Yes, They’ll know we are Catholics by our chants, by our chants!

I type as I’m listening to Jeffrey Tucker’s interview with Dr. Jennifer Pascual on Sirius Radio via Adam Bartlett’s link here at the Café.

There is no way to know how many folks actually listen to such joyful exhortations on the wires/wireless’. There’s no way to measure any sort of corporate conversion of the hearts of the clergy and laity who might happen upon the encouraging, informed common sense from the pen of Dr. William Mahrt in “Sacred Music.”

But I’d like to revisit an experience I’ve now shared with my own parishioners on this Holy Day, and on this same day last year, that is undeniable testimony to the principles that are espoused by CMAA and all champions of restoring chant to a place of principality in our liturgies.

Again, as I type, I’m listening the very same Introit for All Soul’s from the pen of Adam Bartlett that we actually enjoined an impromptu congregation at our district cemetery this afternoon. I literally printed the one sheet Order of Music from Adam’s post, along with Arlene’s Psalm 23 and they were handed out and sung at first reading by a completely diverse congregation of souls from all demographic points. A couple of members of our local garage schola (profiled in an earlier post,) myself and my lovely bride comprised an ersatz, but mighty schola, and we bolstered a gathering of about 200 folks who took up the English Propers with ease, as well as the Ordinary of the Requiem Mass commonly associated with the “Jubilate Deo” project.

There has been a great deal of reportage about various multicultural traditions that express a reverence or anamnesis for the souls of relatives that have passed. Here in the San Joaquin Valley we have embraced the traditions of Latinos, the tribal peoples of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand, the Filipinos and others. But, each of those ethnic subcultures were represented by folks this afternoon called to pray for the state of the souls of “all the faithful departed” in a catholic manner, one that transcends and unifies us all within the unity of the ritual. By the God-given language of chant, I not only wished afterward that such a witness to our rituals and faith traditions could have been such witness to our entire Christian community in our city, but that it could have been such witness to our own dis-enchanted Catholics who have, through no fault of their own, been kept at bay from their rightful inheritance.

I don’t know what else to say. I know that I’m whole and complete in the midst of colloquium liturgies, even at rehearsals. And I am likewise whole on this unique day by virtue of being presented the opportunity to exclusively “sing the Mass” on All Soul’s Day at our cemetery rather than the “brick by brick” pastiche at our magnificent church, and confident that I have empirical evidence in my own vineyard (where my grandparents rest) that St. Pius X called it correctly over a century ago; the Faithful can, will and do sing the chant when afforded the trust and opportunity by the powers that be.

Thank you, CMAA. Thank you, Jeffrey, AOZ, Dr. Mahrt et al. Thank you, Adam. All praise be to the Risen Christ, Lord of All. Soli Deo Gloria!

“Ancient Chant and Hymns for Guitar” by Gerard Garno

This volume of arrangements is a studied, serious and comprehensive necessity for the future of guitarists whose earnest desire to advance the instrument’s “value” to the liturgy will eventually come to terms, and merge with the growing enthusiasm for restoring “pride of place,” or even “primary place” to the use of Gregorian Chant that is burgeoning in this century. The author does not hesitate to equate the revival of chant with the revival of Christendom (“Save the Liturgy, save the world” come to mind?) and sees his work allowing guitarists to “participate more effectively” in that aspect of the worship life of the singing church.

Mr. Garno gives a not-just-a-nod introduction to chant and its current revival in his introduction, and then states, “My goal…is to aid the working guitarist…..(whose)….economic success….depends upon their ability to be flexible in a wide variety of performance situations. Having the potential to play Gregorian chant melodies….will broaden the possibilities of performing in churches, or even accompanying congregations. (Interesting that he would note “chant” in the participation active modality!) He also notes that with the larger public’s interest in the meditative qualities of chant that the guitar, as a “meditative” instrument makes an appealing antidote to the busyness, industrialization and technical distractions of modern life. He concludes, in this vein, “Logically, then, the melodies of Gregorian chant are a type greatly complemented by those qualities inherent in the acoustic guitar.”

The introduction continues to give a thorough history of the chant, complete with engravings, complete footnotes and supportive quotations. Then Garno systematically introduces the modern notation reader to the mensurate contrasts both in symbolic notation and in actual rhythmic practice. He offers the studied guitarist the tools to interpret phrase divisions and neumes, and basic guides to the duple, triple groupings with which chanters are familiar. He demonstrates his methods for transcribing chant scores to guitar staff notation correctly. And then he declares at the end of the introduction that “Gregorian chant transcriptions should be a part of the standard classical guitar repertoire, citing many authoritative artists such as the late Andres Segovia as champions of this cause.

Then the bulk of the volume, which he titles “Hymnum Gloriae,” consists of staff and tablature versions of four basic Mass movements: a Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

And then he provides full transcriptions of Missas VIII, IX, XI and XVI.

The next section includes “Miscellaneous Chants” that are of great renown, and then a section of Latin Hymns that include “Adoramus te Christe, Ecce panis angelorum, O esca viatorum, O salutaris hostia and a host of others.”

Following those transcriptions Garno includes the appendices with the original neumatic scores. The volume concludes with excerpts from “The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913” and his bibliography.

This collection should be part of every serious guitarist’s library, especially those whose instruments remain closeted from their scholas or choirs when chant is employed. And folks who question the validity or propriety of the classical guitar at Roman Catholic worship should simply browse through its content out of respect for the fact that the instrument is not explicitly named as illicit or deficient in accompanying the highest form of sacred music for liturgy. Take it or leave it, this book is worth a thorough examination.

Dr. Invigaro says “Don’t use a wrench as a hammer; someone will get hurt.”

You might remember that a few weeks ago I posted on “Dr. Invigaro’s Prescriptive Solemnity” remedy for liturgical situations and choirs. The good doctor contacted me recently with a few comments and questions he’s since received, and a particular one caught my eye.

“Dear Doc Invigaro,

A significant number of my singers in our choir are converts, some who swam the Tiber before we entered the desert, and many over the intervening 40 years. I have noticed as we have deliberately, slowly, “prescriptively” moved towards propers, chant and polyphony that not a few of my singers apparently miss those occasions that the odd spiritual, the rousing gospel tune, the ubiquitous non-catholic anthem or choral song would be programmed. A few have even remarked that we’ve gone all polyphony, all the time. They didn’t seem to be complimenting my programming. Doc, what do I do?”

Dr. Invigaro then left a few suggestions in his memo:

*Eclecticism in programming is neither friend nor foe. It is a tool among others. For example, in my previous advice I reminded folks that if there are folks (among them even clerics) who just can’t abide the imposition of an Offertorio proper into the mix, and thus displacing the notion of the “hymn of the day” which bridges the scripture readings and homily into the Liturgy of the Word…. a well-thought out choral song could present a golden opportunity. For example, in this devotional month of October, or with the upcoming feasts of the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe, the late Leon Robert’s “CANTICLE OF MARY” could be the pill that fills the bill. It includes congregation, has a solid gravitas to both refrain and melody that could contrast well with other Marian literature. One doesn’t know if it’s incongruous, jarring or uncomplimentary until one tries. This might also work with many other choral and congregational pieces of recent times. John Foley’s “MAY WE PRAISE YOU” or the Mark Haye’s “PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS” comes to mind.

