Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Having a go...

With the new Roman Missal in my hand, and also with the Processional Book prepared by the Society of St Gregory for the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, I decided to have a go at writing some music for the Communion Antiphon for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time when I am next cantoring at my local parish. I used the first antiphon from the missal and Psalm 20 (19) from the Revised Grail for the verses.

Here are the results:
PDF of the Communion Chant "We will ring out our joy"

Midi file of the Communion Chant "We will ring out our joy"

Tell me what you think. It isn't supposed to be high art, or Gregorian chant. It is supposed to be easily singable by a parish not too interested in music while they go to communion.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Gregorian Chant versus Modern Ditties

While I am posting here, I will put a link to this article in Canada's National Post "In the search for the Voice of God, some believe Gregorian chants are preferable to folk music" (to which Fr Z drew my attention here with his comments).

I had some experience of this during the Triduum just completed. On Thursday night, I attended the Pontifical Solemn Mass of the Lord's Supper on Thursday night at St Aloysius. The music was simply sublime. There was plenty of congregational involvement, for instance, in the singing of the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and other responses. And of course, in the "Pange Lingua" at the end. But it was simply a delight to hear these ancient chants where they belong, not on a CD, but in Church. As my feet were being washed by Bishop Meeking, the choir was singing the beautiful chant "Ubi Caritas", which I know well, but which I have never heard used before in the setting for which it was written.

Then my little Lutheran heart was a little disappointed when I attended my local parish for the Good Friday service. Instead of the great chorals such as "O Sacred Head", we had "Were you there when they crucified my Lord" and "We remember". No "Reproaches" at the vernation of the Cross. No "Pange Ligua" either. Don't get me wrong - the music was well presented by the musician and cantors. It just was so... 1970's, rather than the rich heritage of the Church for this day. As the article in the Canadian National Post describes it, I had to listen to the radio to hear anything of this heritage.

And then I was really annoyed at the Easter Vigil. Once again, the actual text of the rite offers so much in terms of psalmody and antiphons that could have been sung in any number of ways, if not in chant. The Asperges ceremony was done in complete silence! (I have in fact, written a hymn using the verses from the Missal that could have been sung at this point.) But again, we had various folk style songs instead of the psalms in response to the readings, often not bearing any connection with the appointed psalms. Don't even get me started on the song they used to replace the Litany of the Saints. Suffice it to say, it (a) wasn't a litany, and (b) included a lot of people who are not saints. We did sing the French easter carol "Now the green blade rises", but other wise there was no traditional Easter hymnody at all. Again, don't get me wrong. The choir and musicians did an excellent job. It was just the selection of music that left me feeling hungry for more.

I finally got my "more" at the dawn service at St Paul's Lutheran Church at Box Hill on Sunday morning, at least "more" in terms of hymnody, and got to sing "He is risen, he is risen, tell it with a joyful voice" at full throttle (well as full as I could manage at 6:30am, anyway!).

All this grumbling is simply to say: we have the riches of 2000 years to use in our liturgies. During Holy Week, very many of the texts have been actually set down in the rite for use. It's time, folks, to revive this heritage for the sake of the Faith!

Hymn for Holy Saturday

I haven't posted on this blog for a long while, but today I saw that Deacon John had posted the (anonymous) patristic reading from the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday, and it reminded me that I had written a hymn based on this text. I note that I haven't posted it here before. So here it is for your benefit. My suggested tune is Wie soll ich dich empfangen by Melchior Teschner, which you can listen to here.

Today a heavy silence
reigns over all the earth;
a silence and a stillness,
and not a word is heard.
The King himself is sleeping,
the trembling earth is still,
our God-made-flesh, though resting,
now consummates his will.

He’s gone in search of Adam,
our father, his lost sheep;
he visits those in darkness
and in death’s shadow deep.
He’s gone to free from sorrow
lost Adam in his bonds,
and Eve, with him held captive,
who for her freedom longs.

