Friday, September 30, 2011

The Beautiful Freedom of Chant

I was presenting a seminar on chant last evening for some Catholic musicians and, near the end, a hand went up and said something like this following.
All evening long you have been singing various parts of chant. I don't understand how it is that chant people just start singing on any note. There's no piano, no pitchpipe, no keyboard or recording. You just start singing and then the music comes out. How do you do that? Is it perfect pitch? How do you know where to begin?
This is the sort of question only a trained musician would ask. For anyone else, the question probably doesn't make any sense. I mean, if you are going to sing "Happy Birthday" you just start singing, right? Well, the trained musician is puzzled at how you can pick up a piece of music and just start singing it without knowing what note to start on.

The answer speaks to the remarkable flexibility of chant notation. It actually doesn't matter where you start. All that matters is that you keep the relationship between the notes correct. There are only two possible ways that one note can be related to another note: whole step or half step. All music consists of combinations of those two things. The starting place doesn't matter at all so long as you preserve those relationships.

This is not obvious at all from the way we conceive of music today: this is a C, this is a B, this is an Eb and so on. This is not the case with chant. It can start on a pitch that is best for the human voice. To sing a chant you only need to start singing.

As with many aspects of chant, the truth is much simpler than the perception. This is why sometimes people with no training in modern music make better chanters than people with years of training. Without training, you have nothing to unlearn, which is a huge advantage.

Cappella Giulia Celebrates 500 Years

The Chant Cafe is pleased to announce the 500th anniversary of the Cappella Giulia of the Vatican Basilica. Wikipedia offers an entry too.

On the 19th of February 1593, at the eve of death, Pope Julius II signed the papal bull IN ALTISSIMO MILITANTIS ECCLESIÆ by order of which the Cappella Giulia was constituted. The pontifical document was intended to provide more solemnity to the liturgical functions of the Vatican Basilica with musical executions of the highest artistic value.

With loyal faithfulness to the original task assigned, the Cappella still abides to this duty and today is preparing celebrations for its Fifth Centennial. The celebrations will be inaugurated on the 22nd of February 2013, day of the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, with a solemn concelebration presided by the Cardinal Archpriest of the Basilica and will be concluded on the 18th of November 2013, Solemnity of the Dedication of the Vatican Basilica.

On the occasion of this important anniversary, the Cappella Giulia is happy to welcome other choirs who are dedicated to the ministry of beauty at service of the Church Liturgy and may desire to participate to one or the other celebrations taking place in 2013.
The Institutional Program provides a guided visit of the Vatican Basilica, a conference on the history of the Cappella and on the ministry of liturgical music in the Church today, participation in the Holy Chapter Mass (High Mass) and if desired, also the celebration of solemn Vespers.

In addition to this, a complementary program has also been carefullyprepared, for both the historical and cultural aspects of the journey, which includes among others a public concert that each choir can give in a Church of Rome historically bound with the Cappella Giulia.
During Spring 2012, a collection of musical transcriptions from the manuscripts of the archives of the Cappella shall be available upon request.
For further information and participation, please Email:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Offertory on Sunday

Vir Erat, the offertory antiphon for Sunday, has been a text that has inspired polyphonic composers for hundreds of years. Here is a sample from G.A. Palestrina, as sung by the Florida Schola Cantorum. One of the singers is Edward Schaefer himself, the world-renown chant scholar who is also a practitioner of the Renaissance polyphonic form. This was sung in a concert setting.

Liturgical Movements, New and Old

Helen Hull Hitchcock provides a primer on how the old and new liturgical movements are related. The shows how the shifts inspired by Pope Benedict XVI recapture the vision after some decades of diversion.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why I’m Wildly Optimistic about Catholic Music

The new English Missal in begins shipping in a few days. Sometime next week I’ll be holding the new text with the liturgy for Mass. It is a vast improvement over anything experienced by anyone under the age of 60, and it is going to change the religious life of millions in the process, not immediately but gradually over time.

The language itself is a dramatic upgrade, much closer to the Latin, and much more formal and liturgical in its tone. The music of the Mass is embedded in the text as integral to the Missal’s presentation of the Mass, and the reports of the sheer dignity and beauty of the Missal music have been sensational so far.

This alone is a good reason to be optimistic about the future of Church music. But even if when Advent comes, you are underwhelmed by what you hear at your local parish, and it seems like the same old thing as it ever was, know that there are forces at work today in the Church and in the world that are moving toward change.

There is theological improvement all around, a sounder sense of purpose among the clergy, and young generation of priests that is very alert to the liturgical question, and of course the changes made in the pontificate of Benedict XVI are having an effect. All of this will be heard in the music you experience in the Catholic liturgy of the future.

But there is another dramatic change that Charles Culbreth brought to my attention yesterday, and I wanted to share his point of view, because I think it is extremely important. It comes down to this: new communication technologies have provided new opportunities for liturgical musicians to share with each other and learn from each other, and this creates the conditions for continual improvement going forward.

Charles pointed out that a quick arrangement that he wrote for a chanted Gloria is now being used in Canada by people he has never met. This gave him a real kick, and he noted that this would have been impossible back in the day. Working from his laptop computer, and without even leaving his desk, he can be a provider of liturgical music for the whole world. The supply and the demand once lived in isolation. Now they can come together. Amazing.

Another example. It was only six years ago when the Liber Usualis went up online for the first time. It was the first major book of Gregorian chant to achieve that universal and limitless level of distribution that the Internet makes possible.

How well I recall the hysteria! There were threats of lawsuits. People said that I was going to bring the world crashing down on my head. I had anonymous emails telling me that because the “ictus” (if you don’t know, never mind) is a copyrighted marking added by Solesmes that Interpol was going to come to my house and drag me away in a burlap sack. (I called the Library of Congress to ask if a tiny tick above a square note could really lead to legal penalties, and the lady on the phone couldn’t stop laughing.)

None of it happened (and I knew this was not going to happen because I had done about 12 months of homework before going live). Instead, vast swaths of the Catholic world had its first look at the amazing reality: the Church has assigned specific music for all liturgical action that takes place throughout the year.

We don’t have to make up music every week. Every feast, every Sunday, every prayer throughout the day had an assigned song and Psalm attached to it. The Liber Usualis, a brilliant book that served the Church well for a century before a generation of know nothings gathered them all up and threw them in the dumpster, was our own Dead Sea Scroll, the text now digitized that opened up a new window to our history as worshipping Catholics.

That was just the beginning. Hundreds of books followed. Then there were new opportunities. These efforts connected with others around the world that had long been in operation - and chant lovers around the world began to feel a sense of belonging to something on the move. People made shirts of the chants, and large-scale poster to enable an old-fashioned method of singing. There were iPhone and iPad applications produced for profit. And then individuals starting making recordings of their versions of the chant and posting them on audio and vidoe. Then tutorials went online, and then databases of chant, and then other aids to make the music of the faith ever more accessible.

People who only knew of the chant through legend were suddenly surrounded by it and they imagined for the first time that they might be able to play a part in its revival. They flocked to workshops, seminars, and colloquia. Scholas sprang up all over the country, from the smallest rural parish to the biggest big-city Cathedral. It was a beautiful scene, and, if you think about it, it all happened very quickly.

Then there were new tools created to enable people to create their own chant editions. At first, this involved recreations. But over time, it became obvious that more was needed. The vernacular had come to the Catholic liturgy in 1965, and yet there was a gigantic shortage of chant music in English. The entire liturgical year was crying out to be translated into song! And these efforts began in earnest.

People who had been quietly working for decades along suddenly emerged out into the open, and their work put online. People like Fr. Columba Kelly and Fr. Samuel Weber became overnight heroes, as the corpus of their work was given away for free.

The International Commission on English in the Liturgy was watching all this very closely, and, when it came time to produce music for the new Missal, a visionary there had the idea of putting that music online and giving it away for free. And this was done - and it was something truly revolutionary and incredible. The methods that were used by the folk musicians of the 1960s - distributing free of charge and uses any and every technology possible to evangelize - were now being used by the establishment to promote truly beautiful renderings of the Church’s own corpus of work.

In the latest steps in this direction, and based on the discovery that most of the Church’s most beautiful hymnody was legally in the public domain, new websites started appearing to distributed hymns as well. Now we are even seeing masterful hymnals being produced on single desktops and being distributed through digital channels.

And keep in mind that this is all in the last five years. Ten years ago, such things would have been unthinkable. This truly is a new world and it is refashioning the Church that is ever old and ever new.

This is all glorious but this is not just a story of the triumphant of one side of the debate above music. Just as crucial is that everyone involved in this world has left their respective isolated sectors and started talking to each other and thereby drawing from each other’s experience to improve what they are doing.

Think of all the material progress that came to the world in the mass migrations out of the countryside and into the city. Since the early middle ages, this has been a trend that coincided with the rise of new levels of prosperity. This not because the city automatically makes wealth. It is because people in the city can talk, learn, share, and test new ideas against old ones. Ideas flourish in the city because their is a larger pool of thoughts that everyone can draw from and apply. The end of intellectual isolation is the beginning of progress.

In the digital age, all Catholic musicians have moved to the city. We are newly aware that there is a huge Church out there and we are all desperately in need of stimulating conversation so that we can do a better job at what we do. Praise musicians have found themselves talking to chant experts and being forced to come to terms with Church legislation and history, as well as the demands of the liturgy for decorum and dignity. Chant musicians have realized that if they wanted to make progress they had to do more than hold implacably strict poses; they had to speak to the whole Church in the modern world and adapt their message and their presentations of the music in light of current realities.

