Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Almost Christmas, dear stalker/perp

I know you're like the gift that keeps on giving.
I know that you think and will still think that your little love notes left on the chairs to me must be having an effect, otherwise why would I be composing this brief response?
I know you must believe in your heart, such as it is, that you're accomplishing something by your behaviors and tactics such as the above.
And I wish I could make your dreams come true. But I'm not God. And, as I hope you know, neither are you. But if your prayers, what e'er they be, are truth in spirit, then God may grant you exactly what you want, as only you and He know what exactly they may be.

From my vantage point, I cannot grant you whatever you want to happen. Who knows, if you'd ever,  over the last 21 years or the last five when you got actively involved in your chicanery, let anyone know what it actually you want to occur, redress, undo, matter if it's based in righteousness, truth and justice, it might evoke some sympathy if nothing else.

But, as it is, you're only evidencing some very good and clever skills as a prankster and a stalker. This, of course, makes you also a perpetrator. And if you are who I think (know) you are, being a  perpetrator is not foreign territory in the map of your life.

We all have made tens of thousands of mistakes in each of our lives, for which God will provide the opportunity for refinement and purification to those souls whom He knows yet longs for Him. I pray for you to receive a sense of the innocence, vulnerability, poverty and promise this Christmas that we celebrate in the birth of God incarnate, as a baby.

And, if you're the Christian I hope you are, you'll extend that prayer my ways as befits those of us who profess Him Lord.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Now that we're "sharing"....forgive the fast forward.

I thought I might illuminate a few instances of my youthful memories, out of sequence as is my perogative as bloghost, in order to point out that most of us have some fairly unpleasant and extremely formative events that shape who we become, whether from childhood or from our adult experiences.
As I might or not have made clear, my dad, after having a vessel sunk underneath him and surviving, was altered forever. He had some local help, but from anecdotal stories from his youngest brother, when he was sixteen he was a comic of the first order, having frustrated his father from some indiscretion by climbing a tree. But not like Zaccheus, he was up there to avoid a whupping. My uncle's recollection doesn't say whether my grandfather was amused or not. My grandfather was definitely not amused when, after a drunken brawl that my dad and his virtual twin brother (his next oldest sibling), both swabs, helped instigate at an Army bar outside of Fayetteville that first engaged the MP's and local deputies, but then had the outcome of the Sheriff calling upon my grandfather, a locally respected figure, informing him that my dad, the youngest, was to be banished from the whole of Cumberland County. He left on a train to Texas immediately.
Here are the two unpleasant realities of the cumulative fates my father endured:
When we (my sister and I) were approaching bed time one night when we were not even adolescents) Dad came home snockered as usual, got mad at Mom (as usual), escalated the  fulcrum of the dispute (which us kids had no idea was, other than his arriving drunk as usual), compelled us kids to both come to the door of the kitchen only to see our father pull the longest, fattest steak knife out of the cupboard and advance towards Mom. What to do? I grabbed my sister (an act of self-preservation that I've regretted nonetheless the outcome ever since) and bolted out the front door past the convent and down the front lawn of St. Leo's School to the driveway of the rectory.

Like a miracle our Mom pulls up in her car, sweeps us up and assuringly takes us to her and our best friend's house for the night. Survival at the primal level. But as we now know is normal, Mom relented and we were back at home within a day or two.

Two: my sister and I are both teen-aged. Dad's somehow survived his alcoholism and a head on collision on the Nimitz (now I-80) immediately after a stomach-ectomy from acute ulceritis. He recuperates.

But the demon is relentless. So one evening, it was still light in California, he shows up early, drunk. That is now a given. As I recall there are some loud and contentious words exchanged in dispute, but that also was standard operating procedure. But their argument is taken upstairs and becomes more audiobly violent. I choose to go upstairs and burst through their bedroom door. Dad is at once both violent and embarrassed. Mom is, if I recall correctly, clothed and on their bed sideways. My dad is compelled to explain to me that he was violent only because his wife refused his entrities of affection. I'm old enough to do the math.
Unexpectedly, he moves toward my mother as if that declaration to all was sufficient to rectify his behavior. But I, maybe fourteen/fifteen, stand in his way and make it verbally clear that whatever he wanted was not going to eventuate. He sobs.]
I don't recall the rest of the evening.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

WHAT SWEETER MUSIC, what bitter irony

Our Schola performed Mark Hayes' WHAT SWEETER MUSIC for our annual Nativity Concert this afternoon. We also added some single pieces prior. This has been a quite taxing year and fall/winter. Happily, this cantata, as all of Mark Haye's work is demanding but not esoterically demanding.
The audience that came was beyond expectation, even after 21 years of concertizing for both paschal and nativity seasons. We printed 200 programs and they were virtually all taken up. Thank you, people of TCCoV. The concert came in at about an hour ten.
For my part, I was so proud of my basses, the two of them, who so kept in sync and never missed some very exposed entrances on David Basden's amazing AVE MARIA. And so enamoured of my wife (and daughter), but when my wife of soon forty years sailed up to high G's, I couldn't have been more humbled to be her husband. The remainder of the concert, not recorded by any of us, will be told by those in attendance. It's spirit was so ALIVE.
The irony. As soon as the concert was over I had to leave to do music ministry for our mission church out in Goshen. Why is that ironic? The two people who, by deliberate action of their own volition precipitated the dismissal of two incredible Christians and musicians from our team, and who ultimately desire the implosion and destruction of 21 years of music ministry of which one of them was invited to rejoin after a self-imposed resignation, had the hubris to attend the concert. What did they expect to encounter? Disarray? Open wounds from their assault upon the parish integrity? Well, look, listen and behold. Weave your false web of deceptions and falsehoods and self-righteous condemnation, we are NOT GOING AWAY. We are of Christ. I cannot say to whom you've sworn allegiance. We sing for Christ, the Living Son of God, the founder of our Church and the path to the Father Almighty. That's it. Either you get that or you don't. But, in ironic parody of the civil rights anthem, "You sha'n't overcome."
Do well. Seek forgiveness and repentence as all of us have. The injury you so lament was self-inflicted and whatever salve you seek in civil society cannot, therefore, be expected from the Lord of Life. I have turned cheek after cheek and will proceed to continue thus. But you will not prevail. Because the power of Christ will compel you to cease your infestation. Repent now, while you can. Because I will still go to Goshen because of you, I will not renounce nor relent from what I know, in my heart, is right and of God.
I hope you enjoyed what part of the concert you stayed to hear. It truly was sweeter music than the discord you have played for years, if not decades. For my part, I truly wish peace upon your souls. I can do no further.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Oh yeah, where was I? 1951-

