31 December 2004
26 December 2004
22 December 2004
Holly and Misteltoe
Christmas is Coming
Gifts have been purchased and lovingly wrapped,
Cards will be mailed out today,
The church has been decked out in ribbons and wreaths,
Poinsettias and gold lamé.
Menus are planned and the tasks are doled out--
I'm making plum pudding this year.
Grocery stores visited, bell-ringers passed,
Thank heaven the sky is still clear.
The table is still set for Advent, I guess,
Because Christmas isn't quite here.
But when it comes, I hope yours is merry,
And also, a happy New Year!
17 December 2004
(Stolen from In Pectore)
Everything You Need to Know About The O Antiphions
Have I mentioned yet that Advent is my favorite season?
Coming soon: Profound Parisian Poetry, Daring Disney Distractions, and more Amazingly Awesome Alliteration!
13 December 2004
2. Stay up until midnight on New Years? Stay up.
3. Prefer white or colored lights? White. My eyes are very sensitive to light, and for some reason colored lights hurt my eyes worse than white ones.
4. Favorite holiday song? "Gaudete, Christus est natus," for the religious variety, and "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" for the non-religious.
5. What is your tackiest holiday decoration? Either the stuffed cat that meows, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," or the pink flamingo tree-ornaments covered with real feathers.
6. Do your kids have too much and you wonder just WHY you are getting more?? At this point, I am the kid, and I bet my parents are wondering why they are getting me more stuff.
7. If you celebrate Christmas, when does your tree go up and come down? It goes up after Thanksgiving and comes down after New Year's. In the past it has usually been January 2nd, because it had to be down before my parents went back to work, but this year they're both retired, so it may stay up until Epiphany.
8. Christmas again - open presents on Christmas eve, morning, or other? Presents from each other after dinner on Christmas eve, and presents from "Santa" on Christmas morning.
9. Favorite holiday tradition? Caroling, especially when kindly neighbors offer me hot drinks or fruitcake.
10. What do YOU want for Christmas? CD's, books, mittens, an electric mixer....
I know some of you read "The Onion Dome," and I bow to the creative genius of Mr. Riggle. For those of who haven't explored the back page, and found "The Orthodox Grinch,"I suggest you click here. Please keep your arms near the keyboard, and refrain from drinking anything that might be hazardous if it winds up on your monitor.
23 November 2004
Today is the feast of St. Cecilia, important to all musicians. I celebrated by having dinner with my roommates, which is an unprecedented event. I just hope that by eating in the cafeteria I have not subjected myself to what has become known as the GU flu--the gastroenteritis that has raged through campus for the last two weeks. St. Cecilia, in addition to praying for our musical efforts, preserve us from illness!
21 November 2004
...go check it out now! I'm referring to a new children's book called Angel in the Waters, which is about a pre-born child. The child talks to his (or her--it's not really specified) guardian angel while in the womb. It's very well done, and the illustrations are beautiful.
The illustrator, Ben Hatke, also belongs to a newish blog called Small Pax Guild, which describes itself as a "group of peculiarly 'Romish' artists." I have added the link at left. Readers of Gilbert may recognize some of the names.
19 November 2004
18 November 2004
08 November 2004
St. Michael and All Angels
Supreme Leaders of the Heavenly Hosts, we implore you that by your prayers you will encircle us, unworthy as we are, with the protection of the wings of your immaterial glory and guard us who fall down before you and fervently cry: deliver us from dangers, for you are the commanders of the powers above.
To those of you who may be confused, today is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels in the Eastern Churches. It is a holy day for them. To any Byzantines out there, have a happy, holy day!
02 November 2004
Soul day, soul day, Saul
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him who made us all.
An apple, a pear, a plum or a cherry,
Any good thing that will make us all merry.
Put your hand in your pocket and pull out your keys,
Go down into the cellar, bring up what you please;
A glass of your wine, or a cup of your beer,
And we'll never come souling till this time next year.
We are a pack of merry boys, all in a mind,
We are come a souling for what we can find,
Soul, soul, sole of my shoe,
If you have no apples, money will do;
Up with your kettle and down with your pan,
Give us an answer and let us be gone
From Brand's "Popular Antiquities," (1777), as sung in Cheshire
(This is not to be confused with the Peter, Paul, and Mary abomination known bizarrely as "A'Soalin'," which is apparently a hybrid of "Hey, Ho, Nobody Home," which is a well-known round, with the Cheshire Souling Song and possibly a Wassailing song. The Souling tradition is quite seperate from the Wassailing tradition, though both involve going from house to house requesting food and/or drink from neighbors. All in all a commendable activity, if you trust your neighbors.)
27 October 2004
"You'd better keep Jane away from Morihiko. If he sees her, he'll fall in love with her feet." --Liz, symphony violinist
"Hypomixolydian sounds like what happens when modes inbreed." --Kevin, music history prof.
A conversation in orchestration class:
Fr. Waters: "Why did God allow transposing instruments?"
Me: "Maybe He plans to bring greater good out of that evil later."
Rajiv: "What good could possibly come out of transposing instruments?"
Fr. Waters: "People tend to pray more when writing parts for them."
"It's pure Jesus-logic." --Fr. Spitzer
"He touched a pig? Now he's got pigness on him forever!" --Fr. Spitzer
12 October 2004
Today I took the Metro to the Cluny museum to buy some books, but I took the wrong exit, which put me right next to Notre Dame. The square was full of camera-weilding tourists, of course, visiting the best known Cathedral in the world. I smirked, glad I wasn't in the ridiculous herd of tourists circling the church.
After I bought my books, I wandered back to the Seine, not really knowing why, (since the nearest Metro Station was the opposite direction) and once again I found myself face to façade with Notre Dame de Paris. Before I knew what was going on, I was in the same herd of pilgrims I had scoffed at earlier, like a little lost sheep looking for her shepherd.
Notre Dame has changed since I last visited. The work on the façade is finished, and the horrible wall which separated the choir from the transept is gone, so it's now possible for the congregation to see that fabulous statue of the Assumption. I was a real tourist today, and I even visited the Treasury, a small exhibit of books, vestments, statues and more reliquary crosses than I have ever seen before, including an incredibly huge one donated by Napoleon I.
If you stand in the middle of the transept and look up, you will see an amazing keystone of Mary holding the Child and surrounded by golden stars. Notre Dame is like that; there is always something new to discover. It's astounding to think of how many pilgrims have walked the same path I have inside the church. The steps and tiles in the floor are all worn from 900 years worth of love.
I couldn't help thinking, not for the first time, how incredibly lucky I am that I can just wander into Notre Dame de Paris on a rainy Tuesday afternoon.
04 October 2004
29 September 2004
St. Michael and Lucifer
Glorious St. Michael! prince of the heavenly host, protector of the universal Church, defend us against all our enemies, visible and invisible; do not permit that we should ever fall under their tyranny.
Most noble archangels! deign to direct and conduct us amidst the quicksands by which we are everywhere surrounded.
--Manual of the Children of Mary
If I ever get the chance to walk to Mont St. Michel, I think that prayer will be very useful, especially the last part.
28 September 2004
I suppose you're all breathless with anticipation to hear about how the conference went last week, and I think I've kept you in suspense long enough. The conference, titled "The Place of Chant in the Liturgy Today," was awesome. The organizers thought it would have been a success if 50 people came, but 73 actually showed up, and everyone wants to do it again next year. I definitely have a renewed respect for Dr. Schaefer, after seeing 73 experienced and educated parish musicians listening to him with the same rapt attention he gets from a class full of college sophomores. He really is an important person in his field--one of the only (perhaps the only) person in the US who deals with Gregorian chant in such a complete fashion: history, theory, and performance.
The most important part of the conference, for me, was where to start when introducing chant to a parish. I had always assumed that the place to start would be with the ordinaries: Sanctus, Agnus Dei, maybe even the Gloria if the congregation wasn't too intimidated by Latin. But Dr. Schaefer thinks otherwise. He did a comparison between the hierarchies of songs/chants in Musicam Sacram and Music in Catholic Worship. I don't think I need to tell you that they're very different.
