Thursday, December 24, 2009

Snow storm rocks our world...

Well... my earlier post was a bit too optimistic. I hope the music program went as planned, but I was not able to participate. We donned our Christmas best, hopped in the car (freshly printed music booklets and small gifts for the schola on board) and were completely unable to even get the vehicle out of our own driveway due to the amount of ice that lay beneath the snow.

Now granted, if we had a really steep driveway, you might say that we wimped out. That is not the case. Our driveway has a bit of a slope in one direction, but not even close to the grade on some of the roads between our house and the church.

We decided prudence was the better part of valor and put the vehicle back in the garage and called "Uncle". After a family rosary, and dinner, we will soon be putting the little ones to bed and waiting for the rotund, red-clad one to appear.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Vigil Chant Mass, Ft. Worth

Once again, our schola will be singing for the Christmas Vigil Mass this evening at the 7 p.m. Mass at San Mateo. Some of us will also be returning to sing for the bilingual Mass tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. Our group size varies between six and eight members, depending on individual availability. Tonight I expect there will be six of us.

Last year, when we first began singing together... when Gregorian chant was completely new to most of the members, I told them that it would be easier with each successive year. I think they probably were thinking to themselves: "Oh, yeah... sure it will!", as they struggled to learn the meanings of the various neumes, ictus locations, rhythmic markings, Latin pronunciation, etc.

This year, beginning with Advent, they could see that I had, indeed, spoken the truth. As we prepared to sing the Ad te levavi Introit for the 1st week of Advent, it was like finding an old friend. As we moved through the Advent season, re-visiting the propers we learned last year and adding a bit to our repertoire, it was low-key, relaxed and very pleasant.

We are finding the same thing as we prepare our Christmas music for the season. We tend to sing more English hymns at this time of year than any other, due to the great affection most parishioners have for Christmas carols. But, we are continuing to expand our knowledge of the great treasure of music the Church has available to us. We learned the Puer natus Introit for Christmas Day so quickly I believe the schola members amazed themselves. We also learned another wonderful chant hymn for Christmas, Personent hodie. We'll be singing several chanted hymns before the beginning of Mass this evening and tomorrow morning including: Cordis natus, Puer natus, Resonet in laudibus, and Personent hodie. We'll also continue the singing of the Alma Redemptoris Mater at offertory each week during Christmas.

I am so glad to be a part in making these small steps toward a rediscovery of the liturgical music we are asked to sing at Mass.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Souls' Day 2009

This morning at the 7:00 a.m. Mass at San Mateo, our little schola was able to sing for the All Souls' Mass. Because it is a workday, we had a somewhat abbreviated list of music, but it was very nice.
We sang:

Requiem Introit
Kyrie (funerals)
Sanctus XVIII
Agnus Dei (funerals)
Dies Irae
In Paradisum/Chorus angelorum

During the month of November, every weekday morning Mass begins with the Requiem Introit at our parish.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Hello again...

I've been meaning to get back to blogging and realized just how long it has been since I posted anything new. Life continues in its busy way. In the past few months, since I last made an update, our schola has continued to sing at Mass every week, expanding our repertoire, and hopefully also our skills.

We had the great privilege to sing at a priestly ordination here in the diocese in September. Fr. Alfredo Barba was ordained by Bishop Kevin Vann at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Ft. Worth on September 8th. We sang the Litany of Saints (in Latin) and also Veni Creator Spiritus. It was a sort of tri-lingual Mass. While the liturgy and readings were about half in Spanish and half in English, our little Latin contribution contributed the third language.

Chant is still not commonly heard in Ft. Worth, but while the people in the pews (for the most part) were unfamiliar with the Latin, we had great participation from the priests of the diocese. As we were singing the Litany, they sang forth the responses very solidly. The Veni Creator Spiritus was really carried by them... it sounded somewhat like what one might hear at a monastery, with the predominance of the deep sound of men singing together.

