meeting March 22

The timing is awful, I know, but our next meeting/rehearsal is set for 4 p.m. this Saturday, March 22. It’s the day before Easter, the busiest time of the year for church musicians . . . but I didn’t want to skip a rehearsal and go a month without getting together.

Note the time: 4 p.m, not 4:15 as for the last two meetings. Rehearsal will be held in the nursery at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Alcoa. I thank our friends at Fatima for being so welcoming to us.

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choosing music

I was talking with a friend on Monday night—an excellent bass whom I’d like to pull into the schola—about what sort of music we’ll be singing. I’ve been musing on the topic and will try to give you the nutshell version of my thoughts.

The blurbs I’ve been publishing say the schola will sing Gregorian chant (aka “plainsong”) and polyphony. But that’s not really very specific. The primary framework for my music decisions is the Mass: the proper texts for the Mass, the Scriptures for a specific Mass, and finally, the liturgical season.

What are the propers? These are settings of very specific scriptural texts for each Mass and feast day, as presented in the Graduale Romanum, or Roman Gradual. The propers may also be found in the Gregorian Missal, which has the virtue of offering English translations (for comprehension, not for singing).

The propers are not songs to sing at Mass—they are the Mass, an integral part of the liturgy.

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here’s what we sang today

Four of us had quite a good meeting this afternoon and looked at the Communion chant used for the fifth Sunday of Lent (when the Gospel is the one about Lazarus’ being raised from the dead) and three short polyphonic pieces from They can be found in this packet. We hope to meet again in two weeks—and you are all welcome—but someone just pointed out to me that two weeks from today is the Saturday before Easter. Of course, we’d rehearse in the afternoon, so we’d be done long before anyone has to report for duty at Easter Vigil. Location to be determined. I’ll keep you posted via the google group. Mary

great article

Here’s a quote:

In his seminal work The Spirit of the Liturgy, then–Cardinal Ratzinger argued that the purpose of liturgy is not primarily to develop human relationships, be creative in worship, or promote humanitarian agendas. Rather, the liturgy is the worship of God. The forms and styles are given to us by the Church of the ages; similarly, bishops and clergy are not innovators but stewards of the inheritance they have been given.

Read the whole thing on I’ve got to quote some more from Father Dwight Longenecker’s excellent article (hat tip to Toni for sending me the link):

Similar reasoning explains Benedict’s wish for Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony to be used more widely. No one expects that every parish will suddenly switch to Gregorian chant and polyphony but rather that a wider use of traditional music will influence the positive development of Catholic sacred music.

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first meeting

Five people interested in the schola met with me yesterday, Feb. 23, in the library at St. John Neumann Church. We had a good session, I think, and those who came were further along that I had expected. I chose some very simple chants for us to go over—and these people aced them. I need to choose more difficult music for next time . . . We will meet again in two weeks, this time at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Alcoa. Because the schola isn’t affiliated with any particular parish, we may end up meeting at multiple locations. In any case, for next time I’ll prepare a short introductory spiel for newcomers and then move directly to some more challenging chant—perhaps a Communio. I’ll also bring a simple piece of polyphony in case we have enough voices to cover three or four parts. At the initial meeting we had talented altos and tenors, so we could perhaps have sung some of Orlando di Lasso’s elegant little bicinas, but that’s about it. By the way—I’ve added a custom-search feature (see “custom search engine” in the first sidebar) you can use to find articles, documents, and what-have-you on specific sites I’ve chosen.

highly recommended book

I’ve bought a lot of chant books in the past two years, but my favorite remains A Gregorian Chant Master Class by Dr. Ted Marier, available from the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn.

The good sisters have done us all a favor by making it possible to buy the book online. Last time I ordered a copy—in September, as a gift for a friend—I had to pay the old-fashioned way, by mailing a check.

The book offers a handy chart of neumes (the symbols used to represent the notes), clear explanations of how each one is sung, detailed examples, and a CD with a series of short lessons. If you want to learn chant, this is an excellent resource to start with.

first meeting of the schola scheduled

Our first meeting—open to everyone interested in learning more about the schola—will begin at 4:15 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at St. John Neumann Church in Farragut. I expect it to go until about 5:30. Noel Jones, music director for the parish, will begin free classes in reading Gregorian chant notation on the same day, same place, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. The classes are free and open to everyone. Requirements for the schola are a bit tighter: members must be able to read music and match pitch with other singers. But everyone is invited to the interest meeting. E-mail me with any questions you may have.


Next week I’ll participate in the fifth annual Sacred Music Workshop in Auburn, Ala. I attended with three friends two years ago—and this year will travel to Auburn with several other friends. Friday is devoted to Gregorian chant, Saturday to Renaissance polyphony.

I expect to come home even more fired up about starting the schola. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m leaning toward scheduling the first “information meeting” the weekend of Feb. 23-24. I plan to invite a handful of people I know are interested, to get a blurb in the calendar of the diocesan newspaper, and to fax bulletin inserts to local parishes.

We’re trying to pin down a rehearsal location now . . . and one has tentatively been offered.

Stay tuned!

Now playing: Gloriae Dei Cantores – Alma redemptoris mater
via FoxyTunes

sing a new church?

If you’ve heard (or sung) the contemporary hymn “Sing a New Church,” have you ever stopped to wonder precisely what “new” church the author meant? And why we need a new church, as we still have such a long way to go in order to fully realize the church Christ gave us? Father Paul Scalia’s article “Ritus Narcissus,” from the Adoremus Bulletin, addresses the topic and a lot more. He writes

[the hymn], a triumphalist paean to diversity by Delores Dufner, OSB, also fosters the Cult of Us: Let us bring the gifts that differ And, in splendid, varied ways, Sing a new Church into being, One in faith and love and praise

You’re not going to find the “Cult of Us” in music whose text is the propers of the Mass. And if I’m not mistaken, Sister Delores is the same person who recently opined in Pastoral Music magazine that musical settings of the psalms didn’t seem “relevant” to people today. If Scripture no longer seems relevant, the problem is with us, and the solution is not dumbing down the Mass but purifying our tastes and desires. —————- Now playing: Tallis Scholars – Miserere via FoxyTunes