Friday, December 30, 2011

Midnight Mass, St. George Cathedral, Southwark, London

The schola director is Nick Gale.

The Mass was celebrated by His Grace Archbishop Peter Smith. The Mass setting (Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus & Agnus Dei) was Nicholas O'Neill's Missa Sancti Nicolai (2008) - Latin SATB (div) & organ. The Gregorian propers were sung (Introit, Alleluia and Communio - the Responsorial Psalm is sung in English), as was the Solemn Proclamation of Christmas (sung in English to the traditional, solemn Latin tone) and Credo III (sung in Latin). The Our Father was sung to the setting by Rimsky-Korsakov.

The communion motet: James MacMillan's In splendoribus for SATB & trumpet. The Cathedral Girls Choir sang an anthem to Our Lady by Timothy Craig Harrison. The Mass concludes with Alma Redemptoris (simple tone sung by all).

The chant is free, natural, and strong - fantastic sound really. Incredibly, the people are actually singing, and not only the English hymns. Pay careful attention Americans: listen to the final Alma. Listen and weep for yourselves.

In general, Americans will learn a great deal just by watching these videos and seeing how it is done.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On that alto in the Shrine choir blogs on the WashPost story on Callista Gingrich.

Chant: The Master Path

DOCUMENT courtesy of NLM

Implications of a Centenary: Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music (1911-2011)
By Monsignor Valentin Miserachs Grau
President of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music

The Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music was founded by Pope Saint Pius X in 1911. The Papal Brief Expleverunt in which the new School was approved and praised is dated on the 14th November of that year, even if the academic activities had started several months before, on the 19th January. A Holy Mass to impetrate graces was celebrated on the 5th January. The whole Academic Year 2010-2011 has been dedicated to commemorate the centenary of the foundation of what was originally known as “Superior School of Sacred Music”, later included by Pope Pius
XI among the Roman Athenaeums and Ecclesiastical Universities under the denomination of “Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music”.

In the atmosphere of liturgical and musical renewal that characterized the second half of Nineteenth Century and in the frame of the research of the pure sources of Sacred Music that leaded to Pope Saint Pius X’s Motu proprio Inter sollicitudines [Tra le sollecitudini], it became evident it would not have been possible to carry on the programme of the reformation without schools of Sacred Music. It was within the Associazione Italiana Santa Cecilia (AISC) [Italian Association of Saint Cecily that the idea of settle a superior school in Rome, the most suitable place for that, as being the center of the whole Catholic world. From the first projects until the
opening of the School thirty years elapsed!

The Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music was foreseen since its very beginning –and it has remained substantially faithful to this vocation– as a centre of high formation specialising in the main branches of Sacred Music: Gregorian chant, composition, choir conduction, organ and musicology. It is not then about a conservatoire, with the study of different musical instruments, but about a university centre specifically devoted to Sacred Music. It is obvious, of course, that music in general underlies Sacred Music: in the course of composition, for instance, one must start, as in any conservatoire, with the study of harmony, counterpoint and fugue; then follow with the study of variations, the sonata form, and orchestration, before arriving at the great exquisitely sacred forms (motet, Mass and oratory). The Pontifical Institute has recently adhered to the Bologna Convention and has consequently adapted its own syllabus and courses to the new parameters proposed by it. It is in this spirit that a superior biennium of piano has been newly introduced, although this subject was already largely present as a complementary matter in our curriculum.

I should underline the fact that in the year just elapsed the Pontifical Institute has reached a historical maximum of students with 140 inscriptions, a third of whom coming from Italy and the remainder coming from the five continents. In addition to the study of the various musical disciplines, we have to record other exquisite musical activities like the beautiful season of concerts –with the relevant participation of our teachers and students– and, of course, periodical solemn liturgical celebrations in chant.

The Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music is not a body in the Church with normative character, but a school where to learn, with the study and practice, how to become leaven and a model for service to the different churches throughout the Catholic world.

In order to commemorate in a suitable way such an auspicious anniversary, we began by organizing the Concert season 2010-2011 according to the historical framework of these last hundred years, with reference to the subjects of our teaching, and to the most relevant figures that distinguished themselves in the life of the Pontifical Institute. I would like to mention the Holy Mass celebrated by myself in the Ancient Roman Rite in the church of Santi Giovanni e Petronio in the Via del Mascherone on the 5th January 2011, exactly as it happened a century ago, on the same day and in the same church, when our first president Father Angelo De Santi, S.I., wanted to open the activity of the infant school with a Holy Mass celebrated “in the intimacy”, with the attendance of a few professors and students. I have celebrated in the Ancient Rite both for historical accuracy and for giving joy to a number of professors and students that since some time ago asked me to celebrate the Holy Mass in the extraordinary form.

The most relevant acts took place in the last week of May: the publication of a thick volume entitled “Cantemus Domino”, that gathers the different and many-sided features of our hundred-year history; the edition of a CD collection of music by the Institute; the celebration of an important International Congress on Sacred Music (with the participation of more than one hundred speakers and lecturers), that was closed by an extraordinary concert and a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving. During the Congress, three relevant figures related to Sacred Music were conferred with the honorary doctorate and held brilliant and highly-valued magisterial lectures.

I would like to underline that the Holy Father Benedict XVI has been in some way present in the centennial commemoration through a Letter addressed to our Grand Chancellor, The Most Eminent Lord Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, in which His Holiness remembers the merits of the Institute along its hundred-year history and insists on how important it is for the future to continue working along the furrow of the great Tradition, an indispensable condition for a genuine updating (aggiornamento) having all the guarantees that the Church has always requested as essential connotations of liturgical Sacred Music: holiness, excellence of the forms (true art) and universality, in the sense that liturgical music could be acceptable to everybody, without shutting itself in abstruse or elitist forms and, least of all, turning down to trivial consumer products.

This one is a sore point: the rampant wave of false and truly dreadful liturgical music in our churches. Nevertheless, the will of the Church clearly appears in the words of the Holy Father I have just mentioned. He had already addressed to us in the allocution pronounced during his visit to the Pontifical Institute on 13th October 2007. Moreover, it is still fresh in our memory the Chyrograph that the Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote on 22nd November 2003 to commemorate the centenary of the Saint Pius X’s Motu proprio Inter sollicitudines (22nd November 1903), by which Pope Wojtyla assumed the main principles of this fundamental document without forgetting what the Second Vatican Council clearly expressed in the Chapter VI of its Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium on Sacred Liturgy. By doing that, Blessed John Paul II practically walked the same path traced by that Holy Pope who wanted his Motu proprio to have validity as the “juridical code of Sacred Music”. Now we must wonder: if the will of the Church has been clearly declared also in our times, how is it possible that the musical praxis in our churches distances itself in so evident a way from the same doctrine?

We must consider several problems at the root of this question, for instance the problem of repertoire. We have hinted at a double aspect: the risk of shutting oneself in a closed circle that would wish to essay new compositions considered as being of high quality in Liturgy. We must say that the evolution of musical language towards uncertain horizons makes the breach between “serious” music and popular sensitivity to become more and more profound. Liturgical music must be “universal”, that is acceptable to any kind of audience. Today it is difficult to find good music composed with this essential characteristic. I do not discuss the artistic value of certain contemporary productions, even sacred, but I think that it would not be opportune to insert them in the Sacred Liturgy. One cannot transform the “oratory” into “laboratory”.

The second aspect of the problem derives from a false interpretation of the conciliar doctrine on Sacred Music. As a matter of fact, the post-conciliar liturgical “renewal”, including the almost total lack of mandatory rules at a high level, has allowed a progressive decay of liturgical music, at the point of becoming, in the most cases, “consumer music” according to the parameters of the most slipshod easy-listening music. This sad practice sometimes determines attitudes of petulant rejection towards genuine Sacred Music, of yesterday and today, maybe composed in a simple manner, but according to the rules of Art. Only a change of mentality and a decisive “reforming” will –that I am afraid is far to come– would be able to bring back to our churches the good musical praxis and, together with it, also the conscientiousness of celebrations, that would not lack to entice, through the value of beauty, a large public, particularly young people, currently kept away by the prevailing amateurish practice, falsely popular and wrongly considered –even in good faith– as an effective instrument of approaching.

