Monday, 15 December 2008

Rorate Caeli - Advent Prose

It has been a while since I have posted a song here, so here are two versions of Rorate Caeli which I have prepared. The first is an English setting to the traditional chant (click on the pictures for the full sized version - my apologies for the difference in notation between pages one and two - I did these at different times and haven't had the time to put the difference right) and the second is a metrical paraphrase to a German chorale tune.

HYMN By David Schütz
(Based on the Tune: Wer nun den lieben Gott [Neumark])
Do not be angry, Lord, forever
do not remember how we've sinned.
Your holy city and your temple
where once we praised you, lies in ruin:
Pour down, O heavens, from above,
righteousness, peace, salvation, love.

Like those unclean, we sinned against you;
like faded leaves, we drift away.
Your face is hidden from your people,
our sins have caught us in their sway.
Pour down, O heavens, from above,
righteousness, peace, salvation, love.

“You are my witnesses, my servants;
I chose you that you may believe.
I am the Lord, there’s none beside me;
look to none other power to save.”
Pour down, O heavens, from above,
righteousness, peace, salvation, love.

“O comfort, comfort all my people,
my saving power shall not be slow.
So do not fear, for I will save you;
your scarlet sins shall be like snow.
Pour down, O heavens, from above,
righteousness, peace, salvation, love.

Friday, 22 August 2008

A Peter and Paul Song

Here is another one that I haven't posted yet. I wrote it for the Festival of St Peter and Paul with which the Pauline Year began. The tune (click here for the midi file) is a modified version of "Faith of our Fathers" - the ENGLISH not the American version. Also, it has been modified so that the music for the first couplet is repeated (note that the midi file begins with an introduction).
1. Eternal God we give thanks to you
today for Peter and for Paul.
In grace you chose them for yourself
and consecrated them for all.
You made Paul blind so he could see;
and gave to Peter heaven's keys.
Their faithful service brought the faith to us,
so may their prayers bring us to you. (Repeat)

2. You called the fisherman from mending nets
and taught him how to fish for men.
You turned the persecutor's heart around
to preach your name in every land.
You made Peter to be "the Rock",
and Paul the preacher of the Cross.
Their faithful witness won the martyrs' crown,
so may their prayers bring us to you (Repeat)

Thursday, 21 August 2008

A hymn in honour of St Peter (for 21st Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year A)

I had forgotten that I had written this, and only found it today as I was preparing for leading singing at Mass this Sunday. It is very suitable for the Gospel for the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) and for any festival of St Peter. Tune: Any tune will do, try "Ode to Joy".

1. When the Lord asked his disciples,
“Who do people say I am?”,
they replied, “Some say Elijah,
some a prophet—just a man.”
“But,” he told them, “more important
is the answer you would give.
I now ask you: what do you say?
Speak the faith by which you’d live.”

2. When Saint Peter said to Jesus,
“You’re the Christ, the Son of God!”
he confessed the truth from heaven,
not revealed by flesh and blood.
Then the Lord Christ said to Peter,
“On this Rock I’ll build my church.
God will bind and loose in heaven
what you bind and loose on earth.”

3. For our priests and for our bishops,
and for Benedict, our pope,
let us pray to God the Father,
firm in faith and strong in hope.
Let us take hold of the promise
made by Jesus Christ our Lord:
“Never shall the gates of Hades
overcome the Church of God.”

Friday, 15 August 2008

Revising songs that use the "name" Yahweh?

There have been some who have asked whether it would be possible to give a list of songs that use the pseudo-name Yahweh for God, and to suggest possible alternatives.

For instance, the popular (with a certain set) Frank Anderson song "Strong and Constant" has the line "I will be Yahweh who walks with you". You could sing this as "I the Lord will always walk with you" (which also actually makes better sense).

But my question is: Name one song that uses "Yahweh" which might actually be worth singing or might be worth perpetuating with alterations?

I think this is a good opportunity just to completely scrap the whole sorry lot. There is a saying that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", but if it is completely stuffed, one could say, don't bother stuffing around with it.

