Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cardinal Burke's Homily on the Solemnity of St. Philip Neri

The fulltext may be found here.

"The life of the Holy Spirit within us is inherently dynamic for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of the world."

Hymn Tune Introits for the Most Blessed Trinity and Corpus Christi

As mentioned here previously, the Hymn Tune Introits are a way to incorporate the proper texts of a Mass in the liturgies of parishes that are very much accustomed to singing hymns. I've taken the entrance antiphons for the next two Sundays and put them into verse form.

The Missal presents as the Entrance Antiphon for the Most Blessed Trinity: Blest be God the Father, and the Only Begotten Son of God, and also the Holy Spirit, for he has shown us his merciful love.

While my versification misses some important elements of this text, particularly regarding the Son, it is certainly closer than Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, or other beloved hymns  which might be chosen.

May God the Father blessed be,
And His one Son eternally,
And blest the Spirit from above:
For He has shown His gracious love.

The verse is in "Church meter" (Long Meter, Ambrosian meter), which has 4 lines of 8 syllables each, and which attempts to be, at least in the 2 and 4th feet of each line, iambic. Tunes such as Jesu Dulcis Memoria and Duke Street would be good matches.

For Corpus Christ, I have included Alleluias which are reflective of the abundant use of Alleluia in the proper introit, Cibavit eos.

He fed them with the finest wheat
And sated them, alleluia,
With honey from the rock to eat,
Alleluia, alleluia.

As a rather unusual option, perhaps a parish might consider singing this Corpus Christi antiphon to the tune Sweet Sacrament, and adding the refrain usually sung with Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Yet another setting, for your consideration

The revised score has the organ accompaniment. Should you like the score posted, drop a reply. Commons 3. Blessings, C

Morning Prayer for a Parish

From Holy Spirit, San Antonio: Morning Prayer for a Parish, free to use.

Chant in Grand Rapids

On June 16, I'll be teaching a practical chant seminar at Sacred Heart of Jesus in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It will be a four-hour tutorial and lecture practicum dealing with getting the propers in the parish right away. Ideally you should be able to attend knowing next to nothing and be prepared to sing the next day. I know that is a bit ambitious but it's not crazy. It can happen. So far as I know, the workshop is free and runs from 10am until 3pm with a little lunch provided. Contact the parish for more information.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hymn to St. Anne: Nocti succedit lucifer

This is my translation of the office hymn Nocti succedit lucifer, a hymn in honor of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the patroness of Canada, as well as Detroit. The feast of St. Anne with her husband St. Joachim is celebrated on the universal calendar on July 26th.

One of the hymn's strengths is its use of the imagery of light in the first two verses. In verse 1, we move forward in time as we move through the series of celestial images: first Anna, the morning star, then Mary, the dawn, then Christ, the Sun. (The forward motion is found in the popular hymn Mary the Dawn as well.) In verse two, the images work in reverse, perhaps in order of importance for salvation: Christ the Sun, Mary the dawn, and Anna, who warms the sky to a pre-dawn red--the "rosy fingered dawn" of Homer.

The third verse's imagery is familar from the O Antiphon O radix Jesse, which draws from Isaiah 11:1, the messianic prophecy that numbers the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.

Where Mary the Dawn has a binary quality, this hymn is more of a waltz, in three. Working backwards from Christ, the evident Savior, we find His mother, and we study to understand who she must have been, to bear such fruit in her womb. Then we take one further step, and find her mother, not immaculately conceived, but the natural mother of the mother. Already in St. Anne, in whose womb the Immaculate Conception took place, we have reason to hope, that soon the Sun will shine.

The morning star is on the rise
And soon the dawn will fill the skies,
Foretelling of the coming Sun
Whose light will shine on everyone.

The Sun of justice, Christ, true Light,
And Mary, grace's dawning bright,
And Anna, reddening the sky,
Have caused the night of Law to fly.

O mother Anna, fruitful root,
From you came your salvation's shoot,
For you brought forth the flow'ring rod
That bore for us the Christ of God.

Christ's mother's mother, by the grace
Your daughter's birth brought to our race,
And by her merits and her prayer
May we her favors come to share.

O Jesus, Virgin-born, to You
All glory is forever due.
To Father and the Spirit, praise
Be sung through everlasting days.

Richard J. Clark's "I am Risen"

Simple English Propers, reviewed

The book is of course an amazing hit even without conventional reviews in the usual places. But I'm very pleased to see this.

I wasn't hesitant to request this item for a review, as I had read some very great things regarding the Simple English Propers, such as their faithfulness to true plainchant and clear layouts. Apparently, the propers are an effort the bring true sacred music back to the vernacular Mass. Well, if every Parish had this book, we wouldn't have a problem with bad hymns. The Simple English Propers are published by the same people who publish the "Vatican II Hymnal", which I haven't looked at but also have heard good things about it. When I opened the box which held the book, I was surprised to see that the cover was tastefully designed with a picture of an old breviary: and it was HARDCOVER too! The book opens nicely, and it stays open. The paper is higher-quality novel paper, and not too heavy.

The pages are designed very nicely. The text is very clear, easy to read, and a nice font. The music, staffed in Gregorian notation is easy to follow and the words are positioned beneath the bars in such a manner that congregational singing would be more than possible.

Settings for the Funeral and Nuptial Masses are included, and that for me is an extra selling-point.

What I loved, and was my favourite feature of these propers is that the tunes the Psalms are set to are splendidly reverent, and serve two main purposes. 1, the main purpose, is to Praise God. The second, is ease of use.

More than just propers are included, there are a view other chants as well, but nothing too extensive. There aren't many cons that I can blame this book for, except maybe they could publish an edition that is one solid colour with maybe a white/thinner bible-like paper common in hymnbooks, just as an extra edition. But that's only minor, and a non-issue in regards to the content. In my opinion, every parish that offers the Ordinary Form should have, and use the Simple English propers alongside Gregorian chant. The Propers are an excellent key in restoring the traditions of sacred music BACK to the Church! I would graciously like to thank Tiber River for sending me a copy of this book!

"To chant, to sing, engages one's whole being, really."

Benedictine monks on this morning's NPR.

Colloquium Practice Recordings at Choral Tracks

Repertoire selections at this year's Sacred Music Colloquium in Salt Lake City are numerous and varied. The much-awaited music packet will be appearing online at MusicaSacra.com/colloquium in two weeks. In the meantime, a sneak preview is at hand; and what a sneak preview it is.

Matthew Curtis of Choral Tracks, tenor and award-winning ensemble Chanticleer’s assistant music director, has made practice recordings for all the polyphonic works that will be performed at this year's Colloquium. By clicking here, you will be able to listen to individual and combined vocal parts of the many Masses and motets you will be learning during your week in Salt Lake City; Monteverdi, Vierne, Morales, Elgar, Croce, and more.
Choral Tracks is ingenious. How many times have you wished there were recordings available for your choir; practice recordings to help them get the job done just a bit quicker? Matthew Curtis provides you with just this - at a nominal fee! His voice is always warm, smooth, and his renditions are well balanced and meticulously recorded. His work is much more than functional. You may end up listening to the recordings just because they are beautiful.
Bookmark this page at Choral Tracks and be ready to get busy singing once the music packet is released.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Come Down, O Love Divine!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pentecost, Simple English Propers

I really like the Pentecost Propers from the Simple English Propers.

Consider also these more elaborate propers for Pentecost from Fr. Weber.

New Communio Collection by Richard Rice

English Anthems for Mixed Choir
on the Communion Chants
of the Modern
Graduale Romanum

Richard Rice's new collection of Communion Chants begins a new chapter in the use of proper texts at the parish's solemn Mass. Somewhere between simplicity and polyphony, with a difficulty level that is both accessible and challenging to the accomplished amateur choir, the Choral Communio provides a fresh new musical experience each week, with a new use of a traditional structure, that will become second nature over the course of the seasons.

Verses are provided to reflect upon the proper antiphons, and each verse concludes with the second half of the antiphon. This structure of liturgical chant is familiar from the Responsories of the Liturgy of the Hours, and from the Communion chant from the Requiem Mass, Lux Aeterna.

