Are you drawn in?

Some of you will remember Fr. Cizcek from the Colloquium. Look at this:

What is going to strike most of us is the choice of music in this video. I was puzzled at first. I am liking it more and more and here’s why: This is a video. It is a popular medium. It is not the Mass itself. If it were Mass, I don’t think Father would have allowed this pop, Euro sound. Coupling this music with beautiful shots of the priest, his actions, and the altar is startling and edgy and exciting. That’s what videos are supposed to be.

What do you think?

Chant Settings of the 2010 Order of Mass from Fr. Kelly

Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB, has offered a selection chants for the revised Order of Mass in the new English Translation. These are settings that differ from those that will be found in the forthcoming Roman Missal, but are offered as a supplement to those chants, or perhaps as alternatives. Of particular interest are English settings of Gloria X, Credo I, and Sanctus XV. Find them at the Sacred Music Project.

“Francis Cardinal George, President of the USCCB, has recently announced that the new Missal translations will be implemented for liturgical use on the First Sunday of Advent, 2011. Therefore, the new texts are not yet approved to be used in Mass–not until November 27th, 2011. In the mean time, the task at hand is catechesis and preparation for the use of the new texts.

Fr. Kelly’s settings of the Order of Mass are provided here in modern notation, according to the convention found in the forthcoming Missal. We hope to soon offer them also in chant notation.”

You can download these settings in modern chant notation here.

The “Catholic Public Domain Version” Bible

Does anyone know anything about this translation of the Bible? I just found it this morning and it seems to have been completed in 2009. If I were to guess, I would guess that this is an effort to give Catholics a dignified translation of Scripture, quite possibly in accordance with Liturgiam Authenticam, which they can use without being assessed copyright or royalty fees.

So far the psalms look very nice and are very much of a “modern sacral” character, similar to the texts I’ve seen of the new Missal translation.

Please share, if you would, any information that you might have about this translation!

Signum magnum apparuit in caelo.

Guest column from Jake Tawney of Roma locuta est.


Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother. The Introit chant from the Graduale is the every timeless Signum magnum. Listen carefully to the chant:

Before discussing the translation, take a listen to a far better known Introit: the Puer natus from the Mass of Christmas Day.

Did you catch it? Listen to them both again carefully. The first thing you will notice is that they are both in mode 7, so they have a similar “sound” to one another. Mode 7 always strikes me as a “solemn joy” mode. It is bright enough to convey the sense of the jubilant, yet toned down enough to emphasize the great solemnity of the event. Keeping in mind that the Introit is the first thing heard at Mass, it (excuse the pun) sets the tone for the rest of the celebration. The mode is appropriate for Nativity of the Lord as well as the Assumption of the Blessed Mother. Both are joyous events to be sure, yet each in its own unique way is an event to be pondered with a great sense of awe and mystery.

The similarity is not just in the mode, however. If you listen to them once more, pay careful attention to the verse that is sung after the Introit and before its repetition. It is not only the same mode, but the same melody. This, of course is not unusual, for most of the mode 7 Introits take this melody for their verses. But these two Introits share not only the same melody for their verse; in this case they also share the same words.

Cantate Domino canticum novum: quia mirabilia fecit.

Sing unto the Lord a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds.

The verse is an alteration of the opening of the 96th Psalm and is appropriate for both of these great solemnities. The Nativity of the Lord is that day on which the darkness of the cosmos begins to decrease and the light of salvation begins its increase. Even the dating of Christmas near the winter solstice shows off this cosmic significance, as pointed out in The Spirit of the Liturgy (Ratzinger). The light will find its definitive victory in the Resurrection. (Incidentally, the very same verse, mode, and melody are found in the Introits for the Feria Quarta and Feria Qunita following Easter. Moreover, although different in structure and mode, the same phrase forms the main Introit text for the fourth Sunday after Easter, which has thus been dubbed “Cantate Sunday”.) As for the Assumption, the Church is emphasizing that perennial apologetic truth, that Mary’s bodily Assumption was not something she accomplished, but was a “wondrous deed” accomplished by the Lord. The first “wondrous deed” done through the Blessed Virgin was precisely that event of its paired Introit: the Nativity, which was the culmination of the event that begun with her fiat at the Annunciation. (As expected, there are musical connections between the Annunciation and the Assumption. The same mode 2 Introit is prescribe for the Feast of the Annunciation and the Vigil of the Assumption; the Introit is Vultum tuum and comes from the Common of Virgins.)

