Saturday, March 29, 2008

Poor Divine Mercy Sunday...

It always gets the shaft.
Every year; year after year.
Such a great feast day, and yet, for us church musicians at least, it lies in the shadow of the 1st Sunday of Easter, and as a result, the congregation feels it!
We are planning so fervently for Holy Week and Easter prior to the 1st Sunday, and then after Easter Sunday we are recovering from that, that we end up neglecting almost any musical planning for the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Leaving me in a position every year (as I am now,) of trying to figure out what songs to do at Mass 45 minutes before it starts. :-)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Chrism Mass

So the Chrism Mass absolutely surpassed my expectations.
Awhile ago the office had gotten something in the mail saying we had to supply 3 oil bearers. It was decided that I could be one of them, and we picked two other people.
I thought that every church in the diocese had to have a few people carry up a little teeny jar of oil or something.
nope, for some reason (maybe cuz we're the oldest in the region?) St. P is the church from our whole entire region! (the county.) sweetness.
So, I carried up the giant jar of wonderful smelling oil in front of all those people (that was very heavy. but i did not drop it!)
I don't even know how to describe what I felt then, as the bishop blessed this oil for it to become sacred chrism, and I thought about all of the people that the oil will be used for this upcoming year. wow!
and having ALL of the priests in the whole diocese extend their hand over my oil (and that of the other 5 people,) was like...the apostolic power was like incredible!

now, to critique the music...
(I try to come in to things like this with an "open mind," also knowing in advance that I will probably hate the music, and therefore to not let it distract me. I succeeded.)
Judging from the front cover, the music should have been ideal, there was a copy of some chant "O Redemptor, sume carmen..." on it, but that doesn't mean that the congregation got to sing a lick of what is supposed to hold a "pride of place" for Catholic church music!
Opening: Baptized in Living Waters (Aurelia) I've already written how irritated I was the I couldn't watch the procession if I was singing. Text: all about "us," finishing with "us" being empowered by the Spirit.
Gloria: by Peter Jones. Used insertions of the "Glory to God" refrain. It was so neat, it like made me want to get up and dance! Such an ideal piece of music for...Mass? just kidding.
Psalm: by John Schiavone, Psalm 89 "Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord." By itself, it is a decent Psalm. (decent melody, easy to sing, not irreverent,) however, it's in the rather unusual time signature of 4/2. I observed that when the organist (or cantor, I can't remember,) did it the first time, they cut short a dotted-half-note rhythm. Whenever the congregation sang it, they instinctively tried to correct the rhythm, but were almost fighting the organ. it was strange. I sat there trying to figure out who was right, and the organist/cantor were definitely wrong.
Gospel Accl: "Praise and Honor to You etc" by GIA, no other attributions. It was in 6/8 (which I tend to find as a warning flag for music that is going to be goofy in church. Celtic Alleluia, anyone?) but it had a neat way of raising the "Praise and honor to you" part 3 times within every response of it, that was very natural to sing.
I'm not familiar with what is technically supposed to be sung while the oils are being brought up, they did "O Redeemer receive the song of those who sing you praise" as a refrain thingy by J. Chepponis, but I was otherwise very distracted and didn't listen to that part.
The choir sang a neat arrangement of Ubi Caritas at the Offertory (by Proulx, of course,) but there was certainly no invitation for the congregation to join in on the easy "Ubi Caritas" refrain. I think it involved handbells also.
Mass of Creation, of course. Interesting that this really is the one Mass that EVERY Catholic knows. I wonder what will happen when the translation changes? Like, what the heck am I gonna use at weddings and funerals? (not that Mass of Creation perfectly follows the text ANYHOW!)
I think we sang the Our Father that everyone knows. I only think this cuz I remember that the bishop did a very goofy singing of the part before "For the kingdom..." but speaking of which, does anyone know where what the priest is supposd to sing there can be found? What is transcribed in the Sacramentary is NOT what everyone knows!
Communion: Amen. El Cuerpo de Cristo by Schiavone. (I didn't sing because of course I wanted to be praying instead of singing!) I wonder for how many people there spanish is actually a first language... (actually, now that I really look at the words, they are pretty terribly focused on "us.")
followed by "Take and Eat" by Joncas. I admit I've used the at St. P before, but not recently. it's great for really long Communion processions, which of course this was. It is totally theologically sound, minus the "voice of God" problem, and it even speaks of "body and blood" rather than "bread and wine."
contrasted with the closing song, "We are One in Christ" by Chepponis (good grief, you'd think we only HAD 4 people who have ever written Catholic music!) which, um, not only focused almost completely on "we," but loved to talk about the "bread of life," with of course no mention of how this is actually the Body of Christ. What a waste of a wonderful melody, "Thaxted." However, I don't think I found it as awful as FG did, it's not like there was any actual heresy in any of the songs.

