30 September 2006

Your Saturday Evening Humor

Go read Gadfly's comment on the most recent post at Sacred Miscellany.

I just know I'll be thinking about this during Mass tomorrow morning, imagining my choir director saying it (in his very proper British accent), and trying very hard not to giggle.

28 September 2006

Pride of Place: Gregorian Chant in the Liturgy
Mundelein, 2006, Part II

In Part I below, I talked a little about Mass and Vespers and social gathering, but for those who don't have a clue about the subject matter, the meat if you will, of the conference was about, I suppose I ought to flesh out my tale.

In the morning, there were two workshops that folks could attend. Margaret and I were in charge of the session aimed at beginners, and we do mean beginners. We started off with a primer on chant notation and modes, went over the tones for the Mass and the readings, and taught three sets of Ordinaries--the three that the Gonzaga Schola use for Mass: the first was the Sanctus and Agnus Dei from the Requiem Mass with Kyrie from Mass XVI and Gloria from Mass VIII, the second was Mass XI with Kyrie B, and the third was Mass XVII with Kyrie C). When Dr. Schaefer put together the materials for the Chant Mass at Gonzaga, he chose settings that he thought people would be likely to have heard/know, if they were at all familiar with chant. If three settings seems like very little for a really good Schola, remember that Gonzaga's Schola only sings for Sundays during the school year--the only major feast on their calendar is Easter, and they do a polyphonic ordinary for that. They don't sing for any Marian feasts, or during Christmas, and only a few Sundays of the Easter season.

Dr. Schaefer talked about the chants of Holy Week with the more advanced group of musicians. He also taught them to sing the Gradual for that week, and a brave soul volunteered to sing the verse. Beyond that, I have little idea of what they discussed.

Monday and Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, both groups met together and Dr. Schaefer lectured. Margaret and I provided occasional musical support for examples. We spent most of Monday afternoon going through Vespers so that everyone would be able to sing along, and would know when to stand, sit, bow, and all that good stuff. In relation to this, we also discussed psalm tones.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Liturgical Institute's Fr. Martis came to talk about the forthcoming Mundelein Psalter (he led the conference participants in Morning Prayer from the Psalter each morning of the conference). The Mundelein Psalter uses the modern format of the Liturgy of the Hours, encompassing Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer. Everything will be contained in one 1200-page hardbound volume (with 3 ribbons! as Fr. Martis excitedly pointed out), and is due to be available in February. Everything is set to music using St. Meinrad tones by Samuel Weber, though he also said something about someone from St. Cecilia's in Omaha writing more "exciting" music for the antiphons (which are currently set to the same psalm tones as the psalm). I am not sure whether the more elaborate antiphons will be in the book or not. The book is all in English. Personally, I don't like the new LotH, and if I made a habit of saying the Office I'd use the old version. It seems like it will be a good resource for people who are less experienced with chant who would like to sing the Liturgy of the Hours.

On Wednesday morning, we talked about resources for chant and also for polyphony. CanticaNova received several mentions, as did Choral Public Domain Library, the Solesmes books of course, many of which are available through GIA, and also the Missa Cantata book and other resources available through Dr. Schaefer's Priory Press. Dr. Schaefer discussed the pros and cons of the Graduale Simplex and By Flowing Waters.

At Dr. Schaefer's suggestion, copies of my thesis were sold for $5 apiece. I'm not sure how many copies he brought, maybe 6, 10 at the most, but they were all sold. My thesis is titled "The Motets of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina in Contemporary Liturgy" and deals mostly with Palestrina's Offertory motets on Proper Offertory texts, of which there are 68. They are all in 5 parts, and 58 of them are SATTB. I arranged two of the motets for SAATB as an example of how the others might be arranged, since I know that many parish choirs these days don't have enough tenors to divide the section, but frequently have enough women to cover three parts. Also included are two tables lining up Palestrina's Offertories with the Sundays and Feasts for which they are Proper, since some of the Propers were shifted after Vatican II, and the Sundays were renamed which might cause confusion for someone not familiar with the old system (i.e. Sundays After Pentecost); one table is arranged by Sunday/Feast date in chronological order, and the other is arranged by motet in alphabetical order. If you think you would find the tables, the arrangements, or the whole thesis useful, feel free to email me and I will make it available to you. The whole paper (which is about 50 pages) I will only send out by snail mail for the cost of copying and mailing, but the table I will email for free as a Word file, and the arrangements I will email for free as a Finale file or snail mail for the cost of mailing--I am not interested in making a profit off this particular project, but merely in making it easier for singers to use the music in the Liturgy.

Dr. Schaefer and I were somewhat disappointed in the reaction of many of the conference when asked what they thought they might take back to their parishes out of all this. About six of the 35 people had had to leave already, and I would have been very interested in what they might have had to say about it, but those who remained mostly seemed to have missed the most important point we had tried to get across. Maybe we didn't stress it enough.

