Thursday, July 30, 2009

Elegies All Around

It has been an otherworldly, weird week in the valley violent death category. I'm not leading with that to prepare for a reading in cynicism; we just have our more than fair share of daily drive-by's, horrific crashes, whatnot. But one day after another found: a murder-suicide (girlfriend by boyfriend,) a teen unsuccessfully playing the "game" Russian Roulette (the newspaper quoted the boy's father declaring his son to have shown a promising future,) and an elderly, respected husband and wife knived and slain in their home, which happened to be the site of their massive marijuana cultivation/distribution operation!

I just returned to my office from the funeral Mass of the young lady murdered by her boyfriend. Our principal organist provided primary music ministry. I asked him he wanted some intinerent flute, so I added some obligatos and a couple of slower sonata movements. Basically, something simply called me to attend this particular funeral.

The mourners were a disparate lot, which is more the common experience nowadays than not, with suits and ties, T-shirts and spaghetti straps, tribal tattoos and plunging neckline cleavage....and very little audible evidence that any "catholics" were actually present. But, in light of the circumstances, the crowd was very somber and respectful.

I lightly regard funerals as a sort of hybrid "chickens home to roost" cum "come to Jesus" existential enterprise. I've done so many over forty plus (starting with my suicide dad's) that have covered the waterfront of human success and failure in this world that the only attitude I try to assume going into one is of resolution and hope. But I rejoice occasionally when surprised by grace.

In threes: One, a pall-bearer, strong-as-iron-carriage in RayBans, wiping a tear after a Bach "Siciliano"; Two, Miss Spaghetti straps, tight jeans, curves a-flowing over, with her eyes closed, intently responding "Lord, hear our prayer" during the general intercessions; and Third (the best) the deceased girl's mother adding a coda to a very brief eulogy in which she instructed all present "to keep God FIRST in your lives! When I ask my grandkids 'who's first in your love?' and they say 'Mommy and Daddy,' I tell them, 'No, GOD COMES FIRST!'"

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,

With peace on earth, good will to men."

Till, ringing singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!


Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

St. John the Baptist Church,
El Cerrito, California
Position for Music Director
is apparently now open here.

These are photosnaps I took last summer while visiting my previous and last parish whilst working in Oakland Diocese. At the time we visited, a wedding was about two hours hence from commencing, thus the bows on pews.
This is a baptismal font that was part of their renovation (not there during my time up to '87)

These are examples of the "homegrown" paintings displayed below the sculpted (not pictured) stations lining the nave walls.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Cathedral of Saint Cecilia
"Progressive Dinner" Today

I have tried to find the exact Order of Worship for Archbishop George Lucas’ Installation Mass today with no success. So, my reflections on the service will be “on the fly” or “off the cuff,” so to speak.
One of the most difficult things I wrestle with when watching these ceremonies is that it’s obviously an easier path to criticize from a negative perspective when assessing from afar than to acknowledge liturgical “improvements.” This was made clear with the fur flying over Abp. DiNoia’s installation.
So, in bullets, off we go:
*Could the setting, tempo and performance of the first processional hymn set to “Lasst uns erfreuen" have been sleepier? By the seventh stanza or so, when the harmonization took some extreme turns, the organist's shoes seemed to have leaden soles a bit. I know that select camera shots don’t give an accurate portrayal of what’s actually going on in toto, but everytime a camera zoomed in upon an unwary priest already installed in a pew, said priest wasn’t singing. And there wasn’t much in the first processional to really look at, frankly.
*The second processional; was it a proper Introit? Was it antiphonal?
*Then “Praise to the Lord” (Lobe den Herrn) was taken up with some verve by all.
*As the archbishop finally entered and processed the choir took up a polyphonic proper, I assume. Nicely done. It also edified the notion of active participation through keen observation by the Faithful and ministers assembled.

One wonders at this point: why, if the intention is to engage both types of participation, was it absolutely necessary to stack so much vocal music before the episcopal introit? At subsequent moments in the Mass, much action was accompanied by instrumental music alone.

