Tuesday, December 29, 2009

future book review

I have heard good things about this book:
"Keep the Fire Burning"
mostly that it gives an accurate historical narrative, although the author tries to give a positive spin on the events of immediate post-V-II, apparently he is not very successful in making it seem like a good thing.
(see the review in the Winter 2009 issue of Sacred Music)

my question for my readers is, I don't really want to spend $20 for this book, nor do I want to own it, so is anyone interested in reading it after me, to make it a little more worthwhile?

inactive Catholics

I was at a party, (it was a very unusual party, for sure,) and I had several interesting conversations with interesting people about interesting things.

One was a guy from the Czech Republic, and while we didn't talk for long, he did make clear to me his disdain for anything besides the Tridentine Mass. (I told him to come to St. P, that he has probably never seen a Novus Ordo quite like how we do it there, and it might change his views on that...) I wish I had gotten to talk to him longer, to find out more his background, and why he thought that way, etc.

More interesting to me, however, was a girl about my age who I talked with for quite some time. She seems to be an "inactive Catholic," and the only reason that she said was that while growing up, the church she attended had just had guitars and tambourines, etc, and it just never appealed to her, and she thought that if she had been in a more reverent environment, she would have continued going to a Catholic church. (of course, I also told her to check out St. P--which she has been to but 10 years ago; quite different now!--next time she is in the city.)

relevance? ha. for all of human history, when people have gone to worship, they have not wanted anything relevant or every-day! rather, something different; holy and mystical.

She mentioned something about no one her age still going to church back where she is from, and I asked her if it was because they stopped just because of apathy, or if it was for her reason; that they would have appreciated a more reverent liturgy.

She didn't know.

oh, if we only knew the level of damage. the clarity of truth revealed.

Friday, December 25, 2009

in other, unrelated news...

good grief.

you put your umbrella in the closet cuz it's wintertime, and you can't imagine using it for a while.

then you need it...Christmas morning?!

(I'm posting here cuz I just posted on facebook and I just really need to let the world know my every banal thought. Maybe it's time for a twitter account...)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

clothes for holidays

when I was in high school, I used to *love* getting a new dress or outfit for Christmas or Easter.

but now, I *hate* having to pick a new outfit every holiday! Because the problem is, I only have so many "new outfits!"
Since people see me so much around the holidays, (up in the choir loft,) and they also see me every single other Sunday of the year in my nice Sunday-clothes, I really only have so many outfits to wear that are nice, and only so many that are extra-nice for Christmas and Easter!

I feel a little "lame" wearing my nice, cranberry sweater for Christmas, that I just wore on a weekend 3 weeks ago!
I have learned that, while *I* can hardly remember what outfits I have worn for past holidays or even past years, *other* people (usually women) remember every detail about what they or other people were wearing on a particular occasion! amazing!

part of the problem for Christmas is also that I hate dressing up when it's cold. I only have so many cold-weather outfits, also. I have lots more fancy summery outfits, but there aren't any fancy holidays in the summer! (Easter is usually still pretty chilly!)

so now I'm just kind of rambling. The problem is, I guess...I wish I had money and/or motivation and time to go buy a new outfit every holiday. (but I don't. Plus, I think that would be wasteful.) So I guess everyone just has to see me in a boring sweater and black pants...like I wear every Sunday. (An interesting contrast to my male organist friends: they just wear a suit and tie every weekend. easy. and no one thinks, "didn't you wear that last weekend?" I wonder if they would ever wear a tux for Christmas?)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

reading music

every once in a while, I sit down at the organ at Mass (it's usually on a Saturday,) and I look at the music in front of me, and I think, "omg, what if I can't remember what all these notes mean?!"
So I just put my hands down and start playing, and it always comes out fine.

I was reminded on this, cuz a couple Mondays ago, after not practicing all weekend, I sat down at the organ to get ready for my lesson, and it really was like I had forgotten how to play the organ! argh.

but wouldn't that be funny? like, if in the middle of Mass I go to play this hymn that I've played a million times, and I just *can't remember* what all of these notes mean?!
haha...that would be hilarious. (not.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

more on veils

I haven't thought much about this lately, but Fr. Z is blogging about it.

I do strongly dislike the lacey veils, as many have pointed out, "they really don't cover much of anything..."

Here's a look that I DO love:

(I just spent a few minutes trying to figure out how to wrap it like that--it seems to me that it requires a very very long scarf; it seems wrapped around her neck several time.)

but that is...classy. and modest.

plus, this all becomes even more appealing in this freezing cold weather!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

those opinions about music...

I had a strange conversation after Mass on the Immaculate Conception.
I'll try to summarize it, and then I will proceed to analyze it-was I obnoxious? was he obnoxious? why did I feel so weird afterwards?

So after Mass, this guy who I have never seen before, and after our conversation I have to assume this is the first time he has been at St. P, about my age, comes up to the choir loft, someone points me out (I was talking to someone else.)
the first thing he says is, "Did you know you did the Gloria way to fast?" (It was the usual Latin Gloria that we just taught at the beginning of November.)
Being quite surprised and taken off guard, I responded, "according to who?"
then he said something about "all the religious orders...when I was in seminary we did it much slower..."
I can't remember the order of the rest of the conversation, but it was cordial and back-and-forth, at some point I began to explain that "no, I don't sing chant according the old Solemnes style, but rather more like Cardine, based more on the text." I also at some point started to explain that it's impossible to say chant is sung in "this or that way" at any given point in history because we really just don't know, and it certainly has been sung in different ways at different time and places, and of course I am well aware it is a controversy. He didn't really seem to want to have *discussions* about either of those points, he kind of interrupted me when I went of on either of those tangents, but he *did* modify what he was saying by adding "In my opinion..." to what he kept saying about how fast it was (once he realized that I actually DO know what I am talking about, which is probably more than he knows....) He mentioned that the congregation seemed to be fumbling for the book to find where it was, like they didn't know it (cuz it was too fast,) but I quickly pointed out that we have actually only sung it for 6 weekends before Advent started and we haven't sung it for the past 2 weekends, so of course they don't know it well.
(a side note- I honestly don't expect the congregation to be comfortable with it until we have sung it for a YEAR! I am not disappointed with the progress so far! but yes, if in a year they are singing it as they are now, of course I would be disappointed and modify it somehow--perhaps slow it down, but at this point i don't think that's a problem...)
He also then mentioned that I play ALL of the hymns "too fast," at which point in my mind his opinion becomes very much discredited cuz I realize he really doesn't know what he's talking about. (I responded to that with, "uh...I very strongly disagree..." and then I tried to explain that if you can't get through a musical phrase without taking a breath, then it's too slow!)
I play the hymns too fast?! no, many other places, they are played too slow, due to poor organists who do not understand how to keep up with the natural "congregational delay."
At some point towards the end of the conversation he asked something about, "well, if the priest told you it was too fast would you change?" and i said, "of course, but he greatly respects my musical opinion, and I dont think he would ever tell me that." and then he said something about, "just wanted to see how much the people around here respect the priest..." and I think that was the end. (I did realize later that he probably didnt realize that we had a visiting priest that day, one who appears slightly feeble and old, so perhaps he perceived that as something which I would take advantage of and disrespect or not obey the priest somehow.

a few thoughts: I believe that due to this young fellow, the conversation got off to a bad start. you don't come to a church for the very first time, and say to the music director, "you are doing this WRONG." (He seems to hold his opinions so strongly, I can see myself being like that in some situations, but he doesnt realize how much he *doesn't* know, so he is convinced that his opinion-probably based on many experiences but nonetheless probably neglecting any sort of studying of the topic, but really...)

a much better start would have been, "you know, it seemed to me that the Gloria was quite a bit faster than anywhere else that I've ever been...do you think that may contribute to why the people didn't seem to sing it very heartily? did you know you do it relatively fast?"
and I would have been put in the mindset for a much more enjoyable conversation!

anyhow, I am glad that he altered his statements to opinions, once he realized that I actually know quite a bit about what I am talking about and have thought about it a great deal.
I mean, I would LOVE to hear if other people thought this...but he is the first time that anyone has told me i do things way too fast! otherwise, all I hear every weekend are many wonderful comments!

why can traddies be like this?
something to do with, "don't mess with my worship of God when I am convinced that it is supposed to be done *exactly* this way..."

but seriously, listen, dude, come to this church for 6 weeks in a row, THEN you can tell me what you have really observed!

