Friday, November 30, 2007

“Sing to the Lord” now online

I haven’t read it yet - will update with thoughts when I have.


76. “The assembly of the faithful should participate in singing the Proper of the Mass as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings.” When the congregation does not sing an antiphon or hymn, proper chants from the Graduale Romanum might be sung by a choir that is able to render these challenging pieces well. As an easier alternative, chants of the Graduale Simplex are recommended. Whenever a choir sings in Latin, it is helpful to provide the congregation with a vernacular translation so that they are able to “unite themselves interiorly” to what the choir sings.”

I think a lot of people may read this in a way to which many of us will object. It seems to give priority to congregational hymns; however, if you look at the wording, there really is no poo-poo’ing of choral singing of, say, a Gregorian introit. It simply says that when the congregation doesn’t sing, chants from the RG are appropriate. (That doesn’t mean that they are inappropriate when the congregation DOES sing...)


“157. The proper or seasonal Responsorial Psalm from the Lectionary for Mass, with the congregation singing the response, is to be preferred to the gradual from the Graduale Romanum.”

“162. The Gregorian settings of the Gospel Acclamation are most appropriate for use in those communities which are able to sing the response communally.”

This I don’t particularly like. ISTM there are legitimate reasons for using the graduals and Gregorian alleluias/tracts.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

“America” now has a blog

It’s here:

I have to say, I am looking forward to reading this blog — partly because of the erudition obvious in the prose of the postings, but also because here is a voice dramatically different from those of us whose views are, well, pretty straightforward.

I do NOT mean to say that I think America’s sometimes-controversial views are necessarily right. But, this makes the writers of the magazine more accessible, either for us to teach them or, probably more likely, them to teach us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Randy the Main Man

I’ve been preparing instrument parts for Christmas as I head into Advent. While last year I was in a GIA parish, my current parish is primarily of the OCP lineage.

As I have said before, I think OCP gets a bad rap. For one, they keep more of the “old-tyme” lyrics than GIA does: “Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” They also are more careful in their editing, I find.

I am now discovering another asset this organization has: the wonderful trumpet descants of Randall DeBruyn. These parts just sparkle with interesting rhythms and meticulous articulation markings. The melodic makeup is nearly always interesting; in particular, his use of motives and quasi-canons (cf. his part for LASST UNS) is intriguing.

Then I broke open the Gather Comp C instrument book, and several thoughts pop into mind:
1) GIA does do us a favor by printing the melody lines along with the descants. (I am Finale-ing the DeBruyn parts because OCP only gives the descant.)
2) The descants are, on the whole, much less interesting. They look more like 1st-species counterpoint (i.e. note-against-note) .... which, ok, is what my own trumpet parts tend to look like when I write stuff.
3) I’m looking at a C book - why the blazes does GIA put a trumpet part in a C book? Even if our trumpeter is, in fact, playing a C trumpet, he/she is probably able to transpose readily.

What would be most helpful would be trumpet/woodwind/melody/bass editions of things in either book. Right now I am deciding whether to write new flute parts to these many Christmas hymns or to ask the flute player to play GIA’s trumpet parts - which, though they are less trumpet-ish than OCP/DeBruyn, are still not very idiomatic for a woodwind.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Missa Emmanuel and Gloria for Christmastime

Since I know this is a bone of contention between myself and PT, I’ll give some extra commentary on these two choices.

The Missa Emmanuel has been done at my parish for the past few years. The sense I get is that it is well-appreciated here. I personally quite like it musically, particularly the Sanctus’s implicit connection between “Rejoice! Rejoice!” and “Hosanna!” The choral harmonies in the Lamb of God are goofy, yes, but we’re not doing them, so that ain’t a concern. :) We also are not doing those repeats. Apparently the parish sings well enough without them.

And then, the Gloria for Christmastime. Of the several responsorial Gloria settings with the LES ANGES refrain, GIA publishes the two that are musically the most solid, IMO: Proulx and Niel. The latter, though better crafted than Proulx, is in Latin - which would probably get me in trouble, at least with some of the singers who find Latin a substantial challenge. (And for such singers, the Gloria is quite a bit of text.)

Anyway, the Proulx is not too bad. It’s not his best work, but neither does it offend.