Regarding the power of involvement of which the good liturgical music is capable, I would like to add only what is my own personal experience. By a fortunate chance, I am acting after almost forty years, as Kapellmeister at the Roman Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where every Sunday and on feast days the Chapter Mass is celebrated in Latin, and with Gregorian and polyphonic chant accompanied by organ (and by a brass sextet in highest solemnities). I can assure you that the nave and the aisles of the basilica get packed and not rarely there are people that come after the ceremonies to express their gratefulness, moved to tears as they are, especially by the Hymn to the Madonna Salus Populi Romani (Our Lady, Salvation of the Roman People). They often cannot hold back the excitement and arrive to burst out clapping. People are thirsting for good music! It goes directly to the heart and is capable of working even resounding conversions.

Another compass of good liturgical music –always reminded by the Teaching of the Church– concerns the primacy of the pipe organ. The organ has always been considered as the prince of instruments in Roman Liturgy and consequently has enjoyed great honour and esteem. We know well that other rites use different instruments, or only the chant without any kind of instrumental accompaniment. But the Roman Church, and also the denominations born from the Lutheran Reformation, see in the pipe organ the preferred instrument for Liturgy. In Latin countries, the use of organ is almost exclusive whilst for Anglo-Saxon tradition the intervention of the orchestra is frequent in celebrations. This fact is not due to a whim or by pure chance: the organ has very ancient roots and has been praised along the centuries in the path of its historical improvement. The objective quality of its sound (produced and supported by the air blown into the pipes, comparable to the sound emitted by the human voice) and its exclusive phonic richness (that makes of it a world in itself and not a mere ersatz of the orchestra) justify the predilection that the Church fosters towards it. It is rightly so that the Second Vatican Council dedicates inspired words to the organ when stating that “it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to higher things” (SC, 120), in which it does no other thing that to recall the preceding doctrine both of Saint Pius X and Venerable Pius XII (especially in the splendid Encyclical Letter Musicae sacrae disciplina). By the way, I would like to remark that the publication of the PIMS that has got more success is the booklet Iucunde laudemus, that gathers together the most relevant documents of the Church’s Magisterium regarding Sacred Music. Just in these days, since the first edition was sold out, we have re-edited this work updated with further ecclesiastical documents, both from the preceding teaching and the one of the reigning Pope.

In our quick review of the main points underlying a good liturgical musical praxis, we have now arrived to a last but not least question, one that should be firstly considered: the Gregorian chant. It is the official chant of the Roman Church, as the Second Vatican Council reasserts. Its repertoire includes thousands of ancient, less ancient, and even modern pieces. Certainly, we can find the highest charm in the oldest compositions, dated back to the Xth-XIth Centuries. In this case also it has to do about an objective value, since the Gregorian chant represents the synthesis of the European and Mediterranean chant, related to the genuine and authentic popular chant, even that of the remotest regions of the world. It is a deeply human and essential chant that can be traced in its richness and variety of modes, in its rhythmic freedom (always at the service of the word), in the diversity and different degrees of its single pieces, according to the individual to whom the execution is assigned, etc. This is a chant that has found in the Church its most appropriate breeding ground and constitutes a unique treasure of priceless value, even from the merely cultural point of view.

Therefore, the rediscovery of Gregorian chant is a sine qua non condition to give back dignity to the liturgical music and not only as a valid repertoire in itself, but also as a source of inspiration for new compositions, as it was the case of the great polyphonists of the Renaissance, who –following the guidelines of the Council of Trent– created the structure bearing their wonderful works departing from the Gregorian subject matter. If we have in Gregorian chant the master path, why not follow it instead of persisting in scouring roads that in the most of cases drive to nowhere? But to undertake this work it is necessary to count on talented and well-prepared people. This is the goal of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music. This is because of these noble ideals that it fought along the last hundred years and will continue to fight in the future, in the conviction of paying an essential service to the universal Church in a primary field such that of liturgical Sacred Music. Saint Pius X was so persuaded as to write in the introduction of his Motu proprio these golden words:

Among the cares of the pastoral office, not only of this Supreme Chair, which We, though unworthy, occupy through the inscrutable dispositions of Providence, but of every local church, a leading one is without question that of maintaining and promoting the decorum of the House of God in which the august mysteries of religion are celebrated, and where the Christian people assemble to receive the grace of the Sacraments, to assist at the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar, to adore the most august Sacrament of the Lord's Body and to unite in the common prayer of the Church in the public and solemn liturgical offices (…) We do therefore publish, motu proprio and with certain knowledge, Our present Instruction to which, as to a juridical code of sacred music, We will with the fullness of Our Apostolic Authority that the force of law be given, and We do by Our present handwriting impose its scrupulous observance on all” (Inter sollicitudines).

It would be desirable that the courage of Saint Pius X finds some echo in the Church of our times.
Valentín Miserachs Grau is President of the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music. He presented this address as part of the XXth General Assembly of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce

Last Chance to Be Part of the Greatest Book on Catholic Music Ever

I'm certain that this book will bring about amazing things. It is the first comprehensive argument for sacred music in the Roman Rite, providing not just theology and history but practical help for every Catholic musician. This book will continue to be definitive for decades ahead, if not centuries.

Top Ten Things I’ve Learned about Sacred Music

Ten years ago, I knew next to nothing about Catholic music. I knew that something was not right in the parish music program. I had some sense that the fix for the problem was somewhere in our history and tradition, somewhere in some dusty books somewhere, and the answer surely had something to do with preconciliar practice. I intuited this just because the Second Vatican Council represented something like a gigantic shift, and older people reinforced this to me with harrowing stories of living through the turbulent times.

Beyond that, I knew very little.

What follows are the top ten things I’ve learned in the course of ten years of reading, singing, listening, and exploring. I offer them in roughly the order in which I discovered them for myself and in conjunction with working with others who pointed me in the right direction The point here is not only to share the lesson with readers but to admit to the existence of deep ignorance out there as regards Catholic music - and I know this because it was not long ago when I could be counted among the deeply ignorant. There is no shame in that. Admitting it is the first step toward shaping up.

In a lifetime of study, we could never know what we need to know, and relative to knowledge embedded in tradition itself, we are all hopelessly ignorant. This is also what makes Catholic music so exciting. There is always more to discover, always more to do. If you find a “know it all,” you can be pretty sure that he or she is a faker. We are all in the process of discovery. Here is my brief accounting of the high points I’ve gained from ten years in this process.

1. The Roman Rite comes with its own built-in music. This discovery came for me when I took at a look at the Gregorian Missal, which is a reduce and English-language version of the Sunday and feast day chants from the Graduale Romanum, which is the music book of the Roman Rite. I further discover that this book was not just old, though it is old; it is also new, with the latest edition having been produced in 1974 specifically for what is known at the ordinary form of the Roman Rite. This was an amazing revelation. It turns out that the Church does provide. The burden to cobble together music each week does not actually fall to us. In the same way that the books of the Bible are given to us, as is stable doctrine and moral teaching, the music is provided already in a perfect form for every single liturgical task. Our main task is to defer and master the ability to render it properly.

2. What we call hymns cannot be the main ritual music of the Roman Rite. Hymns play an integral role in the sung version of the Divine Office, but they are not part of the Mass. When they are used in Mass, they are more like medieval tropes, texts with music that elaborate on a theme. There is room for hymnody at Mass in particular places, but not as replacements for the real music of the Mass, except in extremely unusual situations. In general, all else equal, the chants proper to the ritual are to be sung. This is a great relief because I never liked the “hymn wars.” They are unnecessarily divisive and extremely subjective. It is best to bypass this problem altogether and sing the Mass itself.

3. The musical structure of the Roman Rite is both clear and stable. The main parts for the congregation are chants of the Mass ordinary: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus Agnus. The congregation and schola are to sing the dialogues with the priest: greeting, memorial acclamation, and the like. The main job of the schola is to lead or sing alone the propers of the Mass: introit, Psalm and Alleluia, offertory, and communion. Beyond that, there are sequences. Until we can get this framework pounded in our heads, we will be lost and confused.

4. Nostalgia only gets you so far. The preconciliar past does not offer much in the way of a model to restore. A close looks shows that the propers at high Mass were sung to Psalm tones only but mostly people experienced low Mass with four hymns -- just as we experience today. Hence many of the core problems we have today are inherited from the preconciliar practice. They had their “praise music” and we have ours; the main difference is the style of the times.

