Category Archives: music for Mass

Preparing for Christmas and Epiphany

I've been very remiss about posting, but that doesn't mean the schola hasn't been busy.

We continue to sing for the 8:30 a.m. Mass on the first Sunday of the month at Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville. Thank you, Charles Walden, for giving us such a great opportunity.

In November we sang for my dear friend Father Patrick Resen's installation as pastor at St. Catherine Labouré Church in Copperhill. We were treated like royalty, with an excellent buffet lunch afterward, followed by Dom Pérignon at Father Patrick's house.

Of course, we sang for the second Sunday of Advent, Dec. 6, then again Dec. 8 for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. For the latter we learned Thomas Morley's "Magnificat," a simple but lovely chant-based setting that we'll definitely use again.

Now we're in the process of preparing for Christmas (we're singing at 10 a.m. on Dec. 25) and Epiphany, observed on Jan. 3 next year in the United States. We're learning a Cristobal Morales setting of "Puer Natus Est" for Christmas, as well as "Personent Hodie." For Epiphany, we'll reprise the Morales and also sing "Vidimus stellam" from the Graduale Romanum.

We have gained a bass and continue to hope and pray for more voices in every part.

Life-changing liturgy

Tonight I returned home after attending the 2009 Sacred Music Colloquium in Chicago. From Monday evening, June 22, through this morning, we rehearsed Gregorian chant and polyphony daily, sang at Mass, and attended workshops and lectures. Tuesday morning after Mass I thought, "If we participated in Masses like this every week, it would change our lives." It is impossible to be indifferent to such a Mass. Such a Mass is so profoundly otherworldly, so oriented to the transcendent, so powerfully prayerful that it is impossible to be lukewarm. One must choose whom one will serve.

If you haven’t been, you can’t imagine the joy of being with and singing with 250-some like-minded people—all of them talented singers, music directors, and/or instrumentalists—who know the church’s teachings on sacred music, support them fully, and will never say "Why do we have to sing all this Latin?"

These Masses were the closest thing to perfect liturgies that I’ve ever seen or heard. The rubrics were respected. The church’s wishes for liturgical music were respected: full Gregorian propers for every Mass (except for Tuesday, for which English propers were sung) as well as Renaissance motets. For two of the Masses choirs sung polyphonic ordinaries (Mass parts).

You can listen to some of the sound files here.

Here is the advanced women’s chant schola (including yours truly) singing "Tu puer," the Alleluia from the Graduale on the feast of the nativity of St. John the Baptist. Our conductor was Dr. William Mahrt, one of the finest chant scholars in the world. Dr. Mahrt is president of the Church Music Association of America.

Here is Cardinal George’s homily–with an excellent message for church musicians.

When the Gregorian Alleluia from today’s Mass is posted, I will post a link. It included the most beautiful solo chant I’ve ever heard, by a soprano who obviously has not only a profoundly beautiful instrument but also a great mastery of chant technique.

Did you say you are not yet a member of CMAA? Join this year for $36. Dues increase next year to $48. At any price, membership is a bargain and includes a subscription to the excellent quarterly journal Sacred Music.


An introduction to the propers

I’ve just finished a project I started more than a month ago—writing a brief introduction to the propers of the Mass. I attempt to explain what the propers are, what the church says about them, why we should sing them, and where settings can be found.

You can read my attempt on this site. I’ve also cross-posted the page to the website for the East Tennessee chapter of the Church Music Association of America.

Confirmation Mass

Pope Benedict XVI ScholaWe had the privilege tonight of singing for the confirmation Mass at Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville.

We sang two pieces for a 10-minute prelude—the chant Confirma hoc and the three-part Jesu Rex Admirabilis attributed to Palestrina—that also included two organ pieces.

We joined the Holy Ghost choir for the Mass and sang an introit (an English setting of Judica me, Deo, composed by Vladimir Soroka), several dignified hymns, and Albin Mascek’s setting of Veni Sancte Spiritus. Good stuff all around.

Here’s the schola in its current incarnation: from left, me (Mary Weaver), Dan Pacitti, Susan Dixon, Steven Hensley, and Nancy Harless.

Mass at Our Lady of Fatima

The schola sang beautifully at Our Lady of Fatima Church on March 14. Here’s what I posted on the CMAA forum:

Y’all will have to forgive me for bragging about my tiny schola. The Pope Benedict XVI Schola RULES.

Although the group has been in existence for an entire year, the membership has been in flux, and the four or five we have now are not the four or five we started out with. Tonight the current group sang its first Mass together, and I am so proud of them.

They sang beautifully, they listened well to each other, they watched me closely–and they absolutely made my week. Or maybe my month. My heart is full of gratitude.

We began with a prelude—the introit from the Anglican Use Gradual. For Mass we sang an introit hymn from a book this particular parish uses [Christopher Tietze’s Introit Hymns for the Church Year] and then Palestrina’s Jesu Rex Admirabilis, the simple Ave Regina Caelorum chant, the two-part Perosi Ave Maria, and Father Columba Kelly’s Communio for the third Sunday of Lent, with verses I pointed.

My job is to welcome, encourage, teach, and praise them–but they deserve all the credit for singing so well.

Note that most of the music I mentioned—including the Palestrina, the Perosi, the Anglican Use Gradual, and Father Kelly’s propers—is available free online.

I am preparing a guide to the propers for the website of the East Tennessee chapter of CMAA. I’ll post about it here when it’s available.