The antiphons are taken from the Graduale Romanum, and ordinarily use the translation from the Gregorian Missal. These are not "official" translations, and some have been modified to a more precise translation. The author's rationale for these and other editorial decisions may be found in the Foreward to this volume, available here.

The ad libitum Communion chants, which may be sung throughout the year, are available on PDF for choirs who may wish to try the Choral Communio before committing to a full purchase, and may be downloaded from the author's homepage here or from the MusicaSacra website here. (Just use your printer’s booklet setting and print in two-sided format along the short edge.)

It is so often said that we should be singing the Mass, rather than simply singing at Mass. Richard Rice's Choral Communio provides an excellent resource for those who would like to sing the Mass, with an accomplished amateur choir, in English.

For more from Richard Rice, see RiceScores.com

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quoth the maven: "Forever more!"

These edited quotes describe a long-lived worship music tradition. Fill in the blanks.

"I have seen this music go from a ... curiosity to a cool pursuit. Keep it healthy by singing it, loving it, and contributing to its future."

"Nothing is weirder than _______ _______. Its favored subject matter…is stark; its (use) has been obsolete for more than a century. Its notation, in which … squares indicate pitch, looks like cuneiform. Yet it exudes power and integrity. Five people sound like a choir; a dozen like a hundred."

“The tradition was to sing all morning, have dinner on the grounds, then sing all afternoon. Sing all day long… in an un-air-conditioned church, in August, … singing ‘fa, so, la’ … seemed like fun…”

"It's not a religion. It doesn't favor any particular denomination. But when you're singing, it's a religious experience."

“A living tradition changes.  If it stopped changing, it would be because it died.”

“There are three things I like about _______ _______: I like the songs they sing; I like the way they sing them; and, most of all, I like the folks that sing them.”

"Today I seldom hear this music, but when I do, I close my eyes and recall a time when, as far as I knew, the entire world was no bigger and no more complex, …life was simple, defined by daily chores and lived in rhythm with the seasons."… and as the world becomes ever more complex, many yearn for those simpler times.”

I like the idea of "singing scriptures" -- using a tune for the actual words from scripture. That's not done much here, though.
I'm curious about your last observation -- new believers...will choose as their "favorites" the hymns and psalms. The longer they are believers, they tend to gravitate towards … songs... Do you have any ideas/opinions about this phenomenon?” “Good question. I have often thought about why this is so, but to date can only assume that new believers aren't initially so influenced by all the Christian media (TV, Radio, music industry, etc.) The longer they are Christians, the more they are exposed to the Christian marketing and media machine and become influenced by its offerings.”

Nowadays, _______ _______ is considered by most people to be … music, not worship. Singers have many divergent backgrounds and beliefs, even though the vast majority of the songs have a distinct … heritage. It should be noted, though, that some singers do approach _______ _______ singing as worship. A song leader's voice is not amplified. There is no 'audience,' though (congregants) are welcome to sit within a section and just listen if they do not feel comfortable singing. There is no applause after a song. Clapping and other rhythm-making sounds are discouraged. Typically each singer has his/her own copy of (a) _______ _______ book. Each group typically has a number of 'loaner' copies that visitors may borrow - - and sometimes additional copies that can be purchased. Since singers typically own their own copies, many freely make notations in the books, as desired.

A. Gregorian Chant
B. Anglican Hymnody
C. Sacred Harp
D. Lutheran Chorales
E. Life Teen

Of course I'm sure most of you had figured out the quotes were describing aspects of the SACRED HARP shape-note singing tradition of certain sects and denominations that sprouted up abundantly at the very beginning of the 19th. century.
Would any right-minded Christian musician wander into a "shape note sing event" and declare their tradition dead and of no value, much less a vital part of a "living tradition"? Then why do we RCC's demonstrate such little appreciation, or in fact, outright denigration of our musical heritage (I would have said "patrimony" but ....) among ourselves. We RCC's would be outraged if some "English" would trample upon the sensibilities of the Amish openly, or if Hillsong folk insisted upon bringing shape note congregations into the 21st century, yes?
Can we but take a moment, catch our breath, and remember who the heck we ARE?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why Gregorian Chant?

At the Extraordinary Form Mass for Ascension Thursday in a nearby parish church, the Mass was nice, beautiful, fine--but not particularly engaging for me on a personal level. I was on a kind of autopilot at the end of a busy day with a lot going on.

And then, during the first Alleluia, something happened. Perhaps it was a moment when the unison voices found that sweet concordance that makes the overtones really shine, or when the timbres found a cooperative resonance, like the string section of an orchestra, or maybe it was a particular moment of off-rhythm, the 3s among the 2s, or the quilisma among the puncta, that simultaneously caused both frisson and quiet.

It was beauty, pure and simple and clean, so difficult to find in our busy world and so very nourishing. No instruments necessary, just a few dedicated human voices ready to proclaim the goodness of God, docile to the liturgical forms of the day and season.

Chant Pushed Up Higher on the Vatican Priorities

Sandro Magister writes of a new emphasis on Gregorian chant within the Vatican. The Congregation for Divine Worship is being restructured to give priority to the music issue.

Full, active, conscious participation-of a PASTOR

Recent First Communion at St. Joseph's, Macon, GA

I’m sure that many of the patrons of the Café are familiar with one Fr. Allan McDonald, pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Macon, GA. His internet presence on his own blog, SOUTHERN ORDERS, is currently burgeoning. And, of course, along with yours truly Fr. Allan remains in dialogue with the “loyal opposition” (said in jest) over at Fr. Ruff’s PRAY TELL blog. Fr. Allan’s been on a roll lately, and I thought I’d share some combox chatter over this recent posting of his which can be found at SOUTHERN ORDERS

My commentary will always be in "black." This is the article's title:


There were some initial “attaboys” in the commentary, then this query was posted:

Pater Ignotus said...

What is it in the nature of the Gregorian Chant, polyphony or traditional metrical hymns that evokes the "specific spiritual feel" you mention?
How do you know if this comes from the music or from your own musical preferences?
As I mentioned at PT, the problem of "music serving Mass" doesn't really exist at the polar extremes, but in the spectrum that lies between those poles.
There isn't much I disagree with, per se, with your analysis of the last two plus generations' musical praxis. However there are at least two perspectives that you should challenge your own solutions to explain.
One, of course, contain ALL the directives of pre and post-conciliar documents from Tra le...to the GIRM/MS/CSL. Namely, that besides observing the principle (first) place afforded chant and allowing preference for its protege polyphony, the Church clearly re-affirms the role that newly minted art must have to continually enrich the sacred treasury. That is conditional, though, articulating that such art respect and reflect those two traditions; hence your correct notion of a native "Catholic" idiom. But that leads me to point out the second challenge-
When one typifies whole genres, Praise and Worship, Sacro-pop, folk, "Ensemble" and then attaches the reality/perception of ghettoization of genres with perjorative tags like "fiefdoms" you have undermined any possibility of reasonable discussion. Here's a short example. When the St. Thomas More consortium broke through in the eighties, there wasn't a whole lot of cohesion of style among their roster of compositional styles. You had Ernie Sand's doing Desmond/Brubeck with "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" in 5/4 (Take Five) in the same collection with Paul Inwood's "Ps.47: God mounts His Throne," and Chris Walker's "Center of My Life" Ask someone with the cred to comment which of those exhibits traits that do not meet the legislative criteria, and you'll have a riot first, then someone might get around to noticing that the Inwood comes closest to containing very little secular associations, and affirming many sacred characteristics.
What I'm really saying, and have always maintained, if you're willing to a wholesale discarding of post-conciliar repertoires, you're willing to do something that not even the council of Trent had the moxie to do (there's always a historical precedence.) And since Pius X, there's not been one pope who would offer such a solution larger than advice and recommendations, or pull a trigger of some comprehensive white or black list.
No matter where each of us is at, none of us can set ourselves up as a sacred music commissar or politburo, thus declaring the Church, as it is, has it "wrong" in her documents. Wish for it, work for it, pray for it, put it into place (as you're doing in Macon) but don't presume to mandate it in the "catholic" domain. We do not carry that water.
BTW, some could turn your recent, wonderful Schubert Mass into an example of questionable praxis not only from the perspective of participatio actuosa (I don't go there anymore) but also from Pius X's own inferences about classical Masses.
It's a rabbit hole, for sure. But just covering up the hole's entrance won't make the hole go away.
Worthy new art is happening. That is why you're paying your wonderful DM the big bucks: to discern and infuse that, again, into the treasury.
Fr. Allan’s response to that:
Charles thanks for the post. I agree with you concerning Schubert's Mass or any "concert" Mass, but I don't know of too many parishes which offer that type of music as a steady unhealthy diet week after week. But with that said at least Schubert's Mass is in continuity with our spirituality. I would like your comment on PI's question.

