Taverner’s Ave Maria

A piece we sang at the Colloquium is John Taverner’s Ave Maria. Here is the sheet music, available for the first time, scored for SATTB. He was obviously an amazing composer. Apparently he fell under the influence of the puritans at some point and repudiated his “papist” compositions. Fortunately for us, much survives. This piece in particular is very accessible.

Fire Up that Anglican Chant!

Google books posts two books of Anglican chant:

Vincent (1880)

Ludden (1860)

I find myself amazed and baffled when I look at these books to imagine the missed opportunities that presented themselves at the Second Vatican Council. But instead of availing themselves to the resources accumulated over 500 years within the Anglican tradition, the postconciliar authorities who revised the liturgical books set out to reinvent the wheel – with predictable results that are being revised yet again. We’ve lost so much time but perhaps the availability of these new resources will inspire the refurbishment of this wonderful tradition within the ranks of the Catholics.

“An Interior Reconciliation in the Heart of the Church”

David Sullivan, associate editor of Sacred Music, offers this thoughtful reflection on the third anniversary of Summorum Pontificum:

The date July 7, 2007 marks an important anniversary of the liturgy of the Roman Rite, the day when Pope Benedict XVI gave to the Church his motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, the long-awaited document that liberated the traditional form of the Mass of the Roman Rite, as embodied in the Missale Romanum of 1962, promulgated by Blessed John XXIII.

On this anniversary, I encourage both those Catholics who love the traditional Roman Mass and those who cherish the work of the Second Vatican Council to give thanks to the Lord and to Pope Benedict for his bold act that allows a greater freedom for the traditional Mass than had been allowed in practice before, and that also highlights for the continuity between the tradition of the Latin Rite within the reforms called for by the Second Vatican Council. On this day, we can offer the prayers Te Deum laudamus and Oremus pro pontifice nostro Benedicto, and encourage those who read this to do so.

For those who love the traditional Mass, the motu proprio gives a greater freedom for priests to offer the traditional form, and for the laity to assist at it. It reassures us that “this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted,” and that “what earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too,” as the Holy Father noted in his letter accompanying the motu proprio. What a tremendous change those ideas are from the decades of marginalization we had experienced before!

Likewise, for those who cherish the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, the freedom granted by the motu proprio to the traditional, or “extraordinary,” form of Mass, recalls some norms of the Vatican II constitution Sacrosanctum Consilium that have been observed often in the breach, for example: “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely requires them” (¶23); “The use of the Latin language, with due respect to particular law, is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (¶36); “The treasury of sacred music is to preserved and cultivated with great care” (¶114); “The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place (in Latin, principem locum, which can well be translated ‘first place’) in liturgical services.” (¶116); “care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those part of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (¶54). In the rush to implement certain aspects of the Council’s teachings—such as active participation and use of the vernacular—the teachings noted here have been widely downplayed, if not ignored. In effect, Summorum Pontificum calls the Church to a more balanced implementation of the Second Vatican Council.

In his letter to bishops, Pope Benedict explained his “positive reason” for this motu proprio, “a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church,” and “to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew.” In this spirit, I invite all Catholics to offer a prayer for Pope Benedict, the successor of Peter, and for unity in the Church of Christ.

William Byrd Festival: Never Miss It

The schedule for the William Byrd Festival this year is up. It might be the greatest musico-liturgical event of the year. The dates are August 13-29, Portland, Oregon.

Dr. Richard Marlow of Trinity College, Cambridge, England will return to Portland to conduct Cantores in Ecclesia in a two-week festival of choral masterpieces by the greatest composer of the English Renaissance, William Byrd (1540–1623). The festival will feature six liturgical services, three concerts and six public lectures. The services include Byrd’s Masses for Three, Four, and Five Voices, Compline and Evensong from the Anglican rite, Mass for the Assumption with selections from the Gradualia of 1607. The opening concert on August 13 features tenor Oliver Mercer and Mark Williams on harpsichord and organ in a program of Byrd’s consort songs; the Festival Concert on Aug 29, directed by Dr. Marlow, includes Byrd’s moving setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah.