5. There was nothing wrong with the goals of Vatican II. A careful reading of the history shows that the fathers of this Council sought to fix the problem of the ubiquity of vernacular hymnody of Mass and sought to change some aspects of the liturgy in the hope of inspiring a fully sung Mass with Gregorian chant taking its proper place. Mistakes were made that unleashed the problem in way that no one even imagined before the Council.

6. It doesn’t take a big choir to do the music right. Motets and big polyphonic Mass settings are wonderful but they are not essential. The Church has given us 18 chanted Mass settings to chose from and they can all be led by a few singers or even one cantor. A big choir is a great thing but it is not necessary for a quality music program at a parish. Moreover, you are more likely to find yourself in the position of recruiting singers if the structure is already in place and there is some security and certainly over the task ahead.

7. Accompaniment is not required. Singing is music in the Roman Rite. Organ, piano, and guitar might not support singing; they might actually crowd it out.

8. A good default structure is more important than a huge repertoire. Every parish needs a reliable musical framework to fall back on for every Mass, so that it is not so dependent on a particular organist or choir leader or the presence of a large number of singers with a huge library of music. If this is done well, simple chants from the beginning to the end, combined with the beauty of silence, accomplishes the goal. And here is an especially good time to say thanks for the new Missal translation, which has all the music already given to us for the main parts of Mass.

9. You can’t blame the musicians for junky music at Mass. The Missal change quickly and hardly anyone was prepared. There were no books of English propers available until very recently. Musicians were using what they had and that was not much, and what has been available has been produced with very little understanding of the musical structure of the ritual. This problem has persisted until very recently.

10. Change does not come from edict. As much as we might dream of a pope or a priest who cracks down and demands appropriate music from everyone, this is not actually how change occurs. Change comes from patience, learning and teaching, inspiration and prayer, and hard work undertaken in the right spirit.

Those are my ten lessons. I have no doubt that the next ten years will continue to be fruitful no only in getting better at singing but in learning ever more about theory and practice of music in the Roman Rite.

Mary, Mother of God, Simple English propers

Accompaniments to SEP - and great news!

Organ accompaniments to the Simple English Propers are being posted week by week.

And now the GREAT NEWS: The Simple English Propers are available again, this time with a ribbon!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Assumption Grotto in Detroit

The Detroit Free Press has a feature story on a new Mass composed by Fr. Eduard Perrone, pastor of Assumption Grotto in Detroit.

Proof of the Existence of the Gradual, the oldest form of chanting

Hear it in use at the Midnight Mass for Christmas, 2011, at 36:30

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Nueme Flash Cards

I made these quickly many years ago, and just saw them posted somewhere. I'm not entirely happy with them as a tutorial but they are still fun to watch.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Regna Semper, by Michael Praetorius

This edition of Regna Semper by Michael Praetorius was sent this morning. It looks very interesting. I would be interested in a translation or discussion of the hymn's historical use.

Update from Chris Ruckdeschel:

1. Reign always glorious Heart, through the ages of the ages, over earth and over heaven.

Refrain- O Sacred Heart, be our King!
Always may we follow your commandment!
To you only may we give our heart.

2. Reign always in our homes, watch always, stand in them, make us to stand in firm faith.
3. And for people with weak faith, a leader, a king, it is necessary to be. Jesus, You are that great King.
4. Once in the city you, having gone back over, baptized the king "Clovis". You ought to command your sons.
5. O my Jesus, our sins, our faults, destroy them. Preserve our pure souls.

JMO- "Justifiable Musical Optimism!"

I just embarrassed myself with the previous post yet again by disdaining the concept (not the reality) of FACEBOOK. (Who needs Zuckerbergian vibes pinging into my curmudgeon radar!) However, now my wife, who eschews not a presence on FB as she is impeturbable to Satan's entreaties, informs me it is the natal anniversary date for yet a third Jeffrey that's changed the world. Yes, he who dazzled us with visions of Dom Pothier dancing around our heads in June, he who has penned stunningly gorgeous chants setting the Ordinary, propers, psalms and sequences in accord with the mind of Mother Church AND using great bass lines when composing their accompaniments!, he who unleashed perhaps the most faithful and comprehensive hymnal to the licit and spiritual intent of Sacrosanctum Consillium, whilst subsuming his own personage to uplift the work of others such as Kevin Allen....

Yes, it's Ostrowski's B-Day! JMO being born on December 26th presents an almost mystagogical notion to this weirded out author's mind. But having chanted in his schola two summers ago in Carlo Rossini's church, I'd be more inclined to say that in just a few generations it will be JMO's body of work that will be found there to assist worship.

I'm calling for an internet, Liturgy Geekdom Flash Mob to innundate JMO's mailboxes with salutory greetings on his birthday, a sort of joyful fatwa of love from the indebted many to his vision, energy, iniative and example of how to properly love the Lord Jesus Christ!

Cantare amantis est, if you wanna sing next to Thrones and Dominions

Beyond a "Good Cause"

There are benefits to living now.
Well, wasn't that cryptic as all get out? Thems that know me as the arduous skeptic optimist existentialist wastrel that I be are going "O dooty, he's on a rant again."
Not this time. By "now" I mean in this era of immediacy, particularly the bane of some and the very manna of many, that which is called "The social network." I mean, I've sworn to any that would listen that FACEBOOK is literally Satan's Little Black Book. Like, why would it need to singe its number into the scalps of little miscreant toddlers holding huge Bowie knives, or brand bar codes onto or into our dermal tissue when it has "followers?" Please.
I got egg on m'face. I hate eggs. All eggs, right out of the rear of a hen or poached in some Oster steamer. Eggs smell like sulfur (get it?). Eggsmell, cat pee, skunk emission? It's a draw.
But the egg on me face is that my eldest daughter put together a wonderful benefit concert of both seasonal (Christmas, secular and sacred) songs and "new" Broadway favorites (Wicked, Light in the Piazza, Children of a New World)  in JUST TWO WEEKS via Facebook to benefit our local Children's Hospital NICU unit. Both our grandsons were premies, but little JC was born at 26 weeks five years ago, and virtually lived in that NICU for three or four months. And then the inevitable respiratory problems surfaced that required a two year period in which JC was trached, and couldn't vocalize until after he'd turned two. (He hasn't stopped talking or singing since, though!)
Anyway, a local downtown eatery, renovated from many incarnations in a hundred year old building, graciously offered the space, and tons of people showed up. In less than two weeks, no formal publicity, and a lot of people from a thorough cross section of theatre people, church people, parent people with kids helped by Childrens' Hospital raised nearly a grand without breaking a sweat, and a great time had by all.
What I noticed from our proud parent-perch back of the eatery house was that as soon as my daughter welcomed everyone with a song, she then invited the crowd to join in singing "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" every soul there took it up immediately. I couldn't help but wonder then why it seems like we in Catholic music ministry must often feel like by merely announcing or listing a hymn/carol/song whatever for our congregations that we're oral surgeons with halitosis threatening medieval tools and techniques upon the congregants' sensibilities and comfort zones as if they were to undergo a root canal. I mean it's singing!
I can help make chanting "Attende Domine"or "Dies Irae" a pleasant experience, if folks would just let their hair and pretense defenses down. But I think that's my point, yet again. It comes down to intent!
The audience for the benefit was there for a tangible, but TEMPORAL reason. But they meant to be there even after less than two weeks' notice. Roamin'-minded Catholics know that they can BE THERE each Lord's Day. And as I've stated before, my experience affirms that your guaran-darn-teed hunnerd percent partipatio activa Masses include HOLY THURSDAY, Thanksgiving Day and _____ (fill in your blank.)
Oh, and daily Mass. Daily Mass people are serious. As are TLM folk. Maybe the participation at those sorts of liturgies varies according to the "cheerleading" congnescenti who would likely point AK47's at anyone on Sunday not actually moving their lips during the singing of "All are welcome." It's about INTENT.
Well, my grandson and all those children across the globe who've been lifted from tragedy's clutches by the Childrens' Hospitals, Mayo Clinics, St. Jude's will hopefully pay it forward as my daughter is trying to do.
But I sure would like someone to explain to me how believers who fret, worry, obligate themselves, make cosmic bets or subscribe to existential superstitions in order NOT to be consigned to Hell or otherwise outside of whatever they imagine heaven to be, still and yet don't get that there's a whole lotta singin' goin' on in that very heaven, because that's what lovers do! They sing love songs to the ONE who gives meaning to their being creatures in creation, their Creator. And perhaps they ought to remember that these angels and archangels, Thrones and Dominions who acclaim "Hosanna" without end may have harps in their duffel bags like popular culture has convinced us. But they also are a formidable host of fearful creatures who mean business more than any U.S. Navy Seal team.
Good on ye, my child. And thank you for using your gift to honor God, the real healer of our boy and millions of other children, with your voice. My advice for vocal laggards and zombies, get some voice lessons. And quick.

