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 :)