[Actually, I can name ONE song that uses "Jehovah" and is worth singing, but most hymnals have already altered it: "Guide me, O thou Great Jehovah" is now universally sung as "Guide me O thou Great Redeemer". It is worth singing, but then it comes from a different time and a different school of hymnody than the modern "Yahweh is my buddy" stuff.]

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Letter to the Bishops Conferences on the Name of God

I have not yet had a rant about a subject that has infuriated me for years: the use of the "name" of God "Yahweh" in so many popular Catholic liturgical songs. Now, thanks to the Congregation for Divine Worship, it looks as if I don't have to, as they have done a good job for me.

Of course, the story is all over the blogosphere by now (most citing this CNS news story that has interesting statements from the big publishers OCP and GIA), but you may be interested to read the source document in this regard (when dealing with the Vatican, always, ALWAYS find the actual document in question rather than rely on news reports).

And here it is folks, for you to cut and paste and refer to:
Congregatio de Cultu Divino
et Disciplina Sacramentorum
Prot. N.213/08/L

Letter To The Bishops Conferences On "The Name Of God"

Your Eminence\Your Excellency:

By directive of the Holy Father, in accord with the congregation for the Doctrine Of The Faith, this Congregation For Divine Worship And The Discipline Of The Sacraments deems it convenient to communicate to the Bishops Conferences the following as regards the translation and the pronunciation, in a liturgical setting, of the Divine Name signified in the sacred tetragrammaton, along with a number of directives.

I. Expose

1. The words of Sacred Scripture contained in the Old and New Testament express truth which transcends the limits imposed by time and place. They are the Word of God expressed in human words, and, by means of these words of life, the Holy Spirit introduces the faithful to knowledge of the truth whole and entire and thus the Word of Christ comes to dwell in the faithful in all its richness (cf. John 14:26; 16:12-15). In order that the word of God, written in the sacred texts, may be conserved and transmitted in an integral and faithful manner, every modern translation of the books of the Bible aims at being a faithful and accurate transposition of the original texts. Such a literary effort requires that the original text be translated with the maximum integrity and accuracy, without omissions or additions with regard to the contents, and without introducing explanatory glosses or paraphrases which do not belong to the sacred text itself.

As regards the sacred name of God himself, translators must use the greatest faithfulness and respect. In particular, as the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam (n. 41) states:

"In accordance with immemorial tradition, which indeed is already evident in the above-mentioned "Septuagint" version, the name of almighty God, expressed by the Hebrew tetragrammaton and the rendered in Latin by the word Dominus, is to be rendered into any given vernacular by a word equivalent in meaning. [Iuxta traditionem ab immemorabili receptam, immo in (…) versione "LXX virorum" iam perspicuam, nomen Dei omnipotentis, sacro tetragrammate hebaraice expressum, latine vocabulo "Dominus" in quavis lingua populari vocabulo quodam eiusdem significationis reddatur."]"

Notwithstanding such a clear norm, in recent years, the practice has crept in of pronouncing the God of Israel's proper name, known as the holy or divine tetragrammaton, written with four consonants of the Hebrew alphabet in the form hwhy, YHWH. The practice of vocalising it is met with both in the reading of biblical texts taken from the lectionary as well as in prayers and hymns, and it occurs in diverse written and spoken forms, such as, for example, "Yahweh", "Yahwè", "Jahwè", "Jave", "Yehova", etc. It is therefore our intention, with the present letter, to set out some essential facts which lie behind the above-mentioned norm and to establish some directives to be observed in this matter.

2. The venerable biblical tradition of Sacred Scripture, known as the Old Testament, displays a series of divine appellations, among which is the sacred name of God revealed in a tetragrammaton YHWH (hwhy). As an expression of the infinite greatness and majesty of God, it was held to be unpronounceable and hence was replaced during the reading of sacred scripture by means of the use of an alternate name: "Adonai", which means "Lord".