In the course of all of this, we have made new discoveries of our relative ignorance of this huge area of the faith, and found that we need to draw on the insights and experiences of everyone else. We have found new opportunities to learn and to listen to each other. The chant expert has realized that perhaps the guitar strummer is on to something with his or her desire for the music at Mass to connect with people in a meaningful way. The strummer has realized that the text of the Mass does indeed matter and that style is not something wholly arbitrary and external to the liturgical structure.

All this talking and communicating has been good for us all, personally and spiritually. It has led to more tolerance, more civility, more humility. We no longer need to proceed forth with the secret desire to destroy each other; we have a much greater appreciation of our mutual dependence on every point of view in the course of finding our way toward the ideals that the Church has laid out for us.

Back in the 1960s, Msgr. Francis P. Schmitt would often express profound frustration that serious chant musicians spent more time arguing with each other over rhythm theories and other minutia than they did actually working toward their larger goals. Msgr. Richard Schuler often echoed this concern.

They were absolutely right about this. As the musicians argued with each other, their world was falling apart around them. It’s almost as if they could not see the big picture for the focus on their own tiny slice of life. The only way this could have happened is for their communication and their awareness to have been limited. They had sealed themselves off from the larger Church and world, thinking that all would be well so long as they burrowed down and kept propounding the teaching. Meanwhile, everyone else moved on.

A similar kind of myopia affected the musical establishment as it came to be in the 1980s and1990s. The big publishers kept producing their copyrighted manuscripts and collecting their royalties while figuring that their was no credible opposition to the domination of the liturgy by pop music of their own creation. They fooled themselves into believing that anyone who complains about what had happened to Catholic music was surely some old codger who will be dead in a few years. Unknowingly, they too had sealed themselves up into a tiny sector that was sealed off from larger trends in the Church and the world.

Now they wake up to a new world in which their paradigm is being seriously questioned by Catholic thinkers and musicians of all ages and at all levels of the Church. At first they bristled. But now they are listening. And this is the first stop to genuine learning and improvement. In fact, we now live in a world in which Catholic musicians from all over the world are listening, sharing, learning, improving.

We all need to do this. This does not mean that all points of view will be compromised to become a giant opinion blob or that everyone must avoid arguments and differences. Communication can also mean sharpening a point of view, improving in in light of criticism, refining an intellectual point of view or a practice in light of objections that come our way. I know that my own convictions concerning chant have only intensified as I’ve tangled with its opponents, and, in this sense, every interlocutor has been my benefactor.

In the end, we musicians must all strive to be servants of the liturgy and its divine purpose. No one person has the one correct way that applies to every cultural context, every parish, every person in the pew. We must stay engaged, talk to each other, test our dogmas and theories against practical realities, be open to new approaches, and maintain the broadness of mind that keeps us all thinking about the future.

We’ve never been presented with better opportunities to share. This is why I’m wildly optimistic about the future of Catholic music. May we all continue to use communication and openness to ward off pride, myopia, and sectarianism, those great killers of progress.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ubi Caritas et amor

Someone might know the composer here. It is a beautiful arrangement of Ubi Caritas, performed at an ecumenical prayer service at the Augustinian Convent, Erfurt, during the Pope's Apostolic Journey to Germany.

The Roman Rite in Germany!

From the Papal Mass in Domplatz: the proper communion chant.

"Thou lovest justice and hatest wickedness. Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee."

It looks to me like they are singing from a blown up copy of the Graduale Triplex with hand copies verses on the right. This is a great illustration of the merit of having the Triplex online, so that other groups can produce similar editions.

The Origin and Spread of Chant

This French video features many stars of the Gregorian chant world.

It is in French but still very enjoyable if you can't understand the words. Most interesting is to compare the variety of styles of singing chant, with rhythmic variety and the introduction of harmonizations. We have here some beautiful demonstrations of the purest and fluid approach of the "old Solesmes" school and the most elaborate and speculative of modern schools.

In the 8th century, the Cantors traveled to monasteries throughout Europe to teach a unified Gregorian chant , named after a greatpope. But to spread this chant wider,one needed to write it down .. How to this write music? How to design the vocals?? With the greatest contemporary scholars, musicologists, singers, monks and nuns,we discover the fascinating history of this treasure of Western catholic Christain heritage, its cultural, artistic and historical depth of its spirituality.

Liber Brevior Back in Print

Today's scholas working within the ordinary form have a great appreciation for The Gregorian Missal, which provides most all the music they need for Sundays and Feasts throughout the year.

Before The Gregorian Missal there was the Liber Brevior, which I believe came out in the 1950s. It shortened the vast resources available in the Liber Usualis to just what the schola needed to sing at Mass. So 2000 pages became 800 pages, and it is a very nice size print. I'm not sure how widely circulated the book was at the time, but it is pretty clear that the Gregorian Missal is based on this model.

The good people at Preserving Christian Publications have now reprinted the Liber Brevior, and this is a wonderful thing. It is a fraction of the price of the Liber Usualis, and mostly meets all the needs of a schola that sings for the extraordinary form. It includes only Masses for Sundays, so you avoid the bulk and complexities of the full Graduale and you don't have to sort through all the extras you find in the Liber Usualis.

This is a very helpful and nice resource, and the price is really right. The editions of music of course are stable across all of these books - all of them prepared by the monks of Solesmes. This makes singing at Mass a straight-forward matter.

And if you are good at calendar conversions, you could use this at the ordinary form too.

And congratulations to PCP for doing all of this. There can be much money in this work, and yet their prices are reasonable and their quality first rate.

You can buy the Liber Brevior here.

Simple Gradual Per Annum

Peter A. Kwasniewsk has sent us a resource he uses at Wyoming Catholic College. It is a book of simple antiphons and hymns for the Church year, set up for bookfold, so you have to print and staple. It has some very useful material.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Live Again

You can examine them all yourself here. It is extraordinary.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Simple English Propers, 27th Sunday

The Simple English Propers are available for free download with no restriction on copying:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

High Fashion in the Church?

If you want to make some people's blood pressure go through the roof, it seems all you have to do is show them a picture of Raymond Cardinal Burke in a cappa magna. For those of you who are not familiar with this rather large and cumbersome piece of ecclesiastical haberdashery, it is a very ample choir cape with a long train. The train part, which is usually carried by a cleric, was fifteen feet long, until Pius XII shortened it to a more manageable seven feet. Interestingly enough, Blessed John XXIII, the same Pope the soi-disant progressives invoke as the prophet who sang a new church into being, lengthened it back to fifteen meters. The 1969 Pauline reforms of the rather complex hierarchical dress code made it optional.

As with most things made optional, many bishops and cardinals dispensed with the use of the cappa magna entirely. So when it is seen now and again, there are howls of protests against the wearers, who are invariably accused of taking the Church back to a mythical dark age which was not as bright as the accusers convince themselves it could be if everyone just listened to them. Such an article of clothing is derided as extravagant, aristocratic, too far out of touch with modern democratic sensibilities, and a flagrant proof of narcissism on behalf of the wearer.

These same criticisms are made against a whole host of other things which have dropped out of use, such as the papal tiara or the sedia gestatoria, the throne upon which the Pope was carried into papal ceremonies. What is ironic is that the detractors do not seem to notice that Paul VI, who can hardly be accused of being one not intent on modernization, sold the tiara, not abolishing it, and used the sedia. John Paul I, during his brief reign as Pope, also used the sedia, and no one seems to want to dig him up and put him on trial for crimes against modern humanity. Benedict XVI has removed the papal tiara from his personal coat of arms, but now he is being accused of anti-ecumenical sentiments by British journalists for wearing a stole with a papal tiara on it, even though no one seemed to notice for the other six years he has worn the same stole.

The rage with which some very angry people fault the Church for not being simple and poor is uneven: it is a stick brandished at figures of the administration of Pope Benedict who do not heel to the Zeitgeist, conveniently glossing over the fact that some of the same people they virtually canonize as the heralds of the new, simple and poor church used the same things and did not ever proscribe them.

But the question does remain: what is the point of fifteen meters of red silk? Does it not send a message that the Church does not identify with the simplicity of the Gospel? And of so, is it not positively a scandal which should be excised from the Church’s actuality and memory?

There are several things which we might want to keep in consideration here.

1. The Sacred Liturgy is a public rite by which certain participants perform certain functions at certain times, functions which are signified visually and externally by actions, gestures, and vesture.

The rigid egalitarianism of our contemporary public life discerns, in the Orders part of her divinely constituted essence and liturgical roles as developed through her history, exclusivity and discrimination. At its root, the critique of certain vesture is an attack on the fact that the Church recognizes those who wear that vesture as different, set apart, and even, in the case of the ministerial priest, ontologically changed as a result of a sacrament. A view of the Church which refuses the distinction between lay and ordained will level out any physical manifestation of those distinctions. The greater the distinction is highlighted, the greater the critique.

2. The Sacred Liturgy is an action of the whole Church, but one in which the role of the hierarchal order is visible, and not merely present.

Many people reject certain forms of vesture because they feel it somehow denigrates those who are not so attired, as if it makes them second class in the Church. But the liturgy is an action of the whole Church. Nonetheless, there remain elements of that same liturgy which are not, and cannot, be celebrated by all members of the Church indistinctly. The hierarchical nature of the Church is made visible by certain actions, gestures and vesture, which indicate not only the rank of the wearer (dalmatics for deacons and mitres for bishops, for example) but also the sacred character of objects associated with divine worship (kissing hands, rings, and cruets) as well as the solemnity due to an event (the cappa magna or ferraiolo for particularly festive occasions).

Rejection of the visible signs of the hierarchy is often justified because of the lack of those signs in previous ages. But although the visible signs have changed, they have always been there. The need for the Church to assert its independence in the face of the State in some places in the Middle Ages led to the adoption of certain elements which were taken from secular court etiquette, precisely to demonstrate that the Church was its own sphere. In our own day, when the distinction between the ministerial and common priesthood has been denied, it is necessary that these distinctions continue to be visible. In an age which had other concerns, these distinctions were not as important, which explains their lack in earlier periods.

