Thursday, January 31, 2013

An Office Hymn for Candlemas: Let Zion's Bridal Room Be Clothed

As Adam mentions below, the entrance procession for the Feast of the Presentation or Candlemas features the chant Adorna Thalamum Tuum, Sion. Peter Abelard's similarly titled hymn, Adorna Sion Thalamum, is an Office Hymn for the day.

We see the imperative of adornment played out in the clothing of the Church and her ministers for Liturgy. The Temple comes to His temple, to be offered, and should we not be ritually, luxuriously dressed to greet Him?

Charles Giffen and I have collaborated to make the Office Hymn better know and loved. Here is Charles' setting, and this is my translation, which has found its way into a homily or two. Please feel free to use this Saturday if you find it helpful.

Let Zion's bridal-room be clothed:
He comes, her Lord and her Betrothed.
Let man and woman, by faith's light,
Their vigil keep throughout the night.

Saint Simeon, sent forth in joy,
Exults to see the baby Boy:
The light in Whom all things are known
Has now upon the nations shone.

His parents to the temple bring
The Temple as an offering
The righteousness of law He chose
Though to the law He nothing owes.

So, Mary, bring this little one,
Yours and the Father's only Son
Through whom our offering is made
By whom our ransom price is paid.

And forward, queen of virgins, go
And let rejoicing overflow
With gifts bring forth your newborn Son
Who comes to rescue everyone.

Lord Jesus Christ, the Glory bright
Who guides the nations into light
Be praised, and for eternity
Be glorified, O Trinity. Amen.

Watch this space for PBC2

It should come available the 2nd week of March. Joy would be to reprint in 30 days. Could happen. Lots of people are interested in this spectacular new edition.

Senex Puerem for Candlemass

Communion Propers for Lent, by Richard J. Clark

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

English Propers: Ash Wednesday

Cantor scores that accompany the Lumen Christi Missal have now been posted for Ash Wednesday. This includes the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion antiphons of the "Simple Gradual", the Responsorial Psalm and Gospel Verse, in addition to full simple chant settings of the antiphons for the distribution of ashes as they are found in the new edition of the Roman Missal.

Download them here:

There are through-composed settings of the traditional antiphons in settings that parish cantors and choirs can readily sing, and also in this score you will find at simple congregational antiphon, "Blot out my transgressions, O Lord", with verses from Psalm 51 (50), as it is prescribed in the Roman Missal.

Similar scores for Lent and Holy Week are coming shortly.

English Propers: The Presentation of the Lord

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, or "Candlemas", occurs this Saturday, February 2nd. Many people have been asking for English propers for this liturgy which is a uniquely beautiful liturgy with an iconic blessing of candles and procession before the Mass. This liturgy is engrained in the Catholic consciousness and should be celebrated to its full, solemn capacity.

The chants that are found in the new edition of the Roman Missal are found also in the Lumen Christi Missal, and I have now posted the cantor edition that complements these selections, and provides pointed psalm verses and musical settings for all of the texts of this liturgy that are meant to be sung.

This may be downloaded and used freely by all:

The opening antiphons for the candle service (Ecce Dominus and the iconic Lumen ad revelationem) are included in both English and Latin settings, with pointed English verses. An elaborate English rendering of the Adorna thalamum is also included, using the translation that is found in the Roman Missal. And the Entrance, Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia and Verse, Offertory and Communion chants have simple English settings that can be sung by parish choirs and congregations, using the new translation of the Roman Missal where applicable. 

These cantor scores, which are being posted weekly for parish use, are leading toward a choir/cantor companion edition to the Lumen Christi Missal. More will be said about this soon. Much progress is being made, and I look forward to announcing our plans to continue the Lumen Christi Series in the near future.

May your celebration of Candlemas enlighten the eyes of Christ's servants.

Music and Ecstasy

As they reached “Laudamus te,” the organ fell silent, and I realized they were singing the Gloria in alternatim, as they often do at Papal Masses, and the choir broke out into fantastic polyphony. That’s when I just about lost it.

I went weak in the knees. My jaw literally hung open. I felt chills straight up my spine as I mouthed along with the prayers the schola was singing in such a sublime manner. The beauty of the church, combined with the stunning beauty of the music, had quite literally sucked me into the liturgy unfolding before me. It was almost a form of ecstasy.
The entire post by Ben Yanke is outstanding. Plus he recorded parts and those are featured on his page

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lumen Christi Cantor Scores: 4th and 5th Sundays

Cantor scores with pointed psalm verses for the antiphons of the Lumen Christi Missal have now been posted for free download:

Presentation of the Lord and Ash Wednesday will be on their way shortly.

The Renewal of Sacred Music and the Liturgy in the Catholic Church: Movements Old and New

The CMAA is thrilled to announce the call for participation for a conference celebrating the legacy of Msgr. Richard Schuler and the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale in St. Paul, Minnesota. 

As many of you know, the longtime pastor of St. Agnes Church in St. Paul, Msgr. Richard Schuler, was the vice president of the CMAA for 10 years, and also served as the editor of the Association’s journal, Sacred Music, for many years.  He left an immense legacy at St. Agnes, in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and far beyond, not only as a church musician of the highest order, but also as a wise pastor.  Indeed, Bishop Sample (of whom there was news earlier today) is just one of the vocations to have come out of St. Agnes under Msgr. Schuler's tutelage.  For the past 40 years, the choir he founded and directed (the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale) has been singing orchestral Masses every Sunday during season at St. Agnes church in St. Paul.  This conference will celebrate the 40th season of the TCCC's residency at St. Agnes. 

