even accompanying congregations. (Interesting that he would note “chant” in the participation active modality!) He also notes that with the larger public’s interest in the meditative qualities of chant that the guitar, as a “meditative” instrument makes an appealing antidote to the busyness, industrialization and technical distractions of modern life. He concludes, in this vein, “Logically, then, the melodies of Gregorian chant are a type greatly complemented by those qualities inherent in the acoustic guitar.”

The introduction continues to give a thorough history of the chant, complete with engravings, complete footnotes and supportive quotations. Then Garno systematically introduces the modern notation reader to the mensurate contrasts both in symbolic notation and in actual rhythmic practice. He offers the studied guitarist the tools to interpret phrase divisions and neumes, and basic guides to the duple, triple groupings with which chanters are familiar. He demonstrates his methods for transcribing chant scores to guitar staff notation correctly. And then he declares at the end of the introduction that “Gregorian chant transcriptions should be a part of the standard classical guitar repertoire, citing many authoritative artists such as the late Andres Segovia as champions of this cause.

Then the bulk of the volume, which he titles “Hymnum Gloriae,” consists of staff and tablature versions of four basic Mass movements: a Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

And then he provides full transcriptions of Missas VIII, IX, XI and XVI.

The next section includes “Miscellaneous Chants” that are of great renown, and then a section of Latin Hymns that include “Adoramus te Christe, Ecce panis angelorum, O esca viatorum, O salutaris hostia and a host of others.”

Following those transcriptions Garno includes the appendices with the original neumatic scores. The volume concludes with excerpts from “The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913” and his bibliography.

This collection should be part of every serious guitarist’s library, especially those whose instruments remain closeted from their scholas or choirs when chant is employed. And folks who question the validity or propriety of the classical guitar at Roman Catholic worship should simply browse through its content out of respect for the fact that the instrument is not explicitly named as illicit or deficient in accompanying the highest form of sacred music for liturgy. Take it or leave it, this book is worth a thorough examination.

Monday on Sirius Radio

I'm very excited to be interviewed on Sirius Radio this Monday on the show Sounds from the Spires, 1pm ET. The show explores the world of the arts, especially music, as seen through the eyes of the Church.

It is hosted by Dr. Jennifer Pascual, music director of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

We will be taking about All Saints and All Souls music, plus some Advent selections. I'll be talking up the Cafe's Simple Propers by Adam Bartlett, as well as the full Gregorian settings from the Roman Gradual. More generally, we'll talk about what needs to be done in order that Catholics can regain their native voice in liturgy.

I gather that the show is broadcast live, which is rather like, well, it's like singing on Sunday for Catholic choirs around the country!

Alma Redemptoris Mater, Looking to Advent



Mount St. Mary's Seminary looking for music director

Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Maryland has announced a search for a new director of music, one with knowledge of the sacred music tradition. It's an important position, and every Catholic has interest in having this position filled with some who is a good teacher and possesses thorough knowledge of what the Church is asking for in liturgy. Contact information on the site.

Divine, Delightful, Delovely: The Latest from In Mulieribus

With each new CD, the Portland-based women's polyphony group In Mulieribus, specializing in early music and drop-dead gorgeous presentations of liturgical and non-liturgical religious music, just seems to get better and better.

Their latest offering, A December Feast, came as a shock to me even given my high expectations. It opens with O regem coeli by Tomas de la Victoria, a piece that is usually sung by mixed voices or all-male voices but takes on a completely new meaning and significance as sung by high voices in four parts. The integration of the voices strikes me as flawless, and the natural expression causes this perfect sound to take flight. The result is truly breath taking. It causes one to wish that this group would record vastly more along these lines to illustrate the merit of women's voices in liturgical polyphony and also to demonstrate just how flexible the choral compositions of the Renaissance really are.

Along the same lines, we have presentations of compositions by Palestrina, along with modern examples of arrangements of medieval music alongside reconstructions of medieval organum with texts from the Graduale Romanum. The version of Sederunt principes by Perotin is fully 13 minutes long and epic in its tonal and dramatic sweep - absolutely unforgettable and brilliant.

The theme here is of course December and its feasts, from Immaculate Conception through Christmas. I'm not usually on the look out for seasonal CDs but it seems like every year brings one that is so surprising, so interesting, so gorgeous, that is worth recommending as something to have and hold. This is certainly my suggestion for this year. This music brings both new meaning and new sounds to the entire season.

In Mulieribus has always struck me as one of this nation's great treasures, a group that has had no splashy commercial success - it is made up of professional and semi-professional singers in one of the most musical cities in the country - but deserves adulation and recognition from anyone who is serious about both high art and great religious music. Everything this group has done is worth hearing but with this new album, the group has surpassed its previous heights and given us something truly glorious. You can preview some songs and purchase the entire package here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Simple Propers for All Souls

Download them here

Note that the chants for the Feast of All Souls are the same as the Requiem (Funeral) Mass. What if we were to sing these instead of "On Eagle's Wings" and "Amazing Grace" at our parish funerals? Probably would make quite a difference.

I would also love some feedback on the Offertory "Domine Iesu Christe". This is a tricky one to handle!

Simple Propers for All Saints

Download them here

Note in this offering a couple of things:

Firstly, that the Offertory chant is set in a new melodic formula that hasn't been seen here yet. And secondly, that all three propers are in Mode 1. This allows for a nice quick comparison of the 3 different melodic formulas that are in the first mode, and also allows us to ask ourselves how tired we would be of Meinrad tone 1 after hearing it for an entire liturgy if the second, "Simple Setting", were sung! This is definitely good food for thought!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dr. Invigaro says "Don't use a wrench as a hammer; someone will get hurt."

You might remember that a few weeks ago I posted on “Dr. Invigaro’s Prescriptive Solemnity” remedy for liturgical situations and choirs. The good doctor contacted me recently with a few comments and questions he’s since received, and a particular one caught my eye.

“Dear Doc Invigaro,

A significant number of my singers in our choir are converts, some who swam the Tiber before we entered the desert, and many over the intervening 40 years. I have noticed as we have deliberately, slowly, “prescriptively” moved towards propers, chant and polyphony that not a few of my singers apparently miss those occasions that the odd spiritual, the rousing gospel tune, the ubiquitous non-catholic anthem or choral song would be programmed. A few have even remarked that we’ve gone all polyphony, all the time. They didn’t seem to be complimenting my programming. Doc, what do I do?”

