Yesterday’s Events at the Colloquium

There is far too much happening to even begin to provide comprehensive coverage but let me first mention the extraordinary form Mass yesterday that celebrated the Feast of St. John Baptist, one that ended with the great hymn Ut Queant Laxis as the recessional. The Mass setting was Palestrina’s Missa Brevis, as sung by Kurt Poterack’s choir, along with motets by Tallis (sung by Brouwers choir) and Guerrero (sung by Horst Buchholz’s choir).

St. John has a special place in the hearts of all musicians because all scholarship indicates that it was he (not Cecilia) who was long considered the patron saint of music in the first millennium (the job was handed over to St. Cecilia after St. John’s long service).

The Mass was of course very beautiful, complete with all sung readings and the most solemn sung parts.

The evening’s events broke new ground. The idea was initially proposed by William Mahrt and carried out by Arlene Oost-Zinner: a panel on the growth of sacred music programs in academia. The panelists included Kurt Poterack (Christendom College), Paul Weber and Alanna Keenan (Franciscan University Steubenville), Ann Labounsky and Sr. Marie Agatha Ozah (Duquesne University), Susan Treacy (Ave Maria University), and Peter Jeffery (Notre Dame University).

Each talked about the program of his or her institution and commented on the dramatic change in the attitudes of students today as compared with the past. The interest in sacred music and chant is very intense, to the point of representing a serious paradigm shift. Professor Jeffery in particular spoke of the support he has received from the administration to forge a program that will have national influence, and he looks forward to working with student groups in the year’s ahead.

To see all these panels and here their comments struck many people as very significant, for it demonstrated that the change we are seeing at the parish level is being mirrored in higher learning as well.

Here is an image of Professor Jeffery buying a colloquium tee!

The Privatization of Liturgy and the Suffering of Publishers

One stands in amazement at what the USCCB and ICEL – in fact, it is rather difficult to locate the center of responsibility here – are forcing upon publishers as they frantically attempt to provide musical settings of the Mass for the forthcoming new English translation.

I do not deny the right of the national conferences to regulate the texts of the Mass but the policies in place to keep this text and its music under wraps defy all good sense. No one has explained why it is so absolutely necessary that no publisher on the planet be permitted to distribute full Mass settings of the upcoming translation, even though the texts are widely available and many efforts are underway to educate the faithful. Is having music available not part of education?

ICEL has even opened up a website to explain why the new translation is necessary and wonderful (and I agree): http://www.becomeonebodyonespiritinchrist.org/. I’ve enjoyed these videos (which feature Vivaldi’s Latin settings as background music!) but I still find no instructions concerning what may or may not be published and under what conditions. Nor does the USCCB website seem to explain this.

The instructions must be arriving via private email. But here is the bottom line in the words of World Library:

We have been asked by the United States Bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship to remind you that no publisher may take orders for Mass settings until the final text of the Missal is issued. We have also been asked to remind you that the musical settings are for preview only and not yet approved for liturgical use. In addition, we are not yet being allowed to share any complete settings.

Moreover, it is not even clear what power is being invoked in order to prevent production and distribution. Is it a matter of copyright or a matter of religious obedience? It is hard to say.

Nonetheless, the publishers are doing heroic work, trying to be obedient while attempting to preview their music without giving full versions or permitting you to buy it: WLP, OCP, GIA, and Liturgical Press (which doesn’t seem to have a special section on this set up yet).

You will enjoy touring the WLP site. I appreciate the efforts puts into this strangely truncated preview, even if the settings conform to the convention of metrical songs that are dependent on accompaniment and are based on tunes regarded as catchy in a popular sense. The Richard Proulx Gloria is of high quality, and Lisa Stafford’s Mass of Grace has potential, and surely we cannot place blame on either the composer or the publishers for attempting to turn the Gloria into an antiphon/response structure; the root of the problem is really deeper here.

I would love to understand the thinking of those who are so emphatic about keeping the texts from being released until the last possible minute. If the goal is to put as much financial pressure on the publishers as possible, that surely must be counted as success. But how this approach is helping to prepare the way for the new texts is unclear.

