Sunday, December 25, 2011

Beyond a "Good Cause"

There are benefits to living now.

Well, wasn't that cryptic as all get out? Thems that know me as the arduous skeptic optimist existentialist wastrel that I be are going "O dooty, he's on a rant again."
Not this time. By "now" I mean in this era of immediacy, particularly the bane of some and the very manna of many, that which is called "The social network." I mean, I've sworn to any that would listen that FACEBOOK is literally Satan's Little Black Book. Like, why would it need to singe its number into the scalps of little miscreant toddlers holding huge Bowie knives, or brand bar codes onto or into our dermal tissue when it has "followers?" Please.
I got egg on m'face. I hate eggs. All eggs, right out of the rear of a hen or poached in some Oster steamer. Eggs smell like sulfur (get it?). Eggsmell, cat pee, skunk emission? It's a draw.
But the egg on me face is that my eldest daughter put together a wonderful benefit concert of both seasonal (Christmas, secular and sacred) songs and "new" BroadwaChary favorites in JUST TWO WEEKS via Facebook to benefit our local Children's Hospital NICU unit. Both our grandsons were premies, but little JC was born at 26 weeks five years ago, and virtually lived in that NICU for three or four months. And then the inevitable respiratory problems surfaced that required a two year period in which JC was trached, and couldn't vocalize until after he'd turned two. (He hasn't stopped talking or singing since, though!)
Charlotte, second from right
Anyway, a local downtown eatery, renovated from many incarnations in a hundred year old building, graciously offered the space, and tons of people showed up. In less than two weeks, no formal publicity, and a lot of people from a thorough cross section of theatre people, church people, parent people with kids helped by Childrens' Hospital raised nearly a grand without breaking a sweat, and a great time had by all.
What I noticed from our proud parent perch back of the eatery house was that as soon as my daughter welcomed everyone with a song, she then invited the crowd to join in singing "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" every soul there took it up immediately. I couldn't help but wonder then why it seems like we in Catholic music ministry must often feel like by merely announcing or listing a hymn/carol/song whatever for our congregations that we're oral surgeons with halitosis threatening medieval tools and techniques upon the congregants'  sensibilities and comfort zones as if they were to undergo a root canal. I mean it's singing!
I can help make chanting "Attende Domine" a pleasant experience, if folks would just let their hair and pretense defenses down. But I think that's my point, yet again. It comes down to intent!
The audience for the benefit was there for a tangible, but TEMPORAL reason. But they meant to be there even after less than two weeks' notice. Roamin'-minded Catholics know that they can BE THERE each Lord's Day. And as I've stated before, my experience affirms that your guaran-darn-teed hunnerd percent partipatio actuoso Masses include HOLY THURSDAY, Thanksgiving Day and _____ (fill in your blank.)
Oh, and daily Mass. Daily Mass people are serious. As are TLM folk. Maybe the participation at those sorts of liturgies varies according to the "cheerleading" congnescenti who would likely point AK47's at anyone on Sunday not actually moving their lips during the singing of "All are welcome." It's about INTENT.
Well, my grandson and all those children across the globe who've been lifted from tragedy's clutches by the Childrens' Hospitals, Mayo Clinics, St. Jude's will hopefully pay it forward as my daughter is trying to do.
But I sure would like someone to explain to me how believers who fret, worry, obligate themselves, make cosmic bets or subscribe to existential superstitions in order NOT to be consigned to Hell or otherwise outside of whatever they imagine heaven to be, still and yet don't get that there's a whole lotta singin' goin' on in that very heaven, because that's what lovers do! They sing love songs to the ONE who gives meaning to their being creatures in creation, their creator. And perhaps they ought to remember that these angels and archangels, Thrones and Dominions who acclaim "Hosanna" without end may have harps in their duffel bags like popular culture has deluded us. But they also are a formidable host of fearful creatures who mean business more than any U.S. Navy Seal team.
Good on ye, my child. And thank you for using your gift to honor God, the real healer of our boy and millions of other children, with your voice. My advice for vocal laggards and zombies, get some voice lessons. And quick.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Eleventh Hour?

In my four decades of directing music within the Church I've found that most thriving and viable music "ministries" offer some sort of pre-Midnight Mass performance. The most common is the devotional format of the service of Nine Lessons and Carols, modeled after the classic English order fashioned circa 1880. However, any number of variations on that service, or a simple concert that features prominent large works, or smaller anthems/motets in alternation with congregational carol-singing may even be more common than the Lessons format.
Over the two decades at our current parish, we have offered a separate concert event prior to Christmas that generally consists of a major cantata or large work, sometimes with solos, instrumental chamber works, organ compositions and the like interspersed within that model. We have also had years where the concert did not feature a large work or cantata, but had a thematic concept overarching a number of small choral pieces. Such themes included cultural components, styles and periods, specific composers or arrangers, traditional versus modern eras, etc. For example, in 2010 I programmed a concert featuring the works of American Catholic composers of the Victorian era to compliment the 150th anniversary of our parish's founding. That was a bit of a challenge to find significant counterparts to Peloquin from 1850 besides RoSewig et al, so I also tagged along some villancicos known to the missions in California at the time and a spiritual also sung in the era of the Civil War according to Higginson's bibliography.
This last year we held our seasonal concert early, which featured Vivaldi's GLORIA and the Bach MAGNIFICAT. It was a lovely, greatly attended event done well, but we decided initially not to repeat it in the eleventh hour prior to Midnight Mass for a number of sound reasons. Happily, our choir core has been together for 18 years, so once we were free of rehearsals for the "masterworks" concert we were able to prepare well about eight/nine pieces for the pre-Midnight portion of Christmas Eve.
My question to other choirmasters/directors: when you choose to do a "mixed bag" sort of pre-concert before Mass, whether Lessons-based or not, what criteria do you use, if any, that informs your repertoire choices? Do you place restrictions that are related or overlap from our "Catholic ethos" of chant/polyphony preference (even if carried through genetics to modern composers from Saint-Saens to Allen or McMillan)? Or do you allow some measure of "letting one's hair down" and admit pieces that don't have the catholic pedigree firmly in place? As mentioned, that could be spirituals, or gospel-infused arrangements and pieces (by great arrangers like Hogan, Hayes, Dillworth, Thomas), or other inculturated traditions such as Advent or Nativity villancicos, or carols from Hispanic traditions, Polish traditions and such, or generic but worthy new compositions by lower-tiered composers such as Leavitt, Courtney, Rutter, Chris Rice, Hillsongs or Culbreth ;-)?
I suppose what I'm asking amouts to whether such "devotional" or "inspirational" material that you as choirmaster deems to be worthy of public performance within the confines of your church building ought to be discerned also according to the tenets that we adhere to for actual worship at liturgy?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


