Monday, December 31, 2012

Lumen Christi Missal Antiphons: Epiphany of the Lord

The digital score library at Illuminare Publications continues to grow with free offerings that support and surround the Lumen Christi Missal. These scores are drafts for the cantor/choir edition of the book that is forthcoming.

This includes antiphons that are specially crafted for typical parish choirs and congregations, including simple chant settings for the Entrance, Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion.

Following are sung propers for the Feast of the Epiphany for free download:

A blessed Christmastide to all, and best wishes for a happy New Year!

Venite Adoremus Dominum

A couple of low-resolution but nonetheless highly-edifying images from tonight's Papal Vespers. 


The worship booklet is here. Note that once again there is an expectation that the assembly will sing large amounts of chant, including some quite challenging antiphons.

Announcing the feasts

From Ben Yanke comes this free music:

Next Sunday, there is the option of having a deacon or cantor announce the movable feasts of the year. The ICEL site (which I assume mirrors the musical content of the Missal) provides music for this here.

I've quickly adapted it for this year, inserting the proper dates and months for 2013.

Modern Notation | Neumes | Practice Mp3  (courtesy NPM)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Music in English at the Latin Mass

Most readers of this site are aware of the requirement that all music sung at a High Mass (1962) must be in Latin, unless it's before the Asperges or at the end of Mass. I am at peace with the idea of a sacred language----much like Hebrew was a sacred language used in the Temple but not on the street in the time of Christ. Latin has a place as the sacred language of Catholicism, and I'm not arguing against that.

All the same, it strikes me as regrettable that language limitations also take a large chunk of really good music off the table for the Latin Mass. Perhaps some day, when liturgical debates have settled down a bit and a compromise might seem fruitful, there could be a rule that all the Ordinary and Proper must be in Latin but that extra motets can be in any language. It's just a thought. The sermon can be in any language, as well as parts of the marriage ritual and various and sundry announcements about this week's bingo game.  What's the harm in a motet?

Until that occurs, though, one is left with only a few possibilities. I've resorted to two for the few motets in English that we do. A few times a year, instead of doing a hymn, we'll sing a motet or anthem in its place. Every Advent IV we end the Mass with Paul Manz's E'en So, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come. In Lent, we've done Lord for Thy Tender Mercy's Sake, written either by Richard Farrant or John Hilton, depending on who you believe. 

We're also lucky to have a Latinist in our schola who's given us another option: translating a composition from English into Latin. He has done this with Herbert Howells's motet Here is the Little Door. This took hours of preparation and likely strikes a lot of people as going way over the top, but I have to say it was worth the effort. We'll be singing it on Epiphany.

I can already hear the objections. What!? All that great Latin polyphony and you want to do English??? Well, for one thing, we only have four, possibly five, parts to work with. I think some people would be surprised at how much repertoire that takes away. For another thing, a lot of this English stuff is really good music, work that deserves to be heard. Much of it is modern but melodious and demonstrates that good accessible music can be had without pandering to the lowest common denominator of taste. Harold Friedell's Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether comes to mind.

But a lot of this music is Protestant!!! If Tallis and Byrd could pull their little balancing act with Queen Elizabeth, I think we can afford to relax a little. Yes, Cranmer wanted syllabic polyphony so that the words could be more easily understood---presumably motivated by Protestant evangelism---but how is this significantly different than similar demands made by the Council of Trent, which took issue with the florid polyphony of the likes of Josquin? I speak under correction, but I'm not sure stylistic differences between denominations are all they're cracked up to be. The congregational hymns that Lutherans sing are similar to the ones German Catholics sing. Amusingly, many who don't want Protestant music in church are perfectly ok with hymns that came from Protestant churches; they evidently don't know their origin. Then there was the school teacher who approached me one day after we sang Holy God, We Praise Thy Name and suggested I should be doing more Catholic music. A teachable moment, to be sure. At the same time, I suspect she would have missed the likely unintended American Baptist feel of To Jesus's Heart All Burning.

The Madeleine Choir School Sings

Silver trumpets at the elevation

From the MusicaSacra Forum comes this intriguing video of the coronation of Blessed Pope John XXIII:

The forum's discussion concerns the trumpets that begin just before the 3:00 mark.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

"Do not be afraid to precede the dawn in praise of God, you will not be disappointed."

About an hour ago, a prayer vigil in St Peter's Square, of Taize pilgrims to Rome, ended. It had the look and feel of a mini-World Youth Day, but with almost 100% Western European faces. I sat on the steps of a nearby church and watched people just pouring down the road toward the square, much as the Romans had done a few days ago for the Urbi et Orbi blessing. I went over and saw the Holy Father ride through the crowd in the Popemobile. After the service, kids who had held special candles in the square held them carefully, trying to keep the flames alight.

Here is the Vatican Radio account.

I think it would be worthwhile to consider the peculiar phenomenon of Taize music, in light of its success among young people. Although I cannot say many positive things about the music of Taize itself, I think that at least we can say that it does take young people seriously as praying beings--which seems to me to be the first step in pastoral work with young people. The music is not there to entertain, nor to overshadow the words. Rather, the music strives to cantillate, to magnify and enrich Biblical texts through music. Secondly, it intends to lead to recollection.

I would hope that a similar movement could arise that might take young people seriously as musical and artistic beings, who can find themselves elevated by music that is respectable as art.

In his remarks to the young people, the Holy Father said:
Together with silence, song has an important place in your community prayers. In these days the songs of Taizé fill the basilicas of Rome. Song is a support and incomparable expression of prayer. Singing to Christ, you open yourselves to the mystery of His hope. Do not be afraid to precede the dawn in praise of God, you will not be disappointed.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Keeping the Faith

A weakening of faith in God, a rise in selfishness and a drop in the number of people going to Mass in many parts of the world can be traced to Masses that are not reverent and don't follow church rules, said two Vatican officials and a consultant.

"If we err by thinking we are the center of the liturgy, the Mass will lead to a loss of faith," said U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, head of the Vatican's supreme court.

The CNS article is here. 

How much does music add to Les Misérables?

A continuing theme in Church documents on music is that the liturgy is vastly improved -- made more noble, more penetrating, more glorious and affecting -- when it is sung. The goal is not just to sing the major parts of the Mass but the entire Mass, propers and readings and dialogues. The congregation, the schola, and the celebrant all have a role.