1. Regarding chant- I believe it's an utterly "free-of-ego" sacral language, particularly when performed in its true habitat, liturgy. And the western (and to some extent eastern rite) chant tradition imparts this pure sense of humility whether the tongue imparts it in Greek, Latin, or a vernacular, IMHO. Unfortunately, I don't think this maxim can be applied to polyphony or hymnody, tho' I agree with PI generally there is more of a likelihood of association with their sacral nature in a ritual environment. But ego entered the picture very early in the historical picture with organum's toleration, and some fruit has been spiritually nutricious, and others detrimental.
2. Again, I believe this question is answered for each individual within a mix of how much they know, intuit or feel about the music in the moment and environment, and if what preferences they do hold are informed and in consensus with whatever aggregate group the person wants to enjoin in worship.
As you know, AWR/PTB had an article about the two axiomatic forms of the jazz Mass in Germany and the "normative" Mass at St. John's. What wasn't cited in the article or commentary was a critical analysis of whether there are viable examples of clearly spiritual or mystical examples (even purposefully couched in Christianity) in the jazz catalog, not the least of which have the names of Edward Ellington, Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane, Paul Winter/Paul Halley, Jan Garbareck in that legacy. But you generally won't find those magnum opi in the local parish jazz Mass; you'll get some Dixieland combo howling "O when the saints...." or somesuch. Or worse, that new age faux garbage at the papal Mass in Berlin during the Penitential Rite.
But, I can listen to some Gil Evans jazz orchestra arrangements with Miles Davis like Rodrigo's Concierto de Araunjez (sp?) and, pardon the pun, I'm in heaven.
I think we're going to remain a big tent church in all ways. That's not a sentiment that would gain traction among my dearest conservative colleagues and friends, but as long as the liturgy inexorably moves toward more overt and authentic sacrality, and chant becomes the norm and standard, or is invited to the table within a parish's weekend schedule on a regular basis, I'll be a happy camper.

“PI” rejoins the conversation:
Pater Ignotus said...

Anon 5 - Good Fr. McDonald made an assertion, that certain music has a specific spiritual feel - a Catholic spiritual feel at that - when heard and processed. I asked if he could offer an argument to back up his assertion.
I am not defending any composer, past, present, or future, or any pastor's or congregation's choice of music.
I enjoy Gregorian chant and "sacred" ployphony as much as the next Catholic, but my question has nothing to do with personal prefernces.
And Good Father, I's like to hear YOUR comments, not Charles'.  (ouch!)
Being a good sport:
PI, I meant no disrespect to you I'm sure you realized. I just responded to FRAJM's direct question. Sorry if that caused offense.
And then: Pater Ignotus said... Charles - How does Gregorian chant "impart this pure sense of humility"? Is it in the texts, the notes, the tempo, . . . ? Describe...?
 Ergo: First of all, the simple discipline of uniting the 150 psalms as the core (if not sole) texts of the liturgical chants to mark the hours of each week in the monastic traditions to a corpus of unison melodies that were as purposefully crafted and refined by anonymous choirs of monks in contours that are at once unique, accessible in tessitura (range), and illustrative to those texts. It's not unlike asking why the Grand Canyon is a majestic sight, in part or in toto. (And consider that all of these chants were promulgated by rote memorization for the most part over centuries.

Now we move to the medium itself- the sole intent is too subsume the individual vocal talent and variation of the chanter into the indescribable beauty that is the blended unison sonority of multiple humans. And then that "one" voice accomplishes that by acquiring the nuances of rhythmic and accentual precision, phonetic and vowel clarity and formational purity. And then the genius involved of having to reconstruct the issues of phrasing and tempi, etc., are in and of themselves, a proven and not unworthy lifetime's calling for the doms and monks of Solemnes and other locales, but for a new generation that has chosen chant not because of scholarship, but experientially realizing that it makes our corporate prayer truly transcendent, truly oriented to God alone, truly an expression that is not a prosaical reconstruction or allusion to scripture, but the Logos itself. One can put on a set of Bose headphones and listen to the monks at Heiligenkreuz Abbey in Austria and "get" what my words cannot fully impart above. But better than that, you can go to chant conferences yearly throughout the states, or parishes like St. John's Cantius in Chicago, or join an accomplished schola or choir and experience these aspects fully realized as a whole, and walk away a completely changed worshipper.
I know, because that's what happened to me and my wife, PI. I've put 42 years of my 61 into the liturgy, I can still riff on any of my multitude of guitars and basses with the best of the old hippies, but I would leave that all behind if I could worship at an EF in at least a chanted Missa Cantata or a chant/polyphony Missa Solemnis every day in my own home parish!
I still love and respect all the music I've played and led over four decades. But if you want to know when I approached God in worship not as "CC, director of music" but as one of his children, it was through the miracle of just such a Mass chanted to perfection a year ago this June.

As of this moment (now in real time) PI has yet to “retort or respond.”

But Fr. Allen did: As it concerns PI's query to me about musical styles, I can only refer him to papal documents on the liturgy especially that of the late 1800's that Charles references that sacred words set to a secular idiom should be avoided or eliminated. I don't have that document to quote off hand but maybe Charles does. The question is to recognize what secular idiom that sacred texts of the Mass were being set to at the time of the late 1800's that the Church was reigning in. What is it today. I would surmise that secular music such as folk, contemporary, rock and Broadway no matter how uplifting and good in musical quality is not meant for the Catholic liturgy or for our piety or spirituality.

Fr. et al,

I'm still puzzled as to why PI has yet to respond, unless this is part of this person's M.O. to take advantage of people who are acting in good faith. C'est la vie.
Anyway, There are two books, one huge, the other brief, that would provide anyone interested with an overview of the chronology and relationship of primary and secondary level legislation and documents pertaining to liturgcal music at service.
*SACRED MUSIC AND THE LITURGICAL REFORM by our friend Fr. Anthony Ruff. Some have decried this huge volume as a doctoral dissertation on steroids, but it is exhaustive and very enlightening (and expensive!) Totally great read, plus one gains an understanding of why AWR comes "off" as equivocating occasionally. There's a lot on his knowledge plate.
*FROM SACRED SONG TO RITUAL MUSIC is more of a pamphlet by comparison compiled by Fr. Mike Joncas, yes that Mike Joncas. This is more of a forensical outline of the same documents, but lacks any offering of perspective to guide the reader towards making conclusions.
I believe that the principal document whose "spirit" still hovers over the VII document/legislation is the 1903 motu of Pius X, TRA LE SOLLECITUDINI and an accompanying letter (even more severely worded) to his fellow bishops in Italy, I believe.) Those of us inclined towards a literal universal reform that restores chant but also reorders our understanding of the issue of FACP which is inclusive towards the Faithful keep this motu close to the vest. There was a great deal of interpretation and experimentation between 1903 and 1967 when MUSICA SACRAM was promulgated, but it seems to me that the prescriptions of MS were premised upon Pius' intentions.
And, of course, there's significant debate as to the intent of the chairman of the committee charged to institutionalize new liturgical legislation such as MS, THE CONSITUTION ON SACRED LITURGY and THE GENERAL INSTRUCTION OF THE ROMAN MISSAL, Abp. Annibale Bugnini.
Without the convenient political device of a church "supreme court" the Magisterium will filter through the tensions of interpretations of these documents for decades, perhaps centuries.
However, what I'm convinced of is that there is a vast majority of priests and bishops who are woefully uninformed* of the actual content of these primary and lawful documents (as opposed to the now-defunct Music in Catholic Worship and it's successor, Sing to the Lord, American advisory documents that aren't binding) and that ignorance means that their celebrational sensibiities are arbitrary, malformed or prejudicial. If our leaders literally cannot define the difference between an ordinary and a proper in casual conversation, we remain waist deep in the big muddy. I know this from direct experience.
*I substituded "uninformed" from a similar word the original response.