We are losing two of our schola members this month... one of them has been visiting from India and singing along with us for nearly 5 months now. She will be returning home soon. Another member has been with us since the schola's beginning and will be moving to New York state soon. We wish them both well and hope they will be able to plant "chant" seeds in both locations after leaving here.

We have also gained a key new schola member... who will be taking a bigger and bigger leadership role as time goes on. She is a trained singer, a voice major in college... a much better director than I.

My family has learned that it is very likely that we will be moving (again) in the spring of 2010. It looks as if we will be Florida residents then. A big focus for me will be to plan for the schola to continue here after we are gone.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Colloquium 2009 -- Music from 6.28.09

I finally got to editing the recording I made from the Mass on Sunday at Loyola from the Colloquium. See the recordings on the widget on the right:

Introit Omnes Gentes
Kyrie Byrd Mass for Five Voices
Gloria Byrd
Gradual Exaltabo te
Alleluia Omnes gentes
Offertory Sicut in holocausto
Offertory motet: Handl's Duo Seraphim
Sanctus/Benedictu Byrd
Agnus Dei Byrd
Communion Inclina aurem
Communion Motet Ave Verum Corpus Byrd
Post Communion: Ave Maris Stella Liszt
Organ Postlude: Ann Labounsky playing Langlais


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Corpus Christi Watershed Video - Colloquium XIX

One of the great treats was to get to meet the folks from Corpus Christi Watershed who attended the Colloquium with us last week. They brought along lots of sophisticated recording equipment to document the happenings of the week and could be seen discreetly moving about the chapel or lectures or break-out sessions or rehearsals doing their work...

It was especially nice to meet Jeff Ostrowski, with whom I have been corresponding for awhile on email. See this little glimpse of the fruits of their labor which has been posted on YouTube to show a few shots from the early part of the week.

I can't wait to see what comes of the documentary as they have time to sift through all the many hours of footage they gathered.

If you feel inspired by their work, please donate to them here: Corpus Christi Watershed Donations
If you would like to help the Church Music Association of America in offering more programs like this, you can donate to them here: MusicaSacra Donations

Enjoy the Video...

Colloquium 2009 More Music uploads

This morning, I went back to the music from Thursday, June 25th. I had run out of time during the week and never got the rest of my recordings uploaded.

So... today you can find the following uploaded into the music widget:

Introit Os justi (Gregorian chant)
Kyrie Faure (St. John Cantius Choir)
Gloria Rheinberger (St. John Cantius Choir)
Gradual Domine praevenisti (Gregorian chant)
Alleluia Justus ut palma (Gregorian chant)
Offertory Desiderium (Gregorian chant)
Offertory Motet Laudate pueri Mendelssohn (St. John Cantius Choir)
Sanctus Faure (St. John Cantius Choir)
Benedictus Faure (St. John Cantius Choir)

Unfortunately, my recorder ran out of space before the Brahms piece I sang with my polyphonic choir made it onto the recorder. I'll try to see if I can get it from some other generous soul who successfully recorded it... perhaps Chironomo...


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Colloquium 2009 Music Posting

I am trying to catch up with all the music uploading from the last part of the week. This morning I was able to post the entire Saturday Mass, including the Brudieu Requiem Mass and the Gregorian Chant Propers for it, as well as the Victoria Taedet animam meam.

I hope to post a listing of all the uploaded music and the dates of the Masses... hopefully by the end of the week.

We are all back in the real world... tonight is schola rehearsal for the local schola, so I will be able to put to use the new training I had and share the wealth with others.

A few pictures:

Wilko Brouwers

Francis Cardinal George




Singing sisters


Poon family



Impromptu rehearsal


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Colloquium 2009 -- Last Day

It is amazing to me how quickly the week has passed. Yesterday the polyphonic choir I sang with (under the direction of Wilko Brouwers from the Netherlands) had a wonderful time singing the Brudieu Requiem Mass. Wilko transcribed the music for us... and it was absolutely wonderful. I will post the recordings tomorrow.