Briefly, the introduction of chant ought to begin with things like the preface dialogue and the orations. If a priest sings, "The Lord be with you," people know how to respond to that. Also, if a lector sings, "The Word of the Lord," people know what to sing in response. It isn't difficult, and it can even be done in English (because, as we all know, Latin is scary). Once that is on it's way, other things will follow. It makes sense to me. If the priest sings chant, odds are that the congregation will follow. These are more important than the four-hymn Mass model because it is more important to sing the Mass than to sing at Mass.
It also isn't terribly important that the priest be an excellent singer. It helps, but even mediocre singers get along all right if the choir director can discreetly give him notes (Dr. Schaefer hums the first two or three notes for the priests at our Chant Mass). As long as the good Father isn't completely tone-deaf, it works pretty well, and I don't think the congregation really notices the note-giving.
The conference was also fun, despite not seeing anyone I would have recognized from St. Blog's there. I was a little concerned that the Schola would be treated like "Exhibit A," which we essentially were, but no one treated us like that. We were treated as experts in our own right in the performance of chant and sacred polyphony, as knowledgeable about the presenter, and just generally as interesting people. I think I've also found that there can't be more than six degrees of seperation among US conservative Catholics, because Fr. Jerome of St. Michael's Abbey in Los Angeles was there, and one of his confreres is the son of my high school chemistry teacher. He also knows the father of one of my high school history teachers, who was a founder of Thomas Aquinas College. How's that for trivia? It was very exciting to be with people who were interested in what we do and think, in a beautiful setting (Mundelein is awesome, and the weather was perfect), and to sing in a chapel with some of the best acoustics I've ever heard.
On a last note, Mundelein used to be run by the Jesuits, and there is still a lovely statue of St. Aloysius Gonzaga outside the door of the chapel. We were all thrilled to see our friend St. Aloysius there, and most agreed that we liked him standing peacefully in a cassock and lacy surplice better than the modernistic statue of him holding a dying man that we have here, however accurate it may be.
(I'd be better at explaining Dr. Schaefer's ideas about re-introducing chant into the liturgy if I had the materials from the conference, but due to the unexpected numbers of people, I was asked not to take any. I hope Dr. Schaefer will print some extras for me, at which time I may update this post.)
27 September 2004
This weekend, we had our first trip outside of Paris, and we went on a short tour of Normandy with a strange French tour group. Although it was very akward, it was a good experience, since the guide didn`t speak much English at all. We visited the Monet Museum at Giverny, which one could easily fail to notice. I wasn`t terribly impressed with the house, since there weren`t many of his paintings on display. The gardens, however, were exquisite. Everything was still in bloom, despite the cold. It was very fun to visit the waterlily pond and walk across the famous bridge.
Our trip ended, after visiting a couple little towns, at Mont-St-Michel. I love it. It was cold and rainy and incredibly perfect. We managed to get to the Abbey Church for Mass before they closed the gate (so tourists don`t wander in and out). Mass with the community, despite the tourists who made it past the gate, is amazing.
17 September 2004
Well, here I am in la Belle France. I still can`t believe I`m here, but I think we`re starting to get used to it. The really tricky thing is using these European keyboards! We eat in a restaurant once a day, otherwise we cook. It`s very fun. Yesterday was fish and salad. I`m not dead yet, so we`re doing ok. Anyway! keep me posted if you travel anywhere cooler :)
07 September 2004
The Gonzaga University Gregorian Schola (well, most of it) is headed to Chicago on the 19th, and will be there through the 21st. We will be singing for two Masses, one with the "hard core" stuff we do every Sunday (chants from the Graduale Romanum), and one with chants from the Graduale Simplex and By Flowing Waters. This will go along with a conference presented by our illustrious conductor, Dr. Edward Schaefer, called "The Place of Chant in the Liturgy Today" being held at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary Conference Center. We're bringing our own priest, Fr. Gary Uhlenkott, SJ, of the Music Dept. here, who frequently sings Mass for us. Masses will be at 4:45pm on Monday and 10am on Tuesday. I don't know if anyone who reads this blog will be attending the conference, but if you are, do come up and say hello!
03 September 2004
Today, the community at Gonzaga University dedicated and blessed St. Gregory Choral Hall. Fr. Spitzer, our honored university president, was in attendance. Fr. Gary Uhlenkott, of the Music Dept., was on hand to chant the blessing. The University Choir, Gregorian Schola, and Chorale all sang. After a reading from the Book of Sirach, the Choir sang Beati quorum via by Charles Villiers Stanford. We sang the Litany of Saints and the Lord's Prayer, and the Schola sang Asperges me while Fr. Gary did the sprinkling. After the concluding prayer, the Alma Mater (text Wallace Orr, class of 1936) was sung, and Benedicamus Domino. Finally, the Choir, Chorale, and Schola all sang Hallelujah from Messiah (Handel, in case you forgot). There is a pretty dedication plaque in the front hall which tells about St. Gregory. It's the first time I've seen a dedication plaque dated today.
The acoustics of the new rehearsal room are quite lovely, though very, very sensitive. Dr. Schaefer says this is good for us, because it will make us more aware of diction and tone. Thankfully, for today's purposes, the 500 extra yards of fabric in the robes we all wore, added to the extra bodies, made the room a little drier. The new hall is pretty, and it's nice, as Dr. Schaefer said, not to have to rehearse in an attic anymore (which we've done for the last 65 years). Everyone oohed and ahhed over the building and said how nice the lobby and kitchen are. It will be a nice place for the choir students to just "hang out." It'll be perfect if we get some more comfy chairs and a refrigerator, but that can wait.
Happy feast of St. Gregory!
27 August 2004
26 August 2004
18 August 2004
13 August 2004
Angel of God, prince of Heaven, watchful guardian, faithful guide, charitable pastor, I rejoice that God has created thee with so many perfections; that he has sanctified thee by his grace, and crowned thee with glory, after having persevered in his service. May God be praised forever for all he has done for thee. Be thou blessed for all the good thou hast procured me and my companions.
I abandon to thee my body, soul, memory, understanding, will, inclination, and senses. Govern all, dispose of all, purify, enlighten, perfect all. Beg our Lord to shed upon me and my companions his abundant benedictions; that persevering until death in his grace, we may deserve to possess him eternally with thee in glory. Amen.
--from the Manual of the Children of Mary, circa 1930-1935
09 August 2004
when you find yourself sitting on your bed at midnight, accompanied by a laptop, a Bible, a Brevarium Romanum, and a Graduale Triplex, trying to point text for the Communion verses for Sunday without the aid of a Latin Bible or the book with the psalm tones in it. I guess if I were a really nerdy nerd, I'd have those books. But I think I've managed to do it anyway. I used the Brevarium because the Communion verses for next Sunday are part of the Magnificat, in case you were curious about that.
30 July 2004
at least, so Dan Brown claims. I read Angels & Demons today. I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that it's the third Dan Brown novel I've read, but at least I haven't paid money for any of them. I'm fascinated by his awfulness, I guess.
On a somewhat related note, I perused a copy of The DaVinci Hoax (Carl Olson and Sandra Miesel, Ignatius Press) in Barnes & Noble yesterday. There's a suggestion in there that either hadn't occurred to me before, or hadn't surfaced in my mind for sometime: what makes us think Mary Magdalene was a young woman? Couldn't she just as well be eighty?
I enjoyed looking at the book, and also Mr. Olson's lecture at GU last spring, but I'm temporarily boycotting Ignatius, because they refused to publish a book by a friend of mine. I'm sure I'll be back buying from them again soon, but I'm a little sore at them just now.
16 July 2004
A boy was standing outside a Catholic church, bouncing a ball. As he bounced the ball, he was chanting, "The Protestants have all the houses. The Protestants have all the houses."
The priest, who was praying in the church, heard this. He came outside and said to the boy, "What're you saying that for? Do you want to get us all shot? Can't you say something else?" The boy replied, "What else should I say?"
The priest thought for a moment, and answered, "Say, 'Christ was born in a stable.'"
The boy began bouncing his ball again, and saying, "Christ was born in a stable. Christ was born in a stable." Satisfied that he had averted the problem, the priest went back to his prayers. Fifteen minutes later, having finished his prayers, the priest came outside again. The boy was still bouncing his ball. As he bounced the ball, he was saying, "Christ was born in a stable. Christ was born in a stable, because the Protestants have all the houses."
