New SEP link and other points

The Simple English Propers page at MusicaSacra has a new and memorable URL:

Amazon is not offering such clarity but at least the book is now consistently in stock.

There are no public records to compare sales of Catholic music books across time but you might have noticed that this book has been as high as 2,000 on the list of bestsellers and not dipped belong 20,000. These are amazing numbers, and we are already preparing for the second printing. We don’t want to come up short on inventory (which is possible) but neither are we in a position to print before we can pay for it, which we can’t right now.

I’ve heard wonderful reports of fantastic and even heroic work by Dr. Paul Ford who is attending the NPM convention. He spoke glowingly about the book in front of 2,000 people, waving it around and putting a picture on the big screen. You know, this kind of generosity of spirit is a rare thing in the music world. Bless him!

Finally, I was struck by what Gavin wrote in the MusicaSacra forum: “What amazes me about the SEP is their versatility. They can be sung by choir; by soloist; cantor on verse, choir on antiphon; alternatim men/women; the psalm sung by the congregation(!); in some communities, it may even be possible to teach the congregation certain important antiphons. Musically they can be sung in unison, octaves, with improvised organ accompaniment, with vocal/instrumental drone, with percussive instruments, etc. The melodies are even worthy of a skilled organist improvising upon them.”

What is the BIG PICTURE for the BIG HYMNAL?

The following is a brief response to a review over at PRAY TELL BLOG written by GIA artist Chris Angel that comments upon GIA’s release of the third edition of GATHER.

The little ear wig that causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble….is the very future and viability of “hymnals” per se. My concern over hymnals and worship books in general remains the same whether one is considering the efficacy of GATHER III, ADOREMUS II, BY FLOWING WATERS II, or the SIMPLE ENGLISH PROPERS; in other words, the problem I portend remains the same no matter from which side of the musical spectrum comes one’s perspective. In the vibrant economy of the post-conciliar musical palette, there is no single comprehensive volume that has culled the best of both past and contemporaneous composition intended for congregational, choral and schola(stic) use at worship. The only acknowledged “universal” volume(s) remain the Latin books, GR, GM, LU, GT, AR etc. And that just isn’t in the cards for universal acceptance, as ideal a solution that more and more voices argue for.

I used to cite that one of the more efficient hymnal compilations a couple of decades ago was the ARMED FORCES HYMNAL (USA). Perhaps I felt that way because its editors seemed to cover enough ecumenical bases, and that its intent was purposefully broad by necessity. But we don’t enjoy that same luxury of having another political entitity commission, compile, edit and mandate the usage of a hymnal for parish and cathedral use in regular society. I don’t think the CBW would qualify as a shining example of cumulative success. On the other hand, folks that offer up the Brompton Oratory hymnal as a standard really don’t come down from the gallery often enough, IMO.
So, if not the BIG HYMNAL model, what else? The homegrown HULA Hymnal on demand tailored for one or two generations of a specific parish or diocese? Dunno.
But the notion of the USCCB/BCL not tabling agenda items such as the “white list” regarding texts, the exhortation towards including propers among hymns, polyphony, chant and sacred song, and other types of guidance seems to me an urgent necessity.

Requiem High Mass, 1962 Missal, Mobile, Alabama

Musica Sacra Choir and Chamber Orchestra of Mobile, Alabama, announces a High Requiem Mass (Missa Cantata) and Absolution at the Catafalque for deceased singers and benefactors, Friday evening, July 29, at half past seven o’clock at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Mobile, Alabama.

Mass will be sung by the Very Reverend Stephen Martin, V.G., Cathedral Rector Musical Setting: Maurice Durufle.  Christopher Uhl is the Music Director and Conductor (of Musica Sacra; he is a former Music Director of the Cathedral; in addition to his work with Musica Sacra, he is Director of Music of the Hoosac School, Hoosick, New York), and Jeff Clearman, organist (Organist-Choirmaster, All Saints Church, Mobile)

The public is invited and there will be a book at the door to enter the names of a departed loved by anyone who attends.

Msgr. Wadsworth news

Now, that’s a title guaranteed to draw interest, right? Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth has emerged as one of the most brilliant commentators and scholars in this age of liturgical transition. He has a way of crafting publishable articles just during his casual banter. He manages to combine a scholarly with a pastoral temperament – with content that is at once thoroughly orthodox and unconventional. In addition, in his personality, he reminds one of want a 19th-century diplomat might have been like, a person who is able to say what’s true, what’s principled, what’s wise, all while keeping the peace . I tell you, it takes a person like this to deal with the current environment.

So, with that said, see these three posts at PrayTell: his review of Fr. Cekada’s book on V2, part one of Msgr.’s New York talk, and also part two.