This conference promises to be a truly wonderful event for anyone who is interested in the Church's sacred music and liturgy. 

We've just posted the call for participation at the conference website, and post it here as well for all those scholars and musicians interested in submtting a proposal, as well as a taste of what the conference will offer. 

Mark your calendars!  October 13-15, 2013 at St. Agnes and the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota!
The Renewal of Sacred Music and the Liturgy in the Catholic Church: Movements Old and New
October 13–15, 2013

The Church Music Association of America
in collaboration with
the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale, the Church of St. Agnes,
the Cathedral of St. Paul, and the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis

The Church Music Association of America will hold a conference exploring renewal movements within the Church’s liturgy and sacred music on October 13–15, 2013, at the Church of St. Agnes and Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The conference marks the 40th anniversary of the residence of the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale, founded by Msgr. Richard J. Schuler, at the Church of St. Agnes in St. Paul.  The conference seeks to explore, through critical analysis, former and present efforts to revive the Church’s sacred liturgy and music, particularly as exemplified by Msgr. Schuler’s work.  Questions central to the conference theme include:

Ÿ  Which efforts have resulted in a true restoration of the Church’s liturgy and sacred music? 

Ÿ  Upon which principles has authentic liturgical and musical renewal operated in the past?

Ÿ  Which reform actions have had deleterious effects on sacred music and the liturgy?

While the conference will focus on sacred music, other aspects of liturgy (theology, history, architecture, documents, etc.) will also be considered for inclusion in the proceedings.  

The conference will include solemn celebrations of vespers (featuring Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore) and Missae Cantatae at the Cathedral of St. Paul and Church of St. Agnes, featuring an orchestral Mass, classical works for organ, and a modern polyphonic setting of the Mass ordinary. Dr. William Mahrt (Stanford) will deliver a keynote address, and other featured speakers include Fr. Guy Nichols (Blessed John Henry Newman Institute of Liturgical Music) and Jeffrey Tucker (The Wanderer and Sacred Music).

The conference committee welcomes proposals for papers and recital programs related to the conference theme. 

The deadline for proposals is March 22, 2013.  Notification of acceptance will be given by April 8, 2013.

Proposals must be submitted via email to Jennifer Donelson at

For paper proposals (30 minutes plus 5 minutes for questions), please send an email including:

1.      Title and abstract (250-word maximum)
2.      Your name and affiliation
3.      Your phone number and email address
4.      Bio (250-word maximum)
For recital proposals (25 or 50 minutes in length), please send an e-mail including:

1.      Selections to be included on the program (including title, composer, and length of each selection)
2.      A 100-word abstract (for lecture recitals only)
3.      Your name and affiliation, as well as the name and affiliation of each performer/ensemble
4.      Your phone number and email address
5.      Your bio (250-word maximum)
6.      A brief bio of each performer/ensemble included in the recital program (100-word maximum)
7.      One or two recordings in mp3 format which demonstrate a recent performance.  The selections need not be recordings of the pieces proposed for the conference recital program.  File size limit: 10 MB.
8.      Performance space requirements (instrumentation, configuration, need for music stands and chairs, etc.)

Paper topics arising from the theme and guiding questions include, but are not limited to:

Ÿ  The renewal of chant and chant praxis through the work of St. Peter’s Abbey in Solesmes
Ÿ  The Cecilian movement
Ÿ  The Liturgical Movement and related figures and places (St. Pius X, Pius XII, Maria Laach Abbey, Romano Guardini, Dom Prosper Guéranger, Pius Parsch, Dom Lambert Beauduin, Louis Bouyer, Reynold Henry Hillenbrand, Adrian Fortescue, etc.)
Ÿ  The work and ideas of Msgr. Richard J. Schuler
Ÿ  Renewed interest in Viennese orchestral Masses in the 20th century, particularly in light of the work of the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale
Ÿ  Historical accounts of the efforts and ideas of the Church Music Association of America
Ÿ  The impact on sacred music or liturgy of the 1903 motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini or the 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum
Ÿ  The effects of Church councils on sacred music and the liturgy (Trent, Vatican II, etc.)
Ÿ  Trends in sacred music or liturgy during a particular pontificate
Ÿ  The new English translation of the 3rd Typical Edition of the Roman Missal
Ÿ  The Counter-Reformation, especially the work of the Jesuits in Europe and the New World, the work of the Oratorians, or the work of artists in the court of Phillip II
Ÿ  The Abbey of Cluny
Ÿ  Unsuccessful reforms, such as the Quignonez breviary or Urban VIII’s hymn texts
Ÿ  “Success” stories in contemporary or historical parishes, monasteries, etc., or current resources available for use by priests and parishes
Ÿ  The Catholic architecture of the Twin Cities or other American cities (e.g. Masqueray, Ralph Adams Cram, Edward Schulte, Bertram Goodhue, George J. Ries, Barry Byrne)
Ÿ  Catholic architecture in response to renewal movements or Church legislation

Recital programs arising from the theme include, but are not limited to:

Ÿ  Concerts of choral or organ works which trace a particular line of liturgical renewal
Ÿ  New compositions which demonstrate a clear connection to the Church’s treasury of sacred music and which are eminently liturgical in their outlook and use
Ÿ  A program of a composer with connections to a particular renewal movement (e.g. Bruckner, Rheinberger, etc.)
Ÿ  Programs honoring the musical tradition of the Twin Cities Catholic Chorale, especially Viennese orchestral Masses, Gregorian chant, or choir/orchestra works for the Divine Office
Ÿ  Lecture recitals

Papers will be 30 minutes in length followed by a five-minute period for questions. 

