Monday, September 29, 2008

Mara is...

...thinking that trying to plan the music selections for "All Souls Day" and "Dedication of the Lateran Basilica" is one of the more difficult things she has had to do for her job.
Too bad we can't just sing the Propers...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

If I ever get married...

...can I have the music for my wedding look and sound like this?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

reading through the archives...

I spent some time today going through the archives of St. P, including old bulletins from 1964-1968.
A most interesting time in the history of the Church.
Those of us who weren’t around for that time always wonder, “How exactly were the changes of Vatican II put in place? Those intended and those not? How did they go from reading in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy that the Latin language was to be preserved, and then 4 years later it appeared to be abolished?”
I found a few answers, at least those that were given at St. P (which was, notably, at the time in the Diocese of Detroit.)

I have chosen some pertinent excerpts from the bulletins of the time period, and included my notes on how the announcements or explanations have proved to be interesting.

I wasn’t able to do as full and detailed an examination as I wanted, but there was mention of the council occurring. The first notable bit from it was the inclusion of the “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” included on one side of the bulletin, beginning on April 4, 1964 and continuing. (The last bulletin I found was from May 31, 1964, but it only went to paragraph 82. I don’t know if the following bulletins were lost, or if there was a change in the format.) I made particular note of paragraph 36 in the May 3, 1964 edition, as saying Latin is to be preserved.

Continuing on…
Excerpt from 6/13/1965
“Liturgical Explanation: According to a recent letter from the Archdiocese, after the priest has said the prayers at the foot of the altar at the beginning of the Mass, “he should now go to the chair where he presides over the liturgy of the Word. The chair faces the congregation. He may however remain at the altar if circumstances so dictate.” Since circumstances are not dictating very much, the priest has been doing just this in recent weeks. The purpose of facing the people is to show that the priest is presiding over the entire ceremony, not just enduring it. Some priests have been known to claim that they do not enjoy staring at all those people. No doubt the people could claim much the same thing…and maybe with greater justification. Still—it brings priest and people closer together and shows more clearly that the priest is the presiding officer, the leader, or Master of Ceremonies, of all the goes on. This new way of doing things is not a hard and fast rule, so don’t be surprised if some priests do not do this.”
(that's it? and so it just happened?)

“Our church is operated on a hierarchical system, which means that direction is from above. Bishops are directed by the Pope; priests by their bishops; and finally, the people, by their pastors. For centuries this system has prevailed. The reactions have been varied. Some have welcomed direction and have always presumed that Mother Church knew best. Others have taken the defeatist attitude and said or implied that you can’t fight City Hall, so why try. Still others have been in silent rebellion.
Thanks to this present Vatican Council, this attitude is fast changing. If there is one startling result that is most evident coming from Vatican II, it is the fact that this is the ‘Era of the Layman.’ This does not mean that the old governing structure of the Church is going to be replaced by a Trusteeship in each Parish. But it DOES mean that in this era of a more educated Laity, there are certain areas where the know-how and the experience of the competent Layman can be of great service to the Church and the individual Parish.”
(note however, that we will still listen to our archbishop/archdiocese even when they contradict the council… as evidenced above and below.)

“For the first time since the days of the Apostles, our Church has seen fit to mitigate her regulations concerning the Lenten fast. This shows her existential outlook as a living organization. Just as customs, educational horizons, and personal conveniences have changed since those early days, so too, the Church tries to keep pace with the era in which She finds herself. What was considered as a standard penitential practice for a first century Christian would be looked upon as barbaric by a Catholic of today. Conversely, Lent of 1966 might well be considered as a mockery in the times of Sts. Paul and Timothy. Regardless of personal taste, the Lenten Season still retains the overall characteristics of PENANCE and ATONEMENT. The sincere Catholic welcomes Lent because it gives him an official time, with constant reminders, to make amends for his past excesses, and a period in which he can renew his fervor for things spiritual.”
(then goes on to describe the necessary Ash Wednesday and Good Friday fasting, almsgiving, and some prayer.)
(For the first time since the days of the Apostles??!!)

“Our Next Liturgical Change”
(describes the introduction of the bringing of the Elements for the Sacrifice to the Altar, at the same time as the offerings are brought to the Sanctuary. Apparently the Offertory Procession had recently been introduced.)
“Please try to enter into the spirit of this latest modification of our worship-pattern. The other changes have gone smoothly and you have accommodated yourselves to the Church’s wishes in an exemplary fashion. It is our hope that this latest revision will serve to make the Mass more meaningful and a new experience in the overall ideal of proper participation.”

