Tuesday, April 29, 2008

a few more thoughts on the Installation

well, the bishop was installed today. I am pretty excited, although I am trying to not be TOO excited since I've heard about so many bishops who people thought were going to be so great and...weren't.
Since I was in the choir, we were in the back of the church, and when he knocked on the door at the beginning of the service and came in, I just felt kind of this rush of emotion, like kind of like how I feel about the pope. like, yes, this man is going to be my shepherd/father. and a good one. hopefully. My first glimpse of him, just a few feet away, he just seemed so...energetic, happy, excited, almost radiant.

My only additional thoughts on the music have to do with the proper prayers.
(the Opening Prayer, Prayer after Communion, etc.)
He sang all of them! I definitely have to point that out to Fr. G, since he's been doing that a bit more recently. (speaking of which, when he gets back from retreat I am going to look more seriously into finding someone he can take a few voice lessons from...yeah...)
But the strangest thing was that MD found it necessary to conduct the choir for the "It is right to give Him thanks and praise..." etc. parts. I mean, all the way down to the "Amen's" after the bishop prayed the prayers. (the one-pitch "Amen.") Is it that the congregation has never had to sing those parts with our previous bishop? I just want to point out to him that by its very nature no directing is required for congregational chant. Like it was strange how for the "Amen's" he found it necessary to cut off the choir, which sounded particularly odd since the congregation obviously wasnt watching for the cut-off, and so they were still singing after the abrupt choral cut-off!

and a final thought.
I'm going to set aside (for a few sentences) any humility I might have ever had and say how I think I single-handedly prevented a musical disaster.
I was looking through the program before Mass and noticed that All Creatures of Our God and King only had 6 verses, and of course as I wrote yesterday I knew that the choir was planning on singing 7! Rather than bother MD, as he was pretty busy and I wasn't sure if like a ton of people had told him or something, I pointed it out to his wife, an alto, and I'm sure she told him, and then he told us a few minutes later that we wouldn't be singing verse 6 (of our music.)
So basically, the congregation would have been singing verse 7 while we were singing verse 6. that would have been interesting.
(pat on back)

Monday, April 28, 2008

a critique on the music for the installation of a bishop...before it even happens :-)

I'm singing in the choir for the installation of our new bishop tomorrow, and I thought I'd post a summary of what we rehearsed yesterday with the whole choir. There's about 80-100 people singing, and a brass quintet (?) and timpani. Overall it was cool, and I am impressed in general with the music, especially considering the resources MD is working with (this huge choir of mostly un-trained church choir singers who barely or not at all read music, and very little rehearsal time.) I shall try to keep my observations to the factual as to not offend anyone :-) but of course this is my own blog and I am entitled to my own opinion. Also keep in mind that on some things I am not quite certain as to how they will go tomorrow, as this is obviously a future event.

Opening: All Creatures of Our God and King, all 7 verses (hey, we've got to get 100+ priests down the aisle!) neat, alternating brass verses with organ
O God Beyone All Praising (I love this song, minus the high notes.)
Then I guess the song will stop and the new bishop does some ritual of knocking on the church door and stuff, and then we continue the same tune with other words of:)
O Spirit All-Embracing

Gloria: same one for Chrism Mass. enough said.

Psalm: arranged by MD (diocesan music director guy.) rather long refrain, (three lines on my sheet,) at first I thought "what the heck is this?" (given the length, and it should be transposed down a third--it goes from middle e, to HIGH Eb! wtf? and the organ accompaniment was rather strange-large, very blocky, fast chords.) Something about it made me think of the "Te Deum," and then I looked a little closer and was strangely suspicious that it WAS based on the Te Deum! I wanted to ask, but I didn't want to show off if I was right, or embarrass MD if that was unintentional... (the melody is basically la-do-re-do-re-mi-fa-mi-re, do-me-fa-me-fa-so-le-so-fa, with varying rhythms.) I'm sure the first phrase is just like the Te Deum, but I'm not sure about the second, and I don't want to bother checking right now. I think it would work a lot better if the organ accompaniment were more sustained, but I think the organist might have been sight-reading, and MD seemed to be working with her (from my far vantage point,) more on the voicing, and at some point they came up with a more sustained stringy sound, that will be interesting to see how it sounds tomorrow.
*I wonder if MD knows that our new bishop will actually CARE about having the correct text for the Psalm responses, and so can't use just any one for the normal GIA repertoire! ha. or maybe he actually thought he could write a better arrangement? (personally, after hearing it, I wasn't impressed, which is why I am suspicious that it is the former reason.)

