Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hierarchy of Documents

I'm not sure if this is a much-discussed topic online or not, but where can I go to learn about the hierarchy of church documents? I mean, I know that "it still applies unless it has been specifically changed in a later document," but really, some are more important than others.

Vatican II Constitutions?
Vatican II Decrees?
Vatican II Declarations?
Papal Encyclicals?
Things put out by my country's bishops? (Music in Catholic Worship, Built of Living Stones...)
What about Musicam Sacram? (I tried googling "about musicam sacram," like maybe somewhere will tell me what IS this document, cuz I can quote it to my boss all I want, but he will still ask me what the document itself is...)
And what about pre-VII stuff? De Musica Sacra?

1 Advent C

Entrance: The King Shall Come (Morning Song)
Psalm: Let Us Go Rejoicing (arr. S. Weber)
Offertory: Come O Long Expected Saviour (Stuttgart)
Communion: Dominus Dabit
Wait for the Lord ('s a start on some of the idea around chant, right?)
Closing: O Come, O Come Emmanuel (Veni Veni Emmanuel)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

fighting the fight?

I was going to post this as a comment elsewhere, but I decided that it would actually make for a decent entry here.

I sang in a schola, singing the Propers at another church nearby with 3 other women for a little while, towards the beginning of my dive into the world of Sacred Music.
The leader of our group was middle-aged, and the other three of us were all college-aged. The three younger ones of us had NO idea what we were doing. Yes, we could read music, but...these square note thingys? I'd pretty much only seen them in my music history text book. Our courageous leader however, had quite a bit of experience in reading different kinds of chant notation, and she worked at imparting her knowledge to us, in the little time that we had to rehearse.

I'll never forget one rehearsal, in the spring, when with a faraway look in her eyes, she said to us, "You know, I never, in my whole life, would have thought that there would come a time when I would be singing chant in a volunteer schola, every other week, and much less with three young ladies in their 20s!"

Here's a lady, who found a passion in this music, who even went across the country to study under some of the foremost chant experts, and thought that it would always be a lonely singing experience.

BUT, for her time and effort that she put into our little schola for less than a year, three other people have directly benefited, and gained knowledge necessary to begin imparting even more musical experiences to those around them. Although we all now have been more musically and spiritually enriched through that experience, I can only speak of myself personally. I can impart tidbits to my choir, teaching them music, explaining concepts to my choir, giving explanations to the congregation, and singing myself. And who knows what the future holds. (of course, this particular experience of this schola is only one of many that have shaped my musical and spritual life,) but everything we do has a domino effect. Who knows what will happen, to my church, my choir, myself, but, I have given all of those a little tidbit of what could be. And their lives will be enriched by it, whether they realize it or not.

On Thursday I'm going to begin to teach my choir the REAL "Ave Maria." (anyone else notice that it's the Offertory Antiphon for 4 Advent A? Woot!) And you know what? They might complain. (Probably not, cuz that's one Latin text that no one seems to mind.) But, whatever happens, once they learn it, I really believe that sometime in their lifetimes they will hear it again, even aside from when I use it at St. P. And they will think, "oh yeah..." And they will have more appreciation for it for having learned it. And who knows, maybe we will sing it enough that they will really learn it, and although they will always feel nostalgia at hearing the Schubert, they will begin to appreciate the chant. And see the intrinsic beauty of it. Even if I'm not around anymore by the time that happens....I will have planted the seed.

So, don't give up, because you just don't KNOW what effect your musical offerings to the congregation will have. And if you do it well musically, and you implement it pastorally, then it can't hurt. And everyone will benefit. And at the very least you can grow in humility if you don't get all of the appreciation that you think you deserve. :-)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Solemnity and Reverence (or, a Thanksgiving afternoon post while waiting for dinner...)

It is possible to have reverence at Mass without solemnity.

And the issue of my life, for the past year in particular, has been to find that balance.
Perhaps the initial statement is a little extreme. Perhaps I mean that it is possible to have true worship of God without solemnity. Not everything needs to be a solemn procession.

A great deal of my thoughts in this area over the past year have been in comparing my own duties at my church, with the music and worship of another church in the same city. (Let's call it St. C.)

I came to a surprising (but probably obvious to most) conclusion recently, after a musical selection which didn't work out quite the way I had expected.

St. C uses a lot of EXCELLENT music, and rather than reinventing the wheel, I often like to borrow some of their songs, either those they have written, or songs they have simply found among the vast archives of current and past church music history. However, the realization that I came to recently is that St. C. and St. P. are two different churches. Not everything that works for them will work for us, and probably also the other way around. Songs that work great for them don't always work for us. I admit, they can come off awkward in the church/worship environment of St. C.