Thus says their true Creator
and truest Son of Eve,
“I order you, O sleeper,
awake from death and live!
For I did not create you
to lie in Hades’ cell.
I am your Resurrection;
you dead, arise from hell!”

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Est ist ein Ros' entsprungen

Many people are unaware that the beloved German carol "Est ist ein Ros' entsprungen" exists in two versions - an original Catholic version and an altered Protestant version. Certainly the choir director and conducter at St Paul's Box Hill were unaware of this, printing the Catholic version (with full and accurate translation) in the service order while the Choir actually sang the Protestant version.

The difference comes about because the original carol is a hymn about Mary. There are many different variations - the original had 23 verses in all (see here for the complete history on The Hymns and Carols of Christmas) - but they definitely fall into two camps: the Catholic Carol and the Protestant version.

Here is the Catholic Version as printed in the St Paul's Lessons and Carols program:

1. Es ist ein Ros entsprungen,
Aus einer Wurzel zart,
Wie uns die Alten sungen,
Von Jesse war die Art,
Und hat ein Blümlein bracht
Mitten im kalten Winter
Wohl zu der halben Nacht.

2. Das Röslein, das ich meine,
So uns das Blumlein bringt,
Maria ist's, die Reine,
die uns das Blüm'lein bracht';
Aus Gottes ew'gem Rat
Hat sie ein Kindlein g'boren
Bleibend ein reine Magd.

3. Das Blümelein, so kleine,
Das duftet uns so süß,
Mit seinem hellen Scheine
Vertreibt's die Finsternis.
Wahr' Mensch und wahrer Gott,
Hilft uns aus allen Leiden,
Rettet von Sünd' und Tod.


1. A Rose has sprung up, from a tender root. As the old ones sang to us, its lineage was from Jesse. And it has brought forth a flower in the middle of the cold winter, right upon midnight.

2. The Rosebud that I mean, of which Isaiah told, is Mary, the pure, who brough us the Flower. At God's immortal word [strictly, "God's eternal Council"], she has borne a child remaining a pure maid.

3. The Flower, so small, that smells so sweet to us, with its clear light dispels the darkness. True man and true God! He helps us from all trouble, saves us from sin and death.

Note that in this version, the rosebush is the line of Jesse, Mary is the "Rosebud", and Jesus is the "little flower" that she brings forth.

The Choir sang that word for word except the second verse which followed a more Protestant understanding of the identity ofthe "Rose" in the song (which appears to stem from Praetorius 1609 according to Wikipedia):

2. Das Röslein, das ich meine, davon Jesaia sagt,
hat uns gebracht alleine Marie, die reine Magd.
Aus Gottes ew’gem Rat hat sie ein Kind geboren
wohl zu der halben Nacht.


2. The Rosebud that I mean, of which Isaiah told, Mary alone, the pure Maid, has brought us; Out from God's eternal Council, she has borne a child half-way through the night.

So, you see, there is quite a difference. In Praetorius' version, the Rose is always and completely Jesus only, not Mary. My oldest German hymnals don't even have this carol in it - it appears only to have re-entered German Lutheran usage in the middle of the 20th Century. In one way, it just goes to prove that we often don't really understand the words of the carols that are so familiar to us.

Lessons and Carols at St Paul's Lutheran Church Box Hill

Well, we did have an enjoyable Christmas this year. Our children are growing up, so instead of going to the 6:30pm Family Mass at their school's mass centre, we went to 8:30pm Lessons and Carols at their Lutheran Parish of St Paul in Box Hill. I then went to Midnight Mass in my parish, and in the morning we were back at St Paul's so the rest of my family could make their Christmas communion. That also gave us time to have a relaxed Christmas Eve dinner of seafood together, before opening the first gift - a new Nativity set.

