Friday, December 28, 2012

Midnight Mass 2012 at the Mother parish

This year's preparations for music at service were challenging and, at times, daunting. I suffered two weeks of being laid out (that hasn't happened since the Swine flu around '73) which took me out for two solid weeks. In the midst of that will power muscled up to get through Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the School Christmas Pageant (2 performances.) All went well. By the time we got to our last rehearsal prior to Christmas, Wendy had taken ill (which she is still the worse for wear) with a cold, and our organist lost a precious pet to a vet's errant diagnosis and treatment. So, without our accompanist, we worked as much a capella and then left the rest to Spiritus Sanctus.
If one considers we offered up the Bach MAGNIFICAT and Vivaldi's GLORIA last year, the singing of about four Gustav Holst carols and a couple by Charles Giffen prior to Midnight seems like feast to famine. But in such humility can much joy be discovered. One of those was providing one of our basses the opportunity to sing O HOLY NIGHT at his John Raitt-like best! This gentleman (an attorney) was one of those fellows who always got the lead in the school musical (he also went to HS with my wife and sister in law, who also were leads) but he enjoys just being a bass singer in the choir for the most part. But when he solos, you can expect a truly memorable experience. In the singing of carols and choir pieces the congregation/audience remained politely reverent. But after he finished there was that moment where the breath is taken in unison, and they cannot help but applaud. It did not at all seem inappropriate in that moment.
On the other hand, just before midnight I went to the epistle ambo (a very modest, portable wooden pulpit) and delivered the Kalenda 2012 in Latin, all six pages of it. Because of having the providence of a couple of chant intensives and colloquia behind me, it kept rolling and moving off my tongue quite well, despite rebounding from bronchitis. But when I finished, I immediately (eyes down) repaired to my place in the choir, but the congregation starting applauding very unexpectedly! I was totally caught off guard and didn't acknowledge anything and started the processional carol immediately. (I thought chanting the Introit after the Kalenda might be chant-overkill.)
But why the applause? I know I chant well, but I certainly am not a great singer like my wife or our bass. I remember, in the moment, praying that their appreciation was for the unmitigated, unapologetic or gratuitous use of real Latin chant. We use a lot of chant now, but mostly in English.
Another thing might be something that my friend Todd Flowerday always brings into the efficacy of music equation arguments: worthy artistic performance practice. Yes, on the extremes from "Abba Father" to the Verdi "Requiem" the music does, of itself, matter. But later on, for Communion after Richard Rice's exquisite Choral Communio, we sang the pairing of "Silent Night" (in English only for the first time in over a decade) with Dan Kantor's "Night of Silence." When we finally partnered the two songs over all three verses (women singing Kantor, men the Gruber) it lead to the most peaceful sacred silence I think I've ever experienced in twenty years here. And of course, that reflection served up "Joy to the World" perfectly at the missio.
We also returned to the Jeff Ostrowski "Mass of St. Ralph Sherwin" Glory to God, which was chanted in unison at a pretty good clip. I'm glad the acolytes weren't instructed to ring the Sanctus bells this year. The people haven't learned it well enough to join in, but they voted for this setting earlier in the year, and they seem to recognize its apparent catholic ethos.
So, humble and honest this year. Nice.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

36...Nice number, but who are you folks, anyway?

I got phished over the holiday. The upshot, email contacts hacked, no major blowback yet, knock on wood. But in the amazing arcane process of trying to recover stuff, change stuff, make it all better, I, along with my ATT-Uverse, Internet Explorer, Google and Java pals human and borg, eventually got around to discovering I couldn't sign into my blog account. So, I randomly tried thinking like a toolbar, went into Internet Options and changed a few buttons. TaDa.
So then I find my dashboard and there are 36 of you people who've visited me today. And I haven't posted since Newtown. I've been rather quiet due to both the gig and a major bronchial infection. But, we (me and she who is to obey and who got a major cold the Night Before Christmas) got through the requisite four hour Midnight Mass and two others, and yet live to tell the tale. I'll get around to that.
Happily, I didn't in all this computer process cr*p didn't lose access to sites. So, one of my favorites is "CRISIS" which published the Holy Father's address to the College of Cardinals, Curia and the Governate. Here's the address:
I got through about half in which Papa reminds us all about the precipice humanity currently teeters at, and then moves onto the larger issue of what's Church got to do with it, got to do with it? This quote from the address stopped me dead in my tracks-

The Church represents the memory of what it means to be human in the face of a civilization of forgetfulness, which knows only itself and its own criteria.
 In my most truest and sometimes cynical moments I reduce the Church to the "splainer" of what we hope or fear is in store for us when we die. (Death comes before taxes, remember?)
The Catholic Church knows from death. Andrew Lloyd Webber and others may have made maudlin money aka "filthy lucre" off that adage that our hero and savior also knew from death and stared it down for three agonizing hours while never stopping to love ALL of us who mostly and mutely watched, like dumb rubber-neckers passed a nasty crash. Oh, and then what did He do before changing the Universe that first Easter morn? Oh yeah, went down to Georgia, I meant Hell, probably whispered in Lucifer's ear "We still love ya, bro', but you're still goin' down!" before gathering Abel, Moses, Abraham and the lot of 'em and transporting them through the pearlies.
"And became incarnate...." At once human and divine. And we aren't a hunnert percent sure that He passed His Word (He IS-The WORD!) onto to Simon Cephas? "Here's the keys, Rock, take care of Her best you can 'cause it's gonna run forever, dings or no dings, same here as in heaven. Do some good with Her, Pete, really."
We are a craven bunch, we humans. Within the skin and facade that holds the nastiness of pus, blood, waste, disease and decay still lies hearts that love and hurt, minds that know what is right to do and yet are self-disabled sometimes when choosing by themselves, and souls, some of whom can look in a mirror, and some who cannot. "Lord, to whom shall we go?" Indeed.
O come, O come.

O sweet mystery of life...."born to give us second birth."
If you 36 are among some of my buds at CMAA, yes you're right. Incoherent. rambling, pointless. And contrary to what my public persona jokes, I really don't enjoy being an enigma. I do like joking and messing with you, sometimes.
But when I forget, The Church will remember for me, remind me, remand me to her bosom, and help redeem me, so help me God.

I'll spill the beans about musical Christmas here in CenCA next time around.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Litanies of Dies Irae

Wednesday night, the eucharistic celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe, after Communion and the collect...our pastor sprang an impromptu announcement and prayer about a local accident that happened very early in that day. At our mission church, a smallish crowd of adorers were in the midst of their procession celebrating OLOG at the 5am hour or thereabouts. In the foggy Central Valley at 5am it's pitch-black. Both they and a 21 year old driver of a dark car didn't anticipate the possibility of their collision; how could they. Six injured, no deaths. Pastor mentioned praying for the injured and their families and then, remarkably, reminded the packed convention center congregation to pray for (hence not condemn) the young driver as well. I expect that mandate was understood quite profoundly by those with ears to hear.

Friday. The "nation" is stunned by what the media shrink (whom I respect) Keith Ablow calls is another move of the red line of tolerance of gross, senseless violence by the shootings in Newtown, CT. presumably by a twenty year old troubled young adult. I don't disdain the hyperbole that explodes from the mic to satellite dishes of the media gathered there since, such as "We're eleven days from Christmas. The children were awaiting Santa Claus. But, instead the Devil visited here today." And such and such. I actually agree.
Evil has permeated this planet since we humans, whether you do the fundamentalist Adam/Eve meet the serpent storyline, or the Arthur C. Clarke proto human apes are revelated into doing the math that a femur can be both tool and weapon, and free will takes the dark choice at one specific moment.