New Mass Setting: Sanctus XII

I’ve been listening to many new ordinary settings being rolled out by many publishers in anticipation of the new translation of the Mass forthcoming (at some point). They vary in quality, and one’s judgment on them largely depends on one’s tastes. But there are common characteristics. The composer is restricted to writing songs that are catchy and metrical, and when they are not accompanied, something essential seems to be lacking. They all have a tendency to remind one of some music one has heard somewhere, though it isn’t always clear where. I do think this is deliberate: the ethos in the Catholic publishing world fears offering music that seems unfamiliar or drawn from a cultural context outside the daily world in which we live. The idea seems to be that the composer should take the stuff we have in our head and use it to invite us to participate in a religious experience. It seems like a good idea but the problem is that this hope isn’t quite visionary and radical enough. It is insufficiently challenging. It dares nothing.

In contrast, consider Sanctus from Mass XII. Now this is the type of music that gives us something completely new, something that sweeps us off our feet, something that invites us to think and pray in a completely new way. I really can’t explain how the Gregorian tradition does it, but somehow it manages to be ever fresh and ever destabilizing in the best possible sense. It shakes us and moves us. I do not envy composers today, who have this kind of material to compete against:

Conventional Wisdom? “So What” spaketh Miles Davis


A quotation cited from a 1930 volume of “Caecilia“-

0nly a limited amount of energy is given us. Perhaps we would tackle the problem better by leaving off preaching the beauty, and all that, of the Chant, and beginning to convince the world and ourselves in particular by giving the Chant a chance to talk for itself. If we admit that its exalted mood of meditation and mystic calm and all that is a bit foreign to the hip, hip, hurray spirit of twentieth-century America, then the task of making Gregorian chant prevail begins where our vocabulary leaves off. The solution seems to be: less talk and more honestly patient work.

The Top Ten (Con)Temporary Songs That Should Be Cut Some Slack:

UBI CARITAS Bob Hurd
THE SERVANT SONG Richard Gillard
IN PERFECT CHARITY Randall DeBruyn
IN EVERY AGE Jańet Sullivan Whitaker
ALL THAT IS HIDDEN Bernadette Farrell
LAUDATE, LAUDATE DOMINUM Christopher Walker
THANKS BE TO GOD Stephen Dean
RIVER OF GLORY Dan Schutte
THERE IS NOTHING TOLD Christopher Willcock
OUT INTO THE WILDERNESS Bob Hurd

Honorable mention:

Hymn text to THAXTED: THREE DAYS M.D. Ridge

From the Summer 1958 issue of “Caecilia“-

The New Music

The problem is no longer whether contemporary church music will be accepted. It is plain as the stars that cluster over a vistadome rushing through country darkness that it is accepted and sung. What the faint hearted have viewed cautiously as an alarming experience is past. The question now is how much of it will remain contemporary. For great music is always with us: The great body of Chant and Polyphony and some of that in between-the Gothic, the Baroque, some of the Classical, and isolated giants like Bruckner and Gabriel Faure – having nothing temporary about them; they remain, in the practical domain, contemporary. C. Card. Micara, Bp. of Velletri, Prefect.

I first encountered the link to the FIRST THINGS article over at the MS Forum, and commented with my contention that there was no greater good to be found, IMO, by tagging our initials with the original author’s piece.
Jeffrey Tucker and I then began an email dialogue about the matter. After a few exchanges it occured to me that sharing our conversation might be of more benefit through our different generational perspectives. I will likely also take a couple of my arbitrary list and do a little forensics later on in an edit. One aspect that has totally been ignored by the FIRST THINGS diatribe is a recognition of what constitutes a valid “alius cantus aptus.” Be that as it may, my list above does reflect my appreciation for specific pieces that correspond to my criteria.
So, our discussion follows-

