Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Good stuff: Saint-Saëns Requiem

Check it out on CPDL.

Very different in character from the more popular Mozart and Fauré settings, this one strikes me as being overtly liturgical. The choral parts are easy, yet there is plenty of musical interest (check out the “Tuba mirum”). No brass or timpani are in the scoring (according to Kalmus online, anyway).

I’d love to see this one get done more often. If there is a case to be made for use of full liturgical Requiem settings, I think Saint-Saëns is a much better example with which to argue than Berlioz, Mozart, Fauré, or Verdi.

Duruflé - not sure here. ISTM this is kind of a hybrid liturgical/concert setting.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rubbish in the NYT

I mean, not that it’s a terrible surprise, but anyway.

“Clueless in New York” rails on Latin (apparently oblivious to what SumPon really means):

Friday, July 27, 2007

Be it resolved: the right tempo of Hillert “Festival Canticle”

Lutherans have, I believe, sung this one to death since the late 1970s. It’s interesting to observe the various tempi used, though - some places are literally twice as fast as others are.

Here is what I think is a very nice tempo for this (IMO) very majestic-sounding song:

(I have heard it sung almost twice as fast!)

I do know the conductor of the recording (J. Michael Thompson), and I would be surprised if he did not confer with Hillert on tempos, especially since it comes from an anthology recording of Hillert’s works.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Two very nice OCP titles

Yes, you read that heading correctly.

OCP has a label called “Trinitas” under which they publish some really nice
choral repertoire.

A couple examples:

David Hurd O How Amiable (Ps. 84:1-6)

Colin Mawby The Light of the Trinity (text by St. Ambrose)

Both of the above links are to the full octavo in downloadable preview. (Mawby is a very well-known British composer.)

These are, alas, both beyond what I feel comfortable giving to my church choir. But, maybe some of you out there have more resources than I for doing this stuff.

EDIT: All of the Trinitas titles are listed in the following link. Several of them have web previews:

Another nice-looking one is the “Four Advent Antiphons”, which sets all of the Sunday Advent introits to what seems a modern polyphonic idiom - not as “intense” as Palestrina, but more accessible and making use of the still-official English translations from the Missal.

Dear CMAA: Where did those communion psalm verses come from?

CMAA has on its web site a number of communion chants with psalm verses.

For a large majority of these, the origin is clear, spelled out in the Ordo cantus Missæ (though CMAA apparently went off Solesmes’s 1974 Graduale Romanum, which has a few typos noted here earlier).

Could someone from CMAA please post here, though, the origin of psalm verses for such chants as “Unde huic” and “Intellege”, which are not given psalm verses in the Ordo cantus Missæ and do not even appear in the 1974 Graduale?

Summorum Pontificum and Dies iræ

Quick thought - now that the pre-V2 and the post-V2 forms of the Roman Rite are officially to be regarded as more or less “complementary”, a peculiar situation is created concerning Dies iræ.

As most of us know, this hymn is a sequence in the 1962 Missal. It is not found in the post-V2 Missal, though all four of the other sequences from the 1962 Missal are.

Jeffrey Tucker at TNLM (check the links on the right) asked a few weeks back about the potential for reintegrating parts of the 1962 Missal into the modern Mass. Jeff talked about offertory prayers and the Last Gospel - these, I would think, are something of a stretch because their being removed/replaced was a more decisive act, and introducing these into the modern Mass would be a bit “messy”, since nothing in the modern Missal envisions anything like Last Gospel, and (IIRC) the modern Missal has its own texts that take the place of the offertory prayers.

But the case is different with Dies iræ. Here is a removed text whose spot is indeed in place in the modern Mass. The rubrics account for texts of its genre in a specific location.

So, I will update my stance on DI in the modern Mass: I still would regard it as contrary to liturgical norms, but it is an absurdity for the norms not to permit the sequence in one form of the Mass but to forbid it (albeit implicitly) in the other.

(Of course, another absurdity comes into sight soon: the U.S. Lectionary has a responsorial psalm refrain on 18OT-c that comes from Ps. 95, with verses from Ps. 90. This is because the 1969 Ordo lectionum Missæ used Ps. 95 for both verses and refrain, while the 1981 OLM uses Ps. 90 - and the 1998 U.S. Lectionary botched the change.)

Congregational singing when printing was expensive

When printing was expensive, and there weren’t pews with hymnals, how did congregations sing hymns?

Consider, too, literacy - how many Christians through the centuries have been literate?

(I think this idea bears repeating - vernacular Scripture translations in the Renaissance could not have “opened the Scriptures to the masses” unless the masses were literate....which, as I recall learning, they generally weren’t.)

I think of Bach BWV78, where JSB uses four different verses of the hymn (in different places - mvts. 1, 3, 5, and 7). How well did how much of Bach’s largely illiterate (correct??) congregation know all of those verses? Were the quotations just for the composer’s own edification (not an entirely absurd idea, considering the didactic natures of the never-published Mass “in B Minor” and the Art of the Fugue), or did Bach really target a certain segment (however large) of his congregation that actually recognized the quotations?

I mean, these aren’t verse 1, 2, 3, and 4. This is, like, verse 1, half of verse 4, half of verse 9, and verse 12. Yes, *12*! Some of those hymns have 30+ verses!!

And, when did congregations begin to sing in parts? Was it new in the 19th century?

Monday, July 23, 2007

B16: choir recruiter’s best friend

...and this just weeks before I intend to do a recruting drive. Have I mentioned that I love this man? :)


Pope: Choral Singing Educates for Peace

Calls It Training for Life

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy, JULY 22, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says that choral singing is an authentic education in life and peace, and an exercise in the "hearing of the heart."

The Pope said this Friday following a concert in his honor performed by Alpine choirs at the Castle of Mirabello, near where he is vacationing until July 27.