Recital programs may be either 25 or 50 minutes in length.  Performances will take place at either the Cathedral of St. Paul, or at the Church of St. Agnes.  If submitting a recital program for compositions other than those for organ, recitalists must provide all performing personnel (e.g. choir, string ensemble, etc.), though assistance will be given by the conference organizers in contacting local orchestral musicians.  The presenter is responsible for the costs of hiring such personnel, who would be remunerated at the scale of the Twin Cities Musicians Union.  No piano or sound amplification will be available for the recitals, except for a microphone for the presenter speaking during the recital if requested.  Requests for specific orchestral instruments which would otherwise be difficult to transport to the conference (timpani, chimes, etc.) may be made as part of the proposal process.  The organ at the Cathedral of St. Paul is currently undergoing a restoration project which will be completed by the time of the conference.  Details and specifications are available at

The official language of the conference is English.

Presenters must register for the conference ($150) and will be responsible for their own expenses.

Questions regarding the conference may be directed to Jennifer Donelson via email or phone:
-          (954) 262-7610

The conference website is available at; registration and hotel information will follow shortly.

Musica Sacra Florida - Registration Deadline this Friday!

This year's Musica Sacra Florida Gregorian Chant Conference promises to be a wonderful event, with a fantastic line-up of speakers and faculty.

Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth (ICEL) - keynote speaker

Faculty include: Dr. Edward Schaefer, Dr. Susan Treacy, Mary Jane Ballou, Jeffrey Herbert, Dr. Jennifer Donelson, and Arlene Oost-Zinner
Workshops in:
 -          Singing Gregorian Chant in English
 -          Incorporating Gregorian Chant into Parish Life
 -          Instruction for Priests and Deacons in Chanting the Mass in the New English Translation
 -          Church Documents & Sacred Music in the 20th and 21st Century

Choice of scholae for:
 -          Beginning/intermediate (men & women),
 -          Upper-level men,& upper-level women

Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form on Friday evening with music provided by the AMU Music Department

Closing English sung Mass in the Ordinary Form on Saturday evening, celebrated by Most Rev. Frank Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida, with music provided by conference participants.

Why not take a winter Lenten retreat to Florida to study chant?  Carpools from major airports (FLL and MIA) can be arranged.

Visit the conference website to sign up:

Breaking: Sample Goes to Portland

Bishop Sample of Marquette, Michigan -- where he led a brilliant shift to authentic liturgical music -- is now appointed to Portland, Oregon. Just to be clear, Bishop Sample is highly sophisticated on the topic of liturgical music. He regularly reads the Chant Cafe. He knows and understands this topic as well as anyone alive.

Do I need to spell out the significance of this?

Remember this day, people. Remember this day. 

Ecumenism Tonight

This evening, an agreement will be signed in which the baptismal rites of several Reformed Churches and that of the Catholic Church are mutually recognized. Signatories include the Christian Reformed Church, which sponsors Calvin College, a major liturgical center in the US.

This is "costly" ecumenism rather than "easy" ecumenism. Differences are not ignored but are discussed in long-term dialogue projects with concrete goals. And this project's happy ending happens tonight.
Leaders of U.S. Roman Catholic and some Protestant churches will sign a historic agreement Tuesday in Austin by which the two traditions will formally recognize each other’s liturgical rites of baptism.
The product of seven years of talks among five denominations, the agreement will be signed at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday at a prayer service and celebration at St. Mary Cathedral. The service will be open to the public and will be part of the opening day activities of the national meeting of Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., which will continue through Friday in Austin.
 More here
and here. 

Thanks, Rocco Palmo.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Adorate Deum Sunday

Today was what the Extraordinary Form can rightly call "Adorate Deum Sunday", while those who regularly attend the Ordinary Form can only call it this once every three years, due to its placement in cycle "C" of the three year Lectionary cycle.

In many ways, I grieve that this proper is only heard once every three years. The Adorate Deum Introit is, in my opinion, one of the most sublimely beautiful and mesmerizing chants in the entire Gregorian corpus. It is a true masterpiece of liturgical composition. I love this chant so much that I was even compelled to use the Introit's incipit as my Twitter handle!

The text is from Psalm 97 (96) and it entirely encapsulates the meaning of life in three short lines:

Adorate Deum omnes Angeli eius:
audivit, et laetata est Sion: 
et exsultaverunt filiae Iudae. 
(Graduale Romanum, 1974)

Worship God, all you his angels:
Sion has heard, and is glad,
and the daughters of Judah rejoice.
(Roman Missal, 2011)

We see in these three lines the three realms of God's creation responding to him: First, the angels who were created to adore and sing praise to God eternally in heaven. Then follows the members of the heavenly banquet of the Lamb, the heavenly Sion, who hear the song of the angels and join in with gladness. And lastly we hear of those of us who remain on earth below, who are symbolized by the daughters of Judah: the ten virgins with lighted lamps who await the arrival of the bridegroom, who rejoice in anticipation of their Lord at the sound of the angels' song. 

