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!