(on another note-it is looking very likely that I will get to do a rather interesting internship next semester--will write about that in another entry...)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The subjection of music TO the liturgy

Protestants are often baffled about why Catholics don't sing all the verses to the hymns. This is usually attributed to Catholics just wanting to "fulfill their Sunday obligation" and get out of there as fast as possible...but I think it is a bit more deeper than that, and even theological.

It is something like this topic that I would someday like to study for something like a doctoral dissertation (ha-if I ever get there. but then again, 2 years ago I NEVER thought I would even be working on my masters...)

But I will try to summarize my (unofficial) thoughts up to this point on this topic:

Catholics have Propers, a prescribed set of texts for every Mass, that can be sung.
but they don't HAVE to be sung.
Mass is perfectly legitimate if the propers are not sung. In fact, if there is no singing at all.
Most Protestants cannot imagine a worship service without singing.
But Catholics come to Mass for more than just to hear a sermon or to sing.
(a sermon is not even essential at a Catholic Mass.)
Catholics come to Mass to witness a Holy Sacrifice, or, at the very least, the high-point of Mass for some of the less-well-informed, but still good-intentioned is, "to receive Communion."
(although, that in itself is certainly not essential to have a Mass-other than for the priest.)
that's why many Catholics walk out the door right after Communion-that's the whole reason they are there.
I am saying all of this to make the point that Catholics come to church for an entirely different REASON than Protestants.
(even, say, Lutherans. While communion is very important for them, I suspect most of the them would be horrified to come to church and neither sing nor hear a sermon.)
Going back to what I said about the propers--they exist FIRST as texts, THEN as melodies (translation issues aside...)
If you've ever witnessed an Extraordinary Form Mass, from the viewpoint of a musician, you would have been struck by how little what the choir is singing has to do with what the priest is doing.
At most places (Gloria, Agnus Dei...) the choir is just singing away while the priest is doing...whatever he's doing. (this exists in the Ordinary Form still with the Agnus Dei, "let's just keep singing verses until the priest is ready with the Host...")
I *think* but I'm not sure, that the Church views this as the ideal--the whole action is never really *supposed* to stop and wait for the music, although it does usually in the Ordinary Form.

And that is what I would like to study more. Read the documents, observe... when-if ever-is the action of the Mass supposed to wait for the singing to be finished?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

choosing music

yes, I know that I've written on this before, but this is with a slightly different twist.

So if you read my blog regularly, you know how frustrated I am with the idea of "choosing music" for Mass.

Most people just look at the "theme" of the day, or the readings, and try to find hymns that "match" them.
However, we have been given texts, called the "propers" for the opening, offertory, and communion (and other places,) which most people take no consideration of, and just fill those spaces with whatever they feel like.

If you subscribe to one of the big publishers quarterly magazines, they give a list of song suggestions for all of the places in the Mass, based on the readings or "theme" of the Mass, so that we don't have to look that up ourselves (completely neglecting, however, the role of the Propers...)

For a couple of weird reasons, I've been getting one of these subscriptions for free for the past 3 years (since I've been at St. P,) but I think they've caught me, so they've sent me a bill (which I haven't paid,) so they've stopped sending me the subscription. (fair enough.)

I've reached a point where I'm going to see if I can "survive" without a "Mass-planning guide."

Recently, I have been looking first at the Propers to find hymns that match *them* (very frustrating, since we have very few songs that are, "have mercy on me, Oh God, forgive me, I've sinned..." which seems to be the bulk of the Propers, but, oh well, that is a discussion for another day...) then when I find that I can't really find any of those, I look at my music-planning-guide, and discover that really only a couple of their suggested hymns are appropriate, and of those 3, 2 of them are suggested for 3 consecutive weeks in either direction, so I then do a bit more detective work including looking at the readings myself and trying to think of hymns, looking at the scriptural index's and seeing if they match the propers or the readings, then I might go to a website like canticanova.com to see if they have any suggestions I haven't thought of for a particular Sunday, then if I still have open spaces, I'll pick more of a general hymn like "Praise to the Lord."

So, I think I'm now ready to make the break with my music planning guides.

I have obtained a completely blank notebook, and will now attempt to do most of the grunt work on my own!

Monday, November 23, 2009

I see dead people...

no, I mean, seriously, I do! Like a lot!

(a little lighter entry than I've been writing lately...)

Well, ok, so whenever we have a funeral, the casket is put right beside/underneath the choir loft stairs, so even though I try not to, I can't help but looking right into the face of the deceased as I'm walking down the stairs!

(As I'm looking down and watching the steps so as not to trip, as the stairs curve around, the person is right in my view, below me and just a little to the left.)

It's just a little... weird.
Dead people look weird.
I'm not sure I'll ever get used to them. I know the idea that the funeral home people (or whoever dresses 'em up,) is to make them look like they're sleeping, but they're still always kind of...pale, like I know they have makeup on.

What a weird job I had. I never knew that "not being able to avoid looking at dead people regularly" was in the job description for "church music director."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

a change in time

(I wish I had a few more facts for this entry, like names and dates, but I don't, so here goes...)

outside of St. P's, there are two memorials to different pastors of the parish right next the the church.

The first one is a plaque to a pastor from (I think?) around the turn of the 20th century (1900?) or so; it is attached to a statue of Jesus, like the Sacred Heart or something.

The second one is actually the grave of a pastor from the 1970's; it has a (not very attractive) bronze picture/engraving of him on a flat tombstone (I think there might also be like a prayer or some words or something, but I can't remember.)

If you think about it for a moment, the contrast is striking, and very telling.

100 years ago, to memorialize and honor someone, you put up a statue of Jesus.
In the 1980's, to memorialize someone, you put up a statue of...them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

who am i?! (a little rant)

what credentials do I have? like seriously...

a bit of rambling,
I was talking to one of my teachers, and my teacher was talking about a few of the other students, "well, so-and-so is quite a bit older than you, and this other student so-and-so has been working in churches for years, and so-and-so is really experienced in these kind of things we are talking about..."

I'm not entirely sure, but it almost seemed like my teacher was questioning my (just recently expressed loudly) opinions on a couple of things, and the mention of the other students in comparison was to have me listen to their experience.

but as I think about it..well, who the heck am i? what right do i have to any opinions about organ music and church music?

well, even though I'm "only" in my mid-20s, I've been doing music in churches for the past 10 years, and believe me, I've run the line-up from charismatic praise-and-worship music, rock bands (with drums and everything), total folk-groups with just me and a few guitars, standard organ music (think: modern day Catholic, in which I hardly cared about proper texts or rules or anything like that, while playing all the "latest " Haugen/Haas,) playing organ for a Tridentine Mass, to playing in my current situation with hymns, english and latin chants.