*Did anyone else hear some sort of “wind chimes” after the choral proper, and before the “In Nomine Pater?” And, given the extraordinarily milky tenor voice the Abp. possesses, why was that not cantillated? I mean, really?
*The welcome and introduction by Abp’s successor evoked laughter immediately after the commencement of the solemn liturgy. Why? I didn’t see the Dolan liturgy, but what is it about the presumed necessity to have a “Tonight Show” moment at American mega-liturgies?
*Does anyone else hate those flesh-eating Broadway wireless mics besides me?
*I don’t have my Ceremonial of Bishops handy at home, no Kyrie but a through sung “Glory to God” that seemed to quote “In Babilone” with some acceptable choral interludes.
*Everything seemed to be fudged half-way a bit:
a. Three candles flanking both sides of the altar, no crucifix.
b. The First Reading read in Spanish, AND then all the verses of a serviceable psalm also exclusively sung in Spanish?
c. The “communities” reception by the archbishop-
*The most decked-out cleric was, in fact, the Winnebago chief?
*Were the identically clad women in nylon print outfits nuns or twins?
* Was the gentlemen in the fez a Shriner, a dervish, what?
*The Gospel Acclamation: I defy anyone without the music to guess where the melody would go next. The verses rendered by the choir weren’t intelligible from the broadcast, hopefully not in St. Cecilia Cathedral. But I couldn’t help thinking that would have been an ideal location for a Latin Alleluia to be chanted.
*The “Heldentenor” deacon intones the Gospel collect and the congregation responds in force with his upper tessitura chestily. Then he RECITES the Gospel?
*The Spanish/English General Intercession’s setting was very, very tiresome. And what was with the yellow flowered English garden hiding the cantor at the lecturn? And the Abp. recites the concluding prayer of same instead of chanting…..But bishop, your voice….you could be one of the Priests! (From Ireland fame.)
*This is an honest question. What was the silver container (percolator-like) from which the wine was poured into the chalices?
*No Sanctus bells, no way, no how! How’d that happen? Or not happen?
*The Community Mass/Isele “Lamb of God”- stolid, safe choices.
*The “Pater noster” recited. I though Rocco said the archbishop knew his liturgical stuff?
*Why does the Sign of Peace at these events always morph into the “Murmuring of peace” or the “Din of peace?”
*Finally, a Latin Communio….sung well by the women….for a whole thirty seconds or so….then
*Not one, but two settings of Psalm 23 (St. Columba) and an antiphonal setting of which I’m not acquainted.
*Very long choral motet, seemed to be from the Romantic era, or the neo-polyphonic style but not like Stanford…..

Then my Tivo DVR, programmed for the block assigned by EWTN ended.

I’m not going to digest any of this yet. Just reporting what I observed.

A Critical Review of the

This review was composed in 1998 and I post it here in response to a thread over at MSF regarding usage permission to reprint by FNJ. I reprint it in full, though I know that I cannot avow total agreement for my remarks now, in light of the eleven year passage of time and my own continued understanding of the various aspects discussed.

There has been much discussion in various news groups of late regarding aspects of the publication and efficacy of the Adoremus Hymnal (Ignatius Press, S.F.,CA.) After doing a very brief comparison of titles cited in its advertisement to those of industry giants Oregon Catholic Press and Gregorian Institute of America, I posted some reservations concerning the ratio of content to value. In that much of the English-language hymnody of Adoremus was already found in existing volumes by OCP, GIA and presumably many other significant hymnal publishers, would its differences (increased Latin-language content, masses and other service music, absence of certain other genres) in editorial offerings warrant serious consideration of the Adoremus product?
I obtained copies of the Choir and Accompaniment editions recently and spent a few moments perusing the Choir Edition only. I decided to keep informal notes (using Ben Franklin's old model of Pluses/Minuses) as I went through the book.
First of all, I have no personal interest vested in this or any other hymnal. I would approach critical analysis of any catholic hymnal from its practicality, its artistic and textual merit, its preparation and attention to detail and, of course, the famed "3 factors" of appropriate worthiness outlined in the documents. I decided specifically not to consider the political or philosophical ramifications of this particular hymnal so warmly considered in recent news group threads.