In meantime, I have continued to add individual recordings all week as I had time between rehearsals and lectures. It has been an amazing week. This week we not only had Ordinary and Extraordinary form Masses during the week, but also a full orchestral Haydn Mass featuring Cynthia Nam as soloist for the Benedictus (see recording). My rather primitive recording equipment just doesn't do the music justice. You really would have had to be there to fully experience how beautiful the music for each liturgy was.

I plan to add more comments about the week after I get home... but suffice it to say that it was again a wonderful success and a great learning experience for all who came to the Colloquium this year.

There is already a YouTube video with short clips from the week... I'll post a link later.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Colloquium 2009 Mass with Cardinal George

This morning's Mass was at the Loyola University Chapel with Cardinal George as celebrant. The music was again heavenly... I have posted a couple of new recordings on the widget.




Jeffrey Tucker

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Recordings uploaded... Colloquium 2009

Yes, we had our first Holy Mass this morning... it was wonderful and (as it happened the first time at Mass in the crypt in the Basilica in D.C.) it brought tears to my eyes to hear the beautiful sound emanating from that large group of humanity all singing the liturgy...

Check out the recordings on the right... only a couple so far... more to come as I can edit and upload.


A few photos from today:

Arlene Interm Women's Chant

Mahrt Adv Women's Chant

Brouwers - Polyphony

Buchholz - Polyphony


Mahrt - Polyphony

Monday, June 22, 2009

Colloquium 2009 Begins!

I am here in Chicago enjoying wonderful weather, renewed friendships, outstanding musical direction and anticipation of fabulous teaching and learning over this week.

Today kicked off with registration at Loyola University, during which time I was able to see most of the attendees as they signed in and was so pleased to see many I had met at past CMAA events. My room is very comfortable, clean and convenient to all the classes and activities. The staff here at Loyola is very nice and pleasant.

We began our first evening with a short reception, during which a lot of catching up on things with others took place... followed closely by dinner at the dining hall. At 7:00 pm the welcome session was kicked off by Father Pasley, our CMAA chaplain. We had a short session on singing the ordinaries for tomorrow's English Mass, after which we split up into groups for polyphony rehearsals. Most folks had a very difficult time deciding which group to choose... with so many outstanding directors and such wonderful music, it wasn't easy.

Night prayer followed, after which a weary group of attendees headed back to try to catch a few winks before Morning prayer comes upon us tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.

As the week progresses, I hope to be posting recordings and comments on the progress we make. We are all especially looking forward to singing for the Mass at which Cardinal George will be the celebrant (Wednesday).

More tomorrow...

Monday, May 11, 2009

General update

In the past two weeks, life has been busy. I have started the boys on their next grades so that we can keep on moving. They are both excited to have started another school year and to have moved up a level.

Here in Fort Worth it was interesting to watch the occurrences with the swine flu scare. It turned out to be a non-event, even though the schools were closed and many other activities were canceled. For us, the only real impact was the fact that the boys' soccer playoffs were postponed until this past weekend.

We have had lots of rain here in the past 2 weeks. My garden is looking very good. Plus, we put in one more raised bed. With this latest bed, we are trying out a technique called "square-foot gardening". We actually made a grid of the bed (in our case, with string) and planted various things in the different squares. The boys each got four squares to plant, so it will be a learning experience for them, too.

I recently found a very interesting local podcast by a guy who is a modern survivalist. I really like his podcast (some salty language, so beware), and especially his tips on gardening and making your backyard produce some food for you instead of just being one more thing to take care of. Check out his site here.... I have learned a lot from him about composting, square-foot gardening, companion planting, organic pest control, etc.

The Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana is doing well. We continue to get compliments on our singing at weekly Mass. Right now we are getting ready for four great feasts in the liturgical year: Ascension, Pentecost, Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, and Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). I have several propers that we are working on for those weeks that are sounding very good.

