Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sneak Peak: Fourth Edition of GIA's Worship

I give you the table of contents for Worship IV - the premier offering from the famed Catholic music publisher GIA. I'm trying hard not to criticize as much as point to a brighter future, but, even so, this table of contents deserves commentary.

I'll limit myself to four points.

By way of review, consider first that Catholic music for Mass consists in the following: ordinary chants, proper chants, and dialogues, along with some seasonal sequences and procession chants. All Catholic music essential for Mass should fall into one of these categories. Everything else is either a) a substitute, or b) a supplement. With that in mind, let's have a look.

First, look at the table of contents. The first thing is the best thing: the chants from the Roman Missal. Why are they called "ICEL chants" here? Why are they not called the "Missal chants." Perhaps the publisher does not want to somehow privilege them by implying that they carry a more normative status than the alternatives to which GIA hold copyright? Noting them as ICEL chants strikes me as oddly off-putting, since not one in one thousand Catholics has any idea what ICEL is. This really must be changed, and it seems obvious to me that the USCCB or ICEL or someone should insist on it.

Second, there is not a single Mass proper in this book. That is a striking fact. The propers of the Mass are the very thing that links the development of Catholic music from the origin of the Missal itself all the way up to the present day. No matter what period of history you are looking at, you find sung propers. And yet they are missing completely, so far as I can tell.

Third, notice that the dialogues with the priest seem to be conflated with the ordinary chants, so that we are back to this habit over 40 years of singing little tuneful 7-second songs with Father, songs that are based on a theme established by the Gloria. It ends up as broadway-style banter between the celebrant and the cantor. It has never worked. This practice ought to be completely abandoned.

Fourth, note that the overwhelming bulk of this book consists of hymns. Hymns, hymns, hymns, hundreds of hymns bursting forth on page after page after page. Know this much about hymns: when you are singing hymns, you are not singing the Mass. You are singing someone else's poetry to someone else's tune. And yet it is perfectly obvious that GIA's conception of music at Mass consists in hymns, hymns, hymns.

I'm going to stop there.

Current and Forthcoming: Laetare



Father of peace,
we are joyful in your Word,
your Son Jesus Christ,
who reconciles us to you.
Let us hasten toward Easter
with the eagerness of faith and love.


O God, who through your Word
reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way,
grant, we pray,
that with prompt devotion and eager faith
the Christian people may hasten
toward the solemn celebrations to come.



Father, you enlighten all who come into the world.
Fill our hearts with the light of your gospel,
that our thoughts may please you,
and our love be sincere.


O God, who enlighten everyone who comes into this world,
illuminate our hearts, we pray,
with the splendor of your grace,
that we may always ponder
what is worthy and pleasing to your majesty
and love you in all sincerity.

See you in Chicago!

Laetare Vespers, Schola Cantorum of St. Matthew's

On Sun., April 3, 2011, 4:00pm, the Schola Cantorum of St. Matthew’s Cathedral presents the Office of Vespersfor Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent. The Office will be sung entirely in Latin, in Gregorian chant enhanced with renaissance motets of Tomàs Luis de Victoria and Heinrich Schütz and a setting of Deus, Qui Illuminas -  the Prayer after Communion for Laetare Sunday - by Spanish composer Julio Domínguez. The liturgy will be presented according to the Roman Liturgia Horarum, complete with the censing of the altar during the singing of the Magnificat. Texts and translations will be provided. The annual celebration of Gregorian Vespers is one of the most beloved musical events at the Cathedral each year.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gregorian Chant for Kids

I have no experience with the product being advertised but this is a nice promotion.

Watershed has a new president!

And his name is Jeffrey Ostrowski, who is one of the most productive and talented musicians and publishing pioneers today. Congratulations to him! More about this change here.

Msgr. Wadsworth Lecture at the Liturgical Institute

Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth will be giving a "Hillenbrand Distinguished Lecture" at the Liturgical Institute on March 31st at 7:30PM which is free for all to attend. If you are in the Chicago area tomorrow evening it would be a wonderful event to attend.

From the LI website:
Join us for a stimulating lecture and discussion with Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, Executive Director of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. Free and open to the public. Please call 847.837.4542 for further details and to reserve a place.

Some Brief Remarks: Fr. Smith's Mutual Enrichment Recipe

I thought I’d try a new strategy in modifying my writing style to be much more “Strunk and White,” as my graduate advisor always, yet vainly exhorted me to try. So, succinct and cogent are my goals here.

As Fr. Christopher Smith provided us all a template for one of the stipulated goals of the Holy Father’s Summorum Pontificum, just today Fr. Cody Unterseher provided the readership at PrayTell with the opportunity to state their positive vision as to what constitutes worthy worship at Mass.
We have synchronicity, at long last.

So I will just give bottom line reactions as a pragmatist first, philosopher second to Fr. Smith’s items.

First Stage of Mutual Enrichment-(Fr. Smith’s “preamble.”)

“In this first stage, I see that there are many things that can be done now with no mixing of or change to the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite as currently found in the liturgical books. I also envision some guidance from the Magisterium to point this mutual enrichment in the right direction so as to avoid arbitrariness and to give those priests who respond to the call to mutual enrichment support.”
An interesting observation in the PT article combox cited above, from Scott Pluff , might be appropriate here as a counter-preamble from PT:
“The best quality of architecture, art and environment that the community can muster. Great music, preaching and presiding can still limp in a church that looks and sounds like a 1970s living room.”
This is a church building. Hat Tip to The Crescat.
Well, one must admit that Fr. Smith’s first stage seems premised upon a “tabula rasa” platform, whereas Mr. Pluff does advance a frighteningly real, practical scenario. But now we press on. My remarks to select portions of Fr. Smith’s comments will be in “bleu italics,” as in “sacre bleu!”

Enrichment of the Ordinary Form by the Extraordinary Form

- Bishops in Cathedrals and Pastors in their churches spontaneously adopting the ad orientem position at Mass as implicit in the OF after sustained catechesis of the faithful.
Not a problem for me, personally. But, it bypasses both the Benedictine arrangement and/or the altar crucifix adornment that could be said to be EF enrichments, but more in keeping with the notion of progressive solemnity, or “brick by brick.”

- Reconstruction of altar rails in churches and the spontaneous use of the communion rail as a place from which to distribute Holy Communion.
Problematic on multiple levels for likely many folks, not the least of which pastors burdened with “Mr. Pluff” Rambusch-like buildings, but with pastors who would have to present the simple realities of cost for design, fabrication and installation to even fiscally stable parishes in this era. I won’t restate the obvious about external attributes of mutual enrichment being sold, er….catechized among the laity who will foot the bills.

- Catechesis from the pulpit about the Church’s preference for Holy Communion on the tongue and under one species.
Not "going there" at odds with Fr. Smith on this one. I assume the presumption of the communion rail and a minimalist need for EMHC’s is concomitant here.

- Move towards singing the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin at OF Masses.
I think Fr. Smith likely would polish that a bit more, as technically a Latin Ordinary could be set to metrical styles such as, say “calypso” or “conjunto.” So, I presume the extraordinary efforts of many of our CMAA and religious ordered colleagues to finally provide "new, gregorian-inspired chant and actual psalm tone settings, even in a vernacular, pass his muster, depending upon local conditions and personnel.

- Priests, on their own, choosing the options of the OF which are analogous to the EF, and leaving aside those which are not. No comment due to no competence here.

