Tuesday, March 27, 2012

News From the Front

I know that it has been a long time since I have made a contribution to Chant Café. But I continue to check in every day on what is going on in the chant world! One of the amazing things of changing gears from academic life to pastoral life is seeing how the things we discuss on blogs such as Chant Café as desirable actually translate into the life of the parishes.

I just wanted to share what we have been doing at my new parish, Prince of Peace, since I arrived in December, and would love to hear your feedback on similar things in your parishes as well. Check us out at www.princeofpeacetaylors.net.

I arrived in the new parish just as the new translation was getting underway. We have been using the ICEL Missal chants for the Ordinary, except for the Gloria, which we are doing according to John Lee’s new version. We are talking about using Schubert’s Deutsche Messe according to the new ICEL texts for the summer. And I am anxiously awaiting the Canons Regular of St John Cantius’ new ICEL version of Healy Willan’s Missa Sancta Maria Magdalena. I just found, however, in the 1960 something Hymnal a version which we can use, with the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus already new ICEL-compliant.

We have started to use the Chabanel Psalms, which have been lovely, and at the 10am Solemn Mass we have been doing the Simple English Propers for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion.

The church building is very unique: it is a modern interpretation of Romanesque, so it has some interesting challenges: a very, very high roof with a butler building ceiling, unpolished concrete floors, and not a right angle in the building. The Choirs are up in the gallery, and there is a large digital organ, which makes some impressive sound for such a large space.

Even though the organ has been virtually silenced for Lent, we have been having everything from Gabrieli to Vierne, so the people are getting quite a taste of some excellent organ repertoire. Improvisations on hymn tunes and chant pieces have become a regular feature of our worship.

The weekly School Mass has evolved as a teaching tool for the Reform of the Reform. We have a Novus Ordo Solemn Mass every Wednesday morning. We have not introduced propers yet, but the same hymns are sung which will be sung the following Sunday at Mass. We also are doing the Latin chant Ordinaries associated with the liturgical seasons, and the kids have been doing very well learning Mass XVII for Lent. While everything at the Sedilia and Ambo is in English, everything at the Altar is in Latin. I taught the kids all of the sung parts of the Latin OF as well as the responses from the Orate fratres forward. And the kids have learned to tell the difference between an ictus, an episema and a quilisma. They really like the quilisma for some reason.

The parish had the Extraordinary Form every Sunday for about seven years, and we are now doing it every day at Noon. The Sunday Mass is a Missa Cantata at noon, right after the 10am English Solemn Mass. So singing two high masses in a row with incense makes for a grueling task for me and the musicians, but it is something to see our very tall church, with its numerous glass windows, replete with heavy clouds of incense every Sunday!

After a seven week sermon series on the sacred liturgy at the EF Mass, the Curate and I have been doing an Adult Education series on following Latin Mass and Vespers. While our EF congregation (which numbers anywhere between 150-200 each Sunday, as opposed to up to 1000 people at the 10am Mass) for some reason is still reticent to sing much at Mass (they love listening to the Schola), they are all about Vespers. We will begin Sunday Vespers and Benediction in Paschaltide, alternating men and women in the congregation, and the 30 or so people who have been coming to the classes are doing a fine job of struggling their way through Vespers. I am amazed at how quickly they have caught on! We always do the seasonal Marian Antiphon after the EF Mass.

Some time ago I was approached by the Director of Music who said that some of the kids from the High School Youth Group wanted to sing at the Sunday evening Last Chance Mass. I was skeptical, fearing that they wanted some kind of Christian Rock/Lifeteen thing. Imagine my surprise when they debuted as a Choir singing Kevin Allen’s Desidero mi Jesu, and sounded better than the college music majors we have on as Choral Scholars at the Solemn Mass!

We have added a lot to the musical program already existing in the parish. We did a Latin Missa Cantata for the Purification sung by a men’s schola entirely in chant and an English Mass for St Joseph with the Litany of St Joseph from the Cantus selecti in procession to the Parish Hall.

Holy Week is coming. Orlando Gibbons and Palestrina for Palm Sunday along with the chant music. Josquin des Prez’ Missa Pange lingua for Maundy Thursday with Durufle’s Ubi caritas and Tantum ergo by Bruckner. And we are already planning for Corpus Christi, with a Procession with lots of fun music.

Of course, all of this is possible because of the leadership over thirteen years of my predecessor, Msgr Steven Brovey, who introduced both Reform of the Reform and Extraordinary Form ideas into Upstate South Carolina when it was still considered a no-no. The music team of Alan Reed and Dewitt Tipton has been phenomenal, and continues to be so. The only thing I regret is losing the irreplaceable Loraine Schneider, who taught the Ward Method in our parish school and is now at Holy Rood in New York, on to bigger and better things.

I love sharing all of this, because we are a 1200 family (more or less) parish in the buckle of the Bible Belt in South Carolina. We are an ordinary suburban parish with ordinary people, a debt of $1,000,000 from the building of a now 8 year old church. There has been some small outflow of parishioners not amenable to the liturgical culture of the parish, but there has also been an amazing outpouring of generosity of current parishioners and new ones who have chosen Prince of Peace. And this in a small Southern city that has other fine liturgically centered churches as well! I am proud to be the shepherd of such a church. A parish modeled on Pope Benedict XVI’s vision for the sacred liturgy and music is possible. If we can do it down in South Carolina in an ordinary parish with ordinary people, it can be done in other places as well. I would be fascinated to hear how your parishes are coming along with the re-enchantment of the sacred!

http://youtu.be/5ge89fKM5O8 Check out a video from our Solemn Midnight Mass for Christmas done by one of our friends!