I don't have experience? Yes, some people have more than I do, and certainly in years, but I do feel like I have intimately known all of the musical/liturgical experiences which I HAVE had...so don't sniff your nose at me, cuz I'm not sure I even know of anyone else who has had anywhere near my broad range of experience, especially in that short amount of time!

(maybe I'm just being prideful and i really dont know anything...if so, forgive me...)

Friday, November 06, 2009

my 300th post

an interesting article (containing many interesting comments from a side of the fence that I rarely ever listen to,) a website I would never otherwise look at, and a writer that I might occasionally read.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Catholic churches hiring Catholics

a question was posed on my favorite forum about whether it is ok for a church to specify that they want to only hire someone of their own denomination. Sadly, the discussion got rather emotionally out of control, but I do think that I have some very helpful thoughts to contribute, that I want to re-post here.

But shouldn't "be a practicing Catholic" be one of *many* helpful qualifications for a job? If people of similar qualifications were applying for a job at an Episcopal church, wouldn't the person who had been Episcopal (and attending Episcopal services) for their whole life be more experienced and knowledgeable about little details about various services? And I would be interested in hearing if anyone disagreed with the idea that someone who was born and raised and still a practicing member of a particular denomination would have a *personal* attachment to the church that would make them more devoted and attached to their job, compared to someone who had the *exact same* qualifications otherwise?

But of course if it were just one qualification among many, you ought to hire someone with superior keyboard/conducting/people skills over someone who was "just" a Catholic but lacking in other musical areas.

So is the question, can one make ANY assumptions about a possible future employee based on whether they are applying in a church of which they are already a theologically-agreeing member?

If *I* were a church in the position of hiring someone, I would certainly hire someone who was that denomination over someone who wasn't (with the same qualifications,) because I would have to assume that the person of that denomination had better reasons for wanting to work there. (and for the same reasons I think it is very appropriate and permissible to ask.) What I mean by that is, I could safely assume that the person of that denomination wanted to work there because, as I mentioned above, they probably have a personal attachment to that particular church, BUT I would have to wonder about the person not of the denomination: why do they want to work in my church? Isn't it "just a job" for them? WHY do they care about making the music in my denomination better? --Since I cannot think of another reason off the top of my head, I am very curious to hear people's reasons who are not Catholic for wanting to work in the Catholic church (other than, it happened to be open when I was looking for a job and the pay is ok, etc.)

I can say all of this because of my own personal views on my current job-- I view it as a vocation, a calling. I'm not working just for a salary. I'm working to make the music of the RC church as best as it can be. I would probably do this even if there was no money in it for me. I do this precisely because I believe that the fullness of the truth is found in the RC church, and therefore I should give it everything I have. How could a similarly-qualified non-practicing-Catholic have as much dedication to their job as I will to mine? (I really think it would be helpful to this conversation to hear any reasons.) And if there aren't any, then of course a church should hire someone belonging to it's denomination.

[Also, a side question after my main point- Wouldn't (or shouldn't) a Catholic school ask if someone was Catholic, and consider them a more appropriate teacher EVEN if they were teaching a non-religious subject? If so, why? Would the same reasons apply to a MD?]

Thursday, October 22, 2009

organ music suggestions

I can't believe that I'm actually asking this here... I'm almost afraid for the responses!

I just reached a funny point where I am about to finish a couple of big pieces (I think) a little faster than either myself or my teacher expected. And my teacher said yesterday, "so, what should we have you learn next..."
So I have a couple suggestions I can get from the music library...but I'm looking for more!

Any ideas?

I especially love pieces I can use as postludes (toccatas, etc, but I'm really not super good, so like Widor's is probably about the hardest level I'd be able to use right now, plus I'd rather have shorter pieces cuz it only takes about 2 minutes for the church to clear out!)
or else pieces that can be used as preludes. And I mean real stuff, like, I've got loads or crap that I can noodle around with and not even practice, but any suggestions of some *real repertoire* that I'd have to work at but sounds great and would be perfect as a prelude?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Erasmus on church music

I just came across a quote from Erasmus while reading for my Renaissance Music class,

"We have brought into sacred edifices a certain elaborate and theatrical music, a confused interplay of diverse sounds, such as I do not believe was ever heard in Greek or Roman theaters. Straight trumpets, curved trumpets, pipes, and sambucas resound everywhere, and vie with human voices...People flock to church as to a theater for aural delight."

so many churches today seem to be trying for the equivalent of "elaborate and theatrical music," and yet to these churches people do not seem to be "flocking..."


I do love pandora.com, the internet radio station where you can listen to songs of a particular style and rate them to create a station that you completely like.
It has every song categorized with such things as "a large chorus" or "major-key tonality."
However, one characterization that amuses me that it lacks is what the topic of the lyrics is.
One of the stations that I have created which I enjoy listening to, I have labeled "classical religious," and I rate songs so as to exclude all non-choral and non-religious pieces, as well as those I simply don't enjoy.
But the part that amuses me is that I am sure that I thoroughly CONFUSE the station when I say I "like" a Handel oratorio, but then "dislike" a secular piece by him with all of the exact same characterizations! (the station must think I am really really picky...too bad it has no idea why!) :-P

Monday, October 19, 2009

photographers part...?

I was playing for a wedding at another church on Saturday, and as I was walking downstairs to the piano up front during the vows, I heard a little high-pitched, "tweedle-dee" from the organ.
Apparently, the photographer sat on the organ while trying to get a good picture. oops.
(ok, not quite that bad. She really just bumped a couple of the top keys with her fanny.)
but still, seriously. Try to be a little more careful!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I wish I had a photographic memory...

so I've read all of these church documents, once or twice, and I know it says somewhere, you know, such and such a thing about what we should or shouldn't do, but you know, whenever I really need that knowledge, I can't remember where it's from, and then I'm just spouting off show-off-y nonsense!

It happened recently, that a priest was visiting, and I sort of wanted him to sing the "Through him..." part, so we could sing the Amen, and he was kind of like, "oh I probably won't..." Which was fine, and so we didn't sing it.

but... I wish that at times like those I could explain myself a little better, and then when they're like, "huh? what are you talking about?" I could be like, "well, in such-and-such a document it says..."

I think I'm afraid of even beginning those conversations unless I am fully prepared in advance. Because otherwise I know that I will end up saying something like, "well, uh, I know that somewhere it says something about why it's important for the priest to sing certain parts..." And yeah, like, no one is going to listen to that.

But is it pride? either that I want to be able to show off my knowledge, or that I don't want to be embarrassed if I can't properly quote something? hm. no...rather, just that I want to be able to make a proper case for my point, really, I want to have things done *right!*

just ramblings, I don't really have time to go into more detail, I'm off to bed. Don't read into that too much, either; no, I'm not off to change the world and prove everyone wrong at every possible opportunity! I'm just thinking...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

oh yes, I know I've hardly been blogging lately...

I can't even begin to describe how weird I feel on Sunday mornings. It is the morning that I wake up the earliest in the whole week, and precisely because it is a Sunday and I know that no one else is awake that I feel absolutely blah.