Dr. Invigaro then left a few suggestions in his memo:

*Eclecticism in programming is neither friend nor foe. It is a tool among others. For example, in my previous advice I reminded folks that if there are folks (among them even clerics) who just can’t abide the imposition of an Offertorio proper into the mix, and thus displacing the notion of the “hymn of the day” which bridges the scripture readings and homily into the Liturgy of the Word…. a well-thought out choral song could present a golden opportunity. For example, in this devotional month of October, or with the upcoming feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe, the late Leon Robert’s “CANTICLE OF MARY” could be the pill that fills the bill. It includes congregation, has a solid gravitas to both refrain and melody that could contrast well with other Marian literature. One doesn’t know if it’s incongruous, jarring or uncomplimentary until one tries. This might also work with many other choral and congregational pieces of recent times. John Foley’s “MAY WE PRAISE YOU” or the Mark Haye’s “PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS” comes to mind.

*In larger parishes where the whole “process” of distributing Holy Communion requires a disproportionately longer time period, one of these eclectic selections could follow the Communio and the Communion Processional, and still allow for reflective silence from all after the Tabernacle Veil is shut. I think of pieces by Lazlo Halmos, such as his proper “CANTATE DOMINO,” that wouldn’t function quite as well if it was programmed at its proper location. Or Stainer’s “GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD,” Brahm’s “HOW LOVELY…” or even a setting of “I HEAR MUSIC IN THE AIR” such as arranged by Alice Parker or John Bell.(Consider editing the text of this one.)

*Of course, if there is a “whipping post” for the odd favorite, it will always remain the terra incognita of the recessional. If you absolutely, positively must “throw a bone” to choir malcontents with pieces like “EVERYTIME I FEEL THE SPIRIT,” or “RIDE ON, KING JESUS,” or Wilhousky's BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC, then this is that time.

One could bridge the time it takes for the celebrant to have made his procession and retreat by a brief organ postlude, and then launch the sonic rockets.

But, these choices cannot be made willy-nilly. As I said, this eclecticism is a tool. Using a specific wrench as a hammer will be injurious, probably to the choir director, the choir, the congregation and worst of all, the integrity of the Liturgy. But if used with precision, might be another tonic to keep your choir members unified and happy.

Sincerely, Dr. Lucious Invigaro"

Well, I don't know if this addedum protocol might work for you in your program, but I might just consider this as I continue reconfiguring my own bricks. I expect lots of different mileage variances and stalling might result here, there and everywhere.

The Anatomy of the Committee

Well, it appears that James MacMillan, the great Scottish composer who wrote music for the Papal Masses in the UK, was put through a strangely familiar Hell in order that his music would be sung at liturgy during the Pope's visit. The setting was commissioned by people who presumed they were in charge, but then the result was intercepted by a committee that judged the work to be unpastoral, difficult to play, too elaborate, and just not in keeping with the spirit of the Summer of Love that ought to last forever.

Anyone and everyone who works within the current Catholic music milieu knows exactly what he is talking about. The power ideology that drives these notorious committees is slipping, which makes them operate every more in secret and with intensifying viciousness. MacMillan, as sophisticated as he is about the world of Catholic music, was completely blindsided by the smears, innuendo, and sheer ruthlessness of the entire event.

Here is his description of the famed but anonymous committee:
Unknown to me the new setting was taken to a “committee” which has controlled the development of liturgical music in Scotland for some time. Their agenda is to pursue the 1970s Americanised solution to the post-Conciliar vernacular liturgy, to the exclusion of more “traditional” possibilities. They have been known for their hostility to Gregorian chant, for example, but have reluctantly had to get in line since the arrival of Benedict XVI. They also have a commitment to the kind of cod-Celticness that owes more to the soundtracks of The Lord of the Rings and Braveheart, than anything remotely authentic. There has also been a suspicion of professionals with this committee, and many serious musicians in the Church in Scotland have felt excluded from their decisions and processes, or have chosen not to become involved in territory which is felt to be hostile.

It became clear that my new setting had not gone down well with this group. The music was felt to be “not pastoral enough” and there were complaints (yes, complaints!) that it needed a competent organist. The director of music for Bellahouston, a priest and amateur composer, whose baby is this committee, was also informing all who would listen, that the music was “un-singable” and “not fit for purpose”. There seemed to be ongoing attempts to have the new setting dropped from the papal liturgy in Glasgow.

He really nails it here with the identifying marks: Americanization, love of dated popular styles, suspicion of talent, hostility to the practical use of chant, a patronizing attitude toward the laity, a perception that (as the old USCCB document Music in Catholic Worship) styles of the preconciliar past have little to offer the needs of the present.

He concludes his brave and deeply honest article with this: "There is a different “sound” to the new setting, which perhaps owes something to my love of chant, traditional hymnody and authentic folk music, and nothing at all to...dumbed-down, sentimental bubble-gum music which has been shoved down our throats for the last few decades in the Catholic Church. And therein might lie the problem."

You might say that his article is harsh. Well, he was hurt and treated very badly. He decided to speak out against the persistent problem here, because it has caused and continues to cause wreckage in all parts of the English-speaking world. Thanks to MacMillan's persistence, the good guys won over the bureaucrats here. Note that he had to forgo his fee. Very sad. But thanks to his work and willingness to tell the truth, art and beauty might eventually prevail.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Simple Propers for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Download them here

Also, look soon for Simple Propers for All Souls, All Saints, and the 32nd Sunday of Ordinary Time.

A Father Dade Christmas Concert

With full disclosure, our Advent/Christmas Annual Concert title is a misnomer, though it’s meant as a quaint and humble homage to our founder. Though it’s hard to imagine, Christmas music, carols especially, have proven not to be the centerpiece of sacred seasonal concerts of a hundred-years yore.

We have endeavored to reconstruct a facsimile of “American” Roman Catholic music as it was practiced and heard during the years of Fr. Dade’s formation and service in Philadelphia, and what of that repertoire might have eventually emigrated with him to California, Visalia and St. Mary’s. In addition, we have researched period catholic hymnals of the mid to late 19th century for carol texts, Spanish-language “villançicos” and other song forms that would have likely been sung during Fr. Dade’s tenure as Visalia’s pastor.

Virtually the only musical forensic evidence in Fr. Dade’s biography, THE APOSTLE OF THE VALLEY, denotes that “entertainments” that included music and dance benefited the building of the second church building in 1872 and that the parish did have an organist/music teacher for the parish school children. Speculation about exact musical pieces is all that remains from that. However, the book states “, “Music was provided by a quartet who went in a special conveyance from Visalia; they rendered ‘Peter’s Mass in D’ ‘ in a beautiful and impressive manner.”

Thanks be to God, the very pleasant agents of the Library of Congress and the University of Louisville, we were able to locate that very Mass setting and secure copies. Before discussing this work and others, I must also give great appreciation to my colleagues Ed Teixeira (Organist/Director-St. David’s, Richmond CA), Dr. Doug Shadle, (Musicologist at the U. of Lousiville), and Dr. Mike O’Connor, (Musicologist of Palm Beach Atlantic University), for providing veins of sheer gold for me to mine.

