Saturday, September 30, 2006


Not at all related to church music (unless you count the Requiem for Messiaen), but these are hilarious P.D.Q. Bach-ish “little-known” works:

My favorite is the Schubert piano concerto where he breaks off the manuscript with “My God, this is so boring!” :)

Friday, September 29, 2006

MCW Revision

Fellow musicians,

The following was sent to me recently from the Director of Worship in my old diocese:

Some of you may know that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is beginning the process of revising the two foundational U.S. documents on Catholic Liturgical Music: Music and Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today. As part of the revision process the Music and Liturgy Subcommittee has asked for advice / suggestions / recommendations from various organizations, institutions and diocesan offices of worship.

I know that some of you may have already been asked for input from one or more of the organizations / institutions who are in contact with the USCCB or BCL. However, I am also asking for your input in this endeavor and would be pleased to receive any response you might have to the following questions:

1) What elements or principles of Music and Catholic Worship and / or Liturgical Music Today do you think should be taken into consideration in this revision?
2) Are there areas of these documents, as they now exist, that you feel should be expanded and further developed OR areas of these documents that should be edited / shortened / deleted? Why do you feel this way?
3) Are there issues with music and the liturgy today, and which are not addressed in the documents (because of when they were written and where we were at that time in the liturgical renewal) that you feel need to be addressed? What are they and how would you think they should be addressed?
4) Are there any other concerns that you would want to voice in regard to the revision of these two documents?

Please feel free to respond to any of those questions above, or make any other comments / recommendations you feel moved to make. I appreciate any and all feedback.

I e-mailed him and asked him if it would be possible for me to post this in the blogosphere for feedback, and he said that the more input he could receive, the better.

So, let's share some ideas/suggestions with him . . . here's your task: answer the aforementioned questions and send them to us at and we'll forward them on.

I need not tell you the impact this revised document may have on the future of liturgical music in the US: please prayerfully read through MCW and LMT and pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses. Please try to have your responses to us within the week; I believe a commission is meeting October 9th (can anyone verify that?)

Thursday, September 28, 2006


Kids in my parish, even the ones who go to the “organ Mass” (with still plenty of Haugen/Haas and Spirit & Song) don’t know “Now Thank We All Our God”.


I mean, I knew that one from when I was a kid. It’s one of the few, very few, standard hymns I did learn among my parish school’s steady diet of Glory & Praise.

Any other horror stories out there of “WHAT??? They don’t know that hymn???”

26 OT--B

26 OT-B (10-1)

Processional: All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name W 11

Psalm: The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart. W 635

Offertory: Super Flumina (Lassus)

Communion: Memento verbi (chant)
Ave Verum Corpus (Elgar)

Thanksgiving: How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds W 125

Recessional: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee W 154

The Lassus is wonderful as you might imagine; contains much of his usual text-painting techniques and his rich harmonic language. You can find it at

Friday, September 22, 2006

characteristics of music that congregations sing well

This is kind of a thinking-out-loud copied from a comment on the below “Soapbox” thread.

What technical qualities of music make it well-suited for congregational singing? ISTM:

1) melody
It’s nice to have patterns that repeat and remain safely diatonic, staying roughly within an octave range. Conjunct motion is good. Good examples: LOBE DEN HERREN, Haugen Ps. 25. Bad examples: “On Eagle’s Wings”, “I Am the Bread of Life”. (And EASTER HYMN, though it pains me to say it, appears iffy here.) Some chant hymns don’t do so well here, like “Veni creator” or “Crux fidelis”.

2) rhythm
Again, we need something straightforward if 400 people will sing it together. Long, held notes make it less likely those 400 people will stay together. Good examples: Just about any standard hymn, or Guimont psalm responses. Bad examples: Moore “Taste and See” verses, “Be Not Afraid”. Chant also works well here, though the absence of pulse can take some getting used to.