The point was this: SING THE MASS. Don't just sing at the Mass. If all you're doing is singing at the Mass, even the most beautiful of the chants will seem somewhat out of context, and people will subconsciously pick up on that and it will always be a little uncomfortable. To go from chant back to normal speech is jarring, and the more the choir chants, the more jarring the experience of the Mass will be because of the number of transitions. Chant-to-chant is not so startling. The choir directors mostly seemed worried about whether their choir would be able to sing an Introit and whether they might be better off singing the English entrance antiphon set to a psalm tone, and whether their congregation would or wouldn't pick up a chanted Gloria. What they should have been worried about was how to get the priest to sing the orations, the canon, and everything else--English or Latin, take your pick. Possibly how to train lectors to sing the readings (the two places I've been to where the Pauline Mass is chanted in Latin have the readings spoken in the vernacular--I was told that their "liturgical sensibilities" didn't allow for chanting in the vernacular. Mine do, and I suspect so do yours, so sing the readings). In case you missed it the first time, I'll say it again: SING THE MASS.

26 September 2006

It's Hard to Type...
...when you're laughing hysterically.

Just look at the subtitle. Yes, it does actually say "Crotch Chant."

It took me a minute to realize that this is obviously a misprint, and the composer's last name is Cotch, but it's got to be one of the funniest misprints I've seen in a long time.

Wide-brimmed straw hat tip to CatholicNerd for digging this up.

25 September 2006


Amy Welborn was in my hometown, which is really cool, although it would have been much cooler if I had been there too.

But apparently Cardinal Mahoney was there, too. Why??? It's bad enough that I have to live in his archdiocese, why does he have to go visiting my hometown, too? This makes me nervous. Blog, Amy, blog! I really want to know what he was doing there.

24 September 2006

Sunday Humor

What do you call a program featuring pieces by Ligeti at the beginning and end?
Ligeti split.

When my alarm went off this morning it turned on the radio and there was an announcement that some pianist somewhere was performing something by Ligeti--so forgive me, I made this up as soon as I woke up this morning.

21 September 2006

Pride of Place: Gregorian Chant in the Liturgy
Mundelein, 2006

This is the chapel where we sang Vespers each evening and had Mass. The ceiling is plaster, so the reverberation is amazing--5 seconds definitely, maybe more. The organ is quite nice, as well; one of the music directors in attendance favored us with his playing for two of the Masses and the processions at one evening's Vespers. The decoration on the interior is pretty, though a bit 19th-century-ball-room for my taste.
The first Vespers was a bit of a shock for some of the folks in attendance, I think. We did it monastic-style, all chanted, in Latin except for the psalm verses. We processed, there was incense, the whole 9 yards. Most of the conference attendants couldn't figure out when they were supposed to sing, and a few had trouble with the Latin. We sang the same Vespers every evening (Sunday Vespers) so that people could get used to the form without having to process new psalms as well, and by Tuesday evening everyone was singing along and bowing at the right times.
If Sunday night's Vespers service was a shock to some, then the Mass on Monday was really a culture shock. It was like all the chant Masses at Gonzaga, with the exception of several concelebrating priests and a chapel with great acoustics. This means that the only thing not chanted was the homily. The readings, the Eucharistic prayer, everything was chanted. The Propers and Ordinaries, and the Pater Noster with its surrounding dialogue were in Latin, but everything else was in English. Fr. Matis of the Liturgical Institute was the main celebrant. The Masses on Tuesday and Wednesday were celebrated by two priests who were attendents at the conference, both of whom were quite young, around 30 years old.

This is the view that presents itself if you stand in the same location from which I took the first photo and simply turn around.

This is the cafeteria, or refectory if you prefer. Some excellent conversations were had here.

The residence hall which now houses the offices of the Liturgical Institute, a chapel, and the rooms where those attending conferences stay. There is a common room on the main floor which was the sight of many a piano tune and good joke, as well as more excellent conversations. Two examples:
Sister M. told the following:
The air conditioning in one of the rooms in heaven has broken down really badly, and God wants an engineer to fix it. He looks around, but can't find any engineers in heaven, so He calls down to Hell and says, "Satan, send up one of your engineers." Satan says, "No way. They're mine, and you can't have them. God says, "But I really need an engineer to fix the air conditioning." Satan says, "Nope. They came to me, and I'm keepin' 'em." God gets a bit angry and says, "I'm going to sue you!" Satan just laughs and says, "Oh yeah? Where you gonna get a lawyer?"

I had a talk with Fr. M which began with trading vocation stories. (Mine was considerably briefer than his, but I didn't mind as he's a decent storyteller.) In the course of the conversation about that, he mentioned that he had attended Princeton and Cal Tech and had a Master's degree in aerospace engineering. He said that at one of the schools (I don't remember which), the computers in the lab would sometimes produce and error message that said, "Magic Function Error." One of his schoolmates said, "What, are we supposed to give it burnt offerings?" I asked whether it might be possible to rig a computer to accept burnt offerings and identify the correct type of smoke. He said one could conceivably rig a smoke detector to detect specific kinds of smoke and then hook the smoke detector up to the computer. At this point, Fr. A chimed in, saying, "Abel. Computer rebooting." One wouldn't want to get a message that said "Cain."