Midnight Mass at my parish was a bit of a disappointment. Except for four carols instead of four hymns, it was just spoken mass like any Sunday. No incense, no carols, no chant (not even sung congregational pieces of the liturgy), in fact, come to think of it, I didn't even see a Christmas tree! The young woman who played the piano and led the singing was very good (a great talent, even), but she wasn't given much scope for anything other than the carols. It was all over in 45 minutes.

Lessons and Carols at St Paul's, however, was a great treat. The choir and organist there are top notch, and their selection was brilliant. Here is the program:

Processional (Choir): Wexford Carol / "Good People all, this Christmas time" (arr. by John Rutter)

(Choir and Congregation) Once in Royal David's City (arr. P. Ledger)

(Congregation) Joy to the World

(Choir) Remember Christians all (Thomas Ravencroft)

(Choir) Est ist ein Ros' entsprungen (auf Deutsch - see my separate entry above about this text)

(Congregation) Of the Father's Love Begotten (sung alternately between Men and Women)

(Choir and Congregation) O Little Town of Bethlehem (arr. Vaughan Williams, Philip Ledger, Thomas Armstrong)

(Choir) Ave Maria (Franz Biebel) - "Lutheranised" - see my other blog on this.

(Congregation) Away in a manger (arr. David Willcocks)

(Choir) Starry Night (words by Anne Willcocks, music by David Willcocks) - this was a real treat, containing a surprisingly Catholic Mariology for a Lutheran service (see here for full words and music)

(Congregation) Silent Night

(Congregation) The First Nowell

(Choir) Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child (an unusual but effective setting by Kenneth Leighton)

(Choir) From heaven above to earth I come (one verse based upon an organ prelude by J.S. Bach)

And of course:

Recessional (Congregation) Hark the Herald Angels sing

My daughters enjoyed this service immensely (as did the rest of us), singing happily and staying awake for the whole service - which ended around 10pm.

For anyone brought up in the Protestant traditions, singing and music is soooo essential to the Christmas celebration. If only we Catholics could learn from this...

Monday, 21 December 2009

A great Christmas Carol site

While looking for the history of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel", I found this site, which is quite terrific in many ways:

The O Antiphons

I just came across Fr Z.'s little site on the "O Antiphons".

We have been singing these as a family devotion during the lighting of the Advent wreath this year in John Mason Neale's beloved versification. Problem is the vast array of "modernisations" of Neale's hymn. It is hard to find any agreement among the modernisers, so we are using his traditional text.

But then it is hard to find a hymnal that gives all seven verses. Perhaps the reason is that Neale's original version - if this website is anything to go by (and the reproduction of the various originl editoins seems to indicate that it is) included only five of the seven antiphons.

Here are Neale's original verses:
1. Draw nigh, draw nigh, Emmanuel
And loose Thy captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear;
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Is born for thee, O Israel!

2. O Rod of Jesse’s stem, arise,
And free us from our enemies,
And set us loose from Satan's chains,
And from the pit with all its pains!
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Is born for thee, O Israel!

3. Thou, the true East, draw nigh, draw nigh,
To give us comfort from on high!
And drive away the shades of night,
And pierce the clouds, and bring us light!
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Is born for thee, O Israel!

4. Key of the House of David, come!
Reopen Thou our heavenly home!
Make safe the way that we must go,
And close the path that leads below.
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Is born for thee, O Israel!

5. Ruler and Lord, draw nigh, draw nigh!
Who to Thy flock in Sinai
Didst give, of ancient times, Thy Law,
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! rejoice! Emmanuel
Is born for thee, O Israel!

Friday, 11 September 2009

Songs in Word of Life's "Top 100" Not approved by NLCMB review of "As One Voice"

How much difference would the National Liturgical Commission Music Board's evaluaton of songs make to the standard of music sung in our parish liturgies if all parishes scrupulously followed their recommendations (something which, by the way, will only happen in your dreams)?

One indication would be to compare the list songs in "As One Voice" that did not get the NLCMB's approval with Word of Life's "Top 100" hymns. (Word of Life would know - they are the main licencing body used by Australian Catholic parishes and have all the stats).