"Training in singing, in singing in choir, is not only an exercise of the external hearing and voice; it is also an education of interior hearing, the hearing of the heart, an exercise and a education in life and peace," the Holy Father said in his improvised remarks.

"Singing together in choir and with other choirs together, demands attention to the other, attention to the composer, attention to the conductor, attention to this totality that we call music and culture. And," he added, "in this way singing in choir is a training in life, a training in peace, a walking together."

Seven different choirs from Cadore participated in the concert, offered by Bishop Giuseppe Andrich of Belluno-Feltre.

Before the beginning of the concert, Bishop Andrich spoke of the dramatic stage of the First World War in which the Dolomites were also a theatre.

The Pope too spoke of those dramatic moments "when this mountain was a barrier, a terrible and bloody theatre of war."

"Let us thank the Lord because there is peace now in our Europe and let us do everything to make peace grow in us and in the world," he urged. "I am certain that precisely this beautiful music is a commitment to peace and a help to live in peace."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

“Before long, I knew all the prayers in Latin by heart....”

I could admit a case that Ms. Murray is being polemical with some of her article here, but MUCHO BLESSINGS for that one phrase.

I am still reeling a bit from my email discussion where so many asserted that it would be impossible for them to learn the people’s parts of the Mass in Latin. I just don’t buy it. Fuff. Phah. It ain’t rocket science.

There is much else to be liked, as Fr. Z comments here.

Choral harmonies for congregational music

I think most of us around here would agree that congregational singing, per se, is a good thing that ought to be cultivated. Let’s assume, for the sake of this discussion, that the practice of replacing the processional propers of the Mass (i.e. introit, offertory, communion) with congregational songs from Breaking Bread, Gather, et al is legit.

If we are to ask the congregation to sing, we might as well facilitate that as much as possible. Besides choosing congregation-friendly melodies (e.g. “I Received the Living God” or “Christ, Be Our Light”), the music ministry should support the congregation’s singing as much as possible. Right?

And into this swirling vortex of liturgical astuteness, I now posit the question of choral harmonies when the congregation sings.

In a standard four-part chorale, the congregation’s melody is in the soprano voice. This part, however, is NOT a true soprano part! It is a congregational part whose upper range generally should not go above D, with an occasional E-flat maybe. Thus, the “soprano” part is, instead, more like a “medium low” part. (And in some instances, even is more like an alto part - e.g. “One Bread, One Body”!)

Since the melody in the soprano voice sits lower than a real soprano part, this pushes the alto part down even lower than a typical choral alto line. Likewise, the tenor and bass parts are pushed down. I don’t know that that is so problematic for tenors, but for basses it can be a real issue. LOBE DEN HERREN, for example, depending on what key you’re singing, has all kinds of low Fs and Gs.

Now, low notes are not a problem in and of themselves. They often create a wonderful effect in choral music or even in solo music. But as any good composer for the voice knows, not as much sound comes out down there, so music that uses the low range of the voice tend to be quiet. Accompaniment is often thinned, with piano markings in orchestration.

This explains why a choir singing a 4-part congregational chorale, like LOBE DEN HERREN, will usually be quieter than when singing in unison: the altos and basses are usually singing in the part of their ranges where not as much sound comes out. This can create vocal problems, though, with an organ blaring (as it should!) to support the congregation’s singing.

If you’ve ever been to (or sung in) a performance of the Berlioz Requiem, you know the incredible “wall of sound” created when multiple hundreds of voices sing together. Shouldn’t this same thing happen in the Mass, though? Heck, my parish’s new church will hold almost 1,500 - can you imagine the sound if all of those people actually sang?? It would be stupendous. It would probably change lives.

And, it would completely drown out the choir’s pretty harmonies.

We live in a music-absorbing culture rather than a music-producing one. People are more accustomed to hearing music than to making it. A problem that I see with choral harmonies for congregational music is that it gives the congregation an incentive not to sing: if they sing, they won’t hear the choir harmonies.

Another thing to observe is that the sopranos must sit by in boredom while the other voices learn their harmony parts in rehearsal.

For these reasons, I personally would rather see a choir sing in unison whenever the congregation is expected to sing. It supports the congregation better, is better for everyone’s voices, and it won’t have you spending valuable rehearsal time on music for which you ostensibly hope the congregation will sing strongly such that they only hear the organ. It leaves you with more time for rehearing song that only the choir sings.

But, in most parishes, those kinds of songs are limited to the offertory; whereas the liturgy itself gives the choir much more freedom to sing its own part, the implementation effectively cripples that “duet” between choir and congregation.

So, my own choir members have not all taken well to my suggestion that they sing unison whenever the congregation sings, since this effectively relegates them to singing only offertories as the choir. My compromise, then:

1) New congregational music: All unison, all the time.

2) Familiar strophic hymns, which we use almost universally for entrance and recessional, are sung unison for the first and last verses. Middle verse harmonies are sung ad libitum and generally are not rehearsed.

3) Familiar responsorial songs, which we use regularly for communion, are sung unison on the first refrain and verse, with choral parts on refrains thereafter. These refrains we probably will rehearse; I figure it won’t take much time, and I see many congregants who, though they sing at other moments of the Mass, do not sing at communion, esp. after receiving.

In addition, I think we will try singing the Alleluia verse with the entire choir, in parts. (I continue to hope, too, that we can eventually try a short eucharistic motet at communion.)

Rough week

In the same week:

* My dad came to visit and stayed with me all week. Not bad in and of itself, but it just brings up tensions and things that give me some trouble.

* I’ve been “putting out flames” about some discussions with my choir members on choral harmonies for congregational music. (More on that in another post.)

* Two choir members apparently set up a meeting with my supervisor concerning the congregational harmonies thing. (On which, as I will post later, you will see that I basically capitulated.) This is fine, except one of them is one with whom I work a fair amount. “Normally”, choir members should come to me directly with concerns unless they are uncomfortable coming to me; it was bothersome to see that this person is, in fact, uncomfortable with me. It made me feel untrusted and brought back the defensive feelings from another choir member telling me that some with whom she is in contact think I don’t really listen to people - and this after many instances, even in the 5 months I have been at the parish, of accommodating people’s feedback.

