Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy (almost) New Year

In just a short while, my family and I will load up to go to midnight Mass to celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Our schola will be singing for Mass, which follows Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This will probably be a fairly small crowd, from what I have been told. The bishop will be the celebrant, with our pastor as concelebrant.

Here is what we'll be singing:

Entrance: Joy to the World
Kyrie VIII / Gloria VIII
Responsorial Psalm (Arlene's Mode IV alt version from Chabanel)
Simple chanted Alleluia
Offertory: Behold a Virgin Bearing Him
Ave Maria (chant)
Sanctus XVIII / Agnus Dei XVIII
Communion: Viderunt omnes (we're doing seasonal Communion chants still... not up to learning new for each week yet... but give us time)
Closing: What Child is This

This past week at rehearsal we began learning a few new things... we worked primarily on a new Ad libitum Communion chant -- Qui manducat. We also worked a bit on Anima Christi. I'd like to begin singing it as a post-communion chant as a weekly occurrence very soon.

I am playing and singing for a wedding on January 10th. I haven't done this in awhile, so I had to really dig to find all my old music. Well... I found it and had it all in one stack. I took it to church with the intention of letting the couple hear and choose from the various things I think I may still be able to play. And... disaster! I cannot find it anywhere... at first I thought I had just tucked it safely away somewhere in the house (if you would see how not neat my home is lately, you would understand how that could be). I think I must have left it at the church, where it was disposed of by helpful cleaning people.

I spent last weekend online looking for Wedding collections with the same basic music I used as standards (and for which the music is now gone). So... two new books (and the Messiah octavo I have wanted for awhile) are on order and should be in by Friday. No stress, right?

As this year ends and the new year begins, I am so very thankful for all the blessings I have and don't deserve. My children, husband and I are healthy, happy, comfortable, warm, members of a wonderful parish with family and friends we love. My children are sprouting up like little olive trees (can't remember the Bible reference) and God continues to show us His love and protection.

May God bless you... see you next year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

I am happily typing this on my new laptop... yes, I opened it this morning amid the mountain of ripped and torn wrapping paper that quickly piled up around our Christmas tree as the boys delved into all the good things there. As my youngest was opening up a package that was, unmistakably, "just clothes", he was heard to say: "Come on, everyone knows that kids don't want clothes for Christmas!" Happily, there were things other than clothes under the tree for the little spoiled darling.

I have successfully moved my files from the hubby's computer to mine... software is installed... everything is working beautifully. Perhaps I'll be a bit more regular at posting now that it will be much more convenient.

Christmas Vigil Mass was very nice at San Mateo. Father Bob was (as always) wonderful... the Mass was solemn and reverent... incense, sung prayers... it was joyful and peaceful. Our little schola did a nice job. Because I forgot to tell them, they were unsure a few times just how we were going to do things. Fr. Bob had a few changes he wanted me to make right before Mass, and I forgot to tell them. They are pretty flexible, though, and stayed with me! I am so enjoying singing with these wonderful people. Can't wait for the other new things we'll be learning in the new year.

Te Deum Laudamus!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Colloquium 2009 Video

Many thanks to Jeff Ostrowski and Arlene Oost-Zinner...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent begins again!

Just a short entry today... we had our first Schola Mass at San Mateo this morning. I was very proud of our group and thought they sounded great. We sang the following:
Introit: Ad te levavi
Alleluia -- simple chanted English verse
Offertory: Alma Redemptoris Mater
Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
Sanctus XVIII
Our Father -- chanted in English
Agnus Dei XVIII
Communion: Dominus dabit
Closing: Veni Emmanuel

It was well-received by the parishioners, I think. I submitted my plan for the Christmas season today as well...

We are taking it very slowly and gradually. I heard a lot of parishioners singing the ordinaries this morning. I am hoping the same will happen at Christmas, when we add in the Kyrie and Gloria from Mass setting VIII. I realize these are ordinaries could be replaced by others that are perhaps more beautiful and less commonly heard. But... I think the idea of taking things slowly and allowing the folks in the parish to have a certain comfort level with the basic ordinaries before we start modifying will help it to have a long-lasting effect.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Advent Reading

I am in the midst of reading a collection of short meditations by Pope Benedict. This book, The Blessing of Christmas, has been such a great book to get in the mindframe of Advent. Each meditation is rather short; the artwork in the book and the quality of the paper and printing is wonderful. I know I am a bit ahead of the Advent season, since the first Sunday of Advent is next week...
This would be a great gift for a friend who likes to read!

Friday, November 21, 2008

CCHD Second Collection This Weekend...

I have written about how unhappy I was to discover the way our donations have been used by the leadership of the CCHD (See my posts from here and here). This is the weekend (Nov. 22-23) when they will be asking for our donations. I plan to express my displeasure by not donating this time around. I realize this doesn't completely take care of the problem, since I believe that other diocesan funds are used to fund the CCHD in addition to this collection at Masses.

We do have the opportunity to say something to the bishops by withholding donations this time around, however. There are many other ways to support and aid the poor. We should be good stewards of the gifts God has given us and find charities that are in line with Catholic teaching. I personally have some I like very much. Edmundite Missions, Mercy Home, local parish food drives, etc. I also like supporting various cloistered religious orders, such as the Poor Clares (there is a wonderful monastery in Roswell, NM) and Benedictines (Clear Creek Monastery is one of my personal favorites).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Liturgical Movement Article

Jeffrey Tucker has another great article about Sacred Music and the various paths that can lead us to appreciation of the musical treasures of the Church. Check out his article here:

My path to appreciation of Gregorian chant: I only had a vague idea of it, having never actually heard it (that I could recall) in my growing up years. Yet, when still living in the mountains east of Albuquerque, I began to start looking for information about it. I ordered two books from GIA (ironically, I later discovered that those initials stood for Gregorian Institute of America -- perhaps GIA will find its way back to its roots someday). I purchased the book Cantus Selecti and a book about learning to read the notation. After attempting to figure out the notation on my own, I gained an intellectual understanding of its theory. I got nowhere, however, in practical application and being able to really sing any of the lovely music I had in the Cantus Selecti book.

Another move... to New Orleans. While there, I began to ask if there were any groups that sang chant in the hope that I could learn from someone who actually knew it. I found a professional group of women who sang with the Musica da Camera of New Orleans. They didn't really sing chant exclusively, but were focused on all early music and medieval instrumentation. I sang with them only a short while, but was completely hooked when we first sang the Te Deum at one of our concerts. We actually used square-note notation and even a bit of organum.

Hurricane Katrina hits... we are off to Shreveport. There, with a group of like-minded individuals, we started our own schola. I soon discovered a support system in the Church Music Association of America (CMAA) and was off and running. The rest is history. Mine is a rather convoluted journey that took quite a bit of time. I didn't know anything about the holiness of it in the liturgy. I knew nothing of the history of it in the church. Although I was fairly unhappy with the general musical fare in the Catholic parishes I had attended, I really didn't know what the alternative would be. I didn't even know why I was looking for it. It was all a wonderful surprise for me when I found out how great it is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Miscellaneous Catch-up

So many things to do... so little time! Here is a quick update from my corner of the world:

Chant: Ft. Worth Schola Gregoriana continues to work on preparing for Advent. We will begin singing at the 10 am Mass every week at San Mateo beginning on Nov. 30th. The pastor there, Fr. Bob Stritmatter, is a wonderful pastor, spiritual director and an inspiration. In this rather small mission parish we have a true jewel. On his recommendation, I recently obtained and read a book called Why Catholics Can't Sing, by Thomas Day. I know the book is not a new resource, but found so many parts of it to be very informative to me (as well as a bit humorous). I particularly loved the part where he mentioned that he had noticed a very definite resemblance in the melody used for the well-known contemporary piece I Have Loved You and the Theme Song for the Brady Bunch. The author's point about the loss of holiness and reverence in the Mass in many places was well-made. Fr. Bob is already doing his part to make the Mass holy and reverent. We shall try our best to be a small part of it with our schola.