As told at the session last night by Fr. Charlie Coen, renowned concertina player. It's funnier when he's telling it, I promise. He always tells it before singing a song called, "The Old Orange Flute," which is about a flute that plays only Protestant tunes even after its owner turns Papist, and which is eventually burned at the stake for heresy by the local clergy.
10 July 2004
If you are living in the USA, even if you are living under a rock in the USA, you know that though Elvis Presley the man is dead, Elvis Presley the entertainer lives on, mostly in Las Vegas. However, Elvis has his own personal representative in Cairo, NY, in the Catskills Mountains. I was privileged to see Joe Eigo perform last night at Cruise Night in Cairo’s town park. It’s quite a good show, tastefully done as Elvis tributes and impersonations go. The little kids especially loved it when he threw plush hearts while singing “Teddy Bear.” My dad remarked that last night was truly a slice of Americana; a show of classic cars, the smell of grilling burgers in the air, and an Elvis impersonator. I’ll bet you don’t see that in the original Cairo, now do you?
Mr. Eigo’s performance was especially interesting to me because we had been formally introduced by a mutual friend after Mass on Sunday morning. Every Saturday night, Mr. Eigo is the King of Rock and Roll, but on Sunday morning, he becomes (though admittedly bringing his sideburns along for the ride) a humble church organist. He’s quite the character, to say the least.
Yesterday afternoon, I had made a stop at a store called “Guaranteed Irish” to see what could be had. I checked out their enormous CD collection (many of which I already own) and the tiny, new DVD section. Among things like “Aerial Views of County Clare” and “50 Great Irish Songs Played on Accordion,” I found a treasure: The Chieftains in Concert in Nashville: Down the Old Plank Road.” If you love the Chieftains, or if you love bluegrass, find this DVD or at least the two-volume album out of which the live concert sprang. The legendary gentleman perform with many big-name Americans like Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, Earl Scruggs, and Martina McBride. They’ve also got Irish dancers, square dancers, and two brothers from Ottowa dancing in the Ottowa style—sort of Irish, sort of clogging, and maybe a little bit French. (I didn’t know Ottowa had its own style—learn something new every day!) We watched the DVD tonight, and it was fantastic. Alison Krauss, by the way, does Irish-style song ornamentation perfectly. She really makes me want to learn the song she sang for this show, “Molly Ban.” There are a lot of sad songs in the Irish repertoire, but this, to me, is one of the saddest and most beautiful; in the twilight along a deserted road, a man shoots what he thinks is a swan, but it turns out to be the woman he loves, who had her white apron wrapped around her.
The real treat for me was watching my idol, Derek Bell, in what must have been one of his last recorded performances. He died in 2002, which I believe is the year this concert happened. He was a talented harpist and pianist, a quiet-looking little man with a quirky sense of humor who forever left his mark on the Irish music community. He has a piano solo in the last song of the concert, which is brilliantly out-of-place in style and yet transitions respectably back to the refrain. While he plays, the other Chieftains look around in mock-disbelief (or maybe it’s real), and shake their heads. Evidently, this is a trademark of his humor. On a live-recorded solo CD of his, a guest artist asks him, “Are you enjoying the audience tonight, Derek?” to which he replies, “No, not very much, but I think later on I’ll cook them for dinner.” It’s the sort of remark that makes you wonder a bit about a man’s sanity, but if you’re like me, you’ll decide he was as sane as the rest of us and probably saner—just funnier, that’s all.
05 July 2004
According to J. K. Rowling's fascinating website, The title of Harry Potter Book Six is Harry Potter and the HalfBlood Prince. Supposedly, it'll be available in 4 or 5 months. Ms. Rowling has already said that the Prince is neither Harry nor He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. It could, of course, be a character we haven't met, but wouldn't it be interesting if he were one of Harry's classmates? Imagine Draco Malfoy as a HalfBlood! That could get him away from the Death Eaters. Any guesses?
28 June 2004
13 June 2004
I'm sure you all know that, but if it hadn't been a Sunday, today would have been the feast of St. Anthony of Padua. You know, the guy you always call on when you've lost something. I've been told by a friend of his that St. Anthony likes having his feet tickled. Not sure if this is true or not, but the next time you come across a likeness of him and no one is watching, you might try it.
After an enjoyable night in Laval, the choir and schola packed up for another day on the bus. After driving for an hour or so, we stopped in a charming town to purchase supplies for a picnic lunch. There was a wonderful boulangerie/patisserie, but to our great disappointment, the town had no fromagerie. Anyone who wanted cheese had to make do with the selections from the supermarket, which weren’t too bad. I bought a baguette, some cheese which had an English name, but was made in France, and an apple. Other people had various kinds of meats and sweets and drinks, but I’ve always felt that bread, cheese, and fruit was a wonderful lunch.
We didn’t eat our lunch right away. Our lunch would be in the plaza outside the church at which we were going to attend Mass at noon. That church, our destination, is one which surely must occupy the dreams of everyone who is obsessed with chant. We were going to Mass at l’Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes.
I’m not sure that many of our choirmates understood the significance of this unassuming monastery, set in a tiny, quiet town off the main road. For those of you who may not be familiar with it, Solesmes was the seat of the chant revival of the 19th Century, and consequently important in the late 19th-and early 20th Century liturgical movement. The monastery is very old, but the monks were driven out and returned after the French Revolution (or, as our tour guide pointed out, "The most famous of our revolutions. We’ve had a lot of them"). If you want to know more about the monastery’s history, please visit their website.
We were a little confused at first, as we followed our director off the bus, because we thought he was passing the church. He explained to us that the church at which we would attend Mass was the abbey church, inside the walls, which the monks permit lay people to attend. The church outside the walls, the one visible from the street, is the parish church of St. Pierre, of which one of the priests of the abbey has charge.
Passing through the gate and the courtyard, we went into the abbey church. It is a small church, not as small as a chapel, perhaps, but quite narrow. There were two columns of pews, each of which only sat four or five across. The aisle was almost as wide as the pews were long. Six or seven townspeople came in, and about three men came and went through the gate in the communion rail and sat closer to the sanctuary. Almost immediately, we heard chanting. I really couldn’t see anything of the Mass, but the sounds of it were beautiful.
Mass was chanted in Latin, except for the readings, which were spoken in French. Dr. Schaefer explained to us afterwards that, when the monks were deciding how to implement the changes of the Second Vatican Council, they decided to have readings in the vernacular. However, their refined liturgical sensibilities would not allow them to chant in French. It didn’t seem right. So, it is the only part of the Mass which is spoken. After the monks had received Communion, one of the priests came forward to the rail and offered Communion to us.
(Here, I must insert an aside: if you are ever so lucky as to attend a Mass in this abbey church, be aware that this Mass is for the monks. Others are welcome to attend and will be offered Communion, but the practice of the outsiders who go to Mass there is not to make responses aloud. Also, it is a conventual Mass, that is, before Mass begins they sing the appropriate part of the Liturgy of the Hours.)
The chanting of the monks was beautiful. It wasn’t quite on the professional level of our schola or some others that I have heard, because most of these men are not professional musicians. But it was the sound of pure devotion to God in the Mass, and was more beautiful than I think anyone with less devotion to God could offer.
After Mass, we sang a little in the church. The acoustics were nice. The choir sang Palestrina’s Exsultate Deo, among other pieces, and the schola sang the chants Rorate coeli and Tollite portas, and the hymn Salve Mater, which was written by one of Solesmes’ own. (In a weird twist of fate, a week after this excursion, I found myself watching an episode of the television series “ER” in which this hymn was featured. For the record, I’m not a regular watcher of this series.) The abbey’s choir director and a few other monks (one of whom is an American by birth) stayed to watch and listen. The choir director gave our director quite a compliment: “Maybe someday my choir will sing as well as yours.” Dr. Schafer blushed, which he doesn’t do often.
We ate our lunch in the plaza and piled back onto the bus, but now without stopping in the bookstore. One girl who works as a cantor bought a copy of the organ accompaniments to the Liber Cantualis, Lizzy bought a Bible in French, and I purchased some blank cards with illuminated chants on the front; two of Requiem aeternam for sad occasions, and two of Gaudete for happier ones. Back on the bus, Dr. Schaefer admitted to me that while he hoped people had enjoyed the stop, going to Solesmes was mostly for himself. He visits there at least once a year, and I suppose he wanted to show us off. Whatever the purpose, we can all now brag that we have been to the center of the Gregorian chant universe.