As someone who inexplicably indulges and traffics in the acquisition of all things trivial, I had some sort of synapse short circuit that prompted me to somehow typify how I now regard an extremely popular denizen of liturgical pedants via the medium of film scenes that are memorable to me. Eureka! I think I found it. This scene is from the Robert Zemekis movie "Death Becomes Her" and occurs at the end of the film.
The two main characters, Madeline (Meryl Streep) and Helen (Goldie Hawn) were friends and rivals for the attention of Dr. Melville (Bruce Willis), a famed plastic surgeon whom they co-opted to keep their external beauty viable after they had taken a magic potion that grants eternal life, but then try and succeed to kill each other to garner his sole attention and access to his skills, as they're not really dead, but they can, indeed, decay if left unattended. Melville escapes their clutches, and we find Mad and Hel at his funeral 37 years later, harping at the back of the church during his funeral.
This seems like the perfect metaphor for a lot of what passes for meaningful discourse at this liturgical blog touting itself as a haven for worship, wit and wisdom. People can spend infinite amounts of time and treasure deconstructing and reconstructing all things godly and human, but it's inevitably all about superglue and bondo and paint jobs in this veil of tears. Ya gotta laugh, really. In honor of Dr. Xavier Rindfleisch's fondness for Roman Trattorias, the first clip of the scene below is in the Italian translated version (irony is like ozone, it's everywhere here and full of holes!)  I do have the same scene below the fake dialogue in the original English, beginning at 2':37"

Imagine if a portion of Mad and Hel's dialogue in this scene was lifted straight from the blog in question:

They are all good questions, and I doubt that we will ever know.The sloppy work of Vox Clara is leading presiders to make all sorts of “corrections” on the fly.
Yesterday I faced the fussy preces for Monday in the 4th week of advent. The only thing to do was to simplify them impromptu (a practice that is bound to produce muddles or theological errors) or to root around in the back of the old sacramentary for the bad 1973 versions, or to come armed with the 1998 versions, or to say a prayer of one’s own instead.

Thanks for reminding those of us who do not go to daily Mass and only have to content with weekly mediocrity that some people deal with this on a daily basis.  
The collects as printed are just unprayable.  My understanding is that Vox Clara, operating in strict secrecy, made some 10,000 changes to the ICEL text. Some of these introduced mistranslations, some added heretical content and now, as we have learned today, some added “we pray” in curious places. It hardly seems plausible that the interventions were accidental; and in any event, the whole procedure of central checking and approval is supposed to ensure that such “accidents” don’t happen.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

You Want Fear and Loathing?

I'll give ya Fear and Loathing!*

"Can you say 'Ambulance Chaser' and "rhemora?"

Every time a film, a book, a cheezy History Channel program enters the popular field of vision about whether IT walks among us NOW, that shark-suited, thin tied Eurotrash multilingual beast, the Anti-Christ, it is always portrayed as a guy. Someone who prob'ly looks somewhere between a young Daniel Day-Lewis and Jude Law. Not bad casting, that.
But has anybody ever considered......
Hint if you're not up on current events, this isn't Sen. Dianne Feinstein (I respect her.) Second hint, she's not one of Meg Whitman's gal pals most likely either.
Yes, I know this has nothing to do with RC liturgy.
Might be more in tune with PT Barnum liturgy.
P'tooie. Just typing this makes me feel yucky.
I'm not big on the "Where's the Anti-Christ" hoopla that occasionally pops up within the 24 hour news cycle. America's attention span, compromised as it is, often fails to notice some patterns that indicate lots of stuff seems to have gone awry. Anyone notice lately how much airtime Bill Clinton's getting lately? Frankly I'm surprised that Mr. Obama hasn't slipped quietly, Michelle, lovely girls and dog in tow, out a hidden door of the White House and taken a suite at the Watergate, there's been such a clamor, a longing for a Clinton, any Clinton including Chelsea, to take the desk in the Oval Office. But Mr. Obama's a wise guy. He knows were he to vacate, we'd be stuck with crazy Joe! Can't have that as a legacy, can one? I've digressed.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Order of Music-July 3, 2011
Saint Mary’s Parish, Visalia, California

14th Sunday, OrdinaryTime

Introit: S “Within Your Temple…”Simple Choral Gradual/R.Rice

Entrance: SE #480 I HEARD THE VOICE OF JESUS 239 (Kingsfold) cp

Opening Rites: S Kyrie-plainsong/Oecumenica-Culbreth

E Kyrie(Sleeth)/Dancing Day Gloria-Ford

Responsorial: SE Respond & Acclaim

Gospel Accl.: S plainsong “Alleluia”modeVI

E Alleluia (Sleeth)

Offertory: S #537 WE WALK IN FAITH/IN TIMES OF TROUBLE 605 (Jesus dulcis)

E #518 ALL THAT IS HIDDEN 21 (Farrell)

Eucharistic Accl.: S Oecumenica/Agnus Dei

E Holy/Christ/ Amen (Hurd) /Lamb (Culbreth)

Communion Procession: SE Antiphon: “Gustate et Videte”

S #331 TASTE AND SEE 510 (Moore)

E #775 TASTE AND SEE 675 (Talbot)

Communion Anthem: SE #650 THIS IS MY SONG 556 (Finlandia)

Recessional: S #654 GOD OF OUR FATHERS 188 (National hymn) TP descant


Wednesday, June 29, 2011


"I Know Where I'm Going" is the title of a Scots love ballad that has a lass pining for the company of her true love Johnny. A lovely little film was spun from it in 1945, where the lass becomes an English woman who becomes stranded upon an island among the Hebrides, and is challenged in her resolve to marry her betrothed by an attraction to another heroic character. There are storms aplenty, both figurative and literal, that contradict the simplicity of meaning of the ballad declaration, "I know where I'm going."
I am posting my thoughts on the video above on my blog as I'm sure that what I need to say might not be received or understood by my beloved confreres of the Church Music Association, and my fellow contributors at the Chant Cafe.
The video, produced by the brilliant Jeffrey Ostrowski of Corpus Christi Watershed, does clearly provide a mere glimpse of the sheer, transcendent beauty that is the colloquium experience. I have yet to encounter, after five of these, anyone who would decry any aspect of it as not beneficial in personal and corporate ways.
But I first viewed the video with the sound muted, as there was other media on in the room Wendy was listening to. And in the course of just four minutes I observed a pattern within the editing that, at face value, gave me pause and troubled me. I invite any readers of this post to do the same: watch the video without the sound. What gave me pause is the pattern consists of a sequence of action shots that primarily feature the conductors and presentors who comprise the leadership echelon of CMAA. And a brief sequence shows the CMAA Board of Directors in session before resuming the serial exposition of the multitude of choirs and scholas that "zoom in" principally upon the directors. To be fair, of course there is substantial content of attendees visually. But without the sound, the thematic emphasis upon the "star" faculty I believe is quite evident.
Am I critizing Ostrowski or CMAA with this observation. Absolutely not!
But as my friend and medical angel Jeffrey Tucker has stated repeatedly at the Cafe and the MS Forum, sacred and liturgical music is at a particularly important and momentous cross roads, represented most notably by the publishing of the Parish Book of Chant, the Simple Choral Propers and the uniquely valuable Simple English Propers, all under the banner of CMAA. And the beauty of all this is that CMAA has appeared, to me, an organization that has grown and thrived based upon participation from the ground up as informed by the scholarship and inspiration of the top down.
But can CMAA clearly sing "I know where I'm going"? It was repeatedly hammered home to attendees this last colloquium that we, CMAA, stand on the shoulders of giants such as Msgr. Schuler, Dr. Marier, Calvin Shenk, Maestro Salamunovich, Dr.Berry, Mrs. Ward, Fr. Skeris et al. And equally clear is that those giants were not the earlier era's equivilent of this era's megastardom of liturgical celebrities whose names are omnipresent in their product and publicity provided us by our large publishers. But I ask, in all humility and honesty, are we taking care not to advance a celebrity class of our own among CMAA ranks? As a side note, I have no personal bias or agenda by asking these questions (no dog in the hunt as goes the saying.) I am, and always have been quite happy to remain a parish musician.
I will leave this an open question for anyone who happens upon this post.
Next year around late June I do know where I'm going: to the Madeleine Cathedral in Salt Lake City, Utah for CMAA Colloquium 22 (provided I'm not court martialed!) I do hope that those who plan and articulate the schedule and content and goals for next year consider carefully how to expand both membership and influence in the market of ideas and ideals in a way that keeps and treasures the value and experience of each and every member who attends in order that the focus doesn't de-evolve and become diluted.
PS. I think it would be most appropriate to have any and all evaluations of Colloquium XXI published at MS. I'm sure that a great majority of those will attest to the immense value of attending it! Soli Deo gloria.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Order of Music-June 26, 2011