I mean, not even blah. The point of this whole post is to say how weird I feel. It's the one time during my week when I absolutely HATE my life. From 6:40-7:40 am-ish. I wake up and I think, "argh..." and then as the morning continues and I realize how dark and lonely everything is, I think, "why the heck am I doing this?! I hate my job!"

But of course I don't hate my job! Every other hour of the week I love it and I feel SO blessed!

But I think the strangest things, like about how I just want to die because life is so horrible and dark!

And sometimes (like this morning,) it lasts even longer, even until 8 or 9 am until I start to fully wake up. I play through the first Mass, just like,...totally....blah.

But really, the problem? Wintertime. Waking up without a single fleck of light in the sky. Oh it's awful. And I guess I should compare myself to other more normal working people, who wake up that early *every morning* of the work week, but, I just can't help but thinking, "woe is me...boo hoo..."

and so that is what this entry is about!

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's a Brand New Day =/= Bring Flowers of the Rarest

I started this discussion:


and I cracked up when I read (approximately) the 75th comment, mentioning "It's a Brand New Day..."

That song was a bit of a joke back during college with some of my friends...they discovered it and kind of liked it, but I think still recognized the silliness of it.

So they made this video:


(a little bit of my double life...)

Friday, August 28, 2009

picking hymns...sigh

once again, here I go...picking hymns for Mass. I used to think that was one of the best parts of my job, and people still ask me if I "get to pick the songs," but now that I look at the Proper texts for the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion for every week, and I try to pick songs that match those, I'm frustrated and struck by how different the feeling is behind all of the options for hymns, compared to, for instance, the Introit.

Maybe it's just the texts for this upcoming time of the year, but almost all of the entrance antiphon texts fall along the lines of, "Have mercy on me, O God, I call upon you, have mercy on me..."

How many of our hymns even remotely have that as an idea?!

All of the protestant hymns that I use are just "praise, praise, praise," and the contemporary Catholic shmaltz (which I try to avoid using but is the other half of the hymnal,) is just "everyone is welcome, we love everyone..."

well, there is a time and a place for both of those...but for the first 1,950 years of the Roman Catholic church, it wasn't most of the opening texts of the Holy Mass!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

book review

I'm reading a pretty interesting book right now (trying to stuff it all in before I get too busy with grad school...)
"The Signs of the Times--Understanding the Church Since Vatican II"
yes. exactly what I want to understand.

It's a compilation of short writings/essays by Fr. Richard Gilsdorf, who passed away before the book was put together, I've never heard of him until now, and he requested Patrick Beno to put his writings together.

I like reading it, because it is kind of chronological, and you can sort of see what was going through the mind of a devout, obedient, and very smart priest from Vatican II onward.

For example, he starts off with an article on "unity," and how not everyone can be right: there must logically be rights and wrongs. (Not relativism.) Particularly as they relate to different Christian denominations. You can see where this is going as it relates to both the questions of ecumenism that V II brought up, as well as growing disobedience within the church.

He then continues with an article on the tension that was particularly increasing within the church at that time. "Salvation lies in huddling close to and embracing Christ in faith, hope, and love..." yeah! it's actually pretty simple!

He continues on with many shorter essays, surprisingly readable (the editor had a warning that they might not be that easy to read in the beginning,) for example, the one I'm reading at the moment is on the terminology "People of God" rather than "Family of God" which was proposed at V II. While he discusses that "Family of God" is quite theologically accurate, "Since the Council (and contrary to its spirit), we have seen a corrosive attempt to interpret "People" in a way strictly equated to some transient form or purely human political society."
Oh yes, a political society. That does seem to be a pretty accurate summary...

"We see Machiavellian maneuvering for positions...and the aping of the secular in a direction exactly counter to that of the Incarnation."
And I'm only 82 pages into this 500+ page book, and every chapter is filled with quotable gems like that!

While you can see how all of the widely varied topics do tie into the atmosphere of the past 40 years, the book is broad enough that I think most Catholics interested at all in "wtf happened" would find this a good read. (It's not all so strictly discussing the actual problems of interpretation of the Council.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

grad school

Can't remember if I've told my blog yet that I'm heading to grad school in the fall. (Well, not really heading, rather, I'll be continuing all of my duties as Music Director as well as teaching my 15+ piano students.) I shall be busy...

I will be attending the great U of M to attain the degree "Master of Church Music." An excellent sounding title for a resume. And I don't have to give a memorized recital!

however, I wish that the program had slightly more emphasis on the Catholic liturgical aspect (it's more of an "ecumenical" program.) I've been allowed by my professor/adviser to pursue options I may have to incorporate more of this. I thought originally that I had a bunch of "elective" credits available, but I actually don't. So, that makes extra classes or studies...extra work. Which I don't exactly want. So, I'm open to any ideas.

(a few nights ago, I had the perfect opportunity to speak with the music professor at the local seminary...but, silly me, I didn't say anything! I think it's cuz I am afraid the conversation would go something like,
"hi Doctor, I'm going to be attending grad school in the fall...do you have any ideas of how I might incorporate some more liturgical aspects into my studies?"
"hmmm...not off the bat...what were you thinking of?"
"well, maybe I could do some extra research or take one of your classes?" (and then? as I've mentioned, I don't really have any available credits, unless I really want to do extra work...)
"ummm...not really...")
the end.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

article in GIA Quarterly

by Virgil Funk

in the Summer 2009 issue, "On This Issue: Musical Leftovers"

sort of a summary, and my inevitable thoughts:

He describes what happened to the music in the Roman Catholic liturgy during the 1960s, and how it applies today. (basically this decade is currently the question of my life...but as in, "wtf happened?!")

He connects it to the social movements of the times, "the inspiration for their music was...the protest style of music (Dylan) now transformed into a 'commercial' version." (and he is able to state it so bluntly...how on earth was that ever supposed to be a GOOD thing?!)

He quotes Ratzinger (from "Communio" 13, no. 4) and how Ratzinger critiques "this developmental dynamic and its effect on a community's theology..." as in, this sense of protest and rebellion is going to affect the music at Mass. (and he STILL thinks that could possibly be a good thing?! good grief!) of course the result of that is going to be terrible theology!

Somehow he moves on to discuss composers writing new songs, contrasted with the fixed repertoire in the old hymnals and chant books. Once again he ties it together with a totally true statement of a horrible ridiculous fact, as if it's supposed to be a good thing, "apart from much older repertoire, there is no free music...church music is a commercial enterprise..." He goes on to list some of the reasons-one of being the Vatican and its translators copyrighting the texts. Sad, but true.

Continuing to claim (perhaps truly, but I don't know enough specific history,) that the roots of this are from the protest movements, he then goes on to mention Humanae Vitae. Absolutely fascinating in my opinion. I believe its (40th?) anniversary has recently occurred, and so I have read a couple articles recently on "what happened that fateful summer" at CUA when a bunch of priests were secretly gathered to then publicly voice their disapproval of the document...without ever having read it, and without being given a chance to discuss it. (The only thing that matters is that the Church doesn't permit artificial birth control...not that the reasons matter or anything, and there is certainly no possibility that the Church might actually have some good facts or arguments about why not! We certainly wouldn't want to read them!) And how the atmosphere of the era-as well as subtle, smaller, previous rebellions by bishops and priests-had made RIPE for the outright rebellion among bishops, priests, and down through the laypeople, that followed. (I could write my doctoral dissertation on that. Just amazing. a side note.)

