What Are The Numbers Telling Us?

Here are some statistics to keep you entertained on a Tuesday afternoon. As of today, May 8, the percentages of Colloquium registrations from each state in the U.S. looks like this (just some highlights): Utah, our host state, comes in at 6%; New York comes in at 3% (Come on folks, everyone else is making the trip west…); Florida comes in at 9% (Lots of Floridians!); California comes in at a whopping 22%; Nevada comes in at 8%; Illinois stands at 15%, and Texas comes in at 11%. Number of clergy registered (as of today): 12; Number of religious sisters: 4; Number of people named Jeffrey: 3; Number of people from outside the contiguous U.S.: 7; If you haven’t registered yet, consider taking your place in the pie chart! Registration for the Sacred Music Colloquium in Salt Lake City is open for twelve more days.

Heretical Hymns, World Music, and Keeping Your Job?

Below is a sneak peak at some of the morning breakouts we have to look forward to at this year’s Sacred Music Colloquium in Salt Lake City. Remember that if you register during the Octave of Easter a copy of Dr. William Mahrt’s The Musical Shape of the Liturgy will be on its way to you in the mail.

Sister Marie Agatha Ozah, HHCJ, Ph.D.:

Gregorian Chant and World Music: Tensions and Solutions for the Liturgy

Chants are some of the oldest religious music genres of the world, and their centrality in Buddhist, Hindu, Judaic, Christian and Islamic worship cannot be over emphasized. In the Christian Church alone, one can name Byzantine, Ethiopian, Anglican, and Gregorian chants, for example, as indispensable vehicles of religious worship. This lecture explores the significance and uses of chants in some world religions. It will focus specifically on Gregorian Chant in the Roman Catholic liturgy.

The traditionalism and canonicity that Gregorian Chant enjoyed for centuries was disputed by the Second Vatican Council, which encouraged the use of other forms of world music as backdrop in the liturgy. The introduction and use of world music in the liturgy has fostered the continuous decline of the use of Gregorian Chant, an issue that has become a cause of concern among sacred music scholars. The dilemma of whether or not the Roman Catholic liturgy is a common ground where tensions can be resolved persists today.

Kathleen Pluth:

Vernacular Hymns: The Good, the Bad, and the Heretical

Although sung Propers are always the best choice for the Mass, parish musicians are still often called upon to select hymns for Mass, devotions, and the Liturgy of the Hours. Choosing among the various options can be a daunting task. This lecture begins with an examination of the importance of hymns in the Church from apostolic times, preceding the Reformation by many centuries. Then, individual hymns will be sung and analysed for their usefulness in teaching and evangelization, focusing primarily upon textual and theological considerations.

Matthew J. Meloche:

Maintain and Strengthen Your Position and Program

This practical course will show you how to maintain and strengthen your current position and program, whether you are music director of a large parish or direct a small choir. Special emphasis will be given to changing the direction of a program, with positive advice for how to do so while keeping your leadership role secure.

See the complete list.

Winter Chant Intensive: Plea for Scholarship Donations

CMAA Houston, sponsor of the Winter Chant Intensive, coming up on January 4-6, 2012, has been besieged with scholarship requests. At present five or six gifts of $50 or $100 would assist in getting people the education in chant they are looking for – not only for themselves, but for their parishes, and the future of sacred music in this country.

If you are in the position to help, please consider making a donation – in time for someone to benefit from your gift this coming January. Write to CMAA Houston for specifics on how to go about making a difference.

Need to recommend a hymnal?

Here is a quick list of ten great things about the Vatican II Hymnal. In no particular order:

Contains the Order of Mass for both the EF and OF.

Contains all the readings for ALL THREE YEARS in the OF. No need for Missalettes.

Is over 700 pages long but is still the size of a normal book.

Includes numerous settings of Alleluias and Gospel Acclamations.

Includes the text of the sequences in Latin AND English.

Includes solid, singable hymns.

For each hymn the editor has included a suggested occasion for deployment.

Includes Offertory verses! Yes, they exist!

Includes the ICEL setting of the new translation of the Mass; and further settings by Rice, Weber,and more.

Includes great graphics that you could copy (I think photocopying one page for personal use is allowed) and give to your children with a pack of colored pencils (after Mass).

Gregorian Chant and More Workshop

St. Benedict Church in Richmond, Virginia, will be sponsoring The Gregorian Chant and More Workshop on Nov.11-12, 2011.