12 June 2004
08 June 2004
I'm sorry blogging has been so light, especially after I promised exciting posts about the trip to France. But both Lizzy and I have summer jobs which probably take up more time than our college classes. My job involves about 5 hours a day of typing, and frankly that's the last thing I want to do when I get home. But, the promised posts have not completely left our consciousness, and they'll toddle onto the page someday, late but there.
01 June 2004
This is a CD by lionized soprano Florence Foster Jenkins. Beloved by audiences everywhere, Madame Jenkins' raw chords struck a nerve with-- I mean, her raw nerve struck a chord with listeners' hearts. The site includes her amazing rendition of the Queen of the Night's Aria from The Magic Flute.
I should, of course, add that this site also has recordings of The Shaggs and that Leonard Nimoy classic (*cringe*) "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins," which will help get a clearer grasp on the type of singer Madame Jenkins was.
20 May 2004
"Le Mont-Saint-Michel apparaît ... comme une chose sublime, une pyramide merveilleuse."
(Mont-Saint-Michel seems like a thing sublime, a marvelous pyramid.)
Victor Hugo, 1865
When Jane was about six or seven, her favorite storybook character was Babar the King of the Elephants. She has many fond memories of being read to by her mother as they snuggled in her bed. The original Babar books were in French, and the copies Jane had featured illustrations by the original author. The words below the pictures were in English, but the speech and thought bubbles inside the illustrations were in French. She always made her mother tell her what the French words said. In one of Jane’s favorite Babar stories, the elephant king takes his family to Mont-St.-Michel. Ever since she first heard about the island that was sometimes not an island, she had wanted to go there.
Mont-Saint-Michel has often been called la Merveille de l’Occident, the Wonder of the West, and it’s easy to see why. One can see the island rising on the coast of Normandy from at least 45 kilometers away. The abbey was built by Haubert, bishop of Avranches, in 708, after he had three dreams of St. Michael the Archangel. In his dreams, St. Michael told him to build a sanctuary dedicated to the Archangel on a high place, and, in the third dream, the angel touched Haubert’s forehead and supposedly drilled a hole. He chose the nearby Mont Tombe, and in the 14th century, the entire island was fortified. Today, friars and sisters from “Les Fraternités Monastiques de Jerusalem” inhabit the abbey.
As we rounded a bend on the highway that followed the Norman/Breton coast, the bus slowed. Jane thought it might just be her imagination working in slow motion as she caught her first glimpse of the island-fortress-village-abbey, but actually the bus driver was waiting for some extremely woolly sheep to decide whether they were going to go all the way across the road or just turn back. The sheep that graze in the fields there are raised for their meat and, when they appear on a menu, are called pre-salted mutton. The grass has absorbed salt from the water that seeps under the fields, and the bodies of the sheep absorb salt from the grass they graze on. They have black faces and white wool, or as close to white as wool that's still on an active sheep will ever get. They're pretty dirty animals.
The abbey church, in which we were going to sing Mass, is at the very top of the mount. It's a long climb (some 200-odd steps), and especially long for students carrying choir robes. Jane was glad she only had her lightweight polyester schola robe; the university choir robes are heavy satin-lined velvet. However, Lizzy didn’t notice that she had two robes; she was too busy looking around. Jane did think, as we unloaded the white schola robes from their protective bags in the sandy parking lot, that the robes might be more the color of those sheep's wool by the end of the trip. (The choir robes are, as Lizzy pointed out, Virgin blue with white satin collar and sleeve lining and were probably in just as much danger from sand and dirt as the schola robes.) We trudged up the steep, narrow, shop-lined path through the village and then the stairs through the abbey complex, with the other tourists staring at the 42 strange Americans carrying robes. A sister in a white veil and blue habit that looked almost like very soft denim met us at the gate where other tourists had to give tickets to gain passage. She led us to the Romanesque/Gothic church.
We have to say Romanesque/Gothic because it really is two styles. The main body of the church is Romanesque, very simple and not too tall. The sanctuary, though, was built later to replace the one which crumbled and fell into the sea when its foundational crypt collapsed. It's Gothic in style, more ornate with a much taller ceiling. There wasn't really a choir, but we sang from between the sanctuary and a side altar, behind the pillars. The acoustics were decent. The schola sang a prelude, and the choir sang at Communion. At the offertory, a sister played a stringed instrument the name of which I don't know. It was shaped like a hammered dulcimer, but she played it with finger picks (maybe it was a zither?). It sounded pretty, though Jane would rather have heard the organ, which wasn't played at all at that Mass.
A handful of monks and sisters sang for the Mass. The whole Eucharistic prayer was sung by the presiding priest (presumably the Abbot) in French, according to Gregorian formulas, but the proper and ordinary chants were sung in French in what our director later described as sort of neo-Byzantine chant. Some of it was in harmony, and we were impressed by the way the just a few monks and sisters made such beautiful music. Some of them must have been singing their parts alone, which can be difficult for non-professional musicians.
After the Mass, we had a little time to wander the church and village before we started our guided tour. In addition to the many souvenir shops, there is one small bookshop which is run by the sisters themselves. They have Bibles and prayerbooks and even some simple children’s books based on The Little Prince, which Lizzy took delight in translating. Of course, they had CDs from our heroes over at Solesmes.
Next was our tour of the Abbey with a local guide. Probably the most memorable part of the tour was one room that, according to our guide, served no purpose as far as we know. It’s long and narrow, and the columns are built in two different styles. Some of the ones in the back of the room arch into the ceiling and continue into the opposite wall gracefully, but the first columns just end where they reached the wall, almost as if they had been left unfinished so the builders could play with the newer style.
Then, we piled back into the bus and headed into Laval. We were impressed by their courage to serve salmon to people from the Northwest. For dessert, we had "a floating island:" a bit of meringue floating in creme anglais. Because her table decided that she spoke the most French, Lizzy was the designated wine-buyer; it was her job to decipher the wine list and pester the poor waitress about their "vins du mois." Apparently, one of the other hotel guests decided that Lizzy was a waitress, and he tried to order an aperitif from her. After a short stroll around the neighborhood, we returned to the hotel and watched Moulin Rouge. It was in French except for the songs, which were in English but with French subtitles. Not long after the end of the movie, we all turned in, since we had to get up early the next morning to drive to Solesmes.
Coming Soon: Our visit to l'Abbaye Saint-Pierre de Solesmes!
19 May 2004
I didn't realize it, but May 9th was my first blog-day. I hope the next year will be even better!
Another item of business, for those of you who are interested in Irish music: superb traditional flute player Grey Larsen has released a new CD along with his talented sidekick, Paddy League. It's called "The Dark of the Moon," and features mostly traditional tunes with a few originial compositions thrown in. It's all instrumental. Irish Music Magazine says, "This all represents the best of the current trad scene." Not more enjoyably, but perhaps more importantly, Mr. Larsen has also published a massive 480-page book with two accompaniment CDs called, The Essential Guide to Irish Flute and Tin Whistle, published by Mel Bay. I predict that this book will indeed become one of the essential materials for trad flute and whistle players, and even possibly those of us who've never picked up a wind instrument.
18 May 2004
On our first day in France, our flight was late landing at Charles de Gaulle, the plane sat around for a while before going to the gate, and it took us an hour to get our bags. Eventually, we all had bags and Euros. The moving walkways we took down to the ground floor to meet our tour guide and bus driver were the odd. They go up and down, not like an escalator, but gently sloping to your destination. I've never seen anything like it before. Our tour guide was Chantal, and the driver was Sylvan. Chantal told us that the reason why everything took so long at the airport was that there was a strike; apparently, striking is a national sport in France. The choir piled onto the bus, and we headed to our first stop: Rouen.
The first thing I noticed was that, like everywhere outside America, the cars were very small, and pickup trucks didn't seem to exist. The second thing I noticed was that I was very tired, so I took a nap. As we neared Rouen, Chantal started to tell us about Jeanne d'Arc and her Rouen connection, and a little about the cathedral there. We walked through the Gothic cathedral and saw the graves of some English kings (like Richard the Lionhearted).