Yeah, we've screwed ourselves from day one either way. And that doesn't equate to the fornication analogy at all. We're screwed because we've burrowed ourselves, from reptile or mammal DNA (like it matters), back into the muck from which we slithered with all our instinct and will to escape and "evolve." Character counts. Yes, when you're an amphibian or other sub-species who synapses into taking the risk to force your gills to breath in oxygen from a hostile source, and your kin REMEMBER your sacrifice.

But fast forward through Adam, Noah, Abraham, Elijah, David, Solomon, Job and Isaiah, John the Baptist to Yeshua N-zareth. And fast forward through the catechism 2000 years later based upon the profession that Jesus Christ is, was, and will remain for all time the Logos, not just the Word but the Meaning of all that we know, we want to know, we yearn to learn from, we want to BE, as in with the AM. And did He not say: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Well, yeah. B-but this DS/Xbox/Nintendo raised punk killed 20 kindergartners, many are likely thinking and saying in all possible manners and means. And, and, and, and, didn't you hear that Mommy Dearest was strict with him, and he shot her IN THE FACE, man? "Oh, I don't give a rat's hiney whether he checked himself out or a first responder got a kill shot, that punk is hanging with the worm that don't never die and the fires are never quenched; enjoy your day, punk." (Best rendered in the gravely whisper of Eastwood's Dirty Harry voice.)

This is no bleeding heart plea piece for Adam Lanza, or for the beneficent retreat from castigating anyone who may have been influences that caused his mind, spirit, heart and humanity to implode.  Winners become "I'm a loser" and losing in Bizzaro Life becomes winning. It's perverted. But we are senscient, we can conceive this dichotomy, even in comic books. But comic books are more tolerated as pedantical tools of learning in schools than scripture. It's just that way. This is no Hannity rant.

Jesus gave us, through His being Logos, the Dies Irae, which today certainly has been. But read the prayer in its entirety. And then gut check your Christian self to see if you can offer that prayer not only for the adults that died today, the adult suvivors who've lost their innocents, but also for yourself and everyone you know. Everyone of us face the Dies Irae, and we're obliged as Christians to offer it for every deceased soul.
Gehenna smells bad, but one keeps moving and praying through its ruinous, ultimate despair.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Katrina Fernandez and Fr. Erik

I have been a long time follower of the inimitable Katrina Fernandez, aka “The Crescat” blogger out of the beautiful city of Charlotte, NC. Among Gen X’r mackerel snappers, she’s the first publicly known person in blogdom whose brain synapses seem to align with mine. She is only among a few handful of renowned catholic bloggers willing to tell the truth as she sees it, and willing to share her own story, which can’t be called easy or pretty. But like those whom God touches particularly, she is blessed/cursed with the gift to temper her insight with humor in all its forms. And she knows that’s how “we” cope with stuff. And, she also is reckless, or I prefer fearless, enough to sometimes admit “Folks, I’m melting…..I’m melting.” We, by which I mean modern culture and society, cannot easily accept vulnerability, weakness, failure, regret or self-preservation by any means necessary comfortably. We would rather parce out people and problems with our own prejudicial diagnoses and our own self-righteous remedies as a comeuppance for people like Katrina and me, who let it hang out. (That is not to say people like us don’t know the love and support of true saints among us. I’m experiencing that right now.)

Kat posted a couple of days ago with this blatant headliner (which follows with excerpts from her article, to whit:

Hi. I’m Kat, your blog administrator. I’m also an a**hole…
I was all set to write a post mocking this…I had it all planned out, a magnificent post oozing with witty mockery and commentary suggesting the Church sell ad space on altar cloths and vestments to boost revenue. But half way through I just looked at that picture and felt tremendously sad. Sad for the priest and even sadder for myself. Where is the virtue in picking on an old man? The priest in the photo is 90+ years old. I should live so long...Really there would have been nothing to gain from that except a few chuckles and maybe a couple of shares around the old social media. The greater damage would be in giving the “if it ain’t Latin it’s a sacrilege” crowd more fuel to throw on their ever raging fire against the novus ordo missae.

The first person to comment was the well-know blogger Fr. Erik Richtsteig, who offered this response and encouragement: Kat, there are ass----s, but you're not one. The 90 year old Jesuit is. He is old enough to know better. The Progressive Catholic Collation looks to be full of them. Highjacking the Mass to advance their political agenda. The poncho gal is too; sacrilegious simulation of the Mass. Kat, don't go all wobbly on us.

Father, it’s undoubted that you meant to bolster and encourage Kat through this existential revelation of hers, but you’ve missed the mark and only revealed the weaknesses and inclination towards pride that betray the bottom line of your vocation and vows, not to mention allowing your emotions to be sway by the enemy so much as to deride a brother priest, no matter how much you disagree with his actions. Yeah, we know all of confident Catholic orthodoxy can’t wait for the biological solution to the ecclesial crises confounding us all. But invecting your disdain towards Fr. Brennan and the “poncho lady” in such a frivolous and dismissive manner (how ironic those words, they), you apparently left your Matthew 25 on the keyholder of your mind when you let those words leave the house of your lips. And to go further and exhort Kat not “to go….wobbly…), well, is there some sort of CatholicJungend Bund out there that she’s now in danger for apostasy for, what, realizing that most Christ-like of admonitions, look to the speck/log in your own eye before giving other heretics the death stare?

Katrina, my heart is gladdened and pained for you. There’s serious stuff out their skulking every day and night. There are wars and rumors of wars. Old men (at least me) are dreaming (not so pleasant dreams) and there’s always going to be people without feet show up when we’re moaning about holes in our socks or shoes. But this is an awakening for not just you, but everybody who reads, knows and loves you, even from places like the land of nuts and fruits. But the serious stuff, your soul, your health, the boy, your faith and trust in God, trust in your instincts at the same time you call out to Him in prayer. All of us, including Father, can do no better in this life. You are loved.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thank God it's (fill in the blank) FRIDAY

Dear faithful five followers, presuming you guys/gals more or less do what I do on Sundays, Holy Days and feast days like Thanksgiving Day, we invested an hour at Mass yesterday. Wendy and I weren't going to be home and "do" Mass, but she caught a fever and that changed our travel plans. Then our organist also became ill, so we gladly served to lead music for a good crowd of worshippers yesterday. I love Thanksgiving Mass, as I do all "intentional" Masses as those who come, do so with "intention." One particular moment that proved that intent was the last response of the "sursum corda" where the only words heard were "It is RIGHT and JUST" rather than the Sunday tug of war between the front pew sitters and the real catholics who seem to cling to "right to give Him thanks and praise." I digress.
Anyway, before Mass, we watched a little of the wonderfully revamped CBS This Morning Show which featured two wonderful segments. The first was a celebration of Arlo Guthrie's famed "Alice's Restaurant Massacre" (long "e") broadcast on Thanksgiving tradition. Just seeing that Arlo's eyes still had that gleam of inner joy....The second segment was a prepared piece by the great Wynton Marsalis, giving perspective to the term "thanksgiving." Being so gifted a musician, he also is an icon of the deposit of limitless love that God infuses into the human heart, especially artists. A convergence of St. Cecilia's grace by two musicians who have their heads and hearts on straight!
Mass was wonderful.
Came home, read what little news and opinion was in the daily local paper. Then as a perfunctory nod, did the yearly scan of the two inches of ad circulars for shopping on BLACK FRIDAY. I'm glad that the term "Black Friday" has a positive connotation, as in "to be in the black" means fiscal well being. But as I scanned the glossy inserts, I couldn't help but notice the collusion of certain items that tickled the "Terry Gilliam" portion of my brain as signifiers of where we are in the USofA as a cultured society; besides being terribly self-absorbed and unsatisfied.
The first item that seems to encapsulate the zeitgeist is the well known (now) Beat Headphones by Dr. Dre. Huge over-ear, richly colored, thick, inch wide head band, total noise suppression from outside while touting absolute faithfully reproduced sonic purity, clarity and power! You are enveloped in the music or sound of your choice while making the simultaneous, obvious statement: "Don't talk to me, mess with me, and you know I mean business and have swag because I spent nearly 200 big ones on these.....headphones." Charlie! Come to the table grampa's carving the bird now." BEATS sez "I got your bird right here, Mom."