On the plus side:
+A. The Order of Mass (pp.12-93) is given a thorough and dignified presentation with Latin/English facing pages. I particularly appreciate the detail given to ritual actions. This inclusion puts into the hands of all the faithful clear descriptions and instructions regarding all aspects of the rites. Such "up-front" liturgical catecheses is woefully missed in most other products, hardbound or subscription-based. I also appreciate the direct correlation of Latin to English that can only benefit my personal understanding of our ritual language heritage.
+B. The overall engraving of the hymnal is satisfactory. A great effort to make text and music font size uniform for the most part is successful.
+C. The musical authorship of a setting of the Vidi aquam as attributed anonymously to "a Cistercian monk" imparted to me a sense of humility.
+D. The Psalm-Tone Mass of K.Poterack provides a welcomed option for smaller congregations without great choral or accompanimental resources. Its motifs are reminiscent of the recent mass booklet settings by A. Gouzes (GIA.)
+E. Portions of C. Shenk's setting, Mass of St. Theresa, demonstrate a careful balance of melodic motives to textual intent without venturing into "word painting" or some such other techniques.(However, note some other observations in the "minus" section to follow about these same motifs.)
+F. Welcomed "re-inclusions" include: Austria, St. Patrick's Breastplate, National hymn,
+G. The volume of Latin chants, hymns, service music

On the minus side:
-A. Gregorian neumes used for the responses in the Ordo should prove manageable for many congregants. However, requiring our choristers/cantors to navigate the rules of interpretation is a daunting enterprise, not to mention the herculean implications of teaching the workings of the porrectus, quilisma and markings such as episemas to our diverse congregants. Yet, this is the only notational option provided for the interpretation of the Latin Ordinaries.
The great care taken to outline the rubrics of the rites in the Order of Mass is not mirrored anywhere in the pages of the choir edition. It would seem that the citation of the booklet "Jubilate Deo" and the preface remarks regarding giving Gregorian chant "pride of place in liturgical services" is then abrogated by the omission of any user-friendly instructions. I haven't consulted the accompaniment edition as of yet, but is it presumed by the editorial and executive committee members that all directors and choristers are proteges of Drs. Tortolano, Wm. Belan, and the good monks of Solemses already, LU's in hand? Would it have posed too much of an endeavor to bridge the experience gap of most post conciliar musicians by providing a similar
facing page model of Gregorian to conventional notation as was given in the Order? And yes, I'm aware that modern notation cannot completely accommodate the nuances of chant interpretation. But do the editors want us to take a first step in recovery or not? This complaint reverberated within me when I turned the page and encountered the "relief" of the modern notation of T. Marier's "English Chant Mass." This factor, more than Rory's (Cooney) wry observation of the irony involved in simply naming the hymnal Adoremus as regards "full, active and conscious participation," damages the admirable and presumably honest intent of the editors. Does providing such a musical "translation" de-construct the purity of the performance? Having been to a few workshops in my time, including those of our venerable colleague J. Michael Thompson, I think not. Help us get our feet wet, and the likelihood we will bring our assemblies with us increases as well.
-B. Nearly fifty pages of the Order of Mass is given to the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Canon. This factor combined with that of the next item
(-C) seems unwieldy and perhaps at the editorial expense of additional hymn or service music repertoire.
-C. The redundant duplication of common settings for various Latin/English or
English/English texts: much wasted page space. In many instances, additional texts could have their corresponding translations printed on the opposite or following pages.
-D. Useless inclusion of accompaniments for many chants and strophic hymns. Unless there is some compelling legal reason to include accompaniments that are useless in choral applications in the Choir Edition, this decision again takes significant page space at what expense? There are at least 38 examples of such titles. Some, such as #307 and #577 use five or six full pages needlessly.
