Tuesday, January 30, 2007

sitting in the pews.

It's been a long time since I've just sat in the pews. Not as an observer. But as an unopinionated participant. Last July I had a free weekend between jobs, so of course I went to St. T. (and as a result spent much of Mass observing the music and making mental notes!) but prior to that I've had a job for almost two years.
So I've forgotten what it's like to just participate in Mass. (Not including daily Mass-where there is no music to critique!) I've forgotten what it's like to just sing the songs, not criticising or approving of them. I've forgotten what it's like to be ABLE to just "zone out" during the offertory and just not sing, because I didn't want to. (that's really the only thing I remember of my pre-full-time-church-musician days. I usually really didn't want to sing during the offertory because I was sooo tired from standing, or whatever.)
So what does a "normal" person think of church music? I always ask my housemates what songs they did at St. T, just to compare them to mine, of course. They usually list several, and something like, "and there was one that I forgot, but I liked it, and then another one that I had never heard before."
{What's it like to hear a hymn that you've never heard before and to not be able to sight read and sing along with it? Is it frustrating? Or does it just make people say, "Eh, whatever. I didn't really want to sing anyways..."}
I also remember that sometimes, especially early in the mornings, I would be like (to myself,) "I'm just not singing that. It goes waaay too high. That takes too much effort! I can't sing a melody that hovers around high D..."
Why does no one ever complain that Hymn to Joy is too high? (If it weren't for that one darn low D, I could transpose it down a fourth and everyone would be happy!) Is it really just cuz people like it as a song? So therefore they sing it?
But back to my first thoughts. I will never again be able to sit in the pews on Sunday Morning without at least noticing the music. From now on I'll always listen to the prelude and think, "wow, that was really good." (or the opposite.) I'll always notice the hymn choices and critique them. I'll always observe the sung Mass parts and criticize or approve of them.
I'm not saying it's necessarily bad that I've become super-aware and super-sensitive to music at Mass (or any church service,) I'm just thinking about it. How my life will be forever different because I can never get into the mind of a normal churchgoer, and yet ironically they are the people who I am MOST trying to understand in my job, as I try to both please, and yet educate them. As a wonderful quote on someone's blog (Gavin? I really don't remember,) awhile ago said,
"Church musicians should not be waiters, they should be nutritionists. You are used to getting what you want, but I am making an attempt to give you what you need. Maybe I don't do a good enough job of making it appetizing, but still I try to give you good music to both enjoy and to nourish your faith. And that is what drives my music selections."
But I still want to understand the regular churchgoer. Because then I can serve them more adequately.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

church bulletin article

I think it's about time for another bulletin article, about six months after the first. (When I was hired.)
But I'm not quite sure what I want to say.
The beginnings of my thought process have something to do with how important singing is. In my first article I quoted St. Augustine's thing about "when we sing we pray twice," so I think I'm thinking something along that line.

For the choir mass this weekend, I announced that for the opening song, "The men will sing the first verse alone, the women will sing the second verse alone and everyone will sing verse three." (It was Love Divine, so no one can claim they don't know it...) I think it went really well, and I'm going to try it next weekend at maybe the other two Masses. I was a little reluctant to try it, because I didn't want to ever tell anyone to NOT sing, so that's why I changed the wording to more of a, "You will sing..." And I think it went great. (Like I just said.) Especially when the men all sang. It's like...suddenly they're like, "Hey, they need me!" Men love being needed.

But back to my original question. I started turning the idea for a bulletin article around in my head when I thought about how I often hear people say, "Oh, I can't sing..."
And what I want to say is something along the lines of, "That doesn't matter! When you're singing with the whole congregation, no one can HEAR you! I mean, I'm not asking you to join the choir, (although if you CAN carry a tune-even 'Happy Birthday,' you would be most welcome!) But what matters is that through your singing you are giving glory to God! And isn't that one of the reasons why we come to church?" And then something about how I really do very carefully choose the music for Mass with a significant amount of thought given to the text of the music...
So that's about the extent of my thought process.
I know I need to temper it a little, because my lack of tact regularly gets me into trouble...