I can't help but notice that a more direct indicator of the enclave mindset that sporting good stores aren't shy anymore from putting onto their ad pages is the "firearm." In fact, everyday this last week one gun retailer had a one page, two sided insert in the paper featuring really cool handguns. So confident they, no retail prices were posted for the handguns. Doorbuster prices on shoulder arms were shown, but not for the larger calibre semi-automatic clip rifles. You know, the kind used in Boulder, Virginia Tech,\ and for when....well. The Home Protection weapon. It's almost a must have feaver now. I think it's likely a greater contagion than we suspect, just like illegal drugs like crystal meth or stolen Oxycontin. "Hey, we know the sh*t's comin', damn zombie apocalypse, racial civil war, fiscal cliff class warfare, failure of the power grid or the communication intertubes, whatever, I got my short barreled hand gripped carbon fiber shotgun and mean to take out who ever the hell walks up my walk when it's on." I can appreciate that-protect the homestead and family and all that. But for the sake of how far we predators have progressed beyond the reptillian fight or flight impulse, just how many of you preppers expect you're going to mow down these "intruders" before you can reload? I figure I can take a swipe with my decorative big ass claymore sword at the bug eyed neighbor at my door (who probably came over to see if our puppy was okay, what with all the shotgun and handgun and machine gun pop-pops relentlessly rattling the city), take her out and then yield to the swarm of zombies behind her while barking out "FREEDOM!" From what? would likely then be my last thought as I slip into the void where God doesn't dwell.
And rather than this on the right, this on the left would have been the herald of the times. Call of duty and black ops is how to "get" the bad guy, not by forgiveness, repentence, restoration, reconciliation.

Wow, what a November it's been since Halloween. I'm humming "What goes up, must come down..." by Blood, Sweat and Tears" in my mind. I don't need "Beats headphones" for that.
And how does it all come out in the wash of the cosmos?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A How-to recipe to fix Lit/Music: Happy Thanksgiving

This is just a repost of a comment made about the vagaries of obtaining nihil obstats and imprimaturs from....from....USCCB, BCL, your bishop, A.G. Eric Holder, the Navy Seals, or some clerk in a bunker somewhere.

As has been mentioned often in the last couple of days, CMAA is us. So is the church. Our republic is us. And so on. I'm down with Professor Ted on trumping the notion that the USCCB is essentially incapable of articulating restorative prescriptions inwhich readily verifiable common problems, unhealthy circumstances, and even abuses could be mitigated globally. We still could put a woman on the moon. We can and have harnessed the physical processes of nuclear physics for good and ill, even re-created a lab version of the singularity big banging in Switzerland! Heck, we've convinced millions of people to fork out $125 or much more for a coffee maker that brews half a cup of joe. And every so often a hundred plus church princes manage, with some humble prayer and assistance of the Holy Spirit to discern who God chooses to shepherd the One True Church. Doubters, get a grip.

On the other hand, the Church as a living organism presupposes a composite physiogony; I know this because the Bible tells me so. So, Jeffrey Tucker's observation of the flexibility of Mgr. Hilgartner's response to SAC as being an optimistic, positive response is not only correct, but necessary to sort out how we approach and think about divergence.

What we basically have been playing out of late, writ large, is the Siamese Twins sort of bipartisanship model. "Chang" demands that his perspective on how to operate their enterprises is founded upon absolutism and revealed law which aligns with natural law. "Eng" rejects Chang simply because he "demands" Eng's compliance. Eng insists upon consensus, experimentation, observation, and coexistence. Their destiny appears only to be an attraction of derision, mockery and revulsion in the atmosphere of the circus. Please remember I cite this only as a model.

There has to be some initiative to move the inert. Unfortnately there's less incentive built into the culture in this era: a congress deadlocked with the lowest amount of passed legislation in recent history; a confrontational model between executive governance and special interest groups (Wisconsin governor vs. SEIU and teachers union); civil disobedience sans a coherent ethos (Occupy Mvmt. etc.); and a furtherance of fractionating a "union" based upon class, race, gender, religious influence, and life issues while also appealing for their vote (or actually proxy) upon the fulcrum of one side: unemployed yet entitled takers; or the other- capitalist rich job creators and producers and their over taxed middle class minions. This is simply toxic, static, disabling, and ultimately ridiculous and an embarrassment.

So plopped down in this morass of failed democratic principles is the thing we call the Holy Roman Catholic Church, not a republic indeed, but also not exactly equipped to act like a federal government either, really?

My pastor thinks one of the major root issues stems directly from the mechanisms by which bishops are newly appointed, transferred and elevated and then ensconsed. Well, that may be a worthy problem the Church will need to confront universally, but it doesn't help us in the meanwhile. But I bring this up to point out that where a bishop articulates a clear vision of his own ecclesiology, the people seem coalesce around him, schools and parishes are revived, seminary numbers rise, evangelization increases dramatically. And so forth. Exemplars of this might be the retiring Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, NB., and Jaime Soto of Sacramento, CA. Their modus operandi's can hardly be called identical. But they're leading.

So, as I mentioned briefly in another post, it seems to me that it wouldn't at all be very difficult for any bishop to convene a council of pastors that he trusts to give him their true skinny on who's got the stuff together in liturgy and music, and provide said bishop with some candidates who would be asked to work with him, or his proxies under his periodical review, towards a thorough examination of those priority issues in the lit/music domain and then crafting strategies and timelines for their remediation. And I maintain this must be a diocesesan level enterprise, not metropolitan, not regional, not national. I will illustrate how choosing a national panel of experts to craft national mandated policies will fail, and miserably so.

Around 1997 or so, a group of eminent musician/composer/scholars/liturgists formed an ad hoc group known as the Snowbirds. Their deliberations were sound, their consensus full and their philosophies were clear. But, to no small extent, all of that stood in opposition to an earlier convocation of like peoples at the Milwaukee symposium. How would this play out. The Snowbirds advocated the systematic, expert deliberation of an ultimate White List project that would eventuate in a totally approved and mandated national repertoire and presumably a national hymnal. Mgr. Mannion was a member of the Snowbirds and I posited this question to him at the 1999 national NPM:

At some point consensus and trust by the faithful will be lost when the reality that the experts opted for "When in our music God is glorified" at the perceived expense of the now and forever absent "Pescador de hombres." And such tensions could be construed and amplified over whatever the table of contents eventuates as.

But, if the territorial and demographic aspects that are typical to the local diocese are given some respect in the local process of expert deliberation, then a sort of unveiling process to "stockholders" by a united panel, priests' collective and, of course, the bishop himself, at which the laity and others could have their input noted and formally considered, and responded to as needed. And if the process is collegial and transparent, but also informed by universal principles of VII documents, earlier documents and the raison d'etres of our traditions examined in a positive light, then a worship book, some combination of hymnal/missal could serve that diocese in many ways for many reasons for many years.