The new propers we will be singing in Gregorian chant are:

Ascension: Introit -- Viri galilaei
Pentecost: Introit -- Spiritus Domini
Alleluia: Veni Sancte Spiritus (from Chants Abreges)
Sequence: Veni Sancte Spiritus
Chanted Latin hymn: Veni Creator Spiritus (to be used during Offertory)
Corpus Christi: Alleluia -- Caro mea (from Chants Abreges)
Sequence: Lauda Sion (shortened version from Ecce panis...)
Communion: Qui manducat

Lately I have also been working on teaching the schola the Latin chants for the Latin Requiem Mass. I think it is very important that any schola learn those chants. The schola already knows the ordinaries and the In Paradisum/Chorus angelorum. We will continue to work on the propers as time permits.

For the last two Saturdays, I have also been singing for the children making their first Holy Communion at our parish. Each time, the church was absolutely packed. The children looked beautiful and were very excited.

This weekend the boys camped out in the backyard. Happily, they picked the only night that it didn't rain (Saturday). They and two neighbor boys were happily set up in the tent right next to the tree house... with plenty of snacks and drinks... much fun was had by all. We had a monitor out there so that we could monitor them and be sure they were safe... Finally, near midnight, we had to tell them that they really had to go to sleep and settle down... we listened to them say their prayers through the walkie talkies...

I'll do better on my updates in the future... really!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Whew! It has been a busy time...

From the lack of recent postings, you may have surmised that I have been extremely busy. With all the musical preparations for Holy Week, I was swamped... immediately following Holy Week and Easter, I was getting ready for our family girls' weekend. Girls' weekend has been an event planned every other year or so for all my sisters, Mother (and any nieces that are old enough to swill wine with us) to get together for a weekend of talking, catching up, fun activities, etc.

This year, it happened to be that we had it here in Fort Worth. All four of my sisters, my Mother, and one niece flew in for it. My one sister-in-law was supposed to have come, too, but had to cancel at the last minute due to my brother's flying schedule.

We had a great time... visiting the Ft. Worth Main Street Art Festival on Friday, hitting the Grapevine, TX Wine Festival on Saturday, Mass and Divine Mercy activities on Sunday... Monday everyone flew home.

Also on Monday, I had my usual kids' choir practice and the adult schola rehearsal in the evening. After that, I rushed home to load up so that our family could go with my husband on a business trip to Shreveport. We didn't want to miss a chance to see friends. I got to sing with the schola there on Tuesday night and share wine and conversation afterwards... also got to spend quite a bit of time with friends -- kids happily playing, catching up on activities.

We got home on Thursday evening... back to our own beds, catching up on emails, etc.... read a book today called the Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls (I really enjoyed it). Things are back to normal again.

This weekend we'll be singing the Communion proper in Gregorian chant for the 3rd Sunday of Easter -- Cantate Domino. We had a pretty light turnout at rehearsal this week, so I am hoping it will go well... we'll be working hard on it at the pre-Mass warmup.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Well, we had a wonderful Holy Week! At Mass, our pastor re-emphasized the fact that evangelism is needed throughout the world. He quoted from words of Pope Benedict XVI while he was in Cameroon to that effect.

My youngest son has taken it to heart. Using his newly purchased (with his own money saved up from selling Nintendo DS games on ebay) digital camera, he filmed Pope Benedict during his Easter Urbi et Orbi address. My husband just heard him showing the clip to two of his friends... and he was heard to say:

" That is Pope Benedict. He is a very holy man. He is very close to God. He can change wine and bread into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ!"

He heard the message... we should all be so bold in proclaiming the Word of God!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

San Mateo Parish Triduum

On Holy Thursday, my family attended Mass at San Mateo parish in Ft. Worth. Ours is a very small church, simple in its decorations and in the way liturgies are celebrated. I got to be a regular parishioner in the pews this time. My oldest boy was an altar server... my husband was one of the men in the parish who had his feet washed. They do something I have not seen at other parishes here. Perhaps it is a custom in the parishes in Mexico... there are 'apostles' robes that the men put on over their clothing for the Mandatum.

The liturgy was a bilingual Mass -- half in Spanish, half in English. Our parish uses bilingual missalettes from WLP, so it is very easy to follow along, whichever language is being used at the time. My Spanish is improving just from reading and checking the translation as the words are said. During the procession to repose the Blessed Sacrament, we sang the Pange lingua (in English), Adoro te (in English and Spanish) and Tantum Ergo (in Latin).