The Greek translation of the Old Testament, the so called Septuagint, dating back to the last centuries prior to the Christian era, had regularly rendered the Hebrew tetragrammaton with the Greek word Kyrios, which means "Lord". Since the text of the Septuagint constituted the Bible of the first generation of Greek speaking Christians, in which language all the books of the New Testament were also written, these Christians, too, from the beginning never pronounced the divine tetragrammaton. Something similar happened likewise for Latin speaking Christians, whose literature began to emerge from the second century as first the Vetus Latina and later, the Vulgate of St Jerome, attest: in these translations, too, the tetragrammaton was regularly replaced by the Latin word "Dominus", corresponding both to the Hebrew Adonai and to the Greek Kyrios. The same holds for the recent Neo-Vulgate, which the Church employs in the liturgy.

This fact had important implications for New Testament Christology itself. When in fact, St Paul, with regard to the crucifixion, writes that "God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name" (Phil 2:9), he does not mean any other name than "Lord", for he continues by saying, "and every tonne confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Phil 2:11; cf, Isaiah 42:8: "I am the Lord; that is my name"). The attribution of this title to the Risen Christ corresponds exactly to the proclamation of his divinity. The title in fact becomes interchangeable between the God of Israel and the Messiah of the Christian faith, even though it is not in fact one of the titles used for the Messiah of Israel. In the strictly theological sense, this title is found, for example, already in the first canonical Gospel (cf. Matthew 1:20: "the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream"), and one sees it as a rule in the Old Testament citations in the New Testament (cf. Acts 2:20: "the sun shall be turned to darkness ... before the day of the Lord comes (Joel 3:4); 1 Peter 1:25: "the word of the Lord abides for ever" (Isaiah 40:8)). However, in the properly Christological sense, apart from the text cited in Philippians 2:9-11, one can remember Romans 10:9 ("if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved"), 1 Corinthians 2:8 ("they would not have crucified the Lord of glory"), 1 Corinthians 12:3 ("no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit") and the frequent formula concerning the Christian who lives "in the Lord" (Romans 16:2; 1 Corinthians 7:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:8; etc).

3. Avoiding pronouncing the tetragrammaton of the name of God on the part of the Church has therefore its own grounds. Apart from a motive of a purely philogical order, there is also that of remaining faithful to the Church's tradition, from the beginning, that the sacred tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context, nor translated into any of the languages into which the Bible was translated.

II. Directives.

In the light of what has been expounded, the following directives are to be observed:

1. In liturgical celebrations, in songs in prayers the name of God in the form of the tetragrammaton YHWH is neither to be used or pronounced.

2. For the translation of the biblical text in modern languages, destined for the liturgical usage of the church, what is already prescribed in n. 41 of the Instruction Liturgiam Authenticam is to be followed; that is, the divine tetragrammaton is to be rendered by the equivalent of Adonai/Kyrios: "Lord", "Signore", "Seigneur", "Herr", "Senor", etc.

3. In translating, in the liturgical context, texts in which are present, one after the other, either the Hebrew term Adonai or the tetragrammaton YHWH, Adonai is to be translated "Lord" and the form "God is" is to be used for the tetragrammaton YHWH, similar to what happens in the Greek translation of the Septuagint and in the Latin translation of the Vulgate.

From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, June 29, 2008.

+ Francis Card. Arinze

+ Albert Malcolm Ranjith
Archbishop Secretary

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Thomas Aquinas' Corpus Christi Sequence Lauda Sion

Big dilemma at the moment. I am on music in my local parish tomorrow morning. Its Corpus Christi and the question is: Do I dare to sing the Sequence, Lauda Sion?

Now, Lauda Sion is a very tricky text. There are a few English translations (The one in the missal is dreadful, but this one is better).

The problems are principally the following:

1) it is extremely long (24 verses!)

2) the 8.8.8 metre is unusual, and it goes pear-shaped at verse 19 ( and then again at verses 23 and 24 ( there are no well known tunes to sing it too

3) None of the English translations are modern, and some are really twee (eg. "the very music of the breast") or tortured ("We break the Sacrament; but bold / and firm thy faith shall keep its hold; / Deem not the whole doth more unfold / than in the fractured part resides") or simply grating ("the bread for God's true children meant, that may not unto dogs be given"--I know the biblical allusion, but can one actually sing this?)

4) No Catholic hymnal I possess has any setting of it at all, not even the Adoremus Hymnal (I did find a translation to the original Gregorian tone in the New English Hymnal and a paraphrase by Alexander Ramsay Thompson in the Australain Lutheran Hymnal).