San Mateo Children's Choir: At the request of one of the parishioners (who donates a huge amount of his time to various parish work, including teaching the students for Confirmation, assisting in training altar servers... and a whole long list of other things), I have begun directing a children's choir for the parish. I have about 14 children who stay after their regular catechism classes to sing with me. I am getting my reward immediately working with these beautiful children. They are wonderful. We are working now toward learning music that will be part of a Christmas "posada", or enactment of the Christmas story. We plan to sing the following well-known pieces:

O Come, All Ye Faithful,
Angels We Have Heard On High
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Away in a Manger

In addition to those, we are also working on three pieces from the Story of Redemption in Chant that is available on the Musicasacra site. With those three pieces, the children will become familiar with three traditional chant hymn melodies (which have been used to tell a portion of the story of Christmas in English).

I am also using a bit of the Ward method in teaching the children the beginnings of solfege. We are using the arm signals for the different notes so far. They do a wonderful job of singing on pitch especially when we are singing solfege.

This past week I also taught them the very simple Kyrie that we have been using at Mass, the Kyrie from Mass XV. They picked it up very quickly!

Other stuff: The weather has been wonderful here in North Texas the past few weeks... crisp and clear and perfect. This is my favorite time of year. I've been inspired to pull out my knitting needles and have finished four pairs of socks in the past few weeks, as well as new knitted hats for the boys, two tea cozies, and two sweaters. I also just finished sewing a quilt-top that is intended to be a wedding gift for a German cousin of my husband's. My mother-in-law will do the hand-quilting for it, so it will be a team effort. The boys are doing well with their schoolwork, learning well and getting their schoolwork done with a minimum of fuss. I wish I could say it is going quickly each day, but many days it has been lasting much longer than I would hope (thus the many knitting projects).

Book Club: I joined the local Catholic Women's Book Club and have been greatly enjoying it. We had a book this month that was a real treat: Humility, by Dietrich von Hildebrand. Although it is small in size, I can't say that it is an easy or quick read. It inspired a lot of reflection by me and the other members of the group. At the same time, I also picked up a book called Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence. That one I have especially enjoyed. It gave me an entirely new perspective on Divine Providence and the things that happen to us in life.

My reading otherwise is far behind. The First Things magazines are piled up for me to read... I got through the most recent issue today... as I said... so much to do, so little time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Schola news

Well... I am a bit late in posting the latest. We are continuing to work on our propers for Advent, as well as the chant hymns for Advent. Last week we also began to work on a few chant hymns for the Christmas season. The Parish Book of Chant has such a nice collection of hymns...

We started to work on:

Resonet in laudibus
Corde natus
Puer natus

We'll have plenty of opportunity to use them in the Christmas season. Our schola is settling in to a group of about 5-6 women right now. Although we have had many others come and go, the number has settled (for now, anyway) at a very nice and somewhat easy to manage number. Once we begin singing at Mass regularly, I expect it will generate a bit more interest again. At this point, I am just going to focus on getting us ready with the group we have.

I have also been asked to lead a small children's choir in getting ready for Christmas at the parish. I will be having the first practice this coming Monday. I am going to use a couple of the chant pieces from the Story of Redemption in Chant. I love this little booklet that CMAA has posted for free download and had been wishing for an opportunity to use it. So... I will attempt to use a few of the Ward method techniques with the children in teaching them some of the basics of pitch-matching and solfege. It will have to be very limited, of course, given the time I have to work with. We will also sing a handful of Christmas carols, which should be familiar to many. I wrote a little program out for planning purposes.

Life is chugging along :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chant update

This week has gone by very quickly. On Monday evening, we began working on chants in preparation for Advent. We started working on some new things:

Introit: Ad te levavi
Communion: Dominus dabit
Advent Hymn: Rorate

Our work continued with the ordinaries we will be using during Advent, as well as a solfege exercise. Turnout was a bit light, perhaps due to the holiday.

This evening, I was fortunate to be invited to give a short workshop to the choir members at St. Mary of the Assumption. They were very quick to pick it up. I am hoping I was able to help them in their future chant endeavors. We went over some basics of the chant notation, rhythmic groups, as well as singing three different ordinaries. They were: Sanctus XVIII, Agnus Dei XVIII and Agnus Dei XVII.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ACORN grants by USCCB detail for 2007

So... for any who are interested in just the ACORN grants given by the USCCB (not to mention some of the other very questionable sounding grantees on the list), here is a detailed listing.

I will definitely be giving my donations to the bishop's funds more thought next time around. I'm all for helping the needy. Paying individuals to commit fraud in our political process does not qualify in my opinion.

Interestingly, the "Program Area" listed for these various grants varied a fair amount. Most were related to "Community Organizing" and related to "Neighborhood Improvement" and "Civil Rights/Racism".

Geographical area served Amount

Nevada $40,000.00
Hawaii $30,000.00
San Francisco, CA $30,000.00
San Mateo, CA $35,000.00
San Bernardino, CA $30,000.00
Oakland, CA $30,000.00
Contra Costa, CA $35,000.00
Fresno, CA $30,000.00
Houston, TX $25,000.00
Ft. Worth, TX $25,000.00
El Paso, TX $25,000.00
Irving, TX $25,000.00
New Mexico $25,000.00
Pulaski, Arkansas $25,000.00
Tucson, AZ $20,000.00
Mesa, AZ $30,000.00
Phoenix, AZ $30,000.00
Northwestern Indiana $36,000.00
Indianapolis, IN $35,000.00
Raleigh, NC $25,000.00
Mississippi $30,000.00
Louisiana $30,000.00
Louisville, KY $25,000.00
Georgia $25,000.00
Central FL $30,000.00
Hialeah, FL $25,000.00
Broward County, FL $20,000.00
Alabama $25,000.00
Allegheny, PA $25,000.00
Harrisburg, PA $25,000.00
Lehigh, PA $20,000.00
Columbus, OH $25,000.00
Cleveland, OH $30,000.00
Cincinnati, OH $25,000.00
Paterson, NJ $40,000.00
Metuchen, NJ $25,000.00
Grand Rapids, MI $25,000.00
Delaware $25,000.00
Rhode Island $25,000.00
Boston, MA $25,000.00

For a Grand total of $1,111,000.00

Catholic Bishops Conference Donated to Acorn

HT Inside Catholic...

Did you know that the Catholic Bishops' Conference gave $1M to Acorn? I didn't... and it does not make me happy to know that money I have given in support of the bishops' programs has gone to this group. Obviously they are not just a non-partisan group just interested in getting more people registered to vote and exercise their rights. Their radical socialist agenda is unmistakable.

See the entire article and video by Deal Hudson here:

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mass for Unbaptized children in Ft. Worth

I was invited by a friend, who is director at St. Mary of the Assumption in Ft. Worth, to sing some polyphony at a Mass for children who died before being baptized on Saturday. [Bishop Vann was to have celebrated the Mass at St. Mary of the Assumption Church, but was unable to attend. Instead, Fr. Bristow of St. Mary's was the celebrant.] The music was lovely, including many lovely polyphony pieces, as well as two solo pieces, some traditional English hymns and chanted propers by the local men's schola.

Father Bristow has a wonderful singing voice... a very deep bass that found us searching out our lowest chest voice for responses! The men's schola sang the Requiem Introit, the Communion Proper for funerals and In Paradisum and did a very nice job. The polyphony was a treat. The singers were very talented (some college music majors among them) and easy to sing with. I'm hoping to get to hear recordings that were made of the day. For more information, check out Richard's blog at:

Thanks, Richard, for the corrections.

Hurray for local Bishops!

Our local bishops, Bishop Kevin Vann (Fort Worth) and Bishop Kevin Farrell (Dallas) have issued a joint letter to the faithful in the two dioceses regarding the sanctity of life in this Respect Life month. See the entire document here:

They very clearly lay out the information for the Catholics in their flocks with which they can inform their consciences in accordance with Church teaching. I was most pleased to see this and happy to know that they are speaking out in this crucial time in an election year.

Pray for an end to abortion!

HT to James at Opinionated Catholic.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Parish Book of Chant ordered again...

I just had to put in another order for more Parish Book of Chant books. At Monday's rehearsal I gave out all but the last one. We continue to have newcomers joining our group. It slows up the process of learning new things a bit, but I think it is worth it. My philosophy on this is still evolving as I go along... I think it has value to expose as many people as possible to the world of singing Gregorian chant. Whether they come and learn just the ordinaries for the Mass that we will be singing on Sunday, or whether they get totally committed to it as so many others have in recent years, we are building up the total chant-singing ability of the Church.