Last night, at the Good Friday service, our schola sang. I was very happy with the results, all in all. We sang the Popule meus (Reproaches) for the Veneration of the Cross in Latin from the Gregorian Missal. I am sorry to say that I started on a pitch slightly too high -- I had to apologize to my altos afterward. For Holy Communion, we sang the Pater, si non (Proper Communion for Palm Sunday), followed by the Anima Christi. I had another couple speak to me about joining our group.

Tonight will be another bilingual Mass. I'll be singing the first part of the Exultet in English; Fr. Bob Strittmatter will sing the rest in Spanish. Then, he and I will alternate chanting the Responsorial Psalms in English and Spanish. At San Mateo, all of the readings are read and all psalms are sung for the Holy Saturday Vigil Mass.

Tomorrow morning, The Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana will sing for the 10:00 am Mass for Easter morning. I am pleased that we will sing all Latin ordinaries, including the Vidi aquam for the sprinkling rite during the Easter season. We will also sing the Easter sequence (Victimae paschali) and a simplified Alleluia (from the Chants Abreges collection). Because of all this Latin, we will try to balance it with English hymns for opening, offertory, Communion, and Closing. The choices for these will be:

Opening: Christ the Lord is risn'n today
Offertory: O Sons and Daughters (O Filii et Filiae)
Communion: Humbly We Adore You (Adoro te)
Closing: Holy God, We Praise Thy Name (Te Deum)

A happy Easter to all...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana Palm Sunday

Holy Week is here! This morning the Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana sang for Mass at San Mateo Parish in Fort Worth at 10:00 a.m. I was very proud of our group. Here is our list of music that we sang today.

Hosanna filio David (Antiphon prior to blessing of palm branches)
All Glory, Laud and Honor (procession in to Church)
Responsorial psalm (simple chanted Mode VIII - English)
Offertory -- Chanted hymn -- Gloria Laus
Sanctus XVIII
Agnus Dei XVIII
Communion: Proper Communion chant -- Pater, si non
Post Communion: Anima Christi
Closing: O Sacred Head Surrounded

The church was more full than usual this morning and our schola got several very nice compliments. One person expressed an interest in joining our group today also. So, we may be adding another voice.

We'll be rehearsing again on Tuesday evening for the Good Friday service and Easter Sunday Mass. I think the schola is very well prepared, so it should be a matter of polishing things up. To anyone who hasn't either sung in or directed a Gregorian chant schola, you may not realize how wonderful it is that we are being able to progress in this way as quickly as we have been allowed. We are all volunteers and have been able to gradually implement the use of Latin ordinaries and chanted Latin seasonal hymns and several different Latin propers from the Gregorian Missal. Since the beginning of the Liturgical year, we have sung every Sunday Mass. I have to keep reminding myself of just how fortunate we have been, how welcoming the parishioners have been, how enthusiastic the schola members have been...

I know, from anecdotal evidence, that it doesn't usually go this smoothly. At many places where an effort has begun to try to add more Gregorian chant to the Mass, much resistance has been received. The resistance at other parishes may often come from many different quarters: 1) the parishioners in the pews who may a) have an aversion to Latin or b) just prefer the more contemporary music, 2) the Parish Director of Music [ our parish doesn't have one, so no problem there], 3) lack of support or welcome from the pastor [ Our pastor is absolutely wonderful -- welcomes us and also is very sensitive to the needs of the parishioners in the pews]. In short, all things have converged here to make this effort fruitful. We thank God for the blessings!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Seven Quick Takes (vol. 6)

I have been absent from the 7 Quick Takes Crew for a few weeks... but will try to put seven thoughts together on this beautiful morning. Check out Jennifer's Friday offerings over at Conversion Diary.