Thirteen of the WOL "Top 100" did not get the NLCMB's "tick". They are as follows (the number indicates the song's ranking on the list of the Top 100):

3 Come to the water (Andersen, F)
6 Come as you are (Brown, D)
15 Companions on the Journey (Landry, C)
19 Our supper invitation (Bates, K)
20 Galilee song (Andersen, F)
28 Song of the body of Christ (Haas, D)
32 Blest be the Lord (Schutte, D)
61 Celebrate (Brown, M)
64 Yahweh is the God (Norbet, G)
86 To be your bread (Haas, D)
90 We are many parts (Haugen, M)

Hymn titles from "As One Voice" rated "NO" by the National Liturgical Commission Music Board

Title Author Number
A circle of love (Sandier) II:114
A journey remembered (Bates, Kevin) II:047
A shepherd I'll be to you (Bates, Kevin) I:001
A Voice in the wilderness (Robinson, Chris) I:062
Act Justly (Watts, Trisha) I:050
Advent Chant (Porter) II:123
All Creation sings (Reid) II:045
All I ask of you (Norbert, Gregory) I:150
All the ends of the earth (Hurd, Bob) I:004
Always there (Coleman) II:036
And the Father will dance (Landry, Carey) I:113
As grains of wheat (Rosania) II:153
As the deer longs (Hurd, Bob) I:120
Be it done unto me (Hurd, Bob) I:119
Be with me Lord (Joncas, Michael) I:116
Because the Lord is my Shepherd (Walker, Christopher) I:066
Behold the Cross (Hurd, Bob) I:105
Bless the Lord (Smith) II:083
Blessing on the King (Lynch, Michael B.) I:104
Blest be the Lord (Schutte, Dan) I:179
Bread broken, wine shared (Horner, Robyn) II:155
Break open the word and renew the face of the earth (Paxton, Ray) I:038
Bridegroom and bride (Bell/Maule) II:042
Bring many names (Wren/Young) II:010
Called to create (Spence/Lewis) II:121
Celebrate (Brown, Monica) I:044
Christmas in the scrub (Newton) II:168
Come as you Are (Browne, Deirdre) I:031
Come now, Holy Spirit (Kearney, Peter) II:087
Come to the water (Andersen, Frank) I:074
Comfort, comfort all my people (Mann, Robin) II:012
Communion Song (Grant, Peter) I:187
Companions on the Journey (Landry, Carey) I:188
Create in us (Hannah) II:021
Creator and poet (Sears, Sandra) II:084
Different gifts (Russell) II:013
Do not be afraid (Farrell, Bernadette) I:079
Do not worry (Reid) II:122
Don't be afraid (Bell/Maule) II:070
Dreams and visions (tanner) II:061
Easter People (Light) II:147
Enemy of apathy (Bell/Maule) II:075
Enviatu Espiritu (Hurd, Bob) I:095
Everlasting your love (Hurd, Bob) I:128
Father Welcomes (Mann, Robin) I:024
Feed us now, bread of life (Mann, Robin) II:093
First Sunday Advent (Smith, Colin) I:108
Flow river flow (Hurd, Bob) I:163
For you are my God (Foley, John) I:178
Freedom is coming (Fjedur) I:061
From heaven you came (Kendrick) II:077
Galilee Song (Andersen, Frank) I:005
Give thanks (Smith) II:017
Glorify the Lord with me (Doheny) II:026
God beyond all names (Farrell, Bernadette) II:023
God has made us a family (Landry, Carey) II:111
God is good (Chan) II:120
God is rich in mercy (Landry, Carey) II:027
God of all the earth (Winter/Maker) II:134
God's Circle of love (McRae) II:038
Going home (Halloran/Millward) II:082
Great is thy faithfulness (Chisholm/Runyan) II:127
Halle, halle, halle (Carribean) II:046
Heal me O God (Norbert, Gregory) II:052
Heaven and earth (Bell, John) II:053
Here in the busy city (Murray/Hopson) II:166
Holy, holy, holy Lord (Ham, Liat Chung) I:173
How lovely is your dwelling place (Joncas, Michael) I:041
How shall I call you (Mann, Robin) I:047
I am the Light of the world (Hayakawa, Greg) I:176
I found the treasure (Schutte, Dan) II:022
I have seen the Lord (Hurd, Bob) I:098
I know that my Redeemer lives (Soper) II:034
I rejoiced (Walker, Christopher) I:069
I say yes, my Lord (Pena, Donna) I:155
I shall dwell in the Lord's house (Ramondo) II:069
I will lift my eyes (Conry, Tom) I:084
I will sing and make music for the Lord (Smith) II:028
I will sing for ever of your love (Horner, Robyn) II:161
Icon of grace (Watts, Trisha) II:057
If today you hear his voice (Crocker) II:072
If we all could live in peace (Trad. Austrian) II:115