It is a hymn of praise which is set in the seventh, exultant mode. The chant begins with the leap of a fourth up to an epismatic bivirga which then ascends with strength to the tonic accent of "adorate" on the dominant of the mode. The word "Deum", also affixed to the dominant, is followed by a short and quick, but heightened melsima, denoting God's glory and majesty. The next phrase "omnes Angeli eius" ascends to the very top of the mode with no less than seven epismatic notes, as they are found in the ancient St. Gall manuscripts. The word "Angeli" begins in the heights of the mode, and then descends like a dove, floating gracefully down as though from heaven, to the very bottom note of the mode. 

In the next phrase, on the word "audivit" it is as though the members of Sion hear the song of the angels echoing throughout heaven, and absorb its beauty. Then the phrase "et laetata est" – moving back up to and above the dominant of the mode – melodically recalls the joy of the angels in the previous phrase, and sounds as though the musical phrase itself is leaping for joy. 

There is strength and confidence in the word "exsultaverunt" as it dances around the secondary dominant of the seventh mode. Then the word "filiae" unexpectedly leaps down a fifth from the accent. This leap of a fifth, whether up or down, always seems to denote joy in the Gregorian musical language. After this shocking descent there is a powerful thrust upward to a reassured, strong and forceful "Iudae" which gracefully falls back to its earthly resting place on the final of the mode.

This Introit, to me, is the sound of eternity, resounding down to us on earth who catch a glimpse of it in the sacred liturgy where we experience a foretaste of the heavenly Jerusalem that we await. This theme seems to be very characteristic of the Entrance Antiphons that form a part of the opening stretch of Ordinary Time. It is as though the angels who first sang the praises of the newborn King at Bethlehem, cannot keep from emphatically and ecstatically singing his praises in response to the Father's unimaginable gift of love to the world. 

This morning at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in Phoenix we sang this Gregorian Introit during the entrance procession of the solemn 11:00 Mass, while a simpler version, as found in the Lumen Christi Missal, was sung in alternation between the Cathedral Choir and congregation during the 9:00 liturgy. 

I have been preparing editions of the weekly Gregorian Introits and Communions for the Cathedral Schola Cantorum with revised notation that incorporate much of the St. Gall notation that is found in the Graduale Triplex. This is what the score looked like that we sang from this morning:

The Lumen Christi Missal antiphon (choral scores with verses can be freely downloaded here) is set in the same mode, greatly simplified, but seeks to capture the same energy and intention of the Gregorian original in a setting that can be sung by anyone after hearing it sung once by a cantor who knows it well. This is what it looks like:

The two antiphons could even be used in conjunction with each other in the same liturgy. First the choir or schola could sing the Gregorian version by themselves, followed by a cantor intoning the English antiphon, in the same mode, in the vernacular, with the same character, which all the members of the faithful can easily take up after hearing it only once. The choir or cantor can then sing verses from the psalm, either to a monodic psalm tone, or even in four part harmony, as we often do at the Phoenix Cathedral, with organ accompaniment. The result is a heightened entrance procession which is accompanied by the Entrance Antiphon text that everyone can sing without having to have their eyes locked onto the the text of a strophic hymn, allowing them to absorb the beauty and solemnity of the procession. The tone for the liturgy is truly and solemnly set and all are better prepared and disposed to fruitfully participate in the sacred mysteries of the liturgy.

Tools such as these help us give a prominent place to the authentic and integral sacred music tradition of the Church without the jarring effect of in our day of having a silent congregation during the Mass processions. Newer forms grow organically out of forms already existing, and the character and culture of the Roman Rite is preserved and fostered. 

I only wish that the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time could always be Adorate Deum Sunday, and perhaps it will be so again some day. But for now I am glad that I was able to sing this glorious chant, united to the angel choirs in heaven, and look forward to doing the same in another three years when this Introit is sung by the Church once again. 

Out of the Desert and Into the Promised Land

The children of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years, the Hebrew scriptures tell us, and during this time they lost faith, built nutty statues out of their own stuff, complained bitterly about everything, and failed to notice that hand of God looking after them the entire time. I often think about these years and imagine all the people who died and were also born during this period of confusion. It was probably the only reality many of them new. And how glorious it must have been to have finally found their home.

This is a pretty good description of the situation for musicians in the postconcilar era. We wandered aimlessly looking for that answer. We built idols out of our own stuff and held them up for the people to worship. We ignored the gifts that God was trying to give us the entire time. Mostly we complained.

I'm reminded of this period after this morning's liturgy, because the situation has changed so dramatically from the first to the last. Ironically, our period of exile started to end in just about forty years after the close of the Second Vatican Council. Now today we have the music we need. It is no longer confusing, no longer a weekly trial, no longer a game of chance to know what to sing. With some basic singing skills, one cantor or 50 singers, and not even an organist, the liturgy can be proclaimed in a manner imagined by the fathers of the Council -- and this can happen in every parish every single week and without that much fuss.

It only took forty years. Many people left. Many people came. Many parishes are sadly still lost, even though the resources are right there.