*In larger parishes where the whole “process” of distributing Holy Communion requires a disproportionately longer time period, one of these eclectic selections could follow the Communio and the Communion Processional, and still allow for reflective silence from all after the Tabernacle Veil is shut. I think of pieces by Lazlo Halmos, such as his proper “CANTATE DOMINO,” that wouldn’t function quite as well if it was programmed at its proper location. Or Stainer’s “GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD,” Brahm’s “HOW LOVELY…” or even a setting of “I HEAR MUSIC IN THE AIR” such as arranged by Alice Parker or John Bell.(Consider editing the text of this one.)

*Of course, if there is a “whipping post” for the odd favorite, it will always remain the terra incognita of the recessional. If you absolutely, positively must “throw a bone” to choir malcontents with pieces like “EVERYTIME I FEEL THE SPIRIT,” or “RIDE ON, KING JESUS,” or Wilhousky’s BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC, then this is that time.

One could bridge the time it takes for the celebrant to have made his procession and retreat by a brief organ postlude, and then launch the sonic rockets.

But, these choices cannot be made willy-nilly. As I said, this eclecticism is a tool. Using a specific wrench as a hammer will be injurious, probably to the choir director, the choir, the congregation and worst of all, the integrity of the Liturgy. But if used with precision, might be another tonic to keep your choir members unified and happy.

Sincerely, Dr. Lucious Invigaro”

Well, I don’t know if this addedum protocol might work for you in your program, but I might just consider this as I continue reconfiguring my own bricks. I expect lots of different mileage variances and stalling might result here, there and everywhere.

A Father Dade Christmas Concert

With full disclosure, our Advent/Christmas Annual Concert title is a misnomer, though it’s meant as a quaint and humble homage to our founder. Though it’s hard to imagine, Christmas music, carols especially, have proven not to be the centerpiece of sacred seasonal concerts of a hundred-years yore.

We have endeavored to reconstruct a facsimile of “American” Roman Catholic music as it was practiced and heard during the years of Fr. Dade’s formation and service in Philadelphia, and what of that repertoire might have eventually emigrated with him to California, Visalia and St. Mary’s. In addition, we have researched period catholic hymnals of the mid to late 19th century for carol texts, Spanish-language “villançicos” and other song forms that would have likely been sung during Fr. Dade’s tenure as Visalia’s pastor.

Virtually the only musical forensic evidence in Fr. Dade’s biography, THE APOSTLE OF THE VALLEY, denotes that “entertainments” that included music and dance benefited the building of the second church building in 1872 and that the parish did have an organist/music teacher for the parish school children. Speculation about exact musical pieces is all that remains from that. However, the book states “, “Music was provided by a quartet who went in a special conveyance from Visalia; they rendered ‘Peter’s Mass in D’ ‘ in a beautiful and impressive manner.”

Thanks be to God, the very pleasant agents of the Library of Congress and the University of Louisville, we were able to locate that very Mass setting and secure copies. Before discussing this work and others, I must also give great appreciation to my colleagues Ed Teixeira (Organist/Director-St. David’s, Richmond CA), Dr. Doug Shadle, (Musicologist at the U. of Lousiville), and Dr. Mike O’Connor, (Musicologist of Palm Beach Atlantic University), for providing veins of sheer gold for me to mine.

The “Peter” of the “Mass in D Major” was composed by Williams Cummings Peters, whose personal history is associated with the great Stephen Foster. Peters was a noted Catholic choir director who also compiled and published a number of catholic hymnals that bore striking resemblance to the forms of denomination hymnals of that era, using the terms “Harmonist” and “Harp,” as in the famed “Sacred Harp” school of shape note singing used for worship and music literacy. Peters’ Mass is grounded in a sort of Hadyn meets Mozart European style. The two movements from the Mass that we will perform are the Gloria (most appropriate as it is the hymn the angels sang to the newborn Christ at His Nativity) and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God.) The Gloria contains a pastiche of melodic “scenes” which could lightly be called “text painting.”

Another great “find” was an emigrant German Philadelphian composer, Albert RoSewig (b.1846) who had many Victorian-era hymns, carols and motets. The choir will sing my arrangement of his setting of the AVE MARIA, as well as his setting of a Communion motet “O Salutaris Hostia” and another period piece for Christmas.
An amazing piece that we will feature is yet another Philadelphian, J. Remington Fairlamb’s “Great” TE DEUM, a hymn of praise sung at the New Year and at great feast days. This piece is significant in that Fairlamb uses English rather than Latin (unusual for the era) and for some compelling musical harmonic devices that are unique to my ear. Fairlamb was designated by Abraham Lincoln to be a consul to Switzerland as well!

More traditional carols such as “Adeste Fideles” and “What Child is This?” we have located in the “Young Catholic’s Hymnal” circa 1870 that contain verse lyrics that are stunningly different than those we sing today. We will enjoin the audience in the singing of these “discovered” texts.

As mentioned earlier, the choirs will also sing Christmas “villançicos.” These are a hybrid form of European polyphonic motets with native (Nahuatal) folk idioms of the post-conquisition and missionary era in Mexico. They are incredibly beautiful Spanish “carols.” Though there is no evidence that this music was sung in St. Mary’s, there is plenty of evidence they were sung daily across the central coast range in the Franciscan missions in this era.

And we will be joined by our own Gregorian Schola of St. Francis, led by Ralph Colucci, for a selection of Advent, Nativity and Epiphany proper chants that were hopefully sung by the children’s choir in those pioneer times.

We hope the entire Visalia music-loving community will join us at 4pm, December 18th for our “antique” concert celebrating our history.

Dr. Invigaro’s “Prescriptive Solemnity” in the OF

A great deal of prognostication of late focuses upon whether we who speak the King’s English are being shepherded towards the narrow sheep-gate over which hangs the sign “ICEL-approved chant settings.”

Personally, I don’t find that scenario at all displeasing. Fact is, it would be at the least a refreshing change from the tyranny of options that both the GIRM and the marketplace inundate us all with weekly. To its merit, issuing some sort of binding legislation to literally universally learn the ICEL chants would be a clarion call that “WE” mean business when it comes down to constituting truly catholic worship; equivocating wimps R us no mo’!

But how can the average parish, say like St. Omnibus in Saskatoon or Stockton, musically prepare themselves for the cognitive combustion of a mandated use of the ICEL chants which would displace, even for only a while, the normative ease of continued reliance upon the status quo, Gather Us In to Sing to the Mountains of Massive Creation?

Well consider the fact that anecdotally, St. Omnibus worship has been besot by a persistent tension and calcification in its physiology, it suffers from occasional tonic spasms by irregular consumption of newly concocted musical “antidotes” to boredom, diffidence and stagnation within the Body. The industry devotes the front piece and pages of its new catalogues to the latest synthesis of glucosamine, St. John’s Wort, Green Tea and caffeine-based compounds as bold new solutions to very natural and long-known maladies.

Well, Dr. Invigaro recommends a protocol for St. Omnibus that is gradual, orderly and as non-invasive as it is non-threatening to a repertoire body that has grown slovenly and unwieldy. It’s called “Prescriptive Solemnity.”

Here’s the regimen (there is no one magic bullet.)