I sequentially resume my exploration of "me" with my earliest memories. It is difficult to ascertain whether they are actual or anecdotal, but who cares?
Mom told me I was born at around 4:30am at Kaweah Delta (what it must've been like then!) on the Fifth of July in year of our Lord 1951 Christian calendar. I have no idea whether Dad was in the USA or "in country" undersea off the Korean peninsula in the Flying Fish.
In any case, I do surmise that in the interim between Mom and Dad's marriage around '48 (I'm too lazy to document) that some sort of rubrics must've evolved because Mom and I were consigned to live in the Quonset Hut Village where COS main campus now sits at 198 and Mooney. It was standard military housing for dependents, so there had to be a reason Mom/Dad chose that living option over any public or family option with my grandparents. Hope Amah explains it to me one cosmic day in the hereafter. If you don't know what a Quonset hut is, it's basically half of a very large unpapered Campbell's soup can that can be plopped down on any relatively flat geography, uh, like the whole San Joaquin Valley. I assume the Navy contractors did the minimal foundational work: plumbing, some insulation, windows. Google 'em.
But what they didn't do was air-conditioning. My only true infantile memories are of windows on the side of the can, from which one could see another can. Other than that, the running gag was my first words parodied or parroted my mother's most ubiquitous utterance for the interminable summers in Visalia (May to November)-"DAMN FLIES!" Since one of the great weaknesses of my moral fiber is the tendency to cuss, I have no reason to doubt my mother's telling.
I do remember the heat. It seems natural. When Dad was on leave we must've taken a road trip to his parent's swamp house in Eastover NC, and that meant a trip along 66 in a sedan with one of those cylinder water coolers hung upon the front passenger window, and one or two desert bags full of water. That water, if needed between Barstow and New Mexico wasn't meant for human consumption, but for the car's radiator. But as an infant and by our second trip cross-country with a little sister (Marva) we seemed to accept the misery with stoicism that came naturally from parents and their parents who survived the Depression. But back to Visalia....
I vaguely remember, but am absolutely remember that when the conflict was over and Dad was back at home, we rented a little cottage house somewhere between Giddings and  Locust, likely on one of those parallel streets south of Noble of 198 like Kaweah St. I do have visual memories of that house, conceptually. I must have acquired by contrast to the  tin can life we had '51-'53.
I do have photographic evidence of the confluence of the nascent Culbreth and Smith families with the Hamiltons (my maternal grandparents) in the form of snapshots of family gatherings, I suspect Easter days, at the Johnson House where my great-grandparents, whom I only knew as Ma and Pa Whipple, my Amah's parents (I think my great-grandmother was a "Hannah") lived. She was already declining and wheel-chair bound and my memories whisper to me that she lived and saw the real coming of age of America. Perhaps like my grandfather's people from Freedom PA they migrated west during the 19th century, but that both of them were aged by WWI and lived into the fifties (Hannah) and the sixties (Pa) has to prove they knew America in the wild, the best and worst of times. Anyway, snapshots were taken of the whole mixed clan at Johnson House, along with my new cousins, Jen and Skip Smith (scions of Chief Bosun Bill Smith and my Zampa's apparent golden daughter, Andru Hamilton. We were a handsome extended, white Middle Class clan, all smiles that likely were a respite from deeply rooted familial conflicts.
Outside of these recollections, not much of pre 1955 Visalia has ever surfaced to me.

But then comes the move to Kingsburg, and eventually to Oakland. From one web to another. But Oakland became the prime mover (besides God) of my entire life.

These are a few of my least favorite things.....

Florid, pedantic, ephemeral essays that are really kissing cousins, metaphorically, to snake oil pitches extoling the virtues of the traditional Mass as Pius X as he intended it to be reformed after 500 years.
In other words, "elephant talk."

People that are totally unaware of the truth in the cliche that "Half of life means just showing up!"

Clerical princesses.

Carey Landry songs in hymnals. Children's collections, okay.

OCP's penchant and nack for saving the chaff and throwing out the wheat in their hymn product repertoires.

The Big Three's inability, or more likely, disinclination (disincentive?) to find a truly inspiring Mass setting that meets both the criteria of SttL and Tra le sollecitudine.

When I revert to behaving poorly, acting instead of merely being; as if the whole of the world is mine, and it must conform to me as its headliner and star.

Critics who display not an ounce of creativity, not even in their strategic deployment of words, in their own personal lives.

The word "hermeneutic."

Oh, and "tradition" when it's obviously meant to function as a truncheon.

Folks who're sure that they've never said or done anything that is self-contradictory.

When redemption is stolen from this world and consigned to one more "pie in the sky."


