December 2007 – January 2008
Vol. XIII, No. 9
News and Views
Several music events took place recently that provided welcome evidence of a revitalization of sacred music that is markedly increasing in energy within the Catholic Church in the US. The brief reports that appear here may, we hope, encourage other similar initiatives. (Our source for most information is the CMAA web site: www.musicasacra.com.)
About 70-80 singers attended a sacred music workshop held at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Woodstock, Georgia, November 15-16. The musicians came to learn the basics of Gregorian chant and polyphonic music, and to prepare a special liturgy for the vigil Mass on Saturday night.
The workshop was organized by choral director Bridget Scott and organist Mike Ostro, directed by Arlene Oost-Zinner, who taught chant, and Jeffrey Tucker, who taught polyphony, and they also took questions on organizing a parish music program.
The participants had received a music packet in advance from which they worked. The schola sang ordinary chants from the Kyriale without accompaniment. The entire choir sang a motet, O Esca Viatorum by Isaac, as a prelude to the Mass, two additional motets for the Offertory and Communion (O Bone Jesu by Palestrina, and O Salutaris by Josquin), and the chant hymn, Anima Christi. The Mass ended with a recessional hymn in English that everyone sang with vigor.
The Church of St. John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia hosted a chant workshop November 9 and 10 — and more than 100 singers participated.
Scott Turkington, of Stamford, Connecticut, acclaimed Gregorian chant expert and teacher, provided a thorough introduction to chant performance according to the classic Solesmes method — the workshop’s primary focus.
He taught the group to sing a Kyrie from memory first, then he introduced them to the basics of singing and reading square notes and clefs, the names and functions of neums, chant rhythm, the church modes, and psalm tones. He also provided an overview of the Liber Cantualis, which served as the workshop’s primary textbook.
An organ recital by David Lang, Master of Music at St. John the Beloved, featured works based on chant melodies, drawn exclusively from the 20th-century repertoire. The selections covered a wide range of the liturgical year and chant modes, and demonstrated a variety of organ colors and moods.
A schola of workshop participants introduced the chant on which each piece was based, and, for Maurice Duruflé’s Prelude, Adagio and Choral Variations on Veni Creator Spiritus, the schola sang verses in alternation with the organ.
On Saturday, Father Franklyn McAfee, pastor of St. John the Beloved, gave a lecture entitled, “To Sing Is the Mark of a Lover”, in which he compared those who sing chant to people who have fallen in love. Mere words are not sufficient to express their love, which must be exalted by the addition of music.
The workshop concluded on Saturday with the participants singing the full chant Mass Ordinary and other chants as part of the parish’s Sunday Vigil Mass. The Mass Propers were sung by the schola.
A workshop for training priest-celebrants to sing the Mass, Missa in Cantu, reportedly “went spectacularly well”. The workshop, sponsored by the Church Music Association of America, took place October 17-19, at St. John Cantius parish in Chicago, and was attended by forty priests and seminarians.
The priests and seminarians participated in daily sung Liturgy in all forms. CMAA posted on its web site one of many encouraging notes the sponsors received:
“Thank you so much for the workshop in Chicago. It was eye-opening and life-changing. It is hard to explain but everything seems different now. From not singing really anything, to this past Sunday [when] I sang the collects, intoned the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, and butchered the final blessing. Oh well, you can’t win them all.”
St. John Cantius parish, located near downtown Chicago, offers the Novus Ordo Mass in both Latin and the vernacular, as well as the Vetus Ordo (old form) of Mass. Its imposing historic church, solemn liturgies, devotions, treasures of sacred art, and rich program of sacred music has helped many Catholics rediscover a profound sense of the sacred. The pastor is Father C. Frank Phillips, CR. Information on the web site: www.cantius.org.
The World Premiere of the “Christmas Oratorio” composed by Russian Orthodox Bishop Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Vienna and Austria, was performed at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, December 17. Other scheduled performances include December 18 at St. Jean Baptiste Church in New York City, and December 20 at The Memorial Church of Harvard University.
“At the heart of this composition lies the Gospel narrative of the birth and early days of Jesus Christ’s life on earth”, Bishop Hilarion said. “The libretto uses Orthodox liturgical texts from the feasts of the Annunciation, the Nativity and the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple.”
The concerts were organized through the cooperation of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC, St. Jean Baptiste Church, New York City, Harvard University, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Urbi et Orbi Communications, publisher of Inside the Vatican magazine.
“The active involvement of the people in the liturgy is an unparalleled gift of the council to the people of God”, said Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who presented the inaugural “Monsignor Frederick McManus Lecture” sponsored by the Catholic University of America’s School of Canon Law on October 25.
Cardinal Danneels, bishop since 1979 of Mechelen-Brussels, was involved, along with fellow liturgical expert, Monsignor McManus, in drafting Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Liturgy, and has been known for his “progressive” views.
In his address, Cardinal Danneels observed that there is a “shadow side” to this participation. “Participation and mutual celebration can lead to a subtle form of manipulation”, he said. “Those who serve the liturgy, both priests and laity, become its ‘owners’”, and this can turn what is meant to be sacred worship into a social event. “The Liturgy is first God’s work on us, before it is our work on God”, the cardinal observed, and said that promoting greater understanding of the Liturgy was a major objective of the Council and that this continued as a concern.
The cardinal noted that after the Latin texts were translated into vernacular languages, it became clear that understanding the Liturgy involved more than comprehension of the language. “There is indeed a hard core in the Liturgy — the mystery — which is ungraspable”, said Cardinal Danneels, “One can only enter into it in faith”.
Monsignor McManus, who died in 2005, was a major force in shaping the post-Conciliar liturgical changes in the United States and the English-speaking world. In addition to his many years as head of the Canon Law School at Catholic University, Monsignor McManus was a principal organizer of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) and longtime director of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL). He played a key role in every aspect of liturgical development, from church architecture to music to professionalizing liturgical studies.