In working with folks where we lived before, I found that many had no idea what they would be doing when they said they would like to learn Gregorian chant. They had no idea of just how different the music is in the singing style, notation, solfege, rhythmic markings, etc (neither did I, for that matter). As we went along, many found that either the time commitment required was too great, or that it just wasn't their thing. Many who started out with us didn't continue over time.

So... I am gathering a very large group of beginners here... we'll throw a lot of mud on the wall and see what sticks! I ordered 10 more copies of the Parish Book of Chant (PBC). I am thinking I will be getting the new edition this time around, because the availability date was November. With this new batch of books, it will make 25 copies that I will have either distributed or will distribute here. I'll be giving one copy to the local pastor out of this next batch and one to the director of the schola in Louisiana... Let's just think... if each of the 45 or so Chant Intensive attendees distributed 10-20 copies each year and taught that many people the rudiments of singing the ordinaries and a few hymns... in only a few years we'll have our Catholic community growing and learning right along with us...

What if every Colloquium attendee did this?

While I am making copies of certain pieces and marking them with the rhythmic markings and notes in advance of rehearsals now, my plan is to move more and more to using the PBC and teaching them how to mark their own music (in pencil) in the books and to make them their own. Perhaps in the future we'll only need to make copies of propers and a few other pieces that aren't in the book.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Heroic Chanters

Check out this great article on the New Liturgical Movement by Jeffrey Tucker. He has a gift of sharing the feeling of how it is to try to regain our musical heritage in this piece. I may seem a bit odd to those who are newcomers to the world of Gregorian chant when I get excited over little bits of history. Yesterday evening during our chant rehearsal I mentioned how, when the first Spanish ships arrived in the New World, they chanted the Te Deum when they got ashore. It just doesn't seem fair that, for about 40 years, Catholics haven't learned even the rudiments of this music.

This is our heritage... we have to regain it for ourselves and our children!

Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana update

Well, the boys have finished another quarter of their school year, and they get a couple of days off before we start the next quarter, so I have taken the opportunity to get a bunch of things done. Yesterday we ran errands... today I've been working on the plan of action for the schola. Since we are to begin singing at the Sunday morning Mass starting in Advent at San Mateo, there is much to do. We will begin by using a very simple Mass setting of ordinaries, in order to encourage the parishioners to sing with us on them. While I plan to have Mass booklets available, the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei are all in modern notation in the backs of the missalettes in the pews.

The schola will also be working on a very few propers and some traditional Latin Advent hymns. They are:

Introits: Ad te levavi -- 1st Sunday of Advent

Gaudete -- 3rd Sunday of Advent

Communion: Dominus dabit -- Proper for the 1st Sunday of Advent

Note: We will use this communion proper for the entire Advent season, more as a seasonal choice.

Hymns: Veni Emmanuel

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Creator alme Siderum


I think this will give us plenty to work on for the coming weeks. Next year, we can build on it and expand it. With Christmas close on our heels, we'll also begin working on things to prepare for it. So much wonderful music... so little time...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The future looks bright...

I had the great opportunity to sit in with a men's schola rehearsal last night. They are all young Catholic men working together to sing chant in the liturgy. They currently sing the Communion proper each week at a local parish here in the diocese. They are all very strong note-readers and have a very nice sound. They have a very nice group.

I shared a little information that I gleaned from Scott Turkington's course this past summer. I showed them the method he used in teaching us new propers...

... proper Latin pronunciation
... Ictus marking (we went over the main four rules that are also in the back of the Parish book of Chant -- p. 175)
... Singing the chant using solfege
... Singing the chant with rhythmic counting -- groups of 2's and 3's.
... Putting it all together... Latin and notes.

I may have changed the order a bit, but I think all the steps are there. They picked it up very quickly and I think it will help them in the future more as they get used to it.

I was so very impressed with these men and can see that the future of Sacred Music in the parishes will be improved by their participation and the spreading of the chant by them in the years to come. I was so happy to get to see them in action! For more information about this group and their singing schedule, check out their blogsite here: .

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Nova Organi Harmonia

Thanks to a very generous donation, the entire set of (seven or eight) volumes of the Nova Organi Harmonia will be made available for free download on the CMAA website very soon. I have three volumes myself that I purchased awhile back from a German bookseller. The entire set is almost impossible to find these days.

The main reason this would be of interest would be for those who like accompanied chant (organ accompaniment). With this set of volumes, very nice settings of the organ accompaniment will be available for virtually all propers for the liturgical church year.

That being said, I personally prefer the chant to be sung without accompaniment, which I believe to be ideal. Plus, without a very well-trained organist (and one who is especially well-versed in how the chant is sung), trying to use accompaniment can be disastrous. But... for those who are in the know about organ accompaniment of the chant, this is the best arrangement out there. It is amazing that it is now to be made available for free TO THE WORLD at the CMAA website. Check out the samples that are available now:

Please consider making a donation to support this and other worthy projects to the Church Music Association here. To donate to the Chabanel Psalm project, you can make an easy donation (even small amounts are helpful) here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

More chanting

On this, our third time to practice at the central location, our group was uncomfortably cozy in our little space. We had 5 new faces there this evening, although we were missing two of our regulars. After rehearsal, we met up briefly with the pastor outside while we were chit-chatting. He said we can use the church if we have outgrown our space... so maybe next week, we'll rehearse in the church itself. It will have a much better sound, I am sure, so I'm looking forward to it.

Of the five more Parish Book of Chant copies I have ordered, three are already spoken for... Since we have had new folks each time, I have found myself covering the same ground each week in some ways. I don't want the newcomers to feel lost about understanding the notation, etc., so I rehash the basics each time.

Next week, we begin work on solfege in earnest. I'm planning to bring some practice sheets and will begin our session with some of that. We are still working on the ordinaries for the Mass.

We will work toward being ready to sing at Mass beginning in Advent. There are so many wonderful chant hymns for the season. It will be very nice.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chant news...

Many possibilities may come for our schola in the months to come. I think there may be broader appeal among the parishes in the diocese than I had originally thought. Today I had the opportunity to speak with the music director of one of the local parishes (who also has a blog). We have talked about a sort of collaboration. His choir has interest in learning more about chant, especially the nuts and bolts of reading the notation and learning more about singing it. Since they are already doing polyphony and are mostly strong note-readers, I am guessing the learning process will go more quickly. We have scheduled an initial mini-workshop for October, when I’ll give them a quick course in singing the chant, as always following Scott Turkington’s lead in the methodology.

I see a great opportunity in the diocese to gradually let more and more parts of the liturgy include Gregorian chant. Whether it is by having the schola sing the communion proper each week so that the parishioners get used to the sound of the chant, or by gradually teaching them chanted ordinaries, I think this growing interest will be shared by the parishioners as they learn more about it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Trip out west...

We returned last night fairly late from a trip out to New Mexico and Colorado. My dear husband had a work trip he had to make to Denver, so we decided to make a family trip out of it. I have two sisters who live in the Denver area, and we have both sets of parents in New Mexico, as long as a brother in law and family.

Over the course of ten days, we were able to see all of them, along with assorted in laws and nieces and nephews, to the great satisfaction of our boys. We visited the Natural History Museum in Denver (which has sparked a huge interest in rocks and minerals, as well as feeding the interest in dinosaurs). We also visited the Denver mint, where we saw how the coins are made there. It so happened that we also got to hear a Medal of Honor winner, Drew Dix, speak at the middle school where one of my nephews is a student. I really enjoyed the entire event and was very pleased to see the emphasis on patriotism and the feeling of gratitude being taught to those students toward our military men and women.

It was a pretty long drive, but we got a lot of visiting family done in a pretty short time... it was a great trip.

Our Schola is growing...

As of this evening, I am in need of more Parish Book of Chant books. Yes... our group has grown again. With four new people in attendance this evening, I am down to just one (or possibly two) books left from my stock purchased this summer. We are still taking baby steps, working on understanding the notation, learning the rudiments of solfege, and working on ordinaries of the Mass. The group is very enthusiastic and I think we will continue to grow over the next few months. This is a great stage for newcomers, since we are all working on basics now. If, over time, I can see that we continually have newcomers who need to learn beginning stuff, I may have to make arrangements for a short course for those folks separate from the regular schola practice in order to allow us to progress past the ordinaries.

