Saturday, 24 February 2007

What to do when you are complimented

I find it really difficult when people come up to me and say "You sang really well", or "Thank you for singing at mass today". It is as my singing has become the focus of their attention instead of their singing to God. I feel a little defeated by this, because in that case I feel that I have failed in my objective.

This week, I led the singing of Willcock's setting of Psalm 51 at mass twice in the Cathedral. Each time it got responses. I said "Well, Chris Willcock has written a very beautiful setting" or, on another occasion, I led the discussion into what the psalm was about.

Sometimes, when complimented, I just have to say "Thank you".

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Singing at St Bernadette's for 1st Sunday in Lent Yr C

I'm leading the singing this Sunday (1st Sunday in Lent, Year C) in my local parish. Here's the program I propose to use:

Opening: A Trusting Psalm (Kevin Bates, As One Voice I:115)
Psalm: Marty Haugen's "Be with me, Lord" (Psalm 91) (Gather Australia 53)
Offertory: Give us hearts renewed (Michael Herry, "Song of the Pilgrim")
Communion: Gregory Norbet's "Heal me, O God" (As One Voice Vol II:52) - just the chorus I think.
Closing: On Eagle's Wings (Michael Joncas, TIS 48 / Gather Australia 452)

The setting for the liturgy I use is a responsorial one (the people sing after me), Christopher Walker's Glastonbury Mass (taken from Music for the Mass edited by Geoffrey Boulton Smith).

Yes, I know that none of this is classical Catholic. Quite the opposite. But each piece has the following benefits:
1) They are easy to sing (well, Eagle's Wings can be tricky if you follow Joncas' suggested timing, but easy if you don't!) and fairly familiar to our crowd
2) The passages are fairly scriptural, and all are focused on God
3) there is a good link up with the scripture readings for the day and with the beginning of Lent
4) none of these contain any heresy.

Ash Wednesday at St Patrick's Cathedral

There will be singing at St Pat's at the 1pm mass tomorrow. I am just planning it out at the moment.

The Psalm is the easy bit. Chris Willcock SJ's Psalm 51 is mandatory (cf. Psalms for Feasts and Seasons or TIS 32.)

We will use the entrance antiphon as it is in the missal, set to "Make me a channel of your peace", with the people using "You are the Lord our God" as a refrain.

During the signing with the ashes, I think I will use Michael Herry's "Give us hearts renewed" (from "Song of the Pilgrim"), which is short and repetitive. I have been looking at the "antiphons" that are suggested in the missal for singing during the signing, but I have no idea (at this point) how to sing them. Some work and research needed there. There is also a "responsory" listed, but again, no suggestion of how to use it. Mons Elliot, in his Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year, simply says that "during the imposition the antiphons or appropriate penitential hymns are sung."

I think we will use "O Lord throughout these forty days" as the communion hymn. It is possible that you do not know this hymn. It is probably more current among Lutherans than among Catholics, but there is no reason why Catholics should not sing it. And it has a common metre so it can be sung to a whole range of tunes. Lutherans use "Caithness", but you could use "Amazing Grace" or "Crimond"--though probably not advisable. Better would be "Belair" or "Tallis' Ordinal". In fact, I think I will use the latter (TIS 397). Here is the text based on an original by Claudia F. Hernaman (d. 1898) and Gilbert E. Doan.

1. O Lord, throughout these forty days
You prayed and kept the fast;
Inspire repentance for our sin,
And free us from our past.

2. You strove with Satan, and you won;
Your faithfulness endured;
give us your strength, your skill and trust
In God's eternal Word.

3. Though parched and hungry, yet you prayed
And fixed your mind above;
So teach us to deny ourselves
Since we have known God's love.

4. Be with us through this season, Lord,
And all our earthly days,
That when the final Easter dawns,
We join in heaven's praise.

Monday, 19 February 2007

Psalm 93 (92) - The Lord is King: He is Robed in Majesty

As I have mentioned before, I sometimes cantor in St Patrick's Cathedral at the 1pm Mass (regularly on Fridays, but other times on occasion). This afternoon we had Psalm 93 (or Psalm 92 in the old money), with the refrain "The Lord is King; He is robed in majesty". It isn't always easy to find a setting for the week day psalms, and when I do, I don't always like them. So I often make one up.