(insignificant note: this is then the only article I have ever read where the "continued on page..." leads to a previous page. Space filling, I suppose.)

On the last page, he implies that "fallen-away" Catholics "fell away" due to their protest groups dissolving in the 1980s. No consideration to the possibility that they were "falling away" throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, as they saw what they thought was their church being taken over by various forms of "protest groups"... (It would be interesting to see a serious study, somehow but I'm not sure how, analyzing exactly when- if it was at a single time- the most number of Catholics "fell away." And why was it?)

He begins to close the article with a list of, "So what remains of the '60s in today's liturgy," as if they are good things:
-"A strong Catholic music publishing industry" -- bad in that it has a complete monopoly on what Catholics sing. Good if you want to have Catholics singing the same thing in every parish. Good in that we now have an easy and existing system set up to distribute good music...just whenever the "for-profit" publishers ever decide there is a market for it. (not to mention that there is already loads of excellent free music, written by the masters from over the centuries online already! Oh wait, maybe that's why the publishers don't want that to become too available-they know that would put them out of business!) And of course bad if (and since) this music publishing industry uses its monopoly to distribute cheap and chintzy versions of folk or popular music for use in the Liturgy...
-"a residue of protest-style musical forms" --he has previously described this as traditional folk-music: easy to sing, and easy to remember, as well as attempting to stir up emotion and forming an identity within "the group." Not good if you know that none of those are or should be the goals of music during Mass.
-"and a belief that God exists or is present when the music produces cohesion of the group." Could be interpreted in different ways. Yes, we worship corporately, BUT, we also worship individually. And more importantly, worship has NOTHING to do with the "us" or "me." That is the main theological error of the Catholic "progressivists." Too much emphasis on the "WE" of "We are the Body of Christ," rather than "Christ." And of course God exists and is present whether or not there is any cohesion of the group! He's present Really and Truly simply through the Eucharist! (oh...wait...most "progressivists" don't believe that...hmm..it's all starting to make sense now...)

And while at the beginning of the article, I wasn't even sure which direction Funk leaned, I can only quote the ridiculousness of the last sentences,
"As the institutional authorities attempt to reassert control over the text and musical shape of the dialogue between the altar and the rest of the assembly ('And with your spirit' set to one tune found in the Roman Missal), the urge to protest arises. The leftovers from the 1960s that still shape our singing may begin to touch your smoldering resistance."

Good grief...talk about an aging hippie... I have smoldering resistance? (sorry Fr. Funk, I think that's only your generation...and you're on your way out! My generation actually believes in obedience!)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

book in the mail

As I have mentioned before, I was lucky to have in my choir loft a copy of the "Pius X hymnal organ accompaniment" book. I have often used it's chant accompaniments for improvisations, and a few of the easier (2 part) latin motets.
I have not been able to find anywhere online, either then or since, another copy of this, or heard of anyone else who has one.
I also have in my choir loft a choir book of the "St. Gregory Hymnal." A week or so ago, I decided to do a search for the organ accompaniment edition online, to see if anyone has reprinted it (the choir edition is not very useful without,) and lo and behold it has been available through the Newmann Press since 2000! So, I purchased a copy, and it came in the mail today and I am quite excited to skim through it, examining the organ parts, and possibilities of new hymns or things for the choir to sing!

Sunday, July 05, 2009


did I ever mention how much I despise photographers at weddings?

at my most recent wedding, the photographer asked if it was ok to stand right by me (the organ is in the center of the choir loft-an ideal place to take pictures from.) and I said ok if she didnt flash (a parish policy which the bride was supposed to have told her.) she seemed surprised, took one picture without flash, didnt seem pleased with it, then flashed away... *flash* *flash* click *flash* ugh so obnoxious to ANYone trying to enjoy the ceremony. Not only did she scoot as close to me as possible (definitely inside my personal space bubble on the organ bench,) but then by leaning over she accidentally bumped down some paper that I had sitting on the loft railing! (oops... good thing it just landed on the co-photographer below...) in the middle of the wedding!

I also just don't understand the amount of money that people find necessary to spend on a photographer at their wedding. like, what, are you really going to forget that you got married? And after the first year of marriage, who EVER actually pulls out their book of wedding photos? Can't you just get some friend with a steady hand and a decent camera to take a bunch of pictures? (Better yet, the friend will *know* all of the important relatives/friends whose pictures ought to be taken!)

Once I had agreed to play for a friends wedding (on piano) for my standard fee, (and I understand, piano players are a dime a dozen...but still, I charge the same for my time doesn't matter what instrument!) then she later apologetically told me that she had had a misunderstanding with her fiance about the bugdet and couldnt afford me. Well, fine, I totally understand...
HOWEVER... let me guess that they were spending a couple thousand dollars on a photographer! Which is really more lasting? The photos which only a few people will see, then they will be shoved in a closet for the next 50 years? (really, when we look at old photographs, of, say, our grandparents weddings, who really cares about anything except the picture of the bride and groom?!) Or is the music more lasting, that *every*one will hear and enjoy or not!
(don't misread me, in this particular situation, they did get a very fine but not professional piano player who did an excellent job, and so I am glad they saved money and certainly do not hold it against them, I am just pointing out the irony, that I suspect is regularly repeated at weddings.)

Also, I think that photographers are the absolute worst culprit of dis-respect at Mass, as in they have NO idea of what is sacred. Guess what? You don't need to snap 20 million pictures of the priest reading the Gospel! He's just STANDING THERE! Let us enjoy the moment!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

conducting congregational chant responses

golly, it's been a while since I've written here...

I know I wrote something, I can't remember what for, where I kind of criticized another choir director for attempting to "direct/cut-off" the chant responses (think: "A-me-n" or "and also with you.")

But now I realize my error. I am not sure, but I think that my congregation/choir might be getting slower and slower.
"A-me-n." is gradually becoming "A-mehhhhhhh-nnnnnnnnn..."
you get the point.

Fr. G mentioned this to the congregation once a few months ago, but I don't think most of my choir member culprits were paying attention, or really knew what he was referring to in musical terms.

And whenever I am rehearsing with them I forget to mention this small point: Don't "drag out" any of your responses! If the choir is quick and to the point, the congregation will follow. I think.

So, perhaps I should try conducting. A quick, "A-" then" meh" then a clear cut-off on "n."

we shall see.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

three years...

I'm planning music through the summer right now, and I'm coming across the readings for August, how the whole month is the "Bread of Life" discourse that we Catholics love so much. We even get three weeks in a row of "Taste and See..."!
And with the three year cycle of readings that we have, I'm reminded that it was exactly three years ago August 3 that I started working at St. P.
How back then, Fr. and I were like accomplices discussing the music together and trying to sneak in the right amount of traditional and reverent music, but still needing to appease some people by incorporating a few (non-heretical) "contemporary" pieces so there wouldn't be too much of a hub-bub about the new music director and all of the "changes..."
And I remember how excited we (well, Father, really,) were about the Eucharistic readings and planning music for August...
wow, three years ago already...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

ugh copyrights

someone at church gave me a old booklet, containing the Missa Orbis Factor (copied from the vatican edition-I know cuz I recognize the accompaniment,) as well as two other Mass settings by not-famous composers. These other two Masses are of particular interest because they are accompanied Latin for two voices, and not terrible. Not really common, but extremely useful in a church of limited resources as mine. The first of the two I did search around online and was listed in a couple places, but not actually available. The second, I could find nothing about the composer or availability. I'm sure they're both photocopies of something, I don't know what, but the booklet contains no other references.
My question comes up in that I would like to make these available for others, which is becoming easier and easier to do with resources such as cpdl.org. But as it is, having no information about the composers or when they were written or public domain (I think the first died in 1973,) I can't exactly do that.
And so, they will have to remain in my own personal archives, for my own secretive distribution at a to-be-determined necessary time in the future, when I only have two singers and need a nice Latin Mass setting!