Given all this, it is no wonder that no one knows the damn thing. Yet the Liturgy Office of England and Wales lists it in their draft "Core Music Repertoire" (which is quite a neat document in itself).

Now, here's the rub. Do I dare to sing it tomorrow morning? My parish priest usually likes a bit of music or something solo during the offertory instead of a hymn, so this would be a perfect opportunity to stick it in as a solo piece. In Latin? Or in English?

PS. While doing this blog, I came across this Spanish(?) site that has all the missal texts for the Sundays of this year on it in easy printing PDF form. Check it out!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

"Festival of Joy": A Corpus Christi Hymn to a tune by my daughter

My daughter has written a tune which she wants to play at mass. It is a little repetative, but very simple, despite its rather odd metre: 667.667.77.667.

Festival of Joy
A hymn for Corpus Christi
By David Schütz to a tune by Madeline Schütz-Beaton (667.667.77.667)

1. Come, all those who labour!
Come, all who are weary!
Come, find comfort and relief!
Here God welcomes you and
Here God gives salvation
At the table of the Lord.
Here the weary find their rest.
Here the hungry will be fed.

In this heav'nly banquet,
In this marriage feast, yes,
In this festival of joy.

2. Here the angels gather,
Here the saints of heaven
Join the Church of God on earth.
Here God gives his riches,
Here the Fount of Wisdom
Pours his grace for all the world.
Heav'n and earth are joined as one
In the wedding of God's Son. (Chorus)

3. Come, repentant sinners,
Come, all faithful Christians
Take the body of the Lord.
All who thirst for justice,
All who hope for heaven,
Drink the chalice of his blood.
Come, O Lord, our faith renew.
Come and make us one in you. (Chorus)

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Archbishop Coleridge on Church Music

HT to Peterand to Athanasius for putting me onto this statement by Archbishop Coleridge (late of Melbourne) to his flock in Canberra-Goulburn.

His comments on language are spot on (as one would expect from someone working directly on the new translations for the English missal):
When the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council approved the use of the vernacular languages in the liturgy, they had no idea of what was on the way. They imagined that some parts of the liturgy would move into English (in our case), but that Latin would remain in general the language of worship. ...[I]t seemed that the Church went from Latin to English overnight. Some in the Church have continued to worship in Latin – as is their right – but most are happy to have moved into English. At the same time, it does not have to be a stark choice of one or the other. In the Cathedral [in Canberra] at least...the Kyrie is sung at times in Greek, and the Common of the Mass, the Gloria and the Creed are sung at times in Latin. Similarly some of the great hymns of the Gregorian repertoire – especially the Marian anthems – are sung at times. It would be a pity if such a heritage were wholly lost to us.
To be sure!

His comments on music generally are certainly noteworthy:
Some of the texts used are also decidedly feeble and even at times questionable theologically. [He can say that again!] Historically, the Roman Rite used only the Psalms in the Eucharistic liturgy: hence the Entrance and Communion Antiphons which were sung with the Psalms and accompanied the Entrance and Communion Processions. [And it is a great pity that we do not today have a way of singing these properly.] ...I might add that the Holy See has asked Bishops’ Conferences around the world to draw up a list of music approved for use in worship. This is part of a pruning process of the repertoire that has built up over the last forty years, and it is already taking place in Australia.
Yes, I know that this process is continuing, in fact, I have often dropped in on the meetings of the Australian committee to whom this work has been charged. This little group of three meets here in the same building in which I work, and believe me, they have their work cut out for them. They are attempting to do two tasks: First, to draw up a draft list of song for the Bishops according to the Holy See's request; and Second, to come up with a new hymnody resource for the Australian Churches. One of the members told me especially of the frustration of there being so few really decent hymns and songs for the Entrance and Communion. We will all experience this dearth in the next few weeks at the Feast of Corpus Christi (I am on music for that day in my parish, and believe me the choice is not good...)