The “Peter” of the “Mass in D Major” was composed by Williams Cummings Peters, whose personal history is associated with the great Stephen Foster. Peters was a noted Catholic choir director who also compiled and published a number of catholic hymnals that bore striking resemblance to the forms of denomination hymnals of that era, using the terms “Harmonist” and “Harp,” as in the famed “Sacred Harp” school of shape note singing used for worship and music literacy. Peters’ Mass is grounded in a sort of Hadyn meets Mozart European style. The two movements from the Mass that we will perform are the Gloria (most appropriate as it is the hymn the angels sang to the newborn Christ at His Nativity) and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God.) The Gloria contains a pastiche of melodic “scenes” which could lightly be called “text painting.”

Another great “find” was an emigrant German Philadelphian composer, Albert RoSewig (b.1846) who had many Victorian-era hymns, carols and motets. The choir will sing my arrangement of his setting of the AVE MARIA, as well as his setting of a Communion motet “O Salutaris Hostia” and another period piece for Christmas.
An amazing piece that we will feature is yet another Philadelphian, J. Remington Fairlamb’s “Great” TE DEUM, a hymn of praise sung at the New Year and at great feast days. This piece is significant in that Fairlamb uses English rather than Latin (unusual for the era) and for some compelling musical harmonic devices that are unique to my ear. Fairlamb was designated by Abraham Lincoln to be a consul to Switzerland as well!

More traditional carols such as “Adeste Fideles” and “What Child is This?” we have located in the “Young Catholic’s Hymnal” circa 1870 that contain verse lyrics that are stunningly different than those we sing today. We will enjoin the audience in the singing of these “discovered” texts.

As mentioned earlier, the choirs will also sing Christmas “villançicos.” These are a hybrid form of European polyphonic motets with native (Nahuatal) folk idioms of the post-conquisition and missionary era in Mexico. They are incredibly beautiful Spanish “carols.” Though there is no evidence that this music was sung in St. Mary’s, there is plenty of evidence they were sung daily across the central coast range in the Franciscan missions in this era.

And we will be joined by our own Gregorian Schola of St. Francis, led by Ralph Colucci, for a selection of Advent, Nativity and Epiphany proper chants that were hopefully sung by the children's choir in those pioneer times.

We hope the entire Visalia music-loving community will join us at 4pm, December 18th for our “antique” concert celebrating our history.

A Miscellany of Mexican Music

Andrew Cusack posts a great series of videos of Mexican music, among which

Monday, October 25, 2010

The New New Age

Everything Fr. Rutler writes is worth reading but this piece is particularly insightful on the low-grade frenzy concerning the new translation of the Missal. A sample:

Publicly owned corporations are more accountable to their shareholders than tenured bureaucracies, which may explain why it took the Ford Motor Company only two years to cancel its Edsel, and not much longer for Coca Cola to restore its “classic” brand, while the Catholic Church has taken more than a generation of unstopped attrition to try to correct the mistakes of overheated liturgists. The dawning of the Age of Aquarius is now in its sunset repose and the bright young things who seem to be cropping up now all over the place with new information from Fortescue and Ratzinger, may either be the professional mourners for a lost civilization, or the sparks of a looming golden age.

One thing is certain to a pastor: the only parishioners fighting the old battles are old themselves, their felt banners frayed and their guitar strings broken, while a young battalion is rising, with no animus against the atrophied adolescence of their parents, and only eager to engage a real spiritual combat in a culture of death. They usually are ignorant, but bright, for ignorance is not stupidity.

They care little if the Liturgy is in Latin or English or Sanskrit, as long as they are told how to do it, for they were not told. Some critics of the new translations have warned that the changes are too radical, which is radioactively cynical from people who in the 1960’s wantonly dismantled old verities overnight, in their suburbanized version of China’s Cultural Revolution.

A View of the Pope's Visit from the UK

Submitted by Keith Fraser:

Anyone following the media in the run up to the Holy Father’ s visit to the UK a few weeks ago could be forgiven for believing that the event would go almost unnoticed, except perhaps for the protests. Keith Cardinal O’ Brien talked immediately after the visit of the “ Benedict bounce” in an attempt to articulate the elevated mood of this nation’ s Catholics. Specifically, he was referring to an anticipated increase in vocations but the term captures a mood that has long been an undercurrent that is bubbling to the surface of modern Catholicism, that of an authentic interpretation of the Second Vatican Council (which the Holy Father terms the “ Hermenutic of Continuity) that seeks inspiration for the future in the liturgical heritage of all of the Councils that went before Vatican 2.

Packet for the Chant Conference in Houston

For archival purposes but also there is much that is useful for every purpose in here!

Final Packet for CMAA program in Houston

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Final Mass in Houston

Everything was exceptionally beautiful tonight. All the choirs, made up mostly of first-time chanters, sang so well.

Here is an image of the choirs in the loft.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What is it Like to Study with Dom Saulnier?

Special thanks to Chris Jasper who posted these videos from his summer studies at Solesmes with Dom Daniel Saulnier, that we can have a small window into the mind of one of the greats among us in the world of Gregorian chant.





Congratulate Bishop Burke

A friend of sacred music gets the red hat, and you can congratulate him: congratulateburke.com

Love of Chant in Houston, Texas

The key difference I've noticed at the Chant Practicum in Houston, Texas, as compared with past years, is the notable absence of doubt about the chant agenda.

There are nearly 100 people here from many different parishes here, and they have all come to learn chant, so there is of course a selection bias. Even so, one might usually expect to encounter people who have been sent against their will or otherwise have doubts about the need to re-introduce Gregorian chant into the mainstream of Catholic life.

Those doubts just aren't present here. Everyone is excited to learn and learn as much as possible. Every session has been well attended, and the participants are sitting on the edge of their seats as the instructors lead them in singing a full range of chant, covering rhythm, melody, text, all while having loads of fun!

It is no longer a question of whether we should go this direction but rather how to go this direction, at what pace, in what manner, and a variety of other practical issues. This change is a welcome relief because it means get to the work faster and doing a more complete job of it, without having to deal extensively with fundamental questions about the place of chant in the ritual. William Mahrt did give a foundational lecture that highlighted some detail about the integration of chant in liturgy - making some points I had not heard before. But in general, the ethos here in this cathedral is that chant is Catholic music and that's that.

Houston has several parishes that are showing the way, and the Cathedral itself has an exemplary program with a professional organist and choirmaster that produce excellent results every week, and reliably so. Sacred music seems to be firmly entrenched here, supported by clergy, professional musicians, and the laity.

This conference is structured a bit differently than others. There is a class for women. There is a class for men. (Actually the division here is not between sexes but between ranges of voices; there are women who sing in a lower range and men who prefer their falsetto range, and they are welcome to join the group of their choice). There is also a class for advanced singers (mixed voices) that discusses details about chant editions and the early manuscripts, and delves into the finer points with longer and more elaborate chants.