-E. There is no statement concerning the key signatures chosen for hymnody. Again, without consulting the accompaniment I am unaware if recommendations are given to relieve tessitura constraints in certain hymns such as "Wachet auf" that could have simply been made prior to publication.
-F. Apparently the "Sing-Song Syndrome" as described by J. Swain in the Feb. 1998 issue of “Pastoral Musician” is clearly not confined to post- concilar hymns/service music, as evidenced by certain melodic constructs within the aforementioned "Mass of St. Theresa" and pedestrian tunes such as "Sleep Holy Babe (337)."
-G. Curious editorial choices such as the use of quarter notes instead of eighth notes as the principle rhythmic value for "O filii et filiae(412) and halves instead of quarters in "Victory” (413). Such choices don't advance an understanding of phrase and rhythmic movement as noted.
-H. Though the specific festive texts for hymns such as "Salve Feste Dies" can be given their specific prominence under certain titles, is it absolutely necessary to repeat their complete settings in three distinct locations in order to accommodate their seasonal assignments? In this particular case it seems to have escaped the editors that the arrangement provided is unsuitable for choral performance (another accompaniment) and thus should have been reduced to a melody only version in the subsequent repetitions, or text only?
-I Related to -H: Why weren't perfectly good choral (SATB) arrangements printed instead of the accompanimental versions for hymns such as "Crucifer (606)?" Also, was no consideration given to the inclusion of descant arrangements, in that a great preponderance of the English hymnody is of Anglican origin? This would have been stylistically authentic and artistically desirable.
-J. The signatories of the editorial and executive committees directly state in the preface (p.8) that the English-language hymns "come from a variety of traditional sources." They include "translated German hymns," "beloved English Catholic Hymns" (O God Our Help in Ages Past? hmmm..), and "...Catholic hymns little known in America." I would be interested in hearing from them how this self description constitutes a "variety." In fact, outside of the obvious Roman sources, the English and German sources and a smattering of about four or five French tunes and a non-Roman, yet Italian tune (Moscow), evidently nothing from the rest of European Catholic hymn traditions (Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Baltic, Balkan, Scandinavian, Flemish (you name it) was included. Neither is there to be found source material from non-European sources, even from the vast body of Spanish conquisition-era repertoire of native and imported composers in Mexico and other Iberian-American geographies. Does this honestly satisfy the stated goal to contribute to "authentic implementation of the liturgical reforms" and "contribute to this effort by providing an essential treasury of liturgical texts, chant and hymns drawn from the historic patrimony of the Church for ordinary parish celebrations of the Mass (?)" (A personal note: a recent posting seemed to compare this narrow cultural milieu of Adoremus to targeting a market audience such as was
presumably done with GIA's Lead Me, Guide Me. Obviously the author of that post failed to mention that Lead Me, Guide Me is an exemplary effort that demonstrates the historical diversity that African-American Catholics have embraced within their "targeted" constituencies. I have often stated personally that, up until recently, it was the most culturally comprehensive of all major hymnals. This is no secret among liturgical professionals.)
In conclusion, I reluctantly conclude that The Adoremus Hymnal is yet an unfinished work in progress, and if editorially improved so as to expand either its "treasury" within its chosen domains or more historically accurate and inclusive, it will still be best realized as a companion volume next to more catholic compendiums. My hope is that our major publishers will take into account the intent of Adoremus and the CMAA when they, hopefully with a cross section of our religious leadership, Snowbird and Milwaukee signatories, known and respected practitioners such as P.Salamunovich, JMT and others, consider the compilation of the next major hymnal.