1. Yesterday was such an unbelievably windy day here in the north Texas area. Apparently it affected plane landings/takeoffs at DFW. And, it did affect us. I had big plans to go pick strawberries to freeze and to make jam. The strawberry patch is only open 3 days/week for picking; Tuesday it was too muddy -- we found out after driving all the way over there; Thursday was waaaay too windy; do we dare try it on Palm Sunday afternoon?

I must say I am very tempted to load up the boys after Mass and go for it. I have missed the availability of fresh (self-picked) fruit since moving over here. I love making jams and jellies. My extended family likes it, too.

2. My little garden is growing well. We have eaten a whole row (admittedly not huge rows, given the size of my garden) of radishes and are beginning to work on row two. From the photo, you may be able to see how well the onions are doing. I also planted four tomato plants, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, green beans and peas. This is all experimental, since my main attempt at growing things to eat has been limited to herbs in past years. I like the small size of my little raised beds. I can easily keep them weeded and planted. I'll keep you posted on our progress.

3. We were part of a slightly smaller group at morning Mass today. Perhaps folks are saving themselves for all the upcoming Holy Week liturgies. My oldest boy is getting very good at being the sole altar server, although today he did forget about holding the book for the intercessory prayers before helping to prepare the altar. Our priest is very kind... gave him a little pat on the arm to let him know it was OK.

4. I have printed up Mass programs for Palm Sunday and Good Friday in preparation for Holy Week. I still need to finish up the special edition for Easter Sunday and then the Easter Season following.

I had a bit of extra space available on the back of the booklets for Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, so I have started including a few little excerpts from the CMAA publication Frequently Asked Questions on Sacred Music. These questions are typical questions such as: " What is Sacred Music", "Why should we regard Gregorian chant as the ideal?" and "Isn't this just a matter of taste?". The answers are well-documented and feature many quotes from Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II, Paul VI, Pius X, etc. They also give the references from various Church documents. I am hoping some of the folks at Mass will take the time to read a bit about it. Maybe we will gain some more supporters of the cause.

5. I am amazed at the many ways our new government is intruding upon our lives and the freedoms we have. In recent weeks, we have seen attacks on the unborn, amazingly high governmental expenditures (all in the name of saving our economy), an attempt to restrict freedom in organic farming, bullet casing recycling, etc. The first two items I am sure no one can escape knowledge of... other things seem to be happening quietly and behind the scenes.

Here is some information about the organic farming issue:

House and Senate are about to vote on a bill that will OUTLAW ORGANIC FARMING-- the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009 (bill HR 875). There is an enormous rush to get this into law within the next week before people realize what is happening.

Main backer and lobbyist is Monsanto – chemical and genetic engineering giant corporation (and Cargill, ADM, and about 35 other related agri-giants) . This bill will require organic farms to use specific fertilizers and poisonous insect sprays dictated by the newly formed agency to "make sure there is no danger to the public food supply". This may include backyard gardens that grow food only for a family and not for sales.

If this passes then NO more heirloom clean seeds but only Monsanto genetically altered seeds.

I find this very disturbing... not just the fact that it will impact organic farmers who grow for sale to grocery stores, etc., but also because it will affect the backyard gardener who brings his excess to sell at farmers' markets. The biggest concern of all, though, is the idea of the reduction of the availability of heirloom seeds. I don't know if, as a practical matter, many folks are aware that many of the wonderful hybrid seeds we happily buy and use for our home gardens will not produce seeds that we could save and use in future years. Heirloom seeds offer that possibility.

One other little known fact of a small, but rather insidious change since Pres. Obama took the reins of power: He recently put out an executive order prohibiting the sale of spent brass casings collected at military shooting ranges to U.S. armaments manufacturers for use in reloading and sale to the public.

Up until now, it has been (from what I have heard) fairly common practice to have all brass casings collected from the ranges and sold to these bullet manufacturers. It greatly lessens the cost of ammunition to the general public for the particular caliber bullets that would apply. Well, military installations are no longer allowed to sell them to U.S. manufacturers. They must sell them to Chinese manufacturers now. I don't know if those Chinese manufacturers would be allowed to sell these products in the U.S. at all, so perhaps the intent is to lessen the supply to U.S. consumers. Just check it out to see if you can find any ammunition to buy for an AR-15. It isn't to be found currently.