When making up music for the antiphon, it has to be catchy enough for the crowd to catch on one hearing (especially where there is no accompaniment). I believe that the best rule for this is if the music imitates the rhythm and pitch at which the spoken voice would speak the line. Saying the antiphon over and over to yourself you can usually hear the "tune" behind it.

Here is the way I sang this psalm this afternoon. You will get what I mean.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

I need an Accompanist for Mass at The Basin

I know its pretty pointless putting this on my blog, since very few people actually read it, but I need an accomapanist for when I cantor/lead singing at mass at St Bernadette's in The Basin. I sing there on the last Sunday of the month, and at the moment do it unaccompanied. I had a great guitarist, Warren, who played for me for years, here and at Our Lady's at Ringwood, but he has, literally, gotten himself a wife and there are other priorities in his life now.

So if you can help me out or know someone who can... Just drop me a line.

Stations of the Cross in the Cathedral During Lent

I have already blogged that we sing the liturgy on Fridays at 1pm Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral. Now, during Lent, there will be an added attraction: Stations of the Cross each Friday before mass at 12:30pm. With Adoration after Mass, this means Melbourne based Catholics can really make Friday's a focus of their Lenten devotion.

Yesterday, at our little "sung Mass", we had a marriage blessing. The elderly Italian couple had been married in the Cathedral 50 years ago to the day. More remarkably, they have been living back in Italy for the last 41 years, and came out to Australia again specifically so that they could go to Mass at St Patrick's and have their marriage blessed again. It was sooo cute. So was Monsignor Baron's rather Ocker Italian!

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

My 10 Commandments for Forming A Parish Repertoire

I always say that everyone is entitled to my own opinion. So here it is. How to form a truly Catholic parish repertoire. Just the ten rules for now to wet your appetite. I will elaborate later on.

First: Four rules for judging a good Catholic liturgical hymn or song

1) Is it focused on God?
Is it a song about or addressed to God rather than a song about or addressed to ourselves?

2) Is it true?
Does it express the Catholic faith? Is what it says about God true? Is what it says about us (and others) true? Does it name God truthfully? Does what it says agree with the Catholic faith?

3) Is it singable?
Can it be sung without accompaniment? Does it avoid difficult timing? (eg. strange or inconsistent rhythms, notes tied over bars etc.) Does it have a memorable melody?

4) If the text is not a scriptural or liturgical text, does it have dignity as poetry apart from the music?
Does is avoid trite or clichéd language, bad English, inverted word order? If the text is liturgical or scriptural, does it accurately represent the original text?

Second: Four Aims for building a good Parish repertoire

5) Aim to build up a broad range of theological / liturgical / ritual / seasonal themes suitable for all occasions.
Especially: Advent/Christmas/Epiphany, Lent/Passion/Easter, Pentecost/Confirmation, Eucharist/First Communion, Penance/First Confession, Saints Days, Graduation, School festivals, Entrance, Offertory, Eucharist, Sending out, Asperges, etc.

6) Aim to build up a repertoire of song that represents examples from every stage of the historical heritage of the Church.
Eg. Gregorian/plainchant, Latin hymnody, German chorales, Victorian hymns, Twentieth Century song, Carols, etc.

7) Aim to build up a repertoire of song that represents broad geographical/cultural origins, but reflective of and faithful to our own cultural heritage.
Eg. English, Celtic, European, Local Australian material (if it meets the criteria for a good song); African, Latin, Asian, American, Islander depending on the local community. (nb. Can be a bit false to impose songs of a foreign culture or heritage.)

8) Aim to build up a repertoire of song that represents a broad range of styles
Eg. Chants, Responsorial, Hymns, Songs, Choruses, Rounds, Echos, etc.

Two footnotes before deciding to introduce or encourage the use of a song

9) Does the song have lasting merit?
Has it been in continual use and does it show every indication that it will continue to be used? Will teaching the song be a lasting investment? ie. will it be of use for their future spiritual/communal worship lives? Indicator: is the song often included in independently edited hymnbooks and collections of songs?

10) Is the song widely known?
Widely = in Catholic circles, ecumenically, nationally or internationally. Will teaching the song equip the people for worshipping elsewhere other than in our local Parish and School? Will it bind them in unity with other Catholics/Christians? Indicator is same as above: Is the song often included hymnbooks and collections of songs of other dioceses, denominations and countries?