Acclamation: (see Chrism Mass, but we are singing "Alleluia," instead of course.)

Trilingual Intercessions: good idea, it seems to be pulled off well.

Acclamation for Welcoming a New Pastor: Messenger of Christ (Proulx): pretty cool, some modern chords and interesting harmonies. I'm surprised that this volunteer choir was able to pull it off as well as they did (I had to miss the rehearsal where they learned it cuz of my grandma, so I'm not sure what the learning process was like...) it's based on an Ancient Celtic Prayer. (I love Richard Proulx and most things that he writes! I hope I can meet him someday!)

Offertory: (not sure exactly what will be here, but the only thing I don't know where it goes is this): Tu Es Petrus (by Clemens non Papa ~1555) Of course the new bishop requested this. but, it's interesting hearing a four-part polyphonic piece that is supposed to be sung by a small schola, being sung with 90 people! I'm sure most people in the choir are not at ALL familiar with this style of music (sadly,) so it seems to kind of drag and stuff cuz everyone is kind of hesitating and uncertain. I am sure it would have sounded better if he had asked for a smaller choir of people who were more confident singers to just sing this, but I am also glad that the larger choir is getting exposure to this style of music. (an interesting note: yesterday when we were rehearsing this, the timpani was playing and I thought, "good grief, I knew they would find a way to ruin it..." and then the timpani player questioned, "my part says double forte!" and MD was like, "um...well that's cuz you don't play on this piece...!" [phew!]
normally I am totally opposed to drums for our western Roman Catholic liturgy, but I thought yesterday that in general the timpani sounded cool and appropriate on the grand hymns, and I do think it's the only kind of drums that work at Mass.)

Mass of Creation: (of course...but, good grief...enough said.)

Lamb of God: can't remember if they did this one for the Chrism Mass. It's by Howard Hughes, and it says it is based on the opening theme of "Te Deum."For some reason we have to sing tropes every time except the first and last "Lamb of God." I tongue-in-cheek pointed out at one rehersal the little not in the front of the piece that talks about no one is allowed to rearrange the words...hehe... I wonder what the bishop will think of that, (in addition to I'm pretty sure it's totally forbidden somewhere to add tropes.) would it really be so terrible for us to sing "Lamb of God" five times rather than "Son of God, Paschal Lamb, blah blah..." What's the reason? Are they afraid people will get bored?! I'd think there would be MORE congregational participation if people got to keep singing the same words!

Communion: O God, You Search Me (by B. Farrell, text from Psalm 139.) not too shabby. nice, singable melody, nothing heretical in the text. (actually, I'm not totally sure where in the liturgy this piece will go. this is just a guess.)
Amen. El Cuerpo De Cristo: ugh. see Chrism Mass.
Gift of Finest Wheat: Not a terrible song, it's just over-done.

Closing: Holy God We Praise Thy Name (with 5 verses!) apparently the new bishop requested this particular version of it. yes. I like him already.

Friday, April 25, 2008

6 Easter A

possibly preludes on Puer Nobis and improv
Open: The Strife is O'er (Victory)
Offertory: That Easter Day (Puer Nobis)
Communion: Non Vos Relinquam Orphanos
Easter Alleluia (O Filii et Filiae)
Choir: Sing a New Song (arr. SJMP)
Close: I Know that My Redeemer Lives (Duke Street)
Postlude on Duke Street by someone I can't remember

Sunday, April 20, 2008

a few random thoughts

my grandma died last night. please pray for her soul. Isn't that so wonderful that as Catholics we actually have hope that our prayers might have some effect after a loved one dies? We don't just have to sit on our booties and think, "oh, well that stinks. I hope they made it to heaven." we have a TON of recourse to God's mercy!