I don't think this is naivete on my part. I cannot know the exegencies of how things are done in Wasilla, Alaska versus Lafayette, Louisiana. But there have to be qualified people in all of these "jurisdictions" who would readily jump at the prospect of crafting a comprehensively positive worship repertoire that would endure.

I mean, damn, isn't the Explorer satellite still moving towards the outer reaches of our solar system? And we can't agree on songs?

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

And that's all I have to say about that.

Apologies to Forrest Gump.
I very clearly, distinctly remember watching the 2004 Democratic Party Convention keynote address by the virtually unknown junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, and remarking to my wife, "He will be the first African-American president." It wasn't really a fast forward, we were fully engaged in Iraq, Afghanistan, littler conflagurations with Jihadists at home and abroad, and then the housing/mortgage swamp was emerging to be murkier though not deadlier than Katrina.

It was, it seemed even then, an inevitability that Obama would prevail over the most honed politician the times could ever call for. I don't mean John McCain, obviously. I mean Hillary Clinton. How could someone not even with eighteen months' tenure in the U.S. Senate (and pathetically fewer days/hours/minutes in real time) prevail over the first truly viable, albeit liberal, female politician who'd vanquished Whitewater, Lewinsky and her own husband's achilles heels PLURAL, became a powerhouse senator in a state that prides itself on lend lease representatives (Bobby Kennedy) LOSE to a smoove talking community organizer from the Chicago machine? In-con-THIEV-able (sorry, Princess Bride.) John McCain? Who? The hero from Hanoi Hilton? John McCain? Cat food.

Little by little, the light of day shone upon him whom blowhard Hannity called "the Annointed One" for the interminable days of his first term. We learned that Obama was above really punching the time clock in the Illinois State Senate, and if he did he either was just "present" or really dug his heels in when it came to officially prohibiting basic life support in abortatoriums should the fetal matter actually breathe under its own power after the late term effort to make its life ceast and desist. But, now president, Obama would take to Capitol Hill such an obtuse vision of universal health care. He would throw billions of paper dollars at banks, auto manufactors and other entitled on borrowed currency owned by the emergent odd capitalists in the PR of China. And he would cross his arms when begged to engage congress in the backroom messiness of real governance not because he cloaked himself in transparency, (how prescient) but because he preferred flying all over the country, nee the globe in Airforce One just on the premise of showing the earth and whatever aliens might be picking up our signals (joke) just what America and real change "looked like." And he kissed the Saudi King's ring.

What became apparent to anyone, including his own cabinet members who bailed, is that in no way could this man be called an executive. He simply never showed up for the gig. He never really showed up for anything but a party or an honor being bestowed for his benefit. And he betrayed everyone and everything he said from 2004-2012 insofar as returning America to its status as both a haven and harbor for  justice, truth and true freedom. He can't manage.

This has nothing to do with his rival tonight, Mitt Romney. The election, book (as in bookies) and jury is out on him unless and until he should prevail.

But, Obama not only cannot, but will not manage to fulfill his responsibilities should he prevail. And I desparately hope I'm proved wrong should that be the case. But if he treats global competitors like Putin (via his whispers to Putin's woebegone messenger Medveyev) like his BFF, God help his enemies. He can't manage.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Early Election Results!!!

Not that election, silly!

For those who might have actually followed our exploits chronicled in the earlier post below, we did our little experiment with Liturgical Democracy this morning at the Schola Mass. I thought the results would interest a great many of us here. The setup: Before Mass I directly addressed the congregation about what they were being asked to help deliberate: the choice of a new setting of the "Glory" as we approach Advent. I mentioned to them the discussions schola had among ourselves regarding the relative intuitive natures of chant settings versus metrical settings and that we had two very worthy options, the Ostrowski "St. Sherwin" and the O'Shea "Mary, Mediatrix," respectively in the mediums mentioned. I explained they would hear the chant version (Sherwin) prior to the Entrance, and the metered "Mediatrix" at its usual location after the Kyrie. After the dismissal, I explained, choir members would be at the exit doors at which the people could simply state their preference for Number 1 (chant) or Number 2 (metered). Well, they voted, and decidely so:
For Jeffrey O. The ratio was roughly about 3.5 to 1 in favor of the "chant" Mass as many of the folks called it as they exited. At my polling station I could tell that the preference for the chant style Mass likely was determined by as many varied reasons, serious (That sounds "Catholic") to superflous (It goes at a good clip!) And even though many folks who voted may never ever take up the actual chanting of the Glory (Royce Nickel's setting) in the last year, it's clear their notion of what sounds properly RC seems firmly rooted. And they likely have been gradually prepped by the use of the SEP for three years, the Richard Rice SCG for five years, and now his choral Communio's in the last month. There is likely only two explanations for this acceptance of increased solemnity: first is the Mary Jane Ballou maxim- they're now so used to having something completely different foisted upon them at various intervals, their reactions are passively accepting. Second-They're truly appreciative that the musical portions of the liturgy are well prepared, chosen according to worthiness, in concert with the calendar, yet flexibile enough to not exclude the "new" classics. I think, based upon how firmly many people responded it must actually be the latter explanation. I could be delusional, but they responded to me and other choristers resolutely. One soprano reported how much vehemence (she's a teacher) they displayed when verbally voting! This result was not universally acclaimed by all my choir members, one is so weary of chanting she could spit. But I asked her if singing a fully SATB orchestrated chant Mass like the Sherwin or the Nickel St. Therese mitigated her notion of dreary ol' chant, and she admitted yes it did. So, we still try to remain flexible and eclectic. I think our esteemed Yoda-guru Mahrt knows all this too well from forty plus in Palo Alto. A choir wants to, if thoroughbred, be allowed to run at full gait and gallop. So, we'll start building the bricks of assisting congregational rendition of the Sherwin unison, and get to the SATB ASAP. Oh, and Truman actually won! Due to Halloween falling upon a Wedne

Friday, November 02, 2012

Change? Another new paradigm?

  Due to Halloween falling upon a Wednesday, our normal rehearsal evening, we had a less than normal turnout last night (All Saints) and a somewhat truncated, altered rehearsal schedule. But that also provided some reflective time among our smaller numbers to share and reflect upon something I’ve otherwise not touched upon publicly: the processes by which we choose Mass settings and other service music. Because the opportunity provided by the new Missal prompted a series of meetings among leadership of various parish ensembles, the Bolduc (WLP) Mass of St. Ann was embraced as the parish default, and has proven quite well received on all accompanimental/vocal fronts. However, for our equivalent of the weekly Missa Cantata at which the primary Schola/Choir provides leadership, I opted for Royce Nickel’s “Mass of St. Therese of Liseaux (CCW, CC3). We’ve noticed a steady infusion and assimilation of its beauty by the Sunday congregation for over a year now. So much so, that we were finally enabled to support the chanting with the full SATB arrangement.
  As I’ve said elsewhere, choirs like to sing like choirs. So, I’ve been reluctant to retire the Nickel Mass for an interim as I believe it takes congregations years, not months, to become enamored then comfortable with new Mass settings. But we’d been preparing to introduce our colleague Jeffrey Ostrowski’s Mass in Honor of St. Ralph Sherwin’s Glory to God as the first step towards our first “change” since MR3. We sang the movement last Sunday (after a brief introduction prior to Mass, summarizing the process and plans.) I explained that this setting was even more chant-inclined than the Nickel, and that the choir would sing the Glory “on their behalf” that Sunday as they prayed and absorbed the beautiful setting for the first time. At last night’s rehearsal we discussed whether “the people got the ‘Sherwin’” in this brief, first encounter. One of us felt strongly they did not. He emphatically and carefully offered his opinion that as a lay singer both melodic and rhythmic structure is very important to him in terms of acquisition. He used the example of when he travels and attends Masses elsewhere, if the setting is metered, with or without music, still anticipate melodic phrases and participate. However, he said that chant melodies not only do not have that stricture, they by their own nature are not intuitively predictable in their intervallic movements, etc. And the upshot is that he feels reduced in the moment as “irrelevant” as a participant when unable to sing what is rightfully his to sing. Wow, what a sobering moment.
  Well, we pondered that for a while, and I made the choice to revisit a setting we’d auditioned over a year ago, Dr. Patrick O Shea’s Mass of the Mediatrix. And again, specifically we sang through the Glory, first using the melody only, then SATB. I had reviewed this Mass for the Chant CafĂ© a year ago. Memory of it remained in mind the whole year as a “next option.” Interestingly, singing the melody only brought some different reactions this time around. It seemed to be a series of motives conjoined together, well crafted but still somewhat arbitrary. But when we sang it SATB the memory of a wholeness and seamlessness returned in full blossom.
   So this coming Sunday we’re going to do something I’ve never done in over four decades-we’re taking a poll. I will again inform the congregation of our “dilemma” and invite their participation in counseling us. We will chant the Ostrowski as “Glory I” before Mass. And then sing the melody of the O’Shea as “Glory II” within the liturgy. After the dismissal, there will be an organ postlude and members of the schola will fan out to the exit doors and tally verbal votes for “I or II.” This is a totally new experience. I’ve always felt capable of assessing a piece of music’s worthiness, and haven’t wavered about that, and I’m not wavering now. But it can’t be a poor idea to offer the people in the pews a voice in the matter prior to the singing. What do you think?

