Obituary: Fr. Ralph March, O. Cist.

Cistercian Father Ralph March, a founding member of the CMAA, died on February 6 at the age of 93.  CMAA president Bill Mahrt writes: 

Fr. Ralph March was a key member of the Church Music Association of America; he served as editor of Sacred Music and taught chant at the Colloquium for several years. He was the author of the standard treatise on Cistercian Chant and served at one time as the director of the choir at Cologne Cathedral. He was a founding member of the University of Dallas and taught there for many years. Requiescat in pace.

The following obituary appeared in the Dallas Morning News on February 7-8:

Rev. Ralph MARCH, O. Cist.  

Father Ralph March was born Rudolph Mayer on February 21, 1922 in Kormend, Hungary, a small town a few miles from the Austrian border. He was the youngest of three boys, all of whom became priests. In his early teens, he was accepted as an oblate of the Cistercian Monastery of Zirc and could thus pursue his high school studies at the Cistercian school of Saint Imre in Budapest. Upon his graduation in 1940, he entered the novitiate of the Cistercian Order in Zirc, where he also studied philosophy and theology in preparation for ordination to the priesthood. 

On the day World War II ended in Europe, May 8, 1945, he was ordained a priest in the Abbey of Zirc by Jozsef Mindszenty, later cardinal-archbishop of Esztergom. He returned to Budapest to continue his studies at the University of Budapest and at the Franz Liszt Music Conservatory there. In 1947 his abbot sent him abroad to complete his studies in French and Music in Paris. After earning a master’s of chant at the Sorbonne, he obtained his Ph.D. from the Faculty of Letters of the Institut Catholique. For his dissertation he wrote the first musicological study of the 12th-century origins of Cistercian chant. It was published in Rome in 1952 and continues to be foundational for chant studies. 

In the same year he emigrated to the United States because the Communist suppression of the Abbey of Zirc in 1950 had made it impossible for him to return to his homeland. He joined fellow Cistercians exiled from Hungary in the Cistercian monastery of Spring Bank in Wisconsin. He taught at Marquette University until the foundation of the University of Dallas, where he served on the first faculty in 1956 and, in the same year, was a founding member of the Cistercian Monastery of Our Lady of Dallas.  

In addition to working at St. Bernard’s Parish, he directed four choirs: The Dallas Catholic Choir, the Saint Bernard Chorus, the University Chorus, and the Madrigal Singers. 1966-1974 he served as editor of the quarterly Sacred Music, the oldest magazine of church music in the U.S. At the invitation of the cardinal-archbishop of Cologne, Fr. Ralph became the music director (“Domkapellmeister”) of the city’s monumental cathedral, a post he held for ten years (1977-1987). Afterwards he served as pastor in Landsberg am Lech in Germany, while also teaching music history at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. In 2000 Fr. Ralph retired to his monastery in Dallas, continued teaching at the University of Dallas, and, in cooperation with Marilyn Walker, taught and conducted Gregorian chant for the Collegium Cantorum for the following twelve years.  

He died at the age of 93 on Feb. 6, 2016, surrounded by the monks who had grown to love him so dearly. The Vigil service for Fr March will be at 7:30 p.m., Monday, February 8, 2016 in the Cistercian Abbey, 3550 Cistercian Rd. Irving, TX, 75039. The Funeral Mass will be at 2 p.m., Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at Cistercian Abbey with Right Rev. Peter Verhalen, O. Cist., Celebrant. Interment to follow at Calvary Hill Cemetery, Dallas, TX.

Two performances of the Te Deum

To be sure, the turning of the secular year is not a day of great importance to the Catholic faith. Our year of living the mysteries of salvation began some weeks ago in the Latin Church, and it began in September for Catholics of the Byzantine rite.

Yet the Church does make a concession and acknowledge the secular new year in Her way, by granting a plenary indulgence to the faithful who take part in a liturgical recitation or singing of the Te Deum laudamus on the last day of the year.  I hope you were fortunate enough to have such an opportunity near you, or perhaps will be able to gain the similar indulgence for praying the Veni creator Spiritus at some point during the liturgy on January 1.

And even without the aid of the indulgence, who would not wish to pray with the Church:

Deus, cuius misericordiae non est numerus, et bonitatis infinitus est thesaurus: piissimae maiestati tuae pro collatis donis gratias agimus, tuam semper clementiam exorantes; ut qui petentibus postulata concedis, eosdem non deserens, ad praemia futura disponas. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. 

O God, of whose mercies there is no number, and of whose goodness the treasure is infinite, we render thanks to your most gracious majesty for the gifts you have bestowed upon us, evermore imploring your clemency, that as you grant the petitions of them that ask you, you may never forsake them, but may prepare them for the rewards to come.