I wonder how long it will take for things to change musically in this little diocese beginning with an "L," in the middle of a state whose initials are "MI" once we get our new bishop...

speaking of which, I've signed up to sing at his installation at the end of April. They didn't say what music we would be singing, but half the reason I want to is to just find out!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Triduum A

Holy Thursday
Open: The Head that Once Was Crowned with Thorns (is crowned with glory now) to the tune Morning Song. It's actually listed in the book under Easter, but it talks enough about the "crowned with thorns part," I almost wouldn't want to use it during Easter and thought it was pretty appropriate for Holy Thursday, but I'd be interested to hear other feedback from those who were there or know the text.
Feet Washing: Wondrous Love
At that First Eucharist
Glory be to Jesus (Viva Viva Jesu)
Gifts: Where Charity and Love Prevail
Communion: Hoc Corpus
Humbly We Adore Thee (Adoro Te Devote)
Choir: Ave Verum (chant, with organ)
Transfer of Eucharist: Pange Lingua (4 verses English, then all in Latin)

Good Friday (all a cappella)
Veneration of the Cross: O Sacred Head
Reproaches (from the Sacramentary) I think this went well, next year will be better. it was "familiar" to some people, but probably some had never heard it before.
Glory Be to Jesus (Viva Viva Jesu)
My Song is Love Unknown (Love Unknown)
Were You There
Communion: Ah, Holy Jesus (Herzliebster Jesu) I'm surprised how many people didn't know this one. I thought it was very common. Next year I will incorporate it more during Lent.
Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs (by R. Holtz)
Sing My Tongue (Picardy)

Easter Vigil
a bunch of Psalms
Gloria (Lee)
Litany of the Saints (Becker, arranged to include "Saint" and real Saints)
Vidi Aquam
Gifts: Christ the Lord (Llanfair)
Communion: Pascha Nostrum
Alleluia, Sing To Jesus
(Easter Alleluia was also done on Sunday with verses, I think arr. by Haugen?)
Close: The Strife is O'er
Postlude: Llanfair arr. by somebody in the Augsburg Organ collection

(Easter Morning similar, including Jesus Christ is Risen today and Sing with all the Saints)

Monday, March 24, 2008

it's over!

and it was mostly wonderful.
Everything from St. Matthew Passion starting an hour late on Friday, to all of the wonderful Triduum and Easter liturgies.
I just slept for 12 hours. wooee...!
There's so much to write about that I haven't gotten a chance to over the past week. I mean, SO much... (I might write more about some of these later.)

-Complaints on the Psalm I did on Palm Sunday, in that it sounds too "modern/contemporary." I have been told (I think,) that I am not to use it again. BUT, many other people have said it was so beautiful it almost moved them to tears! so who wins? I shall definitely revisit this one with my boss... I wish people knew how to describe music better. Was it the piano instead of organ that made it sound that way? Or the use of the cello? I might have to write a bulletin article explaining that since the Responsorial Psalm IS such a modern invention (as opposed to the gradual,) there simply isn't truly traditional arrangements of it.

-I went the the diocesan Chrism Mass and carried up the Sacred Chrism (er, well, I guess it wasn't sacred when I was actually carrying it up, but I guess it was by the time I was finished. :-) ) I intend to write more later about what a profound and moving experience it was (MUCH more than I expected,) as well as my intricate thoughts concerning the every little bit of music at this cathedral which is supposed to be an example to the rest of the diocese. (ha.) Particularly I will write about how cool it was to watch every single priest in the diocese walk up to the altar, two by two, but, oh wait, you couldn't watch if you were singing the opening hymn!

-I might post my music for all of the liturgies, which might interest some of you. I used worship aids this year for Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday, which enabled me to a use a couple beautiful songs that weren't in the hymnal.

-I guess I could write about St. Matthews, but there's not much to say. I can usually deal with a 3-hour performance, but after sitting under the hot lights on a bleacher with no back for 45 minutes before it even started, I was ready to GO two hours into the performance! It was still beautiful. I'm sure I shall never forget it, and I certainly hope I shall sing it again!