Monday, October 29, 2012

That was odd!

Happily waiting in my office email was a message from a lovely follower wondering if I was okay. It seems my blog had been "disappeared." Hmmm. So I clicked on its icon in bookmarks, boom, "This blog has been removed due to some unusual activity." Hmmm, squared. So, it provided some options which I exercized, which then exorcized whatever "unusual" activity (I'm sixty-one, pretty much incapable of unusual activity nowadays) had initiated the interruption. So, it seems I'm back in business. Thank you, TOB, for your kind note. I'm fine, BTW. The Raiders have won two games in a row, the Giants took the series, I'm praying for all the folks on the East Coast and here's hoping we'll resume with some articles after this very busy liturgical week.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

How to not do crazy? Please Heloise, help!

"Cause...who doesn't, after all, want to go 'UP'"?
Over four decades of continuous service to the Church as a musician, mostly in a directorial or managerial situation, I don't suppose I'm at all alone in declaring that such as us encounter people of 360 degrees of uniqueness, even on a daily basis. The Church's existential Body (that would be all souls) has always been attended by some sort of institutional and physical apparatus, apparati (?) such as "magisterium, heirarchy, basilicas, houses of worship etc) in which we conduct the various enterprises of prayer, praise, alms collecting/distribution, sacramental activities and rituals, catechesis, et al. But the existential Body clearly has been identified as our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ, Himself! Tada, easy! But the corporeal body, eh, not so much clarity there.
Happily we, the Church, have arrived at a moment in history where we're (the BIG We) not ideologically at war with other faiths over literal geographical territory, as in the Crusades or the Irish troubles. We do face some monumental global issues as regards the commission given to us by Christ, but that has been the case from day one of His public ministry, if not from day one of the universe. It's enough to drive a believer crazy if you try to unwind the rubberband ball of problems strangling the societies of peoples all over the world.
Back to dealing with people every day. As a person who is irreparably a Type A, temperamental artiste, pain in the keister windbag, I've somehow still managed to earn a modicum of respect for various talents and insights into the various communal aspects of my family, professional and recreational lives. Most of my life I blustered and bloviated (thanks for that one, O'Reilly) my way through various crises and turmoils, wailed and sobbed unrelentingly through others, laughed or joked as if to dodge the bowling ball heading towards me, etc. And those are over the small stuff.
When Big Stuff drops from the sky like an existential asteroid, somehow a "Down Ego, down" yield warning keeps me quiet and calm, so that I can focus, get perspective, and react positively and soundly. I wish that was the way I could approach the small, petty and political stuff that, as I've gotten older, seems to be more prevalent. I find myself becoming Ed Asner/Lou Grant/the old grump in "UP" more often than not, and I don't recognize my inner heart that's always yearned for kindness and goodness.
What do old fogey megalomaniacs always charge others with: "Why are those people messing with me?" "Why can't these people be more like me and follow the darn rules?" And so forth. But the problem, which is probably lifelong in its stranglehold, is beginning with the word "Why." Well, dummy, "Because." Or more accurately "Because they will, they can and they do!"
I've only got one systematic response mechanism when "stuff like this" gets semi-serious, and that's to keep a draft file of letters I'd relish to send to someone who's peed on my petunias. And other friends have suggested that I learn how to just "not do crazy." And my natural response is, b-b-b-but these people won't get things done right, so they just call me!

Help me friends. How does one not do crazy in the modern church business?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another Brian Wren hymn text, Part Two

1. Here hangs a man discarded,
    a scarecrow hoisted high,
    a nonsense pointing nowhere
    to all who hurry by.
2 Can such a clown of sorrows
still bring a useful word
when faith and love seem phantoms
and every hope absurd?
3 Yet here is help and comfort
for lives by comfort bound,
when drums of dazzling progress
give strangely hollow sound:
4 Life, emptied of all meaning,
drained out in bleak distress,
can share in broken silence
our deepest emptiness;
5 And love that freely entered
the pit of life's despair,
can name our hidden darkness
and suffer with us there.
6 Christ, in our darkness risen,
help all who long for light
to hold the hand of promise,
till faith receives its sight.

With this hymn, meant to be sung with the famed “Passion Chorale” of Hassler/Bach (mis)attributions, the melody so profound that we associate with “O Sacred Head, surrounded” and the B Minor Mass, we encounter quite the opposite sensibility from the wedding hymn.
Again, if memory serves, I believe I’ve only employed this text once at liturgy, most likely the Good Friday Service way back in the day.

There are likely a ton’s worth more semantics problems with which anyone who takes up this hymn text at worship would have to reconcile. For example-
“a man” ….”scarecrow”…..”a nonsense”

“clown of sorrows”….”useful word”… “faith and love and hope….absurd”…. and so forth.
Discuss away, please. Has its window of use passed? Can we reconcile such poetic license with the disciplines of text (psalter based or verbatim quotes) that we now profess as clearly the principle option?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

When Who Says "Jump," do we sing "How high?

The following commentary is based upon an article published today in CRISIS (online) MAGAZINE today by Jeffrey Tucker entitled "Musical Corruptions Continue Despite Vatican Intervention." It can be accessed here:

Never let it be said that Jeffrey minces his thoughts. Nor do I for that matter. But allow me two observations that we two have personally discussed pertinent to two major points in this article that, to me, are glaringly obvious by their omission here.

One, on the brick by brick road to liturgical OZ, Jeffrey himself endorsed an erstwhile quick fix to engaging congregational participation in the Latin chanting of the De Angelis Gloria as arranged by our mutual friend and chant expert, Aristotle Esquerra. This arrangement employs the same antiphonal "refrain" by relegating the congregation to cadentially inserted repetitions of the famed 5-5--3-2-1 incipit intoned by the celebrant. This was circa 2005-2006. This came to my attention via Jeffrey's mention of it at Musica Sacra or NLM. There's nothing wrong with his now revised opinion. But to not own up to that accomodation then, and to launch a serious salvo towards other composers and their publishers without that disclosure damages credibility somewhat. And while we're on the Missa de Angelis...