(oh, and I'm not being terribly specific about exactly which pieces they are cuz I certainly wouldn't want the copyright police to come after me for having illegally copied music in my possession!) :-P

Friday, May 01, 2009

The beauty of no electricity

As seems to happen about once a year out in the sticks, there was a series of storms and last Sunday morning St. P was without power.
After my initial freak-out, I realized that this would be a good opportunity to make the best of. I know from experience that Mass without electricity is...beautiful. We are...going back to our roots. The way people lived for thousands of years. (Minus the manually pumped organ bellows :-P )
I knew that the 10:30 Mass with the full choir was particularly an opportunity to make the most of.
Here's the basic program as done:

Entrance Antiphon as usual (English simple Psalm tone) It only would have been more perfect with incense...
Psalm: from Respond and Acclaim, a decent but short arrangement. I sang from the ambo the verses alone, and the choir sang 4-part harmony in the choir loft on the refrain
The Head that Was Once Crowned With Thorns (to the tune Morning Song, I used two handbells, on the tonic and the 7th [flat cuz it's a minor key] where appropriate.)
Sanctus: chanted English
Mem accl: chanted English (psalm tone)
Agnus Dei: chanted Latin
Communion: Communion chant as usual
At the Lamb's High Feast (melody only)
Regina Caeli (this is an awesome 3-part SSA arrangement in the St. Pius X hymnal, my ladies learned it last year, and I had run over it with them last week and taught some of the new members...not knowing how much we would NEED an a capella piece this week!) It was particularly beautiful and received many encouraging and positive comments
Closing: Jesus Christ is Risen Today (melody only, first two verses HA)

all a capella unless noted. It works quite well, especially having the men in the choir. As a matter of fact, I'm sure it makes the congregation sing more; they're like, "oh yeah, we're supposed to be singing here..."

Even though it wasn't really dark, everything down to the candles on the altar were just even more beautiful than usual. No humming of the organ or the fans...every noise is even more noticeable. Silence is beautiful. It reminds you of the sacred. Where else is there silence?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

the historical development of recent Catholic liturgical and musical documents

In addition to my usual interest in all things liturgical and musical, I have recently decided that I am going to back to grad school, to the University of Michigan for a Master of Music in Church Music.
I was originally reluctant to do so because one of the things I wanted to study in particular is the general topic of liturgy and music and practical application to Catholic parishes, and I would not really get to do that as much as I want at a public university.
However, it seems that I will have the option to do some independent study to fulfill some elective credits in this area, so I have already begun to note books and articles which could serve as scholarly resources on this topic.

An interesting one that I noted recently appears in the most recent issue of the GIA Quarterly (Spring 2009,) an article by Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, on the recent liturgical document, "Sing to the Lord."
In it, he summarizes several official documents from the past century, including their successful (or not) implementation, and the general history of the "liturgical renewal" and active participation.

(He also references a couple times his most recent book from 2007-which I would love to read particularly in my graduate studies, "Sacred Music and Liturgical Reform," rather pricey and long [at least 500 pages,] but it is all online on googlebooks.)

I find Fr. Ruff particularly interesting, since he was instrumental in my initial introduction to Gregorian Chant.

Several years ago, I started singing in a small schola (that only lasted in that form for a school year,) at St. T, and since our director had taken an intensive course in semiology from Fr. Ruff, she directed us from the Graduale Triplex and the ancient neumes. She spoke highly of him, and I learned a bit about that method of interpreting chant, long before I ever knew anything about the Old Solemnes style!

I had the opportunity to very briefly introduce myself to him at a conference a few summers ago, and after I told him my connection to him, he laughed and said, "So you're kind of like my granddaughter?!"

Anyhow, the more immersed I become in these Catholic cultural/liturgical/musical/opinionated style wars, especially after reading his article I think that he has got something right. He brings up some of my unanswerable questions, but mostly I love that he admits and discusses the difficulties of implementing this idealistic liturgy that the "ultra-traddies" push for--and even whether or not their interpretation of what "the Church says" is actually what the church asks! (In one of the footnotes-which I almost missed, but that was probably partly his intention ;-) he mentions "Msgr. Schuler's misinterpretation of Musicam Sacram regarding the polyphonic Mass ordinary," discussed in his book on p. 533-535. tee hee.)

He brings up several other issues, which are just fascinating to me. He begins to provide an explanation for why Vatican II seems to have been so badly interpreted and implemented (regarding Sacrosanctum Concilium,) by saying, "As revolutionary as the liturgical constitution was, it is marked throughout by a certain balance between tradition and innovation. Some consider this uneasy balance to be a political compromise between the many competing positions of the bishops, or even an incoherent bringing together of contradictory positions. Perhaps this feature of the constitution explains the existence of such divergent positions in the years since Vatican II..."

Another favorite issue of mine that he plainly discusses, is just "HOW pastorally feasible is it to give primacy to traditional repertoires?" Perhaps another should-be-obvious reason why SC did not receive faithful implementation.

He also states earlier, "It is rather difficult to stimulate congregational singing in Latin." This sentence is so key, but the traditionalists simply will not admit that this is a problem, but I have found from my own personal experience that IT'S TRUE! Even people who consider themselves "liturgically-conservative Catholics," while the don't mind and even enjoy listening to someone else sing in Latin, they simply do not want to sing it themselves! WHY? and then why does the Church tell us they should? I think Fr. Ruff might have some of the answers, but I'm beginning to be skeptical about other camps which will remain nameless. (like, places and people who don't seem to live in the real world, with real Catholics sitting in the pews...)

hmmm hmm so much to learn and study, so little time...

Monday, April 20, 2009

what's wrong with doing only 2 verses of a hymn?

there's this big stink that I read about in the Catholic blogosphere about how terrible it is to only do 2 verses of a hymn. (like, the first and last verses for the closing, or just the first two at the entrance cuz the priest is at the altar and glaring at you.)

Of course, most of us (Catholics) agree that hymns are problamatic to begin with: they only cover the action that is occurring, as opposed to the Propers, which would actually have texts that are integral to the Mass. (think of it like poetry...)

this is a serious differentiation from most Protestants, where the action stops and then we sing a hymn...that's just what we DO.

But what's wrong with stopping a hymn before it's done? Or singing the first verse then the final doxology verse? I've heard accusations that this makes the text incomplete...but so what? Not seriously. Hymns are almost never direct quotes from scripture; the verses usually seem to me to be *independent* texts of general praise to God.

This is the one that really occurred to me during Mass this past weekend-- "I know that my Redeemer lives."
So we sing,
"I know that my redeemer lives, what joy the blest assurance gives, he lives who once was dead, I know that my redeemer lives."
then so WHAT if we skip,
"He lives to bless me with his love, he lives to plead for me above, he lives my hungry soul to feed, he lives to help in time of need."
"He lives and grants me daily breath, he lives and I shall conquer death, he lives my mansion to prepare, He lives to bring me safely there."
and go directly to,
"He lives all glory to his name, he lives my saviour still the same, what joy the blest assurance gives, I know that my redeemer lives."