Update: A friend corrected my info. This executive order only lasted a week. Here is a news release:

6. I am reading a book I just received by Pope Benedict XVI: The Spirit of the Liturgy. It was recommended very highly by many different MusicaSacra forum participants. I am about 20% into the book and am finding it absolutely wonderful. As with Pope Benedict's other books, I find the amount of information about the historical aspect of things and especially as it relates to the Jewish history gives so much depth to the writing.

This is not a quick read... but well worth the effort.

7. I am appalled that Notre Dame has invited Pres. Obama to speak at their commencement and give him an honorary law degree. I signed the petition against it online... along with many others. I don't have much hope that any of the outcry will touch the heart of Fr. Jenkins, but we should all pray for him.

For a bit of consolation, read this letter sent to Fr. Jenkins by one of our fearless bishops with a few extra comments by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf (in red):

March 31, 2009

Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
University of Notre Dame
400 Main Building
Notre Dame, IN 46556

Dear President Jenkins:

I wish to express in my own name and on behalf of the Catholic community of this Diocese, my dismay and outrage [goes a little beyond the soft-peddling "disappointment", right?] at your decision to invite the current President of the United States to address the 2009 graduates of the University of Notre Dame and to receive an honorary degree.

This decision of your flies in the face of the expressed directive of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the year 2004, that Catholic institutions not so honor those who profess opposition to the Church’s doctrine on abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

I would ask that you rescind this unfortunate decision and so avoid dishonoring the practicing Catholics of the United States, including those of this Diocese. [He is sticking for his flock.] Failing that, please have the decency to change the name of the University to something like, “The Fighting Irish College” or “Northwestern Indiana Humanist University.” [simply.too.good] Though promotion of the obscene is not foreign to you, [! This refers to Fr. Jenkin’s relationship to the play The V. Monologues ] I would point out that it is truly obscene [i.e., this is worse yet] for you to take such decisions as you have done in a university named for our Blessed Lady, whom the Second Vatican Council called the Mother of the Church.

I sign myself

Very truly yours,
The Most Reverend Thomas G. Doran, D.D., J.C.D.
Bishop of Rockford

h/t Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

I wish any readers the very best for this coming Holy Week and Easter!

Monday, March 30, 2009

A worthy rating...

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
A very low score, all in all.

h/t Scelata

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Learn to Link

This week on the CMAA forum, I was reading an article that was linked about learning to link. It reminded me of just how far I have come. Just two short years ago I began my journey into learning about singing Gregorian chant in earnest. While that in itself has been a wonderful education into a largely-heretofore-unknown world for me, the journey took me to places I never expected along the way. Once I discovered the wonderful world of chant music that was being made available online, I had to develop more online literacy in order to access it.

Prior to that time, I certainly knew how to use email and process online orders, and search for things online. I never had really entered the world of blogging, html, hyperlinks, web page design or things of that nature. I had never felt the need.

I soon found out that I had to learn to navigate this online world to get to things I needed. I also had to learn how to make it available to others (who had less motivation than I to learn this stuff). So... I began by learning about hyperlinks. I learned how to cut and paste pdf files in order to create new documents with specific musical informaton I needed (I did not find the pdf tools to be all that intuitive -- it took me awhile to figure out how to use the tools to do what I wanted to do). I learned how to create my own pdf files using a free pdf package which I learned about from a friend from CMAA.

I found that I needed to purchase a font package that would allow me to transcribe things into chant notation. Even now, more than a year later, I am still learning tricks about formatting and the proper use of the font that I didn't know. My chant transcriptions are looking much better these days.