The very structure of the Introits themselves is similar, though some of this is to be expected given that most Introits are very similar in basic structure, and these two find themselves composed in the same mode. However, there is one melodic line that is identical and shares a similar text. In the Puer Natus we hear, “et vocabitur” which translates, “and shall be called.” (The phrase actually pairs with the subsequent words “et vocabitur nomen ejus” to translate, “And his name shall be called.”) In the Signum magnum we hear, “et in capite” which translates, “and on her head” (when the Latin ejus is added to the phrase). Both phrases share the same melody line with a sustained pitch (the Puer natus on the end of vocabitur and the Signum magnum on the end of capite. The word ejus, present at the close of both phrases and given an ornate melisima, can be translated from Latin as either “his” or “hers” according to context. By giving this pronoun a musical emphasis, the paired Introits point out the two key players in the history of salvation: Christ (the new Adam) and Mary (the New Eve). In fact, both Introits have the same word (ejus) ending the previous phrase as well. The full reality of the texts is that each eloquently describes the person whom the respective Mass is celebrating: the Puer Natus describes the infant Jesus and the Signum magnum describes the Assumed Virgin. Both are laden with lyrical and musical mystery appropriate to their reality.

The full translations of the texts are:

Puer natus est nobis,
et filius datus est nobis:
cujus imperium
super humerum ejus:
et vocabitur nomen ejus,
magni consilii Angelus.

A child is born to us, and Son is given to us: whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, the Angel of great counsel.

Signum magnum
apparuit in caelo:
mulier amicta sole,
et luna sub pedibus ejus,
et in capite ejus
corona stellarum duodecim.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

It never ceases to amaze me the musical and lyrical connections found in the Gregorian Propers. The more one studies the chants, the more one comes to realize why these pieces form the official music of the Church. People who grew up with these melodies would have been all too familiar with the popular Puer Natus and, upon hearing the verse from the Signum magnum, would have been immediately transported to the Mass of Christmas Day. Whether the connection in their minds be conscious or subconscious, it would have been made nonetheless. Examples of these types of parallels are bountiful in the Gregorian repertoire. The reality is that the liturgy and Gregorian chant developed in tandem; as the liturgy, guided by the Holy Spirit, was finding its voice, that voice became expressed in the Gregorian melodies that grew up along side of it. For this reason, the two are inseparable. This is why, while other forms of music, such as Sacred Polyphony, may be appropriate to express the grandeur of the Sacred Liturgy, they will always be subordinate to the Gregorian compositions.* This is also why a period of history that has marginalized, or even eliminated, the Gregorian Chant that is proper to the liturgy is a period that will necessarily lose sight of the essence of the sacramental mysteries that constitute life in the Church.

* It should be pointed out, however, that the structure of Sacred Polyphony is based of the ancient Gregorian melodies, which is why they contain within themselves a continuity that suits them for use during the Sacred Mysteries.