3. The Sacred Liturgy is governed by an ethos which is symbolic and not amenable to manipulation by political concerns.

The grammar of the liturgy, the structure by which ecclesiastical ceremonial is intelligible, is highly symbolic, allegorical and is part of a highly developed received tradition throughout the ages. The liturgy has a grammar which is not easily understood by many today, who seek an impoverishment of the liturgy by making it flat, univocal, immediately accessible, and literal. The liturgical pauperist does not understand or appreciate this grammar and does not conceive how the believer can live at one and the same time in a liturgical world with its own language and narrative, symbolic, allegorical and hierarchical, and the everyday world with another language, with no unifying narrative, literal, flat and egalitarian. The liturgical pauperist opts for the everyday world to the exclusion of any other world and demands that the ethos of the liturgy be conformed to that standard, and not the standard natural to it. Because the grammar of the everyday world is frequently political, the way in which the Church confronts the world, whether it be in the liturgy or in life, must be brought into conformity with is viewed as acceptable in the polis. What is acceptable in the naos is no longer a criterion to be considered.

The idea that the liturgy has its own internal grammar unrelated to the world is crucial. When it is denied, interesting things happen. Take, for example, the virtual disappearance of the amice (a symbol of the protection of the wearer from the Evil One), the maniple (of suffering, a sign of the ascetical walk of the Christian life) and the cincture (of chastity) and the frequent placement of the stole (sign of priestly authority) over or instead of the chasuble (sign of charity which covers all things). According to the grammar of the liturgy, the omission or the re-placement of these vestments has serious symbolic import. To a politicized grammar of the liturgy, they are all merely unrelated symbolic anachronisms which can be used or not according to the whim of the wearer. In contrast, the grammar of the liturgy, declined as it is according to the hierarchical nature of the Church, places all of these things in a proper order, established under the authority of the Church, and respected by everyone in communion with the Church for their role in the liturgy.

Interestingly enough, the politicization of the grammar of the liturgy has not led to an iconoclasm against symbolism in the Church. The realization that the means is the message leads many liturgical pauperists to craft a parallel language of symbolism or determine readings of symbols within the Church tradition in a key so as to invest them with political meaning and force. For example, in many places during Lent sand replaces holy water in the font to create a symbol which is alien to the Church’s rites. In other places, the traditional symbolical usages of the Church are derided, such as the adoption of the cassock by clerics, as anti-modern, anti-ecumenism, and anti-woman, when it is understand by a proper liturgical grammar, independent of political manipulations, as death to the world.

4. The Sacred Liturgy develops the visible livery of its rites in an organic development, never returning to the archaic for the sake of antiquarianism, nor proscribing the actual for the sake of relevance.

Pius XII warned against “antiquarianism” in those who sought to re-propose the externals of the liturgy in a way reminiscent of the ancient Church, with a view to, in so doing, renew the Church to a supposed purer internal form of the Church putatively existing at the time. Ironically, many use Pius XII’s argument against those who would now use vestments which they see as being uniquely post-Tridentine, charging them of antiquarianism. The adoption of Baroque chasubles, lace albs and cappas is rejected as antiquarian just as the adoption of conical chasubles, Gothic architecture, and appareled amices was rejected in the nineteenth century. The liturgy realizes that such externals grow up organically with the Church’s lived experience, and as such, are part of the common patrimony of the Church’s worship. They are always actual and never in danger of being archaic, because the liturgy is always ever ancient, ever new. It is for that reason that those externals which exist, even when they have transformed their external form and function throughout the ages (ombrellini for the Blessed Sacrament, candles on the altar to provide light, raincoat to ornately decorated cope) or cease to be common (the 15 branch candlestick for Tenebrae, the straw for reception of the Precious Blood) need not be proscribed. They certainly need not be proscribed, or prescribed, because of any presence or lack of relevance, which is not a category meaningful for the liturgy. When arguments are advanced for the prohibition of rites, vesture and music (as opposed to their legitimate reform), that indicates a politicization of the proper grammar of the liturgy.

5. The Sacred Liturgy is a place in which the arts can embellish everything in which the sacred touches the human, and such is not a transgression of evangelical simplicity but a translation of the inner wealth of Revelation to the Church which celebrates that Revelation.

There is a current which demands that, for the Church to be a credible witness to divine truth, she must model her externals as much as possible on the primitive Church gathered around Christ. Anything else is criticized as a damnable excrescence. Yet, the fount of reform is when Christians model their interior life on the virtues of Christ as experienced by the primitive Church, not on the externals. Yet because the Church exists in time, the development of her externals testifies to the way she unfolds the riches of Revelation in a visible way. She does so in many ways: principally through the witness of the saints, but secondarily through the artistic patrimony of the Church. Men and women have been inspired throughout the ages to create works of art for the service of the Church, from grand basilicas and precious chalices to simple lace handtowels and Offertory motets. In doing so, artists provide an invaluable treasure to humanity. They take the invisible content of Revelation, the encounter with Christ, and translate it through the analogy of art to something visible, beautiful, and human. The interior riches of Revelation become in some way vehicles for divine teaching. As such, the Church is the patron of the arts. And the common human patrimony which is the art used in the service of the Church is not something which can be liquidated on the demands of pressure groups who seek to bring into being a pure Church by condemning the visible manifestations of that faith.

In the beginning of this article, we asked the question: High fashion in the Church? It is very clear that the Church has inspired great art. That art is put to use in many ways, not least of which is in the adornment of her sacred ministers. For some, this is permissible because such art is a truly human work and the Church as such is the patron of such art. High fashion, then, is to be prized as part of the Church’s heritage.

But the concept of high fashion is a distinctly modern invention. To the extent that it had any genesis at all, Coco Chanel can be perhaps proposed as the woman who made possible an entire world of art through clothes. The art which accompanies sacred ministers, whether it be an Ecce Sacerdos magnus as the Ordinary is greeted at the door of a church or the graceful pleats of a monk’s cuculla may seem to some like high fashion in the Church. For some, this is permissible inasmuch as art is part of the Church’s life. For others, it is to be rejected as contrary to the purity of the Gospel.

When I was a younger man, I found what I thought was high fashion in the Church to be arrestingly beautiful. I became quite an expert on it, at least in my own mind. For me, it was a way in which tradition, art, beauty, the human and the sacred could all blend to make the Church in her dizzying complexity come across as an ordered whole. It still is. But now that I actually have to wear some of those clothes, now that I speak day in and day out conversant with the liturgy, on its own terms, my stance has changed.

All of these things make up part of the grammar of the liturgy. Not all of them have the same importance, and none of them are divinely revealed. When seen within the context of a liturgy which speaks its own language, they take their proper proportions. They do not risk the eclipse of the truth of the faith by mere externalism. In fact, I realize that no man in his right mind, not even the most effete fashionista in the hierarchy, is going to continue for long to be obsessed with the externals of the Christian religion, especially when confronted with the real needs of the people in his pastoral care. The externals are accepted, they are used as they are meant to be used, they are done well, and all in their place. When I am wearing the heaviest cloth of gold chasuble in Christendom, my thought is not, “Don’t I look good?” but “When can I get this thing off?” But I do not reject it. It has its place, and I use it as it is meant to be used, as a small part of a whole grammar of the liturgy.

But when the many-faceted language of the liturgy decays into a flat dialect of political extraction, no proportions can be seen. Even when the hierarchy employ the fullness of the externals of the faith in consonance with the tradition of the homeland, all the foreigner can understand is, “it’s all about you, isn’t it?”

I am in no position to divine Cardinal Burke’s thoughts on the cappa magna. But the fact of his wearing it points to the great humility it takes to enter into the totality of the liturgy, and to listen to its inner voice, a multi-layered harmony in which there are many parts, not all as important as the others, but which, together, tune the music of the spheres. When we reduce the grammar of the liturgy to mere high fashion or when we cut and paste from it according to our own criteria, the result is cacophony.

(H/T to New Liturgical Movement for the picture of His Eminence at Fontgambault)

The Long-Suffering Benedict XVI

Sorry to be late on this but I've only now familiarized myself with the sad, sad spectacle of the Papal Mass in Berlin where the Pope was savaged with outbursts of 80s rock music that included screaming guitars and sexy soprano sax ballads. Sample here. I guess these people didn't get the memo, or they did and tore it up. The advance crew can only do so much, as we learned from the American experience a few years ago. It wasn't all terrible. The Mass setting was overblown and forgettable but not offensive (you can here samples here). But the best part, as Fr. Z shows, were the traditional dialogues and "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" sung by everyone. As every prelate knows, in the enforcement of norms, there is a balance to be achieved between charity and justice. You do what you can when you can.

Here is one example of utterly pointless expenditure, overblown and pompous with absolutely no added value of having a single cantor alone sing this Alleluia. Even better: learn an Alleluia in the Graduale.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Simple Antiphons for the Feast the Archangels

Because this Thursday's Feast of Michael, Gabriel and Raphel, Archangels was not covered in the Simple English Propers, I am offereing here a set of simple antiphon settings for free download.


In particular, the Sister Servants of the Eternal Word in Birmingham, Alabama have asked for these since they have begun to sing the SEP regularly in their community and were in need of propers for this Feast that is so dear to them.

Please note in these settings (which are a draft from a forthcoming project soon to be announced) that the antiphons specifically are crafted for congregational singing. The texts are short, usually two lines, and rarely three or four, which allows for the congregation to respond easily after the intonation of a cantor. The cantor can then sing verses from a psalm with all responding at each repetition of the antiphon, very much like our common practice of Responsorial Psalm singing.