The Gradual Sung at the Vatican!

Here is the entrance with media voiceover.

Here is the very ending of the Gradual. If anyone can find a better video, let me know.

And the communion chant and polyphonic Psalm.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

"Gregorian chant was the original praise and worship music of the Christian church"

The JournalGazette of Fort Wayne, Indiana, profiles a family with chanting kids. It's a wonderful story, and here is the website of the kids.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Bach Christmas Cantata

Sandro Magister offers a fascinating look into the liturgical use of Bach's Christmas motets.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Michael Procter's Transcription of Alma Redemptoris Mater

In my programming, I try to do a good portion of new music. I think it's important, not least because for certain audiences it brings a whole world to life that they otherwise wouldn't know. Some years ago, radio stations were swamped with phone calls when they played Henryck Gorecki's Symphony No. 3. How many of them were turned on to classical music because of that experience? Similarly, one of my singers tells me that as she was listening to the recording of our performance of Wilko Brouwers's Missa Alme Pater, her husband, a folk singer not particularly interested in "serious" music (I hate that term; anyone have a better one?), was intrigued. New music is a gateway.

Maybe I'm off my rocker but I feel like looking at old music in new ways is also related to this approach. It keeps us from using music as a mere mood-setter, as ear candy. It isn't just the sacro-pop crowd that would have it this way, either. The entertainment mentality reaches into every ideology; but we ought to be artists in the strictest and best sense of that term.

To look at an old song in a new way is to work to make a piece of art even better, to try to come closer to its ideal form. Perhaps the genre of chant offers a particularly broad space for this, owing to the indefinite nature of the early manuscripts. Efforts like the Solesmes method have given the chant repertoire a great deal of advantageous stability, but when the cards are on the table I insist on treating chant as music and not cramming it into a school-shaped box. And so, when someone presents a new realization of a chant, I give it a serious look.

Using the Hartker manuscript and the Worcester Antiphonale, Michael Procter has given us a particularly gorgeous reconsideration of the solemn tone of Alma Redemptoris Mater, the Marian antiphon for Advent and Christmastide. I make an effort to use this several times a year. Not only is the melody different---several of the cadences are spine-tingling and the lines are more florid---but the rhythms have a surprising agility. Several figures involving the quilisma lack the preceding dotted punctum that we're so accustomed to seeing. (I'm assuming this isn't a misprint.) It brings a completely different energy to the line, a playfulness that is fitting for the subject matter of the text.

If your schola can handle the standard chant repertoire, it can handle this little gem from Michael Procter. Some may think that such efforts introduce needless controversy, but it seems to me that a healthy appreciation of these efforts can be maintained if everyone holds just a small amount of uncertainty about it. This is not to say that scholarship should be discarded in favor of whim, but for me the foremost consideration should be beauty, and in this regard Michael Procter certainly succeeds.

The Eleventh Hour

In my four decades of directing music within the Church I've found that most thriving and viable music "ministries" offer some sort of pre-Midnight Mass performance. The most common is the devotional format of the service of Nine Lessons and Carols, modeled after the classic English order fashioned circa 1880. However, any number of variations on that service, or a simple concert that features prominent large works, or smaller anthems/motets in alternation with congregational carol-singing may even be more common than the Lessons format. Over the two decades at our current parish, we have offered a separate concert event prior to Christmas that generally consists of a major cantata or large work, sometimes with solos, instrumental chamber works, organ compositions and the like interspersed within that model. We have also had years where the concert did not feature a large work or cantata, but had a thematic concept overarching a number of small choral pieces. Such themes included cultural components, styles and periods, specific composers or arrangers, traditional versus modern eras, etc. For example, in 2010 I programmed a concert featuring the works of American Catholic composers of the Victorian era to compliment the 150th anniversary of our parish's founding. That was a bit of a challenge to find significant counterparts to Peloquin from 1850 besides RoSewig et al, so I also tagged along some villancicos known to the missions in California at the time and a spiritual also sung in the era of the Civil War according to Higginson's bibliography.
This last year we held our seasonal concert early, which featured Vivaldi's GLORIA and the Bach MAGNIFICAT. It was a lovely, greatly attended event done well, but we decided initially not to repeat it in the eleventh hour prior to Midnight Mass for a number of sound reasons. Happily, our choir core has been together for 18 years, so once we were free of rehearsals for the "masterworks" concert we were able to prepare well about eight/nine pieces for the pre-Midnight portion of Christmas Eve.
My question to other choirmasters/directors: when you choose to do a "mixed bag" sort of pre-concert before Mass, whether Lessons-based or not, what criteria do you use, if any, that informs your repertoire choices? Do you place restrictions that are related or overlap from our "Catholic ethos" of chant/polyphony preference (even if carried through genetics to modern composers from Saint-Saens to Allen or McMillan)? Or do you allow some measure of "letting one's hair down" and admit pieces that don't have the catholic pedigree firmly in place? As mentioned, that could be spirituals, or gospel-infused arrangements and pieces (by great arrangers like Hogan, Hayes, Dillworth, Thomas), or other inculturated traditions such as Advent or Nativity villancicos, or carols from Hispanic traditions, Polish traditions and such, or generic but worthy new compositions by lower-tiered composers such as Leavitt, Courtney, Rutter, Chris Rice, Hillsongs or Culbreth ;-)?
I suppose what I'm asking amouts to whether such "devotional" or "inspirational" material that you, as choirmaster, deem to be worthy of public performance within the confines of your church building ought to be discerned also according to the tenets that we adhere to for actual worship at liturgy?

English Propers for Christmas Day

I'm particularly pleased with these because the beautifully echo the Gregorian.

(I won't be posting the midnight Mass or Mass at dawn, but you can find them all at the Watershed youtube site)

One final note: I just received word that the new printing of the Simple English Propers is ready and being shipped to Amazon on Monday. That means it will be available after the first of the year. Thank you for your patience!

Tradition Suggests This for Christmas

What four singers can do with Victoria's O Magnum Mysterium:

But this are many modern settings, such as this wonderful version by Frank LaRocca

Are There Parts of the Mass that Women Are Not Permitted to Sing?

This is the kind of post that I'm embarrassed even to put online, but the question continues to come up: are women permitted to sing in the schola at Mass? I know some readers are immediately wondering why someone would ask such a question. But the truth is that among a small sector of the Church, the view that men are the only people permitted to sing is actually alarmingly common. I've heard reports of many small Catholic colleges that form only men's scholas even when there are women students present who have a lifetime of experience in singing. I've known parishes where this is also the de facto practice without actually being a policy. I've personally known parishes where a men's schola is struggling through the propers while women who can actually read and sing the chant with mastery are sitting in the pews.

Much of the view comes from an ahistorical reading of old documents, particularly Tra le Solicitudini , in which Pope Pius X says that women cannot "cannot be admitted to form part of the choir." The ahistorical reading of this passage leaves out the context. The Pope was speaking of the choir in the oldest usage of that term: holders of a clerical office that would sing from the sanctuary itself. He was not referring to lay people singing from the loft. And this is why the promulgation of that document made no dent at all in the makeup of American choirs at the time - a fact that is proven by extensive historical records. Women sang the chant before and women sang the chant after, and this fact was readily and happily acknowledged by the Vatican at the time. This has only become an issue in our own times when we have been so cut off from preconciliar practice that people end up reading documents as roadmaps for the reinvention of what they imagine tradition to be.

So let me state this as plainly as possible. There are no parts of the Mass that women's may not sing as part of the schola or the choir as we understand that term today.

The Vatican is right now preparing for the canonization of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), who was probably the first named composer of chant. Her compositions are still performed and loved today. She was a woman.