- The spontaneous and consistent use by the clergy of the maniple, biretta, amice.
Why does Fr. Smith add “spontaneous” to consistent as a criteria of enrichment? For many celebrants, donning a short sleeve BLACK clerical blouse with the collar piece before the alb, stole and chasuble is an austere act of obedience in their opinion. How about asking our clerics to don cassocks on Sundays as the “first stage” and be consistent with that under the local deans’ and bishops’ supervision?

- Singing of the Propers according to the Graduale Romanum at Sung Masses.
B-I-N-G-O! But pastors and musicians must also be totally familiar with the hierarchy of musical disciplines, and take great care in their introduction and consistent usage in the clearly stated goals of Tra le sollecitudini” and all subsequent authoritative documents that clearly define the singing roles of congregations, cantors/psalmists, celebrants and scholas/choirs.

- Enforcement of the ecclesiastical discipline on extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.
No problem here, theoretically. But we’re going to need a lot of permanent deacons ordained in a couple of decades to be consistent with this demand and the other enrichments Father states above.

I'm sure much of this is a rehash of the many combox reflections in Fr. Smith's original post. But I offer my practical "take" here on these specific, initial items. End of this commentary of Fr. Smith’s prescriptions, part one.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Digital Resources on Chant

Here is Fr. Brian Austin's super short cheat sheet on digital resources, to be handed out at his next workshop.

Laetare, from the Simple English Propers

If you aren't planning the Gregorian proper for Laetare, consider this excellent step from the Simple English Propers.

19th Century Music training, Minnesota

(Thanks Noel Jones)

Monday, March 28, 2011

What If We Just Said "Pray?" Indeed.

There's an interesting post over at our friend Fr. Anthony Ruff's PRAY TELL blog in which he gave notice to yet another petition concerning the ecclesial and liturgical scenarios swirling about St. Blog's with the coming promulgation of the Third Edition of the English Roman Missal. The usual suspects, myself included, have had quite the banter going. But as the combox count nudged to a buck twenty five, these consectutive comments tweaked my attention and the following response. What's your take?

Why does anybody think that a new translation is going to squelch liturgical innovation? I expect it to increase as priests try to cope with mangled syntax and tongue twister prayers. Lots of earlier accretions were added to fill the void of incomprehensible or unspoken prayer, like encouraging people to pray the rosary during the liturgy.

Not that I am opposed to innovation. I think the whole STBDTR idea is classicism gone wild. It may appeal to some people, but there is a lot of good jazz out there that complements the classical.
Jim McKay on March 28, 2011 - 9:44 am

Creative innovation is to be welcomed — though I agree with Mr Culberth (sic) that bad preaching is a key factor. I do not know what paradise he writes from — in the USA one third of Catholics have left and Garry Wills reports that the heart of the Catholic crisis lies in what is experienced in the sunday liturgy: Ireland is in far more sudden and widespread disarray as are Belgium and Austria. 
Joseph O'Leary on March 28, 2011 - 4:02 pm

“Creative innovation” has never been unwelcomed to be introduced into liturgy, even after the winnowing of Trent. But then, as now, there was a clear clarion that in its ars celebrandi, music being a principle example, that innovation without the disciplines cultivated organically within the ecclesial culture, would inexorably evolve towards an art for art’s sake in equal measure to its decadence and unsuitability at service as a worship art. It was true before Trent with the parody (both profane and benign cantus firmi versions) Masses and the excessive unintelligibility of works by certain composers, and after Trent when the classical Sunday Mass in Vienna was as much an entertainment as liturgy. (IMO, YMMV.) This, predictably, continued in concert with the Enlightenment through to its inevitable clash represented by Pius X’s motu proprio “Tra le sollecitudini.” We’re just in yet other cycle that we prefer to examine with contemporaneous eyes and spectacles. In whatever arena Jos. O’Leary wants to superimpose over the term “creative innovation,” it cannot adequately serve worship without an accompanying discipline to which it must, for worship’s own betterment adhere to.
I don’t worship or write from any liturgical paradise, Mssr. O’Leary. In fact, we are a bishop-less (R.I.P.) diocese in central California; but our parish (cluster) is endowed with sensible yet idiomatically unique celebrants who understand that the liturgy is not to be a trifle, whether merely mouthed from a pulp missalette, or a platform for the exhibition of the cult of personality on display before a “captive audience.” And they understand that the humility involved in cantillating their collects and orations not only compel an active response from the faithful, but will likely be an asset come November 28th.
As I’ve mentioned, I do appreciate (uncharacteristically to my RotR colleagues)  a certain amount of the critiques of Professor Wills. I can’t testify to this, but I would bet that Wills would concur that if Sunday Mass was truly the life-blood nexus of parish life, as advanced by the liturgical theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand, that some of the post-conciliar “Catholic Crisis” so lamented by both traditionalists and modernists as ancillary ecclesial crises in vocations, reproductive and gender issues and clericalist authoritarianism, might have been postively mitigated, and perhaps would have benefited towards remedies by the sheer beauty and power of a fulfilled liturgy performed universally.
(Save the liturgy, save the world. *"G")
Perhaps that’s a bit pie-eyed.
But I’d also bet Professor Wills would prefer to be fully engaged in FACP and sing the Credo in a well mannered TLM or “DTRSTB” OF, than to bear the distractions of giant paper maché puppets of our Savior and saints parading about in sanctuaries.

What does "creative, liturgical innovation" really mean in our era?

*often misattributed to a famous cleric.

Pointed Sarum Psalter, coming up

Someone at some point mentioned to me that we had no pointed Psalter available for download, so I must have ordered one with the intent to scan it. It arrived today. This wonderful little treasure from 1916 goes off to the scanner today and come back next week. Especially charming: no copyright notice (for who would dare ask the state to enforce exclusive ownership of the Psalms of David?).

Byron Consort Comes to the U.S.

The Byron Consort of the Harrow School is making a U.S. tour, and you should be sure to go.

This US tour which includes appearances both Washington D.C. and New York City. In Washington the choir will sing at St Matthew’s Cathedral, St Mary Mother of God, Christ Church Alexandria and at the Basilica of the National Shrine; in New York at the choir will sing at St Mary’s Times Square, Trinity Wall Street, the Basilica of Old St Patrick’s Cathedral and at the Cathedral of St John the Divine. Shortly after returning to England, the choir is scheduled to sing Choral Evensong at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The Byron Consort is Harrow’s elite vocal ensemble and was founded in 2001 by Philip Evans (then Assistant Director of Music and now House Master of Moretons) who continues to direct the choir.It consists of between three and five Harrow boys and one adult on each voice part (Soprano, Alto, Tenor & Bass) – the choir sings a mixture of unaccompanied sacred and secular music, most of which comes from the Renaissance, Romantic and Modern periods. Many of the boys are ex-choristers from leading cathedral and collegiate choirs – there have recently been representatives from the choirs of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, Westminster Abbey, Canterbury, Chichester, Westminster and Winchester Cathedrals, St George’s Chapel, Windsor and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, as well as a former member of the Vienna Boys’ Choir – most of the boys are Music Award Holders at Harrow School.