So each week I find myself so happy to walk over to the bookshelf and pick up the three books that I unfailingly depend on to sing and sing what the Church is asking us to sing: the actual text of the liturgy itself.

I hold these books in my hand and look at them. I am conscious all over again of the time when they didn't exist. It was only a few years ago. How well I remember the struggle and the arguments and the sense of something missing. We didn't know what was missing but we knew that something wasn't right. Surely there is more to this than just leafing through this floppy annual and pointing at some hymns and wondering: "is this good enough for this week?"

Yes, that's what we did. That's what everyone did -- for decades and decades. It seems incredible in retrospect. But what choice did we have? Where were the resources that made the sung liturgy available to us so that we could sing in a dignified and solemn way that didn't smack of some pop performance or pander to one or another style preference? Where were these books?

Before someone corrects me, I'm aware that there were some resources out there. In fact, I obsessively looked for them in far-flung places and worked hard to get them online. They were like drops of rain in the desert. An antiphon here, a chant there, a snippet of scripture here, and a fragment of a chant there. There was the full Graduale in English with the Anglican Use Gradual but here were issues with language and even with a slight ongoing tension with the cultural sensibility with the ordinary form.

Of course the whole time there was the big scary book of the perfect solution: the Graduale Romanum. That is the wonderful thing, of course, but in no parish was it even conceivable that these chants could all be sung in their proper place. Neither the talent nor the tolerance existed for that. It took years to finally come to terms with that reality.

We were closer about six years ago than we ever were. We had an idea -- not a perfect idea but a growing clarity -- about what we need. But the resources we really needed were not yet on hand. We still didn't have the ability to walk over to the shelf, take out the resource, turn to the right page, and sing!

That is what has changed, and it has changed absolutely everything. This morning was a good reminder. With these books in hand, with two singers and no instruments, the entire liturgy came across as magnificent. We sang the right thing at the right time in the right way, exactly as the liturgical books suggest we should. It's all come together in the most beautiful way.

It's so good that I can hardly even recall the endless frustrations of the past, the hours of scraping around, the time and annoyance of not finding the thing that really worked, the planning time and the sense of confusion. It all seems like a bad dream in retrospect.

These are the three books that have led us out of the desert and into the Promised Land:

1. Communio, compiled and typeset by Richard Rice. This book allows for the singing of the authentic chants of the Roman Gradual during communion, a time which allows the choir more flexibility than anywhere else in the liturgy. The brilliant stroke of this book is to add all the Psalms in a fully notated way so as to permit the singer or singers to use music proper to the rite for the entire liturgical action. This is what made the difference. This is where choirs tend to begin with the singing of the chant. This is the book that also trains singers. It is so practical and yet so much the embodiment of the ideal.

2. Simple English Propers, by Adam Bartlett. This is the book, the one we've wait for all these years. With this book, the entrance, offertory, and communion can be sung in English, with verses, for every Sunday in the liturgical year. Yes, it should have come out in 1963 when the vernacular was first introduced. It had to wait. Regardless, we now have it. The more you sing from it, the better you get at doing so. The melodies are simple and formulaic but they work with the text. In all my time singing from it, I've never encountered even one chant that didn't work musically and liturgically. Moreover, people love it in the following sense: it seems like the right thing. It might not be the final answer in vernacular chant but it is a massive upgrade from the status quo. I'm so grateful for this book!

3. The Parish Book of Psalms, by Arlene Oost-Zinner. Even in the old days when we started inching toward solutions, the Psalm has been a problem. It is supposed to be dignified and beautiful but the conventions were always lacking in both. It just didn't seem to match the chanted liturgy otherwise. This book makes it all work. The composer uses Gregorian tones and a simple melody that takes all stress out of standing and singing the Psalm every week. It is such an indescribable relief to have this book.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Choral Rep. Liberated

If you worry that CPDL will somehow disappear, here you can get the whole package (almost) for nothing. Truly, singing and music distribution is changed forever.

The March for Life

Yesterday there was an enormous protest march in Washington DC. Since our readers are unlikely to hear about it on any news outlet, someone ought to mention it here.(I remember once when CNN had live helicopter coverage of a gay rights march that involved perhaps twenty-five people. But that's another story.)

This is the story of yesterday. It was ridiculously cold in Washington, and hundreds of thousands of pro-life protestors marched. I wasn't there this year, although I would have liked to be. It is a great day. All around you are these young people marching. You see young men, young families, and overwhelmingly, teenage girls.

I've never been a huge fan of the pre-march rally on the Mall, but I really really like the Masses. There are two Masses at the National Shrine's Upper Church, and a big Youth Mass at the Verizon Center. 

It's a day filled with hope, and one which I hope will be unnecessary soon. One of these years--next year--wouldn't it be wonderful to have one last March, a thank-you March for civil officials with the eyes to see and act to remove this civil rights atrocity from the land of the free, from the land where everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

I like to think that the young people who have been participating in this civil protests for decades are building a new pro-life generation. This is certainly possible. But in the words of Scripture, How long, O Lord, how long? How long before a nation wakes up and realizes (who knew?) that ravaging children is wrong?

For now my feelings on the subject are best expressed by a few lines from Hopkins:
Hope had grown grey hairs,
Hope had mourning on,
Trenched with tears, carved with cares,
Hope was twelve hours gone.