We were let loose on Rouen for a little under an hour. Most of us went to the square where St. Joan was burned. There is a relatively new church there, the style of which is a bit unusual. I didn't spend much time inside, but I did buy a postcard.
Normandy is a bit like the state of Washington in that it's famous for it's apples and apple products. It's also famous for dairy production. The first thing I bought in France after postcards was a stick of apple-sugar candy. I didn't like it much, but it was worth a try. At dinner I also had a go at the hard apple cider, but only a few sips. The general consensus of the table was that it tasted a bit like beer only more fruity, and I don't like beer at all. I knew that if I ordered anything else alcoholic in France it would have to be wine. To be fair, the cider went pretty well with the salad crudite and chicken a la Normandie that we had for dinner. Most of us retired early that night, though my roommates and I did watch a little television first: The Man in the Moon, in French. It was a strange movie in English, and even weirder in a foreign language. We could only stand a few minutes of that before we decided to hit the sack and prepare for the next day's trip to Mont St. Michel.
08 May 2004
We've just finished finals week and on Monday Lizzy and I and the Gonzaga Choir and Schola are off to France for a tour. When we come back, we promise to tell you all about the May crowning that we had here last Monday and, of course, our adventures in France. Hopefully Lizzy will be able to tell you lots more about her continued adventures in France next school year!
Sadly, we will no longer be roommates. It's hard to be roommates when you're on different continents. But, we will keep in touch, and try to keep up with the blogging.
Thanks Lizzy, for a really great year.
04 May 2004
"A lot of paper weighs a lot, even though a little bit of paper only weighs a little."
Keep this in mind while packing up for the summer!
03 May 2004
29 April 2004
26 April 2004
22 April 2004
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
There aren't five sentences on the page, but the fifth line says, "Benedixisti, Domine, ter-(ram)"
21 April 2004
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
"It is just in this that the moral worth of the character is brought out which is incomparably the highest of all, namely, that he is beneficient, not from inclination, but from duty."
Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals
Philosophy homework? Always!
19 April 2004
16 April 2004
15 April 2004
Last Monday I had a meeting with my academic advisor to talk about my classes for next year. My advisor also happens to be our Schola director, who runs the Gregorian chant Mass here. When we were finished discussing class stuff, he asked me if I would like to see a copy of the draft of the new English translation of the Missal.
I'm still not entirely sure why he showed it to me, or even why he had it, but he told me that this was the draft the bishops had just gotten to look at and approve (or not). I looked through it a bit. There were some odd notes about the translation written on a few pages which I asked him about--he said they had been written by a monsignor whose name I don't recall. Some of the notes seemed silly to me. The draft had facing pages of Latin and English, and even I, a first-year Latin student, could see that some of the question-marked words were pretty accurate. The only question-marked word which might have gone either way was in the Confiteor; the Latin word nimis was translated "exceedingly." There was a note next to it which said "excessively?" Now, both are acceptable translations of nimis according to my Latin dictionary, but they have different connotations in English. "Exceedingly" seems to mean more like "greatly," while "excessively" has the connotation of "too much." I think "exceedingly" was a better choice, and I hope it isn't altered.
Time was short, so I didn't get to look at it thoroughly, but for the most part I liked what I saw. The translations seem to be closer to the original. Some people have complained about the use of language, saying that it does not resemble what we use in ordinary speech, but I don't see that as a problem. The Mass should influence our culture, not vice versa. The sentence structures in the Latin tend to be complex, and this time around, this has not been sacrificed in translation. The current translation has chopped it up into short little sentences, but next time, hopefully, the sentence structure will be of higher complexity than the writing of a reasonably bright fifth-grader.
I confess I didn't look much at the Ordinaries. As Dr. Schaefer pointed out, "I don't care about the translation of the Ordinaries. We sing them in Latin anyway."
12 April 2004
11 April 2004
Resurrexi, et adhuc tecum sum, alleluia:
posuisti super me manum tuam, alleluia:
mirabilis facta est scientia tua, alleluia, alleluia.
I am risen, and I am always with you, alleluia
you have placed your hand upon me, alleluia:
your wisdom has been show to be most wonderful, alleluia, alleluia.
(Introit for Easter Sunday)
09 April 2004
08 April 2004
St. Francis Xavier Parish, Spokane WA
Processional hymn: Lord, Who at Thy First Eucharist (tune: Unde et Memores)
Kyrie: Missa Simplex (in English)
Gloria: Gloria II for Feasts and Solemnities, by Carrol Thomas Andrews
Psalm: Psalm 145 (unknown, suspect it is from By Flowing Waters)
Washing of the Feet: Mandatum Novum (Taize)
Offertory: Ubi Caritas
Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Doxology: Mass of Creation
Agnus Dei: Mass XVIII
Communion: "Taste and see how good the Lord is." (chant-type of unknown origin, suspect it is from By Flowing Waters)
Transfer of the Holy Eucharist: Pange Lingua (alternating verses in Latin and English)
Celebrant: Pastor, Fr. Dan Barnett
The Mass was nice. The church is smallish and pretty, build of concrete block but in a traditional cruciform shape. It has a lovely arched, wooden ceiling, and the choir sang from the loft in the back. The carpeting under the altar is a vibrant red, and the wonderful gold altar cloth stood out nicely against it. The priest is young, 35-40ish, but as another one of the choir ladies pointed out, he could pass for 25. He had quite nice vestments and was wearing a cassock under them. He was assisted by five altar servers and a deacon in a dalmatic.
I really like singing in a "normal parish." Singing at what is technically a parish-sponsored Mass but what looks more like a university-sponsored Mass is both taxing and too easy. The hardships and joys are different from those of a parish. We don't hear about how we need to raise money to fix the roof or maintain the organ or pay the religious ed teachers. We don't usually have babies crying, or the elderly man in the wheelchair's occasional coughs to interrupt us. The chapel is so small that there is no need for electronic amplification. There are never any weddings, baptisms, confirmations, or funerals. We have a rotation of five or six priests who say chant Mass, and never see any of them outside that time unless one happens to be a Jesuit whose class we are taking.
It was nice to be in a place which has a sort of settled routine and a sense of community. There were young families and single people and elderly folks who greeted each other as they came in. They know their priest and deacon, and they know each other. I miss that.
04 April 2004
Hosanna filio David: benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini. Rex Israel: Hosanna in excelsis.
Hymnus ad Chrustum Regem:
Gloria, laus, et honor tibi sit, Rex Christe Redemptor: Cui puerile decus prompsit Hosanna pium.
Pater, si non potest hic calix transire, nisi bibam illum: fiat voluntas tua.
21 March 2004
Not Latin language this time; I'm branching out. If you like Latin rhythms, lots of percussion, and hot jazz vocals, check out Pink Martini. It's an eclectic ten-member band from Portland who play energetic and fun music. Lizzy and I heard them play with the Spokane Symphony tonight, and after two numbers I knew I had to get the CD. Their first CD is called Sympatique, and their second CD, which is supposed to be titled Hang on Little Tomato (the title song was inspired by a 1960's-era Heinz ketchup ad) is soon-to-be released.
18 March 2004
I'll bet you thought there weren't any, didn't you? Well, the sad news is that the internet access here is really slow tonight, so I wouldn't be able to post anything before midnight. So you'll just have to wait until next year to find out what the happy Irish songs are.
17 March 2004
I promise I'll post happy ones tomorrow. But here are some songs to remind us that Ireland is not a land of green beer and soda bread or Guinness and oysters. It's a country that has seen much suffering, and I'm not just talking about the Potato Famine. Here are some song lyrics that reflect that view of Irish history (some have midi links at the bottom of the page):
There Were Roses
This is an oft-performed song written fairly recently about conflict in Northern Ireland.
The Reason I Left Mullingar
Finding your fortune overseas is not all it's cracked up to be, lads.
Only Our Rivers Run Free
Definitely one of the more depressing songs in the repertoire.
The Bantry Girls' Lament
The English just loved to send Irish boys off to foreign countries like Spain and France to fight.
Irish Ways and Irish Laws
Pretty much everyone in Northern Europe tried it, but you can't keep the Irish down.