JT (Tuesday)-“I worried that my post would annoy you!”
CC-“Well, my dear friend, it is only an annoyance because by “going there” and reprinting this person’s opinion, our organization’s repute can and likely will be hijacked, and be caricatured as an obstinate, staid, and fringe group of wingnuts by the likes of our friends Todd and Dom Ruff et al. If you’ve noticed, the hubris factor over at PrayTell has surged of late. They’re closing ranks nicely. So, by even a presumed notion of an innocent reprint of the “First Things” article, both the forum and CC have needlessly (IMO) opened themselves to factionalism. Noel’s comment is right: people have formed emotional bonds with this top ten list. You won’t win friends and influence people by trampling upon people’s sensitivies over issues they don’t fully understand, but that they feel acutely.
Just look at the combox polarities over the cappa magna at PT- needless. You, yourself, said “move on.” Now, we have tacitly endorsed this writer’s uninformed, niggardly written and ill-considered opinion on our presumably loftier platforms. We shoot ourselves in the foot by doing so. I love being an apologist for CMAA; I don’t enjoy having that goal made more difficult by aligning ourselves with self-appointed “Miss Manners” who feel it necessary to squeal the names of the Usual Suspects.
First rule of vocal pedagogy: Don’t try to teach a pig to sing. It will frustrate you and annoy the pig.
Pax et bonum.”
JT-“Hmmm, well, as you know, I’m just a bit tone deaf on these issues. I don’t really get it (though your analogy to the cappa magna slightly makes some sense to me). I would remove it if you think that it really does cause harm.
I truly do believe, however, that this music has driven multitudes off from the faith. People just run from this stuff. I find it strange that there is something of a fear of admitting this out there. I try not to ridicule this mainly because, as you say, it doesn’t accomplish anything. And yet, I do think that the ridicule suggests a certain truth.
Bear with me, I’m learning to balance my strong internal tendencies with a slowly coming and enlightened sense of strategic purpose.
But truly tell me: do you really think we are better off without the post than with it? I do respect and defer to your judgement.”

CC-“No, please don’t remove the posts on either site. I’m in the minority, but not because I straddle fences, I have always bristled at gross generalities being elevated to iconic status.
“Democrats favor abortion, Republicans are pro-life.” Yeah, right.
Besides, the horse is out of the barn already. The reprinting of the article is, if nothing else, reportage on matters with which we deal on a weekly basis.
If these ten tunes represent the bogeyman which has alienated multitudes of people from communion with the Church, then such folks built their houses on sandy soil to begin with. Poor songs have always been among us.
I might offer that next colloquium, if we continue the practice of a panel discussion during a dinner, we discern some topics that deal with these very visceral issues, and how we can positively respond to the problems we face when we try to shift focus away from the temporal top ten to the transcendent paradigm.”
JT“What’s funny is that I was going to suggest that you write some reflections on all of this – starting with your own history – and put some of this in context. You have a perspective from the inside that you can offer here. then this morning I wake and see that you have posted! I think you could write more on all of this. One of my mentors used to say that to understand is to forgive. The big problem is that many people, I among them, cannot understand this music no matter how much we attempt to do so.”
CC-“Yeah, I do that sometimes.
You’ll notice that I didn’t augment my list or the Caecilia quotes with anything other than the title (typically, purposefully enigmatic/odd) with anything “me.”
What might be interesting is to give our readership the backstory of our own email dialogue over the original article, and include that after the second Caecilia quote.
Then I could provide some specific insights as to how I approach the process of winnowing chaff from wheat in modern “alius…” and how the stark reality must be acknowledged that there is a likely “multitude” of deeply reverent catholics among four generations that regard the wheat of modern song as very worthy expressions of worship directed to the Lord they love totally. We are gospel obliged to respect these brethren where they are, and, like physicians, “first, do no harm.” So, our task becomes a mission to enrich their worship experiences by sharing with them the beautiful expanse of their Church’s heritage, and do so with a positive and self-evident enthusiasm that does not, of our volition, contend with their sensibilities.
So, if you’re okay, I’d like to offer readers our own exchanges. I might also be inclined to cite an example or two from my subjective list and illuminate some of their qualities.”
JT“Oh I think that would be wonderful!
I was thinking that last night, my own failure to comprehend any of this material comes from a very strange accident of history. My entire conversion to Catholicism took place within a liturgical context of a Latin ordinary form setting with Gregorian music that was unaccompanied. I knew virtually nothing about anything else. Only after I became a Catholic was I exposed to the other. That’s probably why all this other music strikes me as completely alien – and that goes for G&P, P&W, and even traddy English hymns. I just don’t get any of it. Again, this is probably an accident of history – especially since all this happened in the 1980s.”