We ended our rehearsal by praying the Ave Maria (in Latin, of course).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

C.S. Lewis' Book, The Great Divorce

Whilst picking up the Military History Quarterly for my dear husband, I chanced upon a book I have been wanting to read for some time -- The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis. I read it yesterday in between kids' school subjects. I found it very thought-provoking -- because it is a work of fiction, the underlying theological ideas were woven into the various characters, their actions and words... It was a quick read, yet one that left me thinking about it and the various ideas it held.

I have to wonder how this idea of how a vision of heaven and hell could be (in the book) compares with the vision granted the children of Fatima. This book, along with The Screwtape Letters, really does give another way of looking at sin, forgiveness, love, how someone could choose hell over heaven, how one could be happy in heaven even if a loved-one chooses hell...

I liked the book very much and think I'll read this one again...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana Update

As of this evening, our group can no longer be called the Anonymous Two. At our first rehearsal at the new location, we had a total of seven of us there this evening. Several have some experience in singing the Jubilate Deo chants for Mass, and all seemed very enthusiastic. I thought it was a great beginning...

We started out with some basic solfege and warm-ups, followed by the Kyrie XI, taught without music first. After we had the basic melody down pretty well, we sat down and looked over the notation. I was able to give a short lesson in neume-reading and square-note theory. We also went over the Sanctus XVIII and Agnus Dei XVIII, which were at least somewhat familiar to all.

Much discussion about the plans for the group and possibilities for the future took place along the way. Members of the growing schola are all thinking of others they want to invite to join us... we may end up with a larger group yet before long. I had brought along several copies of the Parish Book of Chant -- four of them wanted to buy their own copies this evening... I hope I run completely out and need to order another ten!

We talked about how our little group differs from what else is already out there... I think we have a niche here that we can help to fill in the diocese. Currently, at the cathedral, they do a pretty nice job of singing the same Sanctus and Agnus Dei from setting XVIII. They have also (from what I have heard) done other chant pieces from time to time with the regular choir. The local EF Mass schola does a lovely job of singing for the high Mass every 2nd and 4th Sunday here. The members seem to be very experienced and have a really nice sound.

The thing that I think is different about our little group is our focus on bringing chant to a Novus Ordo Mass. Also, the focus of our group is going to be more toward an ever-expanding role of chant in the liturgy, rather than the mixture of music types that is typically found with a traditional choir. With any luck, I'll have a few members who run with this and work to learn the notation well enough to be future Chant Intensive attendees... things are looking up in Ft. Worth.

I also have a meeting with another pastor, and a couple of the music directors for that parish this week... I hope to get permission to place my advertising flyers in the parish for our little schola and also to open the door for the possibility of singing there with our little group later on as our skills progress.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Long overdue update...

I can't believe how time has flown! I haven't dropped off the earth over here, but have found myself very busy with day to day life. I do have some very good news to report about our little budding schola, however.

First bit of good news: as of today, we have a very good centrally-located rehearsal location at one of the Ft. Worth parishes. The pastor spoke with me for quite a long while about our hopes for the future of the schola and was very supportive and helpful. I think we could potentially sing at the parish quite often once we are up to it. He even gave me a name of a potential schola member and suggested I call her. Now that folks wouldn't have to trek out to the hinterland for a rehearsal, we can really focus on recruiting. The stealth flyer recruiting effort will now be underway at the back of any church I can visit.

Second good news: I also spoke with another pastor in the area about the possibility of singing for an occasional Mass. He was very nice and suggested a follow-up meeting with the music director of the parish and the director of the EF Mass schola. I look forward to seeing what may come of it.

Thirdly... I attended the first fall meeting for the local Catholic Women's Book Club. During the meeting I had the chance to put in a little plug for our group. I was amazed... I had three different women talk to me about being interested in it. One of them may also bring her musical husband along.

In my discussions about the possibilities for our little group, I have been trying to work with the pastors to begin the integration of Gregorian chant into the liturgy starting where the parishioners are, so to speak. I remember how we began in Shreveport, using much of the music that folks are already somewhat familiar with from the Jubilate Deo booklet. While I much prefer other Mass settings at this point, I think we should again start out with the ordinaries that people know and gradually add to their repertoire. As so many in CMAA have pointed out, it takes time to really build a music program that will last. Going in and insisting on everything being changed all at once at the beginning... and ignoring the fact that the parishioners should be a part of it all... can cause a plan to fail. Since we are hoping this will have a long-term impact on the Sacred Music here, we will try our best to take things slowly and gradually...

Next I need to begin building a Mass program handout for the people to use when our schola sings for Mass. I plan to put together a simple program for a Novus Ordo Mass that will include the music and translations for all the ordinaries that we'll begin using. It will include:

Kyrie IX (Orbis Factor) -- This will be the new chant we'll teach folks before Mass begins
Gloria VIII -- unless the pastor prefers that it be in English, in which case we'll use Kurt Poterack's English Gloria setting
Sanctus XVIII (yes, I know it is supposed to be for Weekdays in Advent and Lent -- they know this one, so we'll start there)
Agnus Dei XVIII (ditto)
Anima Christi (to be sung by all after Communion - another new chant for them to learn... but it is so very simple and perfect to sing after reception of Holy Communion)

In addition, I plan to add Latin chant hymns (and their translations) and translations for whatever propers we can add as a separate insert for the particular Sunday. My thought is to begin with nice traditional English hymns from the hymnals or missalettes for opening and closing of each Mass in order to ease the people into it... We'll probably sneak a few Introits in as preludes whenever possible.

Aside from working with any new recruits to learn the basic ordinaries... I am thinking I'd like to also start working with them on a couple of seasonal Communion propers. Those are typically more simple to learn and could have a great deal of flexibility for use over a greater time period. We have the month of November approaching, when we can offer prayers for the souls in Purgatory, so I'd like to teach the schola In Paradisum... then I think we should begin working on Advent chants...

So much to do... such a great opportunity!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Chant Intensive successes...

These stories just keep rolling in... and I think it is so wonderful I have to share. Here is a recent story from one of our 'boot camp' graduates. His comment on the 'catholicity' of Gregorian chant is just one more reason for us to revive the use of Latin in the Mass.

After hearing amazing stories from various chanters, I supposed I should write something to report the chant activity at N.
Right after the chant intensive workshop, I went to Quebec city for the International Eucharistic Congress. There was a 3-mile long Corpus Christi procession in downtown Quebec city. A friend of mine in the schola and myself started singing Gregorian chants during the procession. We sang Salve Regina, Tantum ergo, Pange Lingua, Missa de Angelis, Credo III. Gradually, some people around us (mostly young people and seminarians in their twenties like myself) started joining us. Later on, we found older people (over 60) joined us singing. It's very interesting so see that young people like us can connect with older Catholics in such a unique, and CATHOLIC way. After we were done singing Tantum ergo, a Canadian gentleman chanted the first part of the versicle: Panem de caelis praestitisti eis, and then an African nun 5 feet away responded him by chanting the second part of the versicle: Omne delectamentum in se habentem. I was deeply impressed by that scene. An African nun, a Canadian man, and myself (who was born and raised in Hong Kong) had no problem communicating our faith at all because we sing the same chants everywhere in the world. I was's REALLY CATHOLIC. Having people sing the Credo in Latin in international gathering of Catholics exemplifies the universality of the Catholic Church much better than having 10 different languages sung in the same Creed. And I'm glad that we did sing the Credo in Latin at the big Mass in the Eucharistic Congress. They actually used a lot more chants than I expected. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Orbis Factor were used almost daily during the Congress. Pater Noster and all the responses before the Gospel and Preface were sung in every Mass.
About the schola at my parish:Our first schola was formed last Oct to prepare for a EF Pontifical High Mass last Dec. After that Pontifical Mass, we have been singing at Mass once a month because most of the members couldn't read music and it took us a whole month to get a whole set of Propers (for 1 Mass) learned. We do sing the complete Gregorian Ordinary and Proper though, although we only have 6 people (3 men and 3 women). I don't know what has happened in these past few months (must be the Holy Spirit)....but now we found ourselves learning a new set of Gregorian Propers (not psalm tones) every week. We have always sung a capella since we never have an organist (i am usually responsible for keeping the pitch because of my background in playing violin). Now I look back and I'm still amazed at how far we have come from. When we started, we had an ex-Benedictine monk to teach us. But then he left last May for personal reasons and I had to take over the schola. I'm still very thankful for Scott for whatever he has taught us. I think I have gained a much deep appreciation of chants from the workshop. Right now, we are preparing for a Pontifical High Mass (Feast of Exaltation of the Holy Cross) next month. We'll be singing full Gregorian Ordinary and Proper, together with Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, Pange Lingua, Jesu dulcis memoria, Adora te devote, and CHRISTUS VINCIT as the recessional. We may even sing the Te Deum if we can find a relic of the True Cross for Procession.
Thanks be to God!I Just thought that this would be an encouragement for any starting schola. We went through the whole process of starting one and now we are seeing the fruits coming out of it. It's beautiful.Have a blessed day!
Ad Jesum per Mariam