3) harmony
Here we have the most freedom. Everything from DIX to Proulx’s concert-worthy “Mass for the City” can stand in here; of course, the restrictions on melody affect harmony as well. Here the goal is pretty much to achieve the maximum harmonic complexity while keeping all other things constant. Good examples: Chant, or just about anything in hymnals. Bad example: Messiaen “O sacrum”. (Way too much harmonic interest for a congregation!) Haugen Ps. 66, Proulx “Mass for the City”, and Haas Ps. 1 are good examples of harmonic interest while holding all other things congregation-friendly.

4) texture
Homophonic or monophonic, pretty much by definition. Good examples: Again, chant or just about anything in hymnals (people like melodies). Bad examples: Just about any polyphony.

5) dynamics
Generally, one consistent dynamic seems, at least today, what works best. A loudly singing congregation is seen as a good thing.

6) form
Gotta be simple - the editors of Spirit & Song would do well to re-examine their work in this light. Good example: strophic hymns with no 1st/2nd/3rd endings, or sung-through chants like “Salve regina”. Bad examples: “How Beautiful” in Spirit & Song, “He Has Anointed Me” in original Gather (with that piano interlude out of nowhere!).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

25 OT--Year B

25 OT-B (9-24)

Processional: I Am the Salvation (LAUDATE DOMINUM)

Psalm: W 632 The Lord upholds my life.

Offertory: Lord, Make Me to Know Thy Ways (Byrd)

Communion: Tu mandasti (chant)--men

Thanksgiving: Come My Way, My Truth, My Life (THE CALL) W 53

Recessional: Christ is Made the Sure Foundation ( EDEN CHURCH ) W 43

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Why do I hate this?

Be Magnified

It’s not the song itself, which I have heard done nicely and non-schlockily.

But good grief ..... all the instrumentation, and then, that cheesiest of cheesy pop song tricks, the transposition up as we reach/repeat a final refrain.

Give a listen to the full audio preview - I’d be interested, why does this stuff sound so awful to me?

Monday, September 18, 2006


Let me begin this post by describing my place in the theological and liturgical sphere of the Catholic Church: I consider myself an adherent to conservative orthodoxy who believes in sound liturgical practice according to the guidelines handed down to us by the powers-that-be. I do my best in my current job (which I will describe in more detail in the next week or two) to champion the cause of quality liturgical music with a particular penchant for Gregorian chant and renaissance polyphony, though not limited to either. I believe much music has been written in the last 400 years of much worth in and out of the Catholic tradition, including composers through the years from Brahms to Proulx.

So that being said, let me express some frustrations over the practice currently in vogue in the Catholic blogosphere of completely ripping on any composer who would dare to associate themselves with the "other side" (more specifically, musicians aligned with the NPM camp). A classic example is this post by Gerald at the Cafeteria is Closed.

To give a bit of background, Gerald's blog was added to our blogroll when Cantor and I decided to start this site. I didn't really read it much but Cantor did. About a month later, he e-mailed me and asked if I would mind if we removed it from the blogroll; Gerald had run a series of posts in which he did some sort of superimposition of faces of liberal commentators upon each other to make some sort of "love child" or something. Seemed pretty childish to me, but a lot of Catholic blogs got a kick out of it. Needless to say, we took his blog off our site.

For some reason, a lot of folks enjoy and support this sort of silliness that seems to me to be a waste of time and counter-productive. I remember being a reader of Mark Shea's blog for about a week until I figured out he spent most of his posts just maligning folks who dared to disagree with his position on various issues. Now don't get me wrong, most of the time, I agreed with his position; it was his denigration of his opponents that I disapproved of.

Now to relate all this to the world of liturgical music, I must present my dismay at the continual disparaging of composers such as David Haas, Marty Haugen, Michael Joncas, et al. Now again, I won't try to give an apologia for the genre of music with which these people work; I dislike a great deal of it and believe that most of it pales in comparison to our treasury of sacred music and contemporary composers such as Richard Proulx (who I like very much). But I believe the absolute worst way to try to change the liturgical music scene in America is to try to shame people who find this music prayerful and liturgically acceptable. If I could give the gist of most conservative bloggers response to the liberal liturgical music scene, it would boil down to something like this:

"If you like Marty Haugen's music more than you like chant, then you're stupid."