So, there you have it, for now. A little more may follow, as I said, with a forensics-like examination of one or more of my little list. But I don’t want to detract from the focus this blog and that of CMAA and other kindred spirits’, with a reactionary defense of any modern pieces. Like I said, my real position in the larger picture remains “Move on, nothing to see here.”

Kevin Allen and Watershed

It’s hard to say what is most exciting about Motecta Trium Vocum:

1) the wonderful music by Kevin Allen, music that is new, beautiful, and easy to sing for liturgy,

2) the practice videos that have been produced to go along with this new polyphony,

3) the appearance of Watershed as a new publisher of Catholic sacred music,

4) the method of distribution, which gives away vast amounts of this wonderful music online, both in the form of tutorials and actual sheet music, or

5) the emergence of the great Kevin Allen from obscure genius to public figure.

Watershed is smashing models with an eye to progress, and pointing the way to the future. The publication of this collection of motets is truly a watershed.


MOTECTA TRIUM VOCUM • Kevin Allen & Matthew J. Curtis from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.


Easy Polyphony by Kevin Allen (with 56 free practice videos) from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

Someone Finally Did It: The 10 Worst Hymns

Most people in the Catholic music world are too polite to do such things, but First Things doesn’t know the rules, and one of its editors, speaking as a layperson to music, has assembled what he considers to be the 10 worst hymns in current use. Before you condemn this editorial and practice, consider that this point of view is real and widely held across the demographic spectrum, and the costs are quite high. If you have never understood why people (mostly in private) express disgust about the music they hear at Mass, you owe it to yourself to read this post blog, as well as the comments, and try to understand.

Feel free to vent here or there.

Explanation of the Ceremonies of Holy Mass, Part 3

The priest starts out the Mass with the sign of our salvation as we all make the Sign of the Cross over our bodies as he sings, In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Mass is a Trinitarian act of worship to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Many of the prayers of the Mass are addressed to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit for this reason. The priest than turns to the faithful and addresses them, The Lord be with you. This invocation occurs several times in the Mass. It is taken from the Book of Ruth, where the pious farmer Boaz greets his wheat reapers with those words before he takes the foreigner Ruth as his wife. Boaz is a type of Christ, who gives the LORD to the Church, His Spouse. We respond and with your spirit, as we realize that the priest is performing a work of the Spirit, and by these simple words pray that the priest who offers the sacrifice may be in the Spirit, to fulfill his office as priest worthily and well.

Priest and people recite together the Confiteor, a prayer asking for the intercession of Mary and the saints in our request that God may forgive our sins. This prayer, borne aloft by sorrow for our sins, suffices to wipe away venial sin and orient us to receive the graces that come from the Mass. We then sing the Kyrie, the ninefold invocation of Father, Son and Spirit for mercy which is often reduced in the Ordinary Form to six fold. The Kyrie is the remnant of a longer litany which disappeared from the Roman liturgy very early on and was restored, in Greek, in the Latin liturgy in the sixth century because of its antiquity. On Sundays and feasts the celebrant intones the first words of the Gloria just as they were announced by the one angel at Bethlehem to the shepherds before a chorus of angels took up the song of praise. This ancient hymn was put into the Mass around the year 160. This hymn ends, as end so many prayers and hymns, with the Hebrew word Amen. This little word, which is the automatic end of our prayers, means so many things: so it is, let it be done, I believe. It is a statement of belief, a profession of hope, and an exclamation of trust in God.

The priest then prays the first of three prayers which change according to the day. This prayer is traditionally called the Collect, because by it the Church collects together various strands of thought in a short prayer, usually to the Father, sometimes directly to Christ, but always invoking the entire Trinity. The priest performs a gesture called the Orans position, from the Latin word for praying. He stretches out his hands in supplication before God, to show that his prayer is directed to God on behalf of His people. The priest raises his hands before God like the poor man begging alms from a rich man, the priest praying on behalf of poor sinners to the source of all riches, Christ. Whenever he mentions the Holy Name of Jesus, everyone in the congregation bows their head reverently at the Name before which the demons flee.

