Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Liber hymnarius

I am trying to get into the Liturgy of the Hours a bit more, at least to familiarize myself with it.

For a chant enthusiast, the Liber hymnarius is indispensible for the Liturgy of the Hours. Though GIA etc. seem to sell it as basically a collection of hymns, it also contains invitatories and proper antiphons throughout the Church year.

One possible use of this, I am thinking, is as short, manageable chunks of (real) Gregorian chant - yes, communions often fill this slot, but the antiphons just give additional options (and thematic ideas).

Thankfully, CMAA provides a publicly available edition of an old Antiphonale that (correct me if I’m wrong?) should have most of what’s in the LH, if not more?

I’m moving!

I am soon to be following in PT’s footsteps and taking on a new, much bigger position.

A few months back I found myself growing increasingly frustrated in my current parish. People were leaving music for one reason or another, and I began to feel as if I had too little to work with in order to make music. It also has never been a particularly gratifying musical experience; my training is in conducting and singing, yet I primarily function as an organist, which (though I have gotten much better) is not my forté. So, I sent out some résumés and had a couple interviews, one of which is a big, quickly growing parish in a very large (larger than my own) metropolitan area .... this is the position I ended up accepting.

I am excited because the parish has an actual organist, which means I get to conduct and sing. The choir is bigger and, judging from my audition, much more capable; I am thinking it is not unrealistic to look toward doing a Mozart Requiem someday there. The parish is growing rapidly - they are at almost 4,000 families, having doubled in the past 6 years.

So, I may be irregular about posting in the future.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all!

Here is a selection of rep from our parish’s Christmas Masses. All Masses used the midnight readings (plegh, but not my call).

All Masses did:
Entrance: O Come, All Ye Faithful
Gloria: Proulx “Gloria for Christmastime”
resp. psalm: Guimont (midnight - wonderful refrain!)
Alleluia: Chepponis “Festival Alleluia”
Canon acclamations: Mass of Light (I know. But, the parish knows it.)
Agnus: Mass of Remembrance (another example of non-offensive Haugen)
Communion: my setting of the midnight Communion antiphon/psalm
Haugen Ps. 98 (see note above for Mass of Light)
Moore “Taste and See” (ditto)
Thanksgiving: Silent Night
Recessional: Joy to the World

The vigil Mass is usually the “contemporary” Mass. Yes, yes, I know, but I have felt that I am much more likely to be able to introduce chant etc. if I show myself to be amenable to things like drums, bass, etc. I actually played bass, with parishioners on piano, guitar, and drums. The singers were a small group of about 7, and there wasn’t much time for teaching anything very interesting vocally. What we did do, amidst the selection of carols before Mass:

Michael Card “Immanuel” (music not too bad, but I’m not up on the text)
O Holy Night, easy arrangement
Wayne Watson “Child of Bethlehem” (not bad, for being pop)

The midnight Mass had the parish choir (plus a few seasonal singers and new recruits!), handbells, timpani, trumpets, flutes, and clarinet. The choir did:

Dawson “Mary Had a Baby”
Anerio “Ave maris stella” (alternatim w/ chant)
my own arrangement of “Personent hodie” (to use the instruments)
an easy (choral) “O Holy Night” arrangement

The Dawson is quite a bit harder than I thought. It just does not seem to teach easily .... which I now think is because of all the note-finding it requires. My group did ok with it (other than, alas, the opening soprano bars). Anerio turned out well - definitely a piece to keep in mind, since it’s only about 20 bars of polyphony and a fairly easy (short) chant tune.

Much of this required arranging, esp. writing timpani parts. The end results, though, were well worth it!

PT, Gavin - I am curious what, given your antipathy toward Missa Emmanuel etc., you think of the Proulx Christmastime Gloria - one asset that occurred to me is that Catholics who don’t come to Mass regularly can sing it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

HELMSLEY: my new favorite hymn tune

Wow .... I mean, the end of it isn’t as cool as the rest of it, but geez, the first two lines. I am especially enthralled with the end of the 2nd line, that great 3-2 motion (although, notice the parallel 5th between tenor and soprano?).