I'll be always loving you (Watts, Trisha) I:082
I'll sing your song (Marshall, Erica) I:034
In love we choose to live (Cotter) II:063
In the beginning was love (Rowe/Wolf) II:110
In the brightness (Horner, Robyn) I:070
In the radiance of your gaze (Honer) II:009
Jesu Tawa Pano (Matsikenyiri) II:015
Jesus Christ is waiting (Bell/Maule) II:008
Joyful in hope (Herry, Michael) I:020
Lady Mary (Sears, Sandra) I:117
Lead us break bread together (USA Folk Hymn) II:098
Let all creation dance (Darwall/Wren) II:130
Let all the earth (Haugen, Marty) II:152
Let God's dream be born (Bates, Kevin) II:030
Let there be peace on earth (Miller/Jackson) I:190
Lift this child (Anna's Song) (Mann/Habel) II:125
Light of Christ (Zaragoza, Rufino) I:143
Lord of the Dance (Carter, Sydney) I:018
Love calls me back (Bates, Kevin) II:025
Love is the greatest gift of all (Marshall, Erica) II:086
Love will bring them home (Marshall, Erica) I:121
Loving Spirit (Murray/Trad) II:133
Masithi Amen (Molefe/Trad.) II:090
May we come to know the Lord (Gagnon) II:019
Mother Earth (Brown, Monica) I:157
My heart is a stable (Sears, Sandra) I:147
Nearer my God to thee (Adams/Mason) II:154
New People, New life (Beha, Helen) I:011
O God Nothing can take us from your love (Walker, Christopher) I:139
O God, hear us (Hurd, Bob) I:022
O Lord, your tenderness (Kendrick) II:107
On holy ground (Pena/Kodner) II:103
One Body (Watts/O'Brien) II:146
Open the heavens (Boniwell) II:163
Our blessing cup (Hurd, Bob) I:007
Our supper invitation (Bates, Kevin) I:185
Passionate God (Fulmer) II:068
Praise and glory (Zaragoza, Rufino) I:051
Pulsing spirit (Dufner/Trad.) II:058
Returning our gifts (Porter) II:065
Sanctus and Benedictus (Bell/Maule) II:081
Santo (Trad. Argentinian) II:092
See his hands (Sears, Sandra) II:048
See I make all things new (Watts/O'Brien) II:007
Send forth your spirit O Lord (Walker, Christopher) I:107
Sing to God (Kirkland) II:105
Sing to the Lord (Alstott, Owen) I:046
Song at the Centre (Haugen, Marty) II:106
Song for the Journey (Marshall, Erica) II:108
Song of gathering (Wise, Joe) I:023
Song of the Body of Christ (Haas, David) I:027
Speak from your heart (Brown) II:051
Spirit blowing through creation (Haugen, Marty) II:157
Spirit come transform us (Norbert, Gregory) I:096
Spirit of life (Mangan) II:043
Star-child (Murray/Young) II:018
Summoned by love (Watts/O'Brien) II:020
Table of plenty (Schutte, Dan) II:162
Taste and see (Hurd, Bob) I:067
Taste and see (Robinson, Stephen) I:088
Taste and see that the Lord is good (Barr) II:151
The Bridge Song (Bolton) II:006
The deeper River (Hannah) II:062
The fullness of God (Andersen, Frank) II:159
The great Southland (Bullock) II:141
The Light of Christ (Fishel, Donald) I:186
The Spirit of the Lord (Horner, Robyn) I:101
The story we share (Kearney, Peter) I:093
The whole world is waiting for love (Misetich) II:148
They'll know we are Christians (Scholtes) I:130
This day was made by the Lord (Walker, Christopher) I:183
This is all our joy (Horner, Robyn) II:100
This is the day (Joncas, Michael) I:193
Three round table rounds (Bates, Kevin) II:160
To be your bread (Haas, David) I:065
To you O my God, I lift up my soul (Hurd, Bob) II:014
Travel on (Carter, Sydney) II:033
Wake up (Watts/O'Brien) I:008
We are many parts (Haugen, Marty) I:086
We are marching (Trad. African) II:074
We believe (Walker, Christopher) I:149
We shall draw water (Inwood, Paul) I:072
We shall overcome (Adap. Horton et al.) II:149
We welcome this child (Kearney, Peter) II:144
We welcome you little baby (Holmes) II:112
Welcome home (Andersen, Frank) II:145
When I needed a neighbour (Carter, Sydney) II:136
When the night (Toolan) II:091
When we eat this bread (Joncas, Michael) I:099
Where is your song, my Lord (Kearney, Peter) I:122
Where there is love (Haas, David) I:087
Who will speak if you don't (Haugen, Marty) II:102
Yahweh (Norbert, Gregory) I:068
You are mine (Haas, David) II:002
You are the voice (Haas, David) II:080