March 22, 1998

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Now let us unending hymn of praise....

This is another posting borrowed from MSF that dovetails from concerns expressed in the blogosphere about the seemingly incongruent use of a particular set of Eucharistic Acclamations during the recent installation Mass at the DC Shrine.

From the "Installation" thread I'm happy to receive Kathy's very insightful remarks, prompted by the concerns of Jeffrey and others, regarding the "problem of ownership" of the Sanctus. Her insight simultaneously reminds us of both the liturgical and theological aspects that attend the moment and performance of the Sanctus at Mass. (I do wonder if the discussion of the affect of singing the Proulx setting at the installation Mass in DC would have had such reaction and traction if the Sanctus of Mass XVIII was sung in its stead? Same question for the truncated Proulx setting of the Schubert "Deutsche Messe?" Would the liturgical moment have been more or less elevated in relationship to the ideals with those choices?)
I've mentioned elsewhere that the Sanctus from Faure's REQUIEM epitomizes that enjoining of heaven and earth in and beyond time for me. Whether or not I'm singing it in the choir or listening to it in concert or liturgy, that setting most rings my bells. Putting aside the fact that it demands a choral-only rendition, I would want to know if the affect of the Faure could be made manifest in a Sanctus that includes congregational participation as well?
I'm also putting aside, for brevity's sake, any concern about the argument for the choral/polyphonic Ordinary being occasionally appropriate in toto. I just want to concentrate on aspects that more or less that avoid pitting utility and aesthetics at odds. (A hat tip to Msgr. Mannion's five models of lit-mus.)
One of the first settings of the Holy in the post-SLJ era that captured my attention for having something similar in affect to the Faure was Bob Hurd's setting of the EA's on his collection "Roll Down the Ages." It seemed then and still now that the terraced rising of the "Holy" motive (very simple scalewise motion) partnered to the arpeggiated, semi-ambiguous major I to minor v harmonic accompaniment emulated the ephemeral beginning of the Faure. Of course the Hurd, being mindful of its utility, moves the text and musical setting along unlike the Faure. But I've interpreted the Hurd as emphasizing the power of the word "Holy" as its setting rises in intensity to "God of power and might." A new motive accompanies Hurd's "heaven and earth are filled" which is not difficult for a congregation to render at all, but is accomplished with a brief tonal center shift that Hurd then leads to another "Faure moment"- the "Hosanna." I'm not suggesting the Hurd matches the majesty of the Faure, I'm saying that it elevates the ideal, moment and cosmic unity in its own similar way. I now cease to discuss the Hurd specifically here, but my point is that I have yet to find, in most if not virtually all of the big gun publisher English settings, any other setting that resonates with the "perfection" I feel in the Faure. Like Gavin, gun to the head I'll take the Proulx "City" over his "Community" in a heartbeat; that puts me at odds with a majority of tradtionally oriented DM's already. I'll make the best of MOC (which I never use except at funerals/weddings; can't be helped) rather than the box step of the composite SLJ Mass of the 70's. I'll give props to Janco for upping the ante with "Angels and Saints" except that its repeated Michel Legrand melodic motives in 6/8 (that's Masonic? Wow, where'd that come from?) are too lugubrious and grow wearisome from incessant repetition. But that beats down the contrivance known as the "Celtic Mass" which doesn't contain any melodic motives as I recognize them at all, save for the movement that its author "borrowed" supposedly for a cantus firmus for the "new Mass on the block in the 90's.) Yikes, what a mess.
Now back to the issue of whether the Sanctus' demands of both utility and aesthetics can be met- one of the other settings I've mentioned here in the past is Rv. Schiavone's "Mass of the Holy Family" (OCP.) As he does throughout this brevis setting, he establishes a "refrain" ideal using a very decent and accessible melodic motif that he deploys for, if you will, super-moments in the text declamation. Between those moments, the choir alternates with some lovely, not profound, choral polyphonic sections. This Schiavone setting is much more successful with this integration than, say, Proulx's choral codas to popular "Amens" such as the Danish, the Dresden, etc. he published with GIA in the 80's. That set, along with some other ordinary settings I can't specifically name now at home, is analagous to putting a Dior gown on a mannequin. Another problem that has occured in modern English settings that have a sort of antiphonal construct, is that the congregational melodies that are, as I said, crafted to be "lovely" are generally set with equally lovely harmonic accompaniments. But when the choral only section arrives, suddenly the choir and organ are negotiating Bartok and Stravinsky-esque choral harmonies that obscure, if not obliterate the simple beauty that preceded it.
The word "hackneyed" comes to mind when I think of major Masses to hit the newsprints in the last two decades. And some of my own settings would so likely be regarded, in retrospect.

When the new translation texts are promulgated, I would hope that composers will remember that choirs exist not only to assist the congregation in singing whatever is rightfully theirs to sing, but to add a specific ideal of beauty to each and every musical moment. I would think that composers might benefit by studying how composers in all eras (including polyphony) treated specific textual elements and apply their compositional vocabularies to seemlessly calling forth the abilities of both congregations and choirs. Isn't that what is literally called for by the invocation to the Sanctus?

Friday, July 10, 2009

"Charles, you ignorant _____ !"
The following dovetails from the previous post. Over at MSF, Ian W, posed the following: "There are many of us working very hard to help restore beauty and solemn worship and music to the Church." (quoting an excerpt of mine)

Is it a matter of restoration, or of working towards the ideal in our generation? That is, was there ever a time when it was normal to hear the ordinary and the propers sung in a parish church, outside of the magic circle of those places where professional musicians have gathered? I ask partly out of historical interest, and partly for practical reasons. There's a world of difference between saying: we should do this because it is the ideal; and we should recover the practice of our forebears.