I love it when Fr. G closes his hymnal after the 2nd or 3rd verse of the opening hymn like, "that's it, we're done for now. I hope Mara wasn't planning on playing any more verses..."

Why are Mary songs so schmaltzy? seriously, all of them. The only couple that are even acceptable (not counting traditional chants) are Immaculate Mary and Hail Holy Queen (IMHO.) (did I blog about this before?) Bring Flowers of the Rarest, O Mary Our Mother, many others I'm forgetting at the moment (even O Sanctissima!) are really poorly written. (The 1940s harmonizations don't help either, I suppose...)
BUT certain people are so attached to these songs (as well as not being musically literate enough to be critical, admittedly not their fault,) that they fail to realize that these songs ARE the Haugen/Haas cheese of pre-VII!

People keep asking me what I am doing next year/fall. Like, I'm expected to be doing something terribly exciting, as if I'm not now? Let it be known: my life is what it is. I am a real adult with a real job.

oh yes, also please pray for my hand/wrist. I have this weird hurting thing going on, which has gotten worse since Wednesday. not so good for an organist to have strange things going on with joints/tendons and the like...
I think tomorrow I will buy some sort of bandage and wrap it up so I at least don't move it much for a few days and see if that makes a difference. (ouch. I dont think I should be typing...)

Saturday, April 19, 2008

5 Easter A

Prelude: Christ Lag in Todesbanden (Zachau)
Christ Est Erstanden (J.K.F.Fischer)
Open: Jesus Christ is Risen Today (Easter Hymn)
Offertory: Christ the Lord is Risen (Llanfair)
Communion: (whatever the proper is, then)
Alleluia, Alleluia, Give Thanks (whether or not I get any complaints will be a true indicator of the general progression of the liturgy at St. P. over the past 2 years since I've been here...)
Close: Christ is Alive (Old Hundredth)
Postlude: Cristo Vive (Robert B. Farlee)

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Psalm Settings

I'm pretty sure I've written before about the difficulty in finding good Psalm settings for Mass. At my place of employment, they must be only the one approved translation (I know I've had discussions about this before with different ones of you who read this; I do not consider myself an expert, I only do what I'm told unless I have reasons to dispute it!)
I have had varying success occasionally using settings from another church in the city, but I have received complaints that some of them are "too contemporary/modern" sounding. (I wish people knew how to describe music better! I suspect they complain more when I do the exact same setting on the keyboard rather than the organ!) The settings are also somewhat difficult to teach someone to sing who doesn't read music, since all the verses are a little different, so I usually just sing them.
One solution I regularly use is the Psalms in "Respond and Acclaim" by OCP. While they are accused of being boring or not having a melody that "goes anywhere," how much can you really do with an 8-word sentence (also that you hope the congregation can remember how to sing after only hearing once--brevity IS the key here!)
But my main complaint with these settings is what seems to me an excessive use of the minor mode "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord...boo hoo hoo..." so for the past couple weeks I have been simply playing the minor mode ones in major, and they sound great! There is usually an interesting modal cross-over thingy that actually can sound really cool depending on how I sharp the 7th, and is what makes the setting listen-able!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

3 Easter A

Prelude: Allein Gott in der Hoeh (by Zachau then one by Vetter)
Open: Good Christians All (Gelobt Sei Gott)
Gifts: That Easter Day (Puer Nobis)
Communion: Surrexit Dominus
Alleluia, Sing to Jesus (Hyfrydol)
Choir: Alleluia, Christ is Risen! (Stuttart, arr. Kirkby)
Recessional: Christ is Alive (Old Hundredth)
Postlude: Allein Gott (by Walther)


I often reference this, and assume that my regular readers totally agree with me, but I forget that not everyone keeps up to date on everything I or the New Liturgical Movement posts!
I just posted a similar comment, but as most people don't go back and read the comments of articles from a while ago, I figured it was good enough to make a whole entry.