My sense is that this division has worked. It will probably be necessary for most chant conferences to go this direction in the future because the Catholic population is ever more filled with people who understand the basics and are ready to move forward.

The mood here is ebullient, the kind of feeling you get from being part of a something wonderful and new and progressive. There is no question that the time for chant has arrived and that everyone knows this. If Summorum opened up the riches of our heritage, the forthcoming Missal seals the deal.

I'm also impressed at the technological sophistication of many attendees here. They are using the internet resources being made available week by week. I've many many people who are already using the Bartlett Simple Propers that are being posted here week by week. The common chants from the Graduale are well known. It is possible to talk freely and with the expectation of comprehension about propers and the Mass ordinary and various tones and modes - and to do so without looking out at confused looks. The education we all longed for is happening day by day.

Of course this is one of a long string of conferences going on nearly every week around the country. The original ones were sponsored by the Church Music Association of America, but thanks to the CMAA's open-source model, and the availability of chant manuscripts, many others are doing this. My in-box now receives more notifications of chant workshops than I can possibly post. I would estimate that there will be 40-50 Gregorian chant workshops around the country taking place this year alone. Ten years ago, there were one or two.

For me, this is a dream coming true. These are exciting times to be a Catholic singer, as we see the ideal spreading with such enthusiasm and excitement. Imagine a future of parishes filled with happy, dedicated singers who are on a mission, a mission from God, as they saying goes. This is what is happening. The desert is starting to bloom, and thanks be to God for that.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Graduale Romanum Trivia

Did you know that there are only two Offertory chants in the entire Graduale Romanum that are in the 7th mode? I didn't until just now. And they aren't exactly prominently featured chants either: Eripe me for Wednesday of the 5th week of Lent, and Confitebuntur caeli for the Common of an Apostle or Martyr. There's not a single mode 7 Offertory found anywhere else in the entire Gradual.

I really have nothing else intelligent to say about this right now, but thought it would at least be an interesting curiosity to our readers. Do any of the scholars among us know why this is? If nothing else this tidbit can come in handy the next time you play a round of Graduale Romanum trivia!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

In Houston

Great to see so many people at this wonderful chant conference. Here is one blogger who looked forward to it. All things are going well. I hope to have time to blog more about it.

Dom Saulnier goes Open Source

Dom Daniel Saulnier, current director of paleography at Solesmes Abbey and successor of Dom Mocquereau and Dom Cardine has placed his course materials for the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music online, in the common domain for all.

Granted, most of this is in Italian, but I find it striking that Saulnier has chosen Google Sites and Google Docs as the means of sharing some of his material in the commons. When first visiting the site a "translate" box in the lower right hand corner immediately pops up for the user. Perhaps not offering a scholarly translation, but it can certainly be helpful in getting a general understanding of the material for those who do not read Italian.

Just briefly browsing his dispensae has been fascinating. There are some very interesting studies here of cantillation, of word accent, of timbre.

I look forward to exploring these resources more. What a gift that he has shared these resources freely for all to benefit from–we don't even have to wait 70 years after he is dead to freely access his knowledge and wisdom!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Simple Propers for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Download Simple Propers for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

The "beta" phase for the Chant Café "Simple Propers" project continues. The layout is a bit different this week than it was before, with the formulaic setting first, followed by psalm verses and with the Meinrad Tone setting placed at the end. The layout seems to be clearer and positions the "Simple Setting" as a possible alternative if the first setting cannot be sung.

We also will now be arranging propers by liturgy irrespective of the calendar year–All options and A, B, and C will be laid out together as it is in the Gregorian Missal, the point of reference for this project.

Thank you to everyone who has offered feedback as this project has developed. If you are using these proper settings in liturgy please do provide feedback during this "beta" stage. By the looks of it we should have a complete resource ready for print many months before Advent 2011!

Extraordinary Form Missa Cantata, National Shrine, CMAA Chant Pilgrimage, 2009

A marvelous video, and thanks to Watershed for the uploading and hosting. David Lang is the organist, Scott Turkington is the schola director, Arlene Oost-Zinner is the organizer, and many others were involved to make this a wonderful and historic occasion. Here you will see the workings of an all-chanted Mass, with the people on the ordinary chants and sections on the propers. You will hear the Gloria sung in alternation between high and low voices. The polyphony is provided by the Shrine schola under the direction of Peter Latona. Thank you to John Schultz for the video. I'm sure there are many details to add here. In any case, it is fantastic presentation, very beautiful and nicely done in every way.

Pope Benedict XVI on Mozart

It is so wonderful that we have a Pope who loves music and speak about its spiritual properties with such eloquence.

From a translation by Zenit, Sept 10, 2010:

We know well that Mozart, in his trips around Italy with his father when he was young, stayed in several regions, among which were, also, Piedmont and Veneto, but above all we know that he was able to learn from the lively Italian musical activity, characterized by composers such as Hasse, Sammartini, Father Martini, Piccinni, Jommelli, Paisiello, Cimarosa, to mention some of them.

Allow me, however, to express once again the particular affection that has united me, I could say, always, to this great musician. Every time I listen to his music I cannot help but return in memory to my parish church, where on feast days, when I was a boy, one of his "Masses" resounded: I felt that a ray of beauty from heaven reached my heart, and I continue to experience this sensation also today every time I listen to this great, dramatic and serene meditation on death.

Everything is in perfect harmony in Mozart, every note, every musical phrase is as it is and could not be otherwise; even those opposed are reconciled; it is called "mozart’sche Heiterkeit" (Mozart's serenity), which envelops everything, every moment. It is a gift of the Grace of God, but it is also the fruit of Mozart's lively faith that, especially in sacred music, is able to reflect the luminous response of divine love, which gives hope, even when human life is lacerated by suffering and death.

In his last letter written to his dying father, dated April 4, 1787, he wrote, speaking precisely of the final stage of life on earth: "For about a year I have become so familiar with this sincere and greatly loved friend of man, [death], that its image no longer holds anything that is terrifying, but it even seems to me tranquilizing and consoling! And I thank my God for having given me the good fortune of having the opportunity of recognizing in it the key to our happiness. I never lie down without thinking that perhaps the next day I might not be. And yet anyone who knows me will not be able to say that in their company I am sad or in a bad mood. And for this good fortune I thank my Creator every day and I desire it with all my heart for each one of my fellow men."

This writing manifests a profound and simple faith, which also appears in the great prayer of the Requiem, and leads us at the same time to love intensely the ups and downs of earthly life as gifts of God and to rise above them, contemplating death serenely as a "key" to go through the door to happiness.