And so here are two performances of the Te Deum;  in the first, organist Pierre Cochereau acts as a second choir, ‘singing’ the melody in alternation with the choir of human voices.

Some months ago, a discussion on the Musica Sacra Forum sought to answer whether Cochereau has left us that Te Deum in the form of an arrangement; but the answer that emerged was that he likely had improvised the organ registrations which produced that performance’s complex harmonies.  If any readers can add more to our knowledge of the subject, please meet us in the comment box below.
And to complement that performance, here is an expansive concert version, Kodaly’s 1936 ‘Budavari’ Te Deum: 


Replay opportunity for Lessons and Carols from King’s College

If you missed hearing the 2015 Service of Nine Lessons and Carols live on Christmas Eve, you can catch a replay on BBC Radio 3 on Christmas Day at 9 AM US Eastern time; or you can replay it over the net from the website of BBC Radio 4 at your convenience; the program will be available until January 22 (approximately).

Information on the service is available on-line, including a program booklet with details of the readings and the musical selections.

“The people that longs to see your face”: a sermon for All Saints’ Day

[A few years ago, Dom Mark Kirby of Silverstream Priory preached a retreat to the nuns of the Monastère Saint-Benoît in Nans-sous-Sainte-Anne, France; here is his sermon on the occasion of All Saints’ Day. The translation is mine, and the original text in French appears on Dom Mark’s blog, Vultus Christi. — RC]

“Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.”
Yes, Lord Jesus, they all came to seek your face.
They all took to heart this word which your Holy Spirit made King David the prophet sing: “My heart has said: I seek the Lord; it is your face, O Lord, that I shall seek. Turn not your face from me.” (Ps 27: 8-9)
They all became living mirrors of your Holy Face, as your Apostle says: “And we all who, with faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as in a mirror, are transformed into his very image, ever more glorious, as befits the work of the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3: 18).
Lord Jesus, the beauty of the glory of your saints ravishes us because it is the reflection on their faces of the beauty of the glory of your Face!
Today you reveal to us, today you tell us again the secret of all sanctity: to seek your face.
To anyone who seeks your face, Lord Jesus, you reveal it, and he to whom you reveal your face can only adore it.
This adoration of your Holy Face is transforming; it is again the prophet-king who gives us the words to sing each night: “Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord.” (Ps 4, 7).
Among all these faces illumined by the beauty of your Face, there is one countenance radiant with a splendor that makes the sun pale.
It is the face of your Mother, the all-beautiful, the all-pure.
You are all beautiful, O Mary, for in your face we see the radiant reflection of Him who is “the brightness of the Father’s glory and the image of his being” (Heb 1:3).
You, the queen of all the saints, you are the great sign that appeared in the heavens: the Woman clothed with the sun, having the moon beneath her feet, and bearing a crown with twelve stars.
I must say to you, dear sisters, that since we sang the antiphon of the Magnificat at first Vespers, I have understood that the faith of Abraham remained, in a sense, unfulfilled, inasmuch as it had not yet found its fullness in Mary.
The sons and daughters of Abraham, more countless than the stars of heaven, are all without any exception, sons and daughters of Mary, of her who believed “that the word of the Lord to her would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:45).
It is Mary who leads all the saints in the song that once poured out of her immaculate Heart: “The Almighty has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49).
This is the song of all the saints.
Each one receives it from the lips of Mary, to take it up in his own turn, each with his own voice, each with his own accent, each with the melody which the Holy Spirit inspires in him.
That is the great sound that fills Heaven: it is the song of Mary, taken up by the choir of the saints.
And who are these saints, all children of Mary?
They are the ones blessed by the gospel which you just heard.
This word of Jesus Crucified fits with each of the beatitudes: “Behold your Mother” (Jn 19:27), the testament of love entrusted to his beloved disciple.
So I should say: You poor of heart, behold your Mother, the Virgin of the poor as she appeared at Banneux, the Queen of the anawim, of those who depend on God for everything.
You meek, behold your Mother, Mary, the good shepherdess, whose care surpasses that of David, whose gentleness brings peace to our conflicts and calms all our tempests.
You who weep, behold your Mother, whom the Church, rich in the experience of two millennia, called Consolatrix Afflictorum, the Consoler of the Afflicted.
You who hunger and thirst for justice, behold your Mother, the Mother of the Eucharist, who gave of her own body and blood so that, from her virginal womb, made fruitful by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Body and the Blood of Christ would be offered to the whole world to satisfy you.
You merciful, behold your Mother, whom the Church, in that sublime song that rises from monasteries through the entire world each evening, calls Mater misericordiae.
Mary is not frightened at all at the sight of your sufferings.
She takes them all into her Heart to wash them in the oil and wine of the Holy Spirit.
You pure of heart, behold your Mother, Immaculate, all-beautiful, who works marvels in the hearts of sinners, marvels of purity and openness.
You peacemakers, behold your Mother, Regina pacis, who has never forgotten the angels’ song that traversed the stars on the night when she brought into the world the Prince of Peace: “Glory to God in the highest heavens, and peace on earth to the people he loves.” (Lk 2:14)
You persecuted for righteousness, behold your Mother, the Regina Martyrum, whose soul was transpierced by a blade of sorrow.
She remained standing by the cross of her Son.
She experienced all its bitterness and, with her crucified Son, drank the chalice which the Father had presented to her.
You who are insulted and slandered, behold your Mother who, radiant with love and truth, will enlighten all your ways.
It is she who sustains the martyrs.
Nothing of what you suffer is foreign to her.
You who rejoice and are glad, behold your Mother, the Causa nostrae laetitiae.
Your joy is hers, and into the hearts of all the saints she pours her own joy, unto ages of ages.
Holy Mary, Mother and Queen of all the saints, we desire, like the apostle John, to bring you into our homes from this day forward, so that you may teach us the beatitudes of which you are the perfect icon. Make us taste the happiness of all the saints.
And now, accompany us to the altar of the Holy Sacrifice.
One day, we firmly hope, you will be there to receive us at the banquet which is already prepared for us in Heaven, the wedding banquet of the Lamb.
Amen.