Two, is not the interpolation of polyphonic portions that are poorly invented by local Roman composers into the de Angelis Gloria as "performed" by the Sistine (Screamers!) Choir* and which otherwise mangle a noble and simple rendition by the people's choir and all other congregants at Papal Masses in St. Peter's an "occasion of liturgical sin" (?) much more magnified and deliterious to worldwide sensibilities than the local singing of the incipit as refrain Jeffrey so villifies? IMO, what happens at St. Peter's to this day also, ironically functions as musical, not textual , troping. Oops. Troping, if only understood by novice liturgists or musicians from the content of Jeffrey's article, would seem a modern invention, doubtless led by the apostate Haugen! Nothing could be further than the historical truth of the acccretion of tropes to emerging liturgical texts in the first centuries. One of the undergraduate level examples is the obvious approbation of the sometimes secular use, sometimes pagan use of "Kyrie eleison." That one form of the Penitential Rite still prefaces that with an invocation is a result of troping the Kyrie. This is old news and basic.

We just need to paint our opinions with less broader and more intellectually honest strokes.

It also was with no small sense of irony and humor that a related link on the CRISIS site under JT's post was on Cdl. Bartolucci's address of the state of sacred music!

The Neo-Hymnody of Brian Wren-Part One

When love is found and hope comes home

Sing and be glad that two are one.

When love explodes and fills the sky

Praise God and share our maker's joy.

When love had flow'red in trust and care

Build both each day that love may dare

To reach beyond home's warmth and light

To serve and strive for truth and right.

When love is tried as loved ones change

Hold still to hope though all seems strange

'Til ease returns and love grows wise

Through listening ears and opened eyes.

When love is torn and trust betrayed

Pray strength to love 'til torments fade

'Til lovers keep no score of wrong

But hear through pain love's Easter song.

Praise God for love, Praise God for life

In age or youth, in husband's wife.

Lift up your hearts, let love be fed

Through life and death in broken bread.

(Brian Wren, copyrighted Hope Publishing)

This last Sunday’s OT and Gospel Scriptures quite thoroughly articulate the Christological ethos that defines the sacrament of marriage. In the last few weeks there’ve been a number of cumulative events that Wendy and I have shared that made hearing the readings three times over the weekend and even more intensified joy to us as we approach our fourth decade together.

I first took notice of the texts of Brian Wren in the ‘70’s. No specific recollection of how, save for a vague sense it was attached to my enchantment with all musics Celtic, and I perhaps made an association with Wren’s “When love is found” via its clever linking to “O waly waly.” And, of course as wedding stipends were a precious commodity in that point of our family economy, “selling” this hymn was a far improved cry from the current faire of Dan Fogelberg’s “Longer Than,” Ken Loggins’ “Run, River, Run,” or the ever ubiquitous John Denver “Annie’s Song.” We had pretty much employed the song using the first two and last verses only for weddings. But for congregational use at Masses such as 27 Ordinary B, or theme-attached sermons as a hymn of the day, I’ve often pondered the reception, comprehension, assimilation and “buy in” by congregants when invited to join in singing this text.

I’m speaking particularly to whether the situational depictions of verses three and four represent universally acknowledged “snapshots” common to the experiential trajectories of all or even most marriages? Sure, one could allow that most marriages, or any serious relationships for that matter, undergo great periods of stress, change and reformation. It is also obvious that the trial of betrayal and the torment that results is likely more common to all than not. And it is true that Christ only offers a sure path to recovery and wholeness. But, are these the sorts of “intimate” encounters that need to attend the final conclusion that life praising God and sharing faith as a salve that should be found and expressed communally in our hymnody? What’s your take?

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Unison or SATB Ordinary usage strategies?

For just over a year our primary Schola has led the singing, really the chanting, of the Mass of St. Therese of Liseaux by Fresno composer Royce Nickel (available at Corpus Christi Watershed.) Royce's Mass uses traditional note values, but it became obvious that the quarter note functioned much more sucessfully as a punctum, and that their were "semiological" concerns that would be resolved through  examining the phrasing and declamation. Though we function very well as a going SATB concern, there were many issues to consider about introducing the setting at only one Mass out of about fourteen English services scheduled among our four parishes. We do not have pew pockets, we use OCP's BB/Unidos-United Missals racked and picked up and after Masses, and creating a Mass leaflet seemed impractical. And, of course, we knew that the acquisition (or not) of the Glory to God would indicate a general acceptance. So we opted for the unison chanting of the soprano melody for all movements.

For almost a year, and for the first time in twenty years I functioned as a "cantor" at an "epistle side" ambo close to the choir, with perfect visual access to the schola, organist and congregation, as well as the celebrant. And as much carping and harping about "animateur gestures" by songleaders, I used a sort of combined method of chironomy, intend to both provide the congregation with visual anticipation of the ascension and descension of melodic phrases, as well as phrasing,  cadences, etc. It actually worked quite well and I'd say we started clearly hearing the folks clearly within a month's time.

But now that we've entered the second year (more or less coinciding with the school year) we've had the consistent choral forces to render the piece in SATB. So, I traded places with my wife for the last three weeks. She mentioned to me today, though, that despite the congregation being fairly fully actively singing hymns (you can see them below next to the "S" designation) she thought that they shied away from the usual solid block of sound on the heels of the choir, and ascribed that to the difference of having a soprano cantor versus a baritone/tenor. And, it can't be discounted that whenever we sing a more involved hymn or piece in SATB, it is somewhat expected that the congregation relies as much upon the unison choir as it does the organ, and there will be a drop-off in volume.

Has anyone else experienced these circumstances? I know the issue of male v. female "lead voices'" effectivenss has long been debated. But as many of us are moving towards Jeff Ostrowski's "Sherwin Mass," or Mueller's "MR3," or the Bancks' setting, what strategies did you think worked best to encourage acquisition and then consistent response for these more demanding, but congregational settings?

Saturday, October 06, 2012

27 Ordinary, Ordo

Back to our Scheduled Programming!

I'm going to conclude my analysis of what contents of OCP's Breaking Bread pulp hymnal have some merit worthy of any interested party's attention. I didn't mention in the first post that I'd obviously not chosen to include any standard hymns, chants or songs that are more commonly presumably known and sung across the Anglophone sphere of churches. I also chose not to consider the "psalter" and "ordinary" setting portions of the book, simply because other than "Jubilate Deo" we do not use those in our parishes. And I wish I could state that the woeful track record of OCP editorial decisions about which of their catalogue ordinary offerings makes the "big book" league has improved, but alas I can't.

Sacred Silence Tom Booth/Jenny Pixler Perhaps too obvious a pleading prayer, but the intent and effect of the setting works

Laudate, laudate Dominum Christopher Walker A veddy British, triumphal refrain (Lift high the Cross), in Latin. The verse texts overwork a sort of militant church ethos, but I'm not particularly bothered by that.

Thanks be to God Stephen Dean A "meat and potatos" text, also with a British flavor that has a mixolydian great final cadence.

The Lord is my Light Walker Chris Walker's forays into neo-Celtic strains now and then, but not with this lovely setting alluding to Ps.27.

Be Still My Soul Finlandia (Sibelius) What should be numero uno Funeral Hymn rather than OEW, SMOG or HGTA

O Jesus, Joy of Loving Hearts Jesu dulcis memoria I'm sure Kathleen Pluth could refine Ray Palmer's Bernard of Clairvaux hymn, but it still works as is.