The workshop will feature Fr. Robert A. Skeris, Director, Centre for Ward Method Studies at The Catholic University of America. Sessions will alternate singing Gregorian Chant with lectures on Sacred Music. All are welcome, from novices to experienced singers. The workshop will conclude with a Missa Cantata. All sessions will be held in Saint Anselm Hall at St. Benedict Parochial School. The workshop is free for St. Benedict Church members, however you must register. Registration includes lunch on Saturday as well as a copy of the Liber Cantualis, the book used for the workshop. For non-St. Benedict Church members, the fee is a modest $5 to cover lunch expenses. The Liber Cantualis will be available for purchase at the workshop. To register, or for more information, please email your contact information to jdorn@saintbenedictparish.org or ccrafton@saintbenedictschool.org. You may also mail your contact information and payment to St. Benedict Church Office, attn: Chant Workshop 206 North Belmont Avenue Richmond, Virginia 23221.

More information here.

Zwingli! on Music

For reasons unknown to me I found myself reading the Wikipedia article on Huldrych Zwingli (Swiss Reformer). Maybe it was because conversation over brunch today centered on my son’s freshman history class and his professor’s well balanced look at the influences and events of the time. Might also be because I was in Zurich three weeks ago, where all things “church” are all Zwingli, all the time.

Cut to the chase: I about fell off my chair when I read the paragraph on Zwingli’s view toward liturgical music, below. As Willa Cather said, “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

Zwingli criticised the practice of priestly chanting and monastic choirs. The criticism dates from 1523 when he attacked certain worship practices. He associated music with images and vestments, all of which he felt diverted people’s attention from true spiritual worship. It is not known what he thought of the musical practices in early Lutheran churches. Zwingli, however eliminated music from worship in the church, stating that God had not commanded musical worship. The organist of the People’s Church in Zurich is recorded as weeping upon seeing the great organ broken up. Although Zwingli did not express an opinion on congregational singing, he made no effort to encourage it. Nevertheless, scholars have found that Zwingli was supportive of a role for music in the church. Gottfried W. Locher writes, “The old assertion ‘Zwingli was against church singing’ holds good no longer…. Zwingli’s polemic is concerned exclusively with the medieval Latin choral and priestly chanting and not with the hymns of evangelical congregations or choirs”. Locher goes on to say that “Zwingli freely allowed vernacular psalm or choral singing. In addition, he even seems to have striven for lively, antiphonal, unison recitative”. Locher then summaries his comments on Zwingli’s view of church music as follows: “The chief thought in his conception of worship was always ‘conscious attendance and understanding’ — ‘devotion’, yet with the lively participation of all concerned”.

California, Here It Comes!

Gregorian Chant Workshop in Southern California with Kathy Reinheimer

Saturday, October 8, 8:30am-5:00pm

Sponsored by Una Voce, Los Angeles

St. Victor’s Catholic Church
8634 Holloway Drive,
West Hollywood, CA 90069

$25 fee includes Parish Book of Chant, all materials, lunch, and refreshments.

Please see the workshop webpage for schedule and registration details.

Music Director Position in Cincinnati

Large, suburban parish in Cincinnati, OH seeking full time organist/choir director.

Position open immediately. Parish transitioning to more traditional liturgy so candidate

must have knowledge of and love for chant and sacred polyphony as well as traditional

hymnody. A sense of solemnity and beauty is desired in seeking a balanced

mix of old and new that is in keeping with the teachings of Benedict XVI.

Responsible for weekly choir rehearsal, Saturday vigil Mass and three Sunday

Masses, feast days, weddings, occasional funerals and liturgical events such as

40 hours devotion.

Interested parties should email their resume, letter of interest, and salary

expectations to businessmanager@stgertrude.org

Kids and Mystery, or Why They Are At the Mall

Inspired by events in Madrid and the fabulous work of David J. Hughes and the St. Mary Schola, author Kenneth Killiany has updated some reflections on Harry Potter, teens today, and the state of education for our Catholic youth.

Looking back across the last decade, one remembers how young people lined up for two monster hits of 2002, Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. The movies were different: Harry Potter is “serious fun;” The Lord of the Rings is based on one of the monuments of 20th Century Literature.

Yet they had three very important things in common: they reflected the Christian beliefs of their authors, they dealt with the spiritual world, and they were hits with the kids, especially boys. This should tell us something about the kids, and why our youth programs have so much trouble attracting them.

Teenagers were then losing themselves in the journeys of Frodo and Samwise–and Harry, Ron, and Hermione. We did not even know how Harry would make it to adulthood. The series began as a desperate attempt by a single mother on welfare to break free, and this American has to say simple “hats off” to J.K.Rowling’s success on that score. But it was thoroughly innocent writing. She came up with a great plotline, but the early books are merely fun and a highly realistic portrait of “tweens,” however odd the situation.

The magic was never more than a very fun plot device, and she never once fell into the trap of the Zen-like relativism of the frighteningly amoral “Force” in Star Wars. In Harry’s world, good people did good things as best they could and bad people did bad things…as best they could. Rowling is a Christian, of the liberal Protestant variety, but serious in her thinking. She sought to add depth as her craft got better. She clearly knew Tolkien well by the end, and the last two books have the children, in an entirely believable way for their ages, debating every single important moral issue a parent could hope for. She has just one daughter, but Harry ended up being perhaps the most realistic boy in literature since Tom Sawyer, and that inspires more than a little respect. (I am particularly fond of the book where he is furious no one is telling him anything and is treating him like a child. “If we tell you,” Ron says at one point, “you aren’t going to start shouting again, are you?” Sound familiar, anyone?)