My response-

Ian, though I try to parce my words so as to best reflect my ideas, I see your point. As to the matter of restoration, I can only say the following- at this moment of my 40 years as a practicing Catholic, "restoration" for me means seeking to redress the denigration of worship by a incipient and proliferating culture of egotism. This culture is manifested in many more ways than music- constant chattering, Masses as photo-ops, lay and clerical ministers unwilling to subsume themselves in how they conduct their offices at worship in order to lead and direct our attentions fully eastward, et cetera ad nauseum. From my view, not in the loft, the tension between anthropocentric and theocentric worship isn't really all that tense in American parish life; "Sing a newchurch into being" is a reality that compels many of us to work "very hard to help restore beauty and solemn worship and music to the Church." Historical interest is only useful in that it should inform us in this work in this moment. The ideals, we trust, have been conchorded and canonized over more than 2000 years of organic practice; even though we can compare and contrast the geneological branches of liturgical forms, the vine and trunk are founded in worshipping the Creator in whose presence we should be both ever humble and grateful, as He provided us alone with the greatest gift in the universe, His Son and the sacrificial offering of Himself for the final remission of human sinfulness.
I remember my Master's mentor professor exclaiming that the scholas of the renaissance were unequivocally superior artistically to any of our own era. I questioned the logic, not to mention hubris, of such a declaration. Now, 22 years later I don't see any value in even discussing that issue, even as an artistic concern. Whether or not the Brudieu Requiem was sung "better" 400 years ago than it was a few Saturdays ago is supremely irrelevant. That it was sung that all present could enfold their faith with those souls of the deceased CMAA members in the living act of the Supper of the Lamb (thank you, Dr. Hahn and Fr. Keyes) was the sole and exiquisitely sublime, humble raison d'etre.
Now contrast that with most of the modern funerals for which many of us provide music assistance- the line between praising and remembering the deceased soul and the anamnesis that enjoins us to pray and praise God for the promise of salvation is generally very blurred. Same with weddings, confirmations, first get the picture.
I've hit that moment where I realize my bluster has outlived its stay. But I'll conclude with this- I looked over the pamphlet for a prominent "Liturgical Conference" held annually on an island state of the U.S. yesterday. One of the two keynote speakers for this year's event is retired bishop, Abp. Remi DeRoo of Vancouver, a self-proclaimed evangelist for the Spirit of Vatican II. As a curiosity, I'd invite anyone to google the archbishop's name, read a link to an interview (2002) in (then-named) Modern Liturgy and take in his contentions about what exactly were the pre-eminent concerns of the council and how they've not been realized in liturgy. And if you buy all that, I'll give you my Tom Conry LP which features "Anthem."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Particular Response to "The Proper Place of Mass Propers"

This is a reprint to a thread started in the Musica Sacra forum, and which co-relates to an article I've yet to read by Jeffrey Tucker in the current Summer 09 issue of "Sacred Music."