Crochu and Gatté Officium Nocturnum

Andrea Sanguinetti sends the following:

Hi, i suggest that in your page of latin chant books you put the following link: http://www.gregofacsimil.net. In that page follow the link ‘RESTITUTIONS’ (in the left part of the page), and you’ll find the whole responsories of officium nocturnum in square notation in pdf files in a transcription according to Hartker manuscript made by D. Crochu & D. Gatté. I think it’s a very important and good work. Regards. Andrea Sanguinetti.

Following the instructions, with my navigation complicated by language and many non-standard characters that do not render properly on my windows laptop, I do find many beautiful PDF files. Perhaps some can explain more about the origin and goal of the project. 

Reasons for Peace and Contentment at the Colloquium

After many years of attending the Colloquium, I’ve noticed what many people have noticed about the special environment this year: there is a blessed peace and contentment at this year’s event, one that is supportive of learning, productivity, good singing, social happiness – all preconditions to the most generous occasion of  grace. I’ve been trying to think of the particular sources of this special environment this year, and I have a few theories.

  • The organization of this year’s event, led by program director Arlene Oost-Zinner (who is also leading the intermediate women’s schola), is truly a marvel. The hugely complex machinery of scheduling, events, rooms, music, along with a thousand details at each time slot, from morning to night, is humming as never before. The assistance of many volunteers has been inspiring. 
  • The Duquesne University staff has been pleased to have us on campus and has been extremely helpful at every turn. The same is true of the Church of the Epiphany, which has welcomed us, even to the point of making special physical accommodations for the extraordinary form in the sanctuary.
  • Issues that usually split liturgical musicians and Catholics have settled down to a civil coexistence, most especially the old struggle between partisans of the new vs. the old liturgy. The new consensus was nicely framed by Ed Schaefer: the preconciliar structure of Mass and the Divine Office is the elder brother from which the structure of 1969/70 can learn. 
  • Remember the rhythm debates that dominated the chant scene during a huge part of the 20th century? There was a time when ever singer had to take a side in the great debate and defend it and organize one’s musical colleagues around it. At this event, I suspect that most people just aren’t that interested in some kind of battle or taking a side. Each conductor is different. Each singer has a special appreciation for one or another way of singing. We are all glad to learn from various perspectives and approaches. Even at individual Masses, the chant propers come across as musically unique events. Seeing how this works, one wonders what all the fuss what about. 
  • Even on issues of contemporary vs. traditional music, there is a sense of peace. Everyone now knows what the Second Vatican Council meant by giving chant first place. And yet most of the musicians here are working within parish reality, which is to say, they are all transitioning from one place to another, but with direction and purpose. I’ve heard very little in the way of put downs toward the problem music in the Catholic world today (even I’ve controlled my tongue!); rather, energies are all focused toward doing more to achieve the ideal.
  • One final area of peace concerns the old cultural split between academic musicologists and parish-based practitioners. There are many of both types here but they aren’t arguing. They are talking to each other and learning from each other, working to build bridges between the world of scholarship and the world of relentless parish schedules.

That Requiem Mass

Ten years ago, it was exceedingly difficult to hear or experience the Dies Irae of the Requiem Mass. That was before the age of Youtube (where there are dozens of recordings and performances) and also online editions, as well as ever more use of this grand and glorious Sequence in the Catholic Mass. For reasons that seem very unclear at this late a date, someone apparently had an issue with this chant and discretely failed to list it for the Requiem Mass in the post-1969 liturgical books. But that doesn’t mean that it cannot or should not be sung, for one of the blessing of the new liturgy is its liberality and openness to a wide range of traditional experience. So while the chant it is not printed in the books, it can still be used in the Mass, and so it has been at the Colloquium for many years now.

This year was special in many ways.  The chant was never rehearsed ahead of time. We had a plan for alternating low and high voices but we did no dry runs before Mass. But it was hardly necessary. The intonation began, the low voices picked up the song, and then the high voices took over at the double bar. On it went through the haunting melody and text from first to last, with 250 singers spread randomly throughout the large parish space. It was an amazing sound, all encompassing. It is a long chant but it was strangely disappointing when it ended. I think everyone wished it could have gone on longer.

It was not in the interest of an “authentic” performance that the air conditioners and fans had all been turned off in the parish. It was to keep down the static noise level. But, to me, the temperature of the building was nearly sweltering, and grew hotter throughout the Mass. To sing this stunning music of the Requiem Mass in that temperature did lend to the experience something approximating authenticity. I didn’t hear a single complaint about it. It would have seemed unseemly, given the subject matter, which the fiery Gradual from Brouwers’s high-voice schola seemed to capture perfectly. 