Mozart's Requiem is a lofty expression of faith, which recognizes the tragic character of human existence and which does not hide its dramatic aspects, and for this reason it is an appropriate expression of Christian faith, conscious that the whole of man's life is illuminated by the love of God.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fr. Weber's Compline Book - Now Available

Office of Compline
This volume contains the Office of Compline (night prayer) for every day of the year, in Latin and English, according to the novus ordo of the Roman Catholic Church, with Gregorian Chant settings. On the facing pages for the Latin, the official English text is also arranged for chanting, using simple English tones. New translations have been made for the official hymns of the Office, and all the hymns are given with the Gregorian melodies proper for each season and feast of the liturgical year.

This book will find a welcome in parishes, cathedrals, religious communities and seminaries, as well as families, all who wish to pray together at the end of the day.

Complete instructions are given for praying Compline. The Foreword by Archbishop Raymond Burke explains the rich spiritual tradition of prayer at the close of day, and provides an inspiring meditation on the texts and meaning of the Office of Compline.

The scriptures give only one command concerning the frequency of prayer: pray without ceasing (Lk 18:1; 1 Thess 5:17). This volume will prove to be a welcome companion to all who are seeking to make a full response to the Gospel, and persevere in unceasing prayer.

The Strongest Argument for Sacred Music

I am deeply indebted to Dr. Denis McNamara for revealing to me the strongest argument in support of sacred music that I have ever heard:

"Beauty is the attractive power of the Truth."

Dr. McNamara uses this axiom to help us understand why we need beautiful sacred architecture and sacred art–because it attracts us, it compels us toward the Truth. The same can be said for sacred music. Beautiful and sacred music attracts us to the Truth, namely to Jesus Christ. This, I think, is what our parishes are longing for. This is what our world is longing for. It is what we all are longing for. Ugliness is a manifestation of the Fall. Beauty will save the world.

A short excerpt from the beginning of Chapter 2 in McNamara's Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy:
Articulated by great minds like Saint Thomas Aquinas, the Church has called Beauty the "splendor of the Truth," or at times, the attractive power of the Truth. Theologically speaking, Beauty is more than an accidental byproduct of artistic production or a social construct that rests in the eye of the beholder. Beauty has a power. For confirmation, ask a man who saw his future wife for the first time across a room and found himself inextricably drawn toward her. Ask a tourist who packs heavy luggage and carries it through difficult airport security, then with considerable language difficulty and inordinate expense stays in a hotel just to have a chance to visit the Sistine Chapel or the Mona Lisa. Ask a choir full of singers why the hours of rehearsal were worth it for twenty minutes of flawless polyphony. Ask a gardener who does all the work necessary to produce perfect roses. The power of Beauty enthused them for work; even just the uncertain hope for Beauty enthused them for this work. So it is with liturgical prayer and the art and architecture that serve it.

Peter Phillips to Conduct the Tudor Choir

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Ultimate Chant Hymnbook

Well, maybe that is the wrong title for the Cantus Selecti of 1957 and that headline should apply to the Hymnarius. In any case, the Cantus Selecti is absolutely dazzling. It contains hundreds of hymns for parish use, nearly all of them strophic with texts that are either familiar or once familiar. If you are tired of the same old Tantum Ergo, for example, you can choose among 15 of them here! This edition is particularly great because it contains detailed annotations in the back that show the oldest known printed editions of the chant in question. Every once in a while you will find chant roots of songs that have modern metric renderings that are familiar.

I've wanted to see this book online for many years so a special thank you to the Anon. donor who gave it it a fantastic 600 dpi scan (none better for web use). So far as I'm concerned, this is another milestone in getting the world's editions of Gregorian chant online.

A warning for chant geeks: opening this file will consume an entire evening. It is almost impossible to resist singing through them all one by one. If you are like me, you like them all, and each one as much as the last. It becomes impossible to chosen. Each chant hymn has intriguing elements that delight and fire up the imagination.

Reality in Catholic Music: Massive Confusion

I’ve long suspected that the Catholic world of music at the parish level, by which I mean parish music directors and singers along with priests in charge, can be rough divided as follows: 10% dedicated to a sacred music program, 10% dedicated to a pop music program, and 80% wallowing in unrelenting confusion about nearly everything related to Catholic music. I derive these estimates based entirely on years of anecdotal evidence from visiting parishes, receiving thousands of emails, hanging around on forums, and generally talking with people here and there.

There is no way to scientifically validate or invalidate my claim because no one really knows for sure. But this much I do know. There is no single document in existence that explains with clarity what it is that a Catholic musician is supposed to do on a week-to-week basis, nothing that clearly presents the goal of one’s endeavors, and no monograph or book that can state with absolute certainly what are the core responsibilities and tasks of the Catholic musician in the current climate. This is because there is a major conflict of vision at work today and we are far from having resolved it enough so that such a document can be produced.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Beauty and the Christian Faith

The wonderful film The Secret of Kells (2009) tells the story of the monastic effort to create The Book of Kells, the finest of Ireland’s national treasures, a gorgeous illuminated book of Gospels used for Mass that managed to be preserved all these centuries and is currently on display at the Trinity College library in Dublin. The film sets the forces of light, as represented by the Christian faith and those who practiced it, against the dark forces of Viking invaders who cared not for productivity, beauty, and holiness but instead practiced the more ancient skills of invading, looting, and destroying.

The monks were not satisfied merely to produce books of texts. The conviction was that these books should also be works of art, when possible. It was not too much to spend many years and even several generations to create the perfect book to be light unto all. Words alone would have served the functional purpose but there was more to functionality that mere words. There were also considerations of excellence, skill, and beauty (above all) that must be central to the effort of making a book to be used at Mass. The creation and preservation of that book was worth more than their lives, in their view, because it embodied truth and light and had a longer life than all living people.

The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells, an animated feature film made in 2009, has been showered with awards since its release, including a Academy nomination for best animated feature film.

Maybe it is already famous in Catholic circles but I knew nothing about it, and had never heard of it before. It tells the story of the creation and preservation of the Book of Kells, the 8th century liturgical book of the Gospels from Ireland that contains many of the oldest images we have that form that basis of Western art. It is one of the great masterpieces of all ages, though I can't say that I really knew about it at all before this before.

The movie focuses on life inside the Irish monastery where the book is created. It tells the story of a young boy's relationship with a master scribe, and the tensions that develop with the abbot over how to prepare for a possible Viking invasion of the monastery.

This deals with some of my own personal favorite themes in history: the culture and technology of scribing, the role of monasteries in the fostering of civilization, the centrality of learning to Christian history, the problem of security in a time of severe threats. But when was the last time that a movie was made to feature all of these themes? In this film, Christianity is portrayed as the light, the hope of mankind. It's true but we don't often run across this truth, do we?