So, if you've never personally experienced a pastor who puts LITURGY first in his daily and weekly priorities, I can recommend taking notice of Fr. McDonald.
So, this is the last of my responses as of yet to the combox thread which I thought some might find interesting:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pentecost: The Music

Watershed has put together a wonderful page.

Sequence for Pentecost: Veni Sancte Spiritus

We sing a sequence this coming Sunday! If this will be your first time attempting the Latin, here's a video to help you and your choir learn it:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Don't Get Mad; Get Propers

Unlike some people, I'm not offended at all when people like this rage against the machine. What passes for Catholic music these days does indeed seem contrary to what informed Catholics sense should be happening at Mass. But the solution is not just another hymnal. It is to sing the liturgy as it is given to us, and stop replacing the propers with hymns of any sort.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Love this stuff, Salve Regina

You are going to dig this.

He led captivity captive. He gave gifts to men.

In the Office of Readings for Ascension Thursday, the long Scripture reading, and its responsory, are taken from the Letter to the Ephesians, chapter 4:
When Christ ascended on high, he led captivity captive, he gave gifts to men.
Interestingly enough, the gifts Christ gave were charisms, or rather persons with charisms, “apostle, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in roles of service.” According to Ephesians, it is these gifts of Christ’s that form us into Christ, “that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature.”

The Magnificat antiphon of the Ascension, the great O Rex Gloriae, is an epiclesis of the Holy Spirit. It is addressed, not to the Father, but to Christ.
O Victor King, Lord of power and might, today you have ascended in glory above the heavens. Do not leave us orphans, but send us the Father’s promised gift, the Spirit of truth, alleluia.
This is a subtle prayer. Addressed to Christ, it asks that He send us the Father’s promised gift. The gift of the Father, sent by the Son. The Spirit, sent by the Son, is thematic in the liturgy of these days. For example, the invitatory antiphon during this time, the Church’s original novena, is
Come, let us adore Christ the Lord who promised to send the Holy Spirit on His people, alleluia.
 Examples such as this abound, as a quick glance through the breviary shows. The Son sends the Spirit.

But, why was it necessary that He first ascend?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ascension, Simple English Propers

It is arguably regrettable that Ascension is transferred from Thursday to Sunday in the ordinary form calendar in most jurisdictions in the United States. Nonetheless, it makes sense to sing the proper text of the Mass at least. These are from the Simple English Propers 

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Isolation of Musicians

The longer I spend within the world of Catholic sacred music, the more a serious problem presents itself. The musicians in the parish or cathedral are too often isolated on their own. Their issues and problems are considered unique and not shared by other sectors of Catholic life. They have their own organizations, their own publishing venues, their own special skills not shared by others, and their own internal cultures that other find impenetrable, even scary.

For example, I’m thinking of the Sacred Music Colloquium this year in Salt Lake City. This is an ideal place for training anyone interested in Catholic liturgy, anyone who desires improvement in parish music, anyone interested in the Pope’s hopes for the future of Catholic liturgy. And yet, just because the program has the word “music” in it, people who don’t have a background in musical training are nervous to look into coming.

Catholics have a sense that they have no more business intervening in the world of music than they have in telling the plumber how to fix the pipes or the roofer how to deal with the leaks. They believe it’s not their place, and many musicians are happy to have people think this way too.

Some of this is inevitable and normal given just how specialized music really is. But broaden the perspective out a bit, you can see that this creates a great deal of tension and difficulty. The music of the liturgy affects the work of everyone else in a profound way. It colors everything that goes on at the altar. It helps or hinders the prayer life of the people in the pews. It either contradicts or reinforces what goes on in the religious education classes.

Everyone has a stake in the music program of the parish, and yet hardly anyone other than musicians themselves sense that they have any control over the program itself. People have a sense that they have to take whatever the musicians dish out, whether good or bad. This creates a certain detachment and even resentment toward the musicians. The musicians respond with a culture of defensiveness, resenting anyone who dares comment on what they are doing much less introduce fundamental change.

As a result, the musicians development a kind of separatist mentality that completely contradicts the right ordering of the place of music in the life of Catholics. And this separatist outlet can make the musicians themselves ridiculously unwilling to be flexible when faced with the obvious need to adapt toward changing conditions.

The promulgation of the new Missal was a case in point. The musicians were utterly panicked over the changing of a few phrases of the text they would sing, and their primary interest in adapting to the new Missal was to find music that is as much as possible just like what they’ve sung for the past thirty years!

As for priests and pastors, there is no sector of parish life that terrifies them more than the music sector. They have a sense that they might want improvement, especially more integration between what goes on in the loft and what goes on in the sanctuary. But they wouldn’t know where to begin to explain this the musicians. They also worry about alienating them for fear that they won’t come back -- since the musicians are rarely there just for the money, of which there is usually very little.

As a result, a vast number of musicians in Catholic parishes wallow around for year after year in a self-satisfied ignorance about the musical structure of the Roman Rite and their obligations to it. This terrible judgement obviously does not describe all musicians. Many of the best are learning chant and integrating their art into the liturgy and working to expand their mission into other sectors of the parish. My estimate is that this “good musician” description applies to about 15%. The rest grow hardened and indifferent over time, unteachable and uninterested and even cynical.

What is to be done? Well, look back a century ago. There was a sector in Church life called the musicians but they were part of a larger liturgical movement that also concerned itself with church furnishings, the texts and rubrics of the Mass, the content of the educational programs, and the theology of the liturgy generally.

On the most practical level, the substantial difference between then and now comes down to this salient fact: music education was not isolated and sequestered off from the rest of parish life. It was part of the teaching mission of the church. Music was part of the Catholic school program. The CCD classes had everyone involved in singing. These same students sang in liturgy. In fact, people of all ages sang in liturgy.

Priests themselves were trained in music, not only how to sing but how to teach singing. The musicians were able to look to the priests for an understanding of the relationship between the rubrics and the musical art. Musical knowledge was not the exclusive purview of specialists but rather involved the whole community. It would have been unthinkable that the head of religious education anywhere, for example, had no say over and no knowledge of the musical dimension of the faith.

Today? I don’t need to rehearse what has happened. There is no more singing in classes. Priests have not been trained in music. Many parishes even have liturgy committees that have no musicians on them at all. Perhaps there will be a cautious request for this or that hymn coming from some other sector but, for the most part, the musicians are completely on their own.

My colleague Arlene Oost-Zinner is the one who drew my attention to this problem, which seems incredibly obvious to me now. There needs to be some way to begin breaking down the walls here. For example, it has usually always been assumed that the musical reform of the Roman Rite must begin with the retraining of the musicians themselves. That’s not a bad idea but what if the musicians don’t have any interest in learning something new or becoming part of a larger concern over liturgy and the sacramental life of the Church?

Her idea is extremely intriguing. She is working on a program that will begin the musical education not with the musicians but with the religious education sector of parish. What if the teachers in the classrooms where the children are become the main music teachers for the parish? This is exactly how things worked a century ago. That system slipped away over the last forty or fifty years. Maybe we can take some steps toward putting that system back together again, but with a modern and updated pedogogical method?

I find this idea extremely intriguing, even a breakthrough. I can happen. It also provides a way for the pastor to launch a musical reform in his parish without have to fight with recalcitrant musicians or harden liturgists. The people who teach the classes are some of the most dedication and selfless people in any parish. They might take to simple chants better than any group out there. If they could be trained in a one-day workshop, and then turned loose to teach the children, we might begin to see a reform that parents would accept and even by thrilled by.