Because the topic of GIRM 48 and 87 so often appears in comment box conversations at the Chant Café, it will be of interest to note that this method of singing the propers allows, perhaps to the greatest degree possible, the most literal fidelity to these rubrics. While the singing of the propers by the choir alone is very much allowed here, and even implied by the fact that the chants of the Graduale Romanum are in the first option (which has never been congregational music), in the rubric on how the chants of the Entrance and Offertory are to be sung the people are encouraged to sing 3 of the 4 times: "This chant is sung alternately by the choir and the people or similarly by a cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone."

It should be noted that the above rubric only applies to the Entrance and Offertory chants, while GIRM 87, pertaining to the Communion Chant, gives a much greater responsibility to the choir alone: "This is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or a cantor with the people."

So I would ask you to consider these antiphons and consider if they, and others like them, both proper and often seasonal, would help your congregation sing the antiphons of the liturgical books in dialogue with the choir or cantor. Many desire to achieve this in their parishes. Perhaps we are close to having more resources that will help make this achievable (i.e. STAY TUNED!).

Those wonderful Taipei Chamber Singers

I'm just so taken with this amazing group. Here they are singing Byrd with a guess conductor - singing the piece that I fear is essentially impossible of our group at this point.

Super Flumina Babylonis: Offertory for 26th Sunday

Happy day: the offertory antiphon for Sunday is "Super Flumina Babylonis" and some of the most remarkable music of the Renaissance sets this text, which means that the proper of the Mass can be sung polyphonically in any number of settings.

Our choir knows this one by Palestrina, so this is what we will sing. Thank you Taipei Singers for a loving and passionate performance! Can we import you to our parish for a tomorrow performance? Note the memorization of all music, and the work-of-art style of conducting. Absolutely wonderful.

However, youtube turns up others, such as this marvel by Philippe de Monte - yet another composer of the period with whom I'm unfamiliar. Embedding disabled sadly but go away.

And here is Victoria

Finally, for those who love this exotic sound of Charpentier here is a version you will not very likely hear in liturgy in your lifetime.

The Café Never Closes

While considering what exactly I wanted to say in this post, I remembered reading an amazing essay I believe was composed by young Marc Barnes, the purveyor of BadCatholic Blog that typified virtually all of the traits and aspects that are most toxic about the Catholic Blogospheres. If someone can locate this article and provide a link, I’d be greatly in your debt. It needs to be read by any habitués, casual or calcified, of cyber-Catholicism.

Recently, Jeffrey provided me a golden opportunity to review a Mass setting that crossed his desk that caught his eye, Mass of the Mediatrix by Dr. Patrick O’Shea. And that was a gift that is going to keep on giving, as we read it thoroughly in rehearsal last week, and it confirmed that yes, Virginia, there are great Catholic composers out there not named Kevin Allen. (Joke, just a joke.) But as Jeffrey, myself and others took note, this setting’s pedigree line is tenuous, at best, to the chant ethos; it is decidedly a choral Mass, an incredibly worthy, singable and beautiful choral Mass.

In my review of the Glory, I made a very slight observation that I didn’t quite understand the necessity in the very opening phrase to have the soprano/alto sections singing “Glory to God in the highest,” while the tenor/bass voices omit “in the” ostensibly to set up the suspension in the tenors cleanly. I get that. I’ve done that in my composed companion Gloria to Proulx’s Oecumenica Mass with the women declaiming “You are seated at the right hand of the Father” and the men following in canon, but with “You are …. at the right hand of the Father.” These are the oblique concerns involved with multi-part text setting that, as Jake (Tawney?) pointed out below composers have had to figure out how to parce out since polyphony made its- (choose one) 1. ruinous; 2. miraculous- debut, doubtless first in what is now “France.”

Now to the point. This enterprise, the Chant Café, emerged onto the LitBlog scene to be a forum for the sharing of experiences, methods, repertoires, mentoring, events of interest and whatnot, mostly for those who subscribe to a pretty well-articulated body of beliefs about how well “chant” functions as a servant to liturgy. In the intervening years, the Café has been remodeled any number of ways, and I’ve always tried to do my part to uphold the aspect of it openly and firmly remaining a safe haven for those who live the words of St. Augustine, "Cantare amantis est."

When we venture far from the hospitality and charity that are intrinsic and self-evident in the world of “chant,” we need to carefully tread because the forms of music that other folks prefer does not, per se, eliminate them from among those who also believe “to sing is to love.” And we must also recognize that should we engage in dialogue, criticism or derision of other musical forms within this “café” environment, that logically it follows that we are unwittingly allowing those forms to be legitimately named “cantus,” or we are opening ourselves up to be decried for duplicity or hypocrisy when it is publicly known that we chant adherents also make “accommodations” within the scope of liturgical rubrical precision on a weekly basis, and in banner “event” Masses as well.

I’m not advocating that we habitués of the café stand for nothing, or should refrain from advocating that which is best and brightest to help all interested parties, not just stereotyped encampments we casually dub “reform2” or “ex-liberal, nee conservative old hippies,” pursue a greater interest in plainsong, Gregorian and other chant forms. I am advocating that we present a welcoming face to any and all who cross the threshold of our little shop, and that we make every effort to insure we never become a “little shop of horrors.”
 Pax Christi et Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Ave Maria by Arcadelt

The singer of was struck by how unusual this piece is by Jacob Arcadelt (c. 1507 – 14 October 1568). I agree that there seems to be something suspiciously modern about it - even if it is incredibly beautiful. One wonders about 18th or 19th century reworkings. There has to be some scholarship on this.

Question: How Did This Obtain ICEL/USCCB Approval?

Many people are asking how Dan Schutte's Mass of Christ the Savior obtained approval. The Gloria does the usual trick of mangling the text into an antiphon/response structure but, even more alarming, it changes the liturgical text: "Glory to God in the highest / and on earth / peace on earth / peace to people of good will."

At the very least, singing the wrong text doesn't seem like a good way to learn a new text.

Rethinking the Hymnal - Completely

For years I’ve heard the lamentations. Why can’t Catholics seem to put together a decent hymnal? We have all these companies, all these attempts, thousands of products available, warehouses of liturgical resources, pews stuffed with things, paper flying every which way. And yet, even after all this, there is no hymnal to compare with the clarity and competence that is so obvious in the book in the pews at the local Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian Church. Even the Mormons do a better job of packaging the songs of their faith for the people to sing at Sunday gatherings.

I can recall the very first exposure I had to what is laughingly called the Catholic hymnal and the practice of singing hymns. It was a small parish in Texas near the East coast. It might have been the first time I had entered a Catholic Church since I was an 8-year-old assistant to an organ repairman. I had started to develop an actual interest in the faith. The sheer shabbiness of the throw-away missallete and the seemingly universal refusal on the part of the people to sing a note startled me. Nothing has really changed in the intervening years. It’s the same most anywhere in conventional parishes: poor resources, silly music, and silent people.

I must be missing something, I thought. Well, over the years, I’ve developed a wide ranging theory that more-or-less removes responsibilities from the publishers, and I still think there is some validity here. Catholics are not historically a hymn-singing people as regards Mass. The Divine Office is another matter, but community participation in the Office has not been part of the Catholic experience for many generations. Mass is what Catholics today do, and the Mass isn’t a vessel that intrinsically calls for hymns. They will always be external to the liturgy itself, and Catholics are only responding to this reality. It is the ordinary chants, the propers, and the dialogues that are to be sung.

Further, and unlike Protestants, Catholics have never developed the practice of singing in parts and that must explain why these hymnbooks only have the melody line. There’s also the problem of the relatively recent change to the vernacular, which left the Catholics without their Latin-hymn heritage and introduce opportunities for second-rate song writers to foist their untested 70s kitsch on the faithful.

There are a number of problems with the theory. The biggest one is that there is a massive demand for a good hymnal that is not throw away, includes all readings, has good arrangements of English hymns, includes some Latin hymnody, has the Mass propers, has quality Psalmody, has solid chant in Latin and English, and otherwise offers theologically reliable texts of dignified hymns that people can sing. A hymnal is not a magic solution to the problems of bad Catholic music but it can vastly improve a parish.

Why haven’t publishers met this demand? They’ve had nearly half a century, and yet you have to dig and dig to find anything that is even presentable beside a protestant pew resource.

Right now, there are bad and not-so-bad options. If your parish gets roped into one of the bad options, years of disaster can follow. It really is true, however strange, that people refer to parishes by which publisher own them. People call this parish an “OCP parish,” that parish a “GIA parish,” and another as a “WLP parish.” You can be one of the three, some worse than others.

When out of town I like to tour parishes, and I can discern all I need to know by looking at the hymn racks. If anyone asks my opinion about what a parish should do, I always say: save your money and don’t get a hymnal at all. The readings are in English, so why do we need a book that repeats them? The Psalms can be downloaded for free. All the music of the Mass is free online in fact. As for hymns, many sites have public domain hymns for recessionals or post-communions. You can always make weekly pew aids. Rather than risk being owned by a publishers, it’s better to just do without.

Our own schola in my parish does without. We now plan liturgy without any recourse to the hymnal. This has saved us endless hours of frustration over crazy music, bad theology in texts, terrible arrangements, goofy Psalms, pathetic Mass settings, and more. We are free, and now the Roman Rite speaks for itself.

I’ve not had much luck in persuading pastors of this opinion. Taking the hymn-free option does indeed require some degree of musical expertise. You have to be pretty savvy to know how to pull it off. Not everyone can do this. New pastors who don’t entirely trust their music staff still need a hymnal just to work as a filtering device, and many pastors believe that the people do indeed need something to look at during Mass.