Looking at the 20th century, two people who probably made the biggest difference for sacred music were Justine Ward (1879-1975) in the US and Mary Berry (1917-2008) in the UK. They were both women.

I'm under no illusion that this post is going to make a bit of difference in the prevailing practices of those outposts where women are still silenced. And this is truly tragic, especially now that the cause of sacred music is so much in need of great practitioners. It seems perfectly ridiculous to shut out half the human race from singing but such is the way that deep biases work themselves out in this valley of tears.

A Bishop Who Really Gets It

This is a must read: Singing the Mass, by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix:

St. Augustine recounts in his autobiography Confessions an experience he had during the singing of the Mass:

“How I wept, deeply moved by your hymns, songs, and the voices that echoed through your Church! What emotion I experienced in them! Those sounds flowed into my ears, distilling the truth in my heart. A feeling of devotion surged within me, and tears streamed down my face — tears that did me good.”

How can we explain this overwhelming and transforming experience that led one of our greatest saints to the Church? Clearly, this was much more than a man simply being moved by a well-performed song. His entire being was penetrated and transformed through music. How can this be?

At Mass, Christ sings to the Father

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1157) makes a direct reference to St. Augustine’s experience when it teaches that the music and song of the liturgy “participate in the purpose of the liturgical words and actions: the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.”

The Mass itself is a song; it is meant to be sung. Recall that the Gospels only tell us of one time when Jesus sings: when he institutes the Holy Eucharist (Cf. Mt 26:30; Mk 14:26). We should not be surprised, then, that Christ sings when he institutes the sacramentum caritatis (the Sacrament of love), and that for the vast majority of the past 2,000 years, the various parts of the Mass have been sung by priests and lay faithful. In the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council strongly encouraged a rediscovery of the ancient concept of singing the Mass: “[The musical tradition of the universal Church] forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium,112). The Mass is most itself when it is sung.

This recent rediscovery of “singing the Mass” did not begin with the Second Vatican Council. READ FULL ARTICLE

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mass at the Cathedral of St. George

A note from Nick Gale:

Readers of Chant Café may be interested to hear that this year's Midnight Mass will be broadcast live by the BBC from the Metropolitan Cathedral of St George, Southwark, London, UK at 23.45 GMT on 24th December 2011.

The Mass will be celebrated by His Grace Archbishop Peter Smith. The Mass setting (Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus & Agnus Dei) will be Nicholas O'Neill's Missa Sancti Nicolai (2008) - Latin SATB (div) & organ. The Gregorian propers will be sung (Introit, Alleluia and Communio - the Responsorial Psalm is sung in English), as will the Solemn Proclamation of Christmas (sung in English to the traditional, solemn Latin tone) and Credo III (sung in Latin). The Our Father will be sung to the setting by Rimsky-Korsakov.

The communion motet will be James MacMillan's In splendoribus for SATB & trumpet. The Cathedral Girls Choir will also sing an anthem to Our Lady (Of one who is so fair arr. by Timothy Craig Harrison). There will be 4 Christmas hymns (Unto us is born a son, Silent night, Of the Father's heart begotten & O come all ye faithful) and the Mass concludes with the Alma Redemptoris (simple tone sung by all).

The Mass will be transmitted live on BBC1, the UK's most popular TV station, and on some of its worldwide services. It will also be available for a week on the BBC iPlayer. This is only available in UK territory but I am sure excerpts will be posted here in due course.

Veni Redemptor Gentium

VENI, redemptor gentium,
ostende partum Virginis;
miretur omne saeculum:
talis decet partus Deum.
O COME, Redeemer of the earth,
and manifest thy virgin-birth.
Let every age in wonder fall:
such birth befits the God of all.
Non ex virili semine,
sed mystico spiramine
Verbum Dei factum est caro
fructusque ventris floruit.
Begotten of no human will
but of the Spirit, Thou art still
the Word of God in flesh arrayed,
the promised fruit to man displayed.
Alvus tumescit Virginis,
claustrum pudoris permanet,
vexilla virtutum micant,
versatur in templo Deus.
The Virgin's womb that burden gained,
its virgin honor still unstained.
The banners there of virtue glow;
God in his temple dwells below.
Procedat e thalamo suo,
pudoris aula regia,
geminae gigas substantiae
alacris ut currat viam.
Proceeding from His chamber free
that royal home of purity
a giant in twofold substance one,
rejoicing now His course to run.
Aequalis aeterno Patri,
carnis tropaeo cingere,
infirma nostri corporis
virtute firmans perpeti.
O equal to the Father, Thou!
gird on Thy fleshly mantle now;
the weakness of our mortal state
with deathless might invigorate.
Praesepe iam fulget tuum
lumenque nox spirat novum,
quod nulla nox interpolet
fideque iugi luceat.
Thy cradle here shall glitter bright,
and darkness breathe a newer light
where endless faith shall shine serene
and twilight never intervene.
Sit, Christe, rex piissime,
tibi Patrique gloria
cum Spiritu Paraclito,
in sempiterna saecula. Amen.
All praise, eternal Son, to Thee,
whose advent sets Thy people free,
whom, with the Father, we adore,
and Holy Ghost, for evermore. Amen.

Monday, December 19, 2011

To Succeed

"To know that even one life has breathed easier because you lived; this is to have succeeded."
Always looking up!
Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I've been haunting internet websites and fori concerned with Catholic liturgy and music for almost two decades now. How is that possible?

At one point about six years ago quite a bunch of us geeks held forth at RPInet's boards sustained by a lovely man and Christian gentleman, Bill Burns. That forum at that time provided exposure to some truly great thinkers and practicioners of our profession, one of whom was one Jason Pennington, late of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Lafayette, LA. Somewhere around the spring of 2005 JP was going on about something coined "Six days of musical heaven" and he sure as spit was going to DC to check out this thing known as the CMAA colloquium. When JP posted later that summer he extolled at length about the veracity of that "sales pitch" and of one of the event's more notable personalities, one Jeffrey A. Tucker.

I had, up to that point, been skeptical about this CMAA "thing." I'd long been out of NPM, was up to my eyeballs in having left public school for full time church employment, and typically had no clue about what the colloquium fuss was about. June of 2006 changed all of that, and fundamentally changed my whole attitude about why and how I went about my passion and my professional (in both senses) duties. And there were three persons in '06 DC whose faces and smiles became permanently etched onto my heart. One of those named "Mahrt." The second "Oost-Zinner," and the third "Tucker."

No one even minimally familiar with the Cafe, MSForm, the NLM or CRISIS periodical would not recognize Jeffrey Tucker. And anyone very familiar with contemporary pundit culture would readily concede that even the likes of George Will or Charles Osgood cannot sport the perfectly knotted, natty bow tie like Tucker.

I am going to make this brief. (You can thank me later, Ms. Pluth!)  Jeffrey Tucker is simply an elemental force of nature! He seems to cavort about the worlds earthly and cyber with the momentum and vortex spin of the cartoon character "the Tazmanian Devil, or 'Taz,' " but you can't actually see that he's moving, Jeffrey is so "smoov." (Smooth, for those who don't know hip hop colloquialisms.) But moreso, Jeffrey is a supreme gentleman, a man who will always answer the phone, text, and I suppose tweet as well. And he has always found time to help, to advise, to listen, to try again and harder to get the "good news" out about CMAA and our proper right to fit and beautiful worship.

Today is the anniversary of the date J.A. Tucker graced this planet with his presence.
And I thank God He saw fit to let my trifocaled, jaded eyes set upon his seersucker-suited presence my first CMAA summer.

I breathe much easier knowing that Jeffrey lives in my heart.

Happy Birthday, JT.

Cookie Recipe, New Translation

As appeared on Commonweal:

Just saying hello

I was quite thrilled last Friday when Jeffrey Tucker asked if I would contribute here. The CMAA and the contributors here at the ChantCafe have done so much to promote music in the church, and I'm glad to be a part of it. Lest my unexpected appearance distract from the content of a post, I thought it would be good to (re-)introduce myself.

Right now I am the Organist and Choirmaster for the Latin Mass at St. Paul's Church in the Italian Market in Philadelphia, where we have a vocal quartet that sings the Gregorian chant Mass propers each Sunday, as well as polyphonic repertoire from the late Medieval/early Renaissance to modern compositions.