* The other choir member is one who, with her husband, left the choir in anger after the Easter Vigil. (Apparently they are planning to give me another chance, which makes me breathe a sigh of relief.) I don’t often take it very well when people become so upset with me, particularly when I feel (as, justified or no, I did) that so little has provoked it. Suffice it to say it was the worst I hope I ever feel after an Easter Vigil - which usually for me is an almost euphoric high. (WHY a Catholic, esp. without kids, would ever miss the Vigil is beyond me.) Anyway, that whole thing still makes me uneasy. She did, though, email the choir in support of the idea that “let’s all just reset and give this thing another try, since (Cantor) came in at such a strange time of the year”. (I started a week and a half before Ash Wednesday - yikes!)

* Another choir member in particular set up a meeting with me to discuss her issues. This is a choir member who compulsively gives you 30 minutes of background information. She is such a sweet lady that you just can’t (or, at least, I can’t) bring yourself to say, “get to your point, please”, but UGH.

* This same choir member related how she was very surprised when I told her what Vatican II really said about Latin. The choir was a little uneasy around Easter with an amount of Latin that, relative to what they had been given previously, was pretty abundant; this choir member thought it would interest many to know some of the rationale behind the retention of liturgical Latin. So, I shot off an email to the choir that gave CSL 36, CSL 54, MS 47, GIRM 41, and SacCar 62, then the following commentary:
The reasons why Vatican II’s expressed desire for congregations to sing and/or to speak in Latin was not heeded are mysterious and complex, and they certainly are WAY beyond the appropriate scope of an email. But a significant fact to bear in mind is that the term “Latin Mass” can accurately describe the *modern* Mass just as it describes the Mass as it was before Vatican II.

I have planned a good deal of the choir’s choral repertoire for the coming year; at this point, not much Latin is “on the plate”. (I do have in mind to sing the “O antiphons” in Latin at the Advent Lessons and Carols.) What Latin we do sing will be introduced early, with translations made available to the choir and, whenever possible, to the congregation.

As an aside, you may have heard of Pope Benedict’s liberalization of the pre-Conciliar Mass (i.e. “the old Latin Mass”) on July 7th. What this means is that any priest who so desires *may* (not “must”, or even “should”) now celebrate the Mass as it was before Vatican II. As you may expect, the number of priests who want to do so, *and* who know how, is very small, especially in the United States.

* This apparently didn’t sit well, for whatever reason, with the choir member who is/was upset with me, who had another meeting with my supervisor.

* Also, the day before, the supervisor, having been apprised of my email, ordered me to place her on the choir email list. She’s not in the choir, so I felt this was a bit inappropriate. The strange thing was, she told me she thought what I had written was ok, but at the same time was pretty clearly upset about it.

* At the same time as all this fun and goodness, I have been engaged in a defense of liturgical Latin (i.e. diversity with vernaculars, not to the exclusion of either) on an email list populated largely with people who are glad not to be praying in Latin except the occasional “Ubi caritas”. I think I’ve got a very good case, but I did not persuade many except “legalistically”. Finally I was informed that I was becoming “a bore”. Too many posts in too little time. Again, not something I take very easily - esp. given the conviction that I have concerning liturgical Latin.

ANYWAY. Reset. I just hope I won’t regret taking this job; I moved cross-country to come here, and it seemed such a nice prospect to work for a large parish. The strange thing is that I hear, and hear of, very few complaints from the congregation itself. I mostly deal with complaints from a few of the choir members. I think what bugs me the most is not being seen as trustworthy.....I guess that just will come with time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lilypond is really stupid

I love open-source software. I regularly read slashdot.org. While I am a Windoze user, virtually everything I use regularly is open-source software, from Vim to OpenOffice.org to Firefox and Thunderbird to Pidgin. Open source software got me my first job out of college, where I was a network monitor and a programmer designing web applications with Perl.

Most stable open-source software that’s been around for a while is well-documented, and documented in ways that a programmer understands and appreciates. If, for example, one wants to see a list of functions available in PHP, you just go down to the function reference in the online manual, and voilà. If you want to see the syntax of a function, you can even go to http://php.net/(the function name), and boom, there it is, with usage examples and all.

Perl is much the same way, though without a centralized site that explains the language itself; instead, you buy a book from O’Reilly or take your chance with Google. (Usually a safe bet.) Or, Perl’s provided documentation works well, too. And certainly for using Perl modules, CPAN is a gem that explains everything in concise, clear terms. Lots of usage examples for the code that save buckets of time. (I don’t think I am the only programmer who learns more, and more quickly, from example code than from a prose explanation.)

The list goes on. MySQL has dev.mysql.com. Javascript has mozilla.org’s exaplanations and example code. The W3C DOM, HTML, and CSS all have w3.org’s specifications, which are surprisingly helpful. w3schools.com and other sites provide much help.

And then....*sigh*. There is Lilypond. A system for music notation designed by programmers who are also musicians. The output is very nice-looking usually, and you generally don’t have to spend the time futzing with making this note not overlap that note etc. that Finale makes you spend. It could be so nice.

But, you basically have to learn a programming language to use the thing. In other words, you don’t point-and-click notes/rests onto a staff the way you do with Finale; rather, you open up Notepad, Vim, emacs (God forbid!), or your other favorite text editor and create what is called a “source file”. The Lilypond program then takes that “source file” and turns it into a PDF that has your music in it.

That in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean there is a substantial learning curve. It also means there is no way to enter music via a MIDI keyboard, so it can take a while to enter a score. Again, not the worst thing, but it means the documentation should be helpful, as it is in the programming languages above described.