The Liturgy of the Word

Jews gathered in places called synagogues to study the Word of God. At the center of the synagogue is the Ark in which the scrolls of the Law were kept and from which they were joyfully removed to be studied. In front of the Ark is the bema, a raised platform with a reading desk on which the Word is read and from which the teachers of the Law expounded on its meaning. Christians gather in their churches to study the same Hebrew Scriptures as well as the writings of the Evangelists and Apostles which are also the Word of God. At the center of the church is the Tabernacle in which the Word made Flesh dwells and from which the Blessed Sacrament is joyfully removed to nourish the faithful. Because Christ is truly present in the Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine, the written word, although it is treated with great reverence, takes second place. The bema of the church is called a pulpit or ambo, and on it is placed the Lectionary from which the appointed readings for the day are proclaimed.

In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, the first readings were proclaimed facing the altar. Because those were the readings which pre-dated Christ, they were like the preaching of John the Baptist which pointed to Christ, hence they were proclaimed towards the altar which is the symbol of Christ. In the Ordinary Form those readings are proclaimed towards the people, as a sign of God speaking to the people through them.

Between the Epistle and Gospel in the Old Rite and between the Old Testament and New Testament readings in the New Rite, the Gradual is sung. The gradual comes from the Latin word for steps; it is a psalm, and just as the Jews sang psalms as they ascended the steps of the temple in Jerusalem, Christian cantors sang the psalms from the steps of the altar. Often today the Gradual is replaced by a responsorial version of the psalm.

Before the Gospel, the Church places on the lips of her people another Hebrew word, Alleluia. The Church has always sought to praise her LORD with the same word that Christ praised His Father, in the same tongue, a word which merely means, Praise the LORD! The proper Gregorian chant Alleluias will often have a large number of notes on one syllable, symbolizing the effusion of joy of the Spirit in praising the Father, pointing out the yearning for union with Him. On penitential days, the mournful Tract or the simple Gospel Acclamation replaces the Alleluia. During the Alleluia or Tract, the deacon asks for the blessing of the priest to proclaim the Good News worthily and well. He goes to the altar upon which at the beginning of the Mass he placed the Book of the Gospels. In Revelation, we read I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a book written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. As the altar is the symbol of the throne of Christ, the deacon takes the Book of Life from Christ Himself to announce the word of salvation to men in the Gospel. He says, The LORD be with you, but he does not open his hands in the Orans position as the priest does, not usurping the priestly gesture of raised hands. He then reads the name of the Gospel writer as the faithful make the sign of the Cross on their forehead, mouth, and chest, praying that the Gospel will be in their minds, on their lips and in their hearts. In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the Gospel is chanted facing north, against the cold and dark regions of the earth that symbolize the malice of the Evil One. The Gospel is audaciously sung in the face of evil itself. Now it is usually read towards the people, that the evil in their hearts may be driven out by the words of the Saviour.

Faith is a gift from God; the priest, who stands in the person of the object of faith, Jesus Christ, intones the first word, Credo, I believe, to show that faith is a gift from God that demands a response, a response given by the faithful taking up the words of a profession of faith drawn up at two ecumenical councils of the Church at Nicea and Constantinople, in the fourth century. When Henry, the Holy Roman Emperor, went to Rome in the eleventh century, he was scandalized to find that they did not sing the Creed like they did everywhere else in both West and East, at Mass. The Pope told him that the Church at Rome had no need to profess her faith because she had never needed to be corrected from error like so many other places, but shortly thereafter the Pope ordered that the Creed be sung on Sundays just to make sure that no one would ever claim they didn’t know the central truths of the faith even if they came to Mass. In the middle of the Creed are the words, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man. To symbolize the condescension by which Christ came down to earth in the Incarnation, the ministers and the faithful bow profoundly during these words, except on Christmas and the Annunciation, when they kneel.

At the end of the Creed, General Intercessions, prayers for the state of the Church and the world, may be prayed.