Here is another recent message from a fellow attendee:

The Chant Intensive and Colloquium were life changing events for me! For the last year and a half or so we've been singing proper introits, offertorios, and communios at N. We sing these in English to simple psalm tones -- based on the Anglican Use Gradual but with the approved RC translation of scripture (cross-checked in the Graduale Romanum to ensure we have the right text for the day). For the introit the cantor sings the antiphon then congregation repeats, cantor sings verse and Gloria Patri, then all repeat antiphon. Offertorio is cantor solo. Communio is presented in the manner of a responsorial psalm. After our two weeks at Loyola things changed a bit! Now the English offertorio and communio are preceded by yours truly chanting the proper from the Graduale Roman. So far this has been well received, and I think my accuracy is improving week by week. I am really enjoying preparing those chants each week -- I find that even more intellectually rewarding than crossword puzzles! I'll be teaching the Kyrie from the Missa Orbis Factor to the choir when we resume rehearsals next month, and we are still celebrating the Extraordinary Rite first Sundays at 5 p.m. My pastor is planning to attend the Colloquium next year!

Things are looking up here as well... as more develops, I'll post an update. This week, our fourth rehearsal for A-2 (Anonymous Two), we continued our work on the ordinaries for the Mass. This included:
  1. Kyrie Orbis Factor
  2. Gloria VIII
  3. Pater noster
  4. Mysterium Fidei
  5. Sanctus XVI
  6. Agnus Dei XVI

We even had time to do a quick run-through of the Ave Maria. That was our only new chant for the week. Our plan now is to get very solid on all the ordinaries of the Mass (leaving the Credo for later). Then, we'll start working on some seasonal Communion chants and chant hymns. After we have a bit of a repertoire, we'll do more work on propers. We had a very good discussion about the 'other appropriate song' option that can be done instead of propers at a NO Mass and the fact that singing for a Novus Ordo Mass when you are a new schola does give us some needed flexibility.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Happy Ending for CA Homeschooling families

Back in March, I posted a few thoughts on the California court ruling regarding home schooling here:

I found this update and a very happy ending for home educators today...

Home schooling constitutional in CA

Jody Brown and Jim Brown -
OneNewsNow - 8/8/2008 2:10:00 PM

var addthis_pub = 'onenewsnow';

Home schoolers in
California and their supporters are celebrating a legal decision in which the
court handing down the ruling actually reversed itself.

today (Friday) the California Court of Appeal ruled that the state's education
code allows parents to home school their children. That decision means parents
do not have to obtain state credentials in order to home school. The court
acknowledged that a state prohibition on home schooling would intrude on
parents' constitutional right to direct their children's education, and that
that any limit on that right would be presumed unconstitutional. Gary
McCaleb, senior counsel with the
Defense Fund
, is pleased that the court
decided parents have a constitutional right to make educational choices for
their children. "Thousands of California families have educated their
children through home schooling," he states. "[This decision] protects the
rights of families and protects an avenue of education that has proven to
benefit children time and time again."

In early March a three-judge
panel of the California Court of Appeal determined that parents in the Golden
State had
no legal right to home school --
a ruling that one Christian attorney said would leave thousands of students
subject to criminal sanctions unless reversed.

Mike Farris,
chairman of the
Home School
Legal Defense Association
(HSLDA), says
today's ruling was unexpected. "We're very thrilled, not just a little bit,
[and] we're surprised as well," he remarks. "To get a court to do a
180-degree reversal is a remarkable thing and we view it as a blessing from
God. We're really thankful for it, and there's hundreds of thousands of
home-school kids in California who are now able to breathe a sigh of
Farris says groups like the Alliance Defense Fund, Liberty Counsel,
HSLDA, and Focus on the Family teamed up and were armed with new information
that compelled the court to uphold parents' constitutional right to educate
their children at home.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Anonymous Two update

How much detail should you give to a new Gregorian chanter? This was not an issue for me when I and the other members of our schola were first learning. I didn't know any detail to share, so we forged forth with only the barest of essential information with which to work. Now that I have studied for a time, understand the essentials of the Solesmes method, rhythmic markings, arsis, thesis, neume interpretation... breathing rules, etc... it is difficult for me to keep it to myself.

Even such things as hearing the difference between a minor and major third (crucial to good intonation) seem to be a bit difficult to teach initially. As we were going through this concept last night at our weekly rehearsal, I found an easy way to explain it. We simply went over to the piano keyboard and looked at the black and white keys. Assuming 'do' is a 'C', we went through the diatonic scale and found the spots where there were no black keys between (mi-fa and ti-do -- or E-F and B-C). In this way I was able to explain first of all the difference between a half-step and a whole-step and then, later, a major and minor third and demonstrate the difference in sound. The visual aid of the piano keys really helped.

So... although the sound difference isn't really yet firmly established, at least mentally the concept is understood. But, should we really be discussing this at such an early stage? I don't really know if it is a good thing or not. The reason we ventured into this topic was the difficulty we were having with hearing the minor third on the Mysterium Fidei. My initial thought was to show, using solfege, just that it was a minor third, rather than a major third... this led to the question of the terminology 'third' and then, about what constitutes a major third or a minor third... so we got a bit far afield. I also discovered that I was assuming a knowledge of music theory that shouldn't have been assumed!

I do believe this underlying understanding of the notation, solfege and of the diatonic scale is essential for anyone hoping to be able to read the notation on their own, so I think the training has value. My main concern is that I may push too much theory too fast and scare potential chanters away... any experience and opinions on that?

What we have been working on thus far:

Kyrie XI
All sung Novus Ordo Mass responses
Gloria VIII
Sanctus XVIII
Pater Noster
Mysterium Fidei

The Kyrie is sounding pretty good (and is almost completely memorized without the music), as well as the basic sung responses for the Mass. The familiarity of the Sanctus and Agnus XVIII make them good starter chants as well. My own reduced interest in them initially made me think of bypassing them. I thought better of it, thinking that we should use what we have as a starting point. We'll clean them up, singing them with the correct phrasing and just work from there, I think.

Next week, we'll continue on with those things, trying to gain confidence in the ordinaries of the Mass. We are using Scott's method of learning new music... marking rhythmic groupings, solfege, pronunciation of the Latin, singing it in 2's and 3's... then putting it all together -- words and music. I tried bypassing a couple of steps on the Mysterium Fidei initially last night. It became immediately apparent to me how much it helps to go through all the steps. By the time we have done all those things before trying to put it together, the melody has become somewhat familiar and we have isolated the elements of the piece. Although it goes a bit more slowly with a beginning chanter, it really does work!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Aftermath of Chant 'Boot Camp'

Last night was the second rehearsal of our Anonymous Two group here... we have discussed trying to locate a church location for our rehearsals... it would make it easier to promote and less of a drive for folks to attend (I live in the boonies). More on that as news develops... I am seriously considering using the 'stealth flyer' promotion campaign (sneakily slip flyers promoting our group in the backs of various churches in the diocese and see what results).

On another tack... As I was reading yet another inspiring story from a fellow Chant Intensive Workshop attendee, it occurred to me that it was high time to relate a few of these stories on the blog. I don't know how it happened, but among us graduates, the title for the course has morphed into Chant Boot Camp. Perhaps the high intensity of the week's training and the high level of skill-building it incorporated into the course... whatever it was, the new name seems appropriate. Here is another suggested name from the CMAA forum:

Our Chant Boot Camp platoon has now all been graduated to "The Green Birettas". Just think of Scott as John Wayne.

As I clip and paste some of these stories, I am sure I will miss one... so apologies in advance to anyone whose success wasn't mentioned here...

