Monday, December 31, 2007

Sometimes I start to write an entry, and then think to myself, "why bother?" So I delete it all. (I was writing about the mind of the average congregation member, and what they actually think about the music.)

I kind of hope it snows really hard tonight so I don't have to go play for Mass.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

...and this post IS about Christmas

or, at least, it should be.
I keep on feeling like I need to write something for all of my faithful readers, a de-briefing on the music in particular at Christmas.
Well, it happened. It's over.
There was only a minor amount of drama the day before Christmas Eve and right before Christmas Midnight Mass.
I had a lovely harp player at the Vigil, who accompanied the children's choir. No one else sang, of course they didn't want to "drown out" the choir/harp, of course they wanted to listen! Is that good or bad? Good, I suppose, Catholic's aren't supposed to sing-they're supposed to listen to the choir! (of course, that is just in the ideal situation. The situation with just a cantor singing hymns is a completely different story!)
I had 3 high schoolers play their instruments at Christmas Midnight, they weren't perfectly in tune, and since it was a lot of work and stress for me, I would be curious hearing from those who were there what their perception of it was. Was it enjoyable, and worth it, particularly since the high schoolers actually are interested in coming back? They were timid, at the very least. So I'm sure in that regard, they would get better over time.
And also at Midnight Mass, the choir sang the "Born Today" that I wrote about previously, I believe it went well, and may be paving the way for such things more normally. In fact, this weekend at the last Mass, and the Vigil for MMOG, I plan on having a friend join me in singing the Introit, Offertory, and Communion. I really don't think people care about Latin and such as long as they get some sort of translation (which I will provide by singing the English on a simple tone immediately prior,) or as long as they don't have to sing it themselves! I'm sure I've written about all of this before. As a matter of fact, I believe that it is the explanation that confuses them more. As you know from my previous post about this "Born Today" thing, there was a question of whether or not to write a bulletin article. I did, although I'm not sure how many people read it because of a certain snow storm that weekend. However, right before Mass began, Father gave a brief explanation about why the people wouldn't be singing the "opening hymn," and in fact, when he said stuff like, "Instead, the choir will be singing the introit," a few of my choir members looked at me like, "huh?" They hadn't found it odd at all that they were just gonna sing this thing instead of opening with a carol! So, educating the masses that don't really care to be educated will be a question for another post...
So that was Christmas, I need to try to remember next September or October to bring up the issue with Father that we really both agree that we don't need to have a "Mass at Dawn," as we have these past two years...that practically no one came to, and that caused the number of sleep for at least a couple of people to decrease by 2.5 hours, thus, for me at least, causing me to be in a zone all afternoon!
And now I need to start thinking about Lent and Easter, my favorite season! There is soooo much good music for it out there...My only regret is that the Good Friday service is only so long, and I have sooo much music... (all of my favorite songs are total Holy Week songs...)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

this post is not about Christmas

On Sunday, the day before Christmas Eve, I unintentionally went to my first candle-light Mass. As a matter of fact, it wasn't just by candle light, it was free of all amplification and instruments relying on electricity. (Including my pipe organ and keyboard!)
Oh, and it wasn't just one Mass, it was BOTH!
But actually, they were simply lovely!
It was rather wintery stormy that morning, and I was sitting in the church praying half an hour before Mass, and the power went out at 7:30. And it was DARK. It is dark in Michigan in December that early when it's cloudy! Even by the time Mass started, it was so dark I knew people wouldn't be able to sing anything from the hymnal. So, for the first Mass, the processional was in silence, and it really was dark enough that the candles lining the windows were necessary and lovely! However, by the Agnus Dei, the sun had come out and was shining on the altar! Just beautiful. And amazingly (or not,) several of the boys from our boys choir were scheduled to sing a couple songs at both the Masses! So they sang "O Come Holy Saviour" (or something like that) and I'm not sure who had this great idea, but their accompanist used two hand bells (the tonic and dominant) and rang them appropriately instead of playing the keyboard! (I'm not quite sure why we don't have a real piano-there is certainly nowhere in the church that a grand would fit, and it would be quite difficult to get an upright up into the loft.) Anyhow, that was lovely! The boys sang that for offertory, and then I sang the Communion chant, and then they had been working on a two part arrangement of "Lo How a Rose" for communion, which was lovely a cappella! The lector read the Psalm (I don't quite think my congregation is ready to sing an unfamiliar Psalm response a cappella...) and we spoke the congregational responses (which my priest pointed out to the congregation we could sing IF we had ever learned chant settings!) I sang the alleluia, and then there was light enough for the congregation to sing a closing song. It was quite nice! And then for the next Mass, my choir was there, and there was more light so we sang the opening and closing songs, and the choir was already prepared to sing the real "Ave Maria" at offertory (and I didn't end up having to decide if I should accompany it!) The boy choir had arranged to have a harpist at that Mass (she was rather young and inexperienced,) but she played for "Lo How a Rose," and it was really beautiful. And then cuz this Mass is a lot bigger, we also did "O Come O Come Emmanuel" at Communion, a cappella of course which was absolutely perfect!
But it does strike me, how the more we are able to go in the direction of what we should be doing at Mass, the less it will matter if we have electricity or not! (like how we should have been able to sing the ordinaries, and how the choir was already prepared with the Ave Maria, which was perfect both as the Offertory proper as well as being perfect in not requiring accompaniment.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007


comments on here which are left anonymously are usually either irrelevant, or inappropriately rude. (see "the Mass or the music" below.) Tempting as it is to either moderate comments or require people to leave their names, I think I prefer to read even those such comments than not at all.
tee hee.