+However it can be managed, start using the Introit Antiphon and verses/Gloria Patri as a prelude, assuming St. Omnibus policy requires an Entrance or “Gathering” hymn. Whether or not this pre-emptive pill is taken up by the congregation along with the music ministry is not to be deliberated as important. The importance lies in preparing the congregation with new cell growth that will eventually result in a new understanding of how the body functions at the beginning of liturgy. The closer the Introit can come to a chanted form, the better. Use any instruments sparingly; the voice and Word must build strong new tendons.

+If and whenever possible, choose an Entrance hymn/song whose textual content has at its source the scriptural attributes of the Introit, or has recognizable ties to the proper Introit. If any group/cantor’s repertoire is so malnourished that such relationships can’t be found, then discern the best of the scriptural inferenced hymns for the day, or if one must, fall back on the publisher’s assigned categorical choices.

+For the opening rite, if St. Omnibus uses an Asperges or Confiteor/Kyrie penitential rite, consider switching to a purely chanted version of either form as soon as possible. This prescriptive also is recommended for the Lamb of God/Agnus Dei litany.

All of these can remain accompanied tastefully, artfully. But their elegant simplicity is best served by chanting, not metered singing. If one is concerned about melodic consistency, just defer that concern to aligning the tonal/modal key centers to the Gloria which follows.

+Regarding the Glory/Gloria: the increase of cellulite in this era seems to not result from serving up portions of the hymn text in different thematic portions, but from the calorie rich, nutrient deficient repetition of a refrain. Consider auditioning leaner, meaner settings that use musical motifs repeatedly for ease of consumption and digestion, but whose text is sung without needless redundancy.

+The Psalm: Dr. Invigaro simply advocates using the psalm or gradual text assigned for the day from the myriad sources available. Strict adherence to the regimen means that paraphrases of the assigned psalm, and even seasonal psalms are best left on the shelf, if palatable versions that aren’t burdened with excessive compositional forms or over-cooked, heavily spiced-up pharmacological soups.

+The Gospel Acclamation: dump all the triumphal gospel or Celtic processionals into the waste bin. Let the body thrive by chanting the beautiful acclamation, “Alleluia.” If mode VI was good enough for your granny, it’s good enough medicine for you. If you’re worried about gender inclusive issues, sing the setting borrowed version from “O filii et filiae.”

+The Creed: Dr. Invigaro defers to the local practitioner the final analysis per this portion of the regimen. He does suggest that recitation actually may be more beneficial than a recto tono declamation. However, he does endorse both the benefits of the de Angelis chant or the use of psalm tones as a mineral enhancement.

+The Offertory: this portion of the protocol demands the patient’s attentiveness and acumen in order for the whole of the process to eventuate with success. The Body of the faithful at St. Omnibus will likely not know that this portion of the liturgy actually is a procession. Some may regard this portion of time as a moment to musically reflect upon the transition of cognition to digestion, and the coughing up of the monetary cud. Others may think that these few moments provide a relief from the disciplined attention demanded by their active listening to various modes of elocution, including those with tones. Dr. Invigaro suggests that, whenever possible, in the absence of the ability to use the proper processional antiphon, even those of Mssrs. Rice, Bartlett or Revs. Kelly, Weber, et al., that an alius cantus aptus that best expresses the homiletics gleaned from the lessons will first do no harm.

+This next prescriptive item is sensitive, so imaging the good doc whispering: the patient should prevail upon the presiding ministers to boldly chant where no presbyter has chanted before at St. Omnibus– the Preface Dialogue and Preface. To nurse the congregation towards acceptance of their own priestly responsibilities, the celebrant must swallow and take down his own Castor Oil and chant these “collects.” Simply put, they’ll then know they are Catholics by their chants, by their chants, yes they’ll know they are Catholics by their chants.

+The Eucharistic Acclamations: the doc strongly emphasizes that the taking up of the “Sanctus” (“Holy” doesn’t quite translate with panache, does it?) is among the most prominent “source and summit” moments of the solemn rites. It calls the question to the Body: are we One, at least in our real time, with angels and saints, or not? Well, yeah. But the combustibility of that notion requires serious temperament with our musical prescriptions. So Dr. Invigaro finds himself in the unique company of both Dr. Hahn and the late Rev. E. Walsh. But if there is a moment of clarity for the most jaded, it is now in the regimen: the people must take up the song humbly and with some measure of shock and awe. So, stepwise motion that disguises the steps, harmonies that are more inferred or imagined by the mind and heart, and a familiarity that eschews banality are all called for in this moment. This is precisely a moment when head-banging meter is to be avoided as a plague. This is a potent moment, calling not for a dalliance with liqueur or aperitif. This is a moment where the terroire, the vine, the tender, the vintner, the server and the guest become one with creation and Creator. So whether a preference by the body is a convenient buzz provided by a Bud or TwoBuckChuck, and to move on, avoid this convenience and lead the Body towards the sublime, the eternal musica sacra. Dr. Invigaro left no notes regarding the “memorial acclamation” or the “Amen,” in which the congregation and celebrant acknowledge consensus of the sacral moment. So, in keeping with the discipline of exercising atrophied muscle mass, use chant as the tonic.

+The Agnus Dei: for opaque reasons, this litany’s text seems to elicit participation in proportion to the sentimentality of the setting of the text. Dr. Invigaro reminds the patient to be mindful that this is not an expression of blatant emotion or a child-like fondness for images of tiny, tender animals, rather it is a moment of profound, against-all-odds final plea for healing and mercy. It cannot be manufactured, troped into faux-ebullience or masqued by sweet herbs. It must taste, at once, sweet and bitter, elemental but refined, ethereally beautiful as it is held down by gravitas. Once the celebrant returns to the ciborium and chalice from “the Peace,” the chant is to be rendered as pristinely it was created.

+Communion: in St. Omnibus’s around the orb it might be customary to extend the Agnus Dei to accompany the reception of the celebrant(s) and the distribution of vessels to EMHC’s (don’t even go there, for now!) This reality can be easily dealt with by the most timely use of the Communio proper by the choir. Yes, there are many hymns and songs whose lyrics recall (with relative success) a Eucharistic ethos. There are others that functionally paraphrase the propers themselves. Both of those options do no harm, and in specific instances, are beneficial to the welfare of the Body. But, if ever there is a moment of prescriptive discipline that a musician can employ without fear of redress, it would be this moment. As long as the Body understands that this portion of the regimen is particularly mandatory for their own welfare, they will appreciate its immediate effect while their full attention is focused upon receiving the host of everlasting life, the salve of redemption. If a communal singing of a hymn is taken up as an honest chaser after each week’s prescribed proper formula, then so much the better. And should sufficient time that does not impede reverent silence before the Communion procession has ended for the choir to augment the beautiful thanksgiving in sound, then choirs, work your art for His and our sake.

+The dismissal is just that: people leave to realize (or not) the “missio” in commission.

Dr. Invigaro has no recommendation for this “moment.” However, he offers a caveat that it is not a moment, like all that came before, for self actualization, aggrandizement or celebratory inebriation.

Below is your correspondent’s unique but fairly representative formulae for “prescriptive solemnity.” You are free to adjudicate it as a real tonic or a recipe of snake oil. But, we believe we’ll be better prepared to receive the change coming next winter because we have laid down a discipline plan for years now.