In this case, I’m happy to report that after half a century, there is now a viable alternative. The book is the Vatican II Hymnal. It is published by Corpus Watershed. This is not a big publisher. It is actually one person, and his name is Jeffrey Ostrowski. He has virtually no money at all, but tons of talent and passion. Alone, he has done this hymnal. I find this completely amazing.

Peter Kwasniewski wrote the following about his review copy: “How fitting, as this hymnal represents nothing short of a total elevation of the musical level of Catholic worship in a way the English-speaking world has never seen -- before OR after the Council. Instead of sappy, sentimental stuff (as in too many preconciliar low Mass hymnals), it offers an excellent selection of poetically and theologically robust hymns. And refreshingly, unlike most postconciliar hymnals, there are no self-referential pop-song imitations. The rest of the hymnal is filled out with a diversity of highly useful material. What blows me away particularly is the inclusion of the entire Lectionary for Sundays and Feastdays. In one fell swoop, this hymnal obviates the need to pay big bucks to throw-away hymnal manufacturers (and, incidentally, fill dumpsters with environmental waste each year as the copyright runs out). All the readings are there; good responsorial psalms settings are there; the texts of the propers are there; the order of Mass. In short, this hymnal is a masterpiece.”

Another reader said: “wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.” An astute older musician said “It is beyond comprehension how our young lions (of both genders) have virtually, single-handedly revolutionized the editorial process of compiling worthy hymnals and propers collections.” And yet another reader said: “the book really is a beautiful work! The excerpts that Jeffrey kindly shared with us in advance isn't quite the same as actually seeing it in-hand. This ought to come in editions with ribbon bookmarks and gilded pages! The book certainly doesn't suffer from a lack of content — my gosh, just about everything is in here. Every accent, every translation, every explanation and alternative ending and twenty-plus different Mass settings and references to online resources! Bravo! And I will be sharing this with my pastor for his consideration!”

For emphasis, please consider what this means. This book was done not by some old, bureaucratized, mechanized, industrialized publishing house. It was done by one person working alone and crowd sourcing the review process online. It uses mostly public domain resources. It has full approval from the USCCB, which he obtained in record time. Everything in here is 100% reliable. The whole enterprise is truly astonishing.

I don’t want to take away anything from other valuable attempts in this past but this book really is different, mainly because of the inclusion of readings, propers, and a full English-Latin Kyriale, plus excellent hymn layout. It does indeed raise the bar. It is the perfect marriage of the old faith with modern technology. Jeffrey is an excellent musician with a lifetime of experience, and he has finally put together his dream hymnal. That same dream is shared by many.

Now that it is available, I among many others will be curious to see what happens. Will it become a bestseller in the Catholic world? Many people are watching very carefully. You can order for $19 by calling 810.388.9500 or by visiting

Twenty Days but a Hinge of History

Palestrina's most famous Mass was written for Pope Marcellus II, who ruled for only 20 days.

L'Osservatore Romano pays tribute.

Phoenix on Communion under Both Kinds

Despite the hysteria this has generated, I'm happy that the Diocese of Arizona has chosen to take the first step that competent theologians and liturgists have urged for decades: the restoration of the traditional Roman Rite practice of the laity's receiving, under normal conditions, communion under one form only. I'm aware of all the contrary arguments, but, in the end, I find it very disturbing that most Catholics today are very much under the impression that full communion is not realized unless the laity receive under both forms. I've heard this view propounded many times in the classroom and pulpit. The view tends to reinforce the belief that communion is little more than a special meal served to the community. This belief is directly contradictory to the clear statement in the Catechism of the Council of Trent: "If anyone says that each and all the faithful of Christ are by a precept of God or by the necessity of salvation bound to receive both species of the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, let him be anathema."

That is our history. That is the teaching. There is good reason for it.

Yes it is true that people love communion under both kinds. I don't know why that preference should prevail against Catholic teaching.

Alium Music

Iam Williams has put together a nice site to distribute liturgical music. See Alium Music.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Vatican II Hymnal: Ready for Shipping

The Vatican II Hymnal is the dream of millions of Catholics. Note that it has been done by one person and is being distributed by a poor non-profit with no employees. One of the great ironies of history, isn't it? In any case, here it is. If you care about music in the Catholic Church, you must own at least one, but a better idea is to send the link to the pastor.

Here is more information.

Victoria Requiem

English Psalm Tones

I don't think there is anywhere else you can download these wonderful sheets of English Psalm tones:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Msgr. Wadsworth opens up at Christendom College

“I would suggest that if we were to characterize those two different approaches, the current translation is a bit flat,” he said. “The ideas are there, but they've sort of been squashed. In the new translation, they are re-inflated. They have something of the natural balance that is evident in the Latin. The phrases balance each other perfectly, the ideas are well presented, and you get a greater sense of what the prayer is about.”

This looks like an interesting address, one that appears more spontaneous and detailed than other recent lectures. The full text can be downloaded at itunes at a link from Christendom.

26th Sunday of the Year

Because people continue to request these video/audio presentations every week, from the Simple English Propers:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ATHLETA PATRIAE A Tribute to Professor László Dobszay (1935-2011)

Thanks NLM

Athleta Patriae - A Tribute to Professor Laszlo Dobszay (1935-2011)

Monday, September 19, 2011

"Balmy, Dulcet Sounds...woven into Gregorian Chant Form"

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on a concert series taking place today and tomorrow in Salt Lake City's Catholic Cathedral. The concert is described as offering "the balmy, dulcet sounds of classical music standards woven into Gregorian chant form, all in the unspeakable visual grace and splendor of Salt Lake City’s Cathedral of the Madeleine."

The short article closes with the thought: "Early church music represents some of the first — some would say finest — music of the western world, and Utah Chamber Artists rarely disappoint."

The Cathedral of the Madeline will host the Sacred Music Colloquium of the Church Music Association of America from June 25-July 1, 2012.

The Word of God in Liturgy and the Church

One of things that I thank God for is that I was born within an observant Baptist family, if for no other reason that when I became a Catholic, the grace for which I thank God the most for, I already had a tremendous foundation in the Bible that made my experience of Catholicism richer. I have often in these twenty years since I left for the land of milk and honey looked back upon the onions and leeks of Nashville with fondness, so much so that I took the spoils of the Canaanites with me into the Promised Land. I received from them, not only knowledge, but a method of how to study Scripture and apply it to my life. It also has made me think a lot about the place of Scripture in liturgy and the life of the Church.

Evangelical Pedagogy

As most of you know, for the evangelical, there is only the Word. There are no sacraments. And in 500 years, the evangelicals have developed a pretty effective pedagogy by which their people learn the Word of God. It is direct, simple, and free of unnecessary theological speculation. The idea is to let the Word speak for itself to the person. This is done by private reading of Scripture in the home, Bible study at home and in the church, and preaching.

One of the most interesting things you will note is that almost the whole of an evangelical Sunday or Wednesday night service is taken up by the sermon. And that sermon can take well over an hour, and more in some places. A pastor’s sermons are collectively referred to as his “teaching” and it is clear that those who hear him are there to learn. Everyone brings their Bibles and a pen, and it is not unusual to see people taking notes in their Bible or in a separate notebook for that purpose.

Often the teaching is centered around a small passage of Scripture which is usually read by the preacher at the beginning of the sermon. Evangelicals do not try to preach on the entire Bible in a year, even if some encourage everyone to read through the Bible in a year at home. The idea is simple: short passages of Scripture which are the central focus.

But the sermon is much more than a simple exegesis of one tiny passage. A good evangelical sermon will illuminate that passage with numerous other Biblical texts and relate the whole very directly to the Christian life of faith and morals. Stories, jokes, passages from other literature are often weaved in seamlessly as the preacher brings about a point. Often, however, his point will go on over a series of successive Sundays. The point evolves over time, and gradually becomes clear, all through the preaching on the text. Sometimes a preacher will take his hearers through an entire book of the Bible, and it is not unusual for him to take months or even a year on one book of the Bible. I still remember a vivid series on the Book of Revelation when I was a kid that took a year. But at the end of that year, I knew the book backwards and forwards and can still remember much of what I learned.

Does any of this have anything to teach Catholics? I think it does. As much as some older adults complain that, before Vatican II, no one read Scripture, Scripture reading and study is a large part of our Tradition that only needs to be recovered. The problem we are grappling with is: how? No contemporary Catholic would dream of having one hour long sermons on Sunday morning (although no one seemed to have a problem listening to St John Chrysostom in the 4th century or St Francis de Sales in the 17th century for hours on end). But is there something in the evangelical pedagogical method that is useful? Yes. We have to let the Word of God speak for itself in its own power and might. But we also have to get Catholics to understand that this will happen only to the extent that private Bible reading (guided by the Magisterium of the Church, of course!), study and prayer are part of it. Also, our presentation of the Bible has to be direct, simple, free from unnecessary theological speculations, and related to actual Christian life and practice today.

The Readings

When Catholics think of the Word of God, we automatically think of the Scripture readings at Mass. We think that the only objective of the homily is supposed to explain those readings. But in our Tradition, the Word did not become a Book, but Flesh. The Word of God is seen in Scripture and Tradition. It is celebrated, not only by the readings during a Eucharistic celebration, but in the life of the Incarnation in the world and most especially by the Word Made Flesh in the Real Presence of the Eucharistic species. The Incarnational aspect of the Catholic’s engagement with the Word of God is visible, in part, in the way in which the Church celebrates the Word. The ritual accompanying the reading of Scripture underscores its importance: singing the Word, carrying the Gospel Book in procession, incensing the Word. The way in which we engage the Word at Mass through the senses is inspiring and beautiful, and should be celebrated as well as possible always.