Or here's just the next short hymn in my book:
"The strife is o'er, the battle done, now is the victors triumph won, now be the song of praise begun..."
then there is NOTHING wrong with skipping:
"Death's mightiest pow'rs have done their worst, and Jesus has his foes dispersed, let shouts of praise and joy out burst.... He closed the yawning gates of hell, the bars from heav'n's high portals fell, let hymns of praise his triumph tell."
and go right to:
"On the third morn he rose again, glorious in majesty to reign, o let us swell the joyful strain."

The only thing that is diminished is due to the amount of time...but if we were singing the Proper, there would only be the theology of one sentence! But there is no incomplete thought. I would argue that each of the verses are a successfull stanza in and of themself.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

a million-dollar idea

why doesn't someone make a piano method book for boys? Or not even a complete method, just a supplement.

Well, actually, I know why. No one wants to admit that boys might be different than girls.

why are only 3 out of my 14 piano students boys? and out of those, I am having serious difficulties with one and slight difficulties with another in terms of keeping them "interested?"

Let's face it folks, there are certain styles of music that boys like better than others.

But my problem is I don't have a broad enough survey to get a better idea of what they like.
I could throw in a few ideas. Pink Panther, the Olympic theme song, and Chariots of Fire to name a couple. They will like cool soundtracks, but what to do about the kid who isn't so media savy?
What do songs they like have in common?
Either familiarity, or just as likely, a very steady *strong* rhythmic beat. But I don't really want to go through all of the piano books to pick out songs that are like these...

seriously, someone could make a million bucks off this idea. I KNOW it's not "pc," but doesn't every piano teacher struggle with the same question?
Songs like "Morning" just don't quite cut it for most boys... (and more importantly, doesn't keep them interested!)

(ahem, anyone who DOES make a million bucks off this idea had better give me a slice of that pie!)

(also, I do know that such a book does exist, at least one called "Something new for the boys," published by alfred, but I would criticize it in that it relies much too heavily on popular/contemporary songs, rather than getting at the core of what *styles* of pieces do boys tend to like...and teaching them new songs they don't know, but will learn to love!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

whistling in church

I was rather amused to come into the church today to work on the plans for Holy Week liturgies, when I noticed a bird flying around.
Kind of distracting, but cute. It was apparently very confused. I whistled at it a few times, don't tell Fr. G, (I don't think he would approve of people whistling in church!)
I opened the doors, so it might fly out, but it kept sitting on the stairs that go up to the belltower in back. (The highest point in the church, also by what was the brightest stained glass window, but nowhere near the open door!) stupid bird.
Finally, after about an hour it flew outside.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

more options for Mass!

So my post two posts ago got me thinking about this.

I wish that I had more options for where to go to Mass daily. A couple times in the past few weeks, I have had a lot on my mind and have thought to myself, "boy, I wish I could just go to a Tridentine Mass and sit there, and pray, and meditate, and not sing, and not verbally respond..."

But instead, the kinds of factors that go into my decision are things like Mass times, distance from my house, what kind of songs I will be forced to sing, how short of a Mass I want, who I want (or don't want) to listen to a homily from, whether I can understand the priest's accent, and worrying about how much the priest will "improvise" during Mass.

sooo... those are my limiting options (and notice NONE of them included how much I needed/wanted to physically participate in Mass that day!)
And I just wish I could have the OPTION of a Tridentine Mass. (Well, my friend pointed out, "you could if you lived in Detroit...but then again you'd have to deal with the traffic, etc...")

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Music Ministry"

There is a lot of tossing around of the term "such and such ministry" in the Catholic Church, on the level of the laity.

Fr. G has pointed out to me that this is rather incorrect, (outside of sacramental ordination?)

Someone else can sort out the exact terminology or whatever; it seems to be a distinction between a role or office, rather than a ministry, but here's the applicable document:


and some relevant excerpts from 23:

"a person is not a minister simply in performing a task, but through sacramental ordination."

"...In the same Synod Assembly, however, a critical judgment was voiced along with these positive elements, about a too-indiscriminate use of the word "ministry"...Precisely to overcome these dangers the Synod Fathers have insisted on the necessity to express with greater clarity, and with a more precise terminology..."

Friday, March 06, 2009

Daily Mass

(I have exactly 4 minutes in which to write this...)

After I woke up this morning, and began thinking about my day (Friday is sort of my day off,) I started thinking, "now, when should I go to Mass? probably noon...and where? there's a couple options...hmmm..this place will take 10 minutes to get there and I don't like such and such about it...but this place is shorter but I don't like the priest usualy...etc..." and I started realizing that my thinking was along the lines of "ugh I have to go to daily Mass today cuz I do every day, and especially cuz I wont get to tomorrow," and I really knew that wasn't quite the right attitude.
So I gave myself the day off. I do not HAVE to go to daily Mass. In fact, it is not even healthy if I am thinking about it in such a way!
So I ended up doing a few good things today, one of which would have had to be eliminated had a taken an hour and gone to Mas; I went for a walk during this gorgeous weather, I finished a good book, I made some nice phone calls, etc.
And I know I made the right decision.
God is pleased with me.
(just maybe someday I will learn to love Mass--every single day!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

interesting job posting

"Presently merging Catholic communities of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish and St. John Student Parish (serving Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan).
Seeking a faith-filled, highly organized and competent pastoral musician to direct the music ministry of newly-merging community/university parish at two sites within one mile of each other. The candidate will have an appreciation of the full spectrum of liturgical music and styles in addition to organ/piano and directing skills. Responsibilities will include liturgical planning with a Director of Worship on a collaborative pastoral team; scheduling other instrumentalists and vocalists; coordination with the school music program staff; and the organization of diverse and vibrant ensembles (adult traditional choir, children’s choirs, multi-instrumental ensembles). There will be eight weekend liturgies (four at each site, including the diocesan televised Outreach Mass), as well as a full compliment of other liturgical celebrations. Salary negotiable based on education and experience."

I find this position interesting, mainly because of the size...both of these parishes are HUGE as is...but my biggest concern is...EIGHT weekend liturgies?
does the position require the music director to be at all of them?
(I'm ok after doing 3, tired after doing 4, and I've never done 5 before but I'm pretty sure that would be my absolute max.)

It's not even ALLOWED for a priest to do more than THREE!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

while working in the office today, I have fielded many phone calls wondering, well, I know what they mean is "when is Mass today."

how they word it though, is fascinating...
"When can we get ashes today?"
"Are you offering a service with ashes tonight?"
(I wish I could remember more specifics)

(not a single: "what time is Mass today?")

I was even sitting in the church, praying, this afternoon and someone wandered in... wondering something about "where's the ashes we can put on ourselves?"

It was probably a good thing I couldn't think fast enough to give him an explanation of how horribly theologically incorrect that question was. (I just shrugged and told him he "had to" come to Mass at 7 to "get ashes.")

I've heard or read it said somewhere, that aside from Christmas and Easter, the other favorite times for Catholics to come to Mass is Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday...because they "get something."

(also, of course, the reason that so many people in poorly-catechized churches leave right after receiving Communion...because, well, they've "gotten" something, so therefore they must have fulfilled their obligation!)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Vox Dei

I know there has been much criticism online about songs with the "voice of God," but here I am transcribing the Introit for the congregation to sing for the first Sunday of Lent, and they will be singing something like, "When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will rescue him and honor him; with long life I will satisfy him...."
When I first read it, I was like, "wait, who is 'he'?" and I had to read it and think about it a moment...