The schedule is as follows:
  • Saturday 2nd April at 17:30 - Mass at St Matthew’s RC Cathedral, 1725 Rhode Island Avenue NW
  • Sunday 3rd April at 09:00 - Mass at St Mary, Mother of God Church, 727 5th Street NW (Extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, celebrated by Msgr Andrew Wadsworth)
  • Sunday 3rd April at 16:30 Mass at Roman Catholic National Basilica, 400 Michigan Avenue NE
  • Monday 4th April at 18:00 Choral Evensong at Christ Church, 118 N Washington Street, Alexandria
  • Tuesday 5th April at 19:30 Concert at St Mary’s, Times Square, 145 W 46th Street
  • Wednesday 6th April at 13:00 Lunchtime Recital at Trinity Church, Wall Street & Broadway
  • Wednesday 6th April at 17:00 Choral Evensong at the Cathedral of St John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue
  • Wednesday 6th April at 19:15 Old Harrovians Drinks Party & Recital at The Brook Club, 111 East 54th Street
  • Thursday 7th April at 14:00 Recital at The Churchill School, 301 E 29th Street
  • Friday 8th April at 12:30 Lunchtime Recital at the Basilica of St Patrick’s Old Cathedral, 263 Mulberry Street
Here are some audio samples

Laetare Jerusalem!

I received several mystified emails: surely you made a mistake that this chant you call Laetare Jerusalem is suitable for the processional? My answer is: not only it is suitable; it where the day gets the name. It is normative because it is the first choice of the GIRM, which is consistent with Vatican II's placement of Gregorian chant as primary, and, moreover, is the only introit to grow up alongside the existence of the day itself. So not only it is suitable and normative; anything else, and least of all some random hymn with an entirely different text, doesn't quite do it.

I like this presentation because it is unadorned with accompaniment, and it happens to be beautifully sung as well.

Lent - Fourth Sunday: Introit from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

Regina Caeli, A Different Take on the Marian Antiphon for Easter

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Will there be any difference in the sound of Laetare?

Next weekend is Laetare Sunday. The striking difference should be that, for the first time in Lent, we hear instruments play as an application of the entrance text, "Rejoice Jerusalem!"

Sadly, for most parishes, there won't be any difference in how next Sunday sounds and feels. Yes, instruments will be used but they have been used all the rest of Lent too. This certainly violates the spirit of tradition and legislation, but those who are seeking justification in law, they can find it in the General Instruction. The GIRM permits instruments to be used to "support the singing."

To be sure, this is an exception, but it is an exception so broad that it nearly negates the rule itself in practice. One can imagine that the exception here came about for the same reason that accompanied singing came about in the first place. Some chant choirs have difficultly singing on pitch without some external assistance that keeps the pitch from falling. I don't happen to think that this is a very good reason, since using such an outside crutch virtually guarantees that the singers will not improve and overcome the problem.

But because most parishes don't sing chant and don't sing propers at all, but rather replace them all with hymns, this rationale has largely lost its basis. The hymns are sung with accompaniment, whether it is Lent or Christmas or anytime. Accompanied hymns constitutes most of all the music we hear in Mass. Further, though there are many notable exceptions, instruments are mostly not used in a solo manner. The result is the banishment of anything striking about the difference between Lent and the rest of the year.

This is a terrible tragedy, but it is one that is more symptomatic of incompetence than disobedience. For years I've reflected on what is the key missing competency among Catholic musicians today. There are many: the inability to sing without pop-like inflections, the dependency on strict rhythmic metrics, the alarming loss of music-reading talent, the love of microphones and the concomitant inability to project the voice, but among them all I would list this one as number one: the believe that instruments are making us sing and hence without them, there can be nothing called music.

Lent is the perfect time to force the issue. Pastors should unplug all machines and make no exceptions. The singers need pitchpipes and they need to learn to find the music within themselves. There is no way to learn this except to go "cold turkey." There is no gradualism here. The instruments must be shut down, period. Musicians will sweat it out with fear for a few weeks, but they will become better by the end.

Unless the singers can do this, they can never really find themselves in a position to do what the Church is asking. Once they can sing without assistance, a new world will open up to them. They will face vast options on singing the propers. They might even be able to sing the words "Laetare" at the entrance. Then when Easter season arrives, they might even find that they will continue the practice, which would be wonderful.

It is a myth that congregations sing better with instrumental backing. My own experience has been the complete opposite. Only once the instruments are unplugged the people and the schola can realize that there is wisdom in the writings of the Popes that the primary liturgical instrument is not man-made but given to us from God: our own voices.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Cappella Giulia

Fr. Pierre Paul, the force behind the new musical renaissance at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, has opened up a website completely dedicated to the musical life of the Vatican's Basilica, with a focus on Gregorian chant and polyphony. Here we have a very beautiful thing: the Vatican setting a liturgical model for the Catholic Church around the world.

The site is

It will post the liturgical schedule and a list of music sung (already you can see the chants from the Graduale here), and also here some great recordings, among which already:

Alma Redemptoris Mater Palestrina

Ave maris Stella - Perosi

Finita iam sunt proelia - Palestrina

Hym. Christe Redemptor omnium

Kyrie Octavi Toni - Lassus

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fall 2010 Issue of Sacred Music

I think we are up-to-date now. You will enjoy this issue in particular.

Fall 2010 Issue of Sacred Music

Spring 2010 Issue of Sacred Music

Sorry, everyone. Still getting caught up.

Summer 2010 Sacred Music

Simple English Propers for the Annunciation

Although this may be a bit late for some, I received an inquiry this morning asking for Simple English Propers for the Solemnity of the Annunciation, which is celebrated today. We are now completing Feast and Solemnities as the last leg of this project and the complete draft will be done immanently, however the Annunciation portion is not ready to go yet.

I took a look at the Introit, Offertory and Communion that are sung for the Annunciation, though, and they are exactly the same as the Fourth Sunday of Advent. So if you still would like to sing the Annunciation propers today using SEP please feel free to download and use this score.

The Improperia for Good Friday

Most everything we say about parish conventions is a guess based on whatever inputs we have but my guess is that 9 in 10 parishes this Good Friday will not sing or say the Improperia/Reproaches ("My people, what have I done to you"). There are a number of puzzles in my own mind concerning why this is so. They are just an integral to the Roman Rite as any part of the liturgical season and yet today they are mostly entirely neglected so far as I can tell.

Oddly, this is not because they are absent in the Missal. In fact, they are very much present in the current Missal, not just as a text but as notated music, and not in the appendix where you find other music but right there as part of the Good Friday liturgy. Their neglect might be due to the fact that they appear in the Missal but, so far as I know, they are mostly absent from the Missalettes that the choir uses. This means that they are available to the priest but this priest is not the one doing the singing. They are not available for the choir, which is doing the singing. Hence, they are not said or sung.

Why are they in the Missal? This is another oddity. Mostly the Missal contains the parts for the celebrant and not the choir. This is why, we are told, that the offertory propers are not the Missal. But if we applied that rule consistently, the Reproaches wouldn't be in there either. Apparently, however, in the pre-Tridentine usage, matters were different. The priest and servers would in fact sing this portion of the liturgy in procession. The old Trent Missal did not make a distinction between the priest and choir parts, and perhaps the Reproaches were somehow grandfathered in to the current Missal. Maybe someone can shed light on this puzzle.

Regardless, it hardly matters because most parishes just pretend they do not exist at all, and this is very sad. The text gives new meaning to the word drama, for it so clearly lays the blame on the evil of the crucifixion on our owns sins and our own faithlessness. The narrative is historical but the theology behind the narrative is deeply personal and present. It strikes you as no other texts.

Aristotle Esguerra as taken the current Missal texts in English and produced two beautiful editions:

1985 Sacramentary (lacks Greek and deviates from the traditional order of choral declamation)


1985 Sacramentary with Greek and traditional choir divisions restored

In my own parish, we've usually sung Victoria's setting of the text.

This is a ten-year old practice. This year, for the first time, we are going to the source and singing the texts straight from the Graduale Romanum. We are very excited about this.