Corpus Christi in Vienna

A procession is a holy movement of those truly united. It is a gentle stream of peaceful majesty, not a procession of fists clenched in bitterness, but of hands folded in gentleness. It is a procession which threatens no one, excludes no one, and whose blessing even falls on those who stand astonished at its edge and who look on, comprehending nothing. It is a movement which the holy One, the eternal One supports with his presence; he gives peace to the movement and he gives unity to those taking part in it. The Lord of history and of this holy exodus from exile towards the eternal homeland himself accompanies the exodus.
Karl Rahner, SJ (NB that I never quote Rahner, but this is a good quote!)

News reports tell us that Austrians are leaving the Catholic Church in droves. That may be the case, but they sure do still believe in not working on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation. On this Corpus Christi THURSDAY (ahem) I was annoyed not to find a bus or taxi from my little apartment in the wine tasting village of Grinzing to get to the UBahn for the 8.30am Pontifical Mass at the Stefansdom. I did finally get there, and could not find anywhere to have my obligatory Kleiner Brauner to pump some caffeine in my system for what promised to be one of those Endurance Liturgies that no suburban American Catholic could ever cope with. Thank God for American economic imperialism, as I thanked God the only time in my life for McDonalds and hot coffee!

I entered the Sacristy of the Cathedral ahead of time and it was already abuzz with activity for the Mass and Procession. I checked with the Ceremoniarius, the Cathedral’s Master of Ceremonies, if I could concelebrate the Mass and process, and I was graciously attended to by one of the sacristans, who vested me, and about 25 other priests, in some of the most beautiful 17th century French giardinaje style vestments I have ever seen.

The Nuncio to Vienna entered and warmly greeted everyone in the sacristy with a handshake, just as every other person who entered the sacristy did. Not long thereafter, Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn, the Archbishop of Vienna, in his choir dress and biretta, entered and made the rounds of everyone in the sacristy. I was delighted to have a brief conversation with him, and to receive his encouragement for my doctoral studies, which he repeated again after the Mass. His quiet but warm demeanor somehow all of its own corralled the mass of people in the sacristy, and the bell rang for Mass to begin.

The Pontifical Mass was sung very well by the Cardinal, the prayers all being in German. But the Ordinary of the Mass was Mozart’s Spaurmesse, and the famous Cathedral Choir and Orchestra did justice to Vienna’s favourite musician. For those who are unfamiliar with how a Viennese orchestral Mass works with a sung Ordinary Form Mass, I will describe the local custom.
The Kyrie is sung as the Penitential Rite itself, with everyone sitting down after the first bar. After the Kyrie, all rise and the Celebrant sings the Misereatur and then intones the Gloria. After the first bar of the Gloria, everyone sits and listens to the Gloria, and then all rise for the Collect. For the Creed, all stand after the Homily as the Celebrant intones it, and then sit after the first bar. Everyone bows in their seats at the et incarnatus est. After the Preface, the Sanctus begins, and all continue to stand. After the Sanctus, the congregation stands, kneels or sits (!) as they wish. The Eucharistic Prayer begins as normal, and the Memorial Acclamation is sung. Then, the Choir begins the Benedictus. After the conclusion of the Benedictus, the Celebrant continues the Eucharistic Prayer as normal. After the Sign of Peace, at a Pontifical Mass, the Choir sings the Agnus Dei in its usual place; but at other Masses, the Celebrant skips the Agnus Dei, which is sung at the beginning of the distribution of Holy Communion.

That is how the Ordinary is handled at the Cathedral. For some of the other music, they do something which many would balk at. The Entrance Procession and Incensation is accompanied by organ. Then, when the Celebrant reaches the Chair, a vernacular hymn is sung. A hymn is sung at the usual place of the Offertory. And after the Sacrament is returned to the tabernacle in a side altar and the Celebrant reaches his chair, a vernacular Communion hymn is sung. And the usual Recessional Hymn is sung as per usual. I have heard on occasion parts of the Latin Gregorian Propers sung, but never all of them, and never very often. While some liturgists may balk that music must accompany a liturgical action and never stand alone by itself (at least for the Introit and Communion), this practice does mean that everyone calmly sings together the hymns without having to worry about watching or doing something else. And guess what, they sing ALL THE VERSES!

There are a couple of interesting architectural things to notice. The Lucite chair for the Cardinal and the small, almost square, marble freestanding altar on their respective footpaces are placed within the Choir Aisle. The High Altar, upon which the Sacrament is not reserved, has become a very nice stand for (real) candles (that are lit all day long everyday) and flowers. The placement of the cathedra and freestanding altar makes for some very awkward motions during a liturgy which otherwise is very well executed. I would be interested to see where the Throne was placed before, and how the Stefansdom Reform of the Reform liturgy would look and sound like if the Cathedra were elsewhere and the High Altar used for the celebration of Mass.