There is nothing told about this woman Rv. Christopher Willcock, SJ One of the most unique and tender Marian texts married to an equally tender, yet strong tune.

Exodus 15 Whitaker-Sullivan If Ms. SW were among the Hebrews across the sea, they'd be singing this melody!

Friday, October 05, 2012

A Debt of Gratitude to Jeffrey and CMAA

I want anyone reading this to know that the circumstances that culminated with a parting of the ways between myself and Chant Cafe, and perhaps by extension to relationships to certain colleagues and friends in the CMAA family, do not reflect anything other than a fundamental philosophical difference of opinion concerning the content of Jeffrey Tucker's article, "Why we must chant," in which he articulated quite passionately about the act of sacred chanting proving a potent force for personal and communal transformation. I can and have testified to that truth and reality in the six plus years of my association with CMAA, and have Jeffrey, Arlene, and particularly William Mahrt among so many others to thank for helping light the path to my personal revelation that, among all the ways one can pray and praise to one's Creator, most Beloved and arbiter of my soul's destiny, "chant" is paramount in my heart.
I have to say that though I understand there may be much from Islamic chant traditions that, besides still sharing "DNA" strands among the history of sacred song in the Holy Land among peoples of the Book, I am personally disabled and distracted by the larger dissonances that differentiate so many profound and irreconcilable dogmatic problems between Judeo-Christianity and Islam as "belief systems." I can't and won't apologize for this confession, just as I would not demand from the Imam who stood before a packed audience in our parish hall and blithely, if not blatantly, expiated how Islamic theology subsumes the Person of Jesus Christ to a revered, but penultimately all too human culmination of prophecy that would be fulfilled finally elsewhere in history and time immemorial.
This is no criticism of Islamic theology nor belief, nor ritual practices of which Jeffrey rightly extolled. But I would think that someone might just ponder the irony of how we Catholic Christians verbally eviscerate each other within many circuses of media every hour of every day, and then once in blue moon pause to remind ourselves to consider the true meaning of "in all things, charity," then there's more quiet murmuring about the rhetoric of "charity" and we then resume our internecine warring. Yet and still, we are commanded by Christ, the Logos present before time, to be tolerant and charitable to all who give offense. I accept that, even as it relates to very large existential dynamics between the human instrumental institutions that guide each and all of us towards achieving true discipleship. But as I mentioned elsewhere, the eschatological "endgame" of our respective theologies are fundamentally and I fear permanently at odds. Our "lex orandi, lex credendi' as I perceive the discipline has a much different resonance than with other religious belief systems and practices.
Chant is huge to most all of the great traditions, as natural and necessary to living as breathing. And there might be much to be gained and learn from following those sinews of commonality. But what texts we sing amount to much more than "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony....It's the Real Thing..."
Again, Mr. Jeffrey Tucker is a gentleman and scholar, both qualities I seldom exhibit. I think that I will  breathe a bit easier out of the "echo chamber" here and there, and likely others will also sigh in relief as well. Thank you, Jeffrey.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

What is POSITIVE in the current OCP books?

It's been a few years since the article "The Hidden Hand Behind Catholic Music" posited that the most egregious malefactor in the Liturgical Industrial Complex could only be Oregon Catholic Press. First I saw the title, I smiled at the subtle hint of a sort of Sicilian La Cosa Nostra, "Godfather," inference. Their initialed acronymn, OCP, generally seems to be regarded by most of the "independent" forums and blogsites as if were gang grafitti tags splayed on the outside walls of a church! You can almost feel the blood pressure of some writers bubbling up, reddening their faces and widening the whites of their eyes when the mere mention of "OCP" pops up. Then, inevitably, someone reminds everyone that, like it or not, OCP is not likely to go away quietly into that dark night.
But, as I've done in the past, very few people ever take the time to actually  comb through the major OCP English hymnal/missal books, looking for merits rather than targets to demerit.
So, take a look at the first half of the current year (2012) Breaking Bread from #1 to 500 for hymns, chants and songs you may have missed when perusing, or likely not perusing through the book. In subsequent articles I will finish the 2012 BB. But I'm also going to try to include an article in which I'll share my opinion of some pieces of music that OCP regretably has dropped from their congregational offerings, real editorial lapses of judgment.
Then feel free to share whether you think it's worth the effort to put up with some of the dross, or even better, drop those dessicated oldies and work towards infusing some of these into the rotation.

Title of piece Hymntune/Composer Merits for usage
The ICEL (English Mass) setting composite, arr. Fr. AW Ruff, OP Like its Latin predecessor, Jubilate Deo, from which portions are based, the setting is meant to be universally inculcated at all churches, cathedrals, basilicas, missions should be mandatorily implemented by all rectors, pastors, bishops and abbots as SOP when needed.
Respond and Acclaim Mr. Owen Alstott Also a controversial commodity in the Gradual/Psalter/Responsorial category. But after decades of use, almost an imperative because of its inclusion in the Missal cantor the verses without ego and overwhelmingly poor declamation or dramatics.
Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus Janet Sullivan Whitaker Ms. SW's very semitic melody complements the Aramaic cry beautifully. The verses require a choir or soloists to project, in all ways, the prophetic texts with authority. do demand surety and stability to be successful.
Creator of the Stars of Night Conditor alme siderum chant!
Of the Father's Love Begotten Divinum mysterium not truly Gregorian chant, but chant! OCP should mirror it with the Latin text opposite
Once in Royal David's City Irsy One of the great Anglican carols, noble and stately
Child of the Poor/What Child Soper/Greensleeves A very accessible partner song, Soper's text might seem preachy, but its theological merit is obvious
Led by the Spirit Kingsfold/B.Hurd-text A Lenten compliment to the famed "I heard the voice of Jesus" text. No objectionable text issues.
Transfiguration Fr. Ricky Manalo A borderline inclusion; the melody has to be acquired, and its semiolgy, or syllabic emphasis is clunky because of the many intervallic leaps. But those leaps pay off well in the refrain "Praise and glory…"
Christ is arisen Dr. Randall DeBruyn A strophic allusion to the Easter Sequence with a quite appealing, dignified melody. The full effect of the actual sequence text is somewhat diluted, but for parishes that don't chant, it works nicely.
Two were bound for Emmaus Dr. Bob Hurd/Kenmare This text qualifies as one specifically as a "Hymn of the Day" candidate. Hurd's other "Emmaus" text, In the Breaking of the Bread, dropped the very personal disciplereinforcing reminder of this post-Easter encounter.
Three Days Thaxted (Holst); M.D. Ridge text A mini-documentary alluding to the chronology of the Passion, Crucifixion and Resurrection; not an insult at all to the monumental hymn based on Holst's tone poem.
God We Praise You Nettleton; C. Idle, text Nettleon is one of the iconic hymntunes, the text paraphrases the Te Deum, what's not to like?
Here at this Table Janet Sullivan Whitaker JSW's text is "light years" beyond that of the ubiquitous, obnoxious "Gather us in." It also can function other than an Entrance "chant" (ha ha) but, as appropriate, an offertorio or communio
As We Gather at Your Table Nettleton; C. Daw, text Nettleton again, short text which is a plus for "accompanying" the entrance procession without needless time extension.
Sacramentum Caritatis Rv. Dr. J. Michael Joncas Absolute proof that Joncas, author of "On Eagles' Wings," is a master composer. OCP should print the whole hymn rather than just the Latin.
These Alone are Enough Dan Schutte The King of "3/4" sing-songy can also tap into a deeper, if somewhat emotional, melody and text combination that congregations should be offered for their consideration. This is one of those.
For Your Glory Reigns Berberick and Walter There are so many neo-Celtic, modal songs in that sing-songy category, that it is too easy to dismiss a real heir apparent. Though its chorus has an arena-anthem feel, the text and melody are wed well.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Myths, Truths, Facts, and Irrelevancies from Cal Cath Daily Combox article

California Catholic Daily became the third Blog organ to reprint a now somewhat incendiary article by Jeffrey Tucker that I've commented upon twice already (below). But the toxicity levels that have been engendered both at the second reprint, online "CRISIS MAGAZINE" and at Cal Cath Daily comboxes compels me to respond with some perspective that neither Mr. Tucker (though he is an accomplished choir and chant director at his parish, but not a parish Music Director) nor the legions of unhappy people of all bleeding stripes seem to grasp as reasonable realities that must, like all symptoms, be first isolated and then identified before a prognosis and regimen of recovery is undertaken by doctor, patient and support people.