"For those who do not believe in God"

This Good Friday the prayer for those who do not believe in God is this:

Let us pray
for those who do not believe in God,
that they may find him
by sincerely following all that is right.

Next year, it is as follows:
Let us pray also for those who do not acknowledge God,
that, following what is right in sincerity of heart,
they may find the way to God himself.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Current and Forthcoming: 3rd Sunday of Lent


Father, you have taught us to overcome our sins
by prayer, fasting, and works of mercy.
When we are discouraged by our weakness,
give us confidence in your love.

O God, author of every mercy and of all goodness,
who in fasting, prayer and almsgiving
have shown us a remedy for sin,
look graciously on this confession of our lowliness,
that we, who are bowed down by our conscience,
may always be lifted up by your mercy.


Lord, in sharing this sacrament
may we receive your forgiveness
and be brought together in unity and peace.

As we receive the pledge
of things yet hidden in heaven
and are nourished while still on earth
with the Bread that comes from on high,
we humbly entreat you, O Lord,
that what is being brought about in us in mystery
may come to true completion.

COMMENT: The first collect has psychological focus; the second a spiritual one. The prayer after communion in the first version has a social focus; the second is deeply personal.

O Vos Omnes

Our choir sang this piece last week - the first time that we've done so. It is a fantastic piece.

Faculty Profile: Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth

In the right sidebar of this site, there is a list of must-read articles, and among them is "Towards the Future - The Singing of the Mass" by Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth. This brilliant speech put in words what many of us had intuited for a very long time. The language is diplomatic, the message very precise, and the argument at once clever and pastoral. His message concerns the role of music at Mass, which isn't about entertainment or showcasing but rather about giving flight to the language of prayer that is the liturgy itself.

Taken seriously, this message would amount to dramatic shift in the Sunday praxis of nearly every parish in the English-speaking world. And so this speech - which he wisely released into the commons - has become something of a model going forward as we cross into another reform with the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.

Here too, Msgr. Wadsworth has played a huge role as head of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy - and this role has been essential. He has been a great friend to people on all sides of the current liturgical divide, showing himself to be a master of the liturgical arts but also a great intellectual and diplomat as well. As an observer from the outside, it strikes me that his role has been to make possible what many people (I'm included here) thought was probably impossible. For this reason alone, he enters into the annals of Church history.

He is a priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster in the United Kingdom as well as an accomplished musician. His first degree was in music (majoring in voice and piano). After graduate studies in choral conducting and piano accompaniment at Trinity College London and the Royal Academy of Music, he trained as a répétiteur with English National Opera. In 1985, he was awarded the coveted Ricordi Prize for Choral Conducting. As a singer, he has performed extensively and has recorded as a soloist with the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge under the direction of the late Dr Mary Berry, the person who, more than anyone else in the whole of the UK, served as a bridge for Gregorian chant to cross between the preconcilar and postconcilar periods.

Msgr. Wadsworth holds graduate degrees in Italian from the University of London and Theology from the Pontifical University of Maynooth. Ordained in 1990, he has had a wide range of pastoral experience in parishes, schools, universities and hospitals. A former professor of Ecclesiastical Latin and New Testament Greek at the Westminster Diocesan Seminary, he has also taught Italian at college and university level. From 1998-2009, he was full-time chaplain to Harrow School where he also collaborated on a number of performance and recording projects in choral music and music theater. His published research is in relation to Dante, Marian studies, and the history of liturgical translations in English since the Second Vatican Council.

In recent years, he has traveled extensively, directing a number of seminars for priests concentrating on the ars celebrandi in both forms of the Roman Rite. He was appointed Executive Director of ICEL in Fall 2009 and currently resides in Washington DC where the Commission’s Secretariat is based. He is in demand as a speaker and has lectured and conducted workshops on the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal both throughout the United States and in England, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Canada, France and Italy.

I should also mention that it has been during Msgr. Wadsworth tenure that ICEL has taken a new progressive direction in using technology to distribute music of the Roman Missal. All the music from the Missal is now posted online and has been for the full year leading to implementation - something that was nearly unthinkable five years ago. This is a dramatic and bold move on the part of ICEL, one that has earned ICEL praise from musicians all over the world. This giant step has prepared the way for chant to regained its first place at the liturgy, making the dreams of several generations of musicians seem realizable. For this, and for whatever role he played in taking this step, he has earned the gratitude of everyone who loves sacred music, and solemnity and beauty in liturgy.

At the Sacred Music Colloquium, he will speak on the new Missal and work with attendees on methods and approaches for implemented the musical side of the changes implied by the Missal. 

Help with the St. Louis Gradual

Now that the Mass translation is complete and on track, work on the legendary St. Louis Gradual by Fr. Samuel Weber can continue apace. The goal is a complete English Gradual for the ordinary form, and it is certainly within reach.

But there are many options to consider. The largest possible edition is all days of the year with antiphons and Psalms. This would likely be several volumes. I had suggested that what we really need is the equivalent of the Gregorian Missal that covers Sundays and feast days only, since this is what is used most often in parishes. Fr. agrees with that.

But that does not end all questions. The big one is whether to produce a pew edition without Psalms and just antiphons, and they make a separate edition for the cantor. I had suggested to him that this would be of limited use in parish environment. It is doubtful that such a book would need to be in the pews at all, and what we need is a schola edition that includes antiphons and all pointed Psalms. The people can have the antiphons printed in the program for the week for those who want the people to sing - though even this is not necessary.

There are many subtle points here. Are we ready to insist that, after all, the introit, offertory, and communion are schola parts and not people parts? Or is the socialization of hymn singing at the entrance so strong that people will expect to sing the antiphon or at least be given the opportunitty? If so, it is perhaps enough to print it in the program. Then there is the issue of whether in fact parishes are ready to adopt a single book for Mass propers or continue the current practice of picking and choosing between sources.

This is all part of the details of a transition from a hymn-based liturgy to one that actually employs music to sing the liturgy itself. This are difficult questions and no final answers. The issue here really comes down to which is most useful for parishes at this point in history.

If you would like to weigh in, consider these two possibilities:

Antiphons with limited Psalms for a pew edition (perhaps 400 pages)

Antiphons with full Psalmody for the schola (perhaps 700 pages)

Music and the New Missal, Chicago, April 2., 2011

There is now an easier registration form for my seminar next weekend in Chicago. You can bring a check or cash to help the sponsors with expenses, but they would like RSVPs early so they can know how many to expect. More information here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cantores in Ecclesia, April 17


Cantores in Ecclesia, Blake Applegate, director, presents the choral concert Attende Domine: Music for Holy Week and Lent. Music for this concert spans the 16- 20th centuries with sacred works by Bruckner, Byrd, Casals, Gesualdo, Monteverdi, Poulenc, Purcell, and T.L. Victoria. Highlights of the program includes Victoria’s mystical Lamentations of Jeremiah, Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsoria for Holy Saturday, the mournful Ne Irascaris by William Byrd, and the harmonically striking Four Motets for the Time of Penitence by the 20th century French composer, Francis Poulenc.

About Cantores in Ecclesia: Blake Applegate, director

Established in 1983, Cantores in Ecclesia (singers in church) specializes in Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony in the liturgical context of the Latin Mass of the Catholic Church. Cantores in Ecclesia has sung in concert and for liturgies at home and abroad, including tours to Mexico, Spain, France, England and Italy and has recorded compact discs independently and for Oregon Catholic Press. Featured in print media and on the web, with articles in BBC Music Magazine (August 1997), Brainstorm (February 2004), and The Early Music Review (2008), Cantores has established itself as a leader in liturgical performance, winning loyal supporters at home and gold medals in international competition. Now in residence at St. Stephen’s Church 1112 SE 41st Ave, Portland, Cantores sings for the Latin mass every Saturday evening. Cantores is a 501 (c) 3 organization.