Why did I choose it? The parish is used to singing that refrain to a Gloria at Christmas. The Laginya setting that they have been using is pretty silly harmonically, IMO. The setting in Choral Praise is similarly so.

Yes, it was $60 or so for the parish spent on a Mass setting that a) is, owing to its responsorial form, not a liturgical ideal, and b) will possibly be obsolete soon anyway. Still, the musical benefits, IMO, outweigh these.

Advent/Christmas choral plans at “Our Lady of Anonymity”

Proulx “Missa Emmanuel”
Advent 1: Byrd “Lord, Make Me to Know Thy Ways”
Advent 2: Victoria “Conditor alme siderum”
Advent 3: Howells “O, Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” (from Ps. 122)
Advent lessons & carols: above 3 anthems plus all 7 O antiphons
Advent 4: Anerio “Ave maris stella”

Christmas midnight choral preludes (interspersed with the hymns):
Dawson “Mary Had a Baby”
Biery (arr.) “O Holy Night”
my own “Personent hodie”

Proulx “Gloria for Christmastime”
Chepponis “Festival Alleluia”
Christmas midnight: Hassler “Lætentur cœli” (from Ps. 96)
Epiphany: Fallan-Tidings “Out of the Orient Crystal Skies”
Baptism of the Lord: proper offertory

The Victoria will be a stretch for us. We are going to “cheat” a bit and sing the 6th verse with the same music as the 2nd. Since I’m giving verse 4 to soloists, that will let us do the piece with only one verse to learn - which, for some of my singers, will already be more than enough!

As I am looking over these plans, I am hoping I did not fall into my all-too-typical problem of overextending my singers musically. Howells will take a while to learn just because of how much music there is. Hassler - we’ll see. Anerio won’t be a problem.

What is problematic is that a lot of this is dependent on having those 1 or 2 “section leaders” there. Our rehearsal this past Thursday was pretty much a downer because we were missing most of our best readers in the tenor and bass sections. Alas, the Josquin “Tu pauperum” had to be dropped - again, not a difficult piece....I guess the Latin was a problem. (Heck, even the choir in my last parish pulled off the Josquin, though not without quite a bit of work.)

UPDATE: I’m dropping Hassler in favor of Halsey “Verbum caro” from SJMP. As I looked through the Hassler, a new awareness of “what the &^(* was I thinking?!?!” came to me; Halsey is still a cool piece and much more accessible to my group.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

32 OT--Year C

32 OT--Year C

Processional: Praise, My Soul

Offertory: Gressus meos (Lassus)--quartet

Communion: Dominus regit me (chant w/Viadana fauxbourdon)
Lead Me, Lord (Wesley)

Recessional: I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

Good numbers in the choir; all my men (for the first time I think!), and the majority of my ladies. I added a new bass this week, who is an excellent musician. He's one of my student directors that I coaxed into singing. He'll be a great addition and pretty reliable from an attendance standpoint.

The Gressus is awesome! I sang tenor, had my cantor sing alto (he's more of a counter-tenor anyway), I brought in another of my student directors to sing soprano, and one of my strong basses to round out the quartet. It's a thrilling sing; the opening section is just this cascade of brisk eighth notes running throughout all the voices. Typical Lassus harmonic language; extended without being too much. The performance was pretty good, minus a stretch in the bass where he missed an entrance and sat out a line. Not bad considering we only had about 20 minutes where we could all be together.

The chant was fine. They're improving with their chanting every week.

The Wesley is simple and effective. I chose it because a decent choir can put it together in about 10 minutes, leaving ample time in rehearsal for the upcoming Christmas concert music.

Rough stretch this week; I had 2 rehearsals Tuesday night, 2 last night, another one tonight, another tomorrow night, and another one Saturday night to prepare for a big Diocesan mass this Sunday. I'm sure looking forward to Thanksgiving break!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

“Sing to the Lord” passes

88% in favor.

Some revisions were added, and a large part of it was shelved.

This is not in print anywhere (but here!?!?? - woohoo!), but I saw it live on EWTN.

I have not seen the document, but from what I have heard from those who have, it sounds basically like a rebadged MCW (which itself was a rebadged version of 1967’s “The Place of Music in Eucharistic Celebrations”). It does, however, apparently make reference to Musicam sacram, which will help those of us who defend the latter document against charges that it no longer is relevant in the Ordinary Form. It also does discuss Latin, though apparently in a spirit that doesn’t quite accord with the Roman documents.