Addendum: For those who have expressed the view that this is an off-topic post for this forum, I respect your view. But I also respectfully suggest you have probably not spent the weekend of the March in Washington, DC. The entire Church is there on Vigil. You have never seen so many nuns in your life. 1100 cardinals, bishops, priests, and seminarians processed into the Mass on Thursday evening. There is music and singing and preaching of very high quality, and many hundreds of young people are there to experience it. There are vocations centers to promote priestly and religious life. It has become one of the great pilgrimage moments of our times. The reason is that the rights of the unborn have been part of the Catholic faith since its earliest years. The anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision is a day of prayer and fasting in the US by liturgical law. It is not political; it is perennial.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Pedal as Bass Drum

Few subjects invite controversy in organ circles like the topic of hymn playing. I’d almost rather discuss tonal philosophy with someone who came of age in the midst of the Orgelbewegung. Almost. Nonetheless, I will forge ahead and hope I don’t regret it later, since, in my dotage, I don’t have much energy for arguing about insoluble matters of taste.

I often wonder what would happen if organists were coached not in “hymn playing” but in “song playing” or “music playing”. Use any term except hymn playing. It lulls the mind into thinking in a very tightly circumscribed box and promotes obsession with the accidents rather than the substance of style. “How do you register hymns?” and “What’s a good hymn tempo?” are two questions that are symptoms of this mindset. Contingent matters---the tonal design of the organ, the acoustics of the room, the harmonic tempo of the piece, the texture, the words (hello!), etc.---are often not given their due influence. Accordingly, what I recommend below needs to be applied carefully only to situations in which it’s appropriate.

About ten years ago, an experienced organist told me to think of the pedal as the bass drum. One might also compare the pedal to the tympani. He didn’t put any parameters on this, though it seems this technique is best used in pieces with a lively tempo and a broad harmonic rhythm; it is not an approach to be used in Brightest and Best (Morning Star), for instance.

In order to do this right, it’s important to know what not to play. Take, for example, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (Hymn to Joy). This is a hymn that requires vivaciousness, lest it wither on the vine and become Sorrowful, Sorrowful, We Implore Thee. This bass line is ripe for the drum treatment. Generally, I only play every other note, so that the bass line, for most of each phrase, is in a quarter note, quarter rest pattern. Toward the ends of phrases, I add more notes, which is where the tympani effect comes into play. It’s often tempting to try to lend life to a piece, or even maintain the tempo against the lugubrious assaults of the congregation, by playing detached or even choppy, but with this bass technique, one can combine the determination of the pedal with a calmer, more reasonable articulation in the upper voices.

An exercise like this can be a starting point for further experimentation. Every hymn deserves to be taken on its own terms and not suffer from a uniform treatment advocated in one technique book or another. Hymns should be given all the love and consideration of a Chopin Nocturne or a Schubert song. In short, each is a piece of music, and a tasteful interpretation comes out of the music itself, and therefore serves it. I hope this suggestion will be one valuable musical tool out of many.

Resources for the Propers

Ben Yanke hosts this list of published Proper chants for the Ordinary Form, his collaborative work with "Frogman" Noel Jones. What a tremendous service!

Choosing the Better Part (of the Hymnal)

An article I've written for the Adoremus Bulletin is now available online. It talks about one of the characteristics of a great hymn, the use of Scriptural imagery.

One of the hymns in the article, my translation of Excelsam Pauli gloriam, has been included again this year in the booklet for this Friday's Papal Vespers for the Conversion of St. Paul. This celebration held at the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls concludes the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Another of the hymns in the article is my translation of Aeterne rerum Conditor, one of the few hymns we can definitively ascribe to St. Ambrose, which makes delightful use of the biblical image of the rooster. The rooster wakes us, and wakefulness is a characteristic virtue of the ancient Christian hymns. The rooster awoke St. Peter and called him to repentance. The same can happen for all of us.
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.

Move the Motet

As a parish Music Director I would ordinarily program a motet for the post-Communion quiet time. But now I am not so sure that's the best time for the choir to do a special choral number. A better idea would be to get into the habit of singing a motet at the Offertory, based on the Offertory text of the day. During the Offertory the people are busy with the collection. Sung participation in the hymn is at a low ebb. This would be the perfect opportunity to begin the kind of active listening that the Graduale envisions for the people during the gradual/tract, Alleluia, and of course the Offertory.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Parish Book of Chant, 2nd Edition: It's Coming!

Benedictine Monks/ Gregorian Chants from Le Barroux

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fr. David M. Friel on the new Missal

This is surely the best one-article defense of the new Missal I've seen. It hits every high point and offers the best and most compelling examples.

Excellent read.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Final Rehearsal

This short video of pre-Mass rehearsals at the Winter Chant Intensive includes many shots of St. Joseph's stunning interior, including the many stained-glass windows which illuminate the entire space. The women's schola was led by yours truly, and the men's schola was conducted by Richard Rice.

This video was shot on Friday morning...just an hour before the final Mass, and after a grueling but rewarding week of study and practice. The focus it requires to sing chant shows on the faces of all of the singers. I think the camaraderie that developed among participants and between participants and the instructors is evident as well. Toward the end of the video you hear Fr. Jonathan Venner of Sioux Fall, South Dakota, singing through the lesson, beautifully and prayerfully, for a final time before the Mass.