The animation itself is beyond spectacular. It is ravishing, gorgeous, astonishing. The music is perfect: liturgical where it should be (and in Latin!) and Gaelic/dance where it should be. How striking that it was made by an entirely secular animation studio!

In times of instant communication and universal distribution of text and images through digital media, we need to develop a greater appreciation for how we got from there to here. This film provides some of this background. It is suitable for kids and adults and everyone. Parishes could really benefit from a showing of this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An Experiment in Sacred Music Resource Production, Part II: Hymns

About about a month and a half ago at the Chant Café we began an experiment in sacred music resource production called “Toward the Singing of Propers”. I’m very glad to report that so far this experiment has been a wonderful success. You can take a look at some of the early fruits of this open source collaboration in the English Propers Text Database that continues to grow every day, and in the Simple Propers settings that I have been offering weekly which use the propers text database as their foundation.

At the end of this post I would like to consider if we might be able to apply the same process to public domain ENGLISH HYMNODY, and invite you to help.

First, let me describe some of the values in the propers project: Anyone who has ever taken on the task of composing a cycle of liturgical texts, for example Responsorial Psalms or Gospel Verses, knows that there is a great deal of work that is involved that goes far beyond the actual work of composing. You might actually spend less than 10% of your time actually doing creative work while the other 90% of the time you are digging up source texts, finding the right verses, sifting through different editions, executing manual tasks of typing and copying and pasting, then there is engraving, formatting, creating pdf and graphics files, assembling bookets, and on and on. If you might have tried doing a cycle of propers you will have run into any other number of problems such as finding the appropriate psalm verses, formatting and pointing these, among a host of additional tasks.

Composers Might Consider this Approach

The Point is a way to raise money for particular projects. The project is not started or the credit cards charged until all the money is raised. I might suggest that this is a great way for composers and music engravers to raise money for particular projects. Let the software do the work. Be as creative in your promotions as you are in your music.

A Second Chance for English Chant

The one-year countdown to the new Missal is about to begin. Priest friends of mine tell me that they are so excited that they almost try not to think about it. Why? Because contemplating what is coming up might engender too much dissatisfaction with the current translation. Though it is now a lame-duck translation, there are still a year’s worth of daily and Sunday Masses to say, and too much disgruntlement is not good for the soul.

As a layperson, I’m beside myself with anticipation and glee about the change. For most people, it will not be a dramatic change. The words, and the music too we can hope, will be more fitting, more engaging, more compelling, more believable, but the difference will not strike people immediately. The big change is what the new translation will provide for people’s conception of the faith over long term. The new Missal translation will gradually but determinedly bring into alignment what we believe with how we pray as Catholic people.

The results, I predict, will be very profound.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another Lost Book on Chant

This one is called Gregorian Musical Values, by Dom J.H. Desrocquettes (1963). It is striking to think that it went to print just before the deluge and disaster for the chant tradition. One reads this with some sense that all that was left for the chant movement was to refine further its technique. Still, there is wisdom here, probably worth applying now.

Some choice passages:
Unfortunately, Plainsong is not always well sung; and even where its technique is more or less correct, all too often its spirit is missing. In the present little book. we wish to help all those who love the Chant of the Church to interpret it in the spirit in which it was composed, to penetrate its technique with this spirit, in order to achieve the praise of God and our own sanctification....
But the Solesmes 'ictus' or method of counting has also itsvdangers. Measure and time are never mechanical and rigid invmusic that is artistically executed. still less in Plainsong. Because of its ancient origin. its long oral tradition and its neumatic notation. Plainsong is very much like folk-song, whose natural suppleness of interpretation modem notation has some difficulty in suggesting. Many who claim to follow the rhythm of Solesmes, in reality follow only its material mechanism: 1-2, 1-2-3, not its rhythm. Measure and mechanism must be informed by rhythm, since that alone makes music come to life and become prayer. We are quite convinced that Solesmes with its rhythmic editions and principles (properly understood and applied) possesses the best method of interpreting melody and text with the qualities mentioned above: that is, in a manner which is at once practical, artistic and objective....
Since Gregorian Chant is essentially music with words - music to express the meaning of these words-the first step is to understand the meaning of the text. Most of the texts are from Holy Scripture, hence they must be studied first in their Scriptural context, then in their full spiritual meaning, and lastly we must discover the exact sense in which the Church uses them for a particular feast or season....
It is by communicating in this divine energy and even enthusiasm that individual feelings are raised up into this fuller life. and are able to give to the Chant something of its real meaning. Also we will realize its immense variety. from the different forms which this prayer takes: meditation. supplication. adoration. praise. atonement. etc. This variety must be expressed by the different ways in which the pieces are sung. This is an important and integral element of technique itself....
The colourless voice all too frequently adopted for Plainsong is undoubtedly not only dull and tiring for the singer. but unsuited to the Chant. The voice must be free, round, mellow, with its full timbre, controlled sufficiently to rid it of any roughness....

Why the New Translation?

In this interview with Msgr. James P. Moroney, as published in the Georgia Bulletin, Msgr. makes it very clear that the new translation is not merely a neutral 2.0, not merely a revision, but is rather a corrected translation. He cites Liturgiam Authenticum 6: the existing texts "stand in need of improvement through correction or through a new draft." I would say, then, that Fr. Z is perfectly right in calling the forthcoming Missal the "corrected translation." This phrase is catching on , as well it should.

Liturgical Dancer Tries to Kill Cardinal

News here: " An assassination attempt on Cardinal Zubeir Wako, the Catholic Archbishop of Khartoum took place on Sunday. The attack happened as the Cardinal was leading the Eucharistic celebration at the Comboni Playground in Khartoum. A suspect, who was identified as Hamdan Mohamed Abdurrahman,  infiltrated the congregation and joined the liturgical dancers in front of the altar."

More on the Solesmes Millennium

This time from Zenit. Very inspiring.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Winter Chant Intensive, New Orleans, 2011

There will be no summer Chant Intensive so this is your only chance in 2011 to experience the full immersion in the world of Gregorian chant, as taught by Scott Turkington and William Mahrt, January 3-7, 2011, Old St. Patrick’s Church, New Orleans, Louisiana.

As you can see, the date is not that far off. There are limits on the numbers here, so if you are planning on coming, it is wise to lock in your spot right away. The great advantage of this program - all chant for a full week - is that it gives singers and directors the necessary confidence to sing in or direct any chant schola in any parish.

The lessons cover the full range of technique, including neume reading, psalm singing, and stylistic interpretation. It is also a great chance to develop a camaraderie with others in the burgeoning movement. A week might seem like a long time but it is something you do once in a lifetime, and it teaches you to produce the most beautiful musical art of all.