The Procession began after the Closing Prayer after a rather long explanation of the order of procession and the wait for the various groups to take their places in the nave. The usual men and women religious, confraternities and papal knights and dames were in attendance. But there was another addition that was typically Austrian which I found quite delightful.
In the United States, when we think of fraternities, we usually think of Animal House, hazing and binge drinking. College fraternities in Austria may do all that too, but they were all out in force for Corpus Christi. Each fraternity has a specific uniform with a military style formal Mess jacket (gold buillion embroidery, epaulets, and brass buttons), trousers tucked into high boots, and what can best be described as a pillbox hat worn on the side of the head with a chin strap. They all carry swords and other fine pieces of weaponry. And they all have their place in the Procession. Also in the Procession were representatives from the secular University of Vienna, with their gowns and oversized velvet hats.

The Cardinal took up the small monstrance, which was decorated with a crown of baby’s breath, and the Procession began as the impressive bells of the Cathedral rang full peal and the organ began the hymn we all know as “Praise to the LORD, the Almighty.”

The Procession made its way through the streets of Vienna, as it has every year for centuries. I thought of how many Corpus Christi Processions this city has seen. Celebrating the feast in the glories of the late Middle Ages, as Protestants threatened to tear the city apart, as Turks besieged the gates, as Maria Theresa reigned in Enlightened splendor, as the Nazis made the town their own, and now, as secularism threatens to break a final murderous wave over a once Christian Europe. How many more Processions will there be in the future?

But suffice it to say, this Procession was very much like every other Procession in the past. It certainly was not like last year’s Procession in the Austrian town of Klagenfurt when a Pita Bread (Host?) on a pike was processed through the streets in a Burlesque version of a Corpus Christi Procession. There might have been more German in 2011 then there would have been in 1911, with the Emperor Blessed Karl von Habsburg was in attendance, or in 1511, before the Reformation threatened to destroy the German speaking world’s Eucharistic devotion. But it was a Procession like any other. Three altars, each magnificently decorated, with a sung Gospel at each; band music, the Rosary, Litanies and hymns between each station. There were only two additions which Vienna’s forebears might not have seen before, but which certainly could be seen in a hermeneutic of continuity with the true spirit of Vatican II: sung Intercessions, and a homily given by the Cardinal at each Station.

But there were also two other additions which somehow I think that Sissy, Freud, Hitler, and a lot of other people who passed through the Imperial Capital might not have ever thought to see. The first was that many of the servers, adults and children, were female (although interestingly enough, the Readings at Mass were proclaimed by seminarians). The other was the inclusion within the Procession of something I am at a loss to describe. A dapperly dressed young man held a large flag with the word, “Frauen”, Women, written on it. Next to him was a similarly well-habille young woman with a sign, with a cartoon of an androgynous figure in a cassock kicking off one of his/her/its bedslippers and pointing to a bed with the word “Frei”, Free, written on it. At first, I thought it was a silent protest saying the Church needs to keep its nose out of women’s bedrooms. But they joined the Procession with everyone else. It was one of those “huh?” moments, and if any of our readers can enlighten me as to what that was all about, I would like to know.

A more positive and less disturbing image was one of evangelization. A group of sisters dressed in long denim jumpers with a white veil, sandals, and wooden crosses hung from their necks on a string, (they had to be French, only the French come up with that kind of combo), were carrying baskets of rose petals. Every so often, they would go up to a little girl on the side of the street and ask them if they would like to throw flowers as Jesus passed by. I am not sure if any of those little girls had any idea what was going on, but I am also sure by the smiles of the girls and their families that this quiet little initiative of the good sisters was appreciated by lots of people on the margins of Christian practice, and Jesus as well!

This was a procession which was well-organized, took its time, and was prayerful. Today I prayed. And my faith was strengthened because the Body of Christ, the Church, had gathered to worship the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. And to do so among the splendor of an ancient tradition, the music of Mozart, and the quiet humble example of the Cardinal was a wonderful way to spend Corpus Christi.

The Angel with the Bow Tie

This is who we are. The other night during dinner, Jeffrey presented, with his usual quietous, measured and mild-mannered glee, a number of new publications under the CMAA banner.
(I so wish Adam B. was here, as well as many others!)
After concluding, JT came up to me and mentioned that in his kit bag he had a particular remedy for the sinus infection that has had me on the ropes now for three days. He’d apparently noticed that from my last post and wanted simply to let me know.
I did curtail some of my schedule yesterday so that my energy could be up for Mass and the “debut” of the Josquin Ave maris stella Missa. But after a great pasta dinner and brief rehearsal I crashed in our room- couldn’t even have little Dom and his mum up for apertifs.
I wheezed to Wendy, “I think we oughtta call Jeffrey.”
He was at the door in less than two minutes.
It was another difficult night, but I know his help will provide me easier days and nights to come.
Is it me, or does he really fly like St Joseph Cupertino, bow tie a-twirling? Or does he bi-locate with scores, economic treatises and meds like S Pio?
Dunno, but he is JT, and another friend who welcomed this stranger with his amazing smile and equally magnificent heart.