The Rights of Man
The tune is famous in trad (this being Irish traditional music, not traditional Catholic) circles, but the words are hardly ever sung.
Irish music fans whose internet connection can support streaming media will want to check out RadioCelt. The traditional music section is pretty good. Not all of it is strictly traditional; Enya does not belong in any trad section and An Dochas uses digeridoos, but it's mostly absolutely beautiful stuff and virtually ad-free. Most of the music is Irish, but you'll hear some Scottish, Welsh, and English music, as well as stuff from Celtic communities in Spain, France, and North America. (Yes, there are Celtic tribes native to Spain and northern France/Belgium.)
16 March 2004
15 March 2004
Watch out for "friends" named Brutus!
For any of you musicians who fancy yourselves composers, the website Lizzy mentioned yesterday is holding a competition for the composition of a march for bagpipes. The winning tune will be named "Templar Knights of the Holy Land" and will be played in the Official Grand Priory Church to commemorate the Templars who fell in battle in the Holy Land during crusades. Entries due 25th of July 2004!
14 March 2004
No, not 7-Eleven. The Templars. Matt over at the Shrine of the Holy Whapping posts about the Ordo Militia Templi, a Templar lay-Order which is recognized by the Catholic Church.
Recently (on another of my grail quests) I found this group: Supreme Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem Knights Templar. I have a sneaking suspicion that this order is not recognized by the Catholic Church, but it's pretty interesting. And they have some spiffy heraldry!
12 March 2004
Yes, it's lent, but we're not supposed to look like we're fasting, right? So, leading up to St. Patrick's Day, I'm going to post some links and songs full of good Irish cheer. My first link and song is from an aquaintance of mine, Robbie O'Connell, singer-songwriter extraordinaire. His mother was a sister of the famous Clancy Brothers. He wrote this song based on his own experience plying his trade in the USA. As a singer of Irish songs, I sympathize. I've sung "Danny Boy" quite enough times to be tired of it. And "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" was written by an American-born Jew, not unlike several songs often thought of as Irish.
"You're Not Irish"
When first I came to the USA with my guitar in hand
I was told that I could get a job singing songs from Ireland
So I headed up to Boston, I was sure it would be alright
But the very first night I got on the stage, I was in for a big surprise
You’re not Irish, you can’t be Irish, you don’t know “Danny Boy”
Or “Toora Loora Loora” or even “Irish Eyes”
You’ve got a hell of a nerve to say you came from Ireland
So cut out all the nonsense and sing “McNamara’s Band”
To tell the truth I got quite a shock and I didn’t know what to say
So I sang a song in Gaelic, I thought that might win the day
But they looked at me suspiciously and I didn’t know what was wrong
Then all of a sudden they started to shout “ Now sing a real Irish song”
The next day I was on my way, for Chicago I was bound
I was ready to give it another try and not let it get me down
From the stage they looked quite friendly but I’d hardly sung one word
When a voice called out from the back of the room and what do you think I heard?
Now I’ve travelled all round the country, but it’s always been the same
From LA to Philedelphia, and from Washington to Maine
But sometimes now I wonder if it’s a secret society
And it doesn’t matter wherever I go, they’ll be waiting there for me
You’re not Irish, you can’t be Irish, you don’t know “Danny Boy”
Or “Toora Loora Loora” or even “Irish Eyes”
You’ve got a hell of a nerve to say you came from Ireland
So cut out all the nonsense and sing “McNamara’s Band”
26 February 2004
Warning: possible spoilers.
I saw The Passion of the Christ last night. I do recommend it to many people. To some, especially those of a sensitive nature, I would not recommend it.
I read Andrew Sullivan's post on the topic. I think it goes without saying that I disagree with him, but I somehow feel it necessary to point out exactly where I disagree. Quotes from him are in italics.
In a word, it is pornography. By pornography, I mean the reduction of all human thought and feeling and personhood to mere flesh.
From my perspective, this film does not reduce all human thought to mere flesh. The people portrayed in this film have souls. Mary Magdalen remembers when Jesus saved her from being stoned. Peter denys Jesus, and then runs to Mary to repent. Simon is changed from a man who did not want to carry the cross to a man who has to be dragged away from Jesus.
The center-piece of the movie is an absolutely disgusting and despicable piece of sadism that has no real basis in any of the Gospels. It shows a man being flayed alive - slowly, methodically and with increasing savagery.
No real basis in any of the Gospels? "Then Pilate took Jesus and scourged him. (John, 18:19) "So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas; and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him up to be crucified." (Mark, 15:15) "Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified." (Matthew, 27:26) Ok, so we're not four for four on this one, but three out of four isn't bad. Jesus was scourged. We know enough about the Romans to know that they could be cruel and savage. Why is this a stretch?
There is nothing in the Gospels that indicates this level of extreme, endless savagery and there is no theological reason for it.
At the time, all you had to say is "Jesus was scourged." They knew what scourging meant. It was savage. Ancient cultures had strange interest in developing the most horrible punishments imaginable. As for the theological reason, I'm sure there are people who could explain this better than I. Does it make a difference to you to know that not only did your God die for you, He died an agonizing, literally excruciating death? Would it make a difference if someone you love very much chose to die an excruciating death for your sake than if they chose a quick, painless death? It would make a difference to me.
The suffering of Christ is bad and gruesome enough without exaggerating it to this insane degree.
It's not insane. It's what happened. It was gruesome. Mr. Gibson was not exagerrating. Here are two articles about Jesus' Passion and death, both written by physicians. The first is from an Orthodox church's website, the second is a personal website maintained by a Mormon. If you don't believe those, check out Amazon and I'm sure you'll find some useful books on the subject.
Gibson has a large crow perch on the neighboring cross and peck another man's eyes out. Why? Because the porn needed yet another money shot.
Or maybe because it's symbolic? I admit, though, I thought this was disgusting and wish it had been left out.
Moreover, the suffering is rendered almost hollow by a dramatic void. Gibson has provided no context so that we can understand better who Jesus is - just a series of cartoon flashbacks. We cannot empathize with Mary fully or with Peter or John - because they too are mere props for the violence.
Peter denies Jesus and then runs to Mary to repent; you don't empathize? Mary sees Jesus fall and wishes that she could comfort him the way she did when he stumbled as a child; you don't empathize? Because I do. I thought that the flashback involving Jesus making a table was pretty silly, but most of them were not "cartoon". They were realistic. When we see things, they sometimes remind us of the past. Also, I don't think this movie was made for people who don't know the story. And if people already know the story, you don't have to beat them over the head with it. Subtle references are enough.
For good measure, Gibson has the Jewish priestly elite beat Jesus up as well, before they hand him over to the Romans.
"Then the high priest tore his robes, and said, 'He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You now have heard his blasphemy. What is your judgement?' They answered, 'He deserves death.' Then they spat in his face, and struck him; and some slapped him, saying, 'Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?'" (Matthew, 26:65-68) Yes, Jesus was beaten in the presence of the priests.
Yes, the Roman torturers are obviously evil; yes, a few Jews dissent; and, of course, all the disciples are Jewish. I wouldn't say that this movie is motivated by anti-Semitism. It's motivated by psychotic sadism. But Gibson does nothing to mitigate the dangerous anti-Semitic elements of the story and goes some way toward exaggerating and highlighting them.
I think it is pretty clear in the movie that the high priest led the people. The Jewish people were unquestioningly doing what he said. If anyone is to blame, it is the high priest, not the crowds. The Jewish women wept on seeing Jesus in the street. The Roman soldiers were sadistic. Pilate wasn't exactly commendable for letting politics dictate this man's life or death. I think that this is true to the Gospels. I don't think Mr. Gibson exaggerates or highlights the role of the Jewish people in Jesus' death, at least, not more than the Gospels themselves do. But then, I have always been taught a right understanding of this story and I am not sensitive to what might look anti-Semitic.
As for the movie being motivated by psychotic sadism, I highly doubt it. It is an accurate portrayal of what crucifixion is like. Some people will benefit from seeing what Our Lord suffered for our sake. It was horrible suffering such as most people on earth could not imagine, and now we don't have to imagine it--we can see it.
It is a deeply immoral work of art.
It portrays truth with a view toward telling the story of the God who died to save his people, and of the Man who voluntarily endured atrocities for the most noble of causes. How can that be immoral? That it is a work of art I will not disagree with.