The upcoming Summer Chant Intensive is scheduled for June 3-7, 2013, at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. Details will be posted shortly at

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nice selection of Mass settings by Dominican Sisters

These are nice chant settings of the Mass in English.

The Beautiful Persistence of Chant

In some way, it’s all a miracle.

I can stand right here where I am and quickly sing a melody that is roughly the same as the first melody cooked up by an anonymous monk in the 7th century. That melody was committed to memory by others around that monk and then transmitted from place to place through constant repetition. It lived further through the generations, passed from old to young, and then again as the young became old and it was passed on again, cascading through time and place, and all long before anyone had thought up a way to write it down.

Then in the 11th century, the means became available to take this series of sounds and put them into paper form, so that the melody could be transmitted from place to place and from generation to generation even if it weren’t heard. The melody took on a new form, a form that made immortalization even more technologically possible.

Then printing came and made the process even easier. For the first time, the entire body of work could be easily reproduced and distributed all over the world.

Five hundred years went by until something even more spectacular happened. The chant took on a new digital form. Once the chant became digits, the limits of physical transmission were entirely overcome. The same chant, again without actually being heard, could be distribute billions and trillions of times unto infinity and never degrade with each passing use. One click to put the chant on digital networks and it enters into a new status of universal reach, capable of serving all of humanity so long as this world exists.

But there was even one more stage in this long evolution. Digital media made it possible to transmit not just the physical music but also a real recording of monks singing the chant. Right now we can hear a version that was sung perhaps back in the 1950s. Every singer is probably dead by now but that one version they sang that one time way back then can be resurrected and live, as alive right now as it was when it was first sung.

We can copy their vocal inflections and their careful interpretations and make them out own, and then turn around and make our own versions, which can be listened to by people 100 years from now. It’s like a time capsule that is never buried but continues to be added to even as it serves the living and the dead.

And to think that it all began with one voice, one person singing one thing some 1,400 years ago.

To enjoy such access is a unique privilege of our generation. This is the music of the Roman Rite. It came of age with the ritual itself as a means of making it more beautiful, more worthy, more compelling, more wonderful as a means of praising God in our public worship.

Why are we attracted by making our own bodies instruments to make this happen in our time? Because in this music we find truth and meaning. This means transcends the lifespans of all all existing things. It is evidence of the capacity of truth to extend beyond one generation, any existing political arrangement, any existing business firm or man-made institution. It is a manifestation of the persistence of the faith in all times and places, its miraculous capacity for outliving every attempt to kill it. It is immutable. It is strong. It is mighty. It gives us a glimpse of eternal truth.

Lately, I’ve been thinking more about this claim that the reason we are drawn to chant is that our deconstructionist age has made us fearful of change. The claim is that we cling to chant as an arbitrary source of stability.

What is meant by this idea of deconstruction? The movement is a 20th century idea. It began with legal studies. The deconstructionists observed that the law does not necessary embed robust truth. It is essentially made up by self-interested politicians. It is the product of interest groups, designed to help them at other’s expense. The law was revealed to be a kind of hoax.

The method of analytics spread to literature. What does a novel mean? The author might have one idea, but we can’t necessarily known what he or she intended. And maybe the author himself or herself was not fully aware aware of its meaning. In any case, we are the readers. We are the interpreters. Our own cultural conditioning heavily influences our own reading, and we cannot escape this. The dominant meaning for us is entirely subjective and it is pointless and fallacious to somehow insist that our subjective meaning be imposed on others.

So it is with language. It is just words and words change. They serve an instrumental value of enabling communication between people. We use them as a way of groping through the dark, working together to find ways to cooperate with each other. The means of words extends from their use only and is never embedded in the words themselves. It is all arbitrary and changing, never fixed. In this way, language too evades any claim to permanent meaning. Meaning is dictated by culture and does not descend from on high.

So too with the interpretation of philosophy, politics, art, theology -- really everything. Nothing really means anything in a fundamental sense. Everything is conditioned on society and on our subjective minds. This is why we cannot speak of truth with a capital letter but only what is true for me and what is true for you, and this is forever evolving.

So goes the deconstructionist way of thinking.

Let’s grant that this is entirely correct. None of what we once thought to be true really is. What is left for us to hang on to? What in our universe can be counted on to last and persist and actually embed something valuable in the ultimate sense.

Liturgy is the great exception. It does not exist in time. It extends out of time into eternity. It touches a real outside of time and the material world. It points up and out of time. Through it we receive communication from God and find ourselves transported out of the limits of the physical and into communication to God to give praise. In sense this, and if this is true, the deconstructionist critique of the realm of time cannot touch it. We did not make up liturgy. The liturgy is a gift from all eternity to us.

No matter how much we might decided to accept the deconstructionist idea -- and maybe even the more we accept the idea -- the more impressive the liturgy truly is. It is the great exception, a means that we have to access truth with a capital T. Within liturgy we are rescued from a world that is otherwise invented, manufactured, and arbitrary.

This is one reason that the liturgical spirit that imagines ourselves to be making the liturgy rather than accepting it is so dangerous. It threatens to reduce liturgy to the status of law, literature, language, and politics. It cannot be so! The liturgy is the one thing in our world that evades the imperfections of all the things we create ourselves.