(a survey had been taken with various questions. Some of the results are below, and answers to less interesting questions were included in later bulletins. I do not know how the views expressed at St. P reflected those of the general population—Was this particular church even in 1966 considered more “liberal” or “progressive” than other churches? I do not know. I suspect at least slightly.)
“Survey Results: (39 returned)
1. What do you think of the Vatican Council?
Waste of time…2
Other comments…2
No comment…2
2. What do you think of the New Liturgy?
Like it…32
Dislike it…3
No comment…1
3. Which action of the Council interested you most?
Relations with other religions…23
Revision of fasting laws…11
New rules about Mixed Marriages…17
Liturgical changes…9
Proposed changes on Birth Control…14
Greater role of the Layman…15”

“The History of the Mass:
The appearance of lay lectors and commentators in the sanctuary was one of the major reforms in the Mass that went into effect on Nov. 29, 1964, the First Sunday of Advent.
Each played a role recommended by the fathers of Vatican II and spelled out by the American bishops. The lector was assigned to read the scriptural parts of the Mass with the exception of the Gospel. The commentator supplied instruction and explained the Mass as it progressed, thus helping the faithful in their praying and singing. Another layman who assumed a role at this time was the leader of song, who developed and encouraged congregational singing, again in response to directives of Vatican II.
These laymen were all cautioned, however, that their function was a subordinate on and that the presiding officer at the Mass was the celebrant.”
(I do not know if certain excerpts such as this one—it appears to have been a column called “The History of the Mass,” were specific to this parish, or were included in a large number of bulletins.)

“The History of the Mass:
The final change-over to English for the Canon of the Mass came with relative suddenness on Oct. 22, 1967. The development, of course, had been foreshadowed by the instructions from Vatican II and by action of the American bishops five months earlier when they ordered several other changes and simplifications in the Mass.
But most speculation had been that for such far-reaching change the First Sunday of Advent would be chosen, just as it had been earlier for the 1964 changes in the Mass. But then the leader of the American bishops, in Rome for the Synod last September, received final Vatican approval for the English text of the Canon—and the change was ordered for Sunday, Oct. 22.
Bishop John F. Dearden made the announcement that from that date on it would be mandatory to say the entire Mass in English, adding that only missal inserts would be necessary to accommodate the change.”
(emphasis added) (so, we do listen to our bishop, wrong as he may be…)

“The History of the Mass:
‘Religious singing by the people is to be skillfully fostered, so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and requirements of the rubrics.’
That was one of the things Vatican II had to say about music in the Mass. And then, in March, 1967, Pope Paul issued an ‘Instruction on Music in the Liturgy,’ to become effective on Pentecost Sunday that year. It urged more singing in services, authorized singing of ancient Latin hymns in modern languages and recommended use of instruments native to different countries and cultures.
While cautioning that ‘Anything done in churches, even if only for experimental purposes, which is unbecoming to the holiness of the place, the dignity of the liturgy and the devotion of the faithful must be avoided,’ the document did not specifically prohibit the use of blues, spirituals and even jazz.”
(so therefore anything that wasn’t specifically prohibited can be done?
And it was just downhill from there, folks…)

I am not necessarily condemning all of this, my primary purpose in putting it up here is to give examples of how changes in the Mass were conveyed to the people, and their response.

I would LOVE to go through the bulletins typing up a thorough examination, and quoting everything that was said about the liturgical changes, even bulletins from other churches!
They thought they were so...innovative.
but now it's just...ancient history.
I wonder what they'll think of it in another 40 years? a blip on the liturgical radar screen?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

25 Sunday A (last Sunday)

Prelude: Andantino (C. Franck, ed. Callahan)
Picardy (Al Roberts)
Open: For the Beauty (Dix)
(10:30 Entrance Antiphon thingy in English)
Offertory: All Creatures (Lasst Uns Erfreuen) In C! ha!
Communion: Communion Antiphon (whatever it was)
At that First Eucharist (Unde Et Memores)
10:30 Let All Mortal Flesh (Picardy)
Sending: Heart of Christ (Stuttgart)
Postlude: Toccata (David Crouse)