Let me give a little background and explanation of both of these church's worship environments, and then perhaps you will understand how it relates to my dilemma of solemnity and reverence.

St. C. is a very excellent church, which understands true worship of God and teaches solid theology. However, many would dismiss it as being "overly emotional" (in ways that are complicated to explain on here for those who are not familiar with the situation.) There is an active "praise and worship" life, (a catch-phrase that could easily be dismissed by many, BUT in this particular church's worship, this style is, significantly, VERY vertically oriented.) It is completely reverent. (you betcha the 3 year olds there know how to genuflect when getting up from their pews. but sometimes they do it backwards, like facing the wrong direction. tee hee... sooo cute!)
But solemn? Sometimes, but not always.

Contrast this to St. P. I need to keep in mind that people have come to St. P precisely in order to find not just reverence, but also solemnity. (and this is where my mind starts to get jumbled. I expect this post to not make much sense from here on out...)
My job is to choose music that promotes reverence and solemnity.
But what about worship beyond (or before???) that? What about those who want songs which more actively engage them? (Don't get me started on chant...I love it but, Ubi Caritas does NOT actively engage people in any way which could even be compared to a song like "Days of Elijah!")

So...when I get started thinking about some other great songs that maybe St. C uses, but I question how well they would be received at St. P, I need to keep in mind that people come to St. P and not St. C or St. T in order to find reverent solemnity.
I think. ?


(and don't get me started on young people who love these other kinds of songs, or maybe those who are at a spiritual level in their personal lives where they NEED songs which more actively engage them. That would certainly be an entire new post. Some other time maybe.)

Christ the King - C

Entrance: To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King (Ich Glaub An Gott)
Psalm: Let Us Go Rejoicing arr. S. Weber
Crowning of CTK: Christ is the King (Gelobt Sei Gott)
Offertory: Crown Him With Many Crowns (Diademata)
Communion: Sedebit Dominus
Choir: O Word Incarnate (O. Gibbons)
Hymn of Praise: Jesus My Lord, My God, My All
Close: Jesus Shall Reign (Duke Street)

ooohhh... I love Jesus songs!

Monday, November 19, 2007

People Look East

I am programing music for Advent right now, and I was trying to remember if I remembered correctly that some people were down on "People Look East," (as not having very much religious significance.)
I re-read the lyrics, and noted something that is having more particular significance for me lately.
(background: I've been reading/thinking/praying a lot lately about the significance of "God is Love." I mean, really, God IS Love. The source of Love, Love get it.)
So anyhow, with that in mind, the last line of "People Look East," being all the tropes, "Love the Guest/Lord/whatever is on the way," actually has significance! (ok, I'll stop using that word for now.) because we can substitute God/Christ for it!
Ok, maybe that was obvious to everyone else, but it seems to me a perfect Advent Carol!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


After not having had a funeral since June, we just had one Monday, and another upcoming the Friday. When it rains, it pours. But certainly, no one wants to die in the summer. I certainly won't. I shall stay alive through it, and die as soon as it gets cold!

Any comments on the appropriateness of "Amazing Grace" at funerals?
Keep in mind, yes, I agree that the theology isn't perfect...BUT, pastoral sensitivity would certainly note the heartiness with which everyone present at the funeral sings it, as well as the tears it brings to many eyes. (no, that in and of itself is not reason to program a song for a funeral, but...)

I got another (negative) comment (sort of) about the latin chant being sung at communion. "That thing you're singing at communion is really beautiful. I mean, I can't understand it, but it's really nice!" (coming from someone I know hates Latin!)
I wasn't in a position to go into all the detailed musical analysis and description of how the Latin itself is beautiful partly because it is so old (1200 years? +?) and the musicality of how you can't just squeeze English words into a foreign melody, because that by itself would make it LOSE its beauty! Nor did I really have time to ask about how I DO sing the "English translation" immediately before-is that not helpful?

Any opinions on the publishings of the "Big Three" for yearly booklets that contain just the Sunday Mass readings?

33 OT C

(almost my favorite feast! Can you tell I like all the Jesus feasts?)