For that matter, all words ending in "...cide."

Any furtherance of unwarranted negativity. I bid this post "adieu."

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I'm skipping to THE Christmas Tree

Sorry for the "time warp" jump, but it's after the BIG MASS for Our Lady of Guadalupe, I'm exhausted and my mind wanders. Being a card-carrying child of the SIXTIES, I have very specific memories of my teenage years. Somewhere around '62 aluminum Christmas trees became a rage. One easily supposes that some forward thinking genuis pushed the environmental envelope way passed the ability of silk and plastic artistry to put the SPUTNIK version of Christmas Trees into American homes not only because of novelty but of its "perpetual" usefulness. In any case, both my maternal grandparents and my parents bought into it wholesale, with the four color rotating color wheel which really made it cool. And trust me, it was COOL. For some reason, both those existential trees were lost to the ravages of old age, tragedy and death's black hole where essentials of memory are swarmed into the vacuum and become memories. But I've never forgotten the virtual beauty, the 20th century elegance, of the aluminum tree. And between the genuine replicas costing 20 times what they're actually worth from cost to markup from jerk-faces like Sharper Image and Hammercher Schlemmer to the pitiful offerings of little faux tinsel versions of Walgreens, children with memories like mine are left adrift. No tree, fresh cut by yerself or acquired by a sweet deal from Grocery Outliet, can replace the Kennedy year's Aluminum Tree with the rotating color wheel for the zeitgeist of the era. Gotta be real. So, we have Christmas trees (those thin handmade ones) adorning our not so public den and grandson's room year round. They each have a specific mode of adornment, like clowns for the one in the man cave; a vesigial nod to my maternal grandfather and his second daughter, mom. But I want, I WANT to recreate the sheer coolness of having the aluminum tree and color wheel. I know where a dear friend and husband (hoarders, no doubt) have one stashed. I've repeatedly asked her and then him (he had know idea of its existence) to just sally forth into the maelstrom of the garage, but despite each promise (influenced by the offer of serious, real money) I don't think they'll find the original and transfer its ownership to me. Here's the deal: it's the last, finest vestige of the innocence of Christmas that I remember during my adolescense. I associate that tree with my first pair of wingtips, my father (surprisingly sober) helping his sophomore kid shave for the first time, my feeling worthy of being both Dad's kid and Zampa's good grandson... in other words that tree as my last recollection and signet of my transition to adulthood. So imagine the irony that, at 15, I was so proud to usher in my adulthood, which would only be zoomed in magnifcation in less than two months by my Dad's suicide. Posing for pictures by the silver tree I could wear slacks, a turtle nect green formal sweater, slacks and wingtip oxford that signified my coming of age, and feeling secure at Amah/Zampa's residence on South Grant. Maybe there was hope for my nuclear family. C'est la vie, C'est la morte. But I am hoping that karma through writing this will compel my friend to follow up on the promise made to locate that sum*itch antique aluminum tree and let a now very old man bask in the four colors dissected and radiated by the best of Alcoa. It's not life or death; I'm confident Jesus will cut me some slack on this irrational desire. And on this night of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mass was great with bishop) I say 'g'nite. I'm going sleepy.) Hope I dream of that tree at the end of South Grant that dead ends into Paradise. (Oops, pun alert)
Love to Mom, Dad, Amah and Zampa....

Sunday, December 08, 2013

The pilgrimage of my soul and self, and music's influence.

Who am I, really, some of you may be curious to know? I’ll tell you what I remember and know as far as I can keep this autobiography moving towards the moment I can type no more. I was born to two misfit souls. Both of them beleaguered by pressures and expectations neither seemed to know how to cope with or fulfill. My dad was part of a huge clan of nuclear and expansive relatives in Cumberland County, North Carolina. Mom was one of only two children from sturdy and rock solid parents from Pennsylvania. But both were black-sheep to their parents via their status compared to their siblings. Dad was a sharp-minded son of a railroad official who, like me apparently, learned to diffuse daily crises with a keen humor and clownish camouflage. Mom was a truly beautiful woman who’d be celebrated as an Elle, or “real woman” size paragons of beauty nowadays. But back in her teen and crucial years, her exuberance for life was always mitigated by the societal norm that woman’s figures had to be somewhat smaller than Bacall’s and not as drastic as Vivian Leigh’s. They were both rebels in a country that still had tangible memories of the Civil War and its outcome and effect. I didn’t know until a few years ago that both of them literally rebelled against their parental and society’s dictums and strictures to extreme and profound levels. My dad, having enlisted in the Navy near the beginning of WWII, was a survivor of an USS Indianapolis-like torpedo sinking in the Pacific. He couldn’t swim, but abandoned ship and somehow “ran upon the water” to a lifeboat, or inflatable raft’s safety. As has been depicted so many times in film, he dealt with the loss of comrades and likely friends to sharks, dehydration or despair for a number of days before rescue vessels arrived. It changed him in ways I could never have known. But his older brother, a commander of a diesel sub not two miles away from the whole episode of the sinking ship, finally managed to confirm my father’s survival, sought him out when they both were ashore (probably in Australia) and nurtured him through the trauma and convinced him to relent and stay with the Navy but in submarine duty. His brother, scion of the family siblings, persuaded another southerner from Arkansas, later to become my uncle by marriage, to be my dad’s mentor on his vessel sub, the USS Flying Fish. They finished the war’s campaigns without any huge catastrophic instances by comparison to the sinking of my dad’s first vessel. To wrap up this first installment, as fate had it my uncle met my mother’s older, favored sister in dry-dock in Oakland/SF. My mom, who I was reliably told would sneak out of her bedroom window here in Visalia in the dead of night, catch the train in Hanford and go up to the Bay Area to fraternize with those swabbies on shore leave. Perhaps, as I’d like to think, she coordinated these clandestine adventures with my aunt, though my loving grandparents never relayed such stories to us kids. My aunt met, fell in love and married the Chief Petty Officer William R. Smith from Arkansas, and his protégé, my dad, met and married my aunt’s “black sheep” sister, Mom, shortly thereafter here in Visalia. They celebrated their marriage at the corner brick home at Oak and Johnson Street, then the home of my maternal great-grandparents. That house still stands to this day, though now a commercial building. Film and snapshots recorded the party afterwards. How my grandfather, a school board and college board member and relative “somebody” in the then small town of 10,000 souls in Visalia in the late forties internally reacted to both daughters marrying obvious hard-living but charmingly clever young southern rapscallions, I’ll never know. But my maternal grandfather, my namesake, was a submariner in WWI in the Atlantic. I’m sure that experience softened whatever reservations he might have had as his daughters became Naval, submariner wives. Next installment: early memories of Visalia and the Korean War effect.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

