The Duruflé Requiem at 70

Maurice Duruflé
(image from Wikimedia)

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Duruflé Requiem, and an article in the Boston Globe tells a bit of the work’s  and the composer’s history.

For those in the area, there will be an opportunity to hear the work Friday, March 9, when the Choir of St. Paul’s sings the Requiem at St. Paul Church in Cambridge:

July 2018: Sacred Music Symposium in British Columbia

News from the north:

Saints Joachim & Ann Parish, Aldergrove B.C., will be hosting the inaugural B.C. Sacred Music Symposium, July 20-22, 2018. 

The aim to bring together musicians of all skill levels, and all people of good will with a general interest in sacred music, for a weekend of instruction, collaboration and fellowship. There will be an opportunity to attend practical workshops (beginner, intermediate and masterclass) and lectures; and to experience the riches of the Church’s musical tradition in the celebrations of Mass (in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms) and the Divine Office.  

We are also very excited to announce that our keynote speaker and celebrant of the symposium’s principal Mass will be Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Early registration for the symposium opens January 2018. Please see the parish website for more information: .

Blessing of a Church; Dedication of an Altar (official texts)

A generous reader has sent in a document that came his way, comprising two rites excerpted from the Pontificale Romanum: the Order of Dedication of an Altar, and the Order of Blessing of a Church.

It’s not often easy to locate a copy of this specialized liturgical book, so we are happy to share it. If anyone has a church construction or renovation project underway, it could come in handy for preparing those services.

This (partial) book (11 MB) contains the edition issued by Pope Paul VI in 1977, with instructions and text, all in Latin, for those two rites, and it provides the relevant chants for the psalms to be sung at the various stages of each rite.

Sept. 18-22 “Culmen et Fons” conference

This September, a five-day conference on liturgical formation and sacred music will be held in the Boston suburb of Peabody, MA, with distinguished speakers and musicians, under the title “Culmen et Fons”.

September 18 to 22, 2017 (Monday to Friday)
St. Adelaide Church, Peabody, MA

Dom Alcuin Reid, author of The Organic Development of the Liturgy 
Fr. Thomas Kocik, author of The Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate 
Fr. Marco Testa, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish, Port Perry, ON
Fr. Neil Roy, author and editor; chaplain at the Saint Benedict Center, Still River, MA

The conference is intended for priests, deacons, seminarians, religious, masters of ceremonies, liturgical musicians and singers, and other members of the laity.

Music track:
In addition to the principal curriculum of liturgical formation for sacred ministers, Culmen et Fons will also feature a parallel conference track for all those engaged in the field of liturgical and sacred music. Rehearsals will prepare for providing the chant and polyphony for the sacred liturgies during the conference week. Repertoire will include Hassler “Missa Secunda,” Guerrero “Missa Ecce Sacerdos,” and choral/organ Masses by Duruflé and Widor.

The sessions in sacred music will be directed by
Michael Olbash, music director, St. Adelaide Church, Peabody, MA
David Hughes, music director, St. Mary Church, Norwalk, CT

More information on talks, schedules, and registration is at the conference website, .

At the Met: Lerolle’s The Organ Rehearsal

[Organist Randolph Nichols brings to our notice a once-famous work by painter Henry Lerolle (1848–1929).]

As some of my local colleagues know, besides being an organist and chant enthusiast I’m also a painter, a passion inherited from my mother. Sometimes those interests converge, as is the case in my admiration for Henry Lerolle’s The Organ Rehearsal, an oil on canvas painting dating from 1885 in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Having spent so much of my life in church lofts, it’s natural I would have a strong connection to this painting. With the exception of the fashion in women’s clothing, nothing much seems to have changed since 1885. Besides the artist’s deft drawing skills, solid use of perspective lines and division of the painting into dramatic value contrasts, I am drawn to the artist’s rendering of the dust covered floor (lofts are always the last place in a church to be swept), the blurring of the soloist’s feet and soft edges of her face (devices to integrate the figure into the scene so as to avoid a “pasted on” look), and the intentional omission of an organ music stand (a vertical shape at that juncture in the composition would be disruptive).

The rehearsal takes place in the choir loft of Lerolle’s parish church, Saint-François-Xavier in Paris, and features members of the artist’s family: his wife (seated to the left with gloved hand to cheek), his mother (standing behind the unidentified organist), his wife’s sisters, one seated in front (scandalously bareheaded and the wife of composer Ernest Chausson) and the soloist (the focal point of the painting). The painter himself, second from left, gazes vacantly to the side while the man standing to his left is thought to be Chausson. The young male figure behind the painter has not been positively identified.