A tour of Dutch church organs

A collection of classic organ broadcasts has come on-line recently, thanks to the former Dutch radio service Radio Nederland Wereldomroep. RNW was a major international broadcaster for 50 years, and it produced many series of music programs, sent on vinyl phonograph records to be transmitted by local stations around the world.

Here is a set of performances from 1968 under the series title “Netherlands Church Organs of the 18th Century”. Each program is about 28 minutes long.

My favorite so far is #2: Noordbroek. What’s yours?

Update on Jernberg’s “Mass of St. Philip Neri”

Some readers were interested to find out when scores and CDs will be available for Paul Jernberg’s Mass of St. Philip Neri, which I mentioned on this site a few weeks ago, along with an audio sample.   Paul writes:

  • Many heartfelt thanks to those who posted such kind comments about my music. I just discovered these a few days ago. Your words of appreciation touch me deeply and give me much encouragement!!! 
  • J. Michael Thompson, director of the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle, asked me to remind everyone that this setting of the Ordinary is intended not only for choirs, but also and primarily for congregations. In fact, we have had wonderful congregational participation in singing the melodies of this setting in the parishes I have served here in Massachusetts, from both adults and children. 
  • The CD and Score are now available for purchase at our website, pauljernberg.com. The CDs were delivered a few weeks ago; the scores are scheduled to be ready from the publisher in a few days, on Monday, October 13. Any inquiries can also be addressed to cathedralchoirschool at gmail.com.

Paul Jernberg’s “Mass of St. Philip Neri”

Toward the end of June this year, the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter the Apostle met with conductor J. Michael Thompson to record composer Paul Jernberg’s “Mass of St. Philip Neri”, together with Paul’s propers for Confirmation Masses.  Here are excerpts from the session; presumably a CD will be available in due course:

Musica Sacra St. Louis Conference October 23-25

Flyer for conference: Musica Sacra St. LouisThe fifth annual Musica Sacra St. Louis conference will explore “The Beauty of the Mass Ordinary” and “English Language Adaptations of the Mass Propers”. Instructors include Dr. William Mahrt, Associate Professor of Music at Stanford University; and Dr. Horst Buchholz, Director of Sacred Music, Archdiocese of St. Louis.

The conference is open to all who have an interest in the history and application of music in the liturgy; music directors, choir directors, singers, liturgists, priests and deacons, religious, seminarians, etc. 

For more information, click on the image, or grab the flyer, or read more at the Archdiocesan Office for Sacred Music, or call 314-614-7702.

Reminder: Gregorian Institute of Canada colloquium August 22-23

Various publications in the past few years attest to a growing interest in the office of Compline, including Kenneth Peterson’s Prayer as Night Falls: Experiencing Compline and The Song of Prayer: A Practical Guide to Learning Gregorian Chant. These, and other resources, will be part of a Paraclete Press table at the August 22-23 Gregorian Institute of Canada colloquium, itself dedicated to the office of Compline. In addition to chant, workshop sessions will also introduce lesser-known but beautiful Compline-oriented polyphonic works, including a Salva nos by Palestrina. For more information about the colloquium, held in Regina, Saskatchewan, see www.gregorian.ca. The registration deadline is August 15, 2014.