Saint Mary’s Parish, Visalia, California

Corpus Christi Sunday, OrdinaryTime

Introit: S “The Lord fed His people with finest wheat…”Simple Choral Gradual/R.Rice

Entrance: S #311 GATHER US TOGETHER 166 (Alstott) cp

Opening Rites: S Kyrie-plainsong/Oecumenica-Culbreth

E Kyrie(Sleeth)/Dancing Day Gloria-Paul Ford/arr. Culbreth

Responsorial: SE Respond & Acclaim

Sequence: E Lauda Sion chanted in English (J.Eason setting)

Gospel Accl.: S plainsong “Alleluia”modeVI
E Alleluia (Sleeth)

Offertory: S #323 O SACRAMENT MOST HOLY 377 (Fulda)
E #328 AS GRAINS OF WHEAT 41 (Rosania)

Eucharistic Accl.: S Oecumenica/Agnus Dei
E Holy/Christ/ Amen (Hurd) /Lamb (Culbreth)

Communion Procession: S Antiphon: “Whoever eats my flesh…”Simple Choral Gradual/R.Rice

S #341 I AM THE BREAD/YO SOY EL PAN 235 (Toolan) cp
E #336 AMEN: EL CUEPO DE CRISTO 33 (Schiavone)

Communion Anthem: S AVE VERUM CORPUS- Culbreth

Recessional: S organ postlude-Trent Barry
E #377 CELTIC ALLELUIA v.1-3 88 (O’Carroll)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Why Can't We All Just Get Along....but to My WAY?!?"

Consider the lilies, the swallows…not even Solomon in all his glory was so adorned. (No quotes, just paraphrasing as I recall His words.) The flip side, my words: Look at the images of the birds on this blog’s masthead. How many are still flying I wonder? Most of the images of the saints and sinners that adorn blogs have arrived to their reward or will do so at some point of time. This isn’t meant to be morbid in the slightest. We believers in Christ push on, whether dragging through the mud and waste or flying in concert with the Spirit, confident in faith that a “reward” does, indeed, await.

I personally believe that there is a sublime reality that escapes our notice about one particular endeavor we enjoy from God’s bounty that also escapes death. Whether this re-creation is rewarded with a hellish posterity, an ignorant, interminable limbo, or received into glory, dunno. Of course, I’m speaking of music. I mean, how couldn’t I feel this way based upon the blog title? “Music is the greatest gift of God.”

Notice I’ve never qualified that. It’s not “some music,” “my music,” “your music,” “our music” and most certainly not “God’s music.” He’s passed that. Who of us that has consciously put the muse to the pen or the recording device hasn’t secretly acknowledged that we were gifted to be the sharers, or “authors” of our tunes and harmonies from the one who created this aspect of the cosmos and spread it out upon the ether.

Here’s the point. I believe it’s basically a vanity and therefore pointless to use this gift as any form of tool or weapon to advance our truly heartfelt, informed and even righteous agendae and thus lambaste any and all perceived adversaries to our self-proclaimed truths in an effort to (what?) simply prevail upon others. And doing so seems to me a remarkably counterproductive waste of time (that is also a gift) if we are to be fully invested in evangelizing our neighbors and strangers to the whole of the Gospels. To be clear, I have no enmity towards sharing the bounty of our Catholic Church’s wise counsel that, at worship, we are inheritors and benefit from the unique and mysterious charms and priceless treasure that are revealed in chant, polyphony and other truly sacred forms of music.

On the other hand, if we cannot in good conscience deny that God is the sole author of grace and operates in His time and wisdom, then should any soul in pain, doubt and darkness who cries out for solace, reconciliation and forgiveness, and salvation have those prayers rejected by God’s ordained ministers? It’s about the sacraments, silly (to paraphrase President Clinton in irony.) But, if that same soul is hanging by a thread to the Christian life and asks for a sip of water that musically is known as “Be not afraid,” who are we to deny that? (I’m reminded of another irony in the hymn-tune PLEADING SAVIOR; “Father, if it be possible….) Are we to declare to that pleading soul, “Why sure, sinner-man, as long as it’s chanted and in Latin, ‘you down with “Nolite timere?”

Well, the way I see it going down at least for another four decades of wandering is that great strides will be made towards restoring solemnity and dignity to the performance of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass as sung in the vernaculars. But they will continue to be sung in the vernaculars by and large. And bar the highly unlikely scenario of an official reckoning with the IGRM/GIRM, proper texts may be restored to their appropriate roles at the processionals, graduals, alleluia/tracts/sequences more pervasively and hopefully persuasively, but that will never come at the expense of the use of strophic hymnody (as opposed to liturgical hymnody) and religious song whose paraphrased textual source may align to the proper calendar, as well as the vast body of both poetical and scriptural allusion lyrics. These latter forms, Frankenstein-monster-spawn of the Freemason Bugnini or not, have been taken up by more than one undisciplined, laconic and spiritually-undernourished generation. And they now own these songs and a great many of the hymns that they “get.” And those of us chant TRUE BELIEVERS that want our Quick Remedy Wagon surplus bought en masse right now by the unwashed PIPs are prone to that time-honored curial penchant for forked-tongue-ed “you can have your cake and eat it too” rhetoric in our spiels and appeals.

Of course the people are to sing their appointed portions of the liturgy, as long as they’re those of the chanted Latin settings appropriate to the seasons and occasions (huh?). But if you can’t master much more than the Death Mass in Latin or even English, don’t worry, we, THE SCHOLA, will cover for ya, no problem. You just listen real hard, contemplate, watch and pray. And now that you know those bold fonted thingy’s called antiphons in the missalettes actually mean something, just trust us that they’re more attuned to the scriptural lessons than all that sacropop syrup those hippies have spoon fed you, and we’ll sing them real purdy, and not just at the “gathering, preparation and feasting” parts, but we’ll sing them ourselves between the readings and dazzle ourselves with our florid gymnastics that will make Christina Aguilera even more embarrassed and jealous of her obvious lack of ornamental skills. But wait, what? You want to take part too? Watch and pray isn’t working for you? Okay, then, we can do that. Here, we’ve got tons of vernacular chant propers and ordinaries that are “Lite,” you’ll get the hang of ‘em real soon. But wait, what? No, you can’t sing “On Eagles’ Wings” ever again. Here, I’ve got a 400 word treatise on why it doesn’t even qualify as an “alius cantus aptus,” so there! But wait, what’s an “alius cantus aptus?” Well, look it up ‘cause I’m done with schooling you all, and “Beagles’ Wings” ain’t one of ‘em in any case. Trust me! I mean it, TRUST ME!

