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.