26 Sunday A (upcoming)

Prelude: Adagio (Mozart, K 356, ed. Callahan)
Entrance: To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King (Ich Glaub An Gott)
(10:30 Entrance Antiphon in English to a Psalm Tone)
Offertory: Be Thou My Vision (Slane)
(10:30 To Jesus Christ)
Sanctus: (tentative) teach congregation English chant arr. St. Meinrad
(any ideas for a matching Mem. Accl? I'm thinking of setting "When We Eat..." to the tone I've been using for the Responsorial Psalms: do-re-fa...)
Communion: Memento Verbi
Alleluia, Sing to Jesus (Hyfrydol)
10:30 Be Thou My Vision (arr. Shephard)
Sending: Jesus Shall Reign (Duke Street)
Postlude: Fugato (Meert, ed. Callahan)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

bulletin article

I have been turning over in my mind for several weeks, a possible bulletin article.
This particular one will be in response to the occasional comment that I get:
"Mara, I really appreciate everything you've done here, but sometimes the songs are just so high, I can't really sing along..."

I know that some of my organ friends will have a lot to say on this issue...
I am going to now use this space to formulate my thoughts.

Objectives in writing this article:
-Demonstrate that it's not my fault that the songs seem high, but apologize that they seem that way for many people
-Explain why they seem high
-Explain what I as the organist occasionally do to lessen this burden upon the congregation

How I will do this:
-Explain how the SATB system of hymn writing works, and how we as Catholics in the congregation just sing the "melody line" which is actually for the sopranos
(at which point I can make a shameless plug for people to join the choir-- so they will always be singing a part that is comfortably in their range!)
-Point out that since people do have different ranges of singing (as demonstrated above) what is "too high" for one person is "just right" for someone else--perhaps I could even give examples, like Fr. G as opposed to the Deacon! tee hee. Or perhaps that would be unnecessary/innappropriate... :-)
-Explain how I often deliberately play the hymn in a lower key, either one that is written out somewhere besides the hymnal, or I spend hours practicing transposing it by sight. (ok, well, maybe not quite hours...but, what I would give for a little knob on my organ! Oh well, let's call it my "ongoing musical education.")

Sometimes I'm not sure exactly what people mean when they say things like, "your voice is too high to sing with," but I kind of wonder if they mean it just sounds high, (because it is usually men who say things like that,) or if they mean something other than that. I mean, because like if a man was singing from the choir loft, would they feel more comfortable singing with him?

What I might want to avoid:
-Discussing how much of the complaints about music being "too high" actually is just a result of people being either lazy or having untrained voices.
But maybe if I told them they had untrained voices, I could offer a class on how to sing better, and they might come! (or not.)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

even more on solfege...

I just want to say, that someone did a google search for "what is the point of solfege in college aural" and clicked on my blog.
That makes me laugh (I have a sitemeter, so I can see things like that.)
Oh, how I wish I could talk to that poor college student...
And, I wonder if my post answered any of his questions!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I had the strange experience as I was studying aural music theory in college, that I began to think of every melody that I heard in solfege. You know, "do, re, mi." Instead of having songs stuck in my head, like most people occasionally get, I would hear a melody--and find myself singing it mentally to solfege! I was only sitting in an aural music theory class twice a week for an hour, and I did struggle in the class, but I passed, so I'm not sure how my mind got so attached to solfege. I would even play little mind games with myself, "wait Mara, what if this melodic phrase actually started on DO instead of SOL; is there really a way to tell for certain?" Like, I see how that can sometimes be applied to it "so-la-do," or "do-re-fa?" And I hated it! Just like how everyone else hates it when they get a song stuck in their head! It must have been for 2 solid years that I am pretty sure I was constantly hearing solfege. Gosh, it was annoying. At some point, however, it has thankfully dwindled away. I can't give any sort of precise date, but I will say that it now only happens when I think somewhat consciously about it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Instrumental Recessional...