In any case, regardless of how it happens, something has to give here. There can be no lasting progress in music without breaking down the walls the separate the music team from everyone else. Perhaps the musical energy of the parish can begin to grow from a place where people least expect it, so that way the chants of the Catholic faith can again be part of the lives of Catholics again, and music can cease to be reduced to a soundtrack that is heard only in the background for one hour per week.

There is something brilliant about this idea. I think it has a future.

Finally? Changing attitudes about the EF

Love the tonsures!
CRISIS MAGAZINE currently features an article by Steve Skojek provocatively titled "The Mass is not a spectator sport" which profiles the work of Dom Daniel Augustine Oppenheimer, founder of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem (CRNJ)  at the Priory of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in CharlesTown, West Virginia.
Skojek's particular observations about how his own experiences at worship among the nebulous (my term) "TLM Communities" have stood in stark contrast with those celebrated by Dom Oppenheimer, especially as regards imparting a sense of "joy," resonated with my recollections of one of the EF's celebrated at Pittsburgh last summer in which I, for health reasons, allowed myself just to be among the faithful and worship. And I wrote of that experience as so transformative in my own heart, which at the time became a child's heart so enraptured and enchanted, in a post here at the Cafe.
I hope you all enjoy what Skojek and Dom Oppenheimer posit about reforming peoples' attitudes rather than the normative model of reforming the liturgy as much as I. And might just there be a future in reshaping whole parish attitudes through this example of expanding the monastic "experience" to regular parish life and liturgy?
The Google Taskbar is a bit petulant this morning, so if the direct link to the article doesn't take you there, here is the URL:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Sistine Chapel as you have never seen it

See this gorgeous page from the Vatican. And I'm very curious about the "English" sound of the accompanying polyphony.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tu Es Petrus, Palestrina

I've loved this Mass by Palestrina so much and for so long, but it's been years since I last heard it. Check out this fantastic performance by Schola Cantorum Franciscana, Paul Weber, director. Live performance, Sunday, April 29th, 2012, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Carnegie, PA.

Organ Crawl at Colloquium Includes Mormon Tabernacle

Starting at 7:30pm on Wednesday, June 27, an optional tour of local organs will center around the famous 1948 Aeolian-Skinner organ, with its iconic 1867 façade, in the Mormon Tabernacle. Considered one of the finest examples of "American classic" organ building, it is also one of the largest organs in the world with just over 200 ranks and 11,600+ pipes.  Additional optional instruments to see at Temple Square are the monumental 2003 V/130 Schoenstein in the Conference Center, and the 1983 III/65 mechanical-action Sipe organ in the Assembly Hall.

Organ Music At Colloquium XXII

Below is a preview.  There's still time to register for the Sacred Music Colloquium if you want to be there to experience this great repertoire live.

Tuesday, June 26, 5:15 pm Mass
Jonathan Ryan, organist

Likely dating from the end of Bach’s Weimar period as court organist (1708-1717), the somber Fantasy & Fugue in C Minor, BWV 537 represents a growth in Bach’s free-form composition to include works of more poignancy than virtuosity.  Indeed, the opening exclamatio figure of an ascending minor sixth that forms the imitative basis for the Fantasy yields a work of extraordinary surprises and highly forward-looking harmonies.  The notable chromaticism of the Fantasy gives way to an exclusively chromatic secondary theme in the Fugue, heard first in the middle “B” section, and then in combination with the declamatory primary theme.

Also from the Weimar years, but around 1710, the Pièce d’Orgue, BWV 572, also termed “Preludio” and “Fantasie,” stands as a unique work in the Baroque organ repertoire.  Not paired with a fugue, this étude in harmony consists of three sections, Très vitement-Gravement-Lentement, and perhaps owes its French title to the weighty middle Gravement section whose nearly endless deceptive cadences and chromaticism closely resemble the Grand Jeu movements of the French Baroque.

Thursday, June 28, 5:15 pm Mass
Ann Labounsky, organist

Like Nicolas DeGrigny, Jean  Titelouze (1562-1633), spent most of his life outside of Paris and the court life in the smaller town of Rouen in Normandy where he was a priest and organist of the Cathedral . His entire opus comprises variations on eleven familiar Gregorian chant hymns (1624) and Magnificat settings (1626) which were performed in alternation between the choir and the organ.  The style is exemplary of the vocal renaissance period yet idiomatic for the organ with well defined voice-leading and pedal parts that employ strict imitation and canon.  Unlike his successors such as Couperin and DeGrigny, he was not influenced by the French court dances such as the minuet and gigue.

Friday, June 29, 5:15 pm Mass
Jonathan Ryan, organist

Eight years after completing his Second Symphony, Vierne, in the summer of 1911, returned to writing the Third of his Six Organ Symphonies.  Demonstrating Vierne’s stylistic development at the time, the Troisième Symphonie in F-sharp Minor is noted for its comparatively compact yet memorable nature.  Perhaps the emotional center of the work, the fourth of five movements, the sublime Adagio, hearkens back to César Franck in its soaring yet meditative melody, highly chromatic harmony, and frequently vague rhythm.  The Finale, true to organ-symphony form, launches immediately as a quintessential, fiery toccata with its first, rhythmically charged theme heard at the outset surrounded by a restless accompaniment.  The second theme, by contrast, is more lyrical, but seems unable to achieve any true lyricism in its turbulent surroundings.  The first theme ultimately brings the movement to a thrilling conclusion in F-sharp Major.

Saturday, June 30, 11:00 am Mass
Doug O’Neil, organist

Marcel Dupré was famous for performing organ concerts throught the world, but also left a legacy of music suitable for the church. He composed Offrande à la Vierge (Offering to the Virgin) in 1944. The third movement is titled “Virgo mediatrix” and refers to Mary’s traditional role in the church as a mediator in salvation.

Charles Tournemire, unlike many of his contemporaries, concentrated his life’s work principally on music for the liturgy, culminating in his massive organ cycle L’Orgue Mystique for the liturgical year, specifically for use during the Mass, and almost entirely based on plainchant. Tournemire was also perhaps the first great organ improviser of the 20th century, and made many 78-RPM recordings of this art. His student Maurice Duruflé later transcribed five of these improvisations, selecting two free improvisations, and three based on plainchant: the hymn “Te Deum laudamus,” the Easter sequence “Victimae paschali laudes,” and this piece on the Marian hymn “Ave maris stella.” It is the legacy of a great musician fully and humbly devoted to his work for the church.

Sunday, July 1, 11:00 am Mass
Horst Buchholz, organist

Seemingly preceding the 20th-century minimalist movement by centuries, a chaconne centers itself around comparatively slim musical material, namely, a repeating harmonic progression, to create a series of continuous variations.  One of Buxtehude’s three “ostinato” organ works, the Chaconne in C Minor utilizes a four-measure harmonic progression to yield a piece of extraordinary variety, intimacy, and drama, perhaps giving just insight to J.S. Bach’s captivation with the North German Baroque master.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Episcopal Ordination Live-stream

Here is the link for the Diocese of Rockford's live-stream of the ordination of Bishop-elect David Malloy, scheduled to begin at 1:30 Central time.

Liturgy and the New Evangelization

Today the Holy Father appointed four consultors to the dicastery for New Evangelization. Three are liturgists, including the American Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., an expert with the Vox Clara Committee.

Appointed as consultors of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation: Fr. Marco Frisina, president of the Commission for Sacred Art of the diocese of Rome, and professor at the Pontifical Lateran University and the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross; Fr. Jeremy Driscoll O.S.B., professor at the Mount Angel Seminary in St. Benedict, Oregon, U.S.A., and at the Theological Faculty of Rome's St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum; Fr. Marko Ivan Rupnik S.J., director of the Aletti Centre, and professor at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Rome's St. Anselm Pontifical Athenaeum, and Salvatore Martinez, president of the Renewal in the Holy Spirit Association, Italy.
Update: Here is an illuminating interview with Fr. Rupnick. "It’s not enough for someone to say: wonderful! [Liturgical art] needs an inner life, that makes it possible for one to be aware of the Mystery present."