Who: Cantores in Ecclesia, directed by Blake Applegate
What: Attende Domine: Music for Holy Week and Lent
When: Sunday, April 17, 7:00 PM
Where: St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, 1112 SE 41st Ave, Portland OR
Tickets: $20 general, $15 Students and seniors. Available at the door or in advance at or 1-800-838-3006.
Contact: Blake Applegate, 503-295-2811

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Times Have Changed: A Story in Song about Franciscan University, Steubenville

The one-time institutional pioneer of praise music continues its pioneering ways in pointing to a future of sacred music. The conductor is the great Paul Weber, who is also a faculty member of the Sacred Music Colloquium.

Chant Workshop,. Mableton, GA, May 14, 2011

Fr. Brian Austin is a marvelous (and very pastoral!) teacher, and you certainly don't want to miss the chance to study with him.

Faculty Profile: David Hughes

The first time I met David Hughes was at the Sacred Music Colloquium and he was fresh out of college and totally dedicated to music in general and sacred music in particular. In the years that have followed, he has emerged as a giant in this world. As head of music at St. Mary's, Norwalk, he is setting a standard for excellence in liturgical art, with a program that is broad and deep. He directs a large childrens' choir, a professional choir, an adult choir, and plays the organ at most all Masses. Just to look at the weekly lineup takes one's breath away.

It was my great pleasure to join him for dinner last night in New York, and it is just a joy to hear his comments on every aspect of music and liturgy, and the life of Church musician. He has a striking humility given his explosive talent. His knowledge expands way beyond music to encompass history, philosophy, and theology. His is very widely read and constantly curious. He also takes his Catholic faith very seriously.

Last night, he talked at length about some early Mass from the 13th and 14th centuries that I had never heard of but he has actually used in liturgy in his parish. He describes what it is like to sing at 5-minute Amen in the Gloria and the effect of such an elaborate thing in a regular parish program (fantastic success!). He describes what it is like to explore all the new chants each week with singers who had never sung chant before a year ago, and how much all his volunteers treasure their copies of the Gregorian Missal. He is particularly eloquent in describing the effects of the chant on the lives and outlooks of the children in his choirs.

He has really been the driving force behind an incredible program, a parish that serves as living proof of the extraordinary things that can happen anywhere with the right leadership and the right ideals. The CMAA is honor to have him as a chant conductor at the Sacred Music Colloquium.

Sacred Music Colloquium (CMAA) from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

Monday, March 21, 2011

You want beauty? Find it in the liturgy.

Here is a fascinating post from Chants and Converts. It explains why the author, , will not read Oscar Wilde's play Salome, and, I must say that I rather share her view of this particular work (otherwise, his poetry, plays, and novel are fantastic; for more see this).

Salome was created during a particularly confused part of Oscar's life - and it contains more decadence than real depth, though of course (as usual) there is an underlying moral fire that burns beneath the thematic material. Still, it is not my cup of tea.

Darlene ends her interesting reflection with a surprise that links it all together. She explains why the search for beauty can only end in a gratifying way when we find it elevating what is true. For this reason, she says, she seeks beauty in the chant and rituals of the faith.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dioceses Taking on the Missal Chants

Janet Gorbitz reports on this weekend's workshop in Shreveport:

The Diocese of Shreveport, Louisiana’s Office of Worship sponsored a music workshop at the Diocesan Catholic Center this weekend (March 18-19). With presenters from GIA (Gregorian Institute of America, Rob Strusinski), OCP (Oregon Catholic Press, Louis Canter), WLP (World Library Publications, Alan Hommerding) and CMAA (Janet Gorbitz), the attendees had the opportunity to hear many new Mass settings for the new Roman Missal translation. Dianne Rachal, the Director of the Office of Worship, was the epitome of southern hospitality, welcoming us with graciousness, comfort and good food.

Bishop Michael Duca gave a short welcome to all attendees on Saturday morning, encouraging those present to embrace the new changes and asking them to work together with the priests to make it possible to sing more parts of the Mass. During the two-day workshop, about 50-60 attendees from the region had the opportunity to sing through several different settings from each of the publishers and were given sample copies of some of the new music that will be available.

The CMAA portion of the workshop was focused on the new Missal chants that are provided free of charge at the ICEL website, as well as musical resources for singing the Mass propers in English. The attendees sang through the new Mass ordinaries, including the Credo III, with ease. They also sang Proper antiphons that are part of the Adam Bartlett’s Simple Propers project and were able to also learn about Chabanel Responsorial Psalms, including one composed by Arlene Oost-Zinner.

A short discussion of CMAA’s efforts to aid church musicians in their quest to make the liturgy more beautiful included the use of the Parish Book of Chant. The attendees were given a very short tutorial on the reading of “square-note” notation and sang a couple of chant hymns in Latin from the Parish Book of Chant during the session.

With the new resources for the proper antiphons in English freely available, the new Missal translation implementation can mark a new era in parish liturgical music in the coming years. Once again, we can all be thankful for the generosity of our Catholic composers who are sharing their work with the Church. Workshops such as this one are great places to get information and music into the hands of more church musicians.

Who's Been Workin' on the Railroad?

The Liturgical Marketplace: Will the Big 3 get on board?

The summer before my first colloquium Wendy and I decided to visit relatives in North Carolina. We thought it would be quaint to take Amtrak cross-country via the southern route out of Los Angeles. We pony’d up first class. But we didn’t do our research and prep; Southern Pacific owns the single track from LA through NOLA to Atlanta. So, our train was stymied to side tracks time after time out of deference for freight trains. We made the best of it. Got into NOLA fifteen hours past the scheduled arrival. But us both having had wonderful train experiences throughout Europe caused us to wonder why we couldn’t have enjoyed as efficient and pleasurable journey on American soil via an American icon- transcontinental railroads?

A number of articles and commentary here in the Café, at MusicSacra Forum and elsewhere prompted me, once again, to ponder the economy that provides the artistic resources that serve celebrants, ministers, musicians and congregants at liturgies and devotions. Our friend and colleague Chironomo delivers this dart dead center bulls’ eye regarding worship “materials” and aides:

“The drive is on in many Diocese' across the country to implement the chants of the Missal beginning next year. Has there ever been an effort like this on behalf of music in the liturgy, at least in recent history? I don't think so.
My guess is that the likes of OCP and GIA just haven't caught up yet, as the much more agile on-line community that is supportive of traditional music has outmaneuvered them. While they are trying to figure out how to manage their copyright protections, freely downloadable settings of the new translation are making their way into parishes. OCP and GIA will, of course, get their share of the market....but they haven't had to face anything like this before and it appears they are either in denial or just slow to act.”
 I think that popularity in this era is worth less than whatever it costs to get one’s Warhol-ian 15 minutes. The denial mentioned above keeps the publishers mired in a perpetual and irrelevant past in which their CD’s and “albums” cannot keep up with either the pace of the delivery medium and the chicanery of their lack of authentic content. How long can an intransient, hide-bound and bloat-burdened system compete in a rapid and, let’s face it, fickle market? Someone “out there” with some modicum of talent and a unique hook can post their tune on YouTube on Thursday and be a “star” by Friday morning. 

Yet, the editorial staffs of the major, nominally Roman Catholic publishers function in some sort of Olympian monarchy, deliberating and deciding which heavyweight champion to keep in the hymnal rotation and which new upstart will get their big break and make the Show. And, of course, that system redounds to the many good people who provide the skills to keep that system working, from the senior managers, middle managers, and support staff.