But the documentation for this thing is AWFUL. I mean BAD. If you want to look at a source for the various keywords and commands available to you, you are either a better geek than I, or you will search in vain ’cuz it ain’t there.

If you download the lilypond source for the Victoria “Conditor alme siderum” and then try to turn that source in the current Lilypond, it will tell you that this source file is for an old version of Lilypond, and you need to run a different program to update the file so that modern Lilypond knows what to do with it. Fine.


Lilypond will then tell you that it doesn’t know how to update this particular source file. A little bit of googling shows that certain commands are deprecated - of course, the Lilypond documentation doesn’t have a clear explanation, as any decent language would, of what the old command did and what has replaced it (preferably with sample code for both).

It took me several hours to figure out that what I needed to do was a mechanical update of the commands used for lyrics and an updating of the syntax for entering the lyrics themselves. This *could* have been done by the script. It *should* have been easy to find something on this in the documentation.

Oh well. At least the output is pretty. But I certainly can’t drop Finale, which lets me enter a score quickly (since I know it inside-and-out after 7 years now of using it) and in whose format I already have tons of music entered.

CPDL anthems for various days

A few treasures I have found on CPDL that would be very appropriate for various days:

Marian days: Anerio or Grieg “Ave maris”

All Saints: Stanford “And I Saw Another Angel”

Christ the King: “Worthy Is the Lamb” from Messiah

Early Advent: various settings of “O Pray for the Peace” (i.e. Ps. 122), Victoria “Conditor alme siderum”

4th Advent:
any Ave Maria - I had in mind Elgar

Christmas Eve: “And the glory of the Lord” from Messiah (communion)
Christmas midnight: Hassler “Lætentur” (offertory)

Ash Wednesday: Lotti “Miserere”

Lent: Farrant “Lord, for thy tender mercies’ sake”, “Hide not Thou Thy face”, or “Call to Remembrance”

Palm Sunday / Good Friday: Anerio “Christus factus est” (gradual, BEFORE GOSPEL and not after first reading where the gradual usually goes)

Easter Vigil: Palestrina “Sicut cervus / Sitivit anima mea” (tract after Ezekiel reading, BUT you should resolve the slight text discrepancy between the chant text and the “Sitivit”)

Easter Sunday: Stanford “Why seek ye the living?”

Easter: Billings “Easter Anthem”

Ascension: Billings “Washington”
This piece could actually be easily adapted to any stanza of long meter.

Pentecost: Aichinger “Confirma hoc”

Body & Blood: Byrd or Mozart “Ave verum” - heck, tons of other settings of this text, too. Tallis “O sacrum” is nice if you have lots of altos.

Alas, the Anerio is apparently not up anymore. There is a MIDI, from which you could make a score, up at this site. Or email us, and I’ll send you a score.

I also have Victoria “Conditor” in English, for those interested. A nice thing to do with this, I am thinking, is to have the congregation sing the non-polyphonic verses.

St. James Music Press

I need to echo Gavin’s erstwhile endorsement of St. James Music Press.

Their deal is that they give you, for $55, a book or CD that contains music for 25-ish anthems, with a reprint license for making AS MANY COPIES AS YOU WANT. Ever. Period. If you have a 40-member choir, using just one of the anthems more than pays for the cost. If you have 20 singers, using just two anthems pays for the cost.

Yes, there are costs of time and money with making the copies. BUT, the advantage here is that you can mark up the scores however you wish. Many in my own church choir want to be “hand-held” through any use of Latin, so this lets me write in both phonetic spellings and word-for-word translations.

A collection I purchased, and from which I plan to use several anthems this coming choir season, is the Sunday by Sunday Collection II. A particularly fine piece from it is, I think, the “Ave verum” of Geoff Weaver.

Another bonus is that you can listen to many of the pieces before you purchase a collection. Check out the Weaver.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Summorum Pontificum

Anything I could say about this has probably been said already in the seemingly countless postings and comments on the topic that I have seen since I started blogging in late 2005.

That aside, I do think SumPon represents a certain concession to both the liberal and conservative extremes: that the Missal of Paul VI was not, in fact, a continuation of and a legitimate development of the pre-V2 Missal, but a substantial departure therefrom.

*sigh*. I really like B16. I love how he has been a different pope, and a more popular one at that, than many at first imagined.

But, this makes me scratch my head a bit, and at the end of the day, I am actually not sure I like it.

It seems to me a better plan might have been to change the current Missal to allow the modern Mass to more closely resemble the pre-V2 one. I mean, really, the modern Mass can already look and act a lot like the old one. I think some lose sight of this. Moreover, the pre-V2 Missal can be celebrated just as irreverently as the modern one can be.

Why not a letter openly encouraging clergy to employ ad orientem posture? That is something that might have affected a much more substantial number of Catholics.

Why not really enforce Canon 249, which mandates that seminarians understand Latin well? I’m better with Latin than my pastor, and I’ve never had a single class in it! (Heck, could we at least teach seminarians how to pronounce Latin?!??)

But, many SumPon is how Benedict plans actually to lay seeds for the accomplishment of these goals. Maybe centuries from now the multiple rarely-used options from the Missal of Paul VI will be dropped and the two Missals merged into one. Maybe the desire of priests to know “both forms”, not to “be just a one-former” will encourage more knowledge (and, thus, use) of Latin. Maybe the duplicity of rites will lead people to look into just how awkward the versus populum posture is from the perspective of Christian liturgical tradition.

Here’s hoping.

Culturally neutral music

To all those who claim that no music is culturally neutral and that it is impossible to have music that transcends culture, one very prominent piece of music from the NPM convention should enter consideration:

In what culture would this piece of music ever be inconsistent with the culture around it??

This is an important point, I think. Modern thought has convinced many that music is ultimately a matter of preference and that we should simply cater to as many tastes as possible. Examples like this suggest otherwise.

Musicam sacram and the modern Mass

Three of the five presentations on Musicam sacram (MS) at NPM openly stated that MS is not in juridical force for the Mass of Paul VI.