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Are You Singing the Creed?

How many parishes are actually singing the Creed?  Directives say that the Creed is to be sung, yet I've rarely come upon a congregation that sings it regularly.  My own parish does not.  More often than not, when I have heard it, it has been in traditionally-minded parishes, and what is usually sung is Credo III.  How about a really scientific survey - right here.  Who is singing the Creed?  In Latin?  In English? And which one?

Chant and Improvisation in the Liturgy

Jenny Donelson, CMAA Academic Liaison, on an upcoming conference:

Esteemed organist and pedagogue Dr. Ann Labounsky and the music department at Duquesne are partnering with the CMAA to present a conference on the subject of improvisation:

The Aesthetics and Pedagogy of Charles Tournemire: Chant and Improvisation in the Liturgy 
 October 21-23, 2012 at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA 

Our model? A man steeped in chant and the liturgical traditions of the Church: Charles Tournemire.

In his time, Tournemire’s work as an improviser was well-known throughout the world, and myriad students flocked to him to learn the craft. Being steeped in the French symphonic tradition, having studied Dom Guéranger’s Liturgical Year, served as organist for decades at Ste. Clotilde in Paris, and being keenly interested in the role of the organist as a theological commentator on the action of the liturgy, Tournemire’s shadow rightly extends to this day in his writings, recordings, and lineage of students.

The revitalization of sacred music in our time must take into account not only Gregorian chant and polyphonic choral music, but also the proper role of the organ at Mass, and this role essentially includes improvisation. It’s our hope that this conference will make a significant contribution towards understanding that role through the lens of Tournemire’s magnificent example.

The location? A city filled with a large number of wonderful organs and a wonderful cast of French organ scholars and experts. Pittsburgh is really an ideal location for a conference like this, thanks in no small part to the work and teaching of organists like Ann Labounsky and Robert Sutherland Lord. More information on attending the conference will be forthcoming in June, but for now we’re accepting proposals for papers and recitals that relate to the topic. More information on the conference and the submission process are available here.

The conference will explore the aesthetic, liturgical, theoretical, and technical principles of Tournemire’s improvisations and teachings on improvisation, the use of Gregorian chant in organ improvisation, the role of organ improvisations in the Catholic liturgy, and pedagogical approaches to teaching organ improvisation. It will include liturgies, opportunities for the study of improvisation at the organ, discussion groups, and recital programs and papers relating to the conference theme. Join us!

An Oldie-but-Goodie

St. Ambrose is the universally acknowledged author of 4 hymns, three of which are attested to in the writings of St. Augustine. Many scholars believe St. Ambrose to be the author of another dozen hymns that are still known. In homage to his abilities, holiness, and authority, many hymns were attributed to him, but are unlikely to be his.  An entire meter, now known as Long Meter ( and in times past called "church meter," was known in times before that as Ambrosian meter.

St. Ambrose's hymns are characterized by theological density, bold use of images, and scriptural allusions. I believe that this is an example worth emulating.

This is my translation of Apostolorum Passio, for the upcoming feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. It may be sung to the chant tune of the Latin text, or to any number of familiar chant tunes such as Jesu Dulcis Memoria. Among the many LM modern hymn tunes to which it might be sung, I especially enjoy Deo Gratias.

Blest day by suff’ring sanctified:
Christ’s chosen high apostles died.
Today St. Peter wins renown.
Today St. Paul accepts the crown.

Together, equally, they bled:
Together: the victorious dead.
They followed God and sacrificed
And now their faith is crowned by Christ.

St. Peter holds the highest place,
Yet Paul is not the less by grace.
An equal faith was giv’n to Paul:
The chosen vessel of God’s call.

St. Peter, downward crucified—
To honor God in how he died—
Securely tied, he sees unfold
The death his Shepherd once foretold.

On such foundations Rome may claim
The highest service of God’s name.
His noble blood has dignified
The city where this prophet died.

Let all the world, then, run to Rome.
Let families of nations come!
The head of nations teaches there,
Beside the nations’ teacher's chair.

O Lord, we ask that we may be
In their exalted company,
And with our princes sing Your praise
Forever, to unending days.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Catastrophe of Catholic Copyrights

The really devastating costs of bad state law are hidden from view. So it is with copyright and its effect on Christian art and literature. Copyright -- a grant of monopoly privilege by the state -- has seriously distorted the methods used to distribute literature and art and the shape of the literature and art itself. And it has compromised the ability to carry out the evangelistic message of the faith.

Most of the time, I’m pretty calm about this issue, realizing that it is just part of life and that there’s nothing that can be done about. But then something happens that strikes me as absolutely outrageous, and I get angry all over again.

And so here is my sample outrage of today. I have a full book of notated sung Gospels in my digital briefcase. I would be thrilled to put it online right now. You could print out what you need and sing this Sunday. Then you could buy the book if you liked it.

It’s not going to happen. This treasure cannot be shared lest the full weight of the law and its enforcement arm come down hard on me and the domain on which it appears.

I’m thinking it’s been a long time since you heard anyone sing the Gospel from the pulpit. Maybe that is because the book of sung Gospels is not widely accessible or maybe that doesn’t make a difference at all. We never never know, will we? The copyright holder to the Catholic version of the scriptures (yes, you read that right) refuses to allow it to be posted online.

In other words, the copyright holder is actively working to stop the spread of the Gospels by means of the state. True. Ironic. Horrible.

Let’s just say that I wanted to defy the authorities because I believe in sharing the good news and all that. Let’s say that I didn’t believe in using government to prevent access to holy scripture. What would happen? It would be a dangerous thing to do. If I did it and persisted in doing it despite warning, the entire domain and the organization it represented could be instantly body bagged by the US Department of Homeland Security.

How might this situation change? Well, the copyright holder, which is the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf the NAB which is administered by the CCD and yada yada, could put this book (the Bible) into the commons. It could do this on its own authority. It could do that right now, today, this minute. No one and nothing is preventing that.

Why won’t they? Well, they say they need the money. They have to deny access to the word of God so that they can extract money from you and me and everyone else. Otherwise, they say, they wouldn’t get any money from selling God’s word, and that would be very bad.

My response: any business model that relies on immorality needs to be changed. That’s especially true if the model is being used by the Catholic faith. Simony might be lucrative but it is still not morally advisable.

My other response: putting a work into the commons does not mean that you cannot sell it. There are way to make a commercial profit that are also consistent with generosity, good will, and human service. Given that the texts themselves are an infinitely reproduceable good, I’m pretty sure that posting sung Gospels online is not going to lead to a drastic fall in the sale of Bibles.

No, what’s going on here is pure folly.

It does not have to be this way.

Look at the example that ICEL has shown over the last few years. ICEL was once incredibly strict about the distributions of its texts. They never missed an opportunity to extract a dime or less.

But that has completely changed. In the preparations for the new Missal, ICEL posted its most valuable commodity, the completely body of Missal music, online for free download. It actually encouraged people to print them and sing them. This was a brilliant approach. It didn’t cause some kind of terrible corruption but rather exactly the opposite. It fostered a beautiful creativity and encouraged the widespread use of the chant.

As for the texts otherwise, it has been very liberal with permissions. It has also been open about the rationale for charging a fee for long scale printings. This approach has led to vast good will be spread about ICEL’s work and the new Missal. All this change required was a small step: let it go and let it grow.

Now let’s talk about music publishers like GIA and OCP. They both own a warchest of copyrights. They sell the right to sing their stuff to other publishers and to you and me. Every time you start to sing, coins in their coffers go ka-ching.

In order to keep this business model alive, they must marginalize public domain music as much as possible. This means the need to change traditional hymns. There must be new texts, new arrangements, new instrumental tricks added and the like.

You might think it would be good to sing a song the way it might have sounded in, say, the 1920s. That’s not going to happen if GIA and OCP have anything to do with it. They must twist, distort, contort, and mangle notes and chords, not because they are actually improving anything; no, no, that’s has nothing to do with it. It is all about re-copyrighting the thing. This would not be possible without access to the copyright law invented and universalized in the 19th century.