And we wonder why we're not converting more of the NPM crowd with our insightful rhetoric . . .

The arrogance we have out in the Catholic blogosphere is profound at times. Since we have the fullness of Truth in the Catholic Church, we think we have the right to rip into anyone who would dare be a Protestant (gasp!) or a liberal Catholic (double gasp!). We present all these irrefutable arguments for the necessity of being steeped in orthodoxy in a manner that they feel stupid to believe anything else, and then we're shocked that they don't go running for the nearest confessional. And what I find the most ironic, is the fact that most of the most abrasive commentators are converts themselves! It just makes me want to say, "Hey, that was you five years ago!" Shouldn't these folks be the ones empathizing with the other side?

So here's my list of things that need to happen to help us regain some of our credibility with the NPM crowd that we've lost with our invective:

1) Be positive. Introduce chant in your parish in a non-confrontational way. Let people see the beauty inherent in this music and the possibilities for deepening their prayer life.

2) Don't publicly disparage music that you dislike and/or find objectionable for liturgical use. Don't use silly names like "On Beagle's Wings" or "Massive Cremation" to try to win over people; you'll just foster that polarization in the Church that we're trying to eliminate.

3) Empathize with the other side. Try to find out what it is in this type of music that helps people to pray. Ask yourself how you can use that as a starting point to help bring them to that next level and beyond.

4) Pray and take your Humility pills.

Enough with St. Blog's arrogance; let's start fostering intelligent discussion devoid of the pervasive vitriol that dominates our posts.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

24th Sunday in OT--B

Processional: Grant Peace to Those ( BRESLAU ; LM)

Psalm: W 629 I will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living

Offertory: Jesu, Dulcis Memoria-- Victoria

Communion: Qui vult venire (chant)--women

Thanksgiving: Take Up Your Cross RS 808

Recessional: Let All On Earth Their Voices Raise W 158

This choir had a history of chant use for a great while until it fell out of favor with the previous director a couple years back. I thought it important to resurrect its use but with a slight modification: no mixed chant. Only men or only women. So far we've rotated each week, with each gender getting a shot at the communion antiphon every other mass. It's worked pretty well so far; they like the sound of unison chant and the other gender gets to leave rehearsal fifteen minutes early :)

Friday, September 08, 2006

23rd Sunday in OT--Year B

Processional: O Lord, My Good and Gracious God (OLD HUNDREDTH)

Psalm: Gelineau

Offertory: Oravi Deum meum (chant)

Communion: Vovete, et reddite (chant)
Like as the Hart (Howells)

Thanksgiving: To Jesus Christ, Our Sovereign King (ICH GLAUB AN GOTT)

Recessional: Thou, Whose Almighty Word (ITALIAN HYMN)

This is a "Proper" weekend to say the least; Introit, Offertory as well as both the Communion Proper text from the Graduale as well as the Communion Proper text from the Sacramentary (Ps. 42).

As a side note, my parish uses Worship II which is a bit outdated no doubt, but still has some "thee's" and "thou's" that we all enjoy. We won't be investing in any new hymnals until the translations are firmly in place. Then we'll see . . .

22nd Sunday in OT--Year B

Line-up for last weekend:

Processional: Have Mercy on Me (REPTON)--Tietze

Psalm: Gelineau

Offertory: Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring--Bach

Communion: Domine memorabor (chant)
Ave Verum (Mozart)

Hymn of Thanksgiving: I Sing the Mighty Power of God (MOZART)

Recessional: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (LOBE DEN HERREN)

So far, the Tietze Introit Hymns seem to be well-received . . . I'm having the choir sing the doxology acappella followed by a restatement of the Antiphon with the organ opened up. This particular week was exciting for me because the English tune REPTON is my favorite hymn melody. I'm always surprised that more hymnals don't have it . . .