I am not a canonist, so I can’t debate Fr. Edward Foley or the others who make this claim. There is Duane Galles’s essay on the choral Sanctus over at musicasacra.com that asserts the juridical force of MS for the modern Mass, and Fr. Edward McNamara, who teaches in Rome, posted on Zenit a few years back about this, contending that MS is still in force.

It seems to me, though, that some pertinent observations should be borne in mind:

* MS was written by many of the same people who worked on the Missal of Paul VI, and it was promulgated at the same time as drafts of the revised Missal were taking shape. Paul VI was personally involved in creating it. Bugnini’s The Reform of the Liturgy provides invaluable information about this.

* Again according to Bugnini, MS went through many, many drafts and was the result of much compromise between liturgists and musicians. These guys all knew there was a new Missal coming out; why spend so much energy on a document that would be abrogated by the new Missal?

* The General Instruction of the Roman Missal refers to MS multiple times, as does the 1970 instruction Liturgicæ Instaurationes. JP2 referred to it in his chirograph on the centenary of St. Pius X’s Tra le sollecitudini. (Granted, these don’t necessarily support the idea that MS retains juridical force, but they do at least illustrate that these documents consider MS relevant. Apologies to Fr. Foley.)

* MS itself evinces an awareness of the coming Missal (why do so if the document will lose juridical force?): “The song after the lessons, be it in the form of gradual or responsorial psalm, has a special importance among the songs of the Proper. By its very nature, it forms part of the Liturgy, of the Word. It should be performed with all seated and listening to it—and, what is more, participating in it as far as possible.” (§33)

This all said, it would be helpful if the CDW would publish an update of Musicam sacram to take fully into account the Lectionary songs (i.e. responsorial psalm and alleluia/Lenten-verse) and the Memorial Acclamation in the three degrees of singing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Back from NPM

PrayingTwice went to CMAA a couple weeks back, and I just returned tonight from the NPM national convention in Indianapolis.

It was my “maiden voyage” through such an event; way too much happened for me to compress it all into a single posting, but these are some highlights I recall:

* Names with faces. I met many people in real life with whom I previously had had only online correspondence. Particularly nice was to make the acquaintance of those with whom I have not infrequently had disagreements.

* New friends and acquaintances.

* James Savage and Edward Schaefer’s Musicam sacram lectures. Largely stuff I knew, but very helpful and reassuring to hear this stuff talked about by big names in the field.

* Hearing the Haydn Paukenmesse done fairly well using only two violins, two trumpets, timpani, and organ.

* Fr. Michael Joncas’s plenum address, including hearing his 8-part motet on the “Rorate cæli” (introit for 4th Sunday of Advent).

* Finding some resources for composed-through (i.e. pulsed/metered) settings of the proper responsorial psalms for Sundays. It seems to me a Herculean task to be doing all this, especially given the fact that the Lectionary will change before too-too-terribly long (typos, plus Liturgiam authenticam) - the changes in the Lectionary will likely necessitate recomposing at least some parts of those settings. Anyway, I look forward to seeing what these people produce, since I have some cantors who prefer not to sing Gelineau/Guimont/etc.

All, of course, was not well. Actually, I suppose there was a fair amount that was not so good:

* The choir’s apparently under-rehearsed execution of Joncas’s motet. Really, the idea of hearing the “On Eagle’s Wings” guy write an 8-voice motet in Latin should turn some heads, but it was disappointing to hear it executed. (I could be wrong, but it did sound like a decent piece, just not sung well.)

* Steven Warner’s opening address. Ok, much of it was good, but at one point he glorified the guitar Mass (enh...), talked about how we need a full implementation of Vatican II (yes...), and then turned and stated, “We do not need a reform of the reform!” (Applause ensued.) Whoa there, Wilbur! Many of us were feeling a mite uncomfortable, even unwelcome, after that - and this at a convention whose theme ostensibly was, “that all may be one”.

* Ricky Manalo’s plenum, all about multicultural issues, failed to mention even once the single most unifying element of our liturgy: the Latin language.

* Fr. Edward Foley and Sr. Judith Kubicki’s talks on Musicam sacram. While the latter’s discussion was more balanced, I am told that the former was a pretty contempt-ridden look at the document.

* The Morning Prayer liturgies omitted the canticle between the psalms as well as the responsories and the antiphons around the Benedictus. And there were all kinds of paraphrases, new-Grail-that-doesn’t-want-to-call-God-He/Him-so-it’s-ugly-instead, etc.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Te Deum

Catholic Theological Union is a graduate school in the heart of the Chicago. I attended for about a year and a half until the heterodoxy beat me into submission.

I'm still on their mailing list and I was intrigued to find the following entry in their newsletter from their President, Fr. Donald Senior, C.P.


In mid-April, I was at the Vatican for a plenary meeting of the pontifical Biblical Commission. On Frdiay, the last day of our week-long meeting, we finally completed a substantial text on "Bible and Morality" that the 20 of us on the commission had worked on for nearly six years. Once approved by the Pope it will probably be published in a year or so.

As the last vote was completed, the Secretary of the Commission stood and said we should all sing the Te Deum. You veteran Catholics remember the Te Deum? That beautiful Latin hymn of exuberant thanksgiving that dates from the 4th century and has been sung at moments of thanksgiving and triumph through the centureies. "Te Deum Laudamus," it beings, "We praise you, O God" and goes on from there to a lyrical litany of praise in an elaborate and exquisite chant melody.

All of us started strong: "Te Deum Laudamus, te Dominum confitemur, Te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur . . . " ("We confess you as Lord. All the earth venerates you as the eternal Father . . . "). But as the verses unfolded (the hymn is long . . . ), voices began to trail off or just mumble the melody. All except one voice, that of Fr. Prosper Grec, an eminent and venerable Maltese scholar who teaches at the Gregorian University. His voice, firm and melodious, carried the hymn without hesitation, every word and every note coming from his heart. Each of us fell silent and let this sole lovely voice sing this ancient hymn to its conclusion for all of us. It was one of those unique moments I will never forget.