Kinda too bad, the time of year for this one (early Advent) has passed. Eh well. Always next year. :)

NB: The MIDI takes it faster than my taste, which could just be my exposure to a slower, broader tempo at our local cathedral (where they typically take these things at a slow tempo because of super-bouncy acoustics). Quarter at about 92 sounds about right to me.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Advent 1 and 2--C

Advent 1—C (12-03-06)

Introit: To you I lift up my soul (Weber chant)

Kyrie: Mass for the City (Proulx)

(No Gloria)

Psalm : To you, O Lord, I lift my soul. W 452

Alleluia: chant

Offertory: Come my Way, My Truth, My Life (Vaughan Williams) --choir

Sanctus: Mass for the City (Proulx)

Memorial Acclamation: Festival Eucharist

Amen: Festival Eucharist

Our Father: chant

Agnus Dei: Holy Cross Mass (Isele)

Communion: The Lord Will Shower His Gifts (Weber chant)

Recessional: W 269 The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns (MORNING SONG)

Advent 2—C (12-10-06)

Processional: People of Sion (Weber chant)

Psalm: Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.

Offertory: Alma Redemptoris Mater (chant—men)

Communion: Jerusalem , stand on the heights (Weber chant)

Recessional: On Jordan ’s Bank W 218

As I had alluded to in my previous post, I had to spend so much time on our pieces for the Xmas concert, that Advent stuff was quite neglected. That shall be remedied next year . . .

So a few items of interest: I started introducing "Mass for the City" during Advent (just the Kyrie and Sanctus for now; the rest to come in January), introduced the Isele "Lamb of God" (a bit syrupy, yes, but quite lovely and the ascending motive fits well with the Proulx mass), and gave some of the Weber chants a run (we performed w/organ accompaniment for some variety--quite nice).

My only lament is that it looks like I'll be cheating the wonderful repertoire of metrical Advent hymns since I only programmed one for each of the first two weeks. I'll try to make up for lost time the next two weeks since my choir is gone for break : (

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Psallite: a new Mass proper

They don’t want to sell it this way, probably because so few now know what the Mass Proper is (even including those who purchase music for liturgical use), but that indeed is what I see here:

What Psallite gives us is three types of song: “Song for the Week” (Entrance/closing), “Song for the Word” (after 1st reading), and “Song for the Table” (Communion). Putting aside the flower-child-y ring of the names, it’s a laudable idea: to create music that “catches” so people take it with them and make it part of their “life’s soundtrack”. And, at least insofar as the “Table songs” go, it is also based on tradition; Gregorian Communions are often tied to the Scripture readings of the day and generally have non-psalmic antiphons.

I have to confess, I just don’t like this collection. The music, which I hear colleagues praise as inspired and so forth, seems to me so bland and uninteresting. (Could be my own bias, as I often write music quite similar in form and function to these pieces.) The sample recordings don’t help - the singers (presumably the composers) sound awfully rag-tag and give amateur musicians little to which they might aspire.

The description is a little curious: “inspired by the antiphons and psalms of the Roman Missal”. Antiphons and psalms in the Missal? (I’ve corresponded with a couple of the composers, and I still don’t really have a straight answer on what exactly that means.)

What is nice, though, is how a collection like this might focus people’s attentions on the idea of what traditionally is called a Proper of the Mass. It could help other projects to bear fruit, especially if translations/adaptations of the Proper could be made that are:
  • freely usable and adaptable
  • faithful to the Gregorian texts
  • easily able to be set to music, be it metered or unmetered

The above is what I would rather see come of the efforts at a standard body of sung texts than a generic corpus of hymns.

Incidentally, Adoremus has commented briefly on this collection; sadly, though, they look no further than the choice of translation used for the psalm verses. I agree that using the 1993 Grail is a poor choice in light of the direction in which things are moving overall, but Psallite is much more significant for its other characteristics. (Might I suggest that comments refrain from repeating Adoremus’s condemnation of the translation, instead focusing on the effort itself?)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

use of gradual chant in place of responsorial psalm?

I would be curious what folks (esp. Jeffrey?) think of the idea of singing the gradual chant after the first reading instead of the responsorial psalm, and the Gregorian Alleluia/Tract in place of the Lectionary text for the acclamation before the Gospel.

The advantage I see to use of the proper for the processionals is served by the responsorial psalm. In fact, it is theoretically served better, since the resp. psalms are matched to the other parts of the Liturgy of the Word in the three-year cycle.

There is, however, another angle - the graduals are generally considered separate readings in and of themselves, not necessarily tied to the other readings. In other words, the graduals are not supposed to connect with the other readings, in the same sense as the 2nd reading generally is not coordinated to the 1st reading or Gospel. So, in this regard, the gradual serves a “separate-but-equal” purpose.

But then, there is the issue of congregational singing. I am not one to insist on congregational singing of texts that change from week to week, but at the same time, it is always kinda cool to hear the congregation sing a new text each week. It goes without saying, I think, that we should not expect a congregation to sing graduals or alleluias!