28th Sunday, Ordinary Time ©
Introit/Prelude “If You, O Lord, laid bare out guilt…”/Simple Choral Gradual-R.Rice
Entrance: S(chola) GATHER US TOGETHER

Opening Rites S Kyrie (chant)/Glory to God-(Oecumenica/Proulx-Culbreth)
E Kyrie (Sleeth)//Dancing Day Gloria (P.Ford)

Responsorial Respond & Acclaim

Gospel Accl. S “Alleluia” chant Mode VI
E “Alleluia” Sleeth


Eucharistic Accl. S Oecumenica/Agnus Dei (chanted)
E Sleeth Acclamations

Communio “The rich suffer want….”/SCG-Richard Rice
Commnion Hymn SE YOU ARE MINE

Anthem/Song S ADORAMUS TE CHRISTE (Palestrina)


NOLA Chant Intensive- don’t forget the “intensive.”

I am, among other things, “Charles in CenCA.” A few folk know or remember that despite being born in a laconic little town in the middle of California in 1951 I was raised in Oakland, California.

Yes, that OAKLAND. Oakland formed me, mothered me, made me, made me CATHOLIC. Oakland is, to me, the New Orleans of California minus Mardi Gras, the French Quarter, the mystique, a recent football championship, and natural and man-made disasters (unless murdering one’s neighbors is factored in.)
Wendy and I have the SAINTS/VIKINGS game on. We’ve only visited NOLA once, a month before Katrina. It was lovely, lovely like Jack London Square in Oakland only a whole city. A month later, NOLA was 9/11 all over again. But, like Pogo, it took a while to recognize that the aggravating enemy wasn’t trained terrorist pilots, but the enemy was “US.”

 New Orleans has weighed upon my mind, and I suspect most of our minds, for these last five years. I’m happy for the Saints and the saints. I have wanted to return and take the trolley to Treme and the Ninth Ward. I don’t even know if the trolley goes there.

When AOZ posted that the Chant Intensive would be held in NOLA this January, I didn’t have a moment to share that info with my better half. We were in the midst of effecting the first Solemn Vespers (Sept.8, Nativity of the BVM) at our parish in at least 40 years. But, when I told Wendy tonight about the Intensive, she decided she had to attend. My beloved wife, lyric soprano who is gifted with a voice beyond measure, wants the torture (kidding) of the Turk for twelve hours a day in NEW ORLEANS! We’ll be there. I may be the director/composer of the family, but she is the voice and the accountant! She scored a 94 on an insane, one day Notary exam in the “state” that is known as California. This opera woman wants to freakin’ chant. Got it?

But I’ve done an intensive. I’ve jokingly, haltingly recalled it as akin to doing another Masters. It wasn’t easy for me. Fifty brains in the room, mine the smallest! But I have the “diploma” on my office wall, it meant that much to me. So, I’ll accompany my crusading wife, but I’ll go to New Orleans with another attitude. The first time was Pre-Katrina; second will be post-Katrina/BP.

There’s been a lot in the media five years after Katrina, and the summer of unending oil. I don’t know what to expect of me as I accompany my wife to NOLA this January. But I have to see and feel that what CMAA represents with the Intensive resonates in concert with our Matthew 25 mandatum.

There is little surety in this musing. But, there must be a tangible, visceral connection with G’s slogan, “Save the Liturgy, Save the world,” that is represented by the trials New Orleans has endured in this new century. And I hope to find it.

Home Brewing: Starting a Schola from Scratch

In our merged parishes, we have a number of choirs, coros and cantor/song leader/psalmist resources. We have only one exclusively Latin-language schola, and that was founded and is led by a truly wonderful, talented, dedicated-Catholic, but musically untrained amateur. I interviewed my friend, Mr. Ralph Colucci, recently about the origins of his chant enterprise, and this is a condensed version of that interview. Just for the record, Ralph’s group, the Gregorian Schola of St. Francis, will provide the music ministry for my Requiem Mass whenever that need arises!

CC Ralph , every new endeavor or enterprise results from someone’s perception of a need. Could you sketch out when and how you came to realize there was a “need” and how you processed that and you began your schola?
RC I came back to the church in 1995. Several factors brought me back to the sacraments. I was baptized as a child and kind of fell away from the church. Many factors brought me back, especially the Eucharist, which was the driving force behind my (re)version. I’ve always had a love for singing. My sisters dragged me to church, most often at the 10 AM Mass.

The Ensemble Mass?
RC Yeah, you were directing. I starting following along in the OCP Missalette.
CC So, you didn’t like my music? (laughter)
RC No, no I did like your music! But my sister introduced me to Gregorian chant. She had some cassettes and couple of CD’s and I started to listen to those. I was commuting to Fresno every week for business, and I just listened to the chant during that time, and it was just so beautiful. It was so different, though I liked the contemporary music as well.