Catholic institutions have a choice. They can embrace this nonsense or they can do the right thing and eschew completely. For the sake of the faith and art, Catholics need to find a new way to do business that is consistent with the basic tenants of the Gospel.

Then, someday, perhaps we will be even permitted to sing that Gospel.

Saint Hildegard von Bingen

Back in December, ChantCafe reported that Pope Benedict had plans to canonize Hildegard von Bingen and to make her a Doctor of the Church.

Today we learned the following from Vatican Information Service:
Vatican City, 10 May 2012 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato S.D.B., prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience he extended the liturgical cult of St. Hildegard of Bingen (1089-1179) to the universal Church, inscribing her in the catalogue of saints.
Saint Hildegard was one of the earliest named composers of Catholic sacred music. We ought to pray for her intercession in our work of liturgical renewal in our day. Saint Hildegard von Bingen, pray for us!

h/t PrayTellBlog

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Parish Book of Chant

My first try at building a Youth Schola was a bust, because I tried beginning with polyphony. Big mistake. Singing is one thing--even singing in Latin is pretty easy--but singing in parts is difficult for inexperienced singers, especially the very young. Then one Pentecost I asked one of the original Schola members to chant the introit, on a simple Psalm tone. He aced it, and a few months later I began advertising for children to join our parish's Youth Classical Schola, specializing in Gregorian chant.

Obviously Gregorian chant is more than Psalm tone introits, so thank goodness for Richard Rice's The Parish Book of Chant., which became our standard textbook. It is published by the Church Music Association of America. Filled with chant Ordinaries, dialogues from the Mass, chant hymns, and information singers need, it is just what we needed to really move forward. I was just a step ahead of the young people myself, having grown up with the usual parish guitar and organ fare and without much exposure at all to Gregorian chant. The Parish Book of Chant helped us not only to sing the chant, but to love it. Over just a few years, our parish has trained dozens of young singers, some of whom can now sight-read difficult propers.

For those who would like to preview a copy, this option is available online here. It's a unique resource, friendly, helpful, and not at all intimidating for new chanters, and I am so glad to be working at a time when such wonderful helps to singers are available!

Pothier and the Blast from the Past

The erudite Amy Welborn writes of a book she found as a family heirloom. It's Dom Pothier's book on chant. The images are beautiful and Amy's reflections equally so.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What Are The Numbers Telling Us?

Here are some statistics to keep you entertained on a Tuesday afternoon. As of today, May 8, the percentages of Colloquium registrations from each state in the U.S. looks like this (just some highlights): Utah, our host state, comes in at 6%; New York comes in at 3% (Come on folks, everyone else is making the trip west...); Florida comes in at 9% (Lots of Floridians!); California comes in at a whopping 22%; Nevada comes in at 8%; Illinois stands at 15%, and Texas comes in at 11%. Number of clergy registered (as of today): 12; Number of religious sisters: 4; Number of people named Jeffrey: 3; Number of people from outside the contiguous U.S.: 7; If you haven't registered yet, consider taking your place in the pie chart! Registration for the Sacred Music Colloquium in Salt Lake City is open for twelve more days.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Responsorial Psalms

Parishes accustomed to using a single source for Responsorial Psalms have an opportunity this year to widen their options. This year is Cycle B, the Year of Mark, the shortest Gospel. During the summertime (July 29-August 26 this year), the Gospel is taken from the Bread of Life discourse in John chapter 6.

For three of those weeks, in a row, we will sing the classic Eucharistic Psalm 34, with the refrain Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

This would be an opportune moment to seek out alternatives to the usual Psalm fare. The options are almost unlimited, and include new settings by CMAA composers and others, too many to mention here (but I hope some will be added in the combox).

Cantate Domino, Monteverdi

Our parish schola sang this piece on Sunday. The text was correct for the Sunday. We loved singing it. And yet we were all struck by whether and to what extent this piece stylistically resembles a secular madrigal rather than a piece of liturgical music.

Your thoughts?

Chant, Polyphony, the Works

A fantastic performance by the choristers of St. Stephen the First Martyr Parish of Sacramento, California, USA, under the direction of Jeffrey Morse. The Mass ordinary is Victoria's MISSA AVE MARIS STELLA and the offertory is Parson's AVE MARIA (5 parts).

The glorious vessel of the extraordinary form makes plenty of room for the music.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Where's the real history of Vatican II

Sandro Magister, back on the beat where he is competent, discusses the incredible fact that there is very little documentation available about what precisely happened at (and therefore what was actually intended by) the Second Vatican Council. True enough. The definitive book of history has yet to be written simply because so much of the documentation is either neglected or missing.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Role of the Cantor

There are some preachers so intent on finding a text to suit the day that this very concern for appropriateness makes them overlook the criterion of usefulness, so that they take texts which contain little or nothing that is of any use to their audience. People like this should be called church cantors rather than preachers of Christ. It is the job of the church's cantors to chant the texts which are proper to the season or the feast, without regard to whether the sense of what they are singing is useful to those who listen or not.

Blessed Humbert of Romans

The Pious Imperative

Like many parishes this first Eastertide Sunday in May, the choirs at my parish will be singing several versions of the Regina Caeli. I wonder how many folks have stopped to consider the paradox of this text. We, with our limited vision and holiness, are exhorting Our Lady, with all her privileges of knowledge and love, to rejoice. Mary, whose mere voice sounding in her cousin's ears made John the Baptist leap for joy in the womb, already rejoices exceedingly. And yet we, the Church militant, as yet on the path to redemption, exhort her, who is full of grace, to rejoice. And then we explain to her the reason why she should do so.

I take this verbal construction to be a kind of literary license, not to be taken at face value. Somehow, by saying to Mary "rejoice," we are not helping her but helping ourselves. We are not cheering her on, like fans in the stadium during the race, but entering into her exultation, like fans during the victory lap. Or rather, we are the runners, and are cheering on ourselves, by praising the Lord for her victory, her salvation, and her joy.

A Plea from the CMAA

Last year I attended the Colloquium in Pittsburgh.  I really enjoyed myself and was able to bring both the music and the semiology back to the choir in my home parish. Upon returning, I taught a class in semiology to our adult choir and dabbled in the Ward method with our two children's choirs.  Things continue apace, and we hope to do the Parson's Ave Maria this fall. But this year, money is definitely an issue.  By splitting a room and car-pooling with a friend, I can afford travel, room, and board but, I have little to nothing left for tuition.  I am a religious and just don't have means to pull the whole amount together.  I'm wondering if someone might possibly be willing to donate that cost or part of the cost.  I really have used the knowledge and repertoire from last year in both adult and children's choirs AND in two different parishes, OF and EF.  I would be so grateful if there would be some way that I could attend again.

There have been many requests just like this one for scholarship aid this year.  The CMAA has been able to amass a large enough scholarship fund to assist twelve people in coming to the Sacred Music Colloquium this year in Salt Lake City.  There are many more people who would like to come, but do not have the funds.  And not all are bold enough to ask for help.

The registration deadline is in two weeks.  If there is some way you can make a donation to the cause, be it $10 or $500, your generosity will be much rewarded:  with renewed hope, beautiful liturgy, and a more promising future for sacred music.

Write to us if you can help, or make a donation online.  No gift is too small.  All donations are tax deductible.

SSPX: Who Cares?

Readers of Chant Café have probably been following the news reports of a possible reconciliation between the Vatican and the Society of St Pius X with interest.  Given that the SSPX has been the most vociferous proponent of the classical Roman liturgy and its music, it has been a source of consternation and sorrow that they have been out of visible communion with the hierarchical Church for going on twenty-five years.  In 1988, the fateful decision of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and Bishop De Castro Mayer to consecrate four bishops on their own initiative resulted in those bishops’ excommunication, and was the result of a long process of mutual alienation that went back to the 1970s.