I think I’ve exhausted the point. Make no mistake about it or me. If I could attend a solemn Latin High Mass in EF every day, that’s how I’d worship. You heard it here by these lips, “Ed Schaefer was right.” (Look it up.) Some of us eventually have to make a hard and fast choice. But equating our choice with imposing same upon others isn’t good medicine for all like cod liver or castor oil. It is more akin to the cliche about teaching the pig to sing. But guess which of the two protagonists in that cliche is more pig headed? Slow and steady as she goes, hope and pray and nourish the poor and teach them to swim in waters that are moving and not in pools. But don’t expect them to do a swan dive off a high cliff right behind you because you can come up and breathe afterwards to applause (which is, of course, meant to be no applause.)

Get used to the Big Tent having more than one ring in the circus maximus for a few more decades, my friends.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is Liturgical Music For?

This is the whole text of a response in the comments box at Pray Tell prompted by an axiom posited by a fellow commentator, Tom Poelker:

“That is to say that it is God nourishing God’s people more than it is the people doing anything for God. Mass is much more about us being receptive to God nourishing us than us bringing our best to God.”

I’m thinking that Tom Poelker is on to something here that is greater than what appears to the eye and mind initially. And I also think that at the crux of Tom’s distillation of Benedict’s letter is some sort of peep stone through which we ought to earnestly examine the elements of worship from many perspectives, not the least of which include “liturgy: gift from God” and “liturgy: offering back said gift in its best expression from our “hands” back to God.”

Over at the the Chant Café I took the long and winding road to get across a notion that my colleague and friend Kathy Pluth clarified as me saying “there are way too many ‘Talking Heads’ and not enough thinking about what liturgical music is for.” I think we fall prey to the temptation of answering that question by yammering on about what liturgical music is NOT meant to do. We stumble over our tongues and sometimes our foot ends up in our mouth if we claim we’re not using music to manipulate the emotions of the faithful. I think we earn more time in purgatory each time we defend ourselves from that notion. I think that we err significantly when we unrelentingly argue that our musical refuge is based righteously either upon orthodoxy or heterodoxy. More time. I think we waste time and energy trying to put square people into round chairs and its complement opposite just by saying “you can, and must accept that this is the way it’s supposed to be.” So, what is liturgical music for exactly? Truthfully, I don’t know how to even approach the question, much less the answer. But the answer, I hope, lies in the middle of Tom’s quandary above.

In this very thread Tom and others have brought up the issue of the “feminization” of our sacral-liturgical expressions. I was amused at the notion that a man’s man such as da Bear’s Mike Ditka would squirm if compelled to sing “On Eagles’ Wings,” as if that poor tune just dripped estrogen and lavender. Well, I was at its premiere at Chicago NPM, ’79, just to the left of, I believe at that time, Deacon Joncas’s solo performance on the platform stage at McCormack Center, and I recall to this day that “wimpy” was not the affect in that huge room at that moment, and that both the song and Mike’s performance of it was, ahem, quite muscular and powerful. But, that was then, this is now, and our perceptions evolve and change. I have to wonder if a yearning for more masculinity to be evident at worship, if only in music, would eventually descend to some sort of Monty Python parody that caricatures both their send-up howling of “Jerusalem” and “I’m a lumberjack and that’s okay.”? Is not our worship meant to reflect “neither slave nor free, woman or man…” in principle, being so freed by our kinship to Christ. I don’t see any value or merit in advancing biological destiny as a lens by which to measure any aspect of liturgical arts or function. At the risk of sounding quaint, that’s silly.

What is liturgical music for? I can only share now something that happened yesterday at our principle Mass (generally a Missa Cantata or, happily, more towards a Solemn High Mass, depending on the cantillation of the celebrant.) Try to read through the account before making a judgment. One of our vicars is a Missioner of Charity, has been with the parishes for a couple of years, and was notified of a reassignment a week ago. At the Mass yesterday, he felt he could “finally” share his conversion story (actually “reversion”) to the Faith during his college years. Pretty much every homily he’s given has been golden, and we don’t get them very often as the rotation among three parishes of four celebrants necessitates his fluency in Spanish to be used in Misas. Anyway, the account was breath-taking. At its conclusion and before the Creed, I instructed our amazingly gifted organist that at the onset of the Offertory, he was to slowly count to 45, and then freely improvise upon “Veni Creator Spiritus.” Oh, we surely had a suitable song at the ready. But following through with that or even the proper Offertorio would have euthanized the impact of the homily, the resonance of it both in the Creed and General Intercessions. I’m not fond of the term “sacred silence” though quite enamored of its occurrence at worship. But I was already convicted of the rightness of my decision before I informed the organist, and later the schola. And the silence was sacred. And the improvisation was inspired and brilliant. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that decision is not among the options found in the GIRM. But did that combination of acts, silence and reflection through inspired invention in the moment, constitute full, active and conscious participation? Hand on the Douay-Rheims, Yes! What is liturgy for? Perhaps, if nothing else, to celebrate God’s everlasting love and desire for us to live in love, fully in the moment, and in appreciation and praise of Him as acknowledged by the highest caliber of arts we can manifest.

Guess what? That may occasionally involve the intuitive risk(as some would call such) to use “On Eagles’ Wings” as your best call to edify, or ratify a specific liturgical moment, more than likely at the Offertory where the “hymn of the day” rationale finds its most convenient lodgings. But the programming of OEW, or any warhorse hymn or song out of convenience or persuasion of some editor’s “helpful hints” is anathema to me, indicative of a lukewarm, anemic and ignorant practice of one’s office and duties.

Lastly, I think we’re all pretty desperately trying to defend turf, rather than to answer Kathy’s question. And I hope that as we try to comprehend Benedict’s letter and vision, that we don’t pigeon-hole his words to suit our perceptions of his and our political persuasions. We have many other concerns, we DM’s with diversity of genres and cultures factoring into a ton of weekend Masses’ with which we contend our choices. But at our “most solemn Mass” I first have to respect the liturgical sensibilities of my pastor who is also my “boss,” and that means a reasonable balance between the use of English and Latin. Beyond that, I know that our parish is not prepared to turn on the dime to an all-propers, all the time modality. But we sing and chant them weekly because they are, after all, native to our ritual culture. (We have to use the “stuffed Mass” model, and that has to suffice for now.) But if I am going to choose to supplant another option, I’d better be seriously mindful of Kathy’s question: what is this music for? Because, if I can’t honestly say that it serves the liturgy the best in that moment, I’d better stick to the sacral language and music that the Church has at the ready and embraces as having principle place at worship.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pastor I. Harold Dispensationalism, M.Div., U.L.C. Modesto, CA
Contemplating the
The Raptor!
(What? May 21, ought eleven isn't about a dinosaur apocalypse? Nevermind.)