But that system in American liturgical realpolitik is fixed not unlike a locomotive and its train of cars upon established networks of tracks. The recent film, “Unstoppable,” (about a runaway freight train) portrays an allegorical paradox where the Big Publishers can move large volumes of certain types of cargo, starting very slowly and with caution to make sure they are on the prescribed rail lines, but once they get up to speed they’re more or less held captive to those routes, period. And, God forbid, left unattended will gain momentum enough that could prove devastating not only to their own enterprise, but to the community in which they move. 

The iconic photograph of the moment the last spike was driven conjoining the monopolistic railroad companies (and its ideological import) through the establishment of a transcontinental means of human and freight transport and delivery, corresponds to a moment in a plenum USCCB convention a few winters ago wherein the issue of defining a so-called “white list” of approved hymn texts by the body of American bishops was tabled, and remains thus to this day, to the Sees of Chicago and Portland. And with the highest of regard for both Cardinal George and Archbishop Vlazny, has there been any evidence that there’s been direct oversight by their chanceries over the editorial content of the various organs of their respective publishing companies since that decision? Not really, the contents of the pulp missal/hymnals shift only in small fractional increments yearly, while the cost to both parish budgets and to the non-consolidation of a worthy liturgical repertoire are unwieldy and burdensome, and in effect useless in many regards. 

Through many other media, hundreds of options that are sourced either from the original Roman musical volumes or from new compositional resource centers (such as MusicaSacra, Corpus Christi Watershed and The St. Louis Liturgical Music Center) are literally moving through the airwaves for the taking. It would be foolish not to imagine that other new sources, not necessarily respectful of the Church’s musical patrimony but fashioned out of love for the liturgy are also being shared and distributed outside of the publishers’ network and clout. Again, if those whom some vilify as the “Liturgical Industrial Complex” don’t even ponder these realities, they risk becoming anachronistic antiques that simply parodied the culture of a bygone era. 

Has this ever occurred before so as to have been a lesson of history that could have reminded us not to tread that way again? Well, I have more than a few St. Gregory hymnals collecting dust amid the People’s Mass Books, the St. Basil, the Pius X, the Mount Mary’s, and a number of others that J. Vincent Higgenson spent years cataloguing. And then, among the non-nationalistic of those, English was the only “foreign” vernacular competing with the Mother Tongue.

The contingencies that will continue to vex the stability of any liturgical repertoire, whether at the national, metropolitan, diocesan or parish levels, will likely necessitate the expedience of a subscription-based missal/hymnal resource. There’s nothing to prevent any capable pastor and director of music/liturgy from opting out of that convenience with the abilities to access huge amounts of license-free, tried and culturally true Catholic music, and present it to congregations in “homegrown” hymnals, weekly pamphlets or visually projected forms. But, I personally don’t see a larger benefit to the whole Body of the Church in these individual opt-outs, either in practical or philosophical terms.

What I do see as possible is a scenario that theoretically pleases both progressive and traditional wings of liturgical music leadership, as well as a means by which the expressed vision of the Church that her bishops directly oversee the liturgical praxis and development within their Sees. 

Could not the USCCB/BCL authoritatively mandate all bishops to appoint diocesan councils of qualified musicians and directors according to a set of universal criteria, whose only duty is the collection, deliberation and indexing of a licit and comprehensive diocesan missal/hymnal that would, ideally, be so dutifully and scrupulously reviewed that it would, without question, receive the bishop’s imprimatur and nihil obstat, whether the resource was published by a yearly subscription or as a fixed hymnal by the very same publishers who offer us only their editions? 

I refuse to accept, until it is explained to me why, that the indexing and ordering of local, commissioned editions of paper or hardbound hymnals could not be compiled and indexed by the union of human editors and appropriate software programs. I formerly dubbed this the “boutique” hymnal. But I’m hopeful that a coalition of our hierarchy, the already “geared-up” publishing giants, the local bishops and their collaborative councils and the “boots on the ground” input from parish DM’s would result in a profound shift both towards the observance of universal standards, and the respect and appreciation for worthy additions of new repertoire from various cultural perspectives.

It is simply a fact that the dynamic tensions that are part and parcel of the options for musical expression at service to the liturgy will seem to most everyone involved as being self-contradictory. Gregorian (and other) chant achieving “principle place” (as opposed to the titular “pride of place”) at service will subjectively always be challenged by those who insist upon qualifying that place by citing the “all things being equal” argument. 

But it seems to me that if I were given an opportunity to serve on a diocesan music council whose tangible objective was the creation and dissemination of a valid, valuable local hymnal undertaken by a commission and agreements between dioceses and the PUBLISHERS on a major scale, I’d at least have no one to scapegoat for the paucity of repertoire choices in the one-size-fits-all products that have constituted the musical buffets and cafeterias that were “crafted” in corporate think tanks and labs as being the most generically profitable assortment that was consumer friendly, trendy and kept you wanting something “new and improved” every so often, but that was essentially just a variation or reorganization of the same components. It’s time for our trains to start flying. And I believe that the PUBLISHERS have an infrastructure in place that we could help become more agile, flexible, responsive if they believed in their mandate to truly serve the Church's best interests in worship, and knew they would keep market share. I'm clearly not advocating returning to the clumsy days of homegrown hymnal making.

In the “Missal chants” thread in which I cite Chironomo’s observation above, an anonymous commenter after him states,
“We have a rare opportunity at this moment in Church history to undo the collateral damage caused by a false interpretation and implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. There is nothing more spiritually powerful than priest and people chanting the Mass, whether in Latin or in the vernacular. That is where one finds both the majesty and simplicity of the Roman Mass.”  
This is the moment that we all must seize, including those who have confined themselves to the tracks and fortresses and economies that will, as all temporal human concerns do, eventually decay or become obsolete and irrelevant. I don’t wish that upon anyone affiliated with our Church, including the good souls working within “the complex.”

Pastors: This Is the Time to Fix Your Music Program

Priests talk about it often in private, and kid about the subject around laypeople they trust. They grouse about it week after week, and this has been going on for years. But they dare not actually attempt to address the problem, much less take it up with those who are responsible. They know that there is something profoundly wrong (and people complain to them regularly) but they worry that they lack the competence they need to make a change. And so the status quo lasts and lasts.

I speak of course about the unspeakable topic of music in our parishes. Every priests knows that no good can come from seeking to fix the problem that everyone knows exists. It is a mine field. You take it up with the musicians and them balk, bluster, and bring up their low pay. You bring it up with the parish counsel and you unleash arguments over taste and style that begin politely and end in total war. You raise the topic with the Bishop and he assures you that going there just isn’t very pastoral.

The biggest fear of all traces to their own perceived incompetence in the area of music. They wouldn’t tell the plumber how to fix the drain, the electrician how to make the lights work, or the builder how to make the roof stay up. The priest’s job centers on the sacraments, along with the infinite number of pastoral things that pastors do to keep a parish alive and thriving. Isn’t that enough? Must they be expected to take on the area of music too?

And so the pastor just leaves it alone, in the hands of people who have been swirling around in parish music circles for decades with greater longevity than any pastor. Any current pastor has nothing to gain and everything to lose by insisting on change. The budget is tight and most of these people are volunteers anyway. Members of the paid staff are even more of a problem, with their pattern of seeming to sneer and roll their eyes at anything Father requests.