25 February 2004
Downtown, a small, friendly Irish pub is the weekly host of the Folklore Society's Irish Music Sessions, usually on Tuesdays. Jane and I often go and sit in a quiet booth near the musicians who take over three of the large booths in the center of the restaurant. Depending on who is there, there can be any range of instruments-- from guitars, fiddles, and tin whistles to spoons, bodhrains, and an occasional upright bass.
After a few sessions, you start to get a feel for things. Jane is an experienced session-goer, while I for the most part have encountered Irish music through recordings or TV. This requires a different sort of musicianship than I've seen with the opera singers I normally end up with. There are very few chord books or cheat sheets, and they all seem to be able to play at least two other instruments besides the one they've brought with them. For opera singers, music is, often enough, their career, but for these musicians, it was a hobby. Perhaps music is their first love, but it's different. It's not how they earn their daily bread.
After a few sessions, you start to learn about the musicians too. Simply listening from an adjacent booth and singing along with the choruses, you learn which musicians like which songs the best. When a certain guitarist is there, they always play "Black Jack Davy." When a certain singer is there, they sing more Steeleye Span songs. Nearly every week, they play "Whisky in the Jar" and "I Wish I Was Back Home in Derry."
No matter what tunes they play, there is always interesting conversation.
Somehow, today's topic was medieval music. The mandolinist, knowing that Jane and I are Catholic, felt it necessary to tell us that for Lent, he would again give up Catholicism but go to Mass Good Friday and Easter. His reason: Catholics have the best music. His favorites are Leonin and Perotin and I must admit that I'm impressed. Not only did he know who they were, he knew the difference in their styles. However, he had a strange way of showing appreciation for them. He said it was good sh*t.
Every time we go downtown, we learn something new. This week's lesson was that Orlando di Lasso is the sh*t. And yes, that is a direct quote.
21 February 2004
19 February 2004
On Sunday, my sweetheart and I went to Sts. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Church in Spokane for Divine Liturgy. It was Meatfare Sunday, the Sunday when they traditionally begin their preparatory fast for Lent by giving up meat. Next Sunday is Cheesefare Sunday, when they give up all dairy products. (For more on Eastern fasting, see Summa Contra Mundum.) There was a potluck lunch in the hall after Divine Liturgy which we were invited to by some very friendly parishoners. Five or six people, including the priest, recognized us as visitors and introduced themselves. Not that it would be hard to recognize visitors--the congregation on Sunday consisted of, I don't know, maybe thirty people.
The church is tiny. It has pews (I wasn't sure whether it would or not), but they're not very comfortable pews. The icons on the walls are beautiful, and for me anyway, they served their purpose well. This was my first experience with the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. It was all in English, except for some song refrains. I was surprised at the amount of congregational participation required by this liturgy. There are no long periods when the congregation is silent, except for the homily. With the aid of booklets the parish had put together, the liturgy was pretty easy to follow--much easier than following along at the only other Catholic liturgy I've attended that was unfamiliar to me, a Tridentine Mass. Perhaps that's because it was in English, but somehow I don't think so.
I was grateful to see two of my Eastern Catholic schoolmates there. We sat next to them and followed what they were doing. It's a bit hard to get all the bowing and crossing oneself. I was not sure whether I ought to try and blend in by crossing myself Eastern fashion, or just do it the way I'm used to. I don't know whether it would have mattered much. Most of the time my hand went up-down-right-left-right again of its own volition, anyway.
Oddly, I felt very at home with the chant. They don't have a choir, only amature cantors, so the chants sung were not complex, but I felt more at home with it than I do even with the simple Gregorian chants that I have been singing for years. I don't know much about Eastern chant, but it seems to be much more closely related to the major and minor modes of Western secular music than Gregorian chant is.
The experience was wonderful. The community is obviously very strong, though many of them drive quite a distance every weekend to be there--or perhaps it is because of that. If you've driven a long way, maybe you're more inclined to stick around for lunch afterwards and socialize than if the trip home is only ten minutes. I hope to go there again soon, perhaps to bring Lizzy. I am Latin rite to my very bones, but coming to an appreciation of the beauty of Byzantine liturgy and theology is important. The Church must breathe with both her lungs, and I want to know more about the other lung.
09 February 2004
ISI, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, has published online a wonderful article by Bradley J. Birzer about Tolkein's mythology and its representation in Jackson's film. I feel like the subject of my previous post has intersected with my Ethics class, in which we are discussing the importance of stories to the moral development of children (and adults, too, I suppose). Don't you love it when things fit together like that? I do. Anyway, it's a great article. You know Birzer has to be pretty cool if his book has an introduction by Joseph Pierce. He brings up some good points, including one which justifies a long-held secret desire of mine to write a story about Rosie Cotton. Of course, at the heart of it all is what anyone reading this blog probably knows already: that Tolkien's myth is essentially Catholic.
08 February 2004
Terry Teachout has posted a quote about beauty and goodness which struck my eye. I confess I know nothing about the author of the quote, Karl Stern, except that an Amazon.com search says people who bought his book also bought books by George Weigel and Peter Kreeft, so I guess he's someone Catholics read.
The quote struck me largely because I have had so many encounters with the question of the relationship of art and God and goodness over the past two weeks. Last week, a friend asked me about objective beauty in music. How can you say that some music is good music, and some music is not good? I answered him as best I could, and of course dragged out that famous Louis Armstrong quote, "If it sounds good, it is good." There are all sorts of problems with people being from different cultures when you talk about art and music, because Eastern and Western music, and within those distinctions several genres, all sound very, very different. People from different traditions will at first think that other art is strange, yet I think even then they will be capable of saying both whether they like it, and whether they think it is good (not always the same thing).
My second encounter was a post by Samwise over at the Southfarthing Soapbox. (There are actually two posts now, the 2nd and 5th of February.) Samwise is talking about visual art, most specifically painting, although sculpture is also covered by what he says. I am still trying to figure out whether I believe him or not. I think further reflection and possibly a little research is required on my part. But, it is definitely worth thinking about. He talks about why he thinks most modern art violates the rules of good art by lacking reverence for the beauty of God's creation, and the artist's role as sub-creator.
The third encounter was one I shared with Lizzy. We attended a lecture by Perry Lorenzo, the education director of Seattle Opera and Gonzaga alumnus with a philosophy degree. The talk was titled, "The Theology of Beauty; an Introduction to Hans Urs von Balthasar." I'm not going to post about that lecture, though, because Lizzy took notes on it and said she would post.
07 February 2004
04 February 2004
Gavin posts about a job opportunity at a Protestant church. I think he raises some questions which are worth considering for all liturgical musicians.
1. Under what circumstances is it ok for a musician of any faith to take a permanent or semi-permanent position of leadership at a church which has conflicting beliefs?
2. If a musician takes a position at a church with different/conflicting beliefs, should he allow his own beliefs to affect his musical choices? If so, in what way?
3. To what extent is it legitimate for this musician to participate in their worship service? (I suppose this depends largely on his faith and the faith of the church he's working in.)
I think we can all agree that being a liturgical musician, especially one in a position to lead a congregation and make important musical choices, is not "just another job," in the way that playing for a party is. I think we can also agree that, while it is certainly a good thing for a Catholic musician to be a witness to his faith, it is not part of his job description to convert the congregation for which he works or tell them that their Eucharist is not valid (assuming that they believe in the Real Presence).
I know that some of you out there, especially Mary Jane at Sacred Miscellany, currently or have in the past been a Catholic musician at a non-Catholic church. I know I have been called upon to play at Protestant weddings, and I always wonder how much to participate in the service. It is important not to distract those around you by your lack or participation, but leading them to think that you believe as they do could also be detrimental. How do you handle it?
01 February 2004
This evening, Gavin and I went to see Gonzaga Theater Arts' production of "Pippin." (No, it's not about everyone's favorite hobbit, it's about Charlemagne's son.) While the musical was fun, I think the best part was my first encounter with the Red Hat Society. I was a bit surprised to see several silver-haired ladies in garish purple dresses and fantastic red hats enter the theater and sit in the front row. After the play, I complimented one of the ladies on her feather-bedecked head covering, and asked what sort of organization they belonged to. She said, "We're the Red Hat Ladies. It's a new, national organization. We go on cruises and to plays and concerts and have tea parties, and just have fun because we're old!" I thought that was a wonderful answer, so of course I came home and looked them up on the internet. Frankly, it sounds like a lot of fun. Perhaps in 31 years when I reach the golden age of 50, I too shall don a purple dress and a red hat, and go to a tea party.