Any further ideas? Edits? Great quotes?

Friday, January 26, 2007

4th Ordinary

St. P:
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
What Wondrous Love is This
I Received the Living God
May Love Be Ours
Fire of God (NUN KOMM)

St. T:
(with Schola singing-I am really looking forward to this one!)
Introit: Laetatur Cor
Processional: Within Your Temple
Gloria: Plainsong (Lee)
Presentation: Do Not Abandon Me
Bonum est
Communion: Illumina faciem tuam
We Worship You, O Lord
Recessional: God Has Spoken (sung to IN BABILONE)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

better translation? please vote!

so my priest-boss and I are having a little disagreement. The "Communion" songs in our hymnal (Ritual Song) are so terrible and lacking, that he has decided to have me make half sheets of paper to put in the pews on occasional weekends to supplement the hymnal. He loves the song Adoro Te Devote, but our congregation is definitely not ready to sing in Latin, so I had to find a singable translation. That's all fine with me.
So after I made the sheet from which to make copies, and he saw it and said he would prefer the "other" translation, but I told him I really thought that my translation was just as good, so he told me to find out other people's opinion.
So here goes. I'm not telling you which translation I or he prefers. Just tell me which one you like better. Keep in mind singability, accesibility and understanding (yes, people aren't stupid and can understand rather archaic words, but we also do live in the 21st century,) reverence, and of course theological accuracy.
Choose A or B.

here's A:

1. Humbly we adore thee, Christ Redeemer King;
Thou are Lord of heaven, thou to whom we sing.
God, the Mighty, thou hast come, bearing gifts of grace;
Son of Adam still thou art: Savior to our race.

2. Jesus, Lord we thank thee for this wondrous Bread;
In our land thou dwellest, by thee we are fed.
We who share this Mystery in thee are made one:
Every act we offer thee in thy Name is done.

3. Thou who died to save us livest as our Light:
Though our eyes are blinded, yet our Faith gives sight.
Christ, do thou be merciful, Lamb for sinners slain,
We in grief confess our guilt: cleanse our souls of stain.

4. Christ, our God and Brother, hear our humble plea:
By this holy banquet keep us joined to thee.
Make us one in loving thee, one in mind and heart,
Till in heaven we are thine, nevermore to part.

5. Hail, thou Word Incarnate, born from Mary's womb;
Hail thou Strength immortal, risen from the tomb.
Share with us thy victory, Saviour ever blest:
Live more fully in our hearts; be our constant Guest.

6. Faith alone reveals here Bread of paradise;
Faith alone may witness Jesus' sacrifce.
Therefore, Lord, as once of old Thomas gained his sight,
Now increase our feeble faith: shed thy healing light.

7. Christ, at his Last Supper, breaking bread, decreed:
"This, my Body, take and eat"- heavenly Food indeed!
Then he blessed the cup of wine- "Take ye this" he said:
"Drink the chalice of my Blood, soon for sinners shed.

8. Now with glad thanksgiving, praise Christ glorified,
He in us is present, we in him abide.
Members of his Body, we in him are One;
Hail this sacred Union, heavn on earth begun!

and here's B:

1. Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore,
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more,
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.

2. Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived:
How says trusty hearing? that shall be believed;
What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth itself speaks truly or there's nothing true.

3. On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human kind:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.

4. I am not like Thomas, wounds I cannot see,
But can plainly call thee Lord and God as he;
Let me to a deeper faith daily nearer move,
Daily make me harder hope and dearer love.

5. O thou our reminder of Christ crucified,
Living Bread, the life of us for whom he died,
Lend this life to me then: feed and feast my mind,
There be thou the sweetness man was meant to find.

6. Jesu, whom I look at shrouded here below,
I beseech thee send me what I thirst for so,
Some day to gaze on thee face to face in light
And be blest for ever with thy glory's sight.