Liturgy in this way has been likened to a musical drama. The new film Les Misérables, then, has some liturgical relevance. The reviews have been fantastic, and I'm in complete agreement. There were moments in this filmed that moved me like nothing I've seen before.

What the commentators have missed, however, is how music itself ads enormous power to the film. Unlike most musicals, that have occasional numbers, most of this film was actually sung. In this way, it is more like opera than an old-fashioned movie musical.

Now, just imagine the same actors and scenes without the music -- a spoken Les Misérables, as it were. It would be the same story. It could be great and powerful. The narrative would carry the story. All of that is true. But once you see the musical version, it is rather obvious that the power of the film would just not be the same without it. The music is what lifts the film from great to epically astonishing.

It also sets a new high standard of integration of music and action. The score is unusually text driven, just like liturgy. The singers in the film were chosen not for their singing ability but for their acting -- which makes the singing more authentic in some way. Their voices were not ruined by too much training and affectation. They seemed authentic because of this -- again, a point that is replicated in a liturgical context.

I highly recommend that every priest and singer needs to see the film to understand the drama that is possible in the musical context. The application to liturgical worship makes the point that we are denying ourselves deeper spiritual experiences by settling for spoken Masses over sung ones.

Te Deum: Praise at the Year's End

Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Music Competition at Colloquium XXIII

For composers attending the Sacred Music Colloquium in Salt Lake City, June 17-23, 2013:
You should plan on attending the Composer’s forum sessions during the week, where your new compositions will be critiqued and workshopped. Plan on bringing along enough copies for everyone in the seminar (about 20 copies). A winning composition from among those presented during the week will be announced on Saturday, June 22. The winning composition will be sung by the entire Colloquium at the closing Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine on Sunday, June 23. This year’s text is Psalm 116: Laudate Dominum omnes gentes, laudate eum omnes populi. Quoniam confirmata est super nos misericordia ejus, et veritas Domini manet in aeternum. [Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto: sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.] . Compositions should be SATB and no longer than three minutes in length. For more information, contact David Hughes, forum leader, at

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Hymn for the Day

I wrote this a few years ago for the Conversion of St Paul. It is about the relationship of Sts Stephen and Paul, inspired by today's patristic reading in the Liturgy of the Hours by St Fulgentius of Ruspe.

The martyr Stephen met his death
Forgiveness in his final breath.
He interceded for them all
Whose cloaks lay at the feet of Saul.

The Father, hearing Stephen's prayer,
Gave gifts for all the Church to share
When grace and mercy overflowed
In light upon Damascus Road.

Then bless the Lord of heart and mind
Who gives new vision to the blind,
Whose reign throughout the world extends,
Whose loving-kindness never ends.

Parish Finances and Music

From the MusicaSacra Forum comes a complaint about the low financial priority given to parish music, dated December 1, 1849.
Not only the interests of music generally, but of religion itself suffer, and to a greater extent than a superficial thinker may suppose, by this short-sighted policy of robbing it of the PERFECTIONS of an art, which the Creator evidently designed should minister to its extension.
Undoubtedly many Pastors were told by people greeting them after Mass that the music at their Christmas Masses was beautiful, or even angelic and heavenly. Beautiful music is of utmost importance to a parish. Musicians are co-workers in the truth; troubled or doubting hearts that even the most skilled preaching cannot reach, might be moved by a glorious descant or a quiet, perfectly conceived cadence. Beautiful music does not and cannot happen by itself, without the skilled leadership of a dedicated expert. It is my hope that the efforts of musicians everywhere will be fairly compensated, to encourage excellence in our profession.

The time musicians spend at Mass itself is the tip of the iceberg, and is the result of many years of education and the acquisition of artistic culture, followed by many hours of direct planning and rehearsal for the high liturgies of the year. Imagine Christmas Mass without music! (Imagine the collection from a Christmas Mass without music.) Think of the many people who must respond positively to the Music Director's leadership in order for this music to come together.

I think we will all agree that a just and living wage, which is all that Music Directors customarily ask, is a small price for a parish to pay for what the Second Vatican Council calls "the highest of all the sacred arts."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Midnight Mass, Leeds Cathedral

UK readers would be interested in this link, which I am almost entirely certain leads to the Midnight Mass at St. Anne's Cathedral in Leeds. (The Mass was broadcast by the BBC, but for reasons having to do with licensing it is apparently unavailable for internet viewing outside the UK.)

The Musical Portions of the Christmas Vigil

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Graduale in St. Peter's: This Is Epic

If you understand this, it needs no explaining. If you do not, you just have to take it on faith that this is an absolutely outstanding sign of things to come.

Midnight Mass at St. Peter's

Tonight I was very fortunate to be able to attend Midnight Mass at St. Peter's Basilica. It was exceedingly beautiful. Here is the libretto. The music was wonderful, with the Missa cum iubilo, and with the proper Entrance and Communion chants marked for the Schola and the people. And I would argue that this is exactly right. Whether or not congregations have historically been expected to sing the quite simple Entrance and Communion antiphons, the fact is, we have a literate and capable society. If everybody has to be able to adjust to Word 2007, then for goodness' sake we can certainly all learn to read square notes. These antiphons are repeated several times over the course of a procession in a large church, and can become familiar in one Mass without unduly distracting from the procession itself.

The chants, I believe, are meant to become part of memory. They are meant to stay with us through the week, breaking through the world's chatter, recalling us to the last Sunday or the last great Feast. And songs stay in the memories of those who sing them.

There was marvelous polyphony tonight, and a beautiful brass ensemble in the rear balcony. The overhead bells rang. It was a wonderful overload, an abundance of sound.

The musical high points for me were the solo voices, one in the treble range, and three adult male voices, singing the Christmas Proclamation, the Gradual (!), and the Gospel.

Is this the entrance chant at your parish this holy night?

Could it be, next year?

Christmas Vigil, Latin Propers

O Magnum Mysterium, Morten Lauridsen

There is something about this piece that, no matter how many times I hear it, elicits a spirit so powerful that I feel it physically each time.

