Wednesday, June 30, 2010

bulletin article

Two weeks ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a conference about sacred music. Many of you probably noticed that I was not present for the weekend Masses last week, and that is because I was in Pittsburgh at the annual Colloquium sponsored by the Church Music Association of America, which is an association of Catholic musicians, and those who have a special interest in music and liturgy, active in advancing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other forms of sacred music, including new composition, for liturgical use. The CMAA’s purpose is the advancement of musica sacra in keeping with the norms established by competent ecclesiastical authority. I highly recommend their quarterly journal, Sacred Music, for those who are interested. More information can be found at the website
This year was the 20th annual conference, and I am told that even just four years ago there were only about 40 people that would attend. I had been to the same conference 3 years ago, and while it was a great experience both times, the difference was surprising. Three years ago, it was held in Washington D.C., and for the first time ever the conference was filled to capacity, which was just over 100 people. This year, the capacity was 250 people, and even that was filled and had a waiting list by mid-April! This is truly a testament to the growing interest in our country to the restoration of sacred music. I was also extremely surprised by the increase in overall musical skill at the conference; it seems to me that most people in attendance were professional church musicians, unlike the same conference three years ago, and a similarly surprising percentage were young adults!
The days were filled with few breaks, and packed from 7 am until 10 pm almost every day. They contained chant and choral polyphony rehearsals based on your experience level, workshops (including organ playing and conducting chant,) sung morning and night prayer, many lectures on various aspects of sacred music, and of course the choirs sang everything at Mass every day, ranging from an English Novus Ordo to a Solemn High Latin Tridentine Mass. Almost everything was recorded, and can be accessed via (click on the link to access the recordings from the 2010 Colloquium.)
Although as of this writing only about half of the files are currently available online, I am sure they will be by the time you read this, so I would like to direct you to a few personal highlights for me. If you only have a few minutes, I would encourage you to listen the "Responsory" from the Vespers Service on June 25. This was a favorite for me because I was in the group of women singing it (under a director who may be one of the best conductors I have ever sung with!), and I also thought that the chant was particularly exquisite. Another highlight that I am sure you would enjoy listening to was the beautiful "Post-Communion: Locus Iste" on June 27. This was sung in the impressive Church of the Epiphany by ALL 250 participants as a 4-part choir scattered throughout the church!
If you have a little more time, the lectures are also available online at the bottom of the page, and I would encourage everyone to listen to them, in particular the introductory lecture by Dr. Mahrt about Sacred Music on June 21. Another favorite lecture of most people was that given on June 22 by the esteemed Edward Schaefer on the relationship between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Masses.
While it is extremely impressive to listen to the recordings of any of the individual Masses (and it was even more stunning to be present at them! My absolute favorite was the Mass on Saturday morning, in large part because of the remarkable improvisations by the talented organist,) it is important to understand that the musical result of this gathering of 250 musicians will most likely not be obtained in any normal parish! The talent and sheer forces required are simply beyond us. Instead, what I have taken away from these Masses and the conference overall, are many individual ideas that can be used even at this parish. I observed excellent chant and choral conducting, and was given many ideas for how to improve the sound of our own choir. I also learned many new choir pieces that I hope to incorporate in the liturgy at Old St. Patrick, and was so impressed with some of the organ playing and improvising that I am encouraged in my own practicing of the instrument!
To summarize, I was able to participate in a variety of incredibly beautiful liturgies celebrated according to the Roman Rite, as the Church has directed and given options, and I see this beautiful whole as far-off goal to inspire all of us to deeper and more reverent worship at Mass.

EDIT: Actually, this won't be in the bulletin til next week.

Friday, June 11, 2010

a realization

I just had a kind of sad (but intriguing) realization:

If I were to have to pull together a small choir for, say, a wedding or funeral at which was requested "chant and sacred polyphony," I might actually be able to get a group of good musicians together who would say, "we love doing this music so much...we never get a chance to! that we'll do it for free!"

isn't that sad? (the point being: the more "qualified" a musician is, the more likely they are to appreciate and *want* to perform this type of sacred music...but the riff-raff give them barely any chances to!)

however, not to be saying everyone should be taking advantage of this... I think I can quickly ascertain how deep someone's pockets are when they are discussing music for an event. So I would, and I have, said, "yup it'll be $$$ per singer..." but the beauty of what I mentioned at the beginning would more likely happen if someone were like, "we love this music sooo much, but we just can't afford it..." then the musicians might say, "wow, that's just wonderful. of course we'll help you--it's so rare to find someone who appreciates it!"


I'm a little confused about when the "Year of the Priest" actually ends.
When I was at Mass today, I was looking at the picture of St. Vianney, and as we were praying the prayer for priests I was thinking this was the last time we would do that, since I'd heard at least one place today was the last day, confirmed on a website such as this :

but...that seemed a bit early to me, for some strange reason, and I would tend to trust these guys over the ones referenced above:

(I do acknowledge, that the USCCB website doesn't explictly say "the last day for the year of the priest is..." but it sure looks like it is June 11!)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

spread the good news

I talked on the phone with someone this afternoon who actually has a very similar background to me, and will be moving out west to be the music director at a parish. He was at St. P this weekend, and wanted to ask about different things like where to do I get the English version of the Introit. It was great to talk to him. Very encouraging to talk to a person who could *tell* that the prelude this past week was Bach! And even more encouraging to hear how these things like the English Introit (and the "hymnal supplement" that I put together) will be spreading through the country! (I also know that there are far less hymnal supplements in the pews than when I put them there, so I can't help wondering how many other music directors have stopped in and "borrowed" one without letting me know... :-) )

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

the secret to finding SA-Men choir music is... transpose SSA music.
then, you will never run out.
I had this realization recently when I discovered a famous SA-Men piece, and then realized that I had the same piece as an all women or men schola arrangement in a book I have written for TTB or SSA (which of course was the original.) then, I realized that almost any piece can be transposed! Which is wonderful, cuz even though my women can sing SSA music, the sopranos do hate those high F's and G's...

So, take any SSA/TTB piece. I'm looking at this book, and I'll just take a piece by Aichinger, "Assumpta est Maria."
The top part goes from treble F to high A
The middle part goes from middle C to high E
The bottom part goes from a low F up to A

transposed down a perfect 4th?
We will have the sopranos singing the top part from middle C up to E
The altos will sing from low G up to B
Then the men will all sing from C up to middle D

I would say that works *perfectly!*
(some pieces might need to be transposed down a 5th instead, especially for the benefit of the men.)

(wow, it's been a long time since I've written here! see what happens when it is May and I am not in school and doing hardly anything?! my life practically falls apart!)