CC So you had never had any exposure to chant because you’re, age-wise, roughly a Gen-X’er? You never knew there was such a “thing” as chant?
RC My sisters knew, as they’re a bit older than I. I don’t remember this, but they claim when I was a kid I sang “Sons of God.” And I remember singing “Drummer Boy” for Christmas and other stuff like that. But I didn’t have any experience with the Pre-Vatican II Church. Fast-forward to my conversion, I fell in love with Gregorian chant around the time that the “Chanto Gregoriano” CD came out by the choir of Benedictine Monks of Santiago de Silos. I was able to find a book with text, as I wanted to know the texts they were singing and the translations. So I just started learning them on my own.
At the same time I was encouraged to sing in church for the first time (in front of a mic) with Mario at the late Vigil Mass on Saturdays. Then I joined the choir at Holy Family Church (directed by your sister-in-law) and it was still contemporary music. But in my “free time” I was still learning chant on my own. Not very well, but I knew it. So, when I had the opportunity to sing with Mario or Susan I would ask “Can we do Gregorian Chant? Can we do Gregorian Chant?”
CC Were you still using modern notation or did you start with neumes?
RC At that point it was all by listening. I had no music at all.
CC So it was more like the aural tradition from the early church then?
RC Yes, the first chant I learned was “Veni Sancte Spiritus,” the Sequence for Pentecost. I just memorized the melody first, listening to it over and over again in the car, but I still had no square notes whatsoever.
CC Did you realize that your method is almost a universal formula that is still used in acquiring proficiency in chant, melodies first, overlaying texts afterwards? Once you learn those melodies and have them firmly planted in your brain, and you know the basics of Latin pronunciation and enunciation, retro-fitting the texts becomes a fairly simple exercize?
RC Yes.
CC So, you’re learning these chants and gradually started unveiling them yourself at some of the Masses at both parishes?
RC Yes, but I found that there was little opportunity to actually use them very often. Mario gave me a little leeway to do them as solos. For the most part, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to sing chant.
I remember asking Fr. Jerry (a former vicar) “Are there any monasteries that still sing Gregorian Chant?” And he said to the best of his knowledge, “No, there aren’t.” Apparently now there are.
CC Oh, there’s lots!
RC Yes! But for several years I continued helping in singing hymns and contemporary music at Mass. Then I finally got this idea about six years ago to get a few guys together who are, like me, third order members of the Franciscan Order. We began to prepare by rehearsing hymns for Evening Prayer. I realized, “Hey, these guys sing pretty good.” So, then I thought I should try to get these guys interested in Gregorian Chant. We had a practice a short time before there was to be a profession of a new member of the order at our retreat center. And I managed to get one guy from the fraternity to join me, along with Ray (a choir director from another parish near Visalia) and we practiced for the ceremony at my home.
CC Well, that’s interesting. I know Ray has a gorgeous voice, but I’ve only ever known him as a proponent of contemporary music.
RC Yes, he does primarily sing that, but he has a deep appreciation of chant as well. And he wanted to do it with us, though that was the only time as he’s so committed to other parishes regularly.
I then recruited a few more fellows that I knew from the Vigil Choir, and George (a fraternal member who’s since passed away) was interested in helping to restore traditional Catholic music joined as well. So then we started meeting at George’s house and learning Propers, though we didn’t actually have a place or Mass at which to sing!
CC So what source book were you using, like the Simplex or…?
RC We used the Gregorian Missal.
CC When did you all come to, sort of, discover the “architecture” of the modes? Did you study the introduction?
RC No, we weren’t quite that far along. Mostly, we used the way I was comfortable learning the chant through listening and repeating from the recordings that I had.
CC Kind of like the “listen then modeling what you’ve heard” method?
RC Yes. We started with most of the chants I already knew and gradually taught them to the other guys. And then we did get to the point where we all had to learn “new” pieces all together. Most of the Propers we do now, they are as familiar with them as I am.
CC Because you’ve been through the liturgical cycles at least a few times.
RC Yes, but at the same time we’re relying less on our original formula for learning chant (by rote imitation) and we’re relying upon using the actual music notation. So, learning to read the music has been a gradual procession.
CC I know you’ve been so kind as to let me join you on occasion. Have you had other singers join you from time to time?
RC Yes, we’ve had some members who’ve stayed with us for substantial periods.
CC Do you still take advantage of the increased availability of audio recordings, such as the complete cycles recorded from the Brazilian monastery?
RC Oh certainly, and also the Jogues Chant Site, which is so much clearer.
CC That’s great. That site is part of a huge effort by the group, Corpus Christi Watershed, which was co-founded by a young, great chant scholar, Jeff Ostrowski. And they’re doing some amazing work in increasing chant literacy, by having the chant score “scrolling” in perfect timing with the audio performances.
Have you entered into the more scholastic concerns that the chant “communities” engages, such as semiology, interpretational issues, historical or authenticity research? Issues that inform scholas how to basically interpret the chant scores.
RC Not really. Our philosophy is that “It has to sound like one voice.”
CC Well, you’re in good company. That’s precisely the bottom line approach that Jeff Ostrowski articulated to those of us who sang in his schola at Colloquium XX.
RC Sometimes that takes several rehearsals before you get “it” right. And then it’s simply beautiful, you know immediately when you’ve got it right. It just all comes together and there’s this beautiful feeling.
CC It’s a kind of physical reaction more than an intellectual realization. And that edifies the souls of the performers spiritually, I believe. As conversant as I am in all forms of vocal and choral traditions, at some point last summer I just had this epiphany sweep over me, “I was born to chant.” Even though a singer can be attuned spiritually and “connect” to the divine through many musical forms, none of those seem to be as viscerally apparent as when the singer is chanting in total unison with others and, by extension the Church on earth and in heaven.
Anyway, what have the guys in the schola said about their experiences? How do they self-regard the effort?
RC Well, we really don’t talk too much about the experiences. All of us are just committed to the promotion of Gregorian Chant. We sing other types of music, we all do it. But we really don’t want to very much anymore. Chant is our focus, this is what we want to do in music ministry. And hopefully we’ll continue to have more of the opportunities we have now in the future.
CC How do you go about choosing which Mass Ordinaries you use during the seasons? Do you use the ones historically assigned by the Church?
RC Originally we stuck with the Jubilate Deo version, and continue to use that often as the people are becoming more familiar and joining in steadily. We do the Gloria now in another parish outside of Visalia. We don’t use it currently at Holy Family. We hope to restore it soon.
CC Yes, absolutely. The cantillation of texts are fluid, without the “stop/start” effect that is present in recitation. So, it actually makes more sense to chant the longer chant movements, though that makes some celebrants wary. Chanting the English “Snow” setting of the “Our Father” makes the prayer more intelligilble than the “I pledge allegiance (beat) to the flag (beat) of the United States…” recitation.
RC There are several factors involved with those decisions. The congregation at this particular Mass were not used to singing anything at all. So, it was a new challenge for them to sing period. But they’re coming along, and I think that they’ll be ready for more in a year or so. And they’re singing the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei quite well now.
And, on occasion, we do the Credo and the Pater Noster in some parishes.
Our second, “Go-to” Mass setting is “De Angelis.” And we’re starting to use “Orbis Factor” occasionally.
CC Have you found that having a celebrant chanting all of the priestly orations is of tremendous assistance in helping the congregations to respond likewise in chant, and that bolsters your efforts with Propers and the Ordinaries?
RC Oh yes, absolutely. I would say that is much more effective than a celebrant just joining the congregation visibly or audibly in singing the Entrance or Offertory hymns and such. And the celebrant can be so effective whether he chants his collects and prayers in English or Latin.
CC Or alternating both, such as done at the EWTN daily televised Masses?
RC Yes. That’s right. We also are anticipating (in a parish not in our town) that the pastor is going to try to establish a primarily Latin-language Mass in the Novus Ordo (OF) on a regular basis.
CC It’s been recently reported that more Catholics attend more Latin Masses in the Extraordinary Form than in the Ordinary Form, and that this could be a bell-weather for the “death” of the Latin N.O. What do you think of that notion?
RC It would be a sad situation. We need both, and I think the Holy Father’s intention from reading both his letter and the motu proprio is that his whole intention is to help both forms of the Mass. By giving more exposure to the EF there could come a result of more solemn or reverent OF’s by the use of Latin, chant and polyphony. I think there are some people who are so tired of irreverence at some Ordinary Form Masses that they leave parishes to seek out EF Masses. And I don’t see that as a larger solution to the liturgical problems. And I think there is also another fear on the other side: that if the more traditional forms of the Mass take root in parishes, that the contemporary forms of liturgical music will suffer. I don’t think that would be a natural outcome. I think there’s plenty of room for reverent worship using a variety of musical styles. But, at the same time there needs to be a Mass that Catholics can regularly attend at each parish that are culturally Roman or Latin in nature. That is an ideal for all of us.
CC Thank you, Ralph, and God bless you.

Choosing Bricks, Part the Last

In the Breaking Bread hymnal section denoted “Gathering” there are many songs whose musical and lyrical content has and will continue to be debate fodder from the “aptus” qualification. Of the more recent additions in this decade, again I defer to Janet Sullivan-Whitaker’s “HERE AT THIS TABLE,” the title of which might cause apoplexy to not a few folk. But given the preponderance of triple metered, sing-song offerings most typified or vilified by Haugen’s “Gather Us In,” I feel a true gravitas in her original text (aided by her son.) And that is solidly set to a compelling melodic and harmonic architecture that happens to also suit a congregation’s alto/baritone singing range.