English Propers, Midnight Mass at Christmas

The Nativity of Christ

By Saint Robert Southwell

Behold the father is his daughter's son,
The bird that built the nest is hatch'd therein,
The old of years an hour hath not outrun,
Eternal life to live doth now begin,
The word is dumb, the mirth of heaven doth weep,
Might feeble is, and force doth faintly creep.

O dying souls! behold your living spring!
O dazzled eyes! behold your sun of grace!
Dull ears attend what word this word doth bring!
Up, heavy hearts, with joy your joy embrace!
From death, from dark, from deafness, from despairs,
This life, this light, this word, this joy repairs.

Gift better than Himself God doth not know,
Gift better than his God no man can see;
This gift doth here the giver given bestow,
Gift to this gift let each receiver be:
God is my gift, Himself He freely gave me,
God's gift am I, and none but God shall have me.

Man alter'd was by sin from man to beast;
Beast's food is hay, hay is all mortal flesh;
Now God is flesh, and lies in manger press'd,
As hay the brutest sinner to refresh:
Oh happy field wherein this fodder grew,
Whose taste doth us from beasts to men renew!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sacred and Secular: What is the Difference?

I just watched this video holds up! Send the link to someone this Christmas:

More Dominican Student Brothers Public Singing Christmas Wonderfulness

This time with nuns, a priest--and Archbishop DiNoia.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Spain Saved Music

Legend has it that Trent briefly considered banning all music from liturgy but chant. The King of Spain intervened. Music was saved. Here is a post-Trent example of why the Spanish were particularly dedicated to polyphonic music. This piece of course is perfect for tomorrow's Mass.

Friday, December 21, 2012

English Propers, 4th Sunday of Advent

A Coordinated Diocesan Program for the Musical Training of Children

According to the Second Vatican Council,
Great importance is to be attached to the teaching and practice of music in seminaries, in the novitiates and houses of study of religious of both sexes, and also in other Catholic institutions and schools. To impart this instruction, teachers are to be carefully trained and put in charge of the teaching of sacred music.

It is desirable also to found higher institutes of sacred music whenever this can be done.

Composers and singers, especially boys, must also be given a genuine liturgical training. (SC 115)

The Diocese of Leeds has developed a coordinated diocesan effort for the musical training of children, involving "thirty-nine primary schools, four secondary schools and three parishes, with five auditioned boys choirs, four auditioned girls choirs."

The centralized program is supported by a modest contribution from each of the subscribing schools, and through partnerships and support with the Cathedral and the greater musical community.

This is where it all begins, at an inner-city school:

H/t Joannes Petrus. More information at the Diocese of Leeds Music Department.

The Joy of Music

Pope Benedict on Dialogue and Truth

The Holy Father addressed the Roman Curia this morning, an annual, programmatic speech of high importance. His very first Address to the Roman Curia in 2005 provided us with a new vocabulary of continued relevance: the hermeneutic of reform (continuity and discontinuity on different levels), and the hermeneutic of rupture.

Today he spoke of several things, focusing particularly on the family, and all of it very important reading. Generally speaking the text as a whole is addressing the problem--the tyranny--of the relativism of our time, a problem the Holy Father has addressed not only throughout his pontificate, but also in the funeral homily of his predecessor, Blessed Pope John Paul.

I thought one particular point that is relevant for Church musicians was the section on interreligious dialogue. I take the Pope to be saying Christianity must stand for itself as not just one belief among many, but as the belief originating quite fully in the Truth Himself, Jesus Christ.
Two rules are generally regarded nowadays as fundamental for interreligious dialogue:
1. Dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at understanding. In this respect it differs from evangelization, from mission;
2. Accordingly, both parties to the dialogue remain consciously within their identity, which the dialogue does not place in question either for themselves or for the other.
These rules are correct, but in the way they are formulated here I still find them too superficial. True, dialogue does not aim at conversion, but at better mutual understanding – that is correct. But all the same, the search for knowledge and understanding always has to involve drawing closer to the truth. Both sides in this piece-by-piece approach to truth are therefore on the path that leads forward and towards greater commonality, brought about by the oneness of the truth. As far as preserving identity is concerned, it would be too little for the Christian, so to speak, to assert his identity in a such a way that he effectively blocks the path to truth. Then his Christianity would appear as something arbitrary, merely propositional. He would seem not to reckon with the possibility that religion has to do with truth. On the contrary, I would say that the Christian can afford to be supremely confident, yes, fundamentally certain that he can venture freely into the open sea of the truth, without having to fear for his Christian identity. To be sure, we do not possess the truth, the truth possesses us: Christ, who is the truth, has taken us by the hand, and we know that his hand is holding us securely on the path of our quest for knowledge. Being inwardly held by the hand of Christ makes us free and keeps us safe: free – because if we are held by him, we can enter openly and fearlessly into any dialogue; safe – because he does not let go of us, unless we cut ourselves off from him. At one with him, we stand in the light of truth.
While musicians are not often asked, in conversation, to defend Jesus Christ as the unique and universal hope of salvation, we are nonetheless in many cases responsible for choosing among hymn texts, some of which will speak of Jesus Christ quite clearly, and some of which will not. Can it be that some of our texts, in favor of ecumenical or even interreligious "sensitivity," disregard the singular importance of the Lord for our salvation?

Moreover, it seems to me that the Pope's thoughts are relevant when considering all kinds of dialogue, including our ongoing dialogues about the music that is appropriate for Catholic liturgy. We can be confident, and therefore positive, non-defensive, and firm.

Pure Christmas Joy Across the Centuries

Written by Blessed Henry Suso (d. 1366), arranged by Johann Sebastian Bach, sung in our day by The Sixteen.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lumen Christi Propers: Holy Family and Mary, Mother of God

Cantor scores for the Lumen Christi Missal have now been posted for the Feast of the Holy Family, and for the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God:

These scores utilize the new translation of the Roman Missal, and cover all five propers (Entrance Antiphon, Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia and Verse, Offertory Antiphon and Communion Antiphon), and are at times carefully shortened to allow for the brevity that is needed for congregational singing. The content of the Lumen Christi Missal has been approved for liturgical use by Bp. Thomas J. Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix, and was published with the authority of the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship.