In addition, I am the organist at Trinity Lutheran Church in South Philadelphia (flying from one job to the next gets interesting sometimes), as well as an Assistant Grand Court Organist to Peter Richard Conte on the Wanamaker Organ at Macy's in Center City Philadelphia.

When I'm not doing any of the above I'm usually wasting time in my favorite cafe.

It's a pleasure to be here, and thank you, Jeffrey, for the invitation.

Singing Lessons, by Fr. Robert Skeris

The Mass is the very core of the Catholic liturgy, the supremely important expression of the Church’s faith. It is clear that a skewed concept of the Mass that fails to do justice to its essence will in due time harm the believer’s piety and undermine the faith of communicants. Sacred music is a necessary and integral part of the solemn liturgy. Since form is an inner expression of the spiritual reality in the Mass, music too will be affected by any shift of emphasis regarding the form of the Divine Liturgy.

So begins this classic piece by Fr. Robert Skeris, which is newly posted at CRISIS.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Survey Says...

Many parishes like the idea of taking a survey of what parishioners like and dislike about parish life. This makes sense because a parish is all about service to people, or should be. Its sacramental purpose is primary but there is an extended mission as well that involves creating an inviting and welcoming culture. We all need such places in this world, settings outside work and home that encourage the creation of social groups centering on the faith. The practical matter is that people need to feel as if there is something socially beneficial that is worth supporting financially.

A survey can be very revealing in this respect. But what kinds of questions are off limits? A survey would never ask, for example, whether there ought to be a Sunday Mass or whether the parish should be baptizing babies. Those activities are intrinsic to the life of Catholics and not subject to democratic veto.

The music of the faith is also intrinsic but it is rarely thought of that way. Today people tend to see the music of the liturgy as little more than a religious application of what we experience outside Mass. This is why most parishes today offer a variety of musical experiences depending on demographics and time slots. If the purpose of the music is to please people and their subjective tastes, this is what happens.

So of course parish music becomes part of the survey. Most musicians I know dread this for obvious reasons. Many choose their music based on serious considerations of the ritual, and of the singes and musicians they have at their disposal, and it seems rather ridiculous to solicit people’s input on such issues. It is not like selecting a channel on Pandora. But pastors like to put the music question on the survey anyway.

What are the results? It will usually happen that there are an equal number of people who hate chant and love chant, who hate praise music and love praise music, who hate 1970s classics and love 1970s classics, who want a rock band and who loathe the idea of a rock band. Passions run in all directions.

How is it possible to please all these different points of view? Every pastor knows that it is not possible. Even if he wanted to, no matter what the pastor chooses to do, some people will be passionately against it and some people will be passionately for it.

A small anecdote. I go to a gym that has satellite radio with some 500 channels. The gym users themselves determine what channel plays. If you get there early in the morning, you put on what you want and it tends to stick even long after you have left. Mid morning, someone might come in with a passionate opinion and ask everyone if it is ok to change the station. Because the person who chose the current selection is obviously gone, no one really objects to this idea. The station is changed, and that sticks for a few hours until someone else is bold enough to start the cycle again. No one really agrees but there is a system worked out for dealing with the problem so that there is some degree of peace.

Parishes have worked out similar systems in the name of keeping the peace. In many ways, this necessary for now but essentially tragic. Systems like this are fine for gyms because there is no music is that is intrinsic to the activity. The lifting of weights on the use of the treadmill are not intimately associated with a particular style and the music is not really a necessary part of the activity itself.

This is not the case with the Mass. The music of the Mass grew up alongside the Mass as a means of elevating the text. It is chant, in part, because the text is not metered and should have the lift we associate with prayer.

The chant developed more and more as the years went on and became the largest body of documented music in history, and the core of the repertoire itself constitutes the most brilliant musical contributions imaginable. Not much in this world holds up 100 years, to say nothing of 1500 years, but what we call Gregorian chant has really held up beautifully. It is new in every generation. To me, this suggests divine inspiration.

In the postconciliar period, the chant has been rendered in national languages. The Latin is also preserved in accordance with the dictates of the Second Vatican Council. Most crucially, the chant is not just any old music plugged into the Mass. It is Mass itself made more noble in song. It is not just the preferred form of liturgical music. It is the liturgical music, the very music of the Catholic Church in the Roman Rite.

For this reason, the usual parish solution to the “music problem” is not a stable one. If you have five different Masses, and only one of which is chanted in an appeal to a certain sector of parish opinion, the overall structure of the parish music is sending a message that simply is not true. It is like five different food items all labelled steak but only one of which actually comes from a cow.

In some way, the idea of surveying musical preferences can be a good idea in a parish because it makes the point that there is no way to please all people’s subjective tastes. We need to get beyond individual tastes and admit that there really is a body of music that constitutes true music for the ritual. It is not a matter of likes and dislikes but a matter of deferring to the music that is intrinsic to the ritual itself.

The persistence of random songs of various sorts, as replacements for Mass propers, and of secular and pop styles, really does open up a can of worms that benefits no one in the end. The only path to genuine, long-term peace in a parish life is to do what the Church is asking us to do. The liturgy must be true to itself.

gregoire chant notation

I have worked with Meinrad fonts for years. I can manipulate them pretty well. Still, I find it a bit tiresome that what you see on the page is not exactly what prints, so there is constant refining to get the notes to line up properly with the text. (If anyone has a "cure" for this, I would love to hear it.)
In any case, I thought I might do a little searching to see if something better has been developed. I had heard of Gregoire, but never used it, so.... There seems to be nothing (please correct me if I am wrong), but Gregoire. I downloaded it, and it seems to be really buggy. I am guessing that there are idiosyncracies with French PCs.
Before giving up completely, I googled, "problems with Gregoire" to see what kind of advice I might find. Imagine my surprise when 10 pages of complaints about WA governor Christine Gregoire appeared.
Still using Meinrad fonts.

Another tool for general life improvement

A Latin syllabifier!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

National Shrine Choir Profiled

The hook is that Newt Gingrich's wife sings with the National Shrine choir. It's good to see the profile under whatever auspices.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Hildegard von Bingen to be Canonized and made Doctor of the Church has reported that Pope Benedict has plans to canonize Hildegard von Bingen a to make her a Doctor of the Church.

Hildegard is the earliest known (i.e. named) composer of sacred music in the Roman Catholic tradition and therefore in the Western music tradition, and is the first name you will hear in a music history class. She was born 48 years after the death of Guido d'Arezzo and was one of the first to take advantage of his newly created musical staff for the purposes of composition. Here compositional style was monodic and is, we might say, one of the most organic outgrowths of the Gregorian chant repertoire that we have.

It seems significant that Pope Benedict has made the decision now to canonize and exalt this true patroness of sacred music. Is it possible that he is building up toward a more intensely focused movement for sacred music in the Church? Is it possible that perhaps a new document or motu proprio might await us with the naming of Hildegard as a Doctor of the Church, or sometime following? One never knows, but this is one of many signs that there may be more to come for us in the promotion sacred music from the highest of ranks in the Church.

Here's the report:

And here's Hildegard's Caritas abundat in omnia:

4th Sunday of Advent, Simple English Propers

It is impossible to speak of this day without posting the authentic Gregorian offertory, which is surely one of the most beautiful pieces ever written:

Advent - 4th Sunday of Advent: Offertory from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

The Musical Shape of the Liturgy

This amazing book is coming out in the first quarter of the new year. I'll say again with confidence what I've said many times: this is the most important book on Catholic music ever published. Hands down. This is the book that we've been missing, the one that will make the difference, the one that will bring about a gigantic leap forward, the one that will bring about a total rethinking, the one that will cause the waves the will reach your parish.

We need patrons for this. Please consider donating to support its publication.

The Translation Y2K

From Campus Notes:

The prophecies of the calamitous consequences of the introduction of the new missal were heard around the country. But was it much ado about little?

There were warnings from some Catholic publications that the new translation was “unreadable” and an “inhibitor to authentic prayer.”

One news story suggested that “New missal could drive away Catholics.” Another fretted, “Liturgists Worry About Upcoming Implementation.”

But according to a number of priests and campus ministry professionals at faithful Catholic colleges, it seems that all the worry about the new missal translation is a bit like Y2K – prophecies of doom and gloom followed quickly by rather smooth sailing.