On the side of the SSPX, there are those who realize that it is an untenable situation to remain outside the visible communion of a Church whose very essence requires visible communion.  The peculiar situation of the SSPX, to them, was necessary because of what they perceive to be the crisis in the Church, but none of them I think wants to be separated from Rome.  On the side of the Vatican, throughout this tortured history, there have been so many different postures taken vis-à-vis the Society, and those who have returned to full communion with the Church over the years, that it is hard to discern one line of thought on them.  Pope Benedict XVI, who has been particularly solicitous for bringing into the fold those whose hearts belong to Rome, has very wisely chosen to adopt a policy of encouraging reconciliation without trying to straitjacket either the SSPX or the Vatican into a position which would only harden the division.

What has been interesting to note, however, is that resistance to this movement of the Holy Father has come from opposing quarters.  There are some self-styled progressive Catholics who fear that the reconciliation of the SSPX is a move in a sinister plot to “turn back the clock” to a pre-Vatican II Church.  They have raised the usual objections of anti-feminism, anti-Semitism, anti-modernism, and more, in an effort to turn the opinion of many Catholics, whose knowledge of the SSPX is often very scant, against this exercise of the ministry of unity of the Roman Pontiff.  But there have also been cries of disbelief and discomfort from Catholics who count themselves faithful to the Magisterium and to Pope Benedict XVI.  They seem not to be able to understand why he is doing this and fear, like the progressives, that the Pope is determined to return the Catholic Church to a status quo ante 1962.

So what are we to believe about all this?  The acerbic discussions over the SSPX have revealed much about the contemporary topography of Catholic thought and practice.  And in particular about two questions: the interpretation of an ecumenical council and the role of authority in the Church. 

First of all, we must point out that it is obvious to any historian of Councils that Vatican II is markedly different in some ways then the other twenty ecumenical councils of the Church.  While the idea of having a council was floated around during the pontificate of Ven. Pius XII, it was decided against. But Bl.  John XXIII had no such qualms, and with his ebullient optimism sought to put a Council whose implementation he knew he would never see into motion. 

The personality and intention of Bl. John XXIII is not irrelevant to a proper understanding of Vatican II.  He wanted a council that was different.  He purposely called what he wished as a “pastoral” council, as a means of discerning how to better proclaim the timeless message of the Gospel to modern man.  The “pastoral” character of the council has been one of the chief sources of the problematic as to its interpretation.  Bl. John XXIII was confident that council could be had which would promote a sincere dialogue towards the truth, and as such, no anathemas were needed or desirable to excoriate opposing views.  The Pope also intuited that the mentality of modern man (which as a category is rather ambiguous itself) was hardly suited to heeding anathemas anyway.

But of course, Vatican II was not just a council which dealt with pastoral life.  In some ways, it reflected the theological development latent in the encyclicals of Pius XII and the various biblical, liturgical and theological movements of the day.  It dealt with dogmatic issues as well.  Yet, even before the end of the Council, it was apparent that there was a “spirit of Vatican II” which was emerging, but was hard to put into words.  What was it, exactly?  The implementation of the Council has been particularly difficult due to its declension through the prism of this spirit of Vatican II.

When dealing with all of the other councils of the Church, the fact that their formulations were often pithy, directly dogmatic or canonical in language, meant that what it meant to assent to those formulations and to the council as a whole tended to be clear.  Now, of course, any council is an end to a period of reflection as well as a beginning, so those formulations often opened up more discussion and reflection.  But can we expect the same level of assent to a council which in its very inception was meant to be different than that kind of council, and whose language does not lend itself to anathematizing those who disagree with it?

Vatican II does contain dogmatic statements of fact.  It also contains indications for the reform of ecclesiastical discipline.  But there are also passages which are not as easily classifiable into either category. 

The manualist tradition on the eve of Vatican II had developed a system by which statements of the Magisterium could be weighed, as it were, according to the weight of their authority.  Not everything could be considered as having the same weight.  The divinity of Christ, for example, could be classified as divinely revealed, and if you reject that teaching, you can hardly be considered an orthodox Christian.  The assertion that St Joseph had no other children other than Jesus from a possible previous marriage to the Blessed Mother is a pious thought, and as such, there can be legitimate disagreement as to it.  There are those things which lie in between, some of which can be classified as theologoumena.  These can be described as statements which flow from doctrinal truths, but are themselves not the object of the same kind of assent.  As such, they are not irreformable as such.

The SSPX, immersed in that manualist tradition, used the classification system to present a very nuanced view of Vatican II, one which would come to flatly reject certain formulations.  Progressive Catholics, who by and large rejected that system, still were aware that there were these different levels, and used their existence to argue for the reformability of certain teachings of the Church.  The increasing confusion and the breaking of visible bonds of communion and mutual charity throughout the Church led some Catholics to argue that ecclesiastical authority alone could decide these things.

Now, any convert from Protestantism knows that the issue of authority is one of the big issues which brings someone to the Catholic Church.  But the exercise of that authority is not all the same, on every level and in every occasion.  One interesting phenomenon to watch in the post-Vatican II period has been on the one hand, the development of a perceived right to resistance to the institutional Church (affirmed by SSPX and progressives alike for different things) and on the other, the attitude that authority is the most important category in theology and the Church’s life.

This is important for understanding, not only contemporary life and theology in the Church, but also liturgy and music.  Many people who insist that the Church maintain her treasure of liturgy and music appeal to the authority of Church documents.  But this appeal has produced some odd juxtapositions.  There are those who classified aficionados of the Extraordinary Form as schismatics before the 1988 indult on the basis that it was not allowed, and after Summorum pontificum have loudly criticized those who refuse to implement it.  Progressives and traditionalists alike have produced tenable yet also mutually exclusive interpretations of liturgical law based on the torrent of verbiage which has issued from the Vatican in the post-Vatican II period.

Yet, the life of the Church cannot be reduced to authority alone.  The SSPX have rightly insisted that custom and culture have weight, and that the well-meaning whims of popes and bishops and priests and laypeople cannot be automatically translated into authority which must be accepted on all kinds of different levels.  The situation is more complicated.  Now, their view of how that authority should be accepted has been different than that of conservative and liberal Catholics.

So the thorny question becomes: what does it mean to accept Vatican II?  How does the acceptance of an ecumenical council determine one’s communion with the Church?  There are those who argue that the SSPX “should not be accepted back into the Church” because “they still reject Vatican II.”  But should they be excommunicated, anathematized and excoriated all in the name of a Council which intentionally avoided excommunications, anathemas and excoriations, even if some SSPX adherents would like to see excommunications, anathemas and excoriations thundered from the Throne of Peter? 

We are reminded that there are two notably discernable trends in the traditionalist critique of Vatican II and its aftermath.  On the one hand, we have the personality and heritage of Archbishop Lefebvre.  But we also have that of Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, the long-time Archbishop of Genoa.  It is well known that Siri held many of the same views that Lefebvre did.  But he also knew that communion in charity and with legitimate ecclesiastical authority had to coexist with a critique which respected the varying levels of weight that apply to any papal document as much as to an ecumenical council.  Anyone who has read his book Gethsemane is aware of a profound critique of the life and theology of the Church after Vatican II.  But for all of that, he refused just as much to break the bonds of communion. 

We are reminded by all of this that, just as Catholics are not biblical fundamentalists, we are also not conciliar fundamentalists.  Pope Benedict XVI, whose ministry as Peter is to confirm the brethren and foster unity, has told us that the interpretation of Vatican II has been travailed.  The legacy of the hermeneutic of rupture vs. the hermeneutic of continuity is a torturous one.  Continuing to level accusations of schismatic tendencies against an SSPX whose firmest desire is to be deeply united to Christ and to Peter is unhelpful, at least until the various components of a proper interpretation of Vatican II in the Church’s life are all put into sharper focus.  Once that happens, and if any glance at the Church today is an indication, it is far away, charity and communion and dialogue is the safest bet for the unity of Christians.  We must care about the union of the SSPX in visible communion of the Church, not because we want to foist a status quo ante on the Church, or even because we agree with them, but because Jesus prayed, ut unum sint.