I also noticed this morning that CanticaNova has taken notice of the antiphons of the Lumen Christi Missal, and has begun listing them in their liturgy planning pages

One of these days it's going to work...

  • Priest #1: Kathy, this is Priest #2, the Pastor of St. X parish.
  • Priest #2: Nice to meet you.
  • Me: Nice to meet you too, Monsignor. I would like to teach the children of your parish Gregorian chant...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Hymn Liberation

Lots of amazing Latin and English hymns for you to download, share, sell, whatever. They are free to the world, no strings.

Christmas Sequence "Laetabundus"

This Christmas sequence may have originally been written by St Bernard of Clairvaux, although some think it was written earlier. The theory arises in part because of the friendship of Sts Bernard and Norbert, as this sequence was originally part of the Praemonstratensian (Norbertine) liturgy.

This is the Dominican version, which is sung in the Dominican rite 3 times a year: the third Mass on Christmas, Epiphany, and the Presentation of the Lord.

I understand that the sequence "follows" the tune of the Alleluia--hence the name "sequence." I would very much like to be pointed to scholarship about this, and in particular to learn how/ whether the sequences in current use "follow" the melodies of their past or present Alleluias.

A Contemporary Version of the O Antiphons

For years I've been quite fond of this contemporary setting of the O Antiphons by David Haas. They are offered as the intercessions at Evening Prayer in his collection "Light and Peace." I think the melodies of the verses are light and engaging.

This video was uploaded just a few days ago, and although the performance has some miking mishaps, I think it's nonetheless easy to see that this could be an effective "bridge" piece towards chant, and an accessible and prayerful use of traditional texts in parishes.

Wow! The Ward Method in Colorado

I just discovered this video/news story when I was browsing around online after I got acall from Dr. Alise Brown yesterday. Dr. Brown and I studied the Ward method together a number of years ago at CUA. She has taken the method outside of its Catholic context and is teaching it at the University of Northern Colorado. Her success speaks for itself.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Lumen Christi Propers: Christmas

Lumen Christi Missal cantor scores have now been posted for free download for the liturgies of Christmas:

Orders of the Lumen Christi Missal can still be shipped in time for Christmas. Perhaps you could bring one to your pastor or music director on Christmas morning, or share it with a family member or any Mass-going Catholic for their own use. 

Orders can be made online here.

DMA at Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame is launching a new Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) program with majors in organ and choral conducting, beginning in fall 2013. Applications will be received until Feb. 1, 2013, with auditions in March.

For a press release including contact information, see here.

Pianist Matthew Schellhorn on Chant and Birdsong

There's a quotation from Messiaen that reads: "I doubt that one can find in any human music, however inspired, melodies and rhythms that have the sovereign freedom of bird song."

While Messiaen found birds to be "sovereign" in their creative capacity, he also said they are "the closest to us, and the easiest to reproduce". I should assert that the only man-made music ever, perhaps, to come close to birdsong is Gregorian chant. This music, the music proper to the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, manifests the same flexibility of both melody and rhythm. There is even evidence to suggest that the Gregorian melodies we have written down were the basis, in fact, of improvisation – which of course further reminds us of the sounds of the natural world.

Again, we note that in music inspired by birds we find an opportunity to explore the natural sounds around us, which is another reason why there is such vitality and depth in all this music.

Read More

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mr. Tibbet's Catholic School

Charles Cole blogs about what looks like a fascinating book about a Catholic choir school in England.

Mr Tibbits’s Catholic School tells the story of St Philip’s School, founded at the request of the Oratory Fathers by the intrepid and eccentric Mr Tibbits in 1930s South Kensington. This small Roman Catholic School for boys aged 7-13 provides a wealth of stories which are humorous, moving and poignant, beautifully told by Ysenda Maxtone Graham.

The book’s preface was written by A.N. Wilson and appeared as an article in The Spectator. Julian Fellowes, former pupil of St Philip’s and author of Downton Abbey writes in the Afterword: ‘We loved one teacher in particular who received, via a telegram delivered to him in class, the news of his father’s death and consequent inheritance. With a cry of ‘Yippee!’ he flung the cable into the air, jumped up, left the room and was never seen again.’

When the Dominican Friars Polyphony Flash Mob Met the Dancing Bananas Flash Mob at the Chinatown Metro Station

Through the Eyes of a Child

Every Sunday, the front cover of our Mass program features the Introit for the day. If we are doing a choral version we just print the words. If we are doing the Gregorian Introit, we print the whole thing. On the first Sunday of Advent, of course, it featured the Ad te levavi:
One of our schola members has a seven-year-old who sits in the second pew, not far from where the schola stands. After Mass a couple of weeks ago, I took a look at what she had busied herself with the whole time. Now children do sometimes need some help in keeping themselves contained and focused during the Mass. Some children bring little Mass booklets. Others are urged repeatedly not to fidget. I have even been to a parish where I saw the mom feeding the kids slices of American cheese to keep them quiet! Apparently this little girl keeps herself busy with the program and a pencil. After Mass she showed me what had taken her a good bit of time to do. Notice she has written across the top her own spelling of "church music." This is what she hears every week, and this is what she is learning is proper to the Roman Rite. I was stunned. Such beauty and focus. Let's never short-change our children.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Iterum dico, gaudete!

A Future of Tradition

[Note: Special thanks to Fr. Anthony Ruff for suggesting this topic to me, and to his blog Pray Tell for dealing frankly with problem of youth involvement in religion.]

There is a pretty little chapel in a college town, right near campus. It belongs to a mainline protestant denomination. It is has everything going for it. It has a well-funded ministry, a competent staff, a great location, a great organ, and plenty of programs for students who have always been the main attendees. But there is a problem. People are not showing up. The trend started perhaps 10 years ago and it is accelerating. Now it is not uncommon for services to be near empty. The future is not bright.

Some people say it is easy to explain. In the past, only about 5% of the population professed no religious attachments. But new polls show that among people under 30 years of age some 30 to 40 percent have no interest in religion at all. They believe in nothing and associate with no local worship community. This is a titanic shift, one that seems not to have sunk in yet. For the first time on record, the new generation has just lost interest. This chapel is a victim of such trends.