There are probably few people in the world who know the elegant Latin of the Te Deum by heart and perhaps in a short generation, no one will. Chalk it up to nostalgia, perhaps, but it reminded me how important and how beautiful our Catholic tradition is and what a tragedy it would be if it were lost. I don't mean trying to school everyone in Latin and going back to the liturgy of by-gone days, as some propose. I don't think there is much future in that. But there is an obligation to have at least those who will be the teachers and leaders of tomorrow's Church to be steeped in the great literature and teaching and art of our tradition forged over the centuries and being prepared to connect the meaning of all this tradition with our contemporary experience and to reverence that as well.

That is the central task of theological education in the Catholic community and that is what we striving to do here at CTU. Our graduates (just like our president and faculty!) probably won't remember the words of the Te Deum, but they will be able to appreciate it as a prayer of glorious praise and respect the ancient church that could produce such beauty, and be committed to sustaining God's praise with equal artistry and commitment in our contemporary idom.

I will let the climactic words of the "Te Deum" draw this reflection to end . . .

"Salvum fac populum tuum Domine et benedic hereditati tuae."

"O Lord, save your people and bless your heritage."

"Per singulos dies, benedicimus te. Et laudamus nomen tuum in saeculum, et in saeculum saeculi."

"Day by day we bless you. And we praise your name world without end."

Please realize that this is an institution where you would probably never hear any chant in their liturgies. The fact that he speaks somewhat positively about this ancient chant is surprising, at least to me.

There is much that could be said, but the one thing that strikes me is the perceived need for a truly universal repertoire for Catholics. What does one sing at a function such as this, with people from all over the globe . . . Here I am, Lord? LOBE DEN HERREN? Chant is the most desirable and most obvious answer.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

CMAA Colloquium 2007

Many around the blogosphere have sung the praises of the recent Colloquium out in DC, and I would like to add my name to the list. The week was very well-organized and tons of fun. Let me reiterate a few positives that people have already mentioned, and then I'll add a few critiques/areas for improvement.


1) Repertoire. The rep was great. The chant Propers were wonderful, obviously, but the polyphony was carefully selected and held my interest throughout the week. The Croce and the Bruckner especially were nice discoveries.

2) Conductors. Scott Turkington and Dr. Buchholz were both top-notch. I liked the fact that Scott seemed very well-versed in the chant research of the Solesmes school and could speak to different styles of interpretation. Dr. Buchholz was an absolute stitch and made rehearsals very enjoyable.

3) Speakers. Dr. Mahrt was especially wonderful, though I can't remember a talk in which I wasn't engaged for the duration. Dr. Mahrt was probably the first speaker I've encountered who absolutely oozed erudition, but had no hint of pretensiousness. A rare combination, unfortunately.

4) Participants. What a great lot! I met a lot of wonderful people from all areas of the liturgical world and some great musicians to boot. It was great to actually feel the enthusiasm that permeated the whole week. It was an inspiration and an encouragement to myself and to my position.

5) Organists. Wow, did we have some great organists there! During at least one mass, Scott Turkington, Dr. Buchholz, and David Hughes took turns at the console and each was spectacular. To be able to improvise like that! I have a (holy) envy for all three of them!

6) Coffeehouse. This was an absolute hoot, though I believe I skipped out before the best part (Did anyone record David Hughes' performance?). This was a great opportunity for everyone to let their hair down and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere of singing and sketch comedy. The booze sure helped out as well! : )

I'm sure there's much more to say in this vein, but there's no need to re-invent the wheel; others have already preached the wonders of the week. Let me move forward to some areas I felt were lacking.


1) Chamber Choir auditions. The chamber choir was loads of fun; it's always great to work with a smaller, advanced group of singers. Unfortunately, it was pretty clear that the selection of singers was a bit unbalanced. Any person with a discerning eye could tell that there were some names on the final list that were not on the audition list; in other words, some people seemed to make the group without having to audition. These folks were all members of the CMAA executive board so I'm sure they were very busy during the scheduled audition times; nonetheless, I think the situation left a sour taste in many folks' mouths. I think you just have to be upfront and tell people, "Listen, we let a few folks in without auditioning because they have been faithful to this organization for a while and they deserve it." Or whatever the reason is . . . just don't be sneaky about it.

Update: A few CMAA members explained the situation and I am convinced that I came to the wrong conclusions. Briefly, the Chamber Choir idea came up late, was not expected to be a big deal, but it was. I'm certain that it will be done differently in coming years. My apologies to anyone that I may have offended by my harsh words.

Also, we could have used a bit more time to rehearse with this group; the Palestrina on Saturday afternoon was a bit shaky at times since we hadn't touched the piece in about 48 hours I believe.

2) Pre-mass organization. I know that the CMAA folk had never dealt with such a number of participants before but the only time it really showed was immediately before mass. No instructions were given well in advance of mass in regards to where everyone should be seated. I know it was a daunting challenge as we had 3 different scholas, and two polyphonic choirs (a large and a small), but the chaos was a bit unsettling and not conducive to preparation for mass. You just didn't get the feeling that the powers-that-be had thought some of these logistical issues through before the fact. Hopefully, with a year under their belt, it will be a bit more organized next year.

3) Elgar's Ave Verum. Who the heck selected this setting for the Requiem mass?!? I love this piece, but it could have hardly sounded more out of place at this mass. For those not in attendance, the Requiem mass was chanted from start to finish, with the Propers, the Ordinary, and the priest's parts done sublimely. I'm not sure I've ever experienced a liturgy more beautiful . . . and then at the end of communion we fire up the organ (for the first time in the liturgy, mind you) and do an English anthem. What?!? Why not the Byrd setting? Why not the chant? How did this happen? We might as well have sung "Amazing Grace" . . .