Fr. M, if you're reading this, Mass yesterday was lovely! I'm sorry I couldn't stick around long enough to tell you in person.
The conference was fantastic. More in the next couple of days, including a few pictures (though not of people, because I didn't ask their permission to post them).

15 September 2006

Classmate Quote

I was talking about chant with one of my schoolmates yesterday. She mentioned that she was having a bit of trouble with listening to the chants and early polyphony for her medieval music class. She asked how I was doing in my 15th century counterpoint and improvisation class, and I said I loved it, that I was having lots of fun with the music. She was a little surprised, and I said, well, I sang chant for about four hours a week for four years, so modal music seems pretty normal to me.

To which she replied, "So, this is like tonal music for you."

Um, yeah, actually. Which probably explains a little of why I'm having a hard time with some things in music theory that I didn't have a hard time with the first time around (though some of it is just that my brains are leaking out my ears). I still like tonal music, but the more time I spend with modal music, the more strange classical, tonal music begins to sound. Funny how that works.

12 September 2006

Church Search

Well, I've pretty much ended my parish search. I didn't find a place that does chant, but I did find a place where the choir is pretty decent and they sing mostly decent music. Last week we sang some unmemorable processional and recessional hymns and Christopher Walker's Gaelic Mass (when I see that title, I always want to ask why it's not in Gaelic--Irish or Scottish--if it's the Gaelic Mass?), but also the Agnus Dei from Palestrina's Missa Tu es Petrus, Herbert Howell's "Like as a Hart," and Byrd's "Civitatis sancti tui" (or civitatis something or other, anyway, about the destruction of Jerusalem).

The organist is more than competent, and as he's a countertenor, he sings alto on the motets. He has kindly agreed to give me lessons, quoting a much better price than I'd pay at the school, plus I'm probably going to get to practice at the church, and I'll have no competitors for practice time other than the daily Masses and school Masses and occasional weddings and funerals. I haven't examined the organ yet so I don't know what I'll have to work with, other than that it has real pipes, is as close to in tune as one can expect an organ to be, and can make a really big sound--meaning it's probably going to give me a lot more practice with registration than the practice organ at Gonzaga or even the one here would.

The parish is staffed by the Paulist Fathers. Like most religious-order-run parishes, this means that you never quite know what you're going to get at Mass or hear in a homily. The church building is also pretty ugly, though the stained glass windows are all right. The east wall of the church looks like concrete with bits of broken, colored glass embedded in it, giving a bizarre glittering effect that I don't like and don't understand the point of. But, I apparently can't expect everything. I can have either a pretty church, or pretty music, or a really good homilist, so I went for the one with the music, because bad music is much, much more annoying to me than the rest.

09 September 2006

I Can't Believe I Missed It!

No, not the feast of the birth of Our Lady. I knew that, just couldn't be bothered to blog about it. What I missed was that the 40th anniversary of Star Trek was yesterday!

Happy Birthday, Star Trek!

07 September 2006


I recently participated in a discussion about the theology surrounding the Roman Catholic marriage rite, somewhat in comparison to the Eastern rite and their understanding of what happens therein. I find that my education on the subject of the Roman Catholic ceremony is somewhat lacking!

Questions that came up included:
1. If the couple are the ministers of the sacrament, how does the priestfit in? Is he just a witness on behalf of the Church, or is there more to his role?

2. In the pre-Vatican II rite, the priest said, Ego conjugo vos in matrimonium, in Nomine Patris,etc. In the post-V2 version, the priest says, Hunc vestrum consénsum, quem coram Ecclésia manifestástis, Dóminus benígne confírmet et benedictiónem suam in vobis implére dignétur. Quod Deus coniúngit, homo non séparet. or Hunc vestrum. consénsum, quem coram Ecclésia manifestástis, Deus Abraham, Deus Isaac, Deus Iacob, Deus qui protoplástos coniúnxit in paradíso, in Christo, confírmet ac benedícat, ut quod ipse coniúngit, homo non séparet. So, the priest speaks in the first person in the old version, and in the new version he does not. Does this represent an alteration in theology, since the first would seem to imply that the priest (in persona Christi?) has some role in joining the couple, yet that is not the Western understanding as outlined in the present Catechism, or are the new words better at not muddling the theology of the sacrament?

3. Finally, has anyone written a decent essay or book on the theology of the marriage ceremony? There's so much out there on marriage, but I've hardly seen anything about the liturgy with which all Catholic marriages commence.

I've not had too much luck with queries here in the past, and if I don't get many responses, I'll ask someone with a more popular blog to post it as well.

02 September 2006

Don't Forget!

The Chant Conference at the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein Seminary is coming up! If you always wanted to learn to sing chant, or have been wanting to learn more, this is a great opportunity.

Besides which, you'll get to meet me, and I'll get to meet you.