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Hymn titles rated "Yes" by the National Liturgical Commission Music Board

This is the first in what I hope will be a series of investigations into a new document entitled "Hymn Titles from Australian Resource Books - Rated "Yes" by the NLC Music Board".

In paragraph 108, Liturgiam Authenticam made the following stipulation:
Within five years from the publication of this Instruction, the Conferences of Bishops, necessarily in collaboration with the national and diocesan Commissions and with other experts, shall provide for the publication of a directory or repertory of texts intended for liturgical singing. This document shall be transmitted for the necessary recognitio to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Well, that was in 2001, and since then, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has commissioned the National Liturgical Music Board to compile a list of “approved hymns” for use in the liturgy.

The task that faced this group was so immense that they simply had to put some limits on it. In the end, they decided to go through five readily available collections, “As One Voice”, “Gather Australia”, “Catholic Worship Book”, “New Living Parish Hymnal”, and “Together in Song”. Also, they excluded from this initial scan any liturgical or ritual music, since this will largely depend upon the new translations.

The criteria by which they judged the songs seems to me to be rather too broad, especially in relation to the texts:


1) The music should enable the fostering of participation
2) The Technical aspects of musical language – melody, rhythm, pitch etc. / instrumentation/ and
accompanimental styles must enable participation.
3) Musical style must promote a sense of the “sacred” and avoid profane;
4) Music must reflect the ideals of true art and beauty.
5) Music must properly support text being sung-proper relationship of verbal and music accents etc.
6) Maintenance and promotion of traditional sacred repertoire – including chant and melodies
especially where they remain in the collective consciousness of catholics


Several criteria were proposed to guide judgements about the suitability of texts, ie that they be:
· scriptural
· apt for the season
· theologically robust
· thematically and linguistically coherent
· in ‘modern/classical’ language (rather than in archaic or temporarily contemporary
· in common possession and with likely appeal
· with poetic power.

Those versions have been preferred which:
· use ‘you’ rather than ‘thou’
· do not include words or phrases with an obsolete or archaic ring
· use inclusive rather than exclusive language in reference to human beings
· do not conflate verses
· have more effective rhyme.