Here is one story from an attendee:

I wanted to share a small success story and thank you for the Chant boot camp (!) with our best drill sergeant Scott from which I got courage to do the following. Yesterday my schola sang at the Catholic Family Expo. Mass with Archbishop. We sang pretty well, considering we just started the schola. (Christus Vicit, which I learned at the workshop, was the best. There was a regular choir too.) It was a really good chance to introduce chants to people in this area. Probably many of them never heard chants before. Our chants schola had to sing with David Haas' music side by side. (I took it pretty well.)
After the Mass I handed my letter to an assistant to the Archbishop, since he was busy with many people around him. My letter was about my concerns on so called Contemporary Mass. I said this term seems to be used to say that the Mass is focus on Contemporary music and cut off from traditional music. I said it seens to be step backward from what our Holy Father is trying to do, and no church documents support it, and I mentioned a couple of reasons why popuar style music is not helping our faith, etc. I asked him to ban the use of the term, Contemporary mass. (I thought this will be a good first step.)
Guess what! he called me just now, personally. ( I don't know this is a usual thing, but I never had a phone call from an Archbishop before.) I was very nervous and thought I was done now. He said that the memo was good, and he will pass it to the priest who is in charge of Liturgy and is also concerned on this. (Hooray!) We will see what will come out of this, but at least I was able to convey our thoughts on keeping our traditional music in our liturgy.
Thank you, CMAA for all your work. I thought you might like to hear some success story after the Chant workshop. I was able to do that because of the workshops, books, articles that you guys put out. I'm in the front line, in a parish with a Contemporary mass and most of people who likes contemporary music. It's a hard work, but I really feel that God is helping us.( I really don't think there should be a Mass called contemporary mass. I do think, though, all the Masses should have at least Ordinary parts in Lain. After all, the Second Vatican council says all the faithful should be able to sing (or say) Ordinary parts in Church's official and universal language. And I was told that one of the responsibilities of music ministry people is to educate the faithful musically and liturgically.)

I'm in full gear now, recruiting people for two scholas in two different parishes. (this way I get to give them a choice to pick a different practice day.)

I made lots of flyers to recruit people from different parishes. Anyone who want to learn and sing Gregorian chant, which is declared by the Church as having its first place in Roman Liturgy, are invited. I sent flyers to different parishes, put an announcement in the local Catholic newpaper (and one of my devout schola and his wife go to different parishes and leave flyers in the back of the church, too). We also started a Latin class(Ecclesiastical) in our parish. We hired an instructor. (We got about 25 people for the Latin class. There are people out there who want to learn more about our Church's tradition.). I'm also planning to start a children's schola for home schooling children. This will be a good free music class for them too.

Here is another great story from a couple of guys who attended:

Here in N. we have finished our third month of the men's schola singing. That would be me, N. and our other schola member N. We have sung these last three months at our Saturday 5pm Mass in a simple prelude / second communion / postlude format, with much better sound and understanding since our week of study in Chicago. The schola is preparing for our "debut" on the first Saturday of September (and every first Saturday) with a full ordinary of mass, and some propers in chant with a couple of Latin hymns thrown in. This has been an interesting dance of the "spirit of Vatican II" with the actual intent of the V II. We're still working through with the Music Director and liturgical committee the final details but we are hopeful that all details will be resolved properly.

We have kept our attention to the immediate endeavor, as if you know anything about the Diocese of N., what we are attempting is radical and un-known territory. Our little schola is indeed on the raft and about to launch on the big dark ocean. Maybe after we have traveled a bit we will work on expansion and evangelizing. For now we get ready for September. We've been given a year (from September) to prove that this will work. I suspect it will take our hard work, patience and many prayers to St. Cecilia and guidance from the Holy Spirit!

Here is another posting... I'm trying to allow for some anonymity (although it will obviously be recognizable to those in the know about shrines, locations, etc.), so please excuse all the "N."s replacing the actual names of parishes, cities, etc...

Down here in N., we can’t boast of any parochial success. However, my independent women’s schola, the N. Schola Cantorae will possibly acquire another singer tomorrow evening. We will be singing Vespers on August 14th (First Vespers of the Assumption) and on September 8th (Feast of the Nativity of the BVM) at 6 p.m. in the Shrine of N. This is the oldest Marian shrine in the USA, dating from the 17th century (and rebuilt every time a hurricane blows it down). The director of the Shrine is eager to rebuild its reputation as a pilgrimage destination and is very supportive.

Most of the Vespers is in Latin with the two psalms in English. It’s somewhat of a “hybrid” of the Roman Breviary and the Liturgy of the Hours. But it’s a start. It’s also a heck of a lot of work. However, having done it, the next one will take much less time to compile (not necessarily to learnJ) And we have a basic website at

Plans going forward involve recruiting and then finding places to sing in a difficult liturgical environment. I’m also scheduled to give two short workshops at the diocesan retreat center in the next several months. So my theory is that we just soldier on – sooner or later, the ice has to break up down here.

I like to think how each one of us is slowly making a difference. Even if my opportunities and successes are limited in this area, I know we’re all in this together.

Here is one of the most recent...

It's N. from N. here. So good to hear the conversation of late--I need it right now. I had a feeling my life was going to change after the Chant Intensive and Colloquium (my first time for both), and change it did! My first week back, I got a new teaching job that would allow me more time for some kind of liturgical work. The second week back I found a condo I could afford to buy (my first home purchase ever), in a good location for my new job, and the third week back I was asked if I would be interested in leading the music for the "Latin Mass community" who were invited a year ago to celebrate the liturgy at our cathedral in N. I had several days to think it over while other people were weighing in on the decision, during which time I glanced at the possibility of declining the offer in order to utilize my free time in a less demanding way. My main idea had been to JOIN a chant choir, not plan, rehearse, and direct the whole thing. So much work! But the opportunity to build up a Gregorian schola at the cathedral seemed such a potentially very rewarding challenge and also a sort of directive from Above coming as it did at this time, that my hesitation has given way to confidence that I'll be given whatever guidance and stamina required. So in I jump with both feet. I know folks like you as well as CMAA will be a great support.

(Edited) Here is another success story from one of our fellow attendees... I couldn't locate the details of their story when I first posted... here it is:

The schola that we started last year according to Jeffrey and Arlene's "Garage Schola" model, had been singing on its own, and then once a month for the OF at a nearby parish. In late April, we found out that a priest was transferring into the Diocese to say the EF, and when we went to the 'organizational' meeting, it turned out that we were the only people in the area to sing, so by default we became the Schola for the Missae Cantatae, which are currently being celebrated once a month. We've sung for two of them now, plus we sing hymns at the Low Masses, plus an EF funeral, and tonight we had First Friday with an EF Mass, followed by Adoration and Benediction. I have to say that none of this would have been possible without our wonderful priest, the experience I gained singing at Chant Intensive and the Colloquium, and last but not least, the Parish Book of Chant, which we use for everything. And did I mention that this is in a 200 year old Mission Church?

A gentleman walked up to us tonight afterward and thanked us for singing. He said that it was nice to have the Latin Mass, but that the music is what really made it wonderful for him. Not bad for a Garage Schola! It reminds me of movies like "The Guardian", where inexperienced people learn new skills (drawing on the Boot Camp analogy again) and then are thrust into the real world where they still feel green and inexperienced, but their training makes them more knowledgeable than anyone else around, and they have to adjust to their new roles. We feel incredibly blessed.

This is just an indication of the grassroots (Green biretta) efforts of another group of people who love beautiful Sacred Music and who are trying to make a difference where they are.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ft. Worth Schola Gregoriana?

Well, no doubt my few readers will be wondering just how auspicious a beginning our new schola has made... I am happy to say the first meeting was a great success. Now, I must tell you that we didn't have the full contingent of six of us that I was hoping for. In fact, four either had second thoughts about the amount of time commitment (good to have that out of the way) and two others had conflicts. So... you can tell by simple arithmetic that we started out last night with two! We had a wonderful and very productive evening, with excellent progress on singing the Kyrie Orbis Factor and going through the entire list of things I had planned. We joked about being the "anonymous two".

I must say that, although there were only the two of us, the sound was really quite nice... my first new schola member has a lovely voice with a very large range. She has a great deal of enthusiasm and many contacts for the area. She is already planning our first sung Mass and has a particular local priest in mind (he is dubbed the singing priest, apparently due to the fact that he often sings portions of the Mass already!).
I can't help thinking of the difference in the beginning here versus our startup in Shreveport. When we began in Shreveport, I had none of the knowledge about chant notation, propers, ordinaries, Solesmes, modes, chironomy, solfege... This startup is going to go so much more quickly and effectively (I hope). Because of my newness to the area, I don't know as many people, so the numbers we are starting with here are smaller. There will be so much less stumbling around trying to figure things out this time around that I think we'll be ready to sing in a relatively short period of time.