Those of us "here at CMAA" and many others obviously have crossed a perceptual threshold regarding the myriad issues of how liturgy is best conducted, performed and prayed. And we see some form of beatific vision that we believe we can enact both locally and universally. Around here, we seem to have agreed that such vision requires us to freely "care enough to FREELY SHARE our very best" with our musical gifts and talents. The issues that Jeffrey has so eloquently and repeatedly emphasized regarding IP and creative commons v. copyright restrictions is at the crux of the dilemma of the "proper place."
Discussions over the years with my pastors and vicars about these issues result, at best, with some sort of resignation to keep the status quo of the major publishers' newsprint worship aides. Why? IMO, simply because of our penchant and addiction for the convenient fix. Priests and musicians agree that this or that solution might be more "ideal," but the TPTB hold sway that (for example, currently) the Missal and Psalter texts will soon change, the English translations and chanted settings await promulgation, logistically in this economy we have neither the strategical or personnel resources to abandon the leaflet missals for weekly handouts, much less the stomach required that would demand more coherency of music selection on the part of disparate musical leaders, etc., yada, and so forth.
Now before countering with the absolutely perfect suggestion that the answer lies in the easy switch to a PBC or the Gregorian Missal, we have to look back to the other side of the threshold and see that modern American worship reflects modern American values that have held sway despite the parodies of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and "Madmen."
To me, interestingly the Liturgical Press Company offers two contrasting examples of how a fairly large business enterprise has tried to solve this problem of "proper place" with distinctively different approaches. BY FLOWING WATERS is generally acknowledged as one of noblest attempts to organically reintroduce many of the ideals of the "Mahrt" paradigm into parish worship, and was so salutated. And a couple of years ago the same company introduced PSALLITE, which as far as I'm aware didn't even make it up an eighth of the length of the proverbial flagpole. They (with no disrespect to Dr. Ford or the other editors) along with the Adoremus Society's first hymnal edition, the Collegeville Hymnal, and others basically operate in the "niche market" level of the worship aide economy.
So, where will the "proper place for propers" actually end up being? Hopefully, through some sort of near-miraculous collaboration of the USCCB/BCL, NPM, CMAA, other stakeholders with the "Industrial Liturgical Complex" of so villified recent memory. Gasp, "Do you suggest that BREAKING BREAD actually could continue to prosper with the inclusion of select settings of the Propers printed in their correct locations (ala Gregorian Missal) or as a sequential section, alongside the requisite hymns, songs, psalm settings and Ordinaries? Well, do you, Charles?" Ready now for the Bride to cold-cock me, I do. What's more, remembering that most of us do not work anywhere's remotely near the existential territory of St. John Cantius, I believe that because of our inherent preferential option for the convenient, the conventional wisdom still resides in Portland and Chicago; and that was why the USCCB walked away from the Pandora's Box a few November plenaries ago and deferred the "white list" of texts to those Sees. (Incidentally, having Francis Cardinal George preside at colloquium gave me much more hope in this regard. I can live with that.)
Whether or not, once the texts of the Missal and Psalter are released, each parish invests in a hardbound or newsprint missal/hymnal, TPTB that have more muscle and influence over tptb will have convinced those publishers to advance the works of the Ford's, Weber's, Kelly's, Ostrowski's, Rice's et al for inclusion within their main product offerings.
Then progress will be made real in the hands and sight of the celebrants and the faithful.
I know this vision falls short of the real paradigm, an optimally fuller return to the tradition of the chant and augmentation of same through the beauty of polyphony.
But I can't see any other macro-systematic way to further this process along.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Always at a precipice.
We finally flew back to San Francisco (and drove home Tuesday) after a pleasant sojourn to the Art Institute. That visit, our second, found us in the American artists’ galleries, making the rounds from roughly the colonial era to Georgia O’Keefe sections. During lunch at the museum cafĂ© I remarked to Wendy that there always seems to be a point where the mind and its imagination needs recuperation when viewing painting, sculpture, furniture and the like. It seems to me that the eye, the mind and the soul shouldn’t even approach a saturation point as then one risks losing the subtle blips on the existential cardiogram that marks unique moments of anamnesis among all the input absorbed.
I always take in art through very narrow lenses; either lenses that have clarified my own vision of life in Charles’ world (or Charlie’s world, thank you, Sister Maria Paulina) or through the more gauze-like, misty glimpses into the “otherness” that reveals the Way, the Truth, the Life. So, I took a few photos which will doubtless show up in upcoming posts, presumably to bolster some insight or opinion I want to sell you.
But I’m very glad that Wendy scheduled extra time at both ends of the trip so that we could enjoy some little reveries. I forgot to mention a lovely late dinner last night in which our waiter, a very attentive, handsome actor trying to make his way to some serious footlights, had enough time and paucity of customers to actually sit down and drink some wine with us, eat one of the three amazing strawberry-shortcake biscuits that Wendy couldn’t resist (Okay, I ate one, but I avoided desserts at Loyola all week!) There is no occasion to avoid getting to know a stranger when one can make the time.
That kind of leads me back to Sister Maria Paulina; I wonder if anyone else at Chicago 09 thought, when she’d inevitably scoot up next to them and catch them unawares with “Hi, who are you? I’m Sister Maria Paulina!” and that smile that glowed as much as Bernini’s gilded stained-glass window adorning Peter’s Cathedra in St. Peter’s- this nun is the Little Flower of the 21st Century! Two brief moments at the Sunday brunch illustrate this radiance. The first really didn’t have her in the picture, but it was when, out the blue in that stately room the bemused murmurs rose as Maestro Brouwers careened around the tables at a pretty good clip, with that impish, Dutch-boy smile that enchanted Wendy so. The second- as we were making our farewells and headed to Sister’s table, where Wilko was seated next to her, after I give her a peck on the cheek, she says “God bless you, Charlie.” No one ever calls me “Charlie” as if they’ve known that is the version of my name that I cherish. I remark about that to her, and said that I became Charles when I got married. By this time Wendy had arrived at my side, and Sister said, “Oh, Charlie, what is your wife’s name? “Wendy, Sister.” “Okay.”
“Wendy, Wendy,” she called out, “I’m so pleased to finally meet you. You have to call your husband Charlie now.” We all laughed and then she said “You just call him that when he’s happy.” You could have knocked us both over with the feather. Sister had just looked into the 35 years of a married couples’ lives and given us both a gift which was also a kind and generous admonishment: Charles- let the Lord fill your heart with joy and happiness, for what other purpose are you living in this life? You know this, because you enjoy being Charlie. Wendy, help Charles be Charlie by naming him so when he lives and shares with you his happiness and joy.