But I do wonder about this comment from the good bishop:
It is worth recalling too that singing or music should not be prolonged unnecessarily. In the Roman Rite, singing or music tends to accompany action rather than stand in its own right. Therefore, the music or singing should stop once the action is complete.
Well, maybe. Depends on the hymn. Some hymns don't make sense if you stop it after verse two, when all verses are integral to the sense of the whole. On the other hand, I did have this experience at mass yesterday when we were singing Farrell's "Praise to you, O Christ our Saviour" for the Entrance--it did go on too long and could have been cut down.

I might pick up a couple of Archbishop Mark's other points later in the day, but for the moment, here is a question Athanasius suggested I pose for you all. If you were making a list of hymns to be sent to the Holy See, which would you insist were put in and which would you insist were left off (ie. FORBIDDEN!). That's a big question, so limit yourselves a bit, eh?

Monday, 5 May 2008

Too much new music for World Youth Day?

I am slowly catching up with the news about various musical bits and pieces that are being prepared for World Youth Day. You have read my opinion of the World Youth Day theme song. I had a little foretaste of the feast divine in this regard at the handover ceremony for the Cross and Icon in St Patrick's Cathedral here in Melbourne, when Guy Sebastian himself sang it. I think the "Alleluia" bit will go down real well, but the rest of it? I am still doubtful...

I am a little more enthusiastic however over the Mass setting Missa Benedictus Qui Venit (a clever title!). It uses the new English translations of the liturgy intersperced with Latin. It's quite singable and musically pleasing. My only real beef is that no-one seems to be using it around the traps beforehand (not even for official pre-WYD events) so that when we all turn up on the day we can all join in rather than just listen to the choir sing it.

But today I really must say that I groaned when confronted with the song which will be used for the Entrance Procession at the WYD Papal mass. Composed by Chris Willcock SJ for a text by Andrew Hamilton SJ (both local Melbournians), it is a bit sad.

Now Chris is an excellent musician, and a great composer. I use a lot of his music myself, and know that it is used extensively in many non-Catholic churches too. The music for this piece is, well, let's just say "so-so", but the real worry are the words, which I will get to in a moment.

First, I have just mentioned the problem of unfamiliarity with the Mass Setting. AND TAKE NOTE: the Mass setting is provided FREE for download from the WYD website (see link above). BUT the Willcock/Hamilton song can only be obtained from OCP (Willcock's publisher) AND YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR IT! Now, I know workers are worth their pay, but really, couldn't the WYD office have made some sort of arrangment here?

So, to the words. I haven't bothered to buy a copy of the music (I am a skin-flint) but here is a transcript of the snippet that was on the Religion Report on 2nd April 2008 (Podcast no longer available). chorus is simply one fairly meaningless phrase repeated over and over again:
Spirit whisper, Spirit shout!
Spirit whisper, Spirit shout!
Spirit whisper, Spirit shout!
Whatever else might be said about this chorus, it is poetically and imaginatively lazy. "Spirit whisper, Spirit shout" is a catchy phrase, but fairly devoid of content. It wants more said. Whisper/Shout what? Whisper/Shout to whom? After singing it three times, and then as a chorus over and over again, it just becomes boring. There is nothing here for the mind, and thus the heart, to latch on to.

The Chorus is followed by a fairly unimaginative text based on John 14:
Christ our Way, Christ our Truth, Christ our Life.
Come in power to guide our way.
Come in power to teach the truth.
Come in power to shape our lives.
It's not that there's anything wrong with this doctrinally, of course, as it is simply regurgitation of a scripture passage that has been "lightly chewed". But once again, not even at the level of a Year 9 secondary school student's poetry. Surely a Jesuit is capable of a little more "imaginative meditation" than this?

I think we need to ask ourselves what has happened in the church when the level of hymn writing has sunk so low. I have my own theory on this. As I have suggested above, I believe that we have such poor content in our hymns because we have such poor reflection upon the content of our faith. Scripture is used ad nauseum in our modern hymns--but rarely is there any sign that the hymnist has reflected deeply upon that scripture--"chewed the cud" so to speak--before handing it back to us in the form of a song.

Hymnody should be more than throwing notes at passages ripped (plagiarised?) from Scripture.

Well, I reckon, anyway.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

St Pius X Hymnal PDF available for download from National Library of Australia - FREE!