But strip away all of the externals surrounding the proclamation of the Word, and what do we have? The readings are not proposed willy-nilly, but according to a plan in conjunction with the Liturgical Year. The Catholic Church has always had such a plan, even though it has differed from place to place and time to time in parts. And that plan consists, not only of the readings at Mass, but also the special Antiphons which come at the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion, as well as those parts of the Scripture which make up the Ordinary of the Mass. The current plan which most Latin Rite Catholics follow was designed as part of what we now call the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. This plan was a response to the call of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council to offer richer fare at the Table of God’s Word.

It is true that, quantitatively, at least, more Scripture is read, during the Readings, at Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Mass than at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass which was most Latin Rite Catholic’s experience of the Mass before Vatican II. The organizing principle of the Plan behind that is for almost the entire Bible to be read on Sundays in a space of three years, and weekdays in a space of two. So the pericopes chosen are shoehorned into that scheme. Those responsible for making the Plan a reality sought to establish as many connections as possible between the Readings. Sometimes, however, the connections are forced. Also, the fact that the celebrant may often choose between an option to have a continuous reading on weekdays or choose another set of special chosen readings according to the liturgical calendar brings about the occasional odd juxtaposition of themes within one liturgical celebration.

What is the pedagogical method behind this Plan? Often the Ordinary Form is criticized for being too “didactic.” Even the arrangement of the readings according to a two and three year set of cycles is dismissed as being too pedagogical in and of itself. But, as we have noticed, our evangelical brethren, who do not have a ritual liturgical proclamation of the Readings, for pedagogical reasons, choose very short passages of Scripture as their central theme, around which other passages are used to illuminate it.

It is not clear if according to the Plan for the OF Lectionary, the same pedagogical method, which as we have seen, has its benefits, is employed. It would be understandable if, for example, the Gospel was always considered to be the main passage and the other readings proclaimed at Mass illuminated that Gospel pericope in some way, as through typology, for example. But it seems that the principles for the selection of the readings are the following: 1) we need to fit as much of the Bible into a cycle of two or three years as we can. 2) we need to arrange them so we have an Old Testament reading, a non-Gospel New Testament reading, and a Gospel reading, as well as a Psalm thrown in there too. 3) we will arrange them in such a way as that there seems to be a connection between them somehow.

The establishment of a connection across the readings comes at the end of the reasoning process, not at the beginning. It is for this reason, I contend that the Plan for the Lectionary in the OF is not pedagogical at all, or at least not pedagogically sound. The mere proclamation of more Scripture does not translate into greater understanding. Greater understanding can be had, without resource to explanation, only to the extent that a sound pedagogical method takes as its first principle one reading and the second principle the other readings which are connected with it by theme, typology, or theological verity. Such it is that Our LORD was able to illuminate words of the Hebrew Bible by His own Word.


Often Catholics think of preaching as the homily which explains the readings at Mass. Priests attempt to explain what the readings mean. Often they will ignore one or more of the readings appointed for any given day because he can find no obvious connection between them, or he forces a connection between them all. Each Sunday is seen as a discrete unit all to itself, and no attempt is made to set the appointed readings in the context of the other readings in previous or subsequent Sundays. He also attempts to do all of this in five or at most ten minutes. He might tell a joke or share a story, but because it is in Mass, he will generally respect the formal nature of the homily as a part of the Mass. And he will almost never preach outside of Mass.

I content that this situation is an unintended byproduct of Vatican II. Before Vatican II, the homily was not considered a part of the Mass. In fact, it was not considered essential, even on Sundays, although warmly encouraged. In some places, the priest took off, not only the maniple but also the chasuble, as a cue that this sermon was not a part of the Mass. But what has happened is that, the emphasis on the homily as an integral part of the Mass has led some priests to limit their preaching to Mass. It also has led many priests to preach when they probably should have not, because of illness, lack of preparation, lack of knowledge, or just plain lack of ability to speak clearly and properly.

The time issue is the first thing that must be addressed if the Word of God is to richly inform the homily. We are told that, because people’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter, we must preach less and less. Yet the same teenagers in our pew who can’t string two consecutive sentences together that have a logical connection between them can watch a two and a half hour movie rapt at attention. We often skimp on the homily because of fear of our own limitations. That, and the fact that the next Mass is in five minutes and the parking lot has to clear. So we do not teach our people the Word of God with calm and with a sure pedagogical method because of practicalities which could be re-arranged if we only have the courage to re-arrange them. We also have to spend time with Scripture and prepare our homilies well and in advance, as well as practice them. Composing them in our heads on the way to the ambo from the chair is not a way to preach!

Also, we must revisit the idea that the homily explains the readings at Mass. Often, this can become little more than an exercise in exegesis, with no application to the actual lives of people. How is the Word of God living and effective through a homily if it is little more than an academic exercise? Is that all it is, or something much more?

Also, there is precedent in Catholic Tradition for preaching outside Mass. Some priests will say, “I can’t even get them to Mass, how am I going to get them to another sermon?” But there have been other times in history when Catholics, who were not bound to come, did come, and sometimes in great numbers, to sermons held outside of Mass. Some Catholics would even come to Mass just to go to the sermon afterwards, especially during the Catholic Reformation and Patristic periods. If you preach well, they will come!

Sunday School

Often we give the Mass the burden of reading and explaining Scripture. Before Vatican II, for Protestants, religious education consisted of Sunday School for the whole family and for Catholics, the Baltimore Catechism for children preparing for sacraments. Sometimes there was more, but not often. In the Catholic Church, we have so closely linked religious education with the reception of the sacraments, that we have produced now generations of Catholics who are only barely catechized. And some are beginning to ask, Are they even evangelized?

I contend that the pastoral priority for the Catholic Church is to develop in every parish and diocese Christian formation for the whole family, for all the Church’s children of every age, and that this be, if not as important as Sunday Mass attendance, certainly next to it. In many places religious education, which once was memorizing the Baltimore Catechism, is now arts and crafts and self-esteem lessons.

Christian formation has to integrate the Scriptural and the catechetical, and be for all Catholics of any age, not just kids preparing for sacraments. There are various ways to do this: 1. adopt a primarily Scriptural model, into which is integrated the full catechetical program, for all ages. 2. adopt a primarily catechetical model, into which is integrated as much Scripture as possible. 3. a liturgical model, which integrates Scripture and catechesis into the liturgical year and celebrations. My preference is for the first. It was the way the Church Fathers did evangelization and catechesis and does not suppose such a huge gap between Scripture and Catechesis.

The Church Fathers, the evangelicals and the pre-Vatican II Church did have one good pedagogical method common to all of them: memorization. There is no reason why Catholics of all ages cannot memorize Bible passages and the Baltimore Catechism (which is a model of pedagogical soundness) in the context of a wider Christian formation which teaches Scripture, Catechesis, as well as spirituality and moral life. What has been separated out into distinct spheres for learning theology must be reunited together for Christian formation of all people.

Often Bible Studies for adults have been started in parishes. But they, along with the homilies, often do little more than repeat well-worn theories of Biblical scholars about how the text isn't really the text or about the socioeconomic situation of the time period. They also get lost in theological speculation, much of which is difficult to square with the teaching of the Church. At any rate, much of what passes for Bible Study in the Catholic Church, particularly in canned programs, is not direct, simple, and free of useless theological speculations. It doesn't help people get in touch with Scripture. But is there a way that can?

Lectio Divina and Collatio

In the seminary, every Monday night we gathered in the Chapel and sang the Veni creator spiritus. We would then hear the readings for the following Sunday proclaimed just as they would be proclaimed the next Sunday, ritually. Then, one of the seminary staff or a guest would give a conference on those readings. The speaker would often do a careful exegesis of the readings, bring in Church Fathers and theologians, and relate it to the life of the community. The seminarians would then go to their rooms and spend an hour praying over the readings. We would work with the Greek and Hebrew, use commentaries, write out the Scriptures in our hand, whatever we wanted to study those Scriptures.

Every day in the seminary we had a Eucharistic Holy Hour. Seminarians would often bring down their missals, Bibles and commentaries. Sometimes they would bring breviaries, rosaries or other spiritual books. But often part of that time in the Holy Hour was spent studying the Word of God, especially as it would be celebrated on Sunday. But some of us also used it to read the readings for the next day. On Fridays, we gathered in small groups, with a man from each year of the seminary, to discuss the readings and pray together. On Saturdays, the deacons would then meet with the Rector and do the same with him, often sharing what the other seminarians had come up with.

Many of the graduates of the Roman Seminary brought these traditions of lectio divina and collatio into their parishes and schools, often combined with a Eucharistic Holy Hour. Think of what it could bring to our American parishes: the lay faithful and clergy together studying the Scriptures for next Sunday, silently praying before the Blessed Sacrament, sharing in small groups the fruit of their prayer, and learning under the guidance of their pastor? Much better than canned programs of dubious orthodoxy that are boring and don't feed the soul!

The Mass and Music

The new corrected translation of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Missal is important for many reasons. Perhaps the most important is that it returns many of our prayers, not just to the original Latin, but closer to the words of the original Scripture from which the prayers are taken. I have often remained stupefied at the fanciful interpretations for and against certain aspects of the new translation, none of which go back to the Scriptures. (Matthew 8.8. and Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof comes immediately to mind).

The corrected English translation is not the only thing which will help the Word of God to be more visible within the life of the Church. There is a move afoot to replace man made hymns with the proper (mostly) Scriptural antiphons appointed in the Roman Missal at the Entrance, Offertory and Communion of the Mass. For those who are always looking out for increasing richer fare at the table of God’s word, I ask: Why then promote man-made hymns when the people can sing the actual words of Scripture which are appointed by the Church for those times? For the Word of God to be powerful in one’s life it is not sufficient merely to hear it. For the faithful, not only to say the words of Scripture in the Ordinary of the Mass every time they go to mass, but also sing those words as the appear in the Proper of the Mass: that’s a real way of offering richer fare at the table of God’s word, instead of just random songs composed by others.