Added bonus that needs no explanation: it is in New Orleans!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gregorian Review, 1958

Gregorian Review 5.1 (1958)
Gregorian Review 5.2
Gregorian Review 5.3
Gregorian Review 5.4
Gregorian Review 5.5
Gregorian Review 5.6

Again, full archives here. At this point, we are only missing vol 2, 1955.

Reminder: Simple Propers this Week + 4-Part Offertory

Just as a reminder to those who are looking for our set of Simple English Propers for this weekend, the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, they were posted late last week with some practice recordings. I hope that these will be helpful to those who might want to sing these settings in liturgy this week.

Additionally, here is a 4-part choral setting of the simple offertory setting for this week. The cantus firmus (in the soprano) is a St. Meinrad psalm tone and the harmonization is also courtesy of St. Meinrad Archabbey.

My parish adult choir sang, for the first time ever, an offertory proper last week in the 4-part Meinrad setting that was posted in last week's offering. This was sung a cappella at the beginning of the Offertory procession, not even with a verse, and after it was complete we went on to the Offertory hymn as is the current custom. I was extremely happy with the result–it was a setting that was quickly and easily learned, was not far from the expectations of a parish choir that is used to and enjoys regularly singing choral music in parts, offered a hightened dignity to the beginning of the Offertory rite of the Mass, and perhaps most importantly, it allowed the Offertory proper text to be prayed in its proper place in the celebration. I sense that a consistent presentation of the Offertory proper in this way will have the advantage of exposing and catechizing all on the integral role of the Offertory chant while pedagogically preparing the singers for singing more elaborate Offertory settings in due time. It seems like a win-win from every perspective!

Do We Need More Catholic Musicians?

Paul Hume writing in the Gregorian Review, from an address to the National Catholic Music Educators Association, May 7, 1957:

We do need musicians, real musicians, and we need them desperately, in every segment of our life as Catholics. We are sorely deficient in the proportion of good Catholic musicians in the country, we are sadly lacking in capable trained musicians, and we are apparently in some parts of the country, entirely opposed to admitting that the profession of musician is one that the Church should in any concrete way support, as far as money goes.

More Gregorian Review

All of Volume 4 from 1957

Gregorian Review 4.1 (1957)
Gregorian Review 4.2
Gregorian Review 4.3
Gregorian Review 4.4
Gregorian Review 4.5
Gregorian Review 4.6

Music and the Long Line

This talk by Mahler specialist Benjamin Zander is one of the best short talks on music I've ever heard. It has so much to teach chant practitioners and Church musicians in general. It is especially telling for all conductors and directors to consider his claim that without passion there is no music and no message.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dr. Invigaro’s “Prescriptive Solemnity” in the OF

A great deal of prognostication of late focuses upon whether we who speak the King’s English are being shepherded towards the narrow sheep-gate over which hangs the sign “ICEL-approved chant settings.”

Personally, I don’t find that scenario at all displeasing. Fact is, it would be at the least a refreshing change from the tyranny of options that both the GIRM and the marketplace inundate us all with weekly. To its merit, issuing some sort of binding legislation to literally universally learn the ICEL chants would be a clarion call that “WE” mean business when it comes down to constituting truly catholic worship; equivocating wimps R us no mo’!

But how can the average parish, say like St. Omnibus in Saskatoon or Stockton, musically prepare themselves for the cognitive combustion of a mandated use of the ICEL chants which would displace, even for only a while, the normative ease of continued reliance upon the status quo, Gather Us In to Sing to the Mountains of Massive Creation?

Well consider the fact that anecdotally, St. Omnibus worship has been besot by a persistent tension and calcification in its physiology, it suffers from occasional tonic spasms by irregular consumption of newly concocted musical “antidotes” to boredom, diffidence and stagnation within the Body. The industry devotes the front piece and pages of its new catalogues to the latest synthesis of glucosamine, St. John’s Wort, Green Tea and caffeine-based compounds as bold new solutions to very natural and long-known maladies.

Well, Dr. Invigaro recommends a protocol for St. Omnibus that is gradual, orderly and as non-invasive as it is non-threatening to a repertoire body that has grown slovenly and unwieldy. It’s called “Prescriptive Solemnity.”

Here’s the regimen (there is no one magic bullet.)

The Last Chants of the Year and Gregorian Rhythm

Many of us will be digging through the newly posted issues of the Gregorian Review for a very long time. I just happened to be looking at the 5th issue of volume 3 and ran across two wonderful pieces.

The first is on the last chants of the year for the 32nd Sunday (Dicit Dominus and De Profundis), by Dom Gajard:

The special character of these last Sundays of the liturgical year has often been remarked upon. Placed at the limits of the liturgical cycle, they mark the end of a stage. While it is true that they open certain perspectives on the future, they also make it possible to draw a culmination, to take stock of the work of God accomplished in us in the course of the cycle which is closing. They do not merely explain the punishments which will fall on the wicked, and in particular those which will precede the solemn coming of the Judge at the end of the world. They also provide us with an opportunity to measure the graces received and the divine blessings which fall on us ceaselessly.

Without even considering the Epistle of this last Sunday, which states the true attitude of the Christian and clearly shows what is commonly called the "intellectual character" of St. Paul's spirituality, and in restricting our examination of the sung texts, we see that although the De profundis, which recurs twice with such moving accents, is an appeal to divine mercy, it would not seem that the introit, gradual or communion have anything in their natures which is frightening. They lack such elements completely.
He then proceeds to discuss both chants in fantastic detail.

The second piece is by Dom David Nicholson, who provides an orthodox old Solesmes view of rhythm (ah yes the old argument!) but also some points that everyone might think about seriously:
There is no hide-hound set of limits in the tempo of the chant. There should, on the contrary, be the greatest liberty in determining the speed and tempo of each selection. The habit of placing metronome marks before each selection of chant in the repertoire is preposterous. It evidences a lack of understanding of this type of music.

There is no special movement for the Introits, nor for the Graduals, the Offertories, etc. In order to determine the tempo of each piece, we must consult the text and the melody welded together as an ensemble.

Actually, the tempo can often vary within the confines of a single piece, from one member to the next. There are certain delicate nuances in each selection which can be brought out by a differing of the tempo as the melodic line continues.

A detailed study of each melody makes it possible to determine all this before singing. In general, however, the tempo is always one which gives a sense of movement - even in those instances which would naturally invite a rest. To stop the movement at any place would be to discontinue the rhythmic synthesis which was built up in the melody by the composer.

Registration Deadline Today for Houston Chant

Fall Practicum, Houston, Texas, October 21-23, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gregorian Chant: A Guide, by Dom Daniel Saulnier

I'm so pleased to announce the publication of Gregorian Chant: A Guide, by Dom Daniel Saulnier, newly published on the 1,000-year anniversary of the Solesmes monastery. This masterful presentation covers the history, structure, theology, liturgical function, and spirituality of the core music of the Roman Rite. The translation by Professor Edward Schaefer was first published in 2003 by Solesmes and went out of print. The CMAA has revived it as a means of educating a new generation of singers in the English-speaking world.