That’s what one might first suppose. However, there are other churches in town that are not experiencing such problems. Their programs are full. They are expanding. The parking lot is packed for services, social events, Bible studies, everything. These other churches do not have to take recourse to national polls as a way of making excuses for themselves. They see with their own eyes that what they are doing is working.

Why is one case so sad and the other is so happy? There is a one major difference between the two cases. Those with full and active programs profess a robust faith. The dying chapel does not.

In the case of the chapel, the brand of Christianity they are selling is what one might call fashionable in an academic sense. Every effort is made to avoid what might be called Christian orthodoxy. Homilies are community conversations in which every expression of any idea is considered right. People who suggest the truth of basic points of the Nicene Creed are looked upon with suspicion. The social activities revolve around political issues like the environment, racial justice, and LGBT concerns. If you believe something approximating what Christians have always believed, you have to prepared to be schooled in the ways of the modern world.

The other churches provide what you might expect from religious institutions: actual belief. People pray. There is teaching. There is liturgical form. There are Bible studies and people seek truth in the Scriptures. Christians are not looked upon as the bad guys of all human history. Reverence and seriousness dominates the services. Social activities presume a faith commitment. They celebrate the joyfulness of Christian life rather than sit around grousing about social and political problems like racism, inequality, and environmental decay. To be sure, these active Churches all have different doctrines and traditions, but whatever they are, each is proclaimed and practiced with conviction.

I highlight the two cases in order to illustrate that the polls alone do not necessarily determine specific results. It is true that young people are losing faith. The data are absolutely overwhelming. But are they surprising? Not really. This generation has unprecedented access to everything. Entertainment is immediate. Every show and movie is right there. Video games are more incredible than ever. Opportunities for social engagement in the digital realm are amazing. Political activism is now an online activity. Competition for our time is intensifying by the day.

The influences hitting young people are vast and varied, and the rise of atheism is everywhere on display. The message from everywhere is clear: Christianity is bogus.

Why should they bother with religion? The opportunity costs are high for practicing any faith at all. Everything else is just more cool and interesting. Truly, times have changed. Religion has to be pretty impressive to compete with what’s out there. Even on the rare case when kids get to Church, it is hard to get them to put down their smartphones even for one hour.

They are fully aware that they are the first generation to enjoy such unprecedented access. Tradition does not hold them as a matter of habit. In this sense, they are unlike their parents or grandparents. This is a generation ready to break from the past. The sacred spaces that attract people out of their digital universes have to be pretty impressive.

At the very least, the places that attract them have to have something real to offer. Churches can’t compete in same sectors where the digital world excels. But it can offer something different and wonderful. The sacred space with real belief and conviction is such an offering. In fact, it is the primary thing that the Church can offer. The social and cultural experience follows from that.

I’ve seen enough anecdotal evidence to support this, and probably you have too. If not, just think about it why it makes sense. The college ministries that break ranks from the cultural fashion are doing well. Those that attempt to draw people in by saying the same things that you can get everywhere else in the world are not doing well.

And kids are sophisticated enough to know the difference. If someone is curious about what Christianity has to offer and ends up in some touchy-feeling session in which anything goes and outright nonbelief is given equal status to orthodoxy, that kid will leave. What’s the point? If you want politics, there are millions of options. If you want rampant skepticism, any one of thousands of sites and social groups are suitable.

What is the Church’s comparative advantage in this environment? It can provide a solid ground for truth, for belief rooted in enduring tradition, and a physical space for the instantiation of holiness. Within this framework, but not without it, good and healthy social relationships can form, and a vibrant culture can take root.

Trends in the Catholic Church today seem to be on the right side of history. The new English Missal takes the faith seriously. We are slowing backing away from the trends of the past decades to ignore the liturgical music tradition and replace it with fashionable pop songs. Parishes are realizing that Catholicism itself has a certain cultural cache because it, nearly alone, has stuck by truth and stood up to the powers that be, even in the face of relentless persecution. There is a certain heroism about professing the Catholic faith today.

And even within the Catholic framework, differences are emerging between the flimsy faith of the contemporary past and the new traditionalism. Among the traditional orders, we are seeing expansion but among those who bought into the temporary mushheadedness, we see faltering and decay. Publishers like Ignatius Press are booming while others are not. The programs of the Church Music Association of America are packed to capacity but not so with others.

A Christianity that doesn’t believe in itself lives for a while on momentum of the past but doesn’t have much of a future. A Christianity that is authentic renews itself regardless of the changing times precisely because it makes its foundation the eternal truths that transcend the passage of time.

What Chant? Fr. Fessio Speaks

Charpentier's O Antiphons

Friday, December 14, 2012

Grant Them Eternal Rest, O Loving Lord Jesus

Phoenix seminar with Bartlett

A workshop on the chants of the New Roman Missal, as well as newly composed antiphons for use in parish liturgy will be presented by Adam Bartlett on February 1 and 2, 2013 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Prescott, Arizona, the celebrated mile-high territorial capital of Arizona in 1864 and home of the first rodeo in the U.S..

Adam is the young author of the sellout Simple English Propers and editor of the new Lumen Christi Missal. He is the director of music at St. Simon & Jude Cathedral in Phoenix.

The Friday night session will begin at 7 p.m. until 9 p.m; the second session will be on Saturday from 10 a.m. until noon. There will be a practice rehearsal in the afternoon in preparation for the Vigil Mass at 5:15 p.m.

There will be a $10 fee for the workshop payable upon registration Friday night.

Sacred Heart Church is located at 150 Fleury Avenue in the heart of downtown Prescott. Call 928-778-0132 for more information.

Please Sing the Propers on Gaudete

A Hymn that Touches Me Deeply

I try not to be negative, and I've worked to shake my old habit of singling out the fine people at the Oregon Catholic Press for relentless flogging.

But, still, sometimes you just have to say it. If these people are going to put out hymnals, fine. I think we should be singing propers, but I guess OCP disagrees.

But is there really any excuse for not including "Wake, Awake for Night Is Flying" from Advent selections? It strikes me as an egregious oversight.

Thanks to OCP's dominance in the Catholic world, I've gone probably 15 years without singing it. This comes to an end this Sunday. We are printing the words in the program and just forging ahead. It is a rare time when we do a hymn other than the recessional but that's the way it's going to be.