Fr. G and I have spent a bit of time recently discussing the pros and cons of having an "instrumental recessional" rather than a closing song. I certainly think it is more appropriate and wish we could do it always: there isn't much of a point to a closing song, very few people probably actually want to stay and sing a few verses!
Fr. G had seen it done elsewhere, so he has been bugging me to try to play some loud and fancy organ piece for a while, but every time he brought it up I would try to explain all my reasons for not wanting to do it; mainly, that once you let people know that it's "ok" to leave right after the priest does, then they always will. (of course, I am aware that it is permitted for them to leave then, it is just rude if they are supposed to be singing!.) He doesn't/didn't think that will be an issue, so we will see if more people leave early in coming weeks!
I finally agreed to play something this weekend, as it seemed appropriate on such a great feast.
But I was able to articulate a couple days ago the real reason that it made me nervous--and that is because I am afraid people will say I am showing off!
I have asked a couple people, and they all seemed to like it. My only regret is that at none of the Masses was I actually able to turn around or look in my mirror and see what was going on, as in, were people confused? Did they turn around and look up at me? How long did it take for the priest and servers to leave? How long after that did everyone leave?
So, we shall probably do it again, maybe for the next major feast (All Souls?) or even sooner.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Prelude: O Mensch, Bewein Dein Sunde Gross (or whatever it's called. the "best instrumental piece ever written by JSB)
Entrance: "Let Us Glory in the Cross" (English to Gloria Patri tone, 10:30 am Mass)
Alleluia, Alleluia (Hymn to Joy; other Masses)
Gifts: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (this is the "do-do-re-mi" one; can't remember the tune name. Not sure how many people will know this...we'll try it.)
Communion: Per Signum Crucis (chant)
Pange Lingua (chant, all the verses in Latin)
If time: Glory Be to Jesus (Viva Viva Jesu) 10:30
NO "closing hymn"
instead: either Widor Toccata (if I can play it well in 48 hours...unlikely) or Vierne last 2 pages of Carillon

Saturday, September 06, 2008

the singing on Marian Feasts

I meant to write about this a couple weeks ago, as in, right after the Feast of the Assumption, but of course I am not getting around to it until now.
I made an observation on that particular feast day, about how wonderful the singing is at Marian Feasts.
For two reasons:
It really is pretty much just the "good Catholics" who will go to Mass on a Thursday evening--holy day or not! And those are the Catholics who are more likely, period, to ...sing!
and then the songs we sing for Mary...they just LOVE.
They will belt out "Immaculate Mary" and "Hail Holy Queen" like no other! (I mean, it's wonderful! I love it!)
And I made another interesting (but really not surprising at all) observation that I would like to point out:
The singing at the evening Mass (contrasted with the 8:30 am Mass) was like...the Mass of MEN!
Of course, the 8:30 am Mass was full of women and children, but all the working fathers went to 7pm.
And they sang their hearts out.
it was a beautiful sound.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sancta Missa

I returned on Friday night from the Sancta Missa workshop for the laity in Chicago. After normal Masses as well as THREE weddings over the weekend, and trying to move in between all that, I have finally settled into my new apartment, and now have a couple minutes to write about the conference (before my first choir rehearsal of the school year! yay! say a prayer it goes well and loads of people come!)

I was surprised that there were only 12 lay people at the conference, but it made it nice so we kind of got to all know eachother, an eclectic mix of those who regularly attend the Extraordinary Form, and those who don't even have one offered anywhere near them.

I was there deliberately to become familiar with exactly how music can be incorporated into this form of the Mass, and by trying to be more acquainted with it, because we WILL be offering it at St. P in the near future!
So I was thrilled that we got to attend both a low mass in the morning, and high mass every afternoon. We had excellent lectures about the history of the Mass and other aspects pertaining to reverence and the extraordinary form and such. I think I was the only person there who was mainly interested in the music.
I was very pleased especially with the couple of Canons Regular of St. John Cantius who were there, and their experience with the Mass as well as knowledge in answering all of my many questions!
I certainly feel like I have a pretty good grasp on it, and the musical aspects, as well as now having a much greater appreciation for exactly how much effort Fr. G gets to put into learning everything!

For me, it was also interesting to talk with the brothers of St. John Cantius, as they actually sing the Liturgy of Hours, and hearing their knowledge about the different chants that are in the Liber Usualis, that I would otherwise never become acquainted with!
For example: I would never know about "O Quam Suavis Est" from first vespers, Corpus Christi...the Sanctus from Missa de Angelis is based on it! (I think.)
I had never really heard "Ecce Panis Angelorum" (from the end of Corpus Christi Sequence) either.
And then a lovely, melismatic Ave Maria from the Offertory for "Feasts of the BVM"
and "Adoremus in Aeterum," which has a neat little refrain that people actually could learn from "After the Blessing" at Benediction.

Maybe I'm way behind, and everyone else already knows these, but it was pretty sweet! and that's exactly what I'm trying to learn!