I love my choir! Kidney stones? No so much.

Ew....what an disjunct, incongruous title. So, just the sort of impetus to resume the push/pull perils of personal blogging! A dear friend of mine from CMAA has just started her own liturgical music blog as a way of chronicling the trajectory of her increasing duties as choirmaster at her parish. And that reminded me that I haven't checked in here for quite a spell. We've all come a long way since my last post, particularly in the realm of embracing the new papacy of HH Francis. Here's my simple take: on my way to Weight Watchers yesterday afternoon, I stopped by the Catholic bookstore as I'd noticed in our entry-way I had neglected to have a portrait of our current pontiff next to his predecessors. So, I have an erzatz but not unpleasant rendering of him to put up on the lintel next to "my" pope, Emeritus Benedict XVI. But, I'm going to wait to go up the ladder until the ailment passes. Any abdominal movement right now is, um, quite unpleasant. Regarding my love for the choir, we have started our 20th year together by a collective review of the settings of the Ordinary settings we've employed since the promulgation of Missale Romanum 3, in English. I've had some qualms about the results of a couple of settings regarding FACP, though the settings (Chris Mueller's MISSA EDITIONE TERTIA and Jeff Ostrowski's MASS OF THE ENGLISH MARTYRS)are artistically impeccable. As one of my tenors simply, obviously remarked "They (the PiPs) like to listen." But the heirarchy of sung "things" from Musicam Sacram do nag at me, particularly with the singing of the Sanctus. Next to the Pater Noster, the responses to priestly cantilations, the singing of ALL of the Sanctus is, to me, a tangible necessity for participatio activa by ALL. So, we've started with the Eucharistic Acclamations of Msgr. Mancini based upon Holst's THAXTED. So far so good. And that provided the added benefit of reintroducing the ICEL Kyrie/Gloria at the front end of the Mass. The upshot of all this is that our Schola Choir is so capable. I can put out some SATB motets such as an Ingeneri "O bone Jesu" or Pierre de la Rue's "O salutaris" and they'll read right through it with relative ease. We may not be many in numbers, but we continue to grow in both numbers and competency. It makes my job so much more rewarding. And then, preparing the seasonal concerts becomes an easier task because the time alotted it is greater for their wonderful discipline. And did I mention they can be ready to sing Richard Rice's amazing Choral Communio settings (not the Simple Choral Gradual) after a couple of run-thru's, as well as sight read Adam Bartlett's Simple English Propers! I love my choir. Perhaps that's why I need to have episodes with kidney stones now and then; to bring me back to earth by the natural method of maladies that aren't unlike the mustard seed parable. After all a kidney stone can be miniscule (don't look at one through a microscope, though, it's scary!)I think it must be the potassium in the bananas! Blessings to all.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Requiem for all races, creeds and freedom

When you read your newspaper, magazine, blog or watch your FOX, CNN or MSNBC news "delivery" programs, please note that regarding the barbaric murder of British Army drummer Lee Rigby yesterday near London you will likely not see his image as a prominent feature in the reporting.
Already the video of one of his slayers circled the globe faster than the earth rotates on its axis and will continue to do so and garner more attention because of the Muslim jihadist rant he so fanatically mouthed to whomever was recording it on their smart phone video, but also because of the beyond Sweeney Todd, Bill the Butcher level of graphic carnage visible on the perpetrator's hands, his left hand still clutching kitchen tools become IED's of a knife and cleaver.
And the merry-go-round, get nowhere analysis of this affrontery to civilization of all types and stripes will focus upon blaming Islam or not.
I want to leave you with one thought before you ponder your position on that unanswerable question: What if the "self-radicalized, unaffiliated with Al Queda, native-borne Islamist jihadist" murderers yesterday had encountered soldier Lee Rigby as a black soldier, a Pakastani/British soldier, another Nigerian/British soldier, or any other soldier of color? Would they have followed through with their brutal intentions then?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Abp. Sample, meet Portland. Portland, Abp. Sample. A "melo" blow by blow.

The following is a play by play description of the progress of the installation of Archbishop Sample's Installation Mass as of 2pm PST. Imagine I sound like Vin Scully mixed with the late great Chick Hearn. Only then will it make sense. It took a while for the web live-stream to kick in, so.....

The first musical impression I have is that the tempo of Jesus Christ is Ris’n…lacked forward momentum, and seemed to tire to the end of the pulse throughout. Loved the third verse organ arrangement, subtle and surely played.
The Choir (under Ms. Westhoff-Johnson) and Brass exhibited fine training and were not “pushing” volumes.