I wonder with hope that as CMAA grows, that it can somehow avoid the natural curve of all human organizations as they expand. If, as Prof. Mahrt says, we all keep our eyes fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, and adhere to the credo of holy, beautiful and universal, then there will be no doubt that the wanderings and exodus some feel have been endured over these forty years (did I just actually toss that off? Silly boy.) will end and the restoration of our sacred worship of God will be fixed, not as molten idols of either silver or gold, and made soundly and universally in Roman Catholic parishes in this country and everywhere.
Mr. Doug Cowling


I received the following email posting from a non-CMAA colleague who thought it required notice and reply. What I have to say is below the communique from Mr. Doug Cowling.

Hi Charles,

I think you would be very interested to have a look at this email from the Anglican Music listserv.

I think you should reply to this message, but via your blog.

I hope all is well with you.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Douglas Cowling
Date: Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 5:38 PM
Subject: [Anglican-Music] CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium

The CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium has posted audio clips of all its
liturgies. Not very good quality but interesting to see what the
extraordinstas are promoting.

Much of it sounds like anglo-catholicism revisted with lots of English adaptation. There's a fully sung compline in English that will alternately intrigue and horrify Howard.
Bud will be interested in the "Votive Vespers of Saints John and Paul,
Martyrs" (only an Anglican could come up with that rite!) that uses the fauxbourdons of Lassus throughout. A rare opportunity to hear the opening responses and all five psalms sung alternatim!
The conference also premiered a newly discovered Renaissance Requiem by Joan Brudieu (ca.1520-1591) Quite a lovely piece.
There is a session on New Composition including a serviceable Latin mass with piano (organ?), Missa O Fili et Filiae by Richard Rice.

The level of choral performance is adequate, but the recording is so awful that it's not fair to judge the choirs. If Americans can't throw money at better choirs for a showcase venture such as this, I can't see much of this repertoire trickling down.

Doug Cowling
Director of Music
St. Philip's Church, Etobicoke

My reply to my friend follows:

Thanks, _____
That a fellow musician in service to a Christian denomination so closely related to the Roman church would publicly post such condescension and disdain towards fellow travelers is truly disheartening. But he knows NOT whereof he speaks.
I'll mull this over, whether it should be cross referred to Catholic fori, because what good would it serve. My blog might be okay, because virtually no one but you goes there, as far as I know.
It was heaven. The choirs he mistakenly infers were pre-existing units weren't; they are US attendees of all degrees of competence all focused upon.......serving the liturgies of the day with holiness, beauty and universality.
Mr. Cowling ought lower his proboscis, retract his invective and issue CMAA a formal congratulation, if only for recognizing what he also mistakenly thinks is an exclusively "AngloCatholic" paradigm of worship. "Extraordinistas?" Please.