4) Focus on texts. Halfway through one of our final rehearsals for the male advanced schola, a fine priest finally spoke up and said to Mr. Turkington, "Look, you haven't said one word about the text during our rehearsals and how the music related to it; what gives?" I think many of us were thinking it as well; not once before that did the link between text and tune come to the forefront. One thing I love to learn about from folks more educated in chant than myself is this kind of thing; what kind of word-painting is going on? why was this particular mode used for this chant? what does this neume convey in this textual context?

Update: A reader felt that I was unfairly criticizing Scott in this portion of my post. I e-mailed Scott and he was not offended in the least and was glad that I was forthright in my words. Another apology if anyone else found this out of order. BTW, I have changed the wording slightly in each of these modifications for archival purposes.

5) Articulation in the Crypt. Man, is that a lovely acoustic . . . so lively, but the potential for disaster in a choral group of that size. With a choir of 140 in an reverberant acoustic such as that, it's imperative that the conductor be insistent about rhythmic precision and make some articulation adjustments. You just can't do everything legato and expect it to sound polished during mass. The rhythm was quite sloppy at times.

6) Round table discussion. I think we should have one of these every year. There seemed to be a nice amount of time throughout the week for people to meet colleagues and discuss ideas, but not enough time to pick the brains of the big-wigs that were present. The end of Dr. Poterack's talk was a good start, but I think a panel of experts who will field questions for an hour or so would be a great use of time. Some peope are well-versed in the current issues, but others are not and they'd like some answers, I believe.

I'm sure there's more, but those are my thoughts at 6:30 in the morning. I hope the negatives don't make it sound like I had a bad experience at the Colloquium; it was an 11-hour drive not wasted! Kudos to the CMAA for a wonderful week!

Thursday, July 05, 2007


We all need to buy Richard Rice a container (or several) of his favorite beverage for assembling the Communion chant antiphons and psalms for free online distribution. CMAA deserves additional credit for publishing these in book form in Communio. Hopefully the availability of this volume will contribute to a greater use of these chants.

There is an interview with Jeffrey Tucker of CMAA up on the latest Adoremus Bulletin online. A few clarifications, though, I think are in order concerning the content of this interview:
  • Jeffrey states that the communion chants are for the schola. While this is generally true, we should not forget the exhortation in Musicam sacram to encourage congregational singing of the Proper. (I think this, actually, is the purpose of Solesmes’s Gregorian Missal.)

  • I do think a lot of pastors will object to the exclusive use of schola-only singing at communion. This is partly conditioned, but one who advocates for schola-only singing at communion needs to answer to GIRM 86: “While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the ‘communitarian’ nature of the procession to receive Communion.”

  • See yesterday’s post for some errors in the Graduale Romanum that I think will want/need to be rectified in Communio at some point

Also, the page where we can download all the communion chants and verses in PDF form (for FREE - again, mega-kudos to Rice and CMAA) gives communios that are “exclusive” to the 1962 rite. This is incorrect; the Ordo cantus Missæ, which is pertinent to the modern rite, assigns all but one of these chants in the modern rite:

Benedicite omnes
Votive Mass of Holy Angels

Christus Semel
Votive Mass of the Precious Blood *

Dominus Jesus
This is a foot-washing antiphon. In the 1962 rite, it apparently did “double duty”; in the modern rite, it is only used at the foot washing.

Dum venerit
Tuesday of week 6 of Easter

Ecce sic benedicetur
Wedding Mass *

Thursday of week 1 of Lent

Thursday of week 6 of Easter (when Ascension is transferred)

Omnes gentes
Votive Mass of the Most Holy Name of Jesus *


Unde huic
St. Joseph the Worker (1 May) *

Communions indicated with an asterisk are those found in the section of neo-Gregorian chant assignments in the Ordo cantus Missæ.

I would be very interested to know what happened to Quotiescumque; I can’t find it anywhere.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Errors in the Graduale Romanum

I am going through the Ordo cantus Missæ’s communion verses and comparing them with those in the Graduale Romanum. (Yes, I really do have a good reason for doing this!)

I have found the following discrepancies:

Verses 9 and 10 of the communion psalm should be used in addition to the others.

Psalm in OCM reads: 14*, 1. 2. 3. 4ab. 4c-5ab. 5c

Domus mea is given for year A, but the OCM does not give this. Its text does not relate to the readings (as most “specific” references do). As a consequence, this antiphon is apparently not sung in the Sunday propers.

Qui vult venire is given for year B, but the OCM does not have this. Unlike in the Domus mea case above, though, Qui vult venire is a quote of the day’s gospel....so, it may make sense to leave it in.

Easter funerals #1
The verses are “1. 2. 5.”..., not “1-2. 5.”... as for the referenced Easter Monday. (Typo in the OCM, perhaps?)

In all cases except perhaps the one with Qui vult venire, it seems clear that we should side with the OCM (which is from Rome) rather than the Graduale Romanum, which Solesmes compiled based on the OCM.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Chant Interpretation

This is an issue that has intrigued me, especially in the past year since I started my current job. Solesmes seems to be the preferred method, though the Triplex notation promoted by Dom Cardine (a Solesmes monk of a more recent "school") seems to be at odds rhythmically with the older approach, if I understand correctly.

I've heard numerous interpretations on various recordings, though I haven't done much research into it. What I find funny is the reality that no one really knows (or can know) the "authentic" interpretation of Gregorian chant, yet chant folk seem to get their panties in a bunch when their pet method is challenged.

I had the experience of working with a colleague this past weekend who was asked to conduct a choir in question. He was handed three items of chant to whip into shape in less than 24 hours before we had to record them. He had a tough crowd, as at least 5 members of the choir conduct or had conducted a Schola in the past. I also think it's fair to say that he interpreted the chants differently than the rest of us would have.