Wonderful Interview with Singing Benedictine Sisters

Implausibly, You magazine managed an exclusive interview with the sisters at Abbaye Notre Dame de l’Annonciation, near Avignon, who have a recorded a CD to be released next month by Decca.
It is moving speaking to the sisters. Like watching a nativity play or witnessing a wedding, a whisper of your own lost innocence or idealism comes back to you. Many of my questions have concerned what they have given up, but what have they gained? There is a flurry of smiles. Mère Abbesse: ‘Everything!’ Mère Prieure: ‘Happiness!’ And Mère Scholastique: ‘We’re more useful to the family and friends we’ve left behind now than we would be if we were with them.’ How? Mère Prieure answers my scepticism. ‘Our families realise there is another place. It allows them to recognise that the world is not one-dimensional: the horizontal changes to the vertical, the horizon changes. We have made those whom we’ve left behind think about these things.’

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Gregorian Review, 1954, 1956

This is a very interesting archive made available by the CMAA. Some of the articles deal directly with many issues discussed today.

Gregorian Review 1.1 (1954)
Gregorian Review 1.2
Gregorian Review 1.3
Gregorian Review 1.4
Gregorian Review 1.5
Gregorian Review 1.6

Gregorian Review 3.1 (1956)
Gregorian Review 3.2
Gregorian Review 3.3
Gregorian Review 3.4
Gregorian Review 3.5
Gregorian Review 3.6

Bishop Morlino on Gregorian Chant

This is extremely inspiring, a post in the Diocesan newspaper by Bishop Robert C. Morlino (Madison, Wisconsin):
Chant as our prayer at Mass

I find myself almost forced to mention the workshop on Gregorian chant which the diocese sponsored last Friday night and Saturday morning. For me it was one of those benchmark events since I have been in the Diocese of Madison. Easily over 80 people were in attendance — we were almost too large a group for the venue to which we were assigned — and the presentations by Fr. Robert Skeris, of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, a master presenter and scholar in the area of Church music, were both profound and excellent. His enthusiasm stirred a great deal of enthusiasm among those present.

And after about two and a half hours of practice, those present were able beautifully to sing the whole Mass (Novus Ordo) in Latin, using Gregorian chant. The beauty of this kind of prayer impressed itself on all of us who were there and made the Church’s preference for Gregorian chant seem much more reasonable, and the chant itself seem much more “doable.”

When we think of Gregorian chant as our prayer at Mass, not something that somehow accompanies our prayer but which embodies in sound the prayer itself, we start to think very differently about Church music in general.

This is certainly part of the renewal of the liturgy that we are seeking to accomplish in preparation for the First Sunday of Advent 2011, when we will begin to use the new English Translations of the Roman Missal, but it is also to recover the kind of sacramental attitude with which all of us should approach our full, active, and fruitful participation in the liturgy. Much more needs to be said about this, and indeed, much more will be said about it in the days ahead.

See you in Houston?

This is going to be a wonderful program, at a fantastic price:

CMAA 2010 Fall Practicum: Gregorian Chant at the Houston Cathedral; Houston, Texas, October 21-23.

Faculty includes Scott Turkington (Gregorian chant for men), Arlene Oost-Zinner (Gregorian chant for women), Dr. William Mahrt, CMAA President, (Advanced chant for men and women), and Rev. Robert Pasley (Training for priests, deacons, seminarians and those who train them to sing the Mass). Talks by Dr. William Mahrt and Jeffrey Tucker (Managing Editor, Sacred Music; Sing Like a Catholic).

The Program includes Solemn Vespers on Friday evening and concludes with a Missa Cantata in the Ordinary Form on Saturday evening; Dr. Crista Miller, Organist. Cost: $165 (includes instruction, materials, 3 meals and reception).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fr. Lang on the Crisis in Catholic Music

There have been many news reports concerning a lecture delivered October 6 and printed in L’Osservatore Romano, by Father Uwe Michael Lang in which he discussed the views of Popes Benedict XIV and Benedict XVI on sacred music.

See this and this.

I'm happy to see the encyclical Annus Qui of 1749 get some attention (machine translation).

The document of 1749 says pretty much what Popes have always said: Gregorian chant is the music of the Roman Rite (because the text is the Mass and the music elevates the celebration) but other forms of sacred music built on its foundation are also permitted provided that they retain a sacred sense and do not displace the primacy of chant.

There is no surprise here, unless you have been reading implausible claims that the idea of "sacred music" was a 19th century invention and that chant has never been that big of deal.

Traditionalists after Summorum

Steve Skojec writing at InsideCatholic offers an excellent reflection on a certain problem that exists among "traditionalists": an habitual bitterness that they just can't shake and don't want to shake. The author offers plenty of mea culpas for his past attitudes and an excellent reflection on how to normalize one's Catholic identity even while loving the older form of Mass. One of the great joys of Summorum is that does mark the beginning of the end of this rather serious problem.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Simple Propers for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

In an effort to get a bit ahead of the game with the Chant Cafe Simple Propers Project, we offer now a set of simple propers for next weekend, the 29th Sunday in OT, along with a few demo recordings:

Download Simple Propers for the 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

Because we were able to put these together a bit earlier, my newly formed parish schola had the opportunity to sing through these at the end of our rehearsal last night in preparation our singing of them of them next week. I brought along my Zoom H4 recorder in hopes of recording examples to share with the CC community, but it malfunctioned and gave me the opportunity to see how the recording feature of my new iPhone works.

Just a quick note on these recordings: This is not a musicological demonstration, or a professional choral recording–It is a quick run through of simple antiphons at the end of 2 1/2 hours or rehearsal for some of us, and after 12 long days of work. My point in saying this is not necessarily to offer a sort of disclaimer for the recordings, and not only to demonstrate the antiphons themselves, but also to show that a completely volunteer group of 12 singers in an average parish music program, at least half of whom had little to no experience actually singing chant even two months ago, can prepare and sing dignified settings of the propers of the Mass in a very short amount of time, amidst the usual circumstances of life. These are factors that most typical parishes deal with, and will have to weigh when the consider singing propers in liturgy for the first time. After singing these same formulaic melodies for a few months though, my own choirs and also average parish choirs can sing the propers with even more success because the melodies are already learned, and what changes is the text. I will say that if this can happen at my own parish that was singing out of the Gather book only two short years ago it can virtually happen anywhere.

So here are a few recordings for next week's offering of Simple Propers from the Chant Café, recorded by a volunteer parish schola in formation on a cellphone in less than 20 minutes. I'm actually pretty happy with the result.