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.