27 January 2004
Mixolydian Mode posted about critical cliches a few days ago. After looking through January's issue of "Irish Music Magazine" today, I think I can add some cliches of the music world that annoy me.
"The voice of an angel" We all knew this phrase was done for when it became the title of Charlotte Church's first CD.
The description of a singers voice as "poetry." Now, poetry sounds like meter, rhyme, playing with sounds, and imagery to me. How a singer can sound like poetry is beyond my comprehension.
"Evocative." The word means "tending to evoke; tending to call up, cause, appear, or summon." By saying, "This song is evocative," you are saying, "This song tends to call up." Call up what? Feelings or memories of something? Causing demons to appear? What?
Ok, this is not a cliche, but it annoyed me: "Some say the harp is an aquired taste." I play the harp. I have never heard anyone say that. No where have I seen it written that someone disliked listening to a harp. In fact, I've met people who don't like classical music or don't like Irish music, but who have said that they enjoyed said genres when they heard them played on the harp. The only complaint I've ever had was that harp music could be too relaxing.
Ok, enough complaining for today.
25 January 2004
"We should all pray for ourselves, each other, and Mick Jagger, so that someday we can all sing 'I have got my sat-is-fac-tion.'"
"What did God create man and woman for? 'Mawage...Mawage is what bwings us togefer today...'"
"Guys, let's be honest now. When you are experiencing really strong lust, I want you to say a prayer and place yourself on the Cross. Stand with your arms stretched out. And, look at the position I'm in now. It really has a practical side, too..."
"We are all driving around with flat tires. For some reason, we think this is normal. Maybe because we're all doing this. But Jesus came to tell us that, in the beginning, it wasn't like this. He came to restore things to the way they were; to reinflate our tires."
Fifty house points to anyone who can tell me the name of this speaker. Hint, he's an expert on the Theology of the Body. (Matt, you're disqualified because I already told you.)
22 January 2004
I'm going to go say the Rosary now. I hope you will do the same sometime today, because Our Lady is the Protectress of the Unborn.
On a mundane note, I'm fed up with BlogOut comments and have switched to Haloscan. Fortunately, previous remarks don't seem to have disappeared from my archives. Unfortunately, Haloscan doesn't have the nifty eyebrow-raising smilie.
21 January 2004
The subject of abortion has always struck a chord with me because of the day on which I was born, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. I can't imagine what it must be like for a friend of mine whose birthday is on Thursday. When something really important like that is related to the day on which you were born, you can't escape from it. You remember it, every year. When I think about my birthday, I pray for all those people whose babies should have been born that day but weren't, and whose babies were born only to have thier lives stolen from them, like the Holy Innocents.
How much of my generation was never born? I've seen the statistics. I know how many people I will not get the chance to meet, not in this life.
16 January 2004
Does anyone know what happened to the comment feature that I and several others around here use? It's been gone for at least three days, and I can't even get to the website from which I got the feature. It was BlogOut, from Klinkfamily.com. Email us if you know anything about it, please.
15 January 2004
14 January 2004
Logs to Burn
Logs to burn, logs to burn,
Logs to save the cold a turn!
Here's a word to make you wise
When you hear the woodsman cry:
Beechwood fires burn bright and clear, Hornbeam blazes too
If the logs are kept a year to season through and through. (chorus)
Oak logs will warm you well if they're old and dry;
Larch logs like pinewood smell but the sparks will fly.
Pine is good and so is Yew for warmth through wintry days;
Poplar and the Willow too, they take too long to blaze.
Holly logs will burn like wax; you should burn them green;
Elm logs like smouldering flax: no flames with them are seen.
Pear logs and Apple logs, they will scent your room;
Cherry logs, across the dogs, they smell like flow'rs in bloom.
Ash logs, so smooth and grey, burn them green or old;
Buy up all that come your way, they're worth their weight in gold.
I guess that would be a useful song too, if you're the type that goes out into the forest to cut your own firewood. Of course, it doesn't mention my favorite of all the trees, the redwood, because redwood is far too moist and soft and hardly burns at all. (Also, they don't have redwood trees in the British Isles.) I think they're prettier living than dead, anyway, unless you're making a guitar or panelling a room with it, or something beautiful and useful like that. Redwood panelling is lovely. Redwood guitars have a pretty tone, because the soft wood vibrates well especially on the base notes, but also because the wood is soft they are easily scratched and damaged. Maple is better, and if you can get curly maple for your instrument, it's even more beautiful than redwood (Clare, my Thormahlen harp, is made from curly maple). I guess they don't have maple in the British Isles either.
09 January 2004
06 January 2004
I went to the movies with my big sister today. We saw "Mona Lisa Smile." It was not great, but it was entertaining enough. I'm not a big Julia Roberts fan, but I like Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles. For those of you who didn't see the previews, Ms. Roberts plays a bohemian art history prof who goes to teach at the prestigious all-women Wellesley College somewhere on the East Coast in 1953. It's pretty much a finishing school where society girls take classes in poise and deportment while they wait for a boy from one of the "right" families (probably a student at Harvard) to propose. This professor thinks she can change the girls, and introduces them to modern ideas about women having jobs and husbands, or not tying themselves to men at all.
At one point, a prize student who has already been accepted to Yale Law School decides not to be a lawyer and elopes with her fiance. Ms. Roberts' character confronts her about it, disappointed that she would give up such an opportunity. The girl tells her professor that she has chosen to be a housewife and raise a family. No one pushed her into it; this really is what she wants. The professor leaves, a bit stunned.
To me, this is one of the more interesting parts of the movie. I think it recognizes a fault in the sort of feminism which Ms. Roberts' character espouses, and is a very real fault which does not only apply to feminists in 1953. My mother, for instance, has a hard time accepting that I have many friends whose mothers are intelligent, amibitous, hard-working college graduates who have chosen not to work outside the home. She has a difficult time believing, not that they are not smart or hard-working, but that they are ambitious. To stay home must mean that this woman is somehow devoid of a drive to make something of herself, right?
Wrong. To be a housewife, and I mean to do this by choice, not because your mother did it, or because it's expected of you, or because your husband wants you to, is very ambitious. It's not easier than being a business woman or a teacher or a doctor. It doesn't require less intelligence or determination. It's hard work, and it requires a different set of talents than being in the conventional work world. If anything, I think it's more of a vocation than a job. I don't want to stay home because God gave me a set of talents, specifically for music, that I think would languish, and waste away if I didn't teach and perform. Other women are really good at being housewives. So, feminists of my mother's generation and of mine, please just let them do what they're good at, what they like doing, what they have chosen to do. I glad that I will have the opportunity to have a career, please let my peers also have the opportunity to stay home with their kids sans criticism. (While you're at it, I would appreciate it if you didn't sneer disapprovingly as they go through the grocery store with their seven children.)
04 January 2004
Here's a different song about the men who came to visit the baby Jesus on this day (other than "We Three Kings"):
As With Gladness Men of Old
(to the same tune as "For the Beauty of the Earth")
As with gladness, men of old
Did the guiding star behold
As with joy they hailed its light
Leading onward, beaming bright
So, most glorious Lord, may we
Evermore be led to Thee.
As with joyful steps they sped
To that lowly manger bed
There to bend the knee before
Him Whom heaven and earth adore;
So may we with willing feet
Ever seek Thy mercy seat.
As they offered gifts most rare
At that manger rude and bare;
So may we with holy joy,
Pure and free from sin’s alloy,
All our costliest treasures bring,
Christ, to Thee, our heavenly King.
Holy Jesus, every day
Keep us in the narrow way;
And, when earthly things are past,
Bring our ransomed souls at last
Where they need no star to guide,
Where no clouds Thy glory hide.
In the heavenly country bright,
Need they no created light;
Thou its Light, its Joy, its Crown,
Thou its Sun which goes not down;
There forever may we sing
Alleluias to our King!