Friday, April 22, 2011
I have to say that it was one of the high points of my work in parish music up to now, although I have to say that was not by any accident or "luck"... there was a lot of preparation and rehearsal, both by our musicians and by the liturgical staff of our parish, including the Pastor and Associate, our Deacons, Lectors and student servers. We spent yesterday early afternoon doing a final "run through" of the liturgy with the servers... when and how to incense the altar, how to accompany the Deacon to the Ambo to incense the Gospel, and a hundred other details (like how to walk backwards while incensing the Priest while processing to the Chapel for Reposition at the conclusion of the Mass!).
Our choirs had rehearsed the hymns and chants for Mass for the last month and a half and sang confidently and beautifully. For the past two years our Antiphon Schola has sung the communion Antiphon for Holy Thursday. This year we made use of the Richard Rice setting in the Simple Choral Graduale, although I elaborated on the psalm-tone given for the verses. Although these settings have been criticized by some for being "formulaic" and lacking a melody related to the text, when they are sung within the context of the liturgy the impression they leave is quite different. I received several comments about how striking and "holy" it sounded as the Priests received communion... one said that it reminded them of chant they had heard in an Orthodox Church several years ago.
This year we added the chanted Entrance Antiphon, making use of the setting from the Simple English Propers by Adam Bartlett. I cannot say enough about what a gift these settings are to parish musicians. Our Schola learned it with minimal effort. I made a recording and put it online for them to practice, so they all came to rehearsal with the notes learned already, saving valuable rehearsal time for some details of phrasing and tempo. And this is real chant... not a "chant flavored" song, or a "chant like mantra"... it is actual chant for the texts of the Mass.
And so as our Mass began, rather than a series of announcements or an amplified welcome by the cantor accompanied by a series of instructions for where to find this or that song, the usual chatter and murmering of the people in the pews was quickly silenced by the unaccompanied sound of a voice proclaiming "Let our glory be in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...". Some people kneeled in prayer, others closed their eyes and relaxed. All listened in silence. And when the organ introduced the Processional Hymn, all joined in singing "Lift High The Cross"... and together we indeed "Gloried in the Cross of Our Lord".
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
I'm not complaining mind you... this is one of those things that just happens every year and has happened every year for as long as I've been doing this...which is a pretty long time now! Pope John Paul II could have had a little more compassion for the faithful church musicians by placing Divine Mercy Sunday, oh let's say sometime in July.
Monday, April 18, 2011
I always find the Procession for Palm Sunday fascinating, as it is one of the very few places in the Missal where there is both an Antiphon (Hosanna Filio David) AND a Hymn (Gloria, laus et honor) given for a specific liturgy. This is important because it makes clear the exceptional nature of THIS procession....a procession that is different from the processions of other Masses on other Sundays. Sadly, this high point has been diminished by the use of hymns for the procession on EVERY Sunday throughout the year, making this "Triumphant entrance" of Jesus into Jerusalem just like every other Sunday in the vast majority of parishes. How wonderful would it be if our celebration of Jesus's entrance into the Holy City were something exceptional, something out of the ordinary? Such is the genius of the actual liturgical structure of the Roman Rite, if only we could set our own vanity and personal preferences aside and celebrate it as it has been given to us!
Perhaps it will take some time...and a change of heart...before we are once again ready accept and follow the wisdom of 2000 years of tradition and liturgical development over our own desire to put our personal signature on our worship. It's a difficult step that will require a great deal of humility, and that's a rare commodity these days! But there is hope in the knowledge that there are more and more instances of faithful celebrations of the liturgy today than there were even a few years ago, and there will be more such celebrations this week than there were last year during Holy Week. And there will be an even greater number next year for the simple reason that when the liturgy is faithfully celebrated, it ALWAYS WORKS. Without fail...
And so as we enter Holy Week, we can perhaps approach our own celebrations with a renewed sense of humility. Are we celebrating what we are given, or do we still want to sign our own giant JOHN HANCOCK to all that we do? In years past there were so many excuses, but as we are given better texts, better musical settings and a greater awareness of our liturgical past, those excuses are withering and becoming tired.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Although this is an early version, I have no doubt that this type of resource will catch on quickly as an alternative to the disposable resources now so much in favor.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
And I don't mean the cute honeybees... these are the honkin' big ones that sound like a P-51 Mustang in a full dive! Pollinating away today...
They don't seem interested in stinging, but they will circle around you buzzing like crazy if you get too near to them. They also chase down other bees and the ubiquitous dragonflies that make their home in the grove as well.
Charlie, our Basset Hound, stays safely inside watching them do their thing through the front window...
Time to get back to work now...
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Which leads to the workshop this coming weekend at the Cathedral of the Epiphany on the Chants of the new Translation. This is the second session of the workshop (the first session was on Saturday, March 12th) and we are expecting between 80 and 100 musicians from the Northern deanery of our Diocese. The point of these workshops is to introduce our musicians to the chants that will accompany the new translation of the missal, and emphasize to them that these chants will be the "normative setting" of the sung Ordinary for the Diocese of Venice as Bishop Dewane has indicated. Beginning next year, the Missal Chants will be used for all Diocesan Masses (Chrism Mass, Ordinations, Anniversaries, etc...) and all parishes are expected to learn the chant setting of the Ordinary beginning next November.
It's great to see so much happening... I only wish it wasn't all happening two weeks before Holy Week!
Sunday, April 3, 2011
I received the following letter from our Bishop, Frank Dewane, at the Gregorian Chant Conference this weekend at Ave Maria University. It is encouraging to know that our own Bishop is very enthusiastic about the efforts we make in regards to Catholic sacred music!
Of particular interest is his recognition of the "resurgence" of traditional sacred music, and that it is not a mere coincidence, but is the work of the Holy Spirit.
It is perhaps significant that Bp. Dewane has been most supportive of the catechetical efforts we have made up to now with our Diocesan musicians as regards learning the chants of the New Translation of the Missal, and that he has further designated that the chant settings of the new texts will be promoted and used in all parishes, and will be the setting used at all Diocesan functions such as Chrism Mass and Ordinations.
Many thanks and much gratitude to our Bishop, Frank Dewane.