She also deftly uses two distinctly different motifs for certain verses, both of which have cadences with great inertia back to the refrain, particularly in vss. 3/5 that uses a hemiola as they are intended: for propulsion. I don’t relegate the text to the Entrance procession exclusively. I’ve employed it at the other two on occasion. In the same section, Michael Joncas’ “WE GATHER HERE TO WORSHIP” (with Vicki Klima) seems to mitigate the contention that “gather songs” are inherently insufficient in expressing worship towards God by clearly defining the purpose in the first verse’s opening phrase, “We gather here to worship You, O God.” T

his is also an original text that, if nothing else, outlines the structure of the liturgies within Mass. The melody does not evoke the common notion of Joncas cum Sondheim, but falls into the recent trend of many composers to stay formulaic, strophic and often pentatonic.

In the next section, “Communion,” I would give brief mention of Fr. John Schiavone’s “AMEN: EL CUERPO DE CRISTO” as its text and melody present an authentic and orthodox “feel” to a bilingual song. And, as many have found out over the last decade and a half, Hurd’s UBI CARITAS has a stand alone integrity as well as it provides the opportunity for young people and adults to “step up” to the plainsong version in the hymnal.

In perusing this year’s issue, I was greatly perplexed by the inclusion of Steve Angrisano’s paraphrase of Ps.34, “Taste and see.” I know that it presents a clear nod to the LifeTeen demographic, but the syncopation off the page is pure helter skelter, it yanks the singer off the beat so unremittingly!

How many modern settings of this psalm can one publisher afford to include out of respect for the composer’s Q rating, yet not give space to chants published in another organ, “Laus et Tibi?”

On the other hand, a tonic of relief is the inclusion of the great “I RECEIVED THE LIVING GOD.” It is purely pentatonic with one quarter note exception, and has the Southern Harmony credence “feel.”

I have just mentioned that for every new work implanted into BB and other subscription hymnals, it is likely that other things, worthier pieces are retired or never considered such as “Ave verum corpus.” But I would also mention that seminal works by early pioneers such as Lucien Deiss have fallen by the wayside, save for “All the Earth” or “Keep in Mind.” Of course, copyright issues likely are part of those omissions. But I would easily endorse losing “How great thou art” or “Companions on the Journey….” if some of Deiss’s early gems were given a resurrection in the 21st century.

I have avoided addressing the issue of employing true secular folk songs such as “O waly waly” or “Kelvingrove” as pleasant dwellings for new texts. But short of “Londonderrierre” (sorry, couldn’t resist) I think that folks ought to reconsider using every melody found in Stanford’s compendium of Britannic folk songs to couch “new” texts; Chris Walker’s appropriation of “Skye boat song” for a fairly benign Pentecost lyric seems particularly irritating to my tolerance levels. Sullivan-Whitaker’s “CHRIST BEFORE US” to “Suo gan,” is a much more substantial text.

In terms of original voices, I’ve already overstated my appreciation for Sullivan-Whitaker tunes. Her paraphrase of Ps.90, “IN EVERY AGE” I believe to be truly poignant. But just for balance, I don’t have the confidence in her original song “THIS IS OUR CRY” despite its very direct and didactic text and melody. Speaking of didactic, does including Carey Landrey’s “WOMEN OF THE CHURCH” mitigate something very un-PC by balancing “Faith of our Fathers?”

Benedictine hymnist Harry Hagan’s “THOSE CALLED BY CHRIST” set to “Detroit” is another worthy new text set to a melody Americana. In the chant emulation mode, OCP editor Barbara Bridge’s “WE WALK BY FAITH/IN TIMES OF TROUBLE uses “Jesu dulcis memoria” for the antiphon, and then a newer, more complex chant for the verses whose accompaniment is harmonically solid and unique.

With the brouhaha regarding some of the programming of former “St. Thomas More” composers for the upcoming papal visit to the UK, I would like to commend one hymn by Chris Walker for consideration: “LAUDATE, LAUDATE DOMINUM” has proven to this author a worthy successor to the Vaughn-Williams/Holst tradition of Anglican High Church hymns. His use of not so subtle modal shifts melodically propels the hymn forward. And Walker’s paraphrase of Ps.27, “THE LORD IS MY LIGHT” has much more heather and peat in its melody that anywhere to be found in his Celtic Mass.

In another part of the world, some folks have pondered the direction of Filipino contemporary liturgical song as having given way to saccharine tendencies rather glaringly. Of the contributions of Fr. Ricky Manalo, one I would like to mention that incorporates an Asian flavor in both text and melody is his “MANY AND GREAT,” an original song. And I, for one, regret the loss of his Maundy Thursday Introit “We shall glory in the cross” versus the version by Schutte.

Well, I’m not sure if I have adequately portrayed any specific methodology in these posts that clearly make the case that those pieces I have positively mentioned really constitute the sort of masonry envisioned by those who subscribe to the “brick by brick” reformation of our repertoires.

But what has been very obvious to me from conversations at colloquia and elsewhere is that CMAA members more likely than not still must deal with divergent interests and the ever-present dilemma of “personal taste” on a weekly and seasonal basis in parishes that have multiple Masses and a wide spectrum of musical resources, personnel and repertoire-wise. The one criteria that I, without fail, fall back upon is that a worthy hymn or song will demonstrate that immediately off the page by virtue of a worthy text and a melody whose integrity is obvious without harmonic adornment.

Choosing Bricks, Part the Second

A current thread topic at the MS Forum asks “What contemporary hymns do you like?” And, per usual, the responses meander through the semantics of “what is contemporary?” to “define the word ‘like’.” Everybody from Messiaen to Bob Hurd and in between, presumably answers both those queries. But earlier in the year I posted a column, “How I go about choosing bricks.” The content of the first part was mostly a ideological rant. And before I could compose a practical compliment, I stupidly dislocated my shoulder twice in nine days. I’m still in the sling until mid August, but I thought I could tackle completing the article that illustrates my strategies (I’m not sure they could be called principles) regarding what musics of recent vintages are solid enough to be considered bricks whilst we rebuild the foundation that will establish chant as having principal place at the top of our structure. Or at least make it darn sure chant is not the “stone which the builders rejected.”

I will use OCP’s BREAKING BREAD 2010 repertoire as the sourcebook for specific examples. I will concentrate on the vast majority of titles in that which would be used as the fourth option, the “another suitable song/hymn,” hierarchy for the processionals and other liturgical moments. I will be mindful of the threefold criteria of the late MCW (liturgical, pastoral, musical) as well as the threefold credo of “sacred, beautiful and universal” espoused by Dr. Mahrt and the CMAA. But I won’t necessarily be very clinical in ascribing such superlatives to specific works most of the time. I’m going to try to speak with plain, common sense. That poses a great burden upon me, and therefore you as well as we proceed. I won’t be dealing with the Respond and Acclaim responses or the Psalter section of the hymnal, nor with the default ordinary, Chris Walker’s CELTIC MASS, which I personally cannot find but shreds of anything authentically Celtic of nature contained therein, nor any other ordinary settings. And lastly, I won’t, with a few exceptions deal with strophic hymnody borrowed from our own or other denominational traditions, unless there is a “contemporary” angle up for discussion.