Pasch of the Resurrection in Andalucia

Fr Luke Melcher, Fr Christopher Smith, and Fr Pedro Jimenez Barros shoot confetti bullets
towards the Risen Christ to celebrate Easter 2011 in Coripe, Spain

Oldtimers in Southern Spain do not remember a worse year for rain during Holy Week. I apparently chose the wrong year to come, but it has been nice to live Holy Week with some calm instead of running around from dawn until way past midnight every day going from one procession to the next. Good Friday and Holy Saturday were a washout, but the Rising Sun was warmly greeted this Easter morn. Don Pedro, Fr Luke and I made our way to Coripe for Easter Sunday Mass. Of course, I found out at the last minute that I was on as MC and Preacher, so imagine my frantically composing my Spanish homily during the Victimae paschali!

The Mass was not surprisingly packed, and Chant Café Readers will be happy to know that Fr Luke sang the Vidi aquam from the Parish Book of Chant on an IPad. The rest of the Mass was a ‘traditional’ Flamenco mass with castanets, guitars and some powerful lungs belting it out from the choir loft. Latin according to the best of Solesmes style was provided by the American clergy as Spanish in the best folksy tradition descended upon this little village church in a liturgy few would ever forget.

But what I would never forget was what happened after Mass. Of course, a Procession! The Risen Christ was carried on a float by the costeleros of Coripe, with a recently formed band that meets twice a week with professional teachers. In front of the church several men of the village stood at attention with rifles and shot into the air confetti bullets. As we processed around the village for an hour, shots rang out and confetti and roses rained down all over the place. Of course, your clerical commentators, always eager to suck the marrow out of life, did not hesitate to take up arms more than once and shoot confetti into the sky. The South Carolina contingent, raised more on philosophy and French, was impressed by redneck Louisiana’s marksmanship, and learned a thing or two during pick up lessons in shooting from the hip in mid-procession.

Once the procession returned to the church, we ducked into a bar for some Cruzcampo and to greet the townsfolk while the men of the parish brought a scare-crow looking effigy of Judas with Qadaffi’s face to hang from a tree next to the north wall of the church.

I can only imagine the reaction of the insurance adjusters of American dioceses at what we saw next.

A firing squad appeared, this time with rifles with real bullets, and they shot at Judas until the kerosene tank in him exploded. And they kept shooting until there was nothing else left of the Traitor. The children rushed to throw stones at the stray pieces of straw and cloth that littered the tree, the remains of the faithful’s revenge on Judas. No felix culpas here!

After a brief respite back at the rectory, we made our way to Castelleja to see what cannot be called anything else but the Battle of the Virgins. Two neighborhoods in the same tiny smart Southern Spanish town have been involved in a West Side Story kind of struggle for so long they have two separate processions at the same time on Easter Sunday afternoon.

The Immaculate Conception procession goes up and down one street of the town while the Sorrowful Mother Procession goes up and down the other main street at the same time. Two different parishes, two different confraternities, two different worlds, all literally one street away from each other. United in the same faith, but divided by historical ties that no one really understands, no one seems to be bothered by this Battle of the Virgins that has gone on every year since time immemorial.

It was an odd way to end our Semana Santa experience in Seville. Fr Luke is staying to race Ferraris with some new friends found in the area, and I go back to my hermit lifestyle of a doctoral student in Pamplona. We started this amazing week with the impressive processions for Palm Sunday all over Seville and Don Pedro’s explanation of their origin in the Catholic Reformation’s desire to keep Spain away from Protestant iconoclasm. And we ended it with a little town which had kept that same faith, but was still divided over other issues. We saw the best of popular piety and what public manifestations of the faith can to do to promote Catholic identity. And we also saw how that deeply felt faith does not always translate into a moral life, a Catholic spirituality from day to day, orthodox belief, and the quest of the entire People of God for holiness. But I am deeply grateful to all of those friends new and old that became incredibly dear to me in this Sevillian Great and Holy Week, for allowing me to experience the Mystery of Redemption as I never have before, and perhaps never will again.

In the meantime, however, I will find a way to shoot the hell out of Judas on Easter Sunday in my next parish. Somehow I think that South Carolina just might find that Spanish tradition a welcome addition to the Palmetto State’s celebrations of the Paschal Mystery!

Many thanks to Don Pedro Jimenez Barros of the Archdiocese of Seville and Father Luke Melcher of the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana, for their expert guidance through Holy Week and or their priestly fraternity and friendship, as well as to all of the wonderful priests and laity we were graced to serve and get to know during this week.

Check out my bad photos at the Picasa Web linked in the first article, Semana Santa en Sevilla.