I have been ruminating about names for our schola and have thought that the name Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana has a very dignified and substantial sound to it... any comments?

I am still continuing to work on recruiting more... it would be a great blessing to have more voices like my first new recruit... Our family also going to Mass at a smaller parish west of our home this weekend. Perhaps more victims (er, make that potential chant singers) are waiting there!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A New Schola

After trying the limited amount of networking I have had available to me, it has become obvious that what I was seeking in terms of a schola was not (at least not easily) to be found here. Keeping in mind that I cannot count on many years of time available to do things in any one place, I have been thinking I need to get started -- and now!

So... I first began by talking to every Catholic I met about the possibility of a schola to sing Gregorian chant. I found one potential member at Steve Ray's talk... then I put the word out to the local Catholic homeschooling group (and found four more there). Then, last night I think I have found another -- a wife of a man who works with my husband. That puts me up to 7 (including me) potential members.

Now I'm in the process of scheduling our first meeting/rehearsal. That puts me in the planning mode. It is a little difficult to decide the best way to start our fledgling group on the road to chant notation reading and singing. This is what I have come up with so far in terms of music we'll start with and reading resources:

1. Copies of "An Idiot's Guide to Square Notes", Arlene Oost-Zinner and Jeffrey Tucker
2. Lesson 1 of Learning Solfege from the Textbook of Gregorian Chant by Dom Sunol
3. Kyrie XI, Orbis Factor -- marked with all ictus markings and groups of three circled.
4. Gloria VIII, de Angelis -- marked in advance
5. Cheat sheet with names and descriptions of neumes from the book A Gregorian Chant Master Class by Ted Maurier and Scott Turkington
6. A CD with recorded chants I plan to work on for the next month or so. This will include a complete set of Mass ordinaries and several chant hymns suitable for use during ordinary time, as well as several Marian hymns.
7. Online links to information about documents regarding Sacred Music and the use of Gregorian chant in the liturgy.
8. Links to online resources for music and interpretations.
9. Would it be too soon to include membership applications for CMAA???

I am toying with the idea of also printing out the online Jubilate Deo for each person, although I may simply give them the link and let them decide for themselves if they would like to have it.

My plan for the first meeting will be to first talk about why it is so important to pass on the knowledge of how to sing chant and give some documentation about its desirability for use in the liturgy -- both Novus Ordo and Extraordinary forms of the Mass especially.

Next I plan to do a little warmup of the voices with standard vocalization drills as well as some 'Ward-method' type vowel 'noo' singing and pitch-matching.

Thirdly, we'll work on singing the Kyrie Orbis Factor learning it by rote. This is a method used by Scott Turkington in his workshops and is very effective in making the chant seem less formidable. Once we have it mastered (or least nearly so), then we'll open up the music and look at the chant notation, discussing the various neumes used in that chant.

Next, I'll go through a quick description of the theory of solfege, using a simple lesson from the book listed above.

Finally, we'll sing the Kyrie Orbis Factor all the way through to get it thoroughly in our heads and talk about the other resources I'll be sending home.

If time permits, I think I'll also show them the Parish Book of Chant, with the plan of moving to using that as a primary resource over time. Initially, I'll be making copies so that all the music is fully marked with rests and icti.

This is certainly different than the way our little schola in Shreveport began... with none of us knowing how to read the notation or anything about names of neumes or rhythmic markings, etc. I hope it is also better... but we shall see!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Steve Ray visits Ft. Worth

Yesterday afternoon the boys and I attended a short talk given by author Steve Ray. The talk was about teaching your children to love their Faith. The boys truly enjoyed his way of talking about raising children to love God. He sprinkled his talk with many anecdotes about his own family and illustrating his points with actual occurrences. I was impressed with his excitement about being a Catholic and his positive encouragement for us all to live our faith daily.

We left with one of his books, a DVD and a CD. I also plan to check out his website regarding his trips to the Holy Land, including his cruise tour of the journeys of St. Paul. I think my parents would really enjoy such a trip... Steve and his wife, Janet, are both licensed tour guides in Israel.

I've already begun reading his book Crossing the Tiber. It is wonderfully documented and very compelling. I think it would be great reading for anyone who is interested in why (how) a good evangelical could possibly consider becoming a Roman Catholic. It has big value in giving a level of understanding of the logic, as well as a fair analysis (and refutation of the underlying assumptions) of the typical prejudices taught in many protestant denominations. For a Catholic, I think it offers great information for apologetic occasions... I sometimes find myself at a loss to know just how to approach a discussion with a non-Catholic about faith and religion. I feel the need to share the truth with them, but would like to do it in a way that may actually do some good, rather than just give me a feeling of having 'been right'. To me, the goal isn't winning the argument so much as helping them to find their way home to the Church if at all possible.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chicago's Grant Park Music in the Park, June 14th

I have been meaning to write about the wonderful concert I was able to attend with my sister and brother-in-law while in Chicago. After the completion of Chant Intensive, I spent a little time visiting my sis and her husband before departing. After a nice morning spent doing a little pool-cleaning, a little shopping, and a lot of talking, we made the trek in to the city for the Saturday evening Grant Park Music Festival Concert of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. It was performed by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, with four soloists, as well.

Having spent the week singing Latin Mass parts in chant, hearing them in this wonderful Beethoven concert was an amazing end to the week. My sister and her husband, who are Baptist, weren't really all that familiar with the parts of the Mass. I helped them find the words and translations in the programs so that they would understand a bit of what was being said...

I found the Credo particularly nice... and emotionally moving. When thinking of the words of the Creed and listening to Beethoven's musical interpretation of them... I find myself lacking the words to describe it appropriately.

The park is lovely... we were there early and had all the necessary accoutrements (folding chairs, table, wine, cheese, fruit... ). It was also fun to walk around the park and see the water feature where all the kids were playing beneath the fountains. The changing faces sculpture thing was very cool.

Quilting... not quitting

I've been silent, but not idle... Since moving into our new digs, I've found myself not blogging as frequently as before for a few reasons. One reason is the less-convenient location of the computer... upstairs and out of sight. Another reason is the fact that I have been working on several projects related to the new home.

The picture at the right shows my latest project, new patchwork quilts for the boys' room. I began working on these quilts about 8 years ago, when my youngest son was very small. At that time, I had to abandon the project, finding it impossible to quilt with little ones underfoot. Now that they are older (and even somewhat interested in the project), I am finding it possible to revisit the project. As you can see, I have finished the quilt tops. I now need to put them together and do all the hand-quilting (on the quilting hoop I have from my great grandmother on my father's side).

I've also made curtains for the dining room and kitchen here in the new home...

You'll be happy to know that I have (in between projects and on quick rests during) been practicing my chironomy on various chants from the Parish Book of Chant. So, my chant directing skills are, hopefully, continuing to improve.

Monday, June 30, 2008

What I Learned at Chant Intensive...

So many things were wonderful about the trip to Chicago for Chant Intensive. It is hard to know where to start. I guess, first and foremost, since obviously I am not getting this commentary out while it is still news, I guess I would like to encourage others who want to improve on their knowledge and understanding of chant to plan to attend the course next year. Especially for anyone who thinks he or she may be called upon to direct a schola at some point, this instruction is invaluable. How I wish I had been able to learn this stuff - oh - maybe six or eight months ago...

If the course had been offered last summer, I would not have been ready for it. I'd still have learned a lot, of course, and been a bit farther along than I was when I began directing the schola, but I think I was able to get more with a little more experience this year.

What particular points did I take away from the course?

1. The necessity of learning, using and teaching solfege. This basic understanding of the diatonic scale and its use in sight-reading makes learning new chants so much easier.

I can remember last summer at the colloquium getting very tired of trying to sing the chants in solfege. I really could not see the value in it. I had developed my own 'cheat' system of sight-reading whereby I mentally thought of a key signature (assuming the four lines of the staff were the bottom four lines in a modern notation staff) and happily sight-read with ease. The main problem with this is the fact that my system was virtually impossible for me to teach to others (even those with a fair amount of standard notation experience). They just couldn't get it. Solfege may not be second-nature to most modern notation note-readers, but they can all understand it and get used to it with a little practice. Beginning note-readers do far better with this than trying to understand modern notation.