How I Go About Choosing Bricks, Part the One

What I’ve found ironic and interesting is that both here and on the MS Forum we’ve engaged in a fair amount of chatter about……what? Chant? Polyphony? Orchestral Masses? Nope, the ironic part is that due to the “FIRST THINGS” Casey Kasem Top Ten article, we’ve bandied about a large amount of discussion about so-called “Contemporary Worship Music.” As regards that specific article, I’ve said my peace.
However, in light of continued discussion in other threads, I’d like to offer some suggestions for DM’s who must wrestle with the yearly concerns of subscription missal/hymnal publications, and also who are charged with overseeing the programming responsibilities of subordinate musical personnel, such as organists,cantors, ensembles and choirs, to whom license is provided to make their own weekly decisions as to repertoire.
First of all, as a relatively still new member of CMAA, (with four decades of service under a very oversized belt) I absolutely recommend those obvious strategies outlined by Dr. Mahrt, Fr. Keyes, Jeffrey Tucker, Mary Jane Ballou and others have addressed at colloquia, intensives and in “Sacred Music” articles. Namely, hold sessions for musicians and other interested parties (like PRIESTS) that clarify the necessity of familiarization with liturgical legislative documents; prioritize and disseminate information about the role of the proper processional antiphons; clarify the variety of roles that the constituent parties engage in at Mass, such as the responsibility of celebrants to sing their orations versus recitation whenever possible, or which portions of the liturgies have options as to who, what, where, why and how a choir or cantor should be the primary performer of select “movements” and which demand total active participation by the whole congregation. This is Liturgy 101. We can all think of other aspects that must be in place prior to engaging your colleagues with your expertise and direction as advice worthy of their consideration to put into practice.
In another thread I mused that there’s another dimension in the universe where we DM’s could dial in our hymnal content to THE BIG THREE and they would obligingly, gleefully print our boutique annual hymnals. Well, that’s likely not going to happen soon. So, if you are a DM or responsible for choosing repertoire from a subscription or seasonal newsprint hymnal I suggest you get used to this notion: You must plow through that book with a fine toothed comb not only when the first perusal copy hits your mailbox, but virtually each week. Much that I’ve garnered through anecdotal and direct observation is that second-tier music leadership relies upon- A. a personal stable of favorites that they simply trust will always be in each year’s issue; and B. the publishers’ shill periodicals that enable the musician to do the Chinese Restaurant menu choice method of programming. Neither of those strategies benefits a parish’s growth towards enhanced music that is sacred, beautiful and universal.
So, in my case, two years ago, when our parish merged with three others, I created a basic informational tool for my musical corps- a spreadsheet review of literally every enumerated musical item in the OCP Breaking Bread Hymnal. In addition to the fields of title, composer/hymn tune, seasonal/general assignment, etc., I applied MY own overall grade of worthiness to each selection using the A to F curricular adjudication. I then had another field in the spreadsheet if I felt a need to explain the grade. If I wanted to push a tune with an A grade, I would give short phrase reasons, the same for poorly graded pieces. This is a fair amount of work, but it accomplishes a few obvious goals, and some others that are oblique. Obviously, such a document provides your crew with benchmarks that clearly state how the DM values or regards the hymnal content, piece by piece and in toto. If I grade “Blest Be the Lord” as a “D” with a small mention that its genre is dated or simply hokey, a cantor at least knows that if s/he employs it, it is not in concert with what I consider ideal. A more subtle benefit is that by providing a comprehensive, simple review, a DM is communicating to all, “I know this book and this publisher backwards, forwards and in my sleep. Elaine R. McQueeny and Fred Moleck have their tents in Portland and Chicago. Charles’ office is next to the church.” All the CD/Itunes recordings done in studio or cathedral environments for demonstration purposes have all sorts of lipstick and façade product slathered within that won’t be there with the lonely guitar player or lead-sheet pianist looks at a cantor’s choice and says “How does this go?” Your musical staff must know that you know your stuff and are willing to place a tangible value upon some of their “favorites” that will discomfort them, or more hopefully encourage them to expand their “stable.”

Another strategy is scheduling parish reading sessions open to musical staff and parishioners in general. Scheduling is a real problematic issue, not just because of personal issues, but seasonal demands. But, OCP (for example) ships in annual hymnals well in advance of Advent I. Even if you have tremendous rehearsal or administrative demands preparing for Advent/Christmas/Epiphany, I believe the DM review process can be accomplished as soon as perusal copies come in advance of the shipment. And then try to schedule the public reading session for items in the mid-autumn with about an hour and a half of selections that are new to the yearly issue and most worthy of consideration; it doesn’t matter what genre of style. Worthiness (sacred, universal and beautiful) is the highest priority. If this cannot be accomplished in autumn, then it must happen in the first weeks of Ordered Time prior to Lent. I also recommend that you use the most basic of accompaniment instruments, no frills in the exposition. Personally, I never listen to demo recordings. I don’t ever read the keyboard accompaniment scores. I make my decisions after simply auditioning text and melody alone, period. So, the DM can then determine whether it is most appropriate for a piece to be accompanied solely by an organ, a piano, a guitar or combination of those three.
Then, after you’ve premiered these, your selections, poll your musical personnel as to which selections of their preference they would like “demonstrated” at a subsequent reading session. And have another session, perhaps post Pentecost through Trinity Sundays into summer ordinary time.
In both types of reading sessions, it is of paramount necessity for the DM to articulate in much more detail the aspects of each selection that make it either worthy or unsuitable for common usage. If you are diplomatic, no one will huff and puff at these sessions over your pronouncements because time is at a premium. They want to get through reading all the items on your program. And, of course, within your explanations, there must be the constant and consistent threads of how each selection adheres to “the paradigm” in terms of theological orthodoxy, relationship to the psalter and to propers, aesthetic issues inherent in both text (“Yeah, Your Grace IS ENOUGH, yeah…) and music (Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo, Oob la dee, Oob la da, life goes on…*, oh nevermind, let’s not go there.)
I’ll be doing my summer session soon, and one thing I will do is measure my own enthusiasm with my comportment. I will likely strive to deliver the direction of the session more with the quiet surety of Professor Mahrt, rather than the blowhard “Vince, the ShamWow Guy- You Gotta Hear Dis Great Song, You can’t live wit’out it!”
And remember rule number one: don’t talk too much. Keep them singing 95% of the time.
In the next installment of this article, I’ll demonstrate my approach to selecting pieces for reading sessions.