As a great shining symbol I marvel at how the actual hymnal portion of BB starts with “O COME, O COME EMMANUEL,” using the Neale “Victorian” translation. Surely that’s an ideal brick and cornerstone. Before moving on I wonder, though, why it (and “Creator of the stars of night) doesn’t receive the courtesy extended to the few are far between other “chants” in the book, such as UBI CARITAS, VENI CREATOR SPIRITUS and ADORO TE, which all have the Latin text as primary and the poetic English as secondary in disposition? In the continuing repertoire of Advent, there are two back to back “MARANATHA” songs, both which employ cross related major/minor thirds as a sort of “oriental” melodic device. Though the more long-lived version by Schoenbachler might appear to be more useful because of its scale-wise motion, the other version by Sullivan-Whitaker (which unfortunately only prints the refrain for the congregation) seems to emulate chant by virtue of not using the “minuet” emphasis in ¾ of the former. The opening cry, “Maranatha” (Cm) Bb-C-G-Ab-G-F-Enat!-F-G might be just as creative and clever tone painting as Jeff Tucker alludes to in certain propers now and then. The balance of the Advent section seems to call for distinctions of taste. If you like “old Joncas or old, rehashed Schutte,” it’s there. If you like French carols, you’re in luck. If you like shape-note, American gothic, it’s there. Bach Chorale? OK, then. Then you run into the device of veritable chant emulation: “CHRIST, CIRCLE ‘ROUND US” by Schutte, whose melody is metrically appropriated from the popular version of SALVE REGINA and which paraphrases the “O” antiphons of late Advent usage. That has a certain cognitive dissonance to me, but it can serve to buttress the chant by a programming juxtaposition on the fourth Sunday, if desired. A brief mention that a song and wordsmith whose works have long attracted my attention, M.D. Ridge, made a critical error in allowing her hymntext “Come, Lord Jesus” to be included with a very uncomplimentary, truly juvenile melody. Other than that one example, I find most of her works worthy of use.

Skipping the musical seasons of Christmas and Epiphany, a hymntext by Benedictine Sister Genevieve Glen, BEHOLD, BEFORE OUR WONDERING EYES, utilizes a fairly pedestrian dorian chant tune by Barney Walker and Gael Berberick. However, it serves the adoration of the Holy Cross and the crucified Lord well and its stemless notation argues for its use in parishes whose aversion to Latin texts and chant needs remedying. “Attende Domine” only suffers from the lack of Latin verses. A new Lenten text by Bob Hurd, LED BY THE SPIRIT, set to “Kingsfold” I’ve found to be quite compelling, and who would argue with the stolid stature of “Kingsfold?” Speaking of Dr. Hurd, another Lenten work of his, OUT INTO THE WILDERNESS, ought to be considered for its trait of emulating primarily stepwise melodic motion found in one syllable-one neume chants. As in the Sullivan piece for Advent mentioned above, there is nothing rhythmically such as overly held note values, tessitura or syncopations that would put off a congregations’ interest. Even though I do not discount another of Hurd’s Lenten/Holy Week works, “O Sacred Head,” its melodic nature is suited more for the choir or soloist by contrast. An example by composer Rick Modlin represents the antithesis of using bricks versus plastic in his “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY CRY,” which represents the whole demographic shift of the Big Three publishers towards the Contemporary Catholic Music traits of heavily syncopated, stadium anthemic praise chorus songs that, I believe, were unveiled in full force back in Pittsburgh at the 1999 NPM Convention Expos. That benchmark gave space to the works of powerhouse inspirational song stylists such as Tom Booth, Matt Maher, Jaime Cortez and Sarah Hart who brought the real pop ethos into the over and misused term “SacroPop” into liturgy. A few pages later I can prove unflinchingly that it is much easier to teach “Regina Caeli” to 2nd graders than pieces such as “Your Grace is Enough.” Continuing into Eastertide, it still is a mystery to me why contemporary ensembles and musicians seem to have little interest in promoting direct chant/polyphony-inspired works such as “Ye sons and daughters” or “The strife is o’er” using their rhythm section based instrumental genre for accompaniment. This may seem anathema to many, but they translate easily to metered, strong beat interpretation, and thus point the way towards a congregation later acquiring the “real McCoy” into its stable repertoire. As I lamented M.D. Ridge’s decent Advent text being set to a puerile melody, she more than makes up for that with her wonderful “first person” resurrection text, THREE DAYS, set to the monumental “Thaxted.”

On another blog this week, I saw another “top ten hymns of all time” list, this one from a Protestant source. One of the picks was “Come Thou Font of Every Blessing.” However the author of the list didn’t specify the hymntune. Since we’ve broached the subject of Southern Harmony/shape note standards finding their way into the post conciliar hymnals, “Nettleton” is a particular favorite of mine along with “Detroit.” Christopher Idles’ 1982 text, GOD, WE PRAISE YOU, is a joy to sing with that tune.

At this point I’ve reached the end of the general and seasonal section of the hymnal. In part three, I’ll examine the larger body of musical adobe and abodes that are assigned according to liturgical actions and so-called themes such as “Comfort…..Social Justice……Praise….etc.

Unprohibited, Uninhibited Praise

I am doing some research for a parish project [hat tip to eft94530] and happened upon an article in “Dwight’s Journal of Music,” Volume V. No.11 June 17, 1854. It can be found on GoogleBooks

I am not certain whether Editor John Sullivan Dwight composed this essay (excerpted) that follows, or it was from a book, The Atheneum, by one “Canon Proschke.” In any case, I thought it poses an interesting counterpoint to AOZ’s post in that the author waxes on lugubriously regarding the corrective agent to the prohibitions of works by Lassus, Ockeghem et al.

(This was a) sonorous noise, which drowned the Latin of the liturgy; a loss the more to be lamented, since no musical interpretation of the words took its place. Things went on worse from day to day, till finally, about the middle of the sixteenth century, the patience of the hearers was worn out, and reason bad begun to be awake. All cried out against a music of this sort, excepting those who made it. Away with the Canon, was the cry, and probably musicians thought to themselves, Away too with the Choral Song ! But the Choral Song was nearly as old as Christendom; the Canon also numbered many years. Could men for several centuries pursue a scientific path, which was to be without present profit and entirely fruitless for the future? That (would be) admitting that Humanity could lose its time, like a single man, which is not possible. In the collective striving of the human mind there is nothing absolutely unprofitable; but we often pronounce false what passes before our eyes and ears, judging like the reader of a book without the conclusion, or the spectator of the drama without its denouement. If the book appears unintelligible, or the drama absurd and immoral, it is because the last chapters or the last acts are wanting, which would explain and justify the whole; and therefore is contemporaneous history, whether it treat of music or of other matters, always hard to write. He who should have undertaken as a lover of music to judge of the merits, the productive energy of the Roman Choral Song before Palestrina, would certainly have very much deceived himself; he, whom a professor of Aesthetics should have undertaken to weigh the significance of the fugue before Handel and Bach, or without knowing them, as J. J. Rousseau has done, would have deceived himself not less; and these errors in judgment would appear the more gross, the better judge the man might be for his own century.

Through the labors of the Belgian and Flemish masters, the contrapuntists had at length acquired that certainty and mechanical facility, which allowed them, in spite of the enormous weights, which seemed to clog their every step, to move with a certain ease and grace. Already had Counterpoint become more pliant and Harmony somewhat purified and in a condition to cooperate toward the true end of Music. The hour had struck of a glorious new birth for Music, but above all for the Choral Song; that was best and had waited for it more than a thousand years was no more than fair.