“There was no fainting, no shrieking, no embolisms,” assured Director of Campus Ministry at Belmont Abbey College Patricia Stevenson. “We haven’t had anybody sort of whining or complaining or objecting.”

She told the Cardinal Newman Society that the introduction of the new translation is going smoothly.

Fr John Healey, Chaplain of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, told CNS, “It certainly hasn’t come to pass that people who were predicting difficulties were in any sense correct.”

In fact, he said students seem to like the new translation.

So too does the Rev. Joseph Fox, O.P. of Christendom College, calling it “a far superior translation.”

Fr. Fox said much of the screaming about how this would negatively affect the faithful turned out to be “much ado about nothing.”

He said that while the priests have much to remember, the changes are not very significant for the faithful. In fact, he laughed at all the fuss. “Some places have made such a big deal about educating the people about the changes,” he said. “I don’t mean to make light but all of this for ‘and with your spirit’?”

Fr. Fox said the concerns and protests over the new translation weren’t coming from young people. “This was made a cause célèbre because now finally we have a translation and not a complete reformulation of the liturgy,” he said.

Fr. Healey agreed, saying the fuss was primarily from “the chronic complainers.”

Richardson said she suspected it was one last battle of the Vatican II generation. “I think this was about some fighting the old Vatican II fight and climbing one more hill to plant a flag on,” she said. “But students don’t relate to those old discussions. For most students this is completely uncontroversial. They don’t have any dogs in the fight.”

She said she believes students today have shown greater receptivity to move with the Church as a whole and not see actions by the Church as “a tyrannical takeover” of their free will.

Richardson says Belmont Abbey College laid the groundwork by reviewing the changes with students before Mass and having a diocesan priest visit to explain the changes more fully.

Of course, in the pews are the cards to help students follow along with the changes to the language. Richardson called them “cheat sheets” and said she suspected they’d become less necessary over the next few months.

Fr. Healey said he believed that the new translation was actually helping students see the Mass in a new way. “One has to stop and read the words carefully and reflectively pay attention to what the church is really trying to offer in terms of instruction,” he said. “And it’s a far superior translation so it’ll certainly be easier to understand.”

Fr. Joseph Fox of Christendom College said that if people want to avoid it altogether they can do as many of the students there do – attend the Latin Mass.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Are you good at indexing?

(Note: this position has been filled.) If you are interested in being paid to do an index of a book on music and liturgy, please write me.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Alma Redemptoris Mater, Palestrina

From Cracow, Poland, the Jagiellonian University.

The Great Hymn Liberation

I had been hoping for this for years, and we've made some efforts toward this goal, but Watershed has finally done it: the core hymnody of the Catholic Church now online for free in excellent four-part editions.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chanted Christmas Gospel

This file can be found at

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Urgent Message: Support The Musical Shape of the Liturgy, by William Mahrt

The reforms of the liturgy resulting from the Second Vatican Council have greatly increased the freedom of choice of liturgical music;1 the council also encouraged the composition of new music for the sacred liturgy. However, every freedom entails a corresponding responsibility; and it does not seem that, in the years since the council, the responsibility for the choice of sacred music has been exercised with equal wisdom in all circles. To judge by what is normally heard in the churches, one might even conclude that the Church no longer holds any standards in the realm of sacred music, and that, in fact, anything goes.

The main thesis of William Mahrt's great work, The Musical Shape of the Liturgy (460 pages!), is that the Roman Rite has its own musical structure that is aesthetically robust, theologically integrated into the text, musically sophisticated, and essential to the proper presentation of the liturgy. He shows this through historical, theological, and musical analysis. This is a theoretical treatise with a profound practical urgency that the author constantly makes clear from the first to the last: we must apply these lessons in our parishes. If we do not, we are leaving out part of the liturgy and missing the beauty and magnificence of what the Church offers us.

There has never been a book like this since the close of the Second Vatican Council. I'm not sure that there has been a book like this before the Council. Maybe if there had been, we wouldn't be in the mess are in now. There have been musicological works, theological works, books by pundits and composers (but only a few), but no general treatise that covers all that you need to know plus provides a practical urgency that is focused on how music really should be treated in every parish starting now.

Mahrt himself is a remarkable man: an academic musicologist plus a parish musician plus an activist for the great cause of chant. This book puts it altogether in a way that provides what we have all so badly needed: the one book to read and distribute to finally get Catholic music on track again.

Where can you get this book? You cannot. Not yet. We are in the final stages of preparation. It is going to print in February. But here is the reality. Preparing and printing this book is going to break the bank. The CMAA has very little money anyway and this is going to drain our account. But it absolutely must be done. We can't pass up this opportunity. As I told Mahrt, I think this book will still be a living part of our intellectual apparatus in fifty or 100 years. I really believe that. This is the book that will finally say what must be said.

Can you help us out with publishing this? We certainly need it. And donating here is a real opportunity, a way to encourage beauty in the Roman Rite, a way to bring something unique into existence that we've been missing. Please be generous, and thank you.

P.S. If you are consider a gift of more than $1,000, I'm very happy to send you the PDF as it currently stands so that you can see what I'm talking about here. You can write me at

To Fix the Chant, Focus on the Word

Very interesting arrives at the Cafe:

Some time ago, when I woke up to the fact that "the Sacred" was steadily diminishing in my life, I determined to do something about it: I founded a schola to bring the Sacred back to the Masses in the parish church that my wife and I attend. In this effort your Chant Café has been a monumental discovery. Although I had not even heard of the article How to Start Your Own Garage Schola (co-authored by you with Arlene Ost-Zinner), I had already followed the steps you had outlined there. I had even discovered on the Internet -- by pure chance -- the Jubilate Deo booklet.

Some departures from your five steps were, however, inevitable. Our parish was in a state of interregnum (the outgoing pastor was reluctant to start anything new just before departure; the incoming pastor had vowed not to change anything substantial throughout his first year). What to do? I had a schola, and no place to chant.

At this point I made a startling and unexpected discovery -- chant is prayer. First and foremost, it is prayer. Teaching chant (a skill I had acquired when I attended a major seminary) I would be teaching people a new way to pray! (At this point, I'm afraid, you are likely thinking -- "The earth is round, you say?" Still, hear me out.)

We had our first meeting in a room of the Public Library. (No space was available at the Parish.) After introductions and some casual chatting I called the group to order. Then I said: "Let's begin with a prayer. Just follow me." Then I intoned the words "Our Father ..." and all in the room chanted on one note, peacefully and beautifully, to the final Amen. The silence that followed was deafening. I will never forget that moment.

Since that first evening we have begun our weekly practice-sessions exactly that way. Afterwards, before the practice, I say -- "Remember, we are learning to pray. The words we pray are the most important part of chant."

I have been astonished at how much this emphasis on prayer has contributed to our ability to chant well and, perhaps more important still, to wait patiently for the opportunity to chant in the liturgy of the Church. Above all, striving to attain una voce chanting is almost automatic. The shared music brings us together. Our differences disappear. Before we practice a chant we read the prayer out loud and discuss what the intention of that prayer is and, of course, how we should pray it when we chant. The result is always wonderful. There are no more alleluias sung like dirges, nor pedestrian Glorias, nor frivolous-sounding pleas for God's mercy. The chanted prayers are earnest and real.

I believe that one of the major problems, both in teaching and in learning how to chant (particularly when the chanter has a professionally-trained voice) arises not so much from the unique features possessed naturally by each voice as by all the later acquisitions common in secular vocal music, such as shading, tremolo, bravura, coloring, styles, etc. However, when the emphasis is on the words rather than the music this is not so. In my experience these all gradually disappear without any attention paid to them. Each chanter seems simply to realize that these elements have no place in chanted prayers, that there is a sustaining difference between secular and sacred music.

We are now in our fourth month. We have no official standing in any of the parishes of southern Oregon and must wait to be invited to chant on special occasions. We have a respectable repertory of liturgical chants, principally in English, but also in Latin. We have sung the mass at two retreats at our local St. Rita's Retreat House. Yesterday at a funeral in Grants Pass, we chanted two propers (Introit: Requiem Aeternam; and the recessional, Subvenite) as well as the In Paradisum at the final incensing -- all in English.