This is how the pattern came to be established that the pastor just doesn’t touch the music question. Once there is relative peace, even if it means the weekly parade of mediocrity and music that embarrasses people with an understanding of the Roman Rite and its true musical demands, the pastor just lets well enough alone. But the problem is still there and he knows it. He might like to push for change and even gain the knowledge necessary to talk shop with his music team, but the occasion never seems to present itself.

Well, the Church has given these pastors a wonderful gift with the new translation of the Roman Missal that will go into effect this Advent. The Bishops are urging a widespread education plan for two reasons: 1) to make sure there is no repeat of the meltdown following the introduction of the 1969/1970 Missal, and 2) as an opportunity for new catechises about what the Mass is and why it matters, the knowledge of which has plummeted to new lows in our times.

For a while, I couldn’t understand why such enormous efforts were being pushed just for a new translation. The people’s parts have very few changes at all. The most substantive changes occur for the celebrant, and here it is incontrovertible that the changes represent a huge upgrade. This doesn’t strike me as anything that needs a gigantic push to make happen.

However, it was then explained to me that the second point about educating people more generally is the real reason for all the materials being published and the seminars being conducted. Then it became to make sense. It is true: the new Missal really is a wonderful opportunity.

Well, it is also true of music. The new Missal integrates English chant into the structure of the Mass to a much greater degree than the past editions. The Bishops are pushing for the Missal chants to become precisely what we have always lacked in the post-1970 world: a national body of music that has been approved by the Church that is known by everyone. Important, this music comes not from a for-profit publisher but from Church authority itself.

The settings are not in themselves universally brilliant but I find myself rather impatient with criticisms of them. They are so much better than what we have, which are almost entirely unused as it is. They are written in the style of chant, which is to say that they are plainsong and can (and should) be sung without accompaniment. To think about these chants properly, you need to think with a bit of depth about what dominates the typical liturgy today (hymns plus mostly silly or puffy Mass settings) and also where these Missal chants will lead congregations as the next step.

There are really three parts to the right reform agenda. We must first phase out nearly the whole of the conventional repertoire that exists, one piece of music at a time. We must work toward a gaining a correct understanding of the musical structure of the Roman Rite, so that the people are granted primary responsibility over the ordinary chants including the creed and the kyrie (both of which are sadly neglected) and the schola has a new-found appreciation for the responsibilities regarding the proper chants of the Mass.

Finally, we need a new embrace of our chant heritage as it applies to the ordinary form, to the point that people feel comfort with Latin and the truly normative music of the ritual (which is Gregorian chant), a crucial step that re-integrates the new with the old and ends this “hermeneutic of rupture” that is so widely perceived to exist.

That is a gigantic mission and its success depends on many factors. We need to re-train existing musicians and raise up a new generation that has the desire to sing music that is intrinsic to the rite and also the competence to do so. The people need to feel that their role is important and that they aren’t just being brow beat to sing pop songs suitable for selling cosmetics or mollifying teen angst. Providing music for the Mass is a serious job and it requires seriousness of mind and heart.

Whether this process of change lasts a long time or takes place immediately depends on circumstances of time and place. What matters most is that we get the process going. It must begin. And the Missal chants are a great beginning. The change in the Missal provides the opportunity to insist on the change.

If I could add just one piece of practical advice for pastors: insist that your musicians sing the chants without accompaniment. No negotiations on this point: unaccompanied only. This will make a dramatic difference in the liturgy. It will also help to end what is usually the biggest problem in parish music, the persistence of some overbearing piants, organist, or guitar player who has convinced everyone that the human voice that God gave each of us is nothing without some external contraption. It’s nonsense: the human voice is the primary liturgical instrument. Unless we get that point right, there is little hope for progress.

There are many things pastors can do to make parish music better. But insisting on these two points (sing the Missal chants and sing them without accompaniment) will go a long way in most parishes toward breaking the cycle of mediocrity. The issuance of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Now is the time to act, for the sake of the future of the faith.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Their Heads Must Have Been Spinning

Russel Roan asks refreshing questions about the modal structure, and more interestingly, about the grammatical structure of this Sunday's Communio:

Now on paper, it would seem this should be the easiest of the three we do (Introit, Offertory, Communion). There are no melismas, and the melody is almost syllabic. It is tightly bound, dipping only once at the very end below the tonic RE (to DO at the very end of the piece) and climbs only a fifth above the tonic to LA. My mathematical analysis (I'm an engineer, not a musician!) would suggest to me that perhaps this is mode II not mode I as marked, given the tightness of the range of the piece, and the seeming cluster of the melody around FA (the dominant of mode II) as opposed to LA (mode I dominant), which we only reach four times and as I said is the highest we climb in the melody.

I'd love to claim that this cognitive dissonance was why I had difficulty with this piece - but I think more fundamental reasons are at play here (like hitting intervals properly! :-))

The text of the piece comes from Jesus' admonition after the Transfiguration, which is the gospel reading for this mass. After witnessing this, Jesus instructs Peter, James, and John:

Visionem quam vidistis, nemini dixeritis, donec a mortuis resurgat Filius hominis.

(The vision you have seen, tell no man, until the Son of Man be risen from the dead.)

This is yet another example of how using the propers amplifies and/or complements the other readings for the day in building a carefully constructed service, vs. going for the non-sequitur of singing some irrelevant hymn at this point in mass.

I have to confess that part of my tardiness in this write-up was due to having to dig deeper (read: look ahead in my textbook!) to get a clearer understanding of the construction.

The difficulty for me, and probably any native English speaker, is the role of the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive is used hardly at all in English, and its limited usage is slowly being washed away. Why? Well perhaps we as a people aren't able to grasp subtlety as we once were able. A dangerous development, as Orwell pointed out that eliminating shades of meaning in language is an effective way of controlling thought (newspeak anyone?) but that's a discussion for another forum.

In general usage, the subjunctive mood suggests possibility or uncertainty, or the as-yet undetermined future. The best English example I can think of is usage of "were", such as, "He was carrying on as if he were an expert in the field." Hmm maybe that example hits too close to home here. :-)

We first see the subjunctive mood with nemini dixeritis. Now, Jesus could have issued a direct order (alicui non dicite!) which our English would translate approximately the same (don't tell anyone!) . But He is not so harsh; the literal form of the subjunctive exhortation would be something like "Let you have told no man" - see how English struggles to express subjunctive concepts? This seems to me a little more polite, a little more understanding of human nature and the near impossibility of keeping such an experience to themselves "until the son of Man be risen from the dead" - what the heck could that have meant anyway to the three disciples? Who's the Son of Man!? How is he going to rise from the dead!? Certainly their heads must have been spinning.

The last clause - donec a mortuis resurgat Filius hominis - again sees usage of the subjunctive - hence the odd-sounding translation for us "be risen". Again, literally, it would be something like "may rise again" - not convincing English!

Once again by examining the Latin text, I was led to think differently about a familiar phrase about which I had never given much thought. When I read "rise again from the dead", I always thought of "dead" as being something like a state of being. You're live and you're alive, you die and then you're dead. I always had thought of Jesus flipping from one state to the other. But note that the text uses mortuis - the plural form. So instead of the Son of Man "be risen from (being) dead", what this is really saying is "be risen from (among) the dead ones" - of course the Apostles' Creed uses the same construct: tertia die resurrexit a mortuis.

Time is running short, so I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to cross-reference Filius hominis with the same phrase from the apocalyptic vision in Daniel 7:13-14:

I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like the son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and he came even to the Ancient of days: and they presented him before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples, tribes and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom that shall not be destroyed.