Celebrating "Reverend" Camping's Eschaton Day, I humbly offer this wonderful video I stumbled upon as my testament and His holy Will:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Amadeus Visits Visalia, soli Deo gloria!
The link below will take you to the Chant Cafe Blog where I contribute. And the "Amadeus" article will link you to all the movements of our May 5th performance of Mozart's REQUIEM.
My deepest thanks to Diane Townsend and Limuel Forgey for documenting this once in a lifetime experience for us.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I know as much about "blogging" about having just conducted the Mozart setting of the REQUIEM as I do about resting after having just conducting the Mozart setting of the REQUIEM. Next to nothing. I sort of wish it was absolutely "nothing."
The first thing I realized: no questions concerning the experience naturally rose up within me last Thursday, and still to this moment. Was "it" a success? ....Wha'? Was what a success? What is "success?" Well, how did it go?....Uh, from what I remember, I took a deep breath while stepping onto the podium and was still breathing when I turned around and stepped down. What did it mean to you to have performed the work? I didn't perform the work as far as I know; neither, as I reckon, did the soloists, choir, organist or orchestra, nor Mozart, Sussmeyer and the rest of us. God performed the REQUIEM then, last Thursday, before then and ever since and forever, amen. Seriously. Really? Really.
I think now of distance. Even though God is ever imminent and present to me, I do remember the intransient weight of the distance between the weakness and darkness in my soul and the Lux Aeternum to which the prayers of the REQUIEM are flung with flayed muscles towards MERCY, MERCY, MERCY.
I think though it is often difficult to be a human, even if just in the way Descartes reduced that state of being, it is infinitely more of blessing to endure the inexorable decline of a creature in His Image, than to relent one's soul to the author of lies and betrayal. To "go there" involves no distance whatever, it's actually quite easy apparently.
But I won't know REQUIEM in this life. I will, however, light a candle so as not to curse the darkness and distance. He is there. He is listening. He has spoken and called my name. And, if I know one thing of the REQUIEM, it is my answer to that.
When we have video, it will go up.
God bless us all.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Lent...By the Streams of Babylon

Friday, April 01, 2011

In paradisum....and beyond

About a week ago I received a call from a woman in San Jose. She said she and her siblings were graduates of our parochial school and their mother was active in support roles back in the day. The daughter said her mother was failing in hospice care and she had expressed on prior occasions that, if at all possible, could students from the school contribute musically to her funeral. Somehow she'd heard that we'd revived a bell choir, and would their involvement be possible. The kids had already done their first funeral for a toddler sister of a current first grader, and comported themselves with dignity in every aspect. Upon the elderly mother's death and notice by her daughter, I called our principal, the class teacher and the pastor. My concern over the use of the bells during Lent was assuaged by the pastor, so we confirmed the choir's involvement. They already had a significant amount of repertoire appropriate for the processionals and ordinary, but I arranged three additional pieces, including the clip below, for this occasion. They'd only rehearsed this arrangement of mine of "In paradisum" once. So, as you watch and listen, you'll notice they're quite fixed upon the music sheets.

But what matters for me, my school colleagues and the pastor, is their inchoate witness to our Catholic Faith and their dedication to fulfill a ministerial role at the funeral of an elderly lady whose only connection was the tendon of tradition of our school. This isn't perfection, but it gives me hope for paradise for all our sakes.
Sorry the beginning is abrupt. The celebrant mixed up the commendation a bit, so our 8th grade teacher pressed record a nanosecond late.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Of Quakes, Tsunamis and Translations...
We'll see

There are aspects of this video reflection of Fr. Barron ( about the disasters in Japan that are at once, well-grounded and problematic. But isn't that to be expected when all we're provided is our intellect, imagination and the history/revelation we value as scripture?
Concerning a liturgical correlation of this video narrative, when it gets to 7'50" and Father shares the story of the Chinese farmer, instead of framing it within the argument about free will, providence and disaster, just think about the MR3 fracus and hubbub.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Liturgical Marketplace

The summer before my first colloquium Wendy and I decided to visit relatives in North Carolina. We thought it would be quaint to take Amtrak cross-country via the southern route out of Los Angeles. We pony’d up first class. But we didn’t do our research and prep; Southern Pacific owns the single track from LA through NOLA to Atlanta. So, our train was stymied to side tracks time after time out of deference for freight trains. We made the best of it. Got into NOLA fifteen hours past the scheduled arrival. But us both having had wonderful train experiences throughout Europe caused us to wonder why we couldn’t have enjoyed as efficient and pleasurable journey on American soil via an American icon- transcontinental railroads?
A number of articles and commentary here in the Café, at MusicSacra Forum and elsewhere prompted me, once again, to ponder the economy that provides the artistic resources that serve celebrants, ministers, musicians and congregants at liturgies and devotions. Our friend and colleague Chironomo delivers this dart dead center bulls’ eye regarding worship “materials” and aides:
“The drive is on in many Diocese' across the country to implement the chants of the Missal beginning next year. Has there ever been an effort like this on behalf of music in the liturgy, at least in recent history? I don't think so.
My guess is that the likes of OCP and GIA just haven't caught up yet, as the much more agile on-line community that is supportive of traditional music has outmaneuvered them. While they are trying to figure out how to manage their copyright protections, freely downloadable settings of the new translation are making their way into parishes. OCP and GIA will, of course, get their share of the market....but they haven't had to face anything like this before and it appears they are either in denial or just slow to act.”
 I think that popularity in this era is worth less than whatever it costs to get one’s Warhol-ian 15 minutes. The denial mentioned above keeps the publishers mired in a perpetual and irrelevant past in which their CD’s and “albums” cannot keep up with either the pace of the delivery medium and the chicanery of their lack of authentic content. How long can an intransient, hide-bound and bloat-burdened system compete in a rapid and, let’s face it, fickle market? Someone “out there” with some modicum of talent and a unique hook can post their tune on YouTube on Thursday and be a “star” by Friday morning. 

Yet, the editorial staffs of the major, nominally Roman Catholic publishers function in some sort of Olympian monarchy, deliberating and deciding which heavyweight champion to keep in the hymnal rotation and which new upstart will get their big break and make the Show. And, of course, that system redounds to the many good people who provide the skills to keep that system working, from the senior managers, middle managers, and support staff.
But that system in American liturgical realpolitik is fixed not unlike a locomotive and its train of cars upon established networks of tracks. The recent film, “Unstoppable,” (about a runaway freight train) portrays an allegorical paradox where the Big Publishers can move large volumes of certain types of cargo, starting very slowly and with caution to make sure they are on the prescribed rail lines, but once they get up to speed they’re more or less held captive to those routes, period. And, God forbid, left unattended will gain momentum enough that could prove devastating not only to their own enterprise, but to the community in which they move. 