But Harry, alas, has passed on to be part of the cultural wallpaper, still there to be found, but not front and center anymore. When the last Harry Potter film hits DVD, that’s it. He has been followed, for girls, by Twilight and now countless imitators, all of which have always struck me as emotional pornography. For boys, what is not actually pornographic is simply violent and degraded: games set in lawless worlds, or blood splattered movies whose “Medieval” themes are just backdrops. None of what enthralls kids these days seems to have any moral content whatsoever, and the spiritual content is the wrong kind. And really, weren’t the Lord of the Rings movies and the whole Harry Potter phenomenon just a welcome respite in a long downhill slide?

At the age when our kids’ heads are filled with the grandest visions and most romantic ideas, when life to them seems like nothing so much as a string of endless possibilities, when they are straining to prove themselves worthy of the high calling that they feel deep within, we offer them lectures on…hygiene.

These are indeed the decisive years for moral instruction: teens are just beginning to understand the full reality of life, and they feel the tension. They are eager to spread their wings, but they want us there during the unavoidable crash landings. Adolescent life is almost nothing but “teachable moments.”

Yet to teach them, we must meet them as they are. Kids live in an eternal present. We cannot convince many youngsters that their actions have consequences because their experience is so limited. All they feel is the power of their growing bodies and minds. Even the best kid is going to feel most strongly the presence of those who are with him at the moment.

Our children often do not have very good company. Kid culture today is not the usual “running around time” that traditional cultures, in their wisdom, grant their children. Think of the ads now run by the once-conservative Coors, or how so many teenaged singers go so quickly from professions of traditional religious values to being just one more raunchy act. A kid party today is not something that can get out of hand. It probably begins out of hand.

The Apostle Paul began his letters with lengthy explications of mystical doctrine. This was not a mistake, nor was it “socially constructed.” The doctrine of the Incarnation was, as St. Paul says, a “scandal” to the ancient mind. It is true enough that no one “talks that way” these days, because no one has ever talked that way without the light of the Gospel.

John Paul II was the most successful youth minister ever. It is worth listening to what he says about moral education, in one of his greatest gifts to us, Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth.) “This effort (in moral instruction) by the Church finds its support—the secret of its educative power—not so much in doctrinal statements and in pastoral appeals to vigilance, as in constantly looking to the Lord Jesus…In a particular way, it is in the crucified Christ that the Church finds the answer.” (Section 84)

He reiterated this point in his beautiful Apostolic Letter on the Rosary. “Inasmuch as contemporary culture, even amid so many indications to the contrary, has witnessed the flowering of a new call for spirituality, due also to the influence of other religions, it is more urgent than ever that our Christian communities should become “genuine schools of prayer”. (Section 5.)

That powerful teaching was echoed by Cardinal Paul Poulard, in presenting a fascinating Vatican document on “New Age” spirituality. He noted, “People who adhere to New Age (thinking) have authentic spiritual thirst and the Church should ask itself why they are looking elsewhere.”

If you want your child to think about something other than what his friends, the culture, and his body are telling him at this second, show him Jesus. Parents cannot be there at every moment, but Jesus can. Far, far better that your child knows that he or she is accompanied by Jesus, the Lord our God who took the form of sinful flesh, yet without sin. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (St. Matthew 28:20.) That is more comfort and security than even the most diligent parent can offer. Christian morality makes no sense without the person and the real presence of Jesus Christ.

Instead of mumbling embarrassedly about the rites of the Church, confidently fill the youth program with all the mystical stuff you can: Eucharistic adoration with lots of candles and incense, rosary recitations with Scripture readings and songs, frequent confession with serious priests, long evening Masses with beautiful music.

The music is very important. Why give them relentlessly chirpy, upbeat songs when they themselves are experiencing the full range of human emotions on such a grand and immediate scale?

And, most importantly, give them intensive Bible studies that concentrate on the mystical. As a troubled teen, I loved the combination of the heavenly and the practical in St. Paul’s letters. Who has caught the reailty of teenage—of human—life better than the he did in Romans 7 and 8? A child who struggles over the paradoxes in First John or James is a child who has had an introduction to life in Christ.

True enough, successful youth programs depend on dedicated adults who pray, in the words of the Liturgy of the Hours for Christmas Week, “that the mystery of the faith that glows in our spirit would shine forth in our works.” But children and youth workers are part of something larger, that is, the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. When children are growing into fully formed adults, they should be introduced too all of the great gifts that God has granted to His children.

Or we can give the kids lessons on personal hygiene and wonder why they are all at the multiplex.