Of course it's alright once in a while to mention "we are the body of Christ," but when the social and cultural implications behind that--as in, the entire past 40 years since Vatican II--has been focused on WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST, rather than Christ Himself is the Body of Christ, TRULY present in the Eucharist, to the point of today where 90% of "Catholics" DENY the Real Presence...and well, why shouldn't they, when they have been spoon-fed "theology" and songs that focus mostly on US rather than God for the past 30 years!

I addition to the theology of these songs (the majority of songs written since VII, to make a generalization,) is their attempt along with other aspects of churches and the Mass to make everything that is sacred, banal.
We carpet our churches so they feel like our living rooms, rather than feeling like we ought to reverently tip-toe around because our heels click on the stone or wood floor! We have gotten rid of beautiful stained glass and replaced it with florescent lighting so we feel like we're at work. We have replaced a mysterious, sacred language with the language that we use in our banal, everyday conversation. Most churches rarely use incense, which to me is one of the strongest reminders of being in a sacred place which is different than the rest of our lives. We have cushioned the pews and brought in video screens so we can feel like we are cozy at home. And most importantly for this conversation, we have made the music into that like which we listen to on the radio and go to rock concerts to hear, and attempted to shovel 1500+ years of tradition down the drain.
All of this in attempt to eliminate anything the smells, feels, or sounds like reverence and sacredness, anything which is and SHOULD be different from our everyday lives.
I am quite convinced that the songs from composers since then have contributed to the downhill slide of cultural Catholicism. (see particularly my mention above about WHY most Catholics don't believe in the Real Presence.) But those of my generation have realized that they were denied something growing up. We have realized that we don't WANT Mass to be just like everything else in our lives. We have realized that things which are supposed to be sacred OUGHT to be different from everyday, banal things.

And Catholics (especially the young ones!) are starting to ask for music which is truly sacred to be brought back. And they will get it.

And if you either deny that, or think it's just a passing fad, just look at the seminarians in most dioceses. They are awesome, and pretty generally agree with me. Therefore, I will never be working for a schmuck! (for lack of a better word. :-) ) yay!


Here is an article written by a music director friend for his church's bulletin. It is reprinted with permission. I particularly like the last paragraph, but it builds up well towards it.

Christos anesti! Christ is risen!

Alithos anesti! He is Risen indeed, alleluia!

You may remember a priest who visited last year in the Easter season to ask support for his charity. You may also recall that, in the course of his homily, he asserted that Catholics are less joyful about the resurrection than people in other Christian traditions. That is quite an offensive claim to make, and is often made against any liturgical church. However, I noticed he rushed out during the closing hymn and remained silent during the Latin Gloria at the late Mass. The Gloria is one of the most joyful texts in the Mass and the closing hymn was no doubt a festive Easter tune filled with alleluias – where is the joy in shunning this music?

This Easter at our late Mass, like last year, we are privileged to sing the ancient “Gloria” chant in the original Latin. This is the most familiar of the chant settings, nicknamed “Mass of the Angels”. The beauty of this Gloria has inspired countless saints through the ages. I have no doubt the founders of this parish intended that music’s beauty to compliment the beauty of our church.

Some may object, as a matter of opinion, that they do not find chant to be joyful. I’m reminded of my brother, a Marine who occasionally attends the evangelical ministry at his base. At first it was very strange for him, accustomed to the Mass, but eventually he came to like the upbeat music and high emotion. However, one day in discussing church with him he confessed to me, “Sometimes I want to get really happy and praise the Lord, but a lot of the time I’m too worn out to get all that joyful. It makes me feel like a bad Christian.” What he was beginning to understand is that contemporary worship idioms are designed to create joy, not to express it. Contrarily, the Church’s ancient liturgies give us a place to express our joy in the Gloria, to praise in the Sanctus, to beg forgiveness in the Kyrie and Confiteor. These parts of the Mass do not manufacture emotion, but give us an outlet for the soul’s disposition towards God. True, sometimes we may not feel the Easter joy, but that does not make our alleluia any less pleasing to God, since it is the soul which sings and not only the intellect. Thus let us truly rejoice that the Gloria has been restored in this great Easter season, and sing our joy with the Church!