Myths: "Another bad fruit of the “spirit” of Vatican II is that any song or type of music is suitable for Mass."

The myth is simple in that this statement has never been universally true. There are, to be sure, thousands upon thousands of anecdotally true accounts of music abuse to the Divine Liturgy. But this was not a result of VII, or any so-called spirit or smoke therein.

"It would also be better if there were no music when receiving Holy Communion so that people could pray in the quite. (sic) "
No, the Mass is, according to every major liturgical document and as far as tradition informs us, essentially one entire song of dialogue exchanged between God and His Faithful, using the Word given us, as the Holy Father in so many books and encyclicals reminded us, come primarily from the Psalter, the Psalms. Quiet Masses, Missa lectas, even Low Masses (with/without hymns) are all subsets of the solemn High Mass, in a word, a “sung” entity. Those who insist that “their private prayer time” should not be infringed upon by the communal song of a congregation or a decent choir demonstrate a lack of basic sacramental theology, which Pope St. Pius X and many of his forebears in that office have tried to bring to the people for over many centuries. Musical abuse of the liturgy extends much further back, also in centuries, than the last fifty years. Back in the “Bells of St. Mary’s” days, folks simply said “Offer it up.” Now, if someone claims the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as licitly theirs to modify at their whim and will, they should be willing to call themselves Protestants.

"Those who love both God and music are overjoyed when we worship with our most moving music, and those of us who are appalled by so much of what passes for music these days long for the days when it was all so masterfully chosen and sweetly presented."
Those days were no different than these days. In fact, I’m rather sure after four plus decades of doing this with (if needed) degrees in sacred music literature, that the actual performance abilities of those choirs under professional (in both senses, dedication and career) directors has actually improved after Vatican II. School choirs in lofts singing as best they could the Requiem is a nostalgia. Films from the thirties to this day also offer what seems a pervasive beauty that, in reality, rarely existed in the pre-conciliar years. The book by Tom Day, WHY CATHOLICS CAN’T SING, clearly cuts both ways. There were no golden days in the first half of the twentieth century in Catholic U.S.A. One must do one’s homework before waxing nostalgic.

"Why seek to recover? Post-Vatican II music is uniformly awful."
The indignity of such an ill-informed, nee ignorant declaration doesn’t deserve a proper response. It’s simply not the case. Such an opinion can only be spoken by someone who can’t be bothered by facts, or to find the truth. But for the lazy of heart:

"There is no silence at any time, except while the homily is spoken. Even when two communion hymns are sung, and there are still people in line, they must be playing instruments. Silent prayer is not allowed."
I am very sympathetic to this plea. However, if that abuse does exist at your parish, I respectfully invite any parishioner to speak to the pastor about GIRM (rule) 45, that mandates silence at three specific points of all Masses. If you receive no satisfaction, document that, take that to the chancery. If that is not responded to properly, file your document grievances to the Vatican, attention the commission Ecclesia Dei. There is no wiggle room on this one.

"The Church has centuries of music appropriate to the Liturgy, and the one person who has the responsibility to choose that music for Mass is the pastor, or the priest who will be offering the Mass on that particular Sunday, for his Mass."
Again, with sympathies towards the deeper meaning of this complaint, each celebrant reserves the canonical right to oversee the music chosen for Masses he offers. That is not quite the same as "to choose." But, anyone who has eyes to see, ears to hear in this era, knows that the modern priest, if truly engaged, spends tremendous amounts of time with pastoral duties in hospitals, homes, his office, various meetings of the canonically required councils as well as other parish enterprises such as religious education et al (Our parish has 73 -different mission-based ministries and organizations.) And, if they have an ounce of energy, then they still fulfill their obligations to offer Mass, keep the Office, hear-confessions, anoint the sick, communicate to the dying and bed-ridden. A modern pastor who actually is engaged will also then surround himself with competent “surrogates,” such as a professional, Catholic musician, whom he trusts will put into place his vision and preferred repertoire of worship music. My job would be a cakewalk if any of our priests were actually capable of choosing music for worship. It’s simply not the case in modern life.


"Stop the clapping people…..It just encourages more clapping when the musicians respond with a hearty “Thank you, thank you”. Ugh!"

"Give Glory to God and block your ears if you don’t appreciate the talent or lack of talent that the people are trying to use to Worship Him. +JMJ+"
Amen, again. Better yet. Stop complaining and help in any and all ways to improve your parish situation. For every dedicated singer and musician I have in my program, there are likely nine others who, for whatever reason, decline to commit themselves to the discipline it requires to maintain a great musical ministry.

"Why is the Pope’s Sistine Chapel Choir so bad?"
Because, like everything else that gets everyone hot under the collar, the “politics” or better yet, the “exercize of power” is perceived by church insiders, whether lay or clerical, as being more important an interest than actually ministering to people is pastorally healthy ways. The incompetency of Capella Sixtina in the last century is both legend and fact. And it is testimony to the reality that there were no golden eras in recent eras. One of their former maestros, recently presented his red hat by HF Benedict XVI for a lifetime of service, personally butchered the presentation of Roman Catholicism’s greatest composer, Palestrina, every time he directed one of the master’s great Masses or motets. You can hear better renditions of Palestrina at St. Anne’s in San Diego or St. Stephen’s in Sacramento, other CA. parishes if you look, and likely the local public high school. If one really wants to talk about putting on a “show” tune into the next broadcast from St. Peter’s and REALLY listen to the pope’s choir. I personally think their bellicosity aged John Paul the Great much more than he ever let on. My opinion.


"As long as the Bishops continue to cave in to the Oregon Catholic Press and its acquisitions as a virtual monopoly over American liturgical music, these efforts at remediation won’t go far."
At USCCB Plenum Meetings, presidents from Archbishop Gregory to even Cardinal Dolan have systematically and with casual consensus of the majority tabled or remanded the “problems” of hymntexts and other musical concerns to the bishoprics of Abp. Vlazny and Cdl. George, which also happen to be the homes (Portland/Chicago) of OCP and GIA/WLP respectively. Efforts by few bishops such as Abp. Vigneron (from a conservative POV) to Trautman (progressive) were dismissed immediately after they’d made motions regarding the use of propers, or in Trautman’s case, a call to review the 3rd edition of the English translation of the Missale Romanum.


"EWTN has been going downhill for years ever since the imprudent decision of Mother Angelica to step down over a decade ago."
EWTN has demonstrated, until very recently, very little interest in actively promoting the improvement of “liturgy” per se. Interviews with Tucker, great programs infrequently such as produced by Corpus Christi Watershed that don’t cost EWTN a dime have just now made a blip on their radar. Their daily conventual Mass has struggled (at what cost?) to present at best an incoherent liturgical praxis with it’s tippy toe back and forth between the OF in Latin one moment, and English the next.