2. I learned so much more about the understanding of the various modes. The organization of them, the ability to hear the difference in the modal scales and a more clear understanding of them only came about for me this summer.

3. Chironomy training that is so essential for leading a schola was made so much more clear.

I had seen the basics of it in use last summer during the colloquium. I had also read about it in various chant books I have in my (ever-expanding) library. I had even tried to figure out how to direct simple drills with the arsis and thesis concept. I was not really very successful. I always simply fell back into my own simple method of directing, somewhat loosely based upon the directing I had been used to seeing while singing in choirs over the years...

The ability to see some actual rules to use in determining whether a grouping should be arsic or thetic was so very helpful. I have, since coming home, marked up many chants I already knew well with the directing notes. And yes, I have even practiced directing (no one present to direct, of course) here at home. I don't think I would have made too much progress along this particular path without having someone really show us how.

Picture the way our entire gathering of forty-some attendees all gathered around our teacher, Scott Turkington, in front of the chapel that faces Lake Michigan practicing our chironomy. We looked a bit like a tae- chi group out doing our exercises.

4. We learned the actual rules that exist for determining rhythmic groupings. Rather than just having to guess at what 'seems' right, we have actual rules!!! It had never been explained so clearly to me before. What's more, the most crucial of the rules are all printed for anyone to use in the back of the newly published Parish Book of Chant (p. 175 for anyone interested).

5. The method of teaching new chants using a combination of the various bits of information is something I will use.

Whenever we began learning a new proper during the workshop, we began by marking all the rhythmic groups according to the Solesmes method. The groupings of twos and threes and the insertion of understood rests at full- and double-bar lines helps tremendously in gaining familiarity with the chant. We also sang the chant in solfege... knowing where those half-steps are is crucial for note-reading accuracy... it is hard to miss when singing solfege. Then we would often sing the chant by the rhythmic numbers. This helped us to concentrate on the rhythm (and also gave our poor, unaccustomed-to-solfege brains a chance to rest). We would often go over the text, assuring accurate pronunciation... and finally put it all together text and notes.

I was quite astounded at how quickly the group learned new music using this method.

I'll probably think of several more really great things that I had never learned (or had the sense to absorb) before this summer... but, for now, these are the things that stick out for me. As I mentioned, I think I got more out of this course after gaining a year's worth of familiarity with the many standard chant hymns, ordinaries and propers that we used in our schola. It made the learning process much quicker for me this summer than it would have been for me as a complete novice.

I think this course offers so much possibility for those who may be thinking about starting their own schola somewhere... to have this foundational knowledge will make a huge difference in the world of Gregorian chant in the liturgy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

New Chant Intensive Recordings

As you can see on the top left side, I did finally find the cable I needed to upload my recordings... The music from the Mass on Friday was very nice. All the pieces we sang are there, except for the Mass responses and the Pater noster.

One of my particular favorites was the Christus Vincit with a bit of organum added, courtesy of one of our workshop attendees and a few friends.


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Chant Intensive Recordings

The lack of postings lately has been due to the fact that I am still surrounded by boxes that need to be unpacked and put in an appropriate place in our new home... (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it).

One thing that has not yet been unearthed is the cable I need to upload my recordings of the Mass to make them available. Happily, you can still get a taste of the music we sang at the Mass on Friday afternoon, thanks to my friend over at Sacred Miscellany. Mary Jane has uploaded several of the chants we sang. Click on over and give a listen...

It was a very congenial group of folks gathered there for the workshop... the relatively smaller size of the group (in comparison to the Colloquium) made it possible to meet almost everyone and share a meal and conversation along the way. It was such fun to get to sing with friends from last year's Colloquium, as well as new ones. Several bloggers were there... Sacred Miscellany, Back When We Were Liberal, Scelata, Chironomo's Podium... and some others. It was fun to be able to put a face with a blog.

I'm getting very close to finding many things I need to feel that things are back to normal around here... after that, there will be many more postings...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Chant Intensive is intense...

Today is the last day of the Chant Intensive course here at Loyola University in Chicago. The entire week has been wonderful. The weather couldn't have been any better (nice and cool, as opposed to the weather down south). We have had a bit of rain, but mostly at night, when it didn't matter.

The course has progressed very quickly through the various aspects of Gregorian chant. We started out with a pretty basic overview of neumes, interpretation of the Solesmes editions of the ordinaries and propers, including rhythmic notations...

Along the way we have also begun to learn the basics of chironomy and have worked a lot on the solfege, modes, ear training... As you can probably guess, it has been a very packed week.

Our instructor, Scott Turkington, has been great. He makes the difficult concepts very clear and understandable, even to those of us who don't have a great deal of experience with it. I would highly recommend this course to those who want to gain a bit more depth in their understanding of chant, although maybe not so much to the absolute beginner.

The facilities here at Loyola have been outstanding. The staff here have been so very helpful and friendly. The recently-renovated chapel here at the university which sits at the edge of Lake Michigan is quite beautiful and has great acoustics for the chant.

It has been a wonderful week!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Countdown...

Although I am sure this is not interesting to many, our existence these past few days has centered around preparations for the packing up which will happen starting on Tuesday. I've successfully gotten the freezer defrosted, paintings down, holes patched and painted... last-minute discards identified and in the car for delivery to our local charity...

Along with all this home preparation goes the inevitable change of addresses... utilities turn-on and cut-off... and, since we can't keep our email address from one state to another, the many online links to our email all must be updated. For those who seldom, if ever, move -- this is a very good reason to stay right where you are.

Our food supplies are dwindling, too. We must either depart or make a grocery run soon. I'm down to quick foods for the boys and a few cans of liquid meal replacements (do you think I can shed a few pounds right before the move -- that is a happy thought). I did make muffins with almost the last bit of baking supplies left this morning.

It is time to begin getting ready for Mass... I'm cantoring twice today. Our little altar server gets to serve one last time this evening at 5:30.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Move Looms

The day of moving is moving inexorably closer... and each day I try to think of more things I can discard, give away, send to relatives, donate to the church, shred... I look at this vast accumulation of stuff we seem to have gathered with a very jaundiced eye each time I think of the awful fact of packing it into boxes (and then unpacking it again on the other end). This week, I have eliminated a significant amount of just paper stuff that we seem to collect... I made time to go through and shred all the old checks and documents from many years ago that we have (for some unexplainable reason) been hauling around the past several moves.

I found old bank statements, checks, files from as early as 1994 in an old rubbermaid bin that had been lurking in the garage. My oldest son had a great time with the shredder... I think he especially enjoyed the times when it would jam up and he could put to use all his natural mechanical skills and (after unplugging the thing at my insistence) unclog the teeth with my tweezers.

I found my long-lost professional resume and job information from my last job (outside the home, that is -- I still have a very demanding job, you know). It was good to look it over and remember that happy time in my life when I was working (I really loved working and found it a HUGE adjustment to stay home and take care of my babies at first). Unfortunately, I am thinking that, even if I have the energy to try, my chances of actually finding a job in my chosen field after the kids are raised and out of the house are probably slim to none. Since I had the kids so late in life, I'll definitely be a bit old to try to begin again ten years from now... no... dear husband is going to just have to support us all for the duration.

That one useful (I suppose that could be debatable) item was about the only thing I kept out of a huge rubbermaid container... think about it -- we've been hauling that thing around for the last nine moves (counting moves within a city). That is ridiculous! Each time we go through this, I resolve to get rid of stuff as we go along... and then fail.

Thus, the only way I seem to be able to force myself to go through and get rid of the stuff we seem to be drowning in... is when an impending move is upon us. Even at that, it is obvious that I miss certain things each time. Perhaps that is why we must move so often... if we lived anywhere longer than, say, three years, perhaps we would be unable to dig ourselves out.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day with M20 Armored Car

Probably not that many people commemorate Memorial Day by taking their WWII M20 Armored Personnel Carrier out of the garage, loading two little boys in, complete with American flag and driving around the neighborhood with siren blaring...

Here in my neighborhood that is how we do it.

Kyrie Eleison

Just a very short note... as a was walking through the kitchen on the way to refresh my cup of coffee this morning, I passed by my youngest son, busily working away on a drawing at the kitchen table. What was that familiar tune I heard him happily humming as he worked?

Kyrie eleison de Angelis (VIII). It did my heart good.