The full music edition of an old Australian Catholic treasure, the "St Pius X Hymnal" is available for download in PDF from the National Library of Australia at And you don't have to pay a cent! Aren't librarians nice people?

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Paying them only encourages them...

Have you ever wondered how the composers and publishers of music used in liturgy (hymns, Mass settings, etc) are paid for the time and effort involved in writing, producing and distributing their work?

So asks Elizabeth Harrington in her latest column. The answer in my case is "no", because I have spent many hours filling out copyright licence records etc. But what I do wish is that we could only return to those "Once upon a time" days that Elizabeth describes when "parishes purchased sets of hymnbooks for the assembly to use". Nowadays its something new every week, and unless it was composed and published since the 1960's it doesn't even get a look in for the parish.

Church music publishers and composers who make their living from flogging their wares onto the Christian community have a lot to answer for with regard to the destruction of a shared communal memory of sacred song.

Perhaps if we stopped paying them, they would stop doing it and go away?

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

When will we find an authentic practical solution?

There is an essay on the Adoremus website by Australian Richard Perrignon, apparently "a visiting choirmaster at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney", entitled: "Sacred Music: Time to Reconnect with Worship". It is a thoughtful piece, and not unlike many other calls for reform and renewal in Church music. Naturally, it suggests recovery of the (lost and found and lost again) tradition of Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphany.

All very well and nice. Kappelmeister Geoffrey Cox does a neat job of this in our Cathedral already. But the propblem is that this doesn't really go any where in proposing a solution to the dismal situation of church music in the parishes.

Take my parish for instance. No, rather, take my "mass centre", the school hall in which 50-70 people gather every Sunday, Mums and Dads and kids and cousins and grandmas and grandpas, the odd single parent and lone chap or chappess (eg. me sometimes!). There's two female singers who are backed by an electric guitar, flute and violin, and then there's me who leads singing once a month with one or two other blokes after a rehearsal squeezed in a hour before mass begins, with my daughter or myself providing a bit of accompaniment on the electric keyboard.

Sounds dreadful, doesn't it? Well, it is most of the time, but the fact is that we are doing something and trying to enthuse the congregation into singing something rather nothing (the latter being their preference most of the time). Only the incurably optimistic (or possibly the socially suicidal) would attempt to introduce gregorian chant in such a context, let alone sacred polyphony...

There must be something between this "all or nothing" approach.

I mean, one could start with singing all the parts of the mass for a start. And chanting the responses to the chants provided in the missal and Catholic Worship Book. And singing some theologically and musically decent hymns. That much we could do, even in our little "mass centre", with a little bit of encouragement from our parish priest and liturgical committee.

It would mean swallowing a bit of pride, and being very patient, but we have to learn to walk before we can run, no?

Thursday, 31 January 2008

A Scriptural Version of "Here I am, Lord": With no apologies to Dan Schutte

I haven't blogged anything on this page for a while, so when I discovered today that I hadn't posted this little gem, I thought that I would put it up.

I am indebted for this idea to Fraser Pearce who suggested to me about 10 years ago that Dan Schutte was far less than faithful to the original meaning of Isaiah's vision in Isaiah 6 when he wrote "Here I am, Lord."

It is worth looking this chapter up in your copy of the scriptures and comparing it to the text of Schutte's song. Had he been paying attention to the actual words of scripture, his song would have turned out something rather more like this:

Here I am, Lord,
is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night.
I shall go, Lord, where you lead me.
I will hold your people in my heart.

“To this people, go and say:
look and listen, hear and see,
but you will not comprehend,
or understand.
Stop their ears and dull their mind,
shut their eyes and make them blind,
so that they can’t turn to me,
turn to be healed.”

How long shall I preach this word?
“Preach until you have been heard!
‘Til I send them far away,
‘til end of days,
‘til the cities lie in waste,
burned down once, and once again,
like the stumps of fallen trees,
a holy seed.”

However, I rather suspect that such a song would not have been the overnight hit that Schutte's rather more saccharin version was. I often think poor ol' Isaiah was like the kid in school who puts his hand up eagerly to volunteer for a job before he knows that he is volunteering to take the trash out...