1. Liturgically related to Scripture: A= Strongly Scriptural… B = Based on Scripture i.e. used as a departure point for poetic reflection
2. General Seasonal Suitability
3. Not Liturgical
Refer: Not specifically for the specified season– but liturgically suitable for another
Pastoral Judgement:
1 widely used ; 2 sometimes used 3 rarely used
I am afraid that "Pastoral Judgement" in a number of cases led to approving songs that would have been much better left out. On the other hand, "robustness" seems an odd category to use to evaluate the theological appropriateness or otherwise of a text.

In any case, the result was quite a long list (about 750 titles) that got a “yes” vote. Although the resulting list has been sent to Rome for approval (as LA required), it is, I understand, now a public document. Unfortunately, it is not yet available on the ACBC website (I understand this is due to external factors beyond the control of the ACBC office). If you want a copy, I suggest you email Bernard at bfk at ozemail dot com dot au .

The practical usefulness of such a list is really as a basis for a future resource to be published. As of this moment in time, there are no more available copies of three of the hymnbooks surveyed: New Living Parish, Catholic Worship Book, and Gather Australia (I understand that the remaining copies of the latter two went up in smoke when the Feb 7 bushfires burnt down the publisher’s storehouse).

And, of course, the real upshot of this document in the mean time is that from it one can infer which hymns and songs in the current resources DID NOT get a tick. It is my intention to publish this lists for each resource - starting with "As One Voice".

Monday, 18 May 2009

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Online Resources recommend by Jeffrey A. Tucker in "Sing like a Catholic"

Jeffrey A. Tucker, in "Sing Like A Catholic" recommends a number of very good online resources. Here are the links.
Chabanel Psalms (these are really good)
Gregorian Missal
The Parish Book of Chant
Anglican Use Gradual
American Gradual

"Sing like a Catholic"?

Yesterday, at the Anima Conference, I picked up a book from Mary Long's bookstall (from the Catholic Bookshop next to St Francis in the City) called "Sing like a Catholic" by Jeffrey A. Tucker (the link, BTW takes you to a page where, for free registration, you can download a full copy).

It is a passioned piece intended to follow up where Thomas Day's 1995 book "Why Catholics Can't Sing" with a practical guide to the restoration of the "treasure of inestimable value" (Vatican II) which is the traditional sacred chant of the Latin Rite in our parish liturgies.

There is some talk - of which I would be fully supportive - of inviting Mr Tucker to come to Melbourne to give some lectures/training sessions - but perhaps I am jumping the gun by even mentioning this in public?

His modus operandi is Fr Zuhlsdorf's "brick by brick" strategy. All it takes (all it HAS taken in the States) to begin a true revival of the true music of the Roman Rite of the Mass is dedicated and voluntary enthusiasts who have the support of their parish pastor to have a go and start learning and using the traditional chants in their liturgies. Get informed and experienced by attending training days, colloquiums etc. Download the music from the internet for free (he gives a host of sites that are now on the web, foremost of which is, form a schola of singers, and go for it. Of course there is more to it than that, but the first requirement seems to be the will to do something rather than nothing.

Nevertheless, I am in two minds about Mr Tucker's project.

1) My first mind is to say "Yea and Amen". After attending Fr Lawrence Cross's Byzantine liturgy at the ACU chapel last Friday at 12noon (something I do every now and again) I am reminded of how beautiful a liturgy can be when the music that is sung is an organic part of the liturgy itself. Although I won't say a lot more about my "first mind" at this point, let the Reader understand that I see the restoration of chant in the liturgy as "a good thing".

2) But then my second mind kicks in - primarily because my task today is prepare the music for the liturgy at our "mass centre" at the girl's Primary School for next Sunday morning when I am rostered on as Cantor. This "second mind" is what I want to give some time to in this blog.