O Sun of Justice (Jesu Dulcis-will attempt to briefly teach congregation before Mass)
Prayer of Augustine
Amen Dico Vobis
At that First Eucharist (Unde et Memores)
O Breathe on Me O Breath of God (St. Columba)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

text and composers

A few weeks ago after Mass, a parishioner was talking to me, and he pointed out how happy he was that I wasn't using any more of that "Haugen/Haas stuff." I admitted I had made a definite decision to avoid using certain types of songs, regardless of how much affection and nostalgia people have for them.
But...should I really be determining my song choices based on the composer? (I'm not. As you noticed for my All Saints songs, I DID use "Blest Are They," because it is a completely appropriate Communion Antiphon!)
Shouldn't the text and musical reverence of the song take more precedence over purely the composer?
I mean, "Blest Are They," is actually NOT like any song you would hear on the radio. (Use of popular style songs being the biggest argument against many "contemporary" songs.) And I would differentiate also between Haugen/Haas as being simply "folksy" (but what the heck does that mean? Doesn't that just mean "singable by the average person?") as compared with true "contemporary" songs like "Awesome God," for example, which is undeniably a more radio-popular style. (Not saying ANYTHING about the adequateness of the song by itself.) (Life Teen type songs, for example, [which is a completely different post-perhaps I do believe that Life Teen has its place, but let's save that for another time...] )
Anyhow, I can't remember why I went off on that tangent...
so....some songs are simply...not hymns? and perhaps also have the stigma of being written by one composer or another that we normally like to disdain?
Really, can anyone claim that "Blest are They" is an intrinsically poor song? (I think the melody actually nice. The words completely scriptural. Actually, now that I think of it, it tends to alternate between "Blest are they," and "blest are you..." which is it actually scripturally? Is that then the only complaint leveled against it? and a few verses that vary enough in melodic rhythm, that...yeah...)
ok, now I'm rambling.
To summarize more, I just had my choir sing a piece, based on a wonderful famous prayer, but by a rather similar composer to the one mentioned above...if you didn't know the composer, you would think, "oh, what a lovely, reverent, song!" but if (most of you who read this blog...) knew the composer, you'd think, "yech! him again!"
but is that really fair?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

reposted from NLM (because I'll never be able to find it again otherwise!)

So here is my list of the top ten musical unknowns of our day:

The music of the Mass is not of our choosing; it is not a matter of taste; it is not a glossy layer on top of a liturgy. Liturgical music is embedded within the structure of the liturgy itself: theologically, melodically, and historically.

Hymns are not part of the structure of Mass. Nothing in the Mass says: it is now time to sing a hymn of your choice. Hymns are permitted as replacements for what should be sung but only with reservations.

The sung parts of the Mass can be divided into three parts: the ordinary chants (which are stable from week to week), the proper chants (which change according the day), and the priests parts that include sung dialogues with the people.

The music of for the Mass is found in three books: the Kyriale (for the people), the Graduale (for the schola), and the Missale (for the priest).

To advocate Gregorian chant is not merely to favor Latin hymns over English ones, because chant hymns make up only a small portion of chant repertoire. It is to favor a sung Mass over a spoken one, and to favor the music of the Mass itself against substitutes.

Cognitive pedagogy is not the primary purpose of music, so, no, it is not important that all people gathered always and immediately "understand the words."

The music of Mass does not require an organist, pianist, guitar player, bongos, or microphones. It requires only the human voice, which is the primary liturgical instrument.

The Second Vatican Council was the first ecumenical council to decisively declare that chant has primacy of place: "Ecclesia cantum gregorianum agnoscit ut liturgiae romanae proprium: qui ideo in actionibus liturgicis, ceteris paribus, principem locum obtineat." (And ceteris paribus does not mean: unless you don't like it. It means even if chant cannot be sung because of poor skills or lack of resources, or whatever, it still remains an ideal.)

There is no contradiction between chant and participation. Vatican II hoped to see that vernacular hymnody would decrease and the sung Mass would increase. Full, conscience, active participation in the Mass means: it is up to the people to do their part to sing the parts of the Mass that belong to the people.

The first piece of papal legislation concerning music appeared in 95AD, by Pope St. Clement. It forbid profane music in liturgy and emphasized that Church is the place for holy music. All successive legislation has been a variation on that theme.

Verdi as secular music

Recently, I had a wonderful opportunity to sing in the chorus of Verdi's Requiem. It is a fabulous work of art...very exciting and dramatic...
There was a presentation before one of the performances, and the remark was jibingly made (is that a word?) about how Pope Pius X decreed (or whatever it's called) that this particular piece of music could not be used (performed) at Mass. (of course, the thrust behind that statement was probably something like, "how silly. The Church not allowing "Classical" music!")
but...perhaps, Verdi's Requiem as a piece of music IS very "showy," and definitely written in the popular style of that day and therefore NOT appropriate for Mass!
What is different in Pius X outlawing that from those of us who have current disdain for "popular style music" being used in church? (and we certainly think it should not be allowed!)
but then...where is the line to be drawn? Traditional Renaissance polyphony? (Croce) Baroque? (Bach) Classical? (Mozart, Beethoven-I'm not even sure who wrote Masses and who didn't) Romantic or later? (Verdi)

(ok, not sure if this post made much sense. It worked out in my head!)