Fr. Pasley’s homily was absolutely brilliant. He reminded us that the purpose of this Requiem was to pray for the departed souls of the deceased members of the CMAA. He told of their trials and struggles and all the sacrifices they had made professionally and personally for the cause, at time when telling the truth about the music of the Church and keeping it alive was to write yourself out of the history books. Of course the trends of history have changed, and now the current generation looks at people like Msgr. Richard Schuler and the others as prophets who saw the future. They did not live to see their cause victorious. Maybe we will not either. We must think beyond our time and time itself – and isn’t this the very point of the liturgy?

Following the Mass, we made our way to the next sessions. To everyone’s amazement, the clouds began to darken suddenly and sheets of rain came pouring down on Pittsburgh, trapping hundreds in porticoes of buildings and under canopies. The rain did not let up for a long time and many had to make their way to dinner and become soaked along the way. But we greeted a great crowd in the dining hall, ate fresh Southwestern food, and listened to a gentle and erudite talk by William Mahrt on the structure of the Psalm in the Divine Office. As is usually the case with his lectures, people listened with amazement and a growing sense of humility in the face of the marvelous theological structure given to us by our history and liturgy.

Explanation of the Ceremonies of Holy Mass Part 2: I will go to the Altar of God

Today there is an option to sing man-made hymns chosen by the priest or a parish staff member during Mass. But the Church has always appointed texts from the Psalms to accompany ritual actions at Mass. The Introit, or Entrance Antiphon, is taken from the Psalms and other scriptural texts to proclaim the theme of this particular celebration of the mysteries of divine life. The Church has never believed in singing at the Mass or praying at the Mass; the Church sings and prays the Mass. At the beginning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the sacred ministers and those who serve them make their way in a dignified procession to the altar. A thurifer leads the procession with a smoking vessel of incense called a thurible. The smoke of the incense symbolizes our prayers rising to God and has since antiquity been a sign of homage to holy people and holy things.
 
Another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to mingle with the prayers of the saints upon the golden altar before the throne; and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth.[1]

Behind the thurifer comes the crucifer, who holds aloft before our eyes the image of Christ who came to save us. Just as the Israelites wandering through the desert looked upon the image of a bronze serpent and were healed of their illnesses, Christians gaze upon the likeness of the Crucified and are stirred to devotion, to reverence and to prayer. The crucifer is accompanied by two candlebearers, who carry lights that symbolize Christ, the light of the world who pierces the darkness of sin and death, lights given from candles blessed on the Feast of the Presentation of the Infant Jesus in the temple on 2 February, made from the wax of bees who work diligently like Christians at their appointed task. Other servers, representatives of the faithful at the Sacrifice, process as so many saints to the Throne of Grace. A deacon, the servant of the priest and the Church, clad like the priest except for his dalmatic of joy and gladness, enters, holding before him the beautifully bound Book of the Gospels to place upon the altar. The priest enters the church as Jesus rides into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, amidst great joy and Hosannas, always mindful of the awe-inspiring events which will take place in this holy place.

 The priest arrives at the foot of the altar. In ancient times, he did not enter the Holy of Holies, the sanctuary of the Church, until he had taken off his biretta as a sign of submission to God and genuflected to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the sanctuary. He would recite with the ministers the words of Psalm 42, I will go to the altar of God, to God the joy of my youth and then recite a formula for the confession of his sins.

The priest then, right foot first, enters the inner precinct of the sanctuary. In the temple of Jerusalem, only the High Priest could enter the inner sanctum once a year, and say the name of God. Now the minister of the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, enters into the holy place another Christ, so that God may become present amongst men and dwell within their hearts.

In the sanctuary there is a table. This is no ordinary table for an ordinary meal; it is an altar of sacrifice and the table of Passover. The Jewish ritual of the Passover meal and the sacrifices in the temple of Jerusalem find their fulfillment on the altar of the wood of the Cross on which was sacrificed the Lamb of God. The altar of the Mystical Sacrifice of the Mass is of wood or of marble, but it represents Christ in His tomb.