My hope is that it encourages the singing of priests. The more I think about it, the more I think that could help the liturgy (re?)gain a sense of solemnity that is not often found in everyday parish liturgies. Have you ever noticed how awkward it is to extemporize a prayer when singing, even recto tono?

Friday, November 09, 2007

31 OT--Year C

31 OT--Year C

Processional: For All the Saints

Offertory: Pie Jesu (Faure)

Communion: Notas mihi (w/Viadana fauxbourdon)
Panis Angelicus (Franck--arr. Rutter)

Recessional: Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones

Not my finest week as a director. We've had a lot of people getting sick and other commitments are vying for my choristers' time, and therefore, we've had some attendance problems. We have six sopranos and only 3 could make it to mass so the "Pie Jesu" was fine, but not spectacular. The chant was also fine, though numbers were such that I didn't feel comfortable splitting it between men and women, so we did it completely mixed.

I thought Panis was going to be disastrous as it was not going well in pre-Mass rehearsal, for a few reasons:

1) Though I have five altos "on the books", if you will, only one made it to Wednesday rehearsal, and then two others made it to mass (and the Wednesday alto did not). Therefore, they had had very little rehearsal with the piece before Sunday.

2) I dropped it a whole step since I wasn't thrilled with the tenor and soprano tessitura (it was in A; I dropped it to G). Some people had a real hard time with the switch, since they were still looking at the A major score.

3) I grabbed my accompaniment in G major for my organist right before rehearsal, only to find that I didn't have the last page with it. When we got to that last page, he couldn't really provide any harmonic support and honestly, the choir needed it at that point.

It was a good lesson for me. I should have prepared them better on Wednesday, but I was in a hurry to get to our Christmas music.

Anyways, I was a bit frazzled as the minutes crept by because we just didn't have the time to work on it. I was stressing about it during mass, but (by the grace of God) came together beautifully at communion. Thank you, Jesus.

Friday, November 02, 2007

30 OT--Year C

30 OT--Year C

Processional: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

Offertory: Domine, vivifica me (chant)

Communion: Laetabimur (chant and Viadana fauxbourdon)
Sing of Mary (arr. Proulx)
Recessional: Immaculate Mary

Crazy weekend. It was Homecoming on campus and we coincided the release of our new CD with this weekend when parents/alums were in town. "Sing of Mary" is a track on the CD so we used it to cap off the Marian month. We sold quite a few after mass which was nice, as I still have a few hundred to move!

Mass itself was a bit messy, at least from my end. Originally, I had planned to Lassus' setting of the offertory text with a solo quartet; we rehearsed it and it was pretty well ready to go. Then I got a call from my cantor that morning; he had the flu and couldn't come in. No matter, I could have the organist play the alto part. Then I went to meet with the other two before our regular rehearsal and my soprano looked rough around the edges; turned out her voice was in pretty bad shape. I sent her home. My bass didn't show up until the regular choir rehearsal had started. Needless to say, the Lassus didn't happen!

When my cantor's gone, it's a bit stressful. I had to fill in since it was such short notice; I botched part of the Gelineau psalm (since I was basically sight-reading it), the offertory was less-than-inspiring (again, basically sight-reading), and I had to sing the psalm verses for the Communio while conducting. Oh yeah, and I had to sing tenor on "Sing of Mary" while conducting as well. It sure didn't help that I was getting over the flu myself and my voice wasn't quite up to snuff. Yeesh.

The choir did a nice job, though we had some other conspicuous absences (lots of illnesses). Get 'em next week . . .

Thursday, November 01, 2007

YEE-HAW! Stanford “And I Saw Another Angel”

We’ve been working this one up for some weeks now. It hasn’t been easy - nothing in the piece is especially *hard*, but it’s a longer piece than my parish’s choir has been used to singing.

We put it together tonight, and even with probably a good third of the choir missing, it still sounded great! The pastor complimented us on it at the end of Mass - not sure I care for the public “spotlight”, but it definitely affirmed us for the work that I and the singers have put into it.

Highly recommended - not one of Stanford’s best-loved pieces, but still a hoot. We will be reprising it for Christ the King, too.