While Lerolle was friend and patron to fellow artists such as Degas and Renoir (the latter painted several portraits of Lerolle’s daughters and of Lerolle himself), he was also a violinist and composer whose home was a meeting place for musicians that included d’Indy, Debussy and Dukas. (Debussy dedicated several piano works to Lerolle’s daughter Yvonne, including three of the Images.) It is not surprising then that a music rehearsal scene would be a subject of interest to the painter.

Within eleven years from its creation The Organ Rehearsal had become a picture held in high regard. Yet by 1928, it was relegated to the bowels of the Metropolitan and only re-discovered, cleaned, repaired and brought out of storage in 2007 and 2008.

If you would like more detailed information about the history and restoration of Lerolle’s most famous painting, I highly recommend this 30 minute lecture by Isabelle Duvernois of the Paintings Conservation department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Enjoy!

“Cantate Domino”: an international declaration on sacred music

On Sunday, March 5, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Church’s Instruction on Music in the Liturgy Musicam sacram, over 200 musicians, pastors, and scholars published a declaration under the title “Cantate Domino canticum novum”.

The statement recalls the Second Vatican Council’s teaching which describes sacred music as “a treasure of inestimable value”, and it speaks of elements in common practice “that contribute to the present deplorable situation of sacred music and of the liturgy.”

We, the undersigned—musicians, pastors, teachers, scholars, and lovers of sacred music—humbly offer to the Catholic community around the world this statement, expressing our great love for the Church’s treasury of sacred music and our deep concerns about its current plight.

The statement calls on the Church to (1) reaffirm the musical heritage of the Roman rite: Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony; (2) give children an exposure to the beauty of true musical art; (3) promote the professional training of lay church musicians; (4) insist on high standards for music in cathedrals and basilicas; (5) encourage every parish to offer at least one fully sung Mass every Sunday; (6) provide musical training for the clergy, to enable them to sing their part of the liturgy; and (7) educate liturgists in the musical tradition of the Church.

These recommendations, along with a discussion of widespread failings in musical practice, are fleshed out in the full document, which is available here. Versions in five other languages and a list of the signatories can be reached through the coverage at our sister site New Liturgical Movement.

Te Deum laudamus!

On the last day of the year, it is traditional to sing or recite the Te Deum, so here are some links to performances to inspire your own recitation:

The prelude to Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Te Deum:

In this performance, organist Pierre Cochereau acts as a second choir, ‘singing’ the simple-tone chant melody (PDF) in alternation with the choir of human voices. His organ registrations were probably improvised:

For versions by Victoria and Bruckner, and in English by Howells, Tallis, and Gibbons, see Ben Yanke’s series of “Te Deum Tuesday” posts.
A favorite of mine, ever since singing it long ago, is Kodály’s epic choral/orchestral version:

And here from Romania is Verdi’s Te Deum from the Four Sacred Pieces; this performance from a festival I never heard of gets the piece better than some ponderous renderings under big names:

But I began by suggesting your own recitation, and the Church rewards it today with her own spiritual support. The Manual of Indulgences reminds us that (under the usual conditions):

A plenary indulgence is granted to the faithful devoutly assist either at the recitation or the solemn singing of

  1. the Veni Creator, either on the first day of the year to implore divine assistance for the course of the whole year, […]
  2. the Te Deum, on the final day of the year, to offer thanks to God for gifts received throughout the course of the entire year.
[Chant scores are at the two links above.]

Happy New Year!

People, Look East

A few days ago, Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, offered an Advent-inspired

reflection on the biblical tradition of looking to the East for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Fittingly enough, he mentions the liturgical tradition of prayer directed toward the East, whether geographical or symbolic, and reminds us of the purpose of that practice: it is to foster an other-worldly, God-centered focus which should characterize our participation at Mass, regardless of whether the priest speaks ad orientem or versus populum:

Whether celebrated with priest and people facing each other or with priest and people together facing the same direction, every Eucharist is Christ coming to meet us, gracing us with a share in his own divine life. Every Eucharist is a proleptic sharing in the feast of heaven. Therefore, in every celebration of the Eucharist, both priest and faithful should focus their attention not on each other, but on the Lord.

Read more….