The Divine Office

Finally, I would like to note that, if we are to offer the faithful more of the riches of Scripture, as well as offer them tools for Christian formation, there is no better way than the Liturgy of the Hours. The Psalter, the other scriptural readings and the texts from the Fathers, saints and other ecclesiastical writers complement the Liturgy of the Mass. Opening the treasures of the Scriptures to the faithful also entails involving them in the public prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours. How many parishes offer centering prayer, yoga, devotions, novenas and Perpetual Adoration, but not Lectio Divina and the Liturgy of the Hours?


It is often charged that Church musicians of a certain stripe only care about a certain type of music, and that they do not take into account the consequences of Vatican II’s call for a Church embued with Scripture. In this view, these musicians actually are an obstacle to that vision, because they propose music of a certain type, or in another language. It is also often charged that the postconciliar liturgical reform has been a tremendous success in bringing Catholics closer to Scripture. I think both charges need to be analyzed more closely.

For the Church to implement the desire of Vatican II to restore Scripture to its rightful place of honour in the Church, as well as the call of Pope Benedict XVI in his latest Apostolic Exhoration Verbum Domini, several things need to happen. First, the Church needs to discover what is the best pedagogical method by which the Church arranges her Plan for Scripture during liturgical celebrations in such a way as to be fruitful. Simply by asserting, “There’s more now than there was before” is not sufficient. We also must find ways to re-envision both preaching and Christian formation in such a way, not only to be pedagogically fruitful, but also to more effectively initiate believers into Scripture. Finally, we must take advantage of the riches of the Missal (in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms) and Liturgy of the Hours to assist Catholics not only to be present at, but feast at the table of God’s Word.

Our own time, then, must be increasingly marked by a new hearing of God’s word and a new evangelization. Recovering the centrality of the divine word in the Christian life leads us to appreciate anew the deepest meaning of the forceful appeal of Pope John Paul II: to pursue the missio ad gentes and vigorously to embark upon the new evangelization, especially in those nations where the Gospel has been forgotten or meets with indifference as a result of widespread secularism. May the Holy Spirit awaken a hunger and thirst for the word of God, and raise up zealous heralds and witnesses of the Gospel. – Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini

Steubenville Liturgical Musician Retreat, Fall 2011

Last weekend I had the great honor of joining 90 liturgical musicians at the Franciscan University of Steubenville for their yearly Fall retreat. A good priest friend of mine who has recently produced a video on the new translation of the Roman Missal for the LifeTeen organization was the main speaker for this retreat in the previous two years, so I knew that I would be able to build upon his solid foundations in sacramental theology in my talk.

I presented two one-hour sessions, the first was at talk entitled "Perspectives on Liturgical Music" and the second was a workshop on the chants of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, and on a few proper settings from the Simple English Propers

I think that if you talk to any of the attendees, the highlight of the retreat was the opportunity to sing liturgical chant together. I think that these sorts of events can so often be exercises in theory, that is, talking about liturgical music. But to actually open up the chants of the missal and to work on them together was, I think, a powerful experience of sacred music for all who were in attendance.

Our time was very short and we could only touch very briefly on elements of chant theory. We just sang. We looked at the music and we sang the chants of the missal, and a few simple propers. I modeled, demonstrated and coached, and these 90 students sang with one voice in the retreat chapel with a sonorous thunder like I've almost never heard before! It truly was remarkable. 

Several of the students commented that simply singing these chants is what made everything that I presented in the first session come alive for them. What I have learned in this event is that we cannot underscore the importance of actually singing when we have events that discuss sacred music. Discussing in theory is one thing, but putting it into practice brings the music to life in a way that mere words cannot.

But I definitely didn't skimp on talking, as I'm sometimes wont to do, and I have decided to share my talk entitled "Perspectives on Liturgical Music" which begins with a purely subjective (and somewhat personally revealing) consideration of liturgical music and ends in a purely objective, theological view of the question. I would like to submit that the sacramental and theological perspectives on the question of liturgical music are very important for us today and will help us transcend the mucky waters of subjective and speculative discussion. I hope that this can be a small contribution to that end.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"It's Always Better in Latin"

I'm sure that Fr. Samuel Weber has written this phrase 100 times to my email account, every time he sends one of his masterful English settings of the chant. He is right of course. And yet, he is amazing. Observe. Don't lose this url:

The Inaugural Address of the Blessed John Henry Newman Institute of Liturgical Music

September 17th 2011, Inaugural Address, Fr. Guy Nicholls, Blessed John Henry Newman Institute of Liturgical Music

Your Grace, my brother Oratorians, and all brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to this inaugural event of the Blessed John Henry Newman Institute for Liturgical Music.

The Founder of our Oratory, Blessed Cardinal Newman, is better known in the modern world as an educationalist, writer, theologian and philosopher than as a musician and liturgist. Yet to ignore these latter aspects of his life would seriously distort our understanding of his personality and of his vocation. It is true that Newman did not write a great deal about music and liturgy, but he practised them both a great deal. He played the violin from an early age and to a high standard of proficiency, and we know that he was happiest at Littlemore when he was teaching plainsong to his schoolchildren with the aid of his violin. When he came to Birmingham, he set up and even at times conducted, the Choir at High Mass – for whom his rules are still extant; and the story is still told how in his advanced old age as a Cardinal, it was his custom to sit by the door into Church, at the back of what is now his shrine, in order to hear and enjoy the singing of the choir at High Mass. As a priest, the central act of his vocation was the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass and the fostering of a more dignified worship of Almighty God. Just like his pastoral concerns as a priest, much of what Blessed John Henry did from day to day is now only known to God and to those who benefited from his ministry. That we do not know much about them is not because they were unimportant, but because they were not the matter of his vast body of writing which he has bequeathed to us.

Let us go on then, simply acknowledging that this great Oratorian priest knew and made use of the power of the Church's liturgy to sanctify souls and prepare them for heaven. This is exactly what we also aim to do in our own time and place.

Why, then, should it be desirable to set up an Institute for Liturgical Music now? In the first place, we want to help as many people as possible, priests and laity, musicians and congregations, to come to know and use freely, the resources of what the Second Vatican Council Fathers called “the Treasury of Sacred Music” , and described as “a treasure of inestimable price”. This needs explaining. In what does such a treasury consist? It is not simply the sum total of everything musical ever composed for, or used in, the Liturgy. The Council makes explicit that it is talking here principally about two kinds of music: first, as “proper to the Roman liturgy”, Gregorian Chant, which should therefore have first place in liturgical actions; then secondly other types of sacred music, but especially polyphony. These are, of course, sung forms of music. Instrumental music is not dealt with directly under this heading, though it is important to note in passing that the Council fathers single out for special mention the Organ, whose sound can “add a wonderful splendour” to the Church's ceremonies and “powerfully raise minds towards God and heavenly things”.

Keeping for the moment to the matter of sung sacred music, we note that the Council recognises that the entire liturgical assembly has its proper roles, its proper repertoires. There is music for the celebrant, the ministers, the choir, the cantor and the congregation. None of these excludes the others. The crucial bond that unites then all is that they should all foster “participatio actuosa”, a well known phrase, but notoriously difficult to render well in English. It has been generally translated as “active participation”, and as such has been taken to mean that the entire congregation should be actively doing something if it is to be actively participating. But deeper reflection on this phrase and on its context within the liturgical aims of the Council Fathers suggests another meaning altogether: “actuosa” should mean “actual”, a real engagement of the whole person. Sometimes, indeed often, this will involve some form of activity, such as singing or speaking or a particular posture or gesture. But it need not require all of those at all times. Anyone can be said to be “actually participating” in the liturgy who is quite simply engaged by it. That person may be doing nothing – yet participating at a deep level through being caught up in the entire experience of what is going on, and of which he is not a mere spectator, but a member of a body involved in an action which both unites and transcends all the individual persons present. So, for instance, “participatio actuosa” can equally be ascribed to a sense of awe at what one is immersed in: the beauty of architecture, art and vesture, of the dignity of the movements of the sacred ministers, of the sight and scent of the incense “rising like prayer to God” , of the singing by those who have the necessary skill and training of elaborate and moving settings of the sacred texts, just as much as it can be ascribed to congregational singing. In fact, allowing always for the importance of congregational singing, it is still possible to say that the presence of those other expressions of beauty may enhance the congregation's participation yet more than their own singing alone could do.

That brings us to another most important consideration: since liturgical music is pre-eminently sung music, what is it that should be sung? We have grown used to the style of celebration in which singing is something done during the liturgy, it matters less so what and by whom it is sung. In this country, generally speaking, the Mass is treated as a series of words and actions that are, at least by default, intrinsically spoken. If music is required, it is often inserted into the gaps left between words and actions, such as long pauses caused by processions and the distribution of Communion. It may be that the texts of what is sung are drawn from appropriate scriptural or liturgical sources, but that is often not the case, nor is it considered to be a fundamental criterion in choosing such music. When seen against the backdrop of a predominantly spoken liturgy, music is a “filler”. Nothing could be more distorting of the true nature of liturgical music. Music is not something to be added on to a liturgy that could actually do just as well without it, it is of the essence of the liturgy itself. Yet one can still ask: why should this be? Why should we consider music to be essential to the liturgy?

The truth of this claim for music to be intrinsic to the liturgy rather than an extra added on, however desirable, lies in the nature of music as an expression of the human spirit. If you want to understand what I mean, try saying the words of two familiar, yet contrasting texts: “Happy birthday to you” and “God save our gracious Queen”; how ludicrous and indeed highly unnatural it would be to recite these texts! The melodies which we associate with them are not simply “add-ons”, nor do they merely “belong” to the words, they both carry the words and enhance their expressive power. They help us both to assimilate and to communicate something contained in the words, yet at a far deeper level than the words alone can do. How much more important, then, are the words of the Liturgy! In the texts of the Mass, in the psalms of the Mass and the Divine Office, we are employing words which place us in contact with divine realities that transcend the limits of human language.