Monday, January 22, 2007


So my senior recital is in just over two months. And I need to practice a lot.
But I also have a fabulous job where I am finally being encouraged and supported and appreciated. If I spend more time working on stuff for Mass, it will actually be appreciated! And there's so much I want to do. I can't do anything interesting at this point, but things I would love to work on include transposing accompaniments at sight, improvising free harmonizations, and switching around which appendage of my body plays which musical line. So much to do, so little time.
My point in all of this is that when I DO sit down to practice for school, all that I WANT to do is to practice for church! And someday, in just over two months, that is what I will be able to do! yay! But for now, I must carefully guard my time where I need to work on stuff so I don't have a horrible embarrassing situation at my recital...which is relatively inevitable.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My latest favorite from Thomas a Kempis

Do not let the work that you have undertaken for My sake break your spirit, nor any hardships discourage you. Let My promise be always your strength and comfort; I can give you a boundless reward. You will not labour here for long, nor will sorrow always be your lot. Wait but a short while, and you will see a speedy end to your troubles. The time will come when all toil and trouble will cease: everything temporal is short lived and of little consequence.
Labour with all your might; work faithfully in My vineyard; I Myself will be your reward. Write, study, worship, be penitent, keep silence, and pray. Meet all your troubles like a man: eternal life is worth all this and yet greater conflicts. Peace will come at a time known only to the Lord; it will not be day or night as we know it, but everlasting light, boundless glory, abiding peace, and sure rest. You will not say then, 'Who will free me from this mortal body?'; nor cry, 'Alas, how long is my exile!', for the power of death will be utterly broken, and full salvation assured. No anxiety will remain, but only blessed joy in the fair and lovely fellowship of the Saints.
If you could but see the Saints crowned in endless glory, you would at once humble yourself to the dust, and would rather be the servant of all than lord it over a single person; for the Saints are now as high exalted as they were formerly accounted by this world low, despicable, and unfit to live. You would not hanker after a pleasant time in this life, but rather be glad to suffer for God's sake, and account it the greatest gain to be considered of small importance among men. If the things of God were your true delight and pierced your inmost heart, you would never complain. Is not all labour to be endured for the sake of eternal life? It is no small matter to win or lose the Kingdom of God. Raise your eyes to Heaven. See, here am I, and with Me are all My Saints, who in this world fought a great fight. They are now filled with joy and consolation; they are now safe and at rest; and they shall remain with Me forever in the Kingdom of My Father.

Monday, January 15, 2007

so yesterday I was rehearsing the choir before Mass, and the basses didn't know their part very well, so I first tried playing everyone else's parts on the manulas very quietly, (while they were singing,) and the basses part loudly in the pedals, but by the end of the song I had dropped the manuals completely and was JUST playing with the pedals. My choir members were shocked.
"You were just playing with your feet!"
"Yeah? I play with them all the time!"
"But we never actually see/notice it!"

funny. I guess that must look funny. To see me sitting there, but just moving my feet, and the organ apparantely playing itself! They were impressed.

St. Thomas is starting a schola. We'll sing every 2nd and 4th Sunday at the 12:30 Mass. Which means I get to RUN from my 10:30 at my church...
I'm quite excited to begin really learning how to do all this weird/cool/new chant stuff...

I found a sweet little book in my choir loft yesterday. "Cantate Domino Prima Anthologia Melodica" compiled by Sac. Carlo Rossini from 1930. A bunch of 3 part (TTB or SSA-but I shall use it for SAB-I'm always looking for good music for my 7 person choir!) All Latin, lots of different a cappella arrangements of famous (Tantum Ergo, Ave Verum Corpus, etc.) and not so famous texts by this guy Rossini and others such as G. B. Grazioli, Orlando Lasso, B. Cordans, Palestrina, etc.
Now I have to find the balance of using Latin music with textually and musically good contemporary stuff. I am not a die-hard "traditionalist." I think there is no harm in using the best, regardless of style. And besides, why would I want to drive away those whose faith is shaky by choosing music that is COMPLETELY disagreeable to them? I understand that I can't please everyone, and I guess this is my desire-to find and carefully walk the line where people can learn to appreciate good Catholic music other than what they are comfortable with.