In about six weeks we will chant a mass -- this time all in Latin -- a celebration on the occasion of an infant baptism and also two First Holy Communions of a family from Rogue River. The celebrant, a member of the Fraternity of St. Peter, is brother to the father of these children. (The children's father is a member of the schola.) Our schola also anticipates an invitation to chant a mass at a local mission church. We will afterwards begin tutoring and rehearsing their choir group members who have expressed an interest in learning Gregorian Chant. God knows where we will go from there. In His will is our peace.

I'm sure there is nothing exceptional about our experience. You have heard, I'm sure, and will continue to hear from more and more individuals on the front-lines of this battle who are steadily gaining ground. Because of the great assistance and inspiration of individuals like you and all your associate liturgists and musical experts, we will prevail. The best way we can thank you at present is with our prayers. All the rest will come as a matter of course.

Arvo Pärt - Cecilia, vergine romana

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sad, Suffering Return of "Godspell"

This review of the Godspell revival made me laugh:
“Godspell” is showing its age, at least as represented by director Daniel Goldstein’s production at New York’s Circle in the Square Theatre. This first Broadway revival of the beloved 1971 “rock musical” might be compared to a middle-aged person trying to recapture youth. In people the result is sad to see, but here it’s just boring.

What seemed fresh and light 40 years ago -- 20-something actors cavorting around in colorful ragtag costumes singing and acting out Jesus’ parables, with him leading and joining in the fun -- now seems like a church pageant aimed at getting the youth group more interested in religion. Nothing in this revival is of Broadway quality except the songs, which were adapted by composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz from the Episcopal hymnal and the Gospel of Matthew.

Even the songs suffer here because of choreographer Christopher Gattelli’s formulaic dance moves, which in the case of the show’s breakout hit, “Day by Day,” look more like a cardio class warm-up.
You only know for sure that it is in the National Catholic Reporter because the reviewer's main complaint is that the producers didn't update the production with inclusive language.

I've never understood the appeal of Godspell. It opens, as I recall, with a number that pokes fun at St. Thomas Aquinas and scholasticism as an intellectual discipline. No thanks.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gregorian Chant is so Jewish

There is nothing Catholic that is not rooted in the Old Testament. Our Catholic faith did not spring up out of nowhere, but out of the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

This is true liturgically speaking, as we have a tabernacle, altar and priesthood in the New Covenant, similar to the Old Covenant. We also have Gregorian chant, which is rooted in Old Covenant worship. The Psalms were not merely read, but chanted in public worship of God, which Jesus himself participated in as a child.

This chant was more fully developed in the Catholic Church and became what we now refer to as Gregorian chant. I’ve listened to many types of chant, but none quite as beautiful as Gregorian.

Pope Benedict XVI has encouraged the faithful to reacquaint themselves with this chant and use it liturgically; we want to follow our Supreme Pontiff’s lead.

Read more from Sister Rosalind Moss at the NGReg

Simple English Propers, Gaudete

Why Is Catholic Music Such a Mess?

I get this question enough that it justifies an article. Here’s the scenario. A long time Catholic of bourgeois sensibilities, a man who trying to hold on to his faith but doesn’t attend Mass on a regular basis, decides that it is time to try again. He goes to a parish not far from his house. The processional says to him: nothing has changed from the last time I tried this. He grinds his teeth throughout. By communion time, he is nearly losing his mind. The recessional hymn puts him over the top. He goes out to the parking lot cursing under his breath, mad all over again, recalling why he doesn’t go that often.

The problem is the music. It is bad pop music, shabbily done by people who nonetheless seem to be pretty proud of their performance. The entire Mass, the man keeps asking himself: how does it happen that the most beautiful liturgy, the product of 2000 years of tradition, could be reduced to this? More importantly, isn’t there something that can be done about it?

I receive phonecalls and emails along these lines all the time and have for many years. The stark contrast between what exists and what they remember Mass to be, or imagine it can be like or have seen or heard elsewhere, is too much too handle.

I see my main job here as trying my best to calm people down and get them to see that the source of the problem is not as metaphysically malicious as they might at first think. We do not need a purge, as tempting as that idea might sound. Nor is the solution some dramatic leap into an authoritarian future in which a Bishop or the Pope imposes one set of music and tosses out everyone who doesn’t go along, as satisfying as that fantasy might be.

There are a number of core reasons why this problem persists, and these reasons are related to each other in complex ways. Let’s first be clear that the musicians themselves typically feel a sense of discomfort about what they are doing. They are not entirely sure that they are really making a contribution to the liturgy. They feel a sense of disconnect with what is happening on the altar. They are unclear about whether the music they are doing is really appropriate. But they are unpaid volunteers who are aware that no one seems to be objecting, and they do receive compliments from time to time. Hence, they reason, they might as well continue what they are doing, which is showing up to Mass 30 minutes early and selecting for hymns and otherwise doing what they already know how to do. They do not see the big picture. They do not imagine what they cannot musically render or understand.

The number one issue, in my own view that has been formed over a decade of close study, is that the musicians themselves do not know better. Most people doing music in the Catholic Church do not even have a rudimentary understanding of the musical demands of the Roman rite. They do not know what parts of the Mass constitute the ordinary structure of the Mass. They do not know that the propers of the Mass exist. They have no idea how the music is related to the word or the calendar (apart from Christmas and Easter). They have no idea what is mandatory, what is an option, what is the Church’s choice, what is the publisher’s choice, what tradition consists of, or how to tell genuine liturgical music from nonliturgical music.

This is because they have never been told. And a reason that they have never been told is that very few people actually have this understanding at all. You can attend ten national conventions, read ten books, subscribe to all the major liturgy publications, troll websites all day, talk to your pastor and grill your predecessors, and still never discover these basic points about the Catholic liturgy and its musical demands. Yes, you will come away with some slogans and with the knowledge that “the people” need to participate but do not (it’s always easier to focus on the sins of others), but that’s about it.

The core information about the role of music is not known because it is not known, and this problem is not only serious at the grass roots; it goes straight to the top. Again, it is not malice that is preventing this knowledge from leaking out; it is just that so much information has been lost during these confusing decades that there are very few around that truly get it.

The second problem is that the resources to actually make a musical contribution to the liturgy have been missing for many decades. The music book of the Roman rite, the Roman Gradual, is unknown to 98% of musicians in the Catholic Church. They’ve never seen a copy and never heard of it, even though it is mentioned in both the Missal and in the instruction for the Missal. Even on the off chance that they have seen this book, they can’t read either the language (Latin) or the notation (four-line staff). They do not know that there are English versions of this available. If they did know this, they wouldn’t know how to get them.

Historians who have looked in detail at this problem note that it all began in the 1960s as an extension of a problem that pre-existed the Second Vatican Council. In a Low Mass culture, it was common to replace the sung propers with hymns and spoken propers. When the prevailing style of hymns changed in the 1960s from stodgy to groovy, and Mass propers fell by the wayside, that tendency to match the music with the times also stuck. That’s why the first signs of what many regard as corruption began to appear in the 1960s. Pop music began to dominate, first in the area of songs as replacements for propers. Only later did it become common for the ordinary chants of the Mass to be replaced by settings that matched the style of the new songs. By the early 1970s, it was a clean sweep. All the music of the Mass had a completely different face. By the time that the Roman Gradual that pertains to the ordinary form was actually printed in 1974, the whole issue has already been settled and the book was widely ignored.

There are other problems out there, to be sure. People talk about the problem of the publisher cartel, and it is a problem. But as I often remind people, they way to deal with this problem is simply a matter of changing the market. You have to change the buying preferences of the consumers. It’s pretty simple. You can do this without legislation, crack downs, hectoring, or belligerence. It is just a matter of supply and demand. In markets, products come and products go. If you don’t like what sells, support something else.

What about legislation and mandates? Statements from on high? Impositions from authority? I don’t consider these to be part of any real solution. There will continue to be statements just as there have been for decades. They are not as important as actually changing hearts through real experience. This is why educational colloquia and teaching conferences are so important. And it is why books like the Parish Book of Chant and the Simple English Propers are also so important. We have to have the resources. And we have to have the money to fund the production of these books and conferences - and generous donors (blessed are they!) are in short supply.

This is my sketch of the world we’ve inherited and how we must work to change it, the one I’ve relayed seemingly hundreds of times. There is a solution to the problem and it can be brought about quickly. We don’t need decades. But we do need passion, work, funding, and prayer.