Noticed Abp. Vlazy’s first reference to HHF as the “new archbishop of Rome,” unlike Abp. Vigana’s clear first reference to him as “pope.”

In a more humorous vein, some have quipped if HHS Francis will have a “Pirate Themed Mass?” Maybe that question will still be at play with the “fidgety” bishop "epistle side" behind the papal nuncio, resplendent with a black eyepatch.

(“Shepherd’s staff….” “people of God”….As the “heart longs for…Prayers of the Faithful or Universal Prayer, hello” sigh) how I love commentators.”sigh

The Greatest Hits Collection of Triduum (the Duruflé, Palestrina…) also rendered cleanly and without affectations) definitely established the Catholic cultural ethos well.

I’m happy that Randy DeBruyn is getting some just props in this (his MR3 new Mass), his retirement year from OCP. It was a safe, convenient choice for the setting, over say Mayernik’s more challenging setting.

Now there’s an irony: all prelates should “sample” Sample’s tenor voice when canting orations and collects. I didn’t hear the ascending whole step Amen cadence coming from the tone he used, though.

The new chant for the responsorial was rendered well, though it seemed a bit mensurate (did anyone find icti patterns?) and the presence of two “animateurs” was wholly unnecessary as the verses were chorally sung. In that regard, a fauxbourdon or two would have been most welcome.

Due to losing the live stream, I didn’t hear the Gospel Acclamation, arghh.

But I think the program listed Alleluia VI, fine by me.

I’m not a competent, qualified homilist, so I won’t respond to all but one little aside, the order in which Abp. Sample cited Benedict XVI first in his mention of the dictatorship of relativity in our global morals.

Another irony crossed my mind: is it also a coincidence that there’s been a very recent announcement of the dating of the Turin shroud and the bishop’s motto demanding we behold the FACE of the Living Christ. I’ve always marveled at how the Shroud is a true prism to reflect upon the living face of Christ, even if in an iconic manner.

I wonder if Abp. might have actually benefited by invoking an actual silent prayer from his flock, and avoiding the requisite applause. OTOH- he is on top of his singing game, leading the response as much as the quire!

Exaudi nos” would have done fine in the polyglot UP as a response as I didn’t hear any Urdu! ;-) In addition the response seemed a bit major seventh augmented,, tee hee. Under the Indigenous Native intention, did anyone else hear the organist go into a pentatonic background? It’s time to start talking about the purpose of a lingua franca for such ceremonies, IMO. This most lengthy of liturgical accretions only has its civil counterpoint in waiting in line at the local DMV. “Okay, who’s next, who’ve we left out?”

Okay, Offertory now, right? Still within the first blush of the Octave of Easter, yes? So, UBI and SICUT have a direct association. But the Beibl Ave Maria? Does not the cathedral have a Regina Coeli handy, Rheinberger, anyone? Or is this, in point of fact, a “Greatest Hits” approach so often opted for by eager DM’s? And now I’m noticing some of the helden baritones singing the tenor lines of the Biebl in a vocal manner similar to a well known basilica in the capitol of Italy, or actually in the country within its city limits. Seriously, singing the Biebl at that moment, in SATB and with those vocal aspects results in distraction. Sorry, just saying.

Brass Händel, anyone? No moment left unfilled by sound. (Where e’er you walk…)

Bishop tends to aspirate between certain vowel-led syllables, but his pitch is pretty darn tight! (Sursum corda) We should have another Chant Intensive in New Orleans, pay his ticket and then the good fathers there can supply him with allergen-free incense. (It is out there, you just have to look for it.)

I appreciate one comment in the USTREAM box about the over-emphasis by the announcers of the “supper” notion of the Eucharist,’ to whit:

During the Mass, Catholics celebrate 4 things:

1- Renew our Covenant with God through the Eucharist
2- Re-Present the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for the Forgiveness of Sins
3- Remember the Passover Meal of Jesus at the Last Supper
4- Partake in the Heavenly Banquet continually celebrated in Heaven.

Of course I had hoped he would continue singing the narrative in its entirety. The missal “mysterium” and “per ipsum” when chanted require a complimentary setting of the three acclamations.
Again, loving Dr. Randy, setting the acclamations in an artful as well as accessible manner is a task with a doubtful outcome. If the result is less than beautiful, no matter the length, then we have failed in our obligatitons.

I wonder how many USA clerics are watching this? The foremost mandate to chant the Our Father is being modeled very well. But if it doesn’t show up on Rocco, oh well.

His oration modality definitely shifts, and it became apparent with the last “the Lord be with you” before the Agnus Dei., whose third verse had some definite barbershop harmonies as I heard them (not as in Samuel Barber.)

Well, okay, a choral communio…when exactly is it to start again? Upon the communication of the celebrant. Oops.
I, too, appreciate Fr. Schiavone’s solid AMEN: EL CUERPO DE CRISTO, but this rendition, tempered to organ and about 33rpm instead of the 45rpm it needs, is somewhat rendered impotent with the rhythmic aspects that the much debated guitar/bass/piano rhythm section brings to the piece. Again, if we have the impetus to polyglot (verb) the Liturgy of the Word by multiple vernaculars, then it only makes sense to idiomatically represent the music in the genre in which it was created. And why is there some sort of need to keep the tempo of the Hurd UBI brisk. Shouldn’t it be directly referenced to the same freedom and languid tempo as was used in the Duruflé performance early? There is just as much opportunity to treat Hurd with rubato as the chant or other settings.
Same thing for Hurd’s “Come to Me and Drink,” we ask for our contemporary composers to write more chant-inspired lines, and then we bind their feet with a solid metronomic pulse. These aren’t examples of Catholic elevator music, but these three Communion songs seem to me only to have reached the second level of choral “affect,” namely mastery of pitch, vowel uniformity, blend/balance, dynamics, etc., but woefully lacking in breaking the fourth wall of suspension of disbelief, or in our realm, a mystagogia. I’ve always found the Palestrina (pars primo) SICUT a “romantic” setting rife with profound depth of feeling and inspiration. Well, Hurd’s “Come to me…” incorporates Ps.42 as well. But you wouldn’t have noticed any correspondence between their performance renditions here.