The iconic photograph of the moment the last spike was driven conjoining the monopolistic railroad companies (and its ideological import) through the establishment of a transcontinental means of human and freight transport and delivery, corresponds to a moment in a plenum USCCB convention a few winters ago wherein the issue of defining a so-called “white list” of approved hymn texts by the body of American bishops was tabled, and remains thus to this day, to the Sees of Chicago and Portland. And with the highest of regard for both Cardinal George and Archbishop Vlazny, has there been any evidence that there’s been direct oversight by their chanceries over the editorial content of the various organs of their respective publishing companies since that decision? Not really, the contents of the pulp missal/hymnals shift only in small fractional increments yearly, while the cost to both parish budgets and to the non-consolidation of a worthy liturgical repertoire are unwieldy and burdensome, and in effect useless in many regards. 

Through many other media, hundreds of options that are sourced either from the original Roman musical volumes or from new compositional resource centers (such as MusicaSacra, Corpus Christi Watershed and The St. Louis Liturgical Music Center) are literally moving through the airwaves for the taking. It would be foolish not to imagine that other new sources, not necessarily respectful of the Church’s musical patrimony but fashioned out of love for the liturgy are also being shared and distributed outside of the publishers’ network and clout. Again, if those whom some vilify as the “Liturgical Industrial Complex” don’t even ponder these realities, they risk becoming anachronistic antiques that simply parodied the culture of a bygone era. 

Has this ever occurred before so as to have been a lesson of history that could have reminded us not to tread that way again? Well, I have more than a few St. Gregory hymnals collecting dust amid the People’s Mass Books, the St. Basil, the Pius X, the Mount Mary’s, and a number of others that J. Vincent Higgenson spent years cataloguing. And then, among the non-nationalistic of those, English was the only “foreign” vernacular competing with the Mother Tongue.

The contingencies that will continue to vex the stability of any liturgical repertoire, whether at the national, metropolitan, diocesan or parish levels, will likely necessitate the expedience of a subscription-based missal/hymnal resource. There’s nothing to prevent any capable pastor and director of music/liturgy from opting out of that convenience with the abilities to access huge amounts of license-free, tried and culturally true Catholic music, and present it to congregations in “homegrown” hymnals, weekly pamphlets or visually projected forms. But, I personally don’t see a larger benefit to the whole Body of the Church in these individual opt-outs, either in practical or philosophical terms.

What I do see as possible is a scenario that theoretically pleases both progressive and traditional wings of liturgical music leadership, as well as a means by which the expressed vision of the Church that her bishops directly oversee the liturgical praxis and development within their Sees. 

Could not the USCCB/BCL authoritatively mandate all bishops to appoint diocesan councils of qualified musicians and directors according to a set of universal criteria, whose only duty is the collection, deliberation and indexing of a licit and comprehensive diocesan missal/hymnal that would, ideally, be so dutifully and scrupulously reviewed that it would, without question, receive the bishop’s imprimatur and nihil obstat, whether the resource was published by a yearly subscription or as a fixed hymnal by the very same publishers who offer us only their editions? 

I refuse to accept, until it is explained to me why, that the indexing and ordering of local, commissioned editions of paper or hardbound hymnals could not be compiled and indexed by the union of human editors and appropriate software programs. I formerly dubbed this the “boutique” hymnal. But I’m hopeful that a coalition of our hierarchy, the already “geared-up” publishing giants, the local bishops and their collaborative councils and the “boots on the ground” input from parish DM’s would result in a profound shift both towards the observance of universal standards, and the respect and appreciation for worthy additions of new repertoire from various cultural perspectives.

It is simply a fact that the dynamic tensions that are part and parcel of the options for musical expression at service to the liturgy will seem to most everyone involved as being self-contradictory. Gregorian (and other) chant achieving “principle place” (as opposed to the titular “pride of place”) at service will subjectively always be challenged by those who insist upon qualifying that place by citing the “all things being equal” argument. 

But it seems to me that if I were given an opportunity to serve on a diocesan music council whose tangible objective was the creation and dissemination of a valid, valuable local hymnal, I’d at least have no one to scapegoat for the paucity of repertoire choices in the one-size-fits-all products that have constituted the musical buffets and cafeterias that were “crafted” in corporate think tanks and labs as being the most generically profitable assortment that was consumer friendly, trendy and kept you wanting something “new and improved” every so often, but that was essentially just a variation or reorganization of the same components. It’s time for our trains to start flying.

In the “Missal chants” thread in which I cite Chironomo’s observation above, an anonymous commenter after him states,
“We have a rare opportunity at this moment in Church history to undo the collateral damage caused by a false interpretation and implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. There is nothing more spiritually powerful than priest and people chanting the Mass, whether in Latin or in the vernacular. That is where one finds both the majesty and simplicity of the Roman Mass.”  
This is the moment that we all must seize, including those who have confined themselves to the tracks and fortresses and economies that will, as all temporal human concerns do, eventually decay or become obsolete and irrelevant. I don’t wish that upon anyone affiliated with our Church, including the good souls working within “the complex.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

by Charles Culbreth
performed by
Cross Seventh Station
St. Mary's, Visalia CA
We have met them,
And we are them!
One has to admire curmudgeons. Whether they're the truly crusty ones as exemplified by Walter Brennan as "The Real McCoy," or the blustery windbags like Archie Bunker. You can easily fall in love with them. Who didn't love Art Carney as Harry making his elephant walk journey with cat Tonto in tow? Then comes....Horace Rumpole, or for that matter, any character Leo McKern's ever inhabited. They can become a cottage industry, on the other hand, for good such as Ed Asner's forlorn widower in "Up" or as the ridiculous, scatological William Shatner character on "@#$% My Father Said" that is, if anything, a capitulation to Beavis/SouthPark consumerist zombies.

Well, wake up and if you've never met this priest, you should now. Invite him into your daily routine as if he were Orson Welles coming to dinner and taking up residence in your bed.

 The fetichising of Vatican II distracts attention from the real and significant and valuable actions of the Roman Magisterium, which deserve so very much better than the sneers directed at them by illiterate fools. Humanae vitae and Ordinatio sacerdotalis, slender volumes, are worth more than all the paper wasted at Vatican II. Documents of the CDF, keeping up with the errors proposed in areas of ethics by the World's agenda, represent the locus to which perplexed modern Catholics should turn for teaching and guidance.

Monday, March 14, 2011

In honor of our patroness, Mother of the World, Mother of God Mediatrix,
AVE MARIA by Tomas Luis de Victoria
as performed by the College of Sequoias Concert Choir
Jeffrey Seaward, Director
March 1, 2011
St. Mary's Church, Visalia, California

Friday, March 11, 2011

ANIMA CHRISTI Premiere Performance
I composed this setting of the 14th century devotional prayer during
the summer of 2007. My dear friend, Professor Jeffrey Seaward of the
College of Sequoias here in Visalia, offered to take my manuscript and
realize it on March 1st of this year in our parish of St. Mary's. This is a
version inwhich only 8 of the 12 prayer petitions are set. I've had some
interest by some university choral directors since making its YouTube
debut, so perhaps we'll encounter a full realization of the whole piece
down the road. With gratitude and praise to God...

Monday, March 07, 2011

Best Cat Video, Ever!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Only Christ Could Truly Have Loved Us on Wall Street.