If you do not know it (perish the thought), here is one version with slightly different words (we are singing from Hymnal 1940).

Here is the astonishing thing that Bach did to this:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Such an exchange"

From The Incarnation, a poem by St. John of the Cross.
When the time had come
for Him to be born
He went forth like the bridegroom
from his bridal chamber,
embracing His bride,
holding her in His arms,
Whom the gracious Mother
laid in a manger
among some animals
that were there at that time.
Men sang songs
and angels melodies
celebrating the marriage
of Two such as these.
But God there in the manger
cried and moaned;
and those tears were jewels
the bride brought to the wedding.
The Mother gazed in sheer wonder
on such an exchange:
In God, man's weeping,
and in man, gladness;
to the one and the other
things usually so strange.

It's Hip to be Square

The Economist has an excellent piece on the new trendiness in Catholic circles: find what we've lost. The sensibilities of the 1960s and 1970s are spent and now people are reaching to find lost truth. Have a look.

Wantage Sisters To Be Received into the Catholic Church

Here is the news item.
Eleven Anglican Sisters will be received into the Catholic Church via the ordinariate, it emerged this week.

The Sisters, from the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage, Oxfordshire, will be received into the Church by Mgr Keith Newton, leader of the ordinariate in England and Wales, on New Year’s Day.

The group, which ranges in age from 45 to 83, includes the mother superior of the community and a Sister who was once a minister in the Church of England. Three are in their 80s.

Next year they will stay for six weeks at a Benedictine convent. After that, they do not know where they will live and they have no endowments to keep them afloat financially.

Mother Winsome said: “We’ve got an uncertain future. But we are doing this because we truly believe this is God’s call. The Bible is full of people called to step out in faith not knowing where they were going or how they will be provided for and that truly is the situation we are following.”

The community, inspired by the Oxford Movement and founded in 1848, streams its daily offices live on its website and offers retreats and meditations online.

I have special affection for this order. When I discovered that the Palmer-Burgess Gradual (English in four-line staffs modeled on the Graduale Romanium) existed and that this convent owned the rights, I called them up. The head of the order was astonishingly nice and wonderful. They wanted the books republished, and hoped that the CMAA would do it. They asked for nothing in return. They only wanted the chant to get out there.

I was truly taken aback at the spirit of generosity here. It was beautiful. And so unusual. As a result of this, the whole world had access to this treasure that was previously hidden.

You can purchase these books here.

Plainchant Gradual, vols. 1 & 2 (in one edition) Palmer/Burgess Lulu
Plainchant Gradual, vols. 3 & 4 (in one edition) Palmer/Burgess  Lulu

Hours and hours of singing pleasure

This is what the bookseller on the Via dei Corridori brought down from a top shelf when I asked to see music books in Latin.

St. Lucy's Day

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

CMAA Winter Intensive: Women's Class Full; Still Room in Men's Class

The headline says it all. Men can still register on or before Friday, December 14. Women's names will be placed on a waiting list at this point. Seminarian scholarships are available. More information and registration form here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Olivier Messiaen and the Language of Love

Reposted from Cantare Amantis Est, which, alas, I long ago abandoned:

“I have waited, waited for the Lord…and he heard my supplication, and he put a new song into my mouth, a hymn to our God.”
One of the most extraordinary pieces in the Gregorian chant repertoire is the Offertory, Expectans, expectavi.  Like many melodies of this idiom, this one changes modes, so that it ends on a different final than one would expect from the clues offered at the beginning.  The uniqueness in this situation comes from the word painting that results from the modulation, as the key changes with the text “a hymn to our God.”  The effect is utterly exhilarating and perhaps an admonition that if we really want God to put a new song into our mouths, we have to be prepared to sing in a new mode, to accept the unexpected.
Such a posture is fitting, even necessary, when approaching the music of Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992), a French composer who is probably the most important church musician since J.S. Bach, and whose birthday is today.  A devout Catholic, Messiaen’s work represents the apex of musical creativity in the Church in the late 20th century; yet he remains misunderstood by many.  His interest in ornithology (the study of birds), theology, and exotic musical styles give his work a high degree of individualism.  It is nearly impossible to mistake his work for someone else’s.
It has been said by some that Messiaen never intended his organ works to be performed in church.  This seems to be a mirror image of the myth that Luther got all his chorale melodies from the town drunk.  While Messiaen did say that, as an ideal, the only truly religious music is Gregorian chant, he did not rule out the performance of his own music at the liturgy.  In fact, in his conversations with Claude Samuel he admits to keeping his ambitions in the early organ works in check owing to their eventual performance at Mass.  Messiaen’s output encompasses far more than sacred music, but for purposes of this essay, that’s what we’ll focus on.
Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of misconceptions about Messiaen’s music.  It has been called “dissonant.”  One organ professor who was a fossil from the very late Romantic era called it sour.  A friend told me that it didn’t have any logical structure.  Someone else told me that there is no joy in it, which I must admit certainly requires a tremendous effort at selective listening.  These misunderstandings motivate me to offer this attempt at explaining how this music really works.  In doing this, I’m relying heavily on the work of Claude Samuel and Jon Gillock, who have both given us books that are incredible resources on this musical giant.  Because this is complicated music, I will break it down into some of its more important components and discuss each one in isolation.
Messiaen based his compositions on what he called the modes of limited transposition.  These are exotic-sounding scales which make use of unusual relationships between the intervals.  Two examples are the whole-tone scale—a six-note scale in which the intervals are whole steps (C, D, E, F#, G#, A#, C)—and the octatonic scale, in which half and whole steps alternate (C, C#, D#, E, F#, G, A, A#, C).  As the name implies, these scales can only be transposed a limited number of times before running out of new notes, unlike the major scale, for instance, which can be transposed 24 times.
The harmonies that Messiaen employs, however, are not based on these scales the way classical harmonies are based on the diatonic scale, with the tonic chord consisting of the first, third, and fifth scale degrees, for instance.  The harmonies in this case are invented according to the specific sound that Messiaen wanted in a given instance.  He based his decisions on color and timbre, using his synesthesia-like condition to help him make choices.  (Messiaen associated modes and harmonies with colors, which he saw in his mind’s eye as he heard the sounds.  The color complexes which he saw were usually quite intricate.)
Just as the specific sound or timbre of a musical instrument is determined by its particular overtone series, the unique sounds of Messiaen’s music are the result of his “weird” harmonies. The whole sound, therefore, must be listened to in order to hear the effect that Messiaen was after.  Focusing on the “dissonance” of the individual notes would be like listening to Louis Armstrong and picking out the separate overtones of the trumpet.  In this sense, Messiaen’s music needs to be listened to telescopically, from a distance.  Listen with a new paradigm, and think of a kaleidoscope.
Somewhat related to Messiaen’s harmonic system is the use of organ registration.  The organ features a number of stops that play the fundamental tone, the note that is perceived by the listener.  Other stops, however, play various partials—the octave, the twelfth, fifteenth, etc.  Messiaen liked to experiment with registrations which removed the fundamental, hence many of the high-pitched settings that you’ll hear during his music.
Olivier Messiaen employed many bird songs and Gregorian chant melodies, especially the jubilant Alleluias, in his works, yet much of what he wrote does not contain a melody as such.  This is nothing revolutionary, though.  In all honesty, much of the music of even Palestrina and Victoria contained themes rather than melodies, material developed polyphonically by several equal voices.  This is not exactly Frank Sinatra; such music cannot be jotted down in a fake book.  It is important to remember that Messiaen relies heavily on imagery and the musical manifestation of ideas.  He is communicating, albeit in new and unexpected ways.
Rhythm figures very prominently in Messiaen’s music.  He even anticipated that this aspect of his work would be his most important contribution to future composers.  To him, music is rhythm.
Yet his music doesn’t have that tyrannical thumping sound like club music or a badly played Bach fugue in which all the downbeats are summarily slaughtered.  This comes from Messiaen’s use of devices that do not rely on metrical divisions like much Western music does.  Instead, he uses Greek and Hindu rhythms, the Hindu material being called deci-tales, or regional rhythms.  The Greek rhythms make use of longs and shorts, like a line of Shakespeare.  This might be the system that most closely resembles the rhythms in Gregorian chant, which has a primary, indivisible beat so symbolic of unity, eternity, and divinity.
Messiaen offered some interesting viewpoints on this subject.  He considered Mozart a very rhythmical composer, but neither Bach nor jazz because the rhythms simply droned on with no changes to the fundamental beat.  Even syncopation didn’t impress him.  I myself want to look more into this, particularly his insistence on Mozart’s rhythmic qualities over and above other Western composers, especially in light of Mozart’s generally broad harmonic rhythm.
With Messiaen, we must abandon the Classical forms and their Romantic imitators.  It is often said that all music is about departure and return, but Messiaen’s music seems to be more about leaving a lower plane of existence in favor of a higher one.
I’m reminded of the observation of Richard Weaver (1910-1963), literature professor at the University of Chicago, that artists have used stories not to re-tell the story but as a basis for form.  In Messiaen’s case, a similar principle prevails, though he doesn’t really use chronologies.  Rather, certain ideas around particular events are brought into interaction with each other and made not into stories, but meditations and sometimes even syllogisms.  In his Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a work for chorus and orchestra, Messiaen quotes an entire section of St. Thomas Aquinas!
It seems best to use a concrete example.  Let’s take a look at Dieu parmi nous (God Among Us, 1935, for organ), which is fitting for this time of year.
At the top of the first page, Messiaen posts the text which is the basis for the musical meditation:
[Words of the communicant, of the Virgin, of the whole Church:]  Then the Creator of the universe laid a command upon me; my Creator decreed where I should dwell.  The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.  (Some of this translation comes from the New English Bible.)
The music begins with the introduction of three themes:
  1. Descending chords followed by a roaring pedal line which represents the descent of the Second Person of the Trinity.
  2. The communion, the theme of love, played on the undulating string and foundation stops of the organ.
  3. The theme of joy, Mary’s Magnificat, which, as Jon Gillock points out, evokes bird song.
After the introduction of these themes, the first and third begin a back and forth dialogue , the theological story line of which seems rather obvious—the Child descending into the Mother’s womb and the Mother rejoicing.  This is followed by an ecstatic development of the Magnificat theme in two-voice counterpoint that dissipates into the heavens.
Now the theme of love returns, in a frantic sort of way, punctuated by descending notes in the pedals.  One person has told me that this represents the busy-ness of Paris, which Messiaen hated, interrupted by the grace of God coming down to mitigate the worldly garishness.  This theme of love culminates in a restatement of the first theme, which, after its descent, is repeated in reverse—in ascending motion.  Gillock wonders if this isn’t a hint at the Ascension, which introduces much opportunity for reflection on the relationship between the Incarnation, the Ascension, and the destiny of man (apologies to Reinhold Niebuhr!), all of which Messiaen may be commenting on in the exuberance of the toccata that follows.
This toccata (at 5:15 in the linked video), according to Messiaen himself, is really where the piece begins.  Everything else that comes before serves as an introduction.  It makes use of the Hindu rhythmcandrakala and the fourth Greek epitrite.  While the hands play sparkling passages, the feet restate the first theme of the piece.  The toccata builds into a whirlwind of activity, until concluding triumphantly so that even the stone pillars of the church rejoice.
Messiaen’s music is difficult to play, but his approach is driven neither by the taste for virtuosity nor musical eggheadedness.   Rather, its genus is in the communication of ideas. He uses his language to talk about God, and therefore his language is not of the concert hall or the academy or the museum piece; it is the language of love.  His faith is at the heart of every note Messiaen ever wrote.  For him, his work was not a means to vainglory, but a vocation, the way in which he was to work out his salvation.  “I am not a saint,” he told Claude Samuel, “but I would have given up all my musical works to be Mother Teresa.”

Scholarships for Seminarians

This coming Friday, December 14, is the registration deadline for the CMAA's Winter Chant Intensive in Macon, GA. The dates of the Intensive are January 7-11. The women's class is nearly full, but there is still some room in the men's course, taught by David Hughes. This is a wonderful opportunity for seminarians...a few scholarships for seminarians have just become available. To inquire,write to the CMAA at

Gregorian Chant and the Moral Formation of Children

As children grow into adolescence and adulthood, they face many moral challenges. When navigated well, in keeping with the sound moral judgment of the Church and the inner light of conscience, these moral challenges are like vaults, raising people higher. But navigating well is difficult. The traps are many, and serious, and few avoid them completely.