"When the Spear of Sin and Pride": A hymn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

This is one of the few hymns I have written since becoming Catholic. I used it first at Our Lady's Church in Ringwood where I was music coordinator for several years under the admirable Fr Gregory Pritchard (now in charge of the charred St Joseph's at Chelsea).

The tune is a simple folksong ("Parsley sage rosemary and thyme"--made famous by Simon and Garfunkel). John Bell of the Iona Community is really good at doing this sort of thing. It works well, because the tune is dignified and familiar, but is also fresh in that it hasn't been used for a spiritual song before as far as I know.

I wrote a much longer version of this hymn, which draws on the tradition of the seven sacraments flowing from the side of Christ (Catechism 766, 1225), but I never quite got it right. I will post it when I do.

Tune: Scarborough Fair (Hymns Old and New 485)

1. When the spear of sin and pride
forced a wound in Jesus' side,
John saw blood and water flow
from his heart to earth below.

2. Living water, fount of life,
Welling up from deep inside,
Streaming from the throne of the Lamb
Healing every race and land.

3. From his heart flows precious blood,
Filled with life, a saving flood,
Flowing in baptismal streams
Where we wash our garments clean.

© David Schütz

Commentary/Biblical references:
Verse 1: John 19:34 Blood and water from his side, pierced by the spear, wounded by the sin of the world (They shall look upon him whom they have pierced)
Verse 2. Fount of life (John 7:38), Living water, the river of life (Ezekiel 47, Revelation 22:1) flowing from the temple, the city of God, the throne of the lamb, for the healing of the nations.
Verse 3: The elect wash their robes in the blood of Christ and make themselves clean (Rev 7:14) (Rock of Ages: "Foul, I too the fountain fly; wash, me Saviour, or I die.")

Monday, 12 February 2007

Elizabeth Harrington on the Timing of the Communion Hymn

I generally find Elizabeth Harrington's column "Liturgy Lines", on the website of The Liturgical Commission to be a good read. Her notes are generally balanced. Nevertheless there is occasionally something to be picky about, and her current column "The Timing of The Communion Hymn" is a case in point.

Her basic argument is that all the other songs in the liturgy (excluding the singing of the responsorial Psalm which is a separate category) a company a liturgical action from the beginning to the end of that action. And so, she says, it should be with the Communion hymn: "According to the liturgy documents [GIRM #86], the communion song begins while the priest is receiving the Sacrament, and continues for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful." She then raises the question of why this is not the practice in most parishes. "Delaying the song," she asserts, "encourages people to adopt an attitude of individual quiet reflection at this point rather than the union of spirit and joy of heart appropriate to this rite." The place for silence is after communion, when the people "pray to God in their hearts" [GIRM # 45].

Things are awfully confused with regard to GIRM at the moment. Bishop Kevin Manning has been doing a series on the National Council of Priests website on the newly promulgated 2000 GIRM, but as he notes we are awaiting upon the American ICEL translation being accepted before the Australian adaptions can be made. The fact that the 2003 ICEL translation wasn't accepted has been holding up the works.

Nevertheless, as far as I can gather, it is to this version that Elizabeth is referring in her quotations. There we read:
45. Sacred silence also, as part of the celebration, is to be observed at the designated times. ...After Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts.

86. While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion chant is begun. Its purpose is to express the communicants’ union in spirit by means of the unity of their voices, to show joy of heart, and to highlight more clearly the “communitarian” nature of the procession to receive Communion. The singing is continued for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.
But we continue to read:
If, however, there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion chant should be ended in a timely manner. Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease.

So what to make of this?

There is some confusion in the practice of the church between the singing of the Communion "chant" in the singing of the Communion hymn. Paragraphs 86 seems to bear out that there is a distinction to be made. (Latin: Si tamen hymnus post Communionem habetur, cantus ad Communionem tempestive claudatur.)

In our missals we can all see something called a "communion antiphon". From my understanding this is the response or antiphon to what should be a Communion psalm. It is similar to the "entrance antiphon", and to the response in the responsorial Psalm. This is what I believe is referred to in GIRM 86 as the Communion chant. Unfortunately it is hardly ever sung, mainly because we have never been given any way of singing at as a congregation. Because we do not sing the antiphon, we tend to replace it with a hymn. Then it becomes confused with what in paragraph 86 is called "a hymn after Communion".