This is a post that comes from Left Field. But this isn't the Left Field of Dreams, which for me was an honor if you were chosen to occupy that sacred space beyond the diamond of the infield. This is the left field as in "Elvis has LEFT the building." But in this case, it ain't Elvis; his demise was handled, far away from the terror of the night that is TMZ or CNN. Whatever molecule of human dignity that was endowed to Sheen, Charlie, appears to have, at best, lapsed into dormancy.
I have admired the Sheen saga since I was a teen. I remember the taut, lean emergence of Martin (Estevez) Sheen as Private Eddie Slovak in a made for TV movie. The first of many roles that established this actor as an advocate of nobility among men, even if in the anti-hero or even villain. It's commonly known that as a devout young Catholic actor, Martin assumed the surname of his childhood exemplar, Bishop Fulton Sheen, for his stage name. And the actor has, to a greater extent, managed to exemplify his "on-the-sleeve Catholicism" not only in most of his roles (notably not the least, as POTUS on "West Wing") on screen but also off screen. Whether getting arrested outside the School of the Americas or some other liberal cause celebre, Martin Sheen has fought a good fight and come through the wiser, though scarred. His pivotal scene of self confrontation in real and reel life in "Apocalypse Now" had to be among the most powerful scenes of conversion from decadence and denial to fortitude and perseverence.
Many might have assumed that his younger son, Charlie, after some fitful and fitting burp roles in "Ferris Buellar" bits, might have hit the same gravitas with his performance in the second generation of Vietnam War revisionism, "Platoon." The Sheen charism, for me which extends to this day to Emilio, Martin's eldest son-actor, was in full bloom.
But the narcissist of Charlie's punk druggie in "Ferris" never seemed far from the surface of many of his roles, whether in enjoyable or farcical comedies such as "Major League" or "Hot Shots," or the dramatic roles such as in "Wall Street" or "The Arrival."
And the irony, a truly sad irony, is that Martin's "father figure" and Charlie's "rebel without a clue" was never more evident, though funny at the time, than as depicted by the clip above where they parody real/reel life with the unison gag line "I LOVED YOU in "Wall Street."
Most of the eyes and mouths of the "world" that lives on the carcasses of the demise of celebrity, whether of the Sheen, Lohan, Speers, Jackson or Presley species, won't at all think to bemoan either the loss of distraction and entertainment, or to condemn them to Mel Gibson perdition.
But, I would like to believe that Martin, a prodigal father for these times, has already prayed for the intercession of his namesake's petition to God on behalf of his woebegone son. And I join him in prayer to God in concert with the late bishop's legacy of witness and love, so that God's redemption may be made manifest and reside forever in Charlie's heart, as it appears to have done in Martin's.
May God be praised. May Charlie be saved. Amen.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Two New Terms in My Liturgical Lexicon

The very mention of “my” and “lexicon” generally strikes fear and loathing among my friends and fellowes here in St. Blogs. Why, within a couple of days, one of two dearest of my singing sisters in chant implied that my posts are rife with “hyperbole," (she’s correct, of course!) whilst the other worried that one of my posts at Musica Sacra was so “pithy” that the real me had been abducted!

Well, this post-Winter Chant Intensive article is intended to address a “boots on the ground and let’s chum the still waters” inquiry I made of Dr. Mahrt in New Orleans. (See that, I mixed metaphors already!) I asked whether there existed any historical precedence for having the Entrance Procession begin from the sacristy, as I’ve experienced at EF Masses, but in the OF.

So, here are the terms, courtesy of Dr. Mahrt’s reply: “Circumambulation” and “The Stuffed Mass.
To “circumabulate” according to simply amounts to “walk(ing) or (to) go about or around, esp. ceremoniously.” It’s origin and source dates around “1656, from L. circumambulare , from circum "around" + ambulare "to walk.

A new agey website Kora Chronicles surprisingly offers a fairly apt (in synch with Dr. Mahrt’s definition)-
“Generally, circumambulation is to walk or move around something, especially as part of a ceremony or ritual. In a religious or spiritual context, circumambulation is performed around a special object, just as a shrine or an altar. A Catholic (celebrant) may circumambulate an alter, other priest or person, gifts etc while swinging a thurible of incense (also known as censing) as part of a blessing or ceremony. The number of times and the method used to swing the thurible is significant and, in some denominations, forms part of the liturgical law.”

“The Stuffed Mass,” as defined by Mahrt, is when we bereft directors have to stealthily deploy the proper antiphons (and verses) while maintaining the practice of having congregational hymns sung AT THE SAME MASS. The good professor neither condemned nor endorsed the practice, but simply acknowledged that “on our journey to the kingdom” many of us (like me) are using the Introit as a de facto prelude, wedding an Offertorio to the so-called Hymn of the Day, and chanting the Communio during the quarter hour it takes for the EMHC’s to receive H.C. and the ciboria and chalices, followed by the Communion processional hymn, etc.

In this post I would like you folks to either raise or lower the standard (flag) of proposing the practice of circumambulation for the Entrance Procession as a legitimate way to accommodate the singing of both a hymn and a proper. Isn’t it the standard practice at our churches to have the celebrant and ministerial entourage leave the sacristy to the exterior of the church and re-assemble at the narthex for the entrance? And if that is so, doesn’t that require some sort of “cue” for the congregation to rise? And from that point, all of the strategic issues and disputes about partipatio activa (congregational singing), or antiphonal singing/chanting between the choir/schola and congregation of the Introit, or the congregation visually “taking in” the deeper meaning by actively viewing the procession, or more mundane concerns as to how many verses of a hymn are to be sung, or is it a processional hymn or “gathering song”…. Could circumambulation remediate most of those concerns?

But what is the “special object” being recognized should the celebrant’s entrance begin with the ring of the Introit bell, the procession moving through the sanctuary and into the nave via a side aisle and then without interruption (or a "meet and greet" outside of the church beforehand) proceeding up the main aisle to the sanctuary again, where reverencing, incensation, etc. would constitute an uninterrupted liturgical action? Well, couldn’t that “object” be the “priesthood of believers” called the Faithful? (Well, maybe yeah, Charles. But wouldn’t that mean that only half of the congregation would be so recognized?) Not if you approach the Offertory Procession by using the same procedure for the other half of the congregation!

“Oooohhhh, that’s a BINGO!” (exclaimed Colonel Hans Landa in the film “Inglourious Basterds.) Then we could stuff those two processions with the hymn whilst the ministers are ambulating in the nave, and seamlessly transition to the proper chant/homophonic/polyphonic setting upon their return to the sanctuary.

But really, as everyone knows, I’m not an academic. But I am given the office of fulfilling the Church’s directives for optimal worship. I do know that this, to some, might seem to blur or transgress what are considered to be clearly delineated options in the GIRM. But, as Dr. Mahrt outlined in his wonderful schematic drawing (above)* of his experiences of various types of circumambulation at Salisbury Cathedral, it might just advance among the people a higher appreciation for the function and arts associated with processions.
*Just in case you're interested, I've copyrit the graphic above as "The Munchian Scream of the Presider!" However, Dr. Mahrt believes it more resembles an example of Scott Turkington's method of chironomy. You make the call.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Hauntingly Beautiful, Singable GLORY TO GOD
by Jeffrey Mark Ostrowski of Corpus Christi Watershed
and Chabanel Psalm Renown.