St Therese of Lisieux was one of the lucky few who avoided the worst difficulties of adolescence. She attributed this to her upbringing, and she was grateful, and attributed this to God’s mercy. She compared her life to that of the daughter of a doctor. If the daughter of a doctor tripped over a stone, fell and broke her leg, her doctor-father could heal her, and that is one kind of mercy. But if her father saw the rock in the path ahead, and removed it, that is another kind of mercy, and the kind that she best knew in her own life.
I believe that the Church has a few golden years of opportunity when working with children, from the ages of perhaps 5-10, to give them a valuable aid to moral formation: Gregorian chant. During these years, children learn quickly. They memorize easily, and retain what they have learned for life. It has been my experience working with adult choirs that have not sung chant before, that the oldest members remember the chants they learned as children.
Blessed Cardinal Newman wrote, “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not,—like some well in a retired and shady place, difficult of access.” No human teacher can give the Christian this peace. It is the gift of sanctifying grace, the divine indwelling, the interior place by which God makes the human body His own temple. God Himself gives this grace, through the Church, in the waters of baptism. We cannot make it, but I believe we can foster a child’s personal access to God in the soul by helping them to be present to this divine gift from their youth, through Gregorian chant.
Probably everyone who has taught chant to the young has seen a child drift away and stop singing, not through laziness or inattention, but with a kind of otherworldly focus, or contemplation. I consider this to be a moral formation of a very high type, a touchstone in the life of grace that will not easily be tempted away, and which, after a fall, will make return to health much easier.
And for those of us who have already passed through the trials of adolescence, for better or worse, it is not too late. The morning is the childhood of the day. Waking up, rousing ourselves to chant to God our morning praises will lead us peacefully through the day, and into night.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rorate caeli desuper

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Unplug the microphones?

Kevin White provides here in FIRST THINGS a systematic critique of the regrettable liturgical effect of microphones. As he begins the article:

Catholic clergy and laity seem to accept the use of microphones at Mass without question as something good, or at least as an inevitable feature of the electronic environment in which we all now live and move, as fish swim in water. It is, however, a very recent and very strange development, and one might think it would occasion more discussion than it has.

The article has some remarkable insights, and they all strike me as correct. But there needs to be a part 2 regarding the alternative scenario of no microphones. A number of issues present themselves. Carpet is out. Readers would need to develop less "personality" and more vocal force. Choirs would need to be above congregations and not facing them. The people would have to work a bit to listen and understand.

It all seems right to me. But the adaptation to the new reality would take some thinking through.

Tota Pulchra es /Salve Josquin des Prez

Tota pulchra es, Maria

Britten's Hymn to the Virgin

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Hymns of the Saint of the Day

St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan and Saint of the Day, wrote and sang hymns with his Church, in imitation of the Eastern Churches, who transmitted doctrine through hymnody.

St. Ambrose wrote hymns in what we now call Long Meter, also known as Church Meter or Ambrosian Meter, which is to say, in verses of four iambic line, each with four metrical feet. 

We know that St. Ambrose is the author of four of the many hymns ascribed to him, because St. Augustine, whom St. Ambrose baptized, mentions them by name in his Confessions. One of them is Aeterne rerum Conditor:

Eternal maker of all things
Of day and night the sov'reign King,
Refreshing mortals, You arrange
The rhythm of the seasons' change

The rooster sounds his morning cry
--Throughout the night he watched the sky--
For travelers, a guiding light
To tell the watches of the night.

The morning star that hears the cry
Dispels the darkness from the sky.
The demons, hearing the alarm
Abandon all their paths of harm.

The sailor hears and he is brave;
The sea becomes a gentle wave.
The rooster's call reached Peter's ears:
He washed away his sins in tears.

Our wav'ring hearts, Lord Jesus, see.
O look upon us, make us free,
For in Your gaze no fault can stay,
And sins by tears are washed away.

O Light, upon our senses shine.
Dispel our sleepiness of mind,
That we may sing Your morning praise,
Then, vows fulfilling, live our days.

Many other hymns are ascribed to him, some quite possibly authentically, others in homage to his teaching authority. One of these is a hymn to St. Agnes, Agnes beatae virginis.  

My translation here was included in a recent book, Radiate: More Stories of Daring Teen Saints by Colleen Swaim. I take this as a testimony to the enduring power of hymns to catechize, not only ancient saints like the blessed Bishop of Hippo, but the potential saints of our own and future years:

 The blessed virgin Agnes flies
back to her home above the skies.
With love she gave her blood on earth
to gain a new celestial birth.

Mature enough to give her life,
though still too young to be a wife,
what joy she shows when death appears
that one would think: her bridegroom nears!

Her captors lead her to the fire
but she refuses their desire,
"For it is not such smold'ring brands
Christ's virgins take into their hands."

"This flaming fire of pagan rite
extinguishes all faith and light.
Then stab me here, so that the flood
may overcome this hearth in blood."

Courageous underneath the blows,
her death a further witness shows,
for as she falls she bends her knee
and wraps her robes in modesty.

O Virgin-born, all praises be
to You throughout eternity.
and unto everlasting days
to Father and the Spirit, praise.

PDF of Advent Calendar of Hymn Tune Introits

Many thanks to Steven van Roode for providing this file in PDF, as requested by a reader: Advent Calendar of Hymn Tune Introits.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two Recordings of St. Gall Notation

These are both interesting and challenging renderings of chants by master singers. No one knows for sure how they sounded in the first millennium -- and there is no one correct way -- but these versions do open up new possibilities.

First Recording of the Requiem of Ockeghem

Sven Edward Olbash of the Sacred Music Workshop in San Francisco is raising money -- and they are almost there! -- to record Ockeghem's Requiem. They then plan a series of performances to push this amazing music out there. This is certainly worth supporting!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gaudete Omnes Indeed

We attempted this a few years ago here in our parish in Alabama. We pulled it off, actually.

Alma Redemptoris Mater

h/t Ben Whitworth