Contrary to what Elizabeth writes, GIRM is therefore quite happy for there to be a hymn after communion instead of the period of silence. This is one way in which people can " praise and pray to God" not only in their hearts but also with their voices.

So to answer the question why we do not always begin the Communion hymn at the moment of the priest's communion, we can give the number of decent and respectable answers:

1) Most practically, because often the musicians commune first before beginning a lengthy song. The new GIRM permits this when it says "Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease". They could indeed commune at the end of the Communion, but this would necessitate the Communion singing to end before the procession had ended--which is also contrary to paragraph 86 if you want to read it strictly.

2) Elizabeth quite rightly identifies the other main reason for not having a Communion hymn start right at the beginning of the Communion procession: the fact that it is difficult for people to both sing and move at the same time if they required the words of the song in front of them. Her suggestions of singing a well-known hymn or a song with an easily memorised response are sensible. But it does seem to me that GIRM does not insist on singing to take place at Communion (cf our weekday masses), and the same time to allow singing to take place after everybody has completed communion.

May be the happiest solution to all of this is that we simply find an easy way of singing the communion antiphon. Here I have some suggestions:

1) Just about every antiphon can be sung to the tune of "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace". I know it sounds silly but try it actually works. We do this occasionally in the Cathedral. The Cantor sings it through once at the priests communion, the people then repeat it. They can usually do this before getting out of their seats to get into the Communion procession. This can be done unaccompanied.

2) The musicians can then be the first in the line for communion, and be back at their places to lead the singing of the Communion hymn as the communion procession gets going. The Communion hymn could be a simple psalm with the response, or a Taize chant, or even one of the many simple chants by Michael Herry, or Iona Community, or what not.

3) on the other hand, once the antiphon has been sung, the Communion could take place in silence and a more substantial eucharistic him to be sung at the end of communion.

My final beef with Elizabeth's column is her suggestion that "Songs that focus on adoration or 'me' are not appropriate." I fully agree with her that songs that focus on "me" are never appropriate in the liturgy, but are not quite sure why she wants to cut out songs that are "adoration" (ie. Songs that focus on God!) unless she means more specifically those songs that are more suitable for benediction and eucharistic exposition. The only other alternative would seem to be songs that focus on "US". And this we want to avoid at all costs: we have more than enough songs already in the liturgy that sing about what we are doing rather than what God is doing.

It's about time that we had some really decent Communion songs to sing during the procession, songs that focus not on me or us, but upon the body and blood of the Lord which we are receiving as we sing.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Friday singing in the Cathedral

Today is Friday, so there's singing in St Patrick's Cathedral at lunchtime today (1pm mass). This practice began quite by chance early last year, when I happened to be doing the readings and Dean (Monsignor!) Baron was doing the liturgy. I knew the psalm, so I decided to sing it--and that must have inspired the Dean, because he then led us in singing the rest of the mass. He has a very pleasant chanting voice, and chants very naturally. Since then, we have agreed to have singing at mass on all Fridays (exposition afterwards until 3pm), and on all major festivals when we have a hymn or two also. This is done completely unaccompanied by any musical instrument. The strength of the singing shows that Catholics CAN sing, and that all is needed is a little enthusiasm, the willingness to have a go, and the desire to lift up your voices and not just your hearts to the Lord!

Psalms of David: Psalm 90:1-17

Many years ago when I was parish pastor of the Lutheran Churches in Knox, Frankston and Berwick in Melbourne, I tried to get the folk singing psalms by paraphrasing the psalm for the day into metrical hymns to be sung to well known tunes. There is a long tradition of this in reformed Christianity, but it is fairly unknown in the Catholic Church. (In fact, it is prohibited to replace the responsorial psalm used in the liturgy with a paraphrase.) Over the years, I did a fair few of these, and many of them were published in the Lutheran Worship Resources, and every now and again I hear of one of them being sung about the traps.

Anyway, this following hymn is one of the better examples of the genre. It is a popular metre and can be sung to many tunes, including the ever popular "Ode to Joy", but for the best effect, use the Haugen tune I have suggested. Nb. On no account ever use the words that Haugen wrote for this tune. Pure pantheism which has more in common with American Indian spirituality than Christianity.