And where would you sing the gradual? (Heh, on the step!) If, as the Graduale implies with its asterisk, a choir sings, then it makes little (or no) sense to sing the gradual from the ambo, in contrast to the responsorial psalm, which is supposed to be sung from there. This changes the dynamic of the “chant after the first reading”, since its being sung away from the ambo would tend to emphasize its quality of being sung, whereas the resp. psalm’s being sung from the ambo would seem to emphasize its identity as a “text that we sing”, so to speak. (Of course, the floridness of the graduals bears this out - we definitely are engaged in liturgical music-making that is not so text-centric!)

For the time being, I would suggest singing the gradual on Good Friday, when it actually goes after the 2nd reading, not the 1st. (The tract and gradual are switched - funny thing.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christmas Concert 2006

Well, back to the world of blogging after an exhausting few weeks at work (minus a nice week off for T-giving break).

A huge perk to this new job on a college campus is that my schedule revolves around that of the school year. So in regards to Christmas, all the festivities are at the beginning of December since the students are all gone after finals. So starting tomorrow, I can kick back and relax!

We had our annual Christmas concert last night, my first here as music director. It was wonderful if I do say so myself. All the build up was stressful and a huge hassle at times, but it was all worth it.

Here's the line-up:


Rejoice Greatly (Handel--brass)


O Come, O Come Emmanuel (traditional)


Rorate Caeli
Ecce Nomen Domini

Sunday Choir 1 (the one I direct personally):

Noe, Noe, Psallite (J. Mouton)
Et Incarnatus Est (Bach)

Vigil Choir:

Gloria in Excelsis (Joncas--Psallite mass)
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (arr. Donohue)

Sunday Choir 2 (contemporary ensemble):

Love Has Come (M. Maher)
Joyful, Joyful (arr. Beal)

Sunday Choir 3:

O Magnum Mysterium (Lauridsen)
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (Traditional)

Sunday Choir 4:

Hodie Christus Natus Est (Marenzio)
Hodie Christus Natus Est (Gabrieli)

Festival Choir:

'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime (arr. Praying Twice--SA w/divisi, piano, strings)
Alma Redemptoris Mater (chant--men)
Alma Redemptoris Mater (Guerrerro)
The Night That Christ Was Born (K. Franklin)

Congregational carols

O Come, All ye Faithful (arr. Willcocks)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (arr. Willcocks)
Silent Night (arr. by one of my student directors)


Canzon Septimi toni No. 2 (G. Gabrieli--brass and organ)

Check out the Mouton piece at It's marvelous but hard. I regretted choosing it about 3-4 weeks into rehearsals . . . we were just spending so much time with it and it just wasn't clicking. And then on Wednesday, it just finally came together, thank God. Between that and the Bach, we hardly had time to rehearse anything else the last few weeks! But both came off very well last night, I must say.

I was very proud of the other choirs, who I don't get to listen to on a weekly basis. My student directors did a fine job choosing repertoire and preparing their groups.

The festival choir did a wonderful job as well. Anyone from each choir was able to come to extra rehearsals and prepare some pieces for the concert (I had about 30+). The Guerrero came together better than I had anticipated and the Kirk Franklin piece (performed with a contemporary ensemble) is an absolute show-stopper. And then the Willcocks carols are oustanding, of course, especially with a full complement of brass.

The whole endeavour was utterly exhausting and I'm glad it's over, but I was so giddy afterwards that I only slept four hours last night. One more mass this morning and then a stress-free finals week for me!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Is church really just psychotherapy?

Obviously, you all know my answer - negative. (Or, in French, the too-cute expression, “non, non, et non!”)

And yet, it really seems a lot of people treat it as precisely this. How often does the phrase “touch your heart” get thrown around? If people are made to feel a certain (positive) way, the general presumption seems to be that the institution is doing its job. People choose which church they attend (not just among Catholics) based on which one makes them feel best.

And since Klaus (like a good friend) reminds me that I need to be posting about music on a blog titled “Cantate Deo”, I think this extends, perhaps more than anything else, to music. I got some flak this past spring for not doing a particular “setting” of the Exodus canticle at Easter Vigil that the parish has been doing for several years - the big problem with it is that it only uses a small portion of the actual text. People were disappointed/upset that their “fun” music was not there.

Ok, so maybe that’s a tangential example - funeral music would be a clearer case, where it seems the determinations nearly always center around what makes the grieving family feel best (at least, in my parish).

Maybe I’m just irked by what my uncle recently said to me, that he thinks church should be uplifting and make people feel good. The “feel good” line really irks me - when did your 2nd grade teacher ever shirk from making you do something you didn’t like, if s/he knew it was in your best interests? Church is meant for transformation: “come as you are”, yes, but also “and be transformed.”