The Byrd-very well done. But, again in context, one has to be honest and say this is not either a devotional nor a liturgical calendar appropriate choice for this (greatest hit) work to be offered. But it is light years better than having some ersatz Pavarotti belting Franck's “Panis Angelicus” in St. Pat’s NYC while the red light’s on the camera.

All ye who are obsessed with GIRM issues: notice 1. a “communio was sung, 2. three option fours, 3. a choral motet (presumably another option four) and  4. the Nettleton as the “requisite” congregational hymn of praise. Still and all, not executed poorly or without too much rococo froo-froo.
I do appreciate it that Ms. Angela Westhoff-Johnson did prepare her singers and the brass ensemble to prepare pieces to accompany portions of action that take longer than expected.
Words, words, words…..”Eucharist” means “to give thanks.” Don’t prompt applause without a really compelling reason. Just sayin’.

See, he stayed in mode for the final blessing! Even with the yoo-hoos!
It’s my considered opinion that the non-solemn version of SALVE REGINA can be moved by the choir under the conscious direction of the director who is schooled both in practice and chironony.
LLANFAIR, great choice for a recessional: to sing or not to sing, that is not the question!

It’s been a pleasure serving as your liturgical musical attendant, thank you for flying MELOFLUENT AIR to this, your heavenly desitination.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Ritual- Portraits down, portraits up?

One of the lesser mentioned effects of the abdication/inauguaration equation was the "ceremonial" aspect of removing the likeness of the reigning Holy Father from institutional buildings (parish centers, rectories, schools, etc.) and installing some sort of "official" portrait of the new pontiff in that place upon the ASAP principle and availibility of same.
In one's own house, well.....mine, it's a different story this time around. The Pope Emeritus lives yet, if not reigns. His portrait in my entryway still occupies the center of the archway entrance to the living room, with Bl. JPII and a blessing from his time flanking. On the right side of our tiny (entry) narthex, above my family geneological document and portraits remains the Benemerenti signed by Benedict, even if by some mechanical proxy. It is my most prized, non-animate possession now.
But, in all the hussle/bussle that the resignation prompted, and subsequent blitzkrieg of photos and info about good Papa Francesco available on the web and I'm sure in religious stores, I can't seem to work up the nerve to ensconce his portrait at the nexus between Benedict and Blessed JPII as of yet.
What am I waiting for. Der Heilige Geist hast gesprechen! Francis is Cephas. What compels me to delay the symbolic affirmation of that in the church of my home?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ad Reorientem

Shark feeding frenzy. Indiscriminate, look for any opening, any spot, any open wound, bite anything that resists, including one of your own kind.....keep it going as long as possible until?

This serves, for me, an apt description of  blogdom's and the various media's approach to covering the stop-motion, every choreographed move of His Holiness, Francis just this week, not to mention his first days, the outcome is unpleasant. And that's fine. "He came to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable." Yeah, yeah, blah, yada yada. Francis is pissing off the establishment. "Damn right, God bless him."

Francis is giving the Socialists the bird. "Damn skinny, God bless him." But what unnerves all the gawkers, pretty much most of us, is "Okay, Francis is re-enacting his namesake's pure agenda, and certainly imitating Christ, even if beyond the socio-gender constraints of historical customs. And now, he's slamming that emPHAsis home with the Mass of the Mandatum (inwhich the institution of the Eucharist has been sublimated, it's okay, I'm still good) at a young people's prison in Rome this Holy Thursday. Fine.

He's the POPE OF THE POOR, the PEOPLE'S Pope, he's beyond Gregory I's Servant of the Servants, he's setting a Bonneville land speed record for example-making of being a TRUE CATHOLIC.

It has been long quoted that the Church isn't a hotel for paid up believers, but a hospital for sinners. Got it. But the hard and fast truth of the gospels is that Jesus once remarked "The poor will always be among us." Okay, got that too." The institutional aspects of raising hope and glory for the Jewish day of resurrection had its tangible outcomes in the manner and effect of the erection of the first and second Temples, stones and mortar, bricks and mortar, then adornment and ritual. And why would it inheritor institution eventually not seek out that tangible affirmation when it assumed social and legal legitmacy with the first affectation appropriating the Roman basilica as an institutional "statement." Well, probably like then when disaffected Roman citizens in all provinces eventually noticed and said "This will affect me and mine," to whom are these haste, damn the torpedos, full speed ahead evangelical tactics designed to convert? The poor, the outcast, the stranger, the starving artist, the despairing philosopher suffering in his bath of towels?

I'm advancing the notion that whether overt or covert, whether intentional or incidental, the target of all this papal "full, active and concious participation" is the vast expanse of the faceless herds of bison that are the Roman Catholic "silent majority." Francis doesn't (obviously) hold these hundreds of millions of souls as "know nothings" to which pearls of wisdom are occasionally tossed among pathetic homilies and inept managerial schedules evident at rectories and parish admin offices 24/7/52/365.25. No, Francis understands, that come hell or high water, this Church needs to get off whatever its dime is, and move. I don't question whether he's thought it all out. Benedict, my prince, has thought and thought and thought, and rightfully so, that's who he is. And if we, the great unwashed, had bothered to know how to answer his question, "Church, who do people say that I am?" correctly, we'd be a helluva lot better for it now. But we failed B16,

like we have most saints. I ain't the first to mention Padre Pio lately.