The altar is covered with three fair linen cloths, which symbolize the winding sheets in which Christ was placed in the tomb. Christians from earliest times celebrated Mass in altars raised over the remains of those who gave their lives as witnesses to the faith, sacrificing their lives because of their belief in the sacrifice of Christ. Today the Church places relics, physical remains of or objects belonging to the saints, to remind us of the connection between the sacrifice of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of those who are nourished by the Eucharist.

Behind the altar is always to be found an image of the Crucified Christ. This image is a powerful reminder of the unity between the sacrifice of Calvary and the sacrifice of the Mass. When Christ died on the Cross, he faced outward to the West. Since the beginning of the Church, Christians have prayed facing east, facing Christ who died gazing at them and whom tradition holds will come again at the end of time, from the east. The universal custom of the Church has always been for priest and people to face, if not directional East, at least liturgical East, at Mass, indicated by the image of the Crucified. Only two exceptions are known: in Rome, the ancient basilicas were built westward facing, so the priest stood behind the altar people actually turned their backs to the altar to face East during the consecration of the Mass; and now, in many places in the West, where Mass is celebrated facing the people so they may see the rites on the altar. The eastward position is not so that the priest can have his back to the people; on the contrary, it is so that priest and people may be together on the same side of the altar, worshipping the LORD together and awaiting His Second Coming.

In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, also referred to as the Old Latin Mass, the priest prayed as he approached the altar,

Take away from us our iniquities, we implore Thee, Lord, that with pure minds we may worthily enter into the holy of holies: through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Now as then, he kisses the Altar, the symbol of Christ. In the Extraordinary Form he prays,

We implore You, Lord, by the merits of all Thy Saints, whose relics are here, and of all the Saints, that thou wouldst deign to forgive me all my sins. Amen.

The Mass is not just a celebration for the men and women physically present in the church; it is a celebration of the entire celestial court, and the priest calls on the saints to assist him in his ministry to the People of God. He kisses the altar to make reparation for the traitorous kiss of Christ. He kisses the altar to remind us all of the intimate relationship between God and the soul professed by the Beloved in the Song of Songs, Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth. The Mass is more than an act of worship; it is that intimate kiss of love between Christ and His Bride, the Church, a kiss by which new life is generated and death overcome by the Resurrection.

In the Extraordinary Form, the priest-celebrant assists at most of the Mass from his position at the altar. Only a Bishop would preside from a throne set off to the side. In the Ordinary Form, after the priest or bishop reverences the altar he goes to a special chair off to the side. Chairs in the ancient world were a symbol of authority. When Jesus explained the scriptures in the synagogue where the Jews gathered to study the Word, he sat and taught from a chair. A bishop’s church is called a cathedral because the Bishop teaches sitting in a large throne-like, called a cathedra in Latin. Today, priests have smaller and less ornate chairs than Bishops, but the principle is the same: the one who is seated has authority to teach.


[1] Revelation 8.3-5

Though he may be insufferable, LEND ME A TENOR!


That is the only association with Broadway musicals that might be considered appropriate for Colloquium 2010. At the conclusion of the always expected, yet ever fresh and invigorating, extemporaneous welcome address given by the ever erudite Bow Tied One Monday evening, necessity called him to don his gym teacher whistle and clipboard, and do the S-A-T-B headcount for each of the five polyphonic choirs. And, of course, the headcount eventually turned into a cheery auction- “Can we get a few more tenors for the Palestrina? Howabout a few more tenors for Vespers, guys? Guys?” Of course, it seems that by Tuesday every choir had a requisite, if not ideal balance.

I have tried to describe my first two colloquiums to my choristers, to internet fellow travelers and friends, and per usual my words (the oh-so-many and run on words) have failed. But, maybe this comparison, outlandish as it may be at first blush, might just clarity my feelings and experiences. When the great John Paul II returned as the Holy Father to his motherland, the streets and main square of Warsaw overflowed with three million catholic souls, and by all accounts those 3M souls were of one mind, one heart, one spirit and of one purpose. That being the relentless truth that Jesus Christ is Lord, He alone, with His Mother and countless saints and angels points the Way, the Truth and the Life that is here and to come with His Father through the power of the Spirit. And those Poles gathered that day with a dignity, integrity and will exemplified by our Lord’s Vicar.