The liturgy in our parish has been on the up and up over the last four years or so. Two parish pastors ago, what happened at Sunday morning mass was so laid back it was almost horizontal. It was a valid Eucharist (more or less), but sometimes strained the definition of "liturgy" to breaking point. The pastor had been there for a dozen years, and this was "the way things were done" in our "community". A change of pastor's saw, as ever, a change in style of the liturgy, and it was a step in the right direction. Two years later another change of pastor has brought in another giant step in the right direction, and, thanks to the wise guidance of the intervening priest, the liturgical good sense of the new pastor has been widely accepted without comment.

That being said, music is still a problem. Many weeks the mass is spoken except for tape recorded songs. The groups who do provide music put a lot of effort and skill into leading the singing of the songs, but still the choice of song material is a little sad, and the emphasis continues to be upon the songs in the classic four-hymn sandwich rather than on the ordo or the propers of the mass. For eg. only at masses for which I am cantor is there a sung psalm and Gloria.

I myself am limited. I have tried encouraging others to join me to form a small choir, but with no success (keep in mind that the congregation at our mass centre is under 100 generally). I also have no musical backup – again, not through lack of trying. I have received criticism during the singing of the psalm because "no one wants to listen to your [ie. my] voice when they come to mass". Fair enough. Why should they? So I am disinclined to use music that would have large parts of me singing solo.

So, here's what I do.

I use a good quality keyboard with midi-file programs to provide the accompanying music while I cantor. I aim to have all the usual ordinary parts of the mass sung, although Kyrie and Lord's Prayer continue to be said. I use modern settings generally rather than chant settings (although I would love to introduce the simple settings we use unaccompanied when I cantor at lunch time masses at the Cathedral). I chose three or four hymns that follow my guidelines for good hymnody for the procession, communion and recessional (the fourth being for the offertory). For the communion, I tend to favour the use of simple repetitive chants such as Taize or Michael Herry's stuff so people can sing them without having to look at the overhead screen for the words while they are moving about.

In general visitors (rather than regulars) have commented upon my choice of music favourably, and it seems that the midi-file thing works very well in the circumstances (and yes, the keyboard can do a passable imitation of an organ).

So that's the reality. I applaud Mr Tucker's ideals and wish I could see them in my time and in my parish, but for the moment it seems like the hope of heaven rather than anything truly achievable.

And my one and only misgiving about the whole project of restoring the chant (which somewhat qualifies my "Yea and Amen" in my first mind) is that it seems that this is done at the expense of hymnody. I know we have had some god-awful songs thrust upon us over the last forty years, but the Church universal also has a treasury of hymnody which could be described as "of inestimable value". The Sunday mass is about the only time when Catholics ever come together for worship, and if they don't learn to sing hymns at mass, where will they get the value of this rich treasury?

Perhaps it is the Lutheran in me, but if Mr Tucker says he wants Catholics to "sing like Catholics", why is it that what he seems to be proposing actually proposes that Catholics SING LESS in the liturgy, and LISTEN MORE to the choir or schola? Is this entirely healthy? At least in the Byzantine liturgy with Fr Cross, all those present joined in singing the choirs pieces. I don't see it as a step forward in Catholic sacred music to silence the congregation to the point of being a prayerful audience. This isn't an expression of some post-Vatican II "participation theology" at work in my mind here, it is the conviction that singing praise to God is an valuable act of worship for the soul and the Church, whether in the choir or in the pews. Of course they don't have to sing everything all the time (I am in favour of good choirs singing a polyphonic Sanctus without the congregation jumping in to spoil it all), but they need to have an opportunity to sing to God – and hymnody provides that opportunity. Hymnody and chant ought not to be seen as enemies or as “either/or”. Lutherans after all (there I go again) are capable of doing both well.

Any way, over to you for discussion.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Is this the Revised Grail Psalter???

Click to enlarge and laugh.

HT to Ironic Catholic, who got this via CMinor, who originally got it from the Intrepid Soprano, who got it from who got it from Tompmost Apple who got it from etc. etc....