For some strange, almost perverse reason, the Beach Boys' opening phrase of the song "Wouldn't it be NICE...." inhabits, like the earworm, my thoughts.

But very little of this third millenial narrative could be called "nice." Nice is, in its way, is a rococo (sorry, used it twice) epithet that masques its true nature by an opposite inference. Nice is schiedt, as the Gaels would say.

We must, as a species, move forward announcing and articulating how we clearly act in this life "The Kingdom of God" with both abject simplicity (found in the scriptural texts unrefined) and with nuance (in the resultant theology.) But we cannot move forward with infidel warriors of all stripes saying we are a farce and a pox on humanity, not worthy of propogation, of respect, of dignity. We have to turn the other cheek every damn single time. First I say, to each other who professes the same Credo. Then to any other neighbor with whom we commerce. Then to the whole freaking world: Credo: St. Patrick's Breastplate.

And if Francis can help advance us from "Be not afraid" to "Be still, and KNOW that I am God" I say go head on Papa, do your thing rooted in a tradition and institution, for better or worse, that has kept the keys from crumbling before we get to the lock, and we'll be right behind you. Not demography, but in flesh and blood and water.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Ave Joseph Ratzinger, Papa Benedict XVI, my heart is full of love and aching gratefulness for the gift of God you have been and shared with all the world.

With every breath you’ve taken you have let the Holy Spirit in-dwell within your soul. With every word and deed strengthened by that wind you have taught all who’ve known you close and from afar, the world and the very universe your classroom.

My own “nunc dimitis” is that God’s respite for you, your brother and your brothers in glory lasts long for our own sakes, and as bittersweet as your adieu is to accept.

You set a seal upon my heart. It was not that of your emblem.

As has always been your calling, it was the Cross of our Lord etched there.

And that has cleaved my oft hardened heart to open to the love of our Father.

Ave, mein Vater, Brüder und Lehrer.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

OCP, the Not So Hidden Hand behind AmChurch Music

The “reform the reform” is not utterly foreign to OCP.
Thus alloweth Jeffrey Tucker in his erstwhile revisionist apologetic towards his own primal murmurs about the appointment of Bishop Sample to Portland and the "mark this day" ecstatics that resulted. Then the switchboards pulled a nutty (as I've been want to do over time), causing my friend Todd Flowerday all sorts of consternation that just isn't worth it. To quote my fellow native born Visalian, Doobie Brother founder Tom Johnston, all that matters is "Jesus is just alright with me."

I’d be much more comfortable and relaxed about conversing of these matters if everyone participating would drop the pretense of possessing “absolute knowledge” of what constitutes, motivates and defines as the mission and enterprise of OCP and the other usual suspects of the Liturgical Industrial Complex. I’ll buy a fruit pie for anyone who could utterly, in 25 words or less, provide a cogent meaning for the term “reform of the reform” apropos to Catholic liturgy. And, insult upon that injury, I suspect one could extract from such sure declarations characterizing this publisher the moniker “OCP” and insert “RCC” and the statement’s proximity to truth would roughly remain in tact. As in all industry, can we agree that despite the variety of personal concerns of the aggregate humans who staff any organization, the organization’s mission and purpose is simple self-perpetuation.

Allow a moment to sigh, and re-focus…

For all of those who yet harbor prejudices and misgivings about OCP in particular, I would ask: “Have you personally visited the complex and offices, the staffers and execs at OCP in Portland? Have you spoken with any OCP associate beyond a customer service representative?... more than once? Speaking of customer service encounters, has anyone with whom you’ve spoken (in any medium) ever personally represented OCP in a manner inconsistent with either Christian values or common courtesy? Whatever the answer to any of these pre-emptive questions, the point remains that it serves no noble purpose to malign or justify the existence of an organized entity based upon one’s own tunnel-vision experiences, or from imaginary or perceived notions of the personal inclinations and experiences of who and what OCP “is.”

I have yet to read Ken Canedo’s memoir KEEP THE FIRE BURNING (of which I recall Jeffrey Tucker’s review was quite positive,) but I can’t imagine that Ken would have not mentioned a major shift in the chronology of OCP, namely the period prior to the collapse of the self-standing North American Liturgy Resources (under Ray Bruno) from which OCP had an agreement with NALR allowing them to publish their pulp missal and hymnal products as melody/text WITH chord assignments. This was nothing new in the emerging “pop” catholic hymnal culture. In fact it was the standard modem of FEL, early WLP/Paluch and eventually GIA new product unveilings, as well as lesser houses such as Franciscan Publishing and the folks who put out the charismatic songbook series. Though it was de rigueur for serious folkies to purchase the whole collections of say, the SLJesuits, Dameans and later people like Bob Hurd and Marty Haugen, the mere convenience of a wonderful smorgasbord of new “literature” that was instantaneously digestible by all levels of guitarists, keyboardists who were empowered and hardly ever discouraged from plying their inventive and improvisational skills to these little templates was, in my opinion, the major toehold by which OCP captured the “new music” market. And then, as NALR expanded beyond their means, IP issues arose between their stable of artists and the NALR management which led to short off-shoots such as Pastoral Arts Associates and the like, NALR recognized their licensing agreement with OCP was actually working against their own interests in growth and market share. They withdrew, and I don’t remember but I think GIA did as well, their reprint permissions for at least one year’s Music Issue. OCP might have appeared to scramble to adjust, but in that Owen Alstott had at least three nom de plumes which were employed to present “new talent” and that songs by “Jim Farrell” such as “Sing a new song” were meant to emulate the now missing Glory and Praise classics from the OCP Music Issue had to have been prepared for in advance, and then added to the otherwise paltry offerings of OCP artists of the time like Sr. Misetich. There were reverberations from this publishing temblor that were exciting and continued. Artists like Ken Medema, Tobias Colgan and others filled the GP slots and gained favor and popularity eventually. The “Anderson (Alstott) “Gloria ‘clap-clap’” became a misappropriated staple of the Opening Rites out of this episode.