Here in sultry Pittsburgh, CMAA has convened an assembly of a mere 250 souls. And we, too, are one with Christ as on that day in Warsaw. Our purpose is apparent and really never needs explanation. We are to honor God, we are to share in his suffering and sacrifice at the altar of remembrance and reminiscence. And we are one by explicitly and implicitly recognizing that by bringing to the table only that which is, of its nature, sacred, beautiful and universal, we are honoring the truth through submission and humility to the worship traditions of Christ’s Church. Dr. Ed Schaefer brought this to the fore in his address last evening: those who stubbornly decree that to restore musical and liturgical legacies that are fifteen centuries proven amount to nothing more than museum worship cannot comprehend (ineffably?) that by traveling along this organic path, we cling lovingly to our Church’s apostolic succession. “This,” Schaefer says, “frees our souls (priests and lay alike) from the licit, understood but nevertheless, self-oriented possibilities that vary from parish to parish around our country and world. If Christ is Truth, and the Truth sets us free, then we can only be free by submission to His Will.”

The Polish faithful hoping to catch a glimpse, or hear a phrase, or take up a chant that day in Warsaw were a truly persecuted people under the thumb and scrutiny of Polish Communist authority and its Soviet masters. But on that day, nothing could starve those millions from rejoicing, from prayer and praise, from thanks and renewal, and eventually from freedom. And, as Dr. Schaefer, Dr. Mahrt and so many have echoed before them, “the continuity of tradition includes the realization that we are a persecuted church.” And all of us baptized, not just R2’s or SoV2’s, or others between those enclaves, constitute the body of this persecuted church. We are, or should be, celebrating the joy of being counter-cultural, according to Dr. Schaefer.
Well, the up-and-down-and-up-and-down again geography of Dusquene has this soul’s arches, blisters, quads and knees profoundly suffering. But, this year, exactly as it has been over the last two years, finds me joyful in extremis!

Alleluia, Amen.

The Astonishing Isabelle Demers

Isabelle Demers played a recital last night at the Church of the Epiphany in Pittsburgh for the Sacred Music Colloquium XX. Her program was wide ranging, from Bach to Messiaen, but this PhD student at Julliard provided much more than a perfect performance; she brought to that technical perfection a rare spirit of adventure, daring, and deep conviction, seeming to manufacture whole worlds before our eyes and spiritual imaginations. It’s as if she took it upon herself to re-establish, this night and once and for all, that the organ remains today what it was in Machaut’s time: the reigning king of all instruments. She fully succeeded, prompting several spontaneous bursts of applause and an extended standing ovation at the end.

Here was her program.

1. J.S. Bach (1685-1750). . . Prelude in Eb-Major BWV 552/1

2. Max Reger (1873-1916). . . Chorale-Preludes op. 67

  • 1 – Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr
  • 5 – Christus, der ist mein leben
  • 2 – Alles ist an Gottes Segen
  • 20 – Jesus ist kommen, Grund ewiger Freude
  • 4 – Aus meines Herzens Grunde
  • 39 – Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn
  • 42 – Von Himmel hoch, da komm ich her

3. J.S. Bach (1685-1750). . . Fugue in Eb-Major BWV 552/2

4. Sigfried Karg-Elert (1877-1933). . . Symphonic Chorale on “Jesu meine Freude”

  • Introduzione (Inferno)
  • Canzone
  • Fuga con Corale

5. Herbert Howells (1893-1982). . . Psalm-Prelude op. 32/2 “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

6. Olivier Messiaen (1910-1992). . . Dieu Parmi Nous

Any program that ends with Messiaen will always exists in a state of extended suspension and excitement for what awaits. His music has this astounding capacity to conjure up images and visions. His music has had presence at the colloquium over the last five or so years, given his status as the leading Catholic musician (and some would say theologian!) of the 20th century. The performance of Dieu Parmi Nous was indeed dazzling and, following the recital, listeners enjoy sharing their impressions.

A note on Isabelle: she is a delightful person, unassuming and personable in every way. She was there to greet people at the front entrance when people arrived and was downstairs after the concert to thank everyone for coming. It did not go unnoticed that she did not carry any sheet music at all with her to the loft. She was just one small-framed person alone who did all of this with a mighty instrument, her hands, her feet, her mind, and her heart.

Once again, please forgive my iPhone images. Here is the loft before the concert and the people gathered, awaiting the first notes. 

And here she is following the recital, sitting with Wilko Brouwers and talking with attendees until late in the night.