Singing the words of the liturgy enhances their power to thrill us, to move us, to mould us into a living unity in the Body of Christ. The sacred texts of the Mass are an expression of a reality that is far deeper than we can know, but we can touch it, we can express it, we can enhance our receptivity to it by the power of the music that belongs intrinsically to it.

It is a wonderful providence that the setting up of this new Institute of Liturgical Music should take place at the same time as the introduction of the new English translation of the Roman Missal. Many comments have been made concerning the character of the translation, and it is still unfamiliar to most of us. But what we need to note here are two central facts which are being presented to us by this new translation.

First, there is a new kind of expressiveness about the texts. They are richer in vocabulary, and more elaborate in sentence structure than were the old ICEL texts, as I shall call them. This obviously poses an initial challenge since these characteristics are in marked and deliberate contrast to those of the old ICEL texts. Yet I am confident that we will find that these qualities lend the new texts a greater power to convey a sense of the awesome difference between what we hear and say at Mass, and what we hear and say in everyday life and conversations. They come across as more lapidary, almost like inscriptions incised on stone, rather than as words simply used on the spur of the moment. This means that the liturgy will no longer sound, as it often has done, colloquial, even chatty. It is raised to what is technically called a higher “register”, a level of discourse that reflects and draws us into a higher state of communication. The liturgy, after all, transcends the limits of time and space and unites us with the angels and saints around God's throne. The language that we use in it must therefore reflect that awesome context in which we place ourselves in the celebration of the Liturgy.

The second fact central to understanding the intended effect of the new translation on our worship, is the direct encouragement given to us to sing these texts. As Mgr. Wadsworth, the Executive Director of ICEL has pointed out, the new Missal is the most musically well-endowed in history. The texts of the Mass: greetings, prayers, acclamations, readings, meditations on the sacred word, all these are intended to be sung. This intention is made clear in the fact that all these musical settings are placed, not in an appendix at the back of the book, as frequently heretofore, but in the body of the book, exactly where it is used day by day.

This may well frighten some people. Music, they may say, is for the experts, for the choir or the music group, but not for the priest, deacon, lector, or even the entire congregation. Some may object that it is simply too difficult or too unfamiliar, but if you look closely at the Missal without prejudice, it is possible to see that the music written there is not designed to be sung by experts, but by anybody. It is designed to be an ordinary and familiar expression of the faith of the Church in action. It may seem unfamiliar at first, because we have long since grown to be unfamiliar with the idea of singing the Mass, as opposed to singing during the Mass. What the Church invites us to do in receiving the new translation is to learn to recognise it as something “beyond the prosaic” . Music, even very simple chants, help to achieve that end.

Which brings us to consider the chants themselves. This morning we are going to experience the new translation of the Mass in its musical form. We are, of course, familiar with what I may call the “flow” of the Mass, its regular exchanges between ministers and people, its alternating texts which are listened to with texts that constitute a reply, its statements of faith or expressions of sorrow, worship, adoration, praise and thanksgiving. Now we are being invited to take that familiar “flow” and make it deeper, more profound and, perhaps, more poetical. Familiarity with what may come across as banal and prosaic can only fail to feed the hungry soul. Familiarity with what is beautiful and rich in expression can stand the test of repetition and continue to disclose ever new depths of meaning. The chants of the Missal, which we are about to hear in their proper context and flow from beginning to end, may seem at first rather remote. Some of them are couched in a musical style that will be unfamiliar. They are not rhythmic. There is no sense that the texts are being forced to take on the shape of an independently existing melody. The melody flows out from the words themselves and takes on the patterns of speech. Most of us are not used to this kind of singing. Yet it is the bedrock of all liturgical singing over the ages. We call it plainchant to describe its relatively unassuming character. Yet it undoubtedly has the power to enhance the word.

So much for the words of the Mass which remain relatively unchanged from day to day. Yet there are others words which also belong to the Mass, and with which we may be less familiar. These other words, or texts, do change from day to day, to express the character of the particular feast or season. They are familiar as, for example, the short sentences which are usually read out at the beginning of Mass and at Communion time: the Entrance and Communion Antiphons. These texts are just as much a proper part of the Mass as the unchanging ones. Yet they are often omitted at a Mass which is sung, because they are not considered important. Instead, they are usually replaced by hymns or songs. It is a great loss to the effectiveness of the liturgy on us as participants that these texts are lost so often because they have usually been associated with the day or the season for as long as that feast or season has been celebrated. The chants for these texts belong to the liturgical book known as the Graduale. It is in itself a treasury of wonderful ancient chants, Gregorian Chants as they are usually known, generally sung by a choir rather than by a congregation. This morning we will use settings of these words to Gregorian chants which are simple enough for the congregation to repeat after the choir who will lead us. I hope you will see what a positive difference they make to setting the scene for the Mass which opens with one of them.

I will begin to try and draw a few threads together before concluding. In what direction does all that I have been saying point us? The work that the Blessed John Henry Institute is designed to undertake is the enhancement of Parish Liturgy. The sung liturgy is not intended to be the province of the professional choir alone, much though the Council Fathers emphasised that professional choirs should be carefully fostered wherever possible. But such things are not possible everywhere. Yet good liturgical music which aims to achieve all these ends which we have considered is both desirable and possible in any parish. Great musical skill and expertise is not necessarily required. What is needed is the desire to raise the mind and heart to God by celebrating the Liturgy itself in the most dignified and elevated way possible with the resources available. The words of psalm 46 serve as a guide: “Sing wisely”, or “with understanding.” In his book “A New Song for the Lord”, Pope Benedict interprets these words as “Sing artistically for God”. Such artistry, according to the Pope, is not meant to be understood as mere skill, but as what is done with the aim of bringing those who share in it closer to God. Pope Benedict's understanding of the power of beauty in Christian art and music is rooted in the disclosure of God's beauty through our humble and conscious attempt to co-operate with the Creator in our own acts of making and doing.

The Institute will therefore offer assistance to priests, ministers, lectors, cantors, choirs and members of the congregation, guidance on the best way to approach liturgical music. It will aim to do so, therefore, not only by giving practical training and advice, but also, I may even say especially, by giving a thorough catechesis on the theological nature of liturgical music. Music has the power to enhance the liturgy when those who are responsible for it have a deeper understanding of its proper place in the whole. Music must be the servant of the liturgy and of the whole Church gathered together in God's presence. We hope to help bring about a deeper understanding of what good liturgical music is, and how to perform it. We hope to offer guidance to all those who are interested in knowing more about the history and forms of liturgical music in the Catholic Roman liturgy.

The Institute cannot function in isolation from the wider Church. There are many initiatives throughout the Church both here in the British Isles, and further afield especially in North America, whose aims are similar to our own, and whose work may well come to be closely allied to ours. There are two specific influences on me to which I wish to draw your attention. First, it would not be right for me to omit to mention my great debt to Dr Mary Berry, foundress of the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, of which I was privileged to be a founder member in my undergraduate days, and of which I am now a chaplain. She strove tirelessly, though often thanklessly, for a revival and understanding of Gregorian Chant within the Church's liturgy. There are many projects now taking shape which owe a great deal to her vision, energy and her prayerful love of the Church. I also want to mention with appreciation the patient work of the Association for Latin Liturgy (ALL) with which I have had the pleasure of being closely associated for over thirty years. That Association has not only remained consistently faithful to the Church's call for the use of the Latin language in all approved forms of the Roman Liturgy , but has applied energies out of proportion to its relatively small resources to provide practical help for the implementation of that vision in parishes since its foundation. I am glad that the ALL fully supports the aims of this Institute and look forward to continuing to work with it in fostering the use of Latin in the Liturgy.

Your Grace, You do us a great honour by your presence here today. It is a providential sign to us that this new work of the Birmingham Oratory, under the protection of Blessed John Henry Newman, is fully undertaken within the unity of the local Church. That unity is expressed both by your presence here today, by your celebrating the Sacred Liturgy for us, according to the new translation of the Roman Missal and using the chant settings which have been provided for use within the liturgy. On behalf of the Fathers of the Oratory, I also thank Your Grace for kindly agreeing to be one of the Patrons of this Institute, and allowing us to work in close co-operation with the Maryvale Institute of Higher Religious Studies.

I also wish to place on record my thanks to those who have played a special part in making this Institute and its launch a possibility. First, to Fr Richard Duffield, our Provost, whose idea it was some time ago to set up an Institute for Liturgical Music here at the Oratory. I also wish to thank Mr James MacMillan, the noted Catholic Composer, who not only kindly consented to be co-patron with His Grace the Archbishop, but who has also been of great assistance in making introductions and creating links between various Catholic church musicians and proposing various plans for future development of our work. It is unfortunate that he has to be absent today, but I am happy to record that he is directing the music at the priestly ordination in Oxford of a friend of our Institute, Laurence Lew O.P., which is taking place today. Then I offer thanks and acknowledgement to those who have been most generous in their practical assistance, especially to Carol Parkinson and Graeme McNichol who have provided invaluable Administrative assistance, ably and generously helped by Philippe Lefebvre who designed the literature and the website, and to Angela Dunn, who has contributed as always most unselfishly by producing the booklets which we will be using at Mass and Vespers today. There are others, too, who deserve thanks, but I hope they will forgive me if I make my thanks to them now in a general way.

All that remains is for me to say that I hope you will enjoy the rest of this day and I will now ask His Grace to give us a blessing to inaugurate our new work.