PSALM 90:1-17 Tune: Haugen's “Song at the Centre”, Gather Australia 399 or As One Voice, Vol. 2, No. 74; otherwise Hyfrydol TIS 233, Friend LH 426, or Austria TIS 93

1. Lord, throughout all generations,
you have been our dwelling place,
long before the birth of mountains,
long before the world was made,
you were God then, now and ever,
everlasting still the same,
but one word returns us mortals
back to dust from whence we came.

2. For a thousand years of history
are as nothing in your sight,
they’re like yesterday now passing,
like an hour in the night;
they are swept away on waking
like a dream at break of day,
they’re like grass that grows in morning,
and in evening fades away.

3. Lord, your angry indignation
has consumed us all with fear,
for our sin and our transgression
by your light has been made clear.
Lord, your wrath has been our burden,
as our short lives pass away.
All our lives are filled with suff’ring,
and our years end with a sigh.

4. We may live for seven decades--
if we’re strong, then maybe eight--
but their span is grief and sorrow
when they’re gone, we fade away.
Yet before your mighty anger,
should we not all be afraid?
So that we might have true wisdom,
teach us how to count our days.

5. Turn, O Lord, and have compassion!
How long will your people wait?
Fill our hunger in the morning
with your steadfast love and grace,
so that we may rise rejoicing
and be glad through all our days.
For as long as we have suffered,
give us joy and happiness.

6. Let the work of your salvation
be made plain in human sight;
show your people and their children
the great splendour of your might.
Let your blessing and your favour
be on us, O Lord our God:
bless our passing small achievements
with your everlasting word.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

"Rest me in Jesus" (based on Thomas a Kempis)

This is probably the very first hymn that I ever wrote, more than 25 years ago. In many ways, it remains my favourite. It is a paraphrase of a passage from the "Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a Kempis (III:21).

To be sung to Monksgate (TIS 561)

1. Above all things my soul
must rest in Jesus.
In everything my soul
must rest in Jesus.
Help me, my loving Lord,
to take you at your word.
Let nothing be preferred
to rest in Jesus.

2. Beyond my body’s health,
rest me in Jesus.
Beyond all earthly wealth,
rest me in Jesus.
Beyond all fame and power,
all honour of the hour,
all passions that devour,
rest me in Jesus.

3. Above all gifts desired,
rest me in Jesus.
Above all hopes inspired,
rest me in Jesus.
Above all promises,
all comforts in distress,
all dreams of happiness,
rest me in Jesus.

4. I cannot be content,
except in Jesus.
Grant me my heart’s intent
to rest in Jesus.
You made us for your will
and we are restless still
in everything until
we rest in Jesus.

© David Schütz

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

"In the Deserts of this Barren World": A wedding hymn based on John 15

I wrote this for a friend's wedding. There should be more wedding hymns which have profound texts and familiar simple tunes that people who never sing can sing when they come to a wedding.

To be sung to THAXTED by Gustav Holst

1 In the deserts of this barren world
where joys are all postponed,
we would seek to bear the fruit of love
we cannot bear alone.
Though the sands of time are shifting,
we would seek a steadfast way
where our hearts may dwell together,
abide, remain and stay.
And when all life-giving springs and streams
lie empty, dry and drained,
we would seek a new commanding word
to give us life again.

2 There was one who said,
"Abide in me, as I abide in you;
as my Father has shown love to me,
so I have loved you too.
Now I give you my commandment,
as my Father gave to me:
give your lives for one another,
and let your love be free.
And whatever you may ask through me,
he'll give you from above,
so your joy will be complete and you
will bear the fruit of love."

© 2003, David Schütz. You have permission to use this hymn, but please acknowledge me as the author and owner of the words.

Welcome to my new blog!

I have long wanted to strike a blow for singing in the Catholic Church: to give my two bobs worth on the matter of congrational/liturgical song--and to have an avenue for publishing my own doggeral and jottings. So welcome to "Sing Lustily and With Good Courage"! The title comes from John Wesley's instructions for singing in Select Hymns, 1761. I first encountered the phrase as the title of Maddy Prior's most excellent collection of 17th, 18th and 19th Century English hymns. Here's the full list of instructions:

I. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a single degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV. Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.

V. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing to slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

I dream of the day when Catholics will take a leaf out of the Wesleyan hymnbook and "sing lustily and with good courage".