Christmas Gift Ideas for Church Musicians and Liturgy Geeks

Continuing with the Cafe’s observance of the Octave of Black Friday, I thought some of you might appreciate a bit of Sacred Music consumerism.

(If you are tired of all the consumerism, you can go here to spend money on a good cause instead.)

According to all the online shopping sites, “Cyber Monday” goes on all week, but in the spirit of “Giving Tuesday,” I’ve written the rest of this post as if it’s about things you might want to buy as gifts for other people. (So you can pretend that brand new Renaissance Polyphony CD is totally not for yourself.)

Gifts for the Church Musician who Hates Christmas Music

Carol Curmudgeon Level: Grinch

For your friend who complains about all that noise noise noise noise noise constantly blaring out of every commercial establishment from October 15th until noon on December 25th, this CD of traditional (and traditionally performed) Christmas music from the British Isles is sure to make the heart of anyone who listens to it grow three sizes.

Carol Curmudgeon Level: Scrooge

Let the musical Spirit of Christmas Past visit the Ebenezer in your life with this (amazing!) CD of Medieval Christmas Carols and Motets performed by Anonymous 4.

Carol Curmudgeon Level: Grumpy Cat

We all know, deep down, that Grumpy Cat is probably an Anglican Use Catholic. That’s why the Grumpy Catholics in your life need Christmas music from the richest period of the English Catholic Music. Of course, I mean the Tudor era, and composers like Tallis, Byrd, and (extra ‘r’ for ‘renaissance’) Taverner. This CD of Tudor Christmas music from Stile Antico is sure to make even Grumpy Cat smile (but only on the inside).

and speaking of…

Gifts for Anglican Use Catholics (and related subcultures)

Anglophile Level: “Read a book by Chesterton once”

Another one from Stile Antico, but not specifically Christmas music (because you need to listen to polyphony at other times of the year), this CD of the music of Tallis and Byrd is just heavenly.

Anglophile Level: “Catholics could learn a lot from the Anglican approach to translation”

Know a Roman Catholic who is constantly comparing Cranmer to ICEL in a way that totally ignores the fact that he was a damned heretic? Your friend probably already has this book, but if not, gift them the complete texts of the first three editions of the Book of Common Prayer. (This one is on MY wishlist this year. You can email me for a valid shipping address if you’re feeling generous.)

Gifts for the Church Music Geek

Geek Level: “Almost went to the colloquium. Almost.”

CMAA President, and Guido of Arezzo’s left-hand man, Dr. William Marht is the most amazingly informative human being in the world, and is one of the main attractions at CMAA events. For anyone who pines over a lack of Colloquium, his master work The Musical Shape of the Liturgy is a must read.

Geek Level: “I always wear bowties while conducting my schola.”

I can not say enough good things about The Christian West and Its Singers, the gigantic and exhilerating history of liturgical music through the first millenium. Anyone who is serious about the musical heritage of the Roman Rite needs to read, and own, this book.

Geek Level: Basically if Rainman went to Rome instead of Vegas

If I could pinpoint one single book that has changed by thinking about the nature of liturgy more than any other, it would have to be After Writing: On the Liturgical Consumation of Philosophy. Catherine Pickstock’s extraordinary treatise on the role of liturgy in society, told through an intensely close reading of the Tridentine Rite, is a mind-changing (and life-changing) book. Be warned: it’s a tough read. But worth the struggle.

Gifts for the Budding Composer

Composer Skill Level: Ben Yanke

The youngest rock star of the Traddie music scene is NLM intern Ben Yanke. While he is definitely getting a handle on the whole monophonic chant thing (and word is, he just got Organ Shoes), I’ve seen his attempts at part-writing. Not pretty, folks. The Ben Yankes of the world need a good solid dose of old-time pedagogy, in the form of Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum, the most well-known and widely used manual of species counterpoint. The Dover edition, translated by Alfred Mann, is your best bet if you don’t read Renaissance Latin.

Composer Skill Level: Adam Wood

Sad to say, I am the compositional equivalent of a 98-pound weakling. That’s why, this year (just like I said last year), I’m planning to finally finish up the species counterpoint exercies and move on to a more in-depth study of counterpoint and fugal techniques, using the rest of Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum (and related classic theory writings) in Alfred Mann’s The Study of Fugue, also from Dover.

Music for that Special Someone who also happens to be way into Church

Relationship status: Friendzone

That cute pious girl in your mixed-voice schola may think of you as more of a brother than a romantic partner, but the Old Testament is full of that sort of thing, if you know what I mean. Let your “friend who happens to be a girl” know that you think her neck is as stately as a giraffe’s with this CD of polyphonic settings of texts from the Song of Songs, the hottest book of the Bible.

Relationship status: Pretty serious… I think?

If your liturgigeek love interest hasn’t gotten the hint that you reeeeeeally think he’s not being called to the priesthood, up the ante a little with some liturgical source material. If he already has a Roman Missal on his shelf, he’ll definitely appreciate a copy of The Rites of the Catholic Church, with a well-placed bookmark round about page 715.

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