-I want to write more on active participation. Contrasting, the people sitting dumbly in their seats at 8 am on Easter Sunday (and how I could be thinking, "can't we just be singing all of the propers in Latin? They wouldn't care, they're not singing anyhow!) contrasting that with what their active participation should be if they are actually praying/listening to what's being sung.
There's more than just sitting while something is being sung, but that takes effort--as does singing!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Spy Wednesday!

and has any other music directors/choir directors ever noticed how in some versions of the Bible, a lot of of the Psalms begin with the note, "To the choirmaster." and thought to yourself, "oh my goodness! This Psalm is really for ME!"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

today and this week

today went quite well, I believe. I hired a fabulous cello player because I had a special cello part for the Psalm and a song the choir sang. (he was amazing. we're talking Eastman and Interlochen...) and then the choir did fabulously on the Glory Be to Jesus. all went better than I had dared to hope, which points in a good direction for this week, as we will be doing both of the choral pieces again in the upcoming days.
After thinking and praying more about this upcoming week, I have been reminded that of course all I can do is trust in God. what a relief that is!

Friday, March 14, 2008

a slight feeling of panic

I know I often push the limits with my choir. As in, "yeah, I know we only have one rehearsal left, and then I'm really counting on the 10-20 minutes that I can get people there before Mass, but I'm trusting that we'll do ok on this song."
and we usually do.
But this Holy Week?
a combination of Easter coming early and literally surprising everyone, Mara taking a conveniently timed vacation 3 weeks ago and completely falling behind a week in everything, the annual problem of Holy Thursday falling on a Thursday and us having to scramble to find a replacement choir rehearsal time, and a variety of circumstances such as people being gone and our parish mission persuading me to cancel yesterday's normal rehearsal leaves me...relying a LOT on what people remember from last year!
and as far as the choir goes, we lost 2 people, and gained one (since last year,) for a grand total of...two less people who would have known the music, and one person who doesn't know any of the music. and to put that into perspective, there are about 7 people signed up right now to sing at the Easter Vigil, and exactly 2 for Easter morning. this shall be interesting.
And what exactly have we rehearsed recently?
some good and useful stuff, but for Thursday-Sunday, none of the Psalms, nor Vidi Aquam, nor the Easter Sequence, nor the Litany of the Saints, and we're going to do the Reproaches from the Sacramentary which will be new this year. Most of the solo stuff will be done by the same people as last year, but at least 2 of the Psalms will need someone new, and I don't really want my one singer who can sight-read to sing all of them! (Someone asked me, "aren't we doing some special piece for Easter?" I don't remember what I said, but I should have included something about, "what, with all three of us who will be up in the choir loft?")
We will rehearse for 2 hours on Tuesday night (on my one night off in the midst of St. Matthew Passion dress rehearsals,) not at all on Thursday before Mass, 45 minutes before Good Friday, about an hour before the Vigil, and we'll be lucky if we get 20 minutes before the a.m. Mass.
My point in all of this being, I hope I haven't pushed the line a little too much this year...!
but, I mean, hey, trust in God, right? It's all about Him and for His Glory, anyhow!
(meh. but we can't necessarily trust Him when we don't do our jobs well!)
yeah, this post is just begging for reassuring compliments. go ahead...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Palm Sunday A

Love Unknown, Karl Osterland
Herzlich Tut Mich Verlanged (nr. 10), J. Brahms
Were You There, Emma Lou Diemer

Hosanna (chant, English set by R. Holtz)
All Glory, Laud, and Honor
My Song is Love Unknown
choir: Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs (R. Holtz)
What Wondrous Love
Were You There
choir: Glory Be to Jesus (Viva, Viva, Jesu)
O Sacred Head

Thursday, March 06, 2008

5 Lent A

Prelude: Meditation on "Ah, Holy Jesus," Alfred V. Fedak
Open: From Ashes to the Living Font (St. Flavian)
Psalm: R&A
Gifts: O Sacred Head (Passion Chorale)
Communion: Videns Dominus
Attende Domine (possibly in Latin)
Close: Take Up Your Cross (Erhalt)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Musical and liturgical snobbery

and, really, what are the rest of us supposed to do? (those of us dealing with the "average Catholic" on a daily basis, without our huge schola and sympathetic congregation...)

Cantor raises excellent points here, particular references to attitudes (as seen distinctly in the original thread quoted,) which seriously make me question whether or not I want to go to Colloquium this year.

practical issues, people.

(perhaps that's why Colloquium is called "Seven Days of Musical Heaven" --because most of us won't see anything like it while on this earth...)