Now back to the chant. Here is the music of the liturgy, a thing transported through the ages by repeated singing, blessed by God to achieve immortality across all ages and places. It is the musical corollary to the liturgical text and integral to the liturgical action itself. We are not drawn to it out of fear but because we long for things that the permanently true, for sounds that are not arbitrary, for art that points to the Creator of all art.

Yes, the chant was made at some point by one human person but a human person who worked to discover a musical sound of eternity. And when this happened, it became part of the liturgical experience and it took on a new form, blessed and blessed again by its use in the eternal project. We stand here a millenium and half later and sing it in the same way. It is our means of accessing the longest possible human experience in our insatiable desire to find and touch the truth of God.

One simple song can do this when it is part of liturgy. It is not arbitrary. It is a rare and impenetrable well from which our generation can drink something pure and true in a time when everything else seems to be crumbling. This is a true act of love. To sing the chant is to find authenticity and purpose, to be part of something that is not only larger than our own time but larger than time itself.

Hymn to St. Agnes

Just a quick re-post of my translation of the Ambrosian hymn Agnes beatae virginis, in honor of the Virgin Martyr whose feast we celebrate Monday.
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.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Ward Courses will be offered in Colorado this July

Ward method classes, taught by Dr. Alise Brown, will be offered at the Univeristy of Northern Colorado as follows: Ward I will be offered July 8-12 and 15-17; the dates for Ward II are July 22-26 and 29-31. The cost is $825 for in or out of state tuition for each course, with 3 credit hours available for each. More information can be found here

Dr. Alise Brown is an instructor of music education at UNC. She began her teaching career in Secondary English Education, but discovered that her love of music presented a more fulfilling career path. Dr. Brown received her Master of Music degree in Music Education and her Doctorate of Arts in Music Education from the University of Northern Colorado. She has taught music in private and public schools at all levels.

She holds Orff and Kodaly training, and is fully certified in all levels of the Ward Method. Dr. Brown has been privileged to study under the Gregorian chant specialists Father Robert Skeris, previously of Vatican City, and Scott Turkington.

Dr. Brown specializes in music literacy and expressivity as taught in the Ward Method. Her work with two children's choirs, ages 4 -12, and directing the Windsor Community Choir rely heavily on these same principles. Dr. Brown also leads workshops and gives in-service presentations to schools and organizations regarding the Ward Method and its tenets.

Teaching in the Music Education Area at UNC since 2001 has been Dr. Brown’s joy. She has also taught music appreciation at Dayspring University in Ft. Collins and at Rivendell College in Boulder. Write to Dr. Brown at

Closing Mass at Winter Chant Intensive

This is the complete video of the closing Mass at the Winter Chant Intensive at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Macon, GA, from Friday, January 11. It is the OF Mass for Friday, celebrated ad orientem, with the sung propers from the Solemnity of the Epiphany. Conducing the men's schola is composer Richard Rice from Alexandria, VA. Arlene Oost-Zinner of the St. Cecilia Schola in Auburn and Director of Programs for the CMAA is conducting the women's schola. The lesson is being sung by Father Jonathan M. Venner of Sioux Fall, SC; the celebrant is Father Allan J. McDonald of St. Joseph's in Macon. The hymn at the recessional is Alma Redemptoris Mater. The organist is Nelda Chapman of St. Joseph's. It is quite something to think that at the beginning of the week, fewer than half of the participants in the chant courses had had any exposure to the chant at all. Yet within a few days they were able to achieve what you hear here. No miracle was needed..just a willingness to learn, and a lot of hard work. Deo Gratias.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Colloquium XXIII

I've just posted the preliminary schedule for this year's Colloquium. The dates are June 17-23. Registration is open. Further details should be forthcoming within the week.

Join us!

"Help" with Hymn Tune Introits settings

Friends, could I please ask a favor regarding the Hymn Tune Introits that I've posted here. If you were able to use these in your local parish and if you composed a setting and/or included the text in a worship aid, I'd love to see a copy for a project I'm working on. Please send to Many thanks!

"In the liturgy, we see the action of God. That same God who is present and carries out His mission of salvation.”

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sacra Liturgia 2013: Join Me in Rome!

I'm pleased to announce a major conference on liturgy that should be of tremendous interest to any reader of this site. It is Sacra Liturgia 2013 in Rome, June 25-28, 2013. The conference will take place at the central location of the Pontifical University, Santa Croce. Its large auditorium and facilities for the simultaneous translation of presentations ensures participation in a truly international conference by a wide range of people. Translations will be available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

The conference is open to clergy and religious, theological students and laity.

The speaker line up is amazing.
  • Antonio Cardinal Cañizares Llovera
  • Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith
  • Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
  • Bishop Dominique Rey
  • Bishop Marc Aillet, CSM
  • Abbot Jean-Charles Nault OSB
  • Abbot Michael John Zielinski OSB Oliv.
  • Monsignor Guido Marini
  • Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro
  • Monsignor Andrew Burnham
  • Father Uwe Michael Lang, Cong. Orat.
  • Fr Paul Gunter OSB
  • Dr Guido Rodheudt
  • Don Nicola Bux
  • Dom Alcuin Reid
  • Professor Tracey Rowland
  • Dr Gabriel Steinschulte
  • Professor Miguel Ayuso
  • Mr Jeffrey Tucker
Yes, my name is on the list, a fact that thrills and astonishes me. In any case, it would be great if you could sign up and join me. You can see more details and sign up here.