It just seems weird.
I'm just saying...

edit: ah, wait, I have an idea. I will put the "voice of God" in quotation marks.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

planning liturgical music

Planning the music for Mass used to be one of my favorite things to do. In fact, that is probably the most common question I get when people first hear my job; "So does that mean you get to plan all the music?"

the power!

But lately, especially the more I learn and read about what the Church directs the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to be like...I find that nothing I do is quite correct.

I read the English translations in the Gregorian Missal of the proper antiphons for the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion, and I could try and pick hymns that match those at each of those spots. Trouble is, there aren't many hymns that match. Or for example, take the Communion for 2nd Sunday of Lent: "Tell no one about the vision you have seen until the Son of Man has risen from the dead."
talk about random. No, there's not really any hymns that "match that."

Otherwise, I could try and find the "theme" of Mass for that day. My liturgy planning aids from various large Catholic music publishers give me such helpful hints as "Images of light are common to both sets of Gospel readings. X Y and Z are obvious musical choices that can be incorporated into Year B and RCIA liturgies today."

OR I could take the route of opening my hymnal to the "Lent" section, and randomly distributing the 8 or so acceptable song choices throughout the 5 Sundays of Lent.

I'm supposed to be planning Lent music right now, that's why I'm thinking about this.

In fact, besides planning music as used to be being one of my favorite things to do, Lent songs and particularly Holy Week songs are among my favorites for the year!

But this is just getting...frustrating.
(however, at the 10:30 Mass, I do incorporate both the English Entrance Antiphon, Proper Offertory verse, and Communion chant, so technically I don't have to worry about those proper texts.)

but besides that, it's just difficult. WHICH of those three routes should I go?
I think during Ordinary Time I tend to look more at the the proper texts, but for seasons like Lent I pretty much just distribute the 8 Lent songs among the Sundays, heh heh.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

put your money where your mouth is

I used to think that this was my dream job...until the position actually opened up and I saw the description...

Part-Time Director of Music - St. ---- Cathedral, L-----

This part-time director of music serves approximately 10-20 hours per week, though there will be times in the liturgical year in which that varies. He/she promotes and models sound liturgical principles so that our liturgical assemblies may offer prayerful praise to God.

This person must be a practicing Roman Catholic and posses a knowledge of and appreciation for renewed Catholic Liturgy; have a degree or equivalence in music/organ performance, and have minimum of 5 years parish experience in keyboard accompaniment and choral direction. Strong organizational, teaching and computer skills are valued.

For more information, contact --------

I am rather surprised at both the size of the position, as well as the relatively low skill level required.

I thought I had read somewhere (although now I cannot find it anywhere!) that the music at the cathedral was supposed to be of the highest quality; as a model for all of the other churches in the diocese.

Although I suppose that the cathedral D of M really doesn't have that much more to do than I do at my little church, in terms of regular weekend events, with the exception of a couple of prominent, annual events.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

a few good songs

I was asked recently what my "favorite song to play on the organ" was. I've never been asked that before, and so I had to think about it! I don't really have a favorite "organ piece," so I will clarify that to mean "hymn." Like, what hymns do I go, "oh goody! I love this one!" before playing? Or which have I belted out either in the empty church or with a cd in my car?

In NO particular order, here's my list of top 11, with some clarifications. (Christmas Carols are at the bottom. They are kind of in a class of their own.)

Let All Mortal Flesh
O Sacred Head Surrounded
Glory Be to Jesus (Italian--Viva Viva Jesu)
Ah, Holy Jesus
God, We Praise You (or any other good text to the tune Nettleton)
Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above
How Great Thou Art (not as the schmaltzy hymn, but either a capella or rocked up.)
Once in Royal David's City
The First Noel
Away in a Manger (the less common version)
O Come, All Ye Faithful

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ad Orientem at St. P

Mass is now being offered Ad Orientem on Sundays at 10:30 am (and all weekdays) at St. P.

pictures from the Baptism of Our Lord:

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Fashion Show--Please vote!

Or: "Everything you ever wanted to know about Mara and head coverings."

Those of you who read this blog simply because you know me, rather than having liturgical things in mind will find this whole entry strange. I apologize in advance. Try to see the amusing end of this, the fact that I am modeling assorted forms of head coverings.
I realize the irony. I know I should not be spending so much time worrying about what, if anything, to put on my head while at Mass.

However, the whole point of this entry is that while I do believe that I ought to, as a woman, have my head covered in church, (see numerous articles online if you want to know more about THAT,) I am not quite sure how to go about doing this!

My biggest concern has to do with NOT wanting to stick out. I don't want everyone to see me in a mantilla and think, "oh, there's one of those weird traditionalist girls..."
that isolates me.

As you will see from the following pictures, it's easy to wear a scarf in the winter and fit in, but we'll see what happens in the summer...

Here's a simple scarf. (I wore a similar scarf a couple days ago; for the first time since probably my first communion I had my head covered during a novus ordo mass! I didn't feel like I got any strange looks. it is winter out!)

bandana. (It fits the directive of "having your head covered," by following the letter of the law, but perhaps not the spirit) [great fun can be poked at those lace "doilies" that some women wear to "cover their head."] the best part of this one is that no one would EVER guess that I'm trying to actually "cover my head."

a very warm and cozy scarf

I look like the Blessed Virgin Mary! (who, we ought to NOTICE, is NEVER depicted without having her head covered!)

I am afraid that if I start to do this more seriously/consistently, it will become a fashion show for me..."what head covering shall I wear today that will match my outfit?"
tee hee.

and of course, standard lace mantilla. What better way to make everyone know exactly what you are doing?

Old Russian Grandma. (I actually like this look. I just wish it didn't have the stereotype attached to it...it's almost like...wearing Hitler's mustache!)

and... my favorite!
gypsy/ganster girl!
who could say my head isn't covered!
(I might get some weird looks. But probably not for the reasons that I am initially worried about...)

ok folks, the polls are opened. voice your vote.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

enough said.

Bishop Earl Boyea will celebrate his first Extraordinary Form Mass as Bishop of the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan on Sunday,February 15 at 4:00 PM at All Saints Church in Flint. All Saints islocated one block east of I-75, at the Pierson Road exit, north of downtown Flint. The Mass will be a Pontifical Low Mass, as he was accustomed to celebrating at St. Josaphat Church in Detroit. Music will be supplied by the Assumption Church-Windsor choir (Windsor, Ontario).
Source – http://www.detroitlatinmass.org/jospht/010409.pdf

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Why don't they write more two or three-part octavos/anthems? (stuff for my choir to sing without the congregation.)

I mean, it seems to me that the majority of church choirs are stumbling along with "sopranos, altos, and a few good men." (I actually have a book called that.)

I wonder if for every one church that has a strong 4-part choir, there are 3 churches that don't. But maybe not. Thinking of my city, there are 4 churches that probably have choirs like that, and mine is the one limping along in three parts.
But in other cities, (like I'm thinking of metro Detroit,) there seems to be a lot more smaller churches.

Those big ol' publishing companies could make a lot of money off this market!

It's especially frustrating to me to think of all the repertoire, mostly classical, that my choir would probably never be able to sing. And so I spend hours looking for easier pieces, requiring less singers, but that are still high-quality!

(I hope I haven't blogged about this before. Sorry, if so.)