My main criteria for chant interpretation (not being a scholar myself) is that it is prayerful. Clearly, I think most of our readers would agree that chant is suited to the liturgy and therefore plays an important role in our liturgical worship. That being the case, I think it has to be a source of prayer for those gathered. Therefore, if the desired effect is brought about by excluding the men, or adding an organ accompaniment, or breathing/not breathing at a quarter bar, so be it. I know some of these things can get under the skin of purists, but that's the way I do it, for good or for ill.

On the other hand, I do feel that it's necessary to have at least a semblance of uniformity throughout the liturgical world when it comes to interpreting the chant. Learning chant has many stumbling blocks for the average Joe: unfamiliar notation, "dead" language, scorn from certain liturgical factions, etc. The last thing we need to do is throw 50 different systems of interpretation at him. Jeffrey made the point in an older post that the Triplex rhythmic interpretations, as intriguing as they are, are just not very practical.* I think it would be a good idea to encourage the "old school" Solesmes method to budding chanters and leave the other interpretations to the specialists and scholars.

Klaus, I'm sure you'll have a differing opinion. : )

* I am actually very intrigued by the Cardine approach and would like to learn more about it. (I'm currently slogging through his "Gregorian Semiology) It's just not a very good entry point for beginners.

more on Steubenville

I want to chime in on one other aspect of Steubenville of which I have heard that I find particularly damaging to the formation of young Catholics.

I have heard that their liturgical approach is basically to pander to all styles of liturgy able to be accommodated. While at first this may seem a laudable goal for making a diverse “liturgical cornucopia” available, what it actually accomplishes is quite the opposite for the individual Catholic.

College students, like parish families, develop an “equilibrium”—a ritual of life, if you will—with their environment, one example of which is Mass attendance. A typical college student will survey the different Masses, decide which fits his/her schedule and/or tastes best, and stick with that. This student, therefore, does not really experience liturgical diversity, either of the legitimate or questionable variety, but basically whatever they want.

“Whatever they want.” Think of those words.

Those of us charged with facilitating congregational singing know this problem well: congregation members who will just refuse to sing something that doesn’t please them aesthetically. It’s the liturgical participation equivalent of “cafeteria Catholicism”: “I participate only in the parts of the liturgy that appeal to me.”

The purpose of liturgy (or, at least, one purpose) is formational. We undermine that when we give people the “liturgical garden” of having, say, one Mass be the organ hymns Mass, the next being a chant Mass w/ Latin & ad orientem, the next being the Haugen/Haas, the next being Tom Booth, and finally Jim Cowan.

We should, rather, be exposing everyone to everything: anything that is good at one Mass is good at another. This is not necessarily to contradict unilaterally the principle in Music in Catholic Worship that different approaches to liturgy are appropriate in different environments and with different congregations. However, a parish Mass is a parish Mass, and there is no good reason to have people choosing the 10am Mass over the noon Mass because they like the music better. We owe our congregations more than a mere aesthetic judgement.

What to think of P&W music?

Most readers of this and other Catholic blogs, esp. those whose subject matter is more or less specific to sacred music, are probably of the opinion that music of the likes of Fr. Michael Joncas’s works is to be considered on a “lower rung” than, say, the chant propers of the Mass. Or at least, we apply guilt-by-association: since the music of Fr. Joncas, Marty Haugen, David Haas, et al. is mostly to be associated with gender-neutered Biblical text adaptations, musical constructs and instrumentations that resemble modern popular music, Cardinal Mahoney, and other things most of us would probably rather see excised from liturgical celebrations, we have an inherent bias against the music.

It is not altogether unfounded. Fr. Joncas, for example, is very much in the same camp as Bp. Trautman regarding liturgical translation. I can’t recall specific examples, but I think the mindset once regarded as “liberal” (but which, today, I think is more of a relic of the 70s and 80s) concerning various Church teachings is often rightly associated with Dan Schutte & Co. In short, guitar Masses and their musical progeny associate well with “cafeteria Catholicism” of the most popular kind: shunning difficult moral teachings and generally wishing the Roman Catholic Church would forget the first two words of that title.

But this cannot be said, I think, of the kind of music that emanates from Franciscan University at Steubenville. In many ways, this school is a model of what Catholic higher education should be: all studies are explicitly connected to the Christian life in one way or another.

While I, at least, strongly associate orthodoxy with “tradition”: women wearing mantillas, chant/polyphony, organ, etc., the music that comes out of Steubenville is much closer to Carey Landry’s work than to Bruckner’s. My encounters with it are largely of the “lead sheet” variety: unadorned melodies with guitar chords written above. Lyrics are simple and generally non-Scriptural, with a prominent element of devotion (i.e. non-liturgical).

What to think here? It seems the only lack of “orthodoxy” here is that the people who usually advocate for this kind of music at Mass seem opposed to the use of Latin that our liturgical norms mandate. (It is often a moment of confusion when these people find out that Vatican II actually mandated continued use of Latin.)

How to subscrie to Notitiæ??

In my casual reading on liturgical history, I keep running into references to the journal of the CDW, Notitiæ. I have googled far and wide with no luck, so I will post this question here: how may individuals subscribe to this journal?

Psalm sections in hymnals

Question: Why do Catholic hymnals have “psalters”?

If we look at the typical modern Catholic hymnal (Gather, Worship, Breaking Bread, etc.), one usually finds a section devoted to songs from the psalms at the beginning or at the end of the hymnal. What you will notice, though, is that these very rarely have the unaltered texts of any of the Lectionary’s responsorial psalms - which is how we all are supposed to be doing responsorial psalms. In fact, frequently the texts are substantially altered, even to reflect the ideology that addressing God in the masculine is to be avoided.

The fact of hymnals having “psalters” contributes, I think, to the use of songs like “Shepherd Me, O God” as responsorial psalms. We would all be better off, I think, if publishers got rid of those sections in the hymnals and used whichever of those songs hold merit in the main body of the hymnal.