English Proper settings

Does anyone know if the English Proper settings to chant of the Mass by Samuel Weber are available anywhere online? I get them through email, but I feel like I am missing some.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

4 Advent A

Entrance: People Look East (Besancon)
Psalm: arr. S. Weber
Gifts: Ave Maria (mode 1)
Communion: Ecce Virgo
O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Closing: Saviour of the Nations (Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland)

Just in case you were wondering...

...(in case you were curious particularly during this last week of Advent,) Mara's absolute favorite wine is Pinot Noir. She has recently discovered it and LOVES it!

Friday, December 14, 2007

the Mass or the music?

(ok, that was just supposed to be a catchy title so you would read this.)

Dear Abby,

I pointed out to my boss that Gaudete and Laetare Sunday are called by those titles because they are the first word of the Introit for those respective days. But he doesn't seem to agree because he says that "the music is written for the Mass!" Well, of course, but I would still think that the common name for the Sunday is such because of the first word of the introit! But I guess I could be wrong. Whatever am I going to do?

-Questioning Soul

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

well, that's exciting!

A friend might have found for me an organ for purchase. It's up in Escanaba, apparently it's going for like 8-10 grand, with the same for moving it down here. I've got a some money in the "organ fund" which will be a good start. Anything is better than the assembly line piece of work I have now...

3 Advent A (Gaudete Sunday)

Open: The King Shall Come (Morning Song)
Gifts: O Come O Come Emmanuel (or an arrangement of "Of the Father's Love" and "Lo How a Rose" at the Mass with the choir)
Communion: Dicite: Pusillanimes
A Voice Cries Out
Close: On Jordan's Bank (Winchester New)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Introit at Christmas

I've decided this year to have the choir sing (at the midnight Mass, and the Mass during the day,) Richard Proulx's "Born Today" with bells for the Introit.

The Introit at Midnight is "The Lord said to me: You are my Son, today I have begotten you," and during the day it is "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. Dominion is on his shoulder and his name shall be called the Angel of Great Counsel."

For those not familiar with the piece, the words are something like, "Alleluia, Christ is born to us today, today the Savior has appeared. Angels on earth do sing, and archangels rejoice, the righteous cry out: Glory be to God in the highest. Alleluia."

My actual reasons for wanting to incorporate it are, a) it's just plain cool, b) yes, I am trying to get the congregation away thinking they have to sing a four-hymn sandwich, and c) the words (while not exactly either of the propers,) are kind closer than any Christmas carols I can think of. (They are more theological.)

My problem comes in that the boss tells me I have to write a bulletin article beforehand explaining why the congregation won't be singing an "opening hymn." (and I have to do this by Wednesday cuz this weekend is our last bulletin before Christmas!) I don't really want to say any of the three reasons I listed above in the bulletin, so the reasons I could mention would be how we will be singing lots of Christmas carols before all the Christmas Masses, and then (the whole discussion at CMAA this past summer) about how the congregation can watch the procession, how the procession itself is a part of the liturgy, and we don't notice it if our noses are in a hymnal!

ok, so I need help. Those aren't good enough reasons if I need to write this in the bulletin. (perhaps my first line of action will be to go to the boss and question if we really need to write something; I mean, who is gonna complain that they don't "get to" sing an opening hymn if they just sang five carols immediately prior?) But then if that doesn't work, I will need more evidence and arguments. Does anyone know of any church documents that talk about this? (in particular the significance of the procession,) or am I even missing any obvious arguments about moving in the direction of just having the choir sing the propers? Oh, I guess I could talk about how the thing the choir will be singing is more theological than any carols...but I'm not sure I could make that into a good case.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Messiah

I recently had a wonderful opportunity to sing Handel's Messiah in performance.
It was so lovely, in fact, that I had the most incredible "omg I'm in a picture!" moment. (picture, as in, "picture perfect.") The orchestra was playing it's lovely opening bars, and I looked over, just a couple feet away and saw 2 violinists, with the spotlights behind them, they were simply glowing (you know, that halo everyone gets when the light is behind them?) and then also just beyond them was some lovely white poinsettas. It was...spectacular. I can't say that I've ever had a moment quite like that before. I can't even describe it...It was just...perfect! Magical.

But the true wonderfulness of the Messiah lies in the amazingness of the text. Before singing it this year, I had only heard it once, and knew a few of the famous pieces, but I had never really become familiar with the words.
Become familiar? The amazing thing about that work of art is that it is straight out of the Bible, prophecy after prophecy, all praising The Christ.
During rehearsals, I found myself shocked by some of the text, realizing how much I could be praying through the words!
And of course over the weekend as we rehearsed and performed, I kept on noticing how much profound meaning all of the words have for me, as a Christian.
But even more than could one hear that and not be totally convicted?!

"Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows...All we, like sheep, have gone astray...And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

WHAT?! How is that possible? Who IS this man? Who would do that? And why?
I would find myself looking around at the other singers and wondering what on earth they were thinking about these incredible texts that we were singing. What does it mean to them? Anything? Yes, the music is beautiful, but...the words...even the idea of should take our breath away. WHY would one man do that? Who could even come up with that idea? It's SO ridiculous and impossible one could ever have made that up!
How could you sing it and not be convicted?

Monday, December 03, 2007

2 Advent A

Open: On Jordan's Bank (Winchester New)
Gifts: Saviour of the Nations (Nun Komm)
Communion: Ierusalem Surge
I Want to Walk as a Child*
Close: Come O Long Expected Jesus (Stuttgart)

*(I normally hate picking Communion songs, just cuz there aren't very many, but I really hate picking them outside of Ordinary Time, b/c then I feel like I have to somehow incorporate the season with the Eucharist, and of course there aren't ANY songs that do that, so I end up picking a song that does neither! good grief!)