Chant in Beautiful Florida

If you can at all make this conference on April 1-2 in Florida, you should do so. The speaker line up in incredible, and it includes the master of our age, William Mahrt. But everyone is fantastic, including Jennifer Donelson, Susan Treacy, Mary Jane Ballou, Samuel Weber, Jeffrey Herbert, and everyone really. Also the venue is just great: parking, acoustics, and overall environment at Ave Maria.
  • Keynote Speaker William Mahrt – Stanford University, Stanford, CA; President, Church Music Association of America
  • The Reverend Brian T. Austin, FSSP – Christ the King Church, Sarasota, FL
  • Mary Jane Ballou – Director of the Schola Cantorae, St Augustine, FL
  • Jeffrey Herbert – Director of Music, Church of the Incarnation, Sarasota, FL
  • Rebecca Ostermann – Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, FL
  • Jennifer Donelson – Nova Southeastern University, Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Susan Treacy – Ave Maria University, Ave Maria, FL
  • The Reverend Samuel Weber, OSB – Archdiocese of St Louis, Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, Institute for Sacred Music

Why do English speakers like Chinese Tattoos, Latin Masses, and Italian Operas?

Anson Cameron writes a very funny column in The Age on how it comes to be that everything seems to be more profound when it appears in a language we can't understand. The conclusion of this article isn't right and nor is the argumentation but it is asks the right questions, or, at least, observes an important phenomenon.

Why emblazon yourself with signs you can't read? Why wed in a lingo you don't speak? Why do things sound so good in another language? Why does gobbledegook like a Latin Mass or a Gregorian chant speak to a congregation with a resonance not even Shakespeare can match? Indeed, as we drift further and further from the linguistic idiom in which Shakespeare wrote, and each generation finds him murkier and murkier, might it be that he becomes a greater playwright still?

My own view of the liturgical issue is informed by Pickstock's After Writing: the understanding we seek is of a kind that requires communication beyond mere cognition; it requires access to transcendent meaning, and, here, our vernacular can only get in the way.

Friday, March 18, 2011

See You in Shreveport Tomorrow - Saturday, March 19

The Shreveport workshop - previously scheduled for February but postponed due to inclement weather - is taking place today and tomorrow. Janet Gorbitz, Schola Director from Robins AFB and CMAA Secretary, will be presenting on Saturday from 1:00-3:00pm. She will be discussing and singing through the Missal chants, the Simple English Propers, and there will be plenty of PBCs to go around. Try to make it if you are in the Shreveport area.

The Neume Song!

Here is the neume song, as developed by Matt Williams and posted on the MusicaSacra forum. It is really helpful because reading neumes requires (or at least is assisted by) and completely new vocabulary that can be extremely intimidating for beginnings. I know that it seem to take me years to be able to use all these terms as if they had real meaning. But once you learn them, rehearsal becomes much easier.

You will really enjoy listening to this. The director is pointing at the chalk board as they go through the song.

Current and Forthcoming: 2nd Sunday of Lent


God our Father,
help us to hear your Son.
Enlighten us with your word,
that we may find the way to your glory.

O God, who have commanded us
to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased, we pray,
to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that, with spiritual sight made pure,
we may rejoice to behold your glory.


Lord, we give thanks for these holy mysteries
which bring to us here on earth
a share in the life to come,
through Christ our Lord.

As we receive these glorious mysteries,
we make thanksgiving to you, O Lord,
for allowing us while still on earth
to be partakers even now of the things of heaven.
Through Christ our Lord.

Comment: I'm rattled by the strange agnosticism in the current Collect, which seems to suggest some vague miscommunication possibilities between God and man, and the and suggests (to me) that the path to glory is uncertain and might only be found through some mental process. As for the Prayer after Communion, there is a big difference between having a "share" the "life to come" and being direct partakers of things in heaven. The current translation once again shows itself to be bloodless, steely, truncated, and, in this instance, nearly deistic, whereas the forthcoming translation has the sound, feel, and meaning of the Catholic faith.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Graduale Novum Has Arrived!

Yesterday I had the great joy of receiving in my mailbox two unexpected delights: The Winter 2010 issue of Sacred Music and also a copy of the brand new Graduale Novum.

Online orders can be made here [site entirely in German].

I plan to give a more thorough review on this volume in the coming weeks, but for now all I can say is that the book, for me, is a dream come true. Here are a few "unboxing" photos, some samples of the content, and an excerpt from the preface to the edition.

The outside cover (the book production is strikingly similar to the 2009 Antiphonale Romanum):

The ribbons:

And a look inside:

Here's the 'Ad te levavi' from page one (the graphic on the front cover is of this incipit–notice the melodic differences from the 1908 edition):

A page from the Kyriale, which appears to be identical to the previous editions:

And, lastly, a look at the Order of Mass, contained in the back of the book, which conforms identically to the usage in the 2002 Missale Romanum:

Again, a more thorough review of this volume will be forthcoming. For now, I will close with a few very informative paragraphs from the beginning of the five page preface contained in the new Graduale Novum:


In its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, art. 117, the Second Vatican Council requested that a more critical edition (editio magis critica) be produced of the books of Gregorian chant, which had been published in the early 20th century on the basis of the reform of Pius X.

Convinced of the urgency of this request, a few members of the International Society for the Study of Gregorian Chant (AISCGre), founded in 1975, have been meeting since January of 1977 to begin work on restoring the chants of the Graduale Romanum (1908). They have been re-examining the ancient manuscripts that were consulted for the Editio Vaticana, in order to exploit the progress that scientific research has made since the publication of that edition. The aim of this group was to achieve a more accurate rendition of the ancient chants; the basis for their restitution work were the adiastematic manuscripts from the 10th century, which are the oldest witnesses of the melodies and are written without notation lines, as well as the most important diastematic manuscripts from the 11th century which do render the exact intervals of the melodies. With regard to the adiastematic manuscripts, the need for an editio magis critica already became apparent with the publication of the Graduel Neumé of Dom Eugéne Cardine (Solesmes 1966) and the Graduale Triplex (Solesmes 1979). The wide dissemination of these books had done more to strengthen the awareness of the importance of a revised edition than the scientific publications had been able to do.

After about two decades of common work, the scholarly results of this group of specialists, whose work is still in progress today, have been published, beginning in 1996 twice yearly as "Suggestions for the Restitution of Melodies of the Graduale Romanum" ("vorschläge zur Restitution von Melodien des Graduale Romanum") in the journal "Beit age zur Gregorianik" (BzG) by the ConBrio Publishing House (Regensburg). For each chant, not only were the suggested restitutions published for the first time, but also a detailed critical apparatus, which cited the pertinent manuscripts in support of each suggested change.

The appearance of the melodies will strike the casual reader as unfamiliar, not to say strange in the present edition in the case of a few chants. For example, alongside the familiar si-flat there is also a mi-flat, fa-sharp and do-sharp, tonalities that were "forbidden" in Medieval times by the theoreticians, but which were nevertheless sung in not a few cases, as is shown above all by the transpositions of Gregorian melodies that appear in many diastematic manuscripts. This fact has been known for over a century; but it has been comprehensively and meticulously confirmed above all through the researches of the last decades. Since the scribes who produced the adiastematic manuscripts did not render exact melodic intervals anyway, there had been no need for them to resort to melodic transposition in order to avoid "forbidden" tones.


May 34 years of collaborative effort bear its fruits through this edition and may it prove useful to the users of this book in the realms of scientific research and teaching, but above all in fostering a vibrant celebration of the Church's liturgy.
UPDATE: This volume can also be purchased at a cheaper price here.