Gloria in honor of Blessed Ralph Sherwin (†1581) from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

Mr. Ostrowski seems to possess an innate sense of how graceful motion and forward movement of a chanted melody can be beautifully mirrored in his sparing harmonic assignments, particularly in the movement of the bass line. Note the rising scale of the bass underneath "and on earth, peace to people of good will," suggesting our human aspiring to be "of good will."  And a likewise arsic "longing" reaching its apex on a-DORE You" seems both human and angelic.
An interest expansion from 2nds/3rds to closely clustered 7th chords that progressively radiate outwards in the organ to richer, tonally cadential chords accompanies "You take away the sins of the world" in the first use of that phrase, and then Ostrowski avoids repeating the same technique with the re-utterance of that phrase. And he uses some deceptive cadences in different ways to beautiful purpose. Instead of resolving to the Mixolydian "final" he prepares a lovely double suspension, and then again uses a D minor deception for "Lord Jesus Christ" instead of an F Major. Very compelling.
I believe that congregations will find enough repetitive melodic phrases to intuit where their "going" if they don't actually ever look at the notes.
I wonder if there might be opportunity, down the road to explore some choral options or variations, particular as they approach more solid cadences. But, as new settings go, this is a huge and high bar he's created.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

May choirs of angels lead you into paradise….

“Auntie Em, it’s a twister, it’s a twister!”

Yes, Dorothy, and there will come more, and more, and more after that.

At my friend Todd’s site, Catholic Sensibility, he’s engaged a couple of articles echoing a great deal of rhetoric concerning causality for the “Tragedy in Tucson.” I’m not going there, here.

“Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere,
Aeternam habeas requiem.”

We are mandated to sing well, and thus twice pray according to Augustine, this as we commend the care of the soul of the departed to God’s will.

My father and my wife’s father, to the best our knowledge as we thankfully weren’t present, both took their own lives. Would we, knowing both that their acts were grave, mortal sin, but also knowing that according to our Church’s Catechism their souls are disposed to the mercy of God, sing “In paradisum” for them if we had it in our power to revisit those horrific moments of our young lives? Yes. Amen. So be it.

Beyond that, songs and words of prayer and reconciliation, not derision and condemnation should be the voiced thoughts and feelings from our hearts, minds and souls.

Not just for those directly involved, killed, wounded, recovering and mourning from the inexplicable act, but for the tortured soul of the perpetrator, his parents, his friends, for those who likely will agonize over what more they could have done that could have altered the chronology of events that has catapulted more chaos into our daily clamor.

Prayers for the school administrators, faculty and fellow students of Loughner, who wondered in fear and took tentative steps to mitigate his potential danger. Prayers for his parents, for the police, the Fish and Game warden who stopped him for running a red light Saturday morning, ran his plates according to protocol, and sent him on his way. Prayers for the Sporting Goods employees who processed his federal application for a handgun permit and then delivered it to him for purchase with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and multiple magazines to load, the data entry clerks and officials who process and evaluate those forms for any digital red flags assessing his legal right to purchase a handgun. Prayers for a system so clearly capable of creating digital dialogue among regulatory agencies, but for sundry reasons cannot or will not construct them for our own protection, as has been done in the wake of 9/11 and the Murrow Oklahoma bombing aftermaths with profiling and TSA installations.

We, who remain for now, cannot “requiescat in pacem.” We have to love, forgive, share, welcome, console, visit, feed, and pray.
The following is an article written by my wife, Wendy.Today marks  the celebration of our 37th wedding anniversary, I would like to take a moment to encourage all of us who assist the Faithful with their musical worship to also celebrate and honor our spouses and partners in life who generally do the "both/and" tasks of supporting us with our domestic and family concerns as well as often directly bolstering our musical enterprises with their amazing talents.

Many readers are familiar with my husband, Charles, who spends time with his colleagues here in the Chant Café and Optima Musica discussing, with devotion, our Holy Mother Church and her liturgy. I am an estate administration paralegal by profession but have had the joy of working beside my husband in the ministry of pastoral music since 1974.

This year, after attending two Colloquium and listening to Charles’ experience at Chant Intensive in San Diego two years ago, I decided to join the many others this past week in New Orleans in the Beginning chant seminar offered by Scott Turkington. Approaching the seminar facility - a two story building nestled in the courtyard behind the rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, it seemed only fitting that those of us beginning our study of chant, its history and performance, its prayer, ascended two flights of stairs to spend a week learning from our instructor and, often, being supported from below by the strains of chant melody sung by the Advanced seminar members led by Dr. William Mahrt (Charles included...). The week passed in that manner...ascending to learn, descending to reflect and to join with the other seminar attendees to share experiences and, finally, to sing at the solemn celebration of the Mass for Epiphany with Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. What a glorious week!

Our beginning group gathered from Canada to California, Minnesota to New Mexico, and was made up of professional directors and brand new volunteer directors seeking tools to use in locating repertoire and teaching their choirs; cantors and choir members (new members and experienced members); seminarians, deacons and priests, all there to invest themselves in the beauty of chant as clergy; together with new Catholics without musical backgrounds seeking the beauty of their new faith in the ancient chant of the Church...all of us, together, hoping to gain an understanding of the neumes and nuances of modes and the ictus, propers and ordinaries, solfeggio and lonely punctums, psalm tones and chironomy...word accents...all elements illuminated through Scott’s expertise and dedication.

Ascending those stairs for each session brought all of us into the presence of a master teacher...Scott saw each of us at our ability level and need and was able, in a room of 35-40 individuals, to gather us into the one voice of the chant melody with care and confidence, humor (“Oh...listen to the semiologists downstairs...” Scott would quip) and challenges! Each aspect of chant study was accompanied by authoritative references to Solemnes masters and historical writings, anecdotes offered by Scott from his personal experience of Gregorian chant study and his own writings which informed the instruction along the way. Scott conducted through our stumblings and rejoiced in our successes as we learned Mass IX, the Introit and Communion antiphon for Epiphany, the Te Deum Laudamus and other chants for the Friday celebrations.

Our Beginning seminar, now a familiar ensemble, descended the steps of St. Patrick’s last Friday to take up our journeys with and through Gregorian chant in our own communities. For my part, I have given up Sudoku to spend time with a pencil (with eraser!), my PBC (Parish Book of Chant) and Gregorian Missal, and the rules of chant worksheets now rough-edged and worn. There with me, as I pour over the 2s and 3s and liquescents, is Scott with his smile, lifted palate and pitch to voice the Great Song at the heart of our worship. Deo gratias!

Thank you, Scott, for everything. See you, and hopefully many of our Beginning seminar members, at Colloquium in Pittsburgh!

PS from Charles:
The blue skies above the Gothic beauty of St. Patrick's, the Pro-Cathedral of New Orleans, attest to the notion of recovery and clarity, after tumult and devastation, both things that our liturgy and NOLA/Gulf States residents have experienced accutely over the last number of years. But as is stated in Chant Café's mission statement excerpted from St. Augustine, "singing is for those who love."
Happy Anniversary, my beloved Wendy.