In the year of grace 1565 God commanded his servant Aloysius of Praeneste to quicken this dull form of the Choral Song with the breath of genius; and Aloysius replied : ” Lord, thy will be done;” and the transformed Church Song again resounded like the chorus of the angels; sublime church music appeared in a holy crown of rays. The pope, the cardinals, the whole people threw themselves down at the feet of the immortal man. Let us too bow before the great name of PALESTRINA, the honor of the Catholic church and the glory of Italy. Hail to the godlike man, whom Greece would have exalted among her gods, had he been one of her sons! He came, and the hod-carriers of Harmony made way for the master builder; through his voice the shapeless materials were united in a temple of the most imposing majesty; Music, but now almost dumb, begins to speak, and the human soul responds. She speaks of God, as if first of all to thank Him, that He has given her a language. The musical sceptre, hitherto borne provisionally by the Netherlander, passes from this moment over into the hands of the Italians, there to remain for two centuries, by the most legitimate and undisputed claim.

Palestrina could be divided into several great musicians. In the first place you find in him the scholar of the Flemish school, surpassing all his teachers as a contrapuntist; then the madrigalist, who strove perhaps primarily to .express the words ; and then the creator of the style, which bears his name, and which was formerly called Alia Capella. We have to speak of him only in this last capacity; in a relation, therefore, which makes him a unique man in his way. For the rest, the age was not yet ripe, either for the fugue, or for expressive melody. For us, Palestrina is the Choral Song become Harmony according to the true character of church music, as we find it in the Improperia, and still more in the Stabat Mater, which is sung on Palm Sunday, in the Sixtine Chapel at Rome. Since through him we come upon the first great revolution in Art, the origin of real music, and since Palestrina forms the bond, by which the dead works of calculation are united to the works produced by feeling, taste, imagination, we must inquire wherein the alia capella style was distinguished from what went before, and in what it is distinguished from the modern music, In its outward form the alia capella style reproduced the united counterpoint of the fourteenth century, which the masters of the fifteenth scorned to employ, or only very seldom employed, and which with a certain contemptuousness they named stylo familiar?. But Palestrina introduced into it a more closely interwoven and correct harmony; he mingled with it a light dose of canonical seasoning, which elevated the composition, without harming the words; and instead of banishing the canto fermo into the middle part, he transferred it to the upper part, where it could unfold itself more freely and “more enchain the attention of the ear. That was restoring the leading melody to its right of singing, and opening a path, in which no one of the predecessors of the Roman Swan had before travelled. The distinction between him and the modern composers, who, considered with reference to the time of Palestrina,’ begin with the melodists of the seventeenth century, lies particularly in their choice of chords.

That there may be some unity of melody and key in a work, which is an almost indispensable condition of all modern music, the harmony must be composed of the different kinds of tri-chords, Seventh and Ninth chords, which have their seat in the diatonic intervals of the scale chosen by the composer. If he passes over into another scale, to tarry there awhile, another family of chords follows upon the first and for the time being governs the modulation, until the return of the original key, whose absence must not last too long, lest the ear become too accustomed to a foreign land, so that it will hardly recognize itself in its own, when it gets back. This is the system of modern intonation, the true and perfect system, which gives for every major scale IS, and for every minor scale 12 principal or radical chords;* which chords, multiplied by all their respective transpositions, place unlimited means in the control of the composer, whereby he can vary the harmony within the limits of the scale, without the necessity of striking a single, chord that is foreign to it. The whole mass of these auxiliary and related chords, which have only a dependent existence and a relative importance, since they do not subsist on their own account, but always end in the perfect chord of the scale, into which they resolve, represents the revolving movement of a system around its centre of gravity; it forms the harmonic unity and homogeneousness of a piece.

A melody may express anything or nothing by itself, unless it (lows from the feeling of the modal relation, of which we have spoken; on the other hand, since there are in every melody indefinite notes, which leave the ear in uncertainty about their origin, inasmuch as they admit of several, often very different, interpretations, the presence of the chord is indispensable to the determining of their sense and character. Herein lies the whole science of the Harmonist. Such a wealth of means of expression through harmony was still infinitely far from the time in which Palestrina lived—about as far as the precision, the boldness, the variety and grace of contours, which shine in the outlines of the modern music. Most of the auxiliary chords were unknown to him. He knew indeed the Dominant Seventh chord; he has in fact employed it without preparation and with all its intervals; but this kind of harmony appears in his music only as a rare accident or a thing of instinct. His customary and systematic progression consists in a series of perfect major and minor chords, mixed with a few chords of the Sixth, between which there exists so slight a modal affinity, that you cannot through them recognize the key. Barely are you pointed to the scale of the piece by now and then a half-tone lying below the Tonic, or a Seventh. Nevertheless Palestrina’s harmony in general is pure, by means of the great correctness in the movement of the voices. Notes will show all this much better than words can describe it. I fancy, a musician of the present day should be able to give at once a harmonic, but quite simple and natural, explanation of the four following measures of Choral Song.
How does that sound?—Beautiful, sublime, heavenly! That music is not of this earth; it comes in fact from heaven. Yes, Palestrina is sublime precisely for the knowledge, which the musicians of his time had not; as the Bible is sublimely above all that depended on the wealth of languages and the metaphysical culture of the times in which it was written. Observe well, that with a more melodious and expressive cantilena, a harmony like this of Palestrina’s would be impossible; it holds only in the Choral Song, which on its part rejects as trivial and ordinary all the combinations of chords, that belong to ornamental melody. Palestrina makes as yet no division of the verbal phrases; the effect of his purely harmonious song is like the impressions of an aeolian harp. His solemn tri-chords fall upon one another at equal intervals, without characteristic rhythm, and resound like the voice of God, that triune God, of whom the harmonic Tri-chord seems to be one of the most unfathomable material emblems. Here are none or almost none of those connecting chords, whereby might be expressed some causality and mutual dependence between the grand revelations of the absolute; none of those wanton or pathetic dissonances, types of our momentary happiness, our transient or excited humor; no rhythm, following the flight of time, measured by the pulsations of a mortal heart; in a word, nothing that awakens a worldly thought and speaks the language of fleshly passions. This is a church music, than which no one ever composed a truer. It contains absolutely no admixture of profanity; it wears an eternal beauty, since it rests upon something unchangeable, or so to say, upon the elementary application of the Accord; it is antique, and that is one of its most precious excellences, since its antiquity knows no age, which enhances everything and contributes so powerfully to the reverence one cherishes for sacred things. And in fact time has made Palestrina young. His modulation, so original and striking today, must have been much less so, or not at all so in the sixteenth century, as they generally modulated in this way. To grow young through years—is not that an altogether extraordinary fate, especially for a musician!

Thus was realized the oldest and most sublime of all the expressions of music, the religious or Christian Church expression. It was no more than right, that an Art born upon the altars of Christianity, whose long and refractory childhood the Church alone, like a tender mother, had protected, should lay the firstlings of its majority upon those same altars. Music in this was doing no more than her sister Arts, Painting and Architecture, also revived through the church, and that entirely in the true Christian spirit, ad majorem gloriam Dei.

And you thought I to be verbose!