But that year of living dangerously paid off handsomely when OCP absorbed the defunct NALR, their catalogue and whole product line, existing contracts with the “talent” and the status of being now a part of the commissioning, editorial and publishing processes along with re-establishing themselves as the sole publisher of new material that also had an annual vehicle by which “cutting edge” new composers could lodge their works into the wide open liturgical music market demand. WLP tried, under the titular reputation of Rev. Jim Marchianda and a small stable of name composers to present an alternative to the Heritage Missal/Music Issue/Breaking Bread subscription model, but its artistic octane level was clearly second tier. And GIA put their marbles in the hard copy hymnal market, each having as minimal and overlap of styles that pastors and musicians who desired stability actually risked much credibility in that stoic approach. Pew pockets in many parishes could be found having not only Worship II and Gather, but also Glory and Praise (under OCP) in heaps, creating a musical Babel from Mass to weekend Mass. Another aspect of OCP’s model of versatility and reactive flexibility that contributed to consumer complacency and convenience was its ability to partner the hymnal to a missals that adjusted to revised scripture, psalter and celebrant texts. Anyone who has sat through three or more decades of Passion readings via OCP missal texts could attest to that reality. So add one more “c” word to the predominance of the OCP model: comprehensive, as in “when you buy this, you get all this too!” And, in fact, that led to the issue of local parishes needing to supplement the accompaniment resources for instruments and choirs et al for the paradigm shift towards new music replacing old.

Here’s the real deal in a nutshell. This acquisition of clout has had mixed results. But how is that different than other corporate experiences in the auto industry, computer and IT technology engineering and manufacturing, and infrastructure empires such as the steel, mining and travel industries? Dodge blew it on the K-Car, and hit it out of the park on the Caravan, go figure.

The dubbing and drubbing of the OCP rank and file catalogue in the hymnals as “pop music” or “inferior” by Jeffrey is lamentable on a number of counts: 1. Jeffrey’s tenure as both a Catholic musician and choir director is brief by comparison and influenced by his upbringing and eventual revulsion towards P/W that monopolized a reasonably august heritage; 2. Catholic post-conciliar music that most decry is not, a holistic entity such as the P/W music (think “Shine, Jesus, Shine”) that also sprang from a diverse heritage (compare Phil Keaggy to Keith Green) and eventually consolidated into M.W. Smith, Amy Grant and now Chris Tomlin. They, too, had precursors like we did Repp and Wise, such as Sandi Patti, Kurt Kaiser and the Gaither clan; 3. Catholic contemporary music was and is not easily classified by genre associations to popular music, For every critique that could, eg., relegate early Joncas pieces to the Broadway influences ranging from Sondheim, Schwartz and Lloyd-Webber, any decent music analyst could counter with arguments convincing a jury that the earliest to latest compositions have great resonance with chant modality, temperate polyphony (early homophony and tonality) of Palestrina, Victoria and even Monteverdi. It’s a hapless, hopeless enterprise to argue the genres, much less the main point of such an argument.

And, I wonder, what would Jeffrey Tucker make of Bach or Byrd’s efforts self insure their own artistic legacies and income streams were they provided the technology and legalities of IP law and rights that we now enjoy and curse. But does anyone doubt that if CPDL or even a Bensonarium/St. James/CanticaNova option were available to Renaissance, Baroque and inheritor composers that they would eschew the opportunity not only to share the posterity of their compositions but also reap the economic benefit of their popularity?

Jeffrey’s specific criticisms of OCP are subjectively on and off in his latest Café post. The variances he mentions between editions of choral volumes, accompaniments to hymnals, and loose octavos are common throughout the whole choral industry. GIA masques over their disparities according to their latest shill catalog by calling such resources “Legacy Editions.” So, why is OCP singled out for massive derision yet and still. Because it has both succeeded and failed at diverse enterprises quite magnificently, and dominated. Hence the enormity of the criticism from this latest article to JT’s famous “Hidden Hand” article. Singling out (erroneously) that “Sleepers Awake” is absent is an incredible mistake on his part. It has always been available in various missal and hymnal editions for decades to OCP’s credit, in that it, like today’s “In His Temple now behold Him” is in both missal and hymnal when either hymn is really relegated to one time only usage per year. Jeffrey deals macro. I deal in micro. And I know OCP content better than the marks on my hand, particular as old age marks increase on said hands.

OCP will not undergo a detailed scrutiny for content by (Abp.) Sample, near as I can foretell. He will hopefully set a tone among the community of musicians that Jeffrey described that will compel OCP to risk as they’ve done in the past. However, this time around OCP won’t pay the lip service by acquiring Trinitas, or upgrading the Choral Praise Edition. It will likely pay close heed to what Ostrowski, Bartlett and Oost Zinner et al have accomplished and re-orient their editorial ethos towards equanimity that respects an ethos of both artistic excellence and heritage (as called for) while maintaining a mission to empower and lead congregations to greater active participation.