It also became apparent to me that, although the online recordings that were available online to aid people in the learning of Gregorian chant were very nice to listen to, they were not as good for trying to learn new chants. The simple recording of a single voice allows a person to hear the small nuances of the phrasing, the proper pronunciation, etc. At least that was my opinion. So... early on, I purchased a little digital recorder to use for that purpose. Then, I had to learn how to burn CD's with music. I found out my recorder used a different than standard format. I needed to purchase another software package that would convert my files into mp3 files. Then, I learned to do simple editing with a free software package I was able to download.

I discovered the world of blogging. Reading the thoughts of others with similar interests and finding out about their own particular opinions, experiences, and trials gave me the interest in starting a blog of my own. I also had the motivation of being able to make recordings available to my schola from an online location. I began a blog and had to learn all the little things that go into that.

I soon discovered that blogs don't usually offer a way to host music files. You can link your blog to files that are stored somewhere else on the web, but that didn't really fit what I was hoping for. I discovered the world of web hosting, including the web host I currently use. I've tried two different companies... both free.

Here I am -- knowing far more than I did two years ago about this online world. It has become apparent to me that I should now learn to navigate the html world. I have relied on the user-friendly blog hosting sites and their nice software, easy hyperlinking with Word and other MS Office software. It is time to grow up and really learn about the underlying code. My book from Amazon is on the way now.

I would never have thought that just the need for more information about Gregorian chant and how to sing it would lead me off into this world of computer nerds. Yes... I'm becoming more nerdy by the minute. No regrets.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Idiot's Guide to Square Notes...

Need a refresher on reading the Gregorian chant notation? Here is an excellent reposting of the article by Jeffrey Tucker and Arlene Oost-Zinner from the Crisis 2006 article.

h/t Catholic E

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chabanel Site Offers More Free Psalms

Check out Aristotle Esguerra's post at the Recovering Choir Director... Jeff Ostrowski, and others have been outdoing themselves offering us a wonderful selection of psalm choices -- plus a sung example of settings. It is a thing of beauty!

To go to the Chabanel Psalm site, see the tool bar on the right side of the blog...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An Interesting Problem...

This past week, I received a call from a Catholic woman who wanted some help with some religious songs she had composed. I didn't know her, but felt compelled to help her if I could. So, I met with her and she showed me what she had. It was a folder full of words to songs she had come up with over the past 30 years or so.

She doesn't read or write music at all herself, and doesn't play an instrument, so we were left with her singing the songs for me while I looked at the words. That way, I could get an idea of the type of song, etc. It was an interesting situation. She brought me this entire array of the very type of music I don't think is ever appropriate for the liturgy and asked my help in getting them transcribed, recorded and published for the benefit of others (and also in the hope of earning some money for herself). As I listened to 3 or 4 songs, all of which seemed to be tunes taken from other songs and set to her words, I was wondering just what to do for her.

So... I told her to get a simple digital recorder and record the tunes (her singing them) and that I would transcribe the melody line for her (and that I don't have time to do more). She seems to feel that she is being called to share her music with others, so I'll do a little to help her.

She seemed very shocked that I recognized the melodies in her tunes. She was convinced they were all 100% original compositions of her very own. I refrained from mentioning the Good Friday piece that sounds like The Theme from Gilligan's Island or the fact that Here I Am is a straight theft from the Brady Bunch Theme. When I told her that it is almost impossible to compose anything that has no elements of other compositions, it seemed to make her feel better. But she said something that made me stop... she said her music was very like most of the music she has been hearing at Mass since V2. She didn't see anything inappropriate in it for use in the liturgy at all (I suggested it may be nice for youth groups to sing or for children's choirs -- a couple of them sounded like you could quite easily put hand motions to it).

My point is -- Catholics have not had their musical consciences formed at all in the past 40 years. Is it any wonder folks are confused? Plus, all the work that so many very talented and highly trained CMAA composers are doing and making freely available to others is contrasted by this poor woman with no musical background to speak of who envisions earning significant money by the copyright and publication of her compositions. I wanted to be kind to her and to help her if I could, but it did make me pause. I have just focused on trying to do my best to bring back Gregorian chant to one little corner of the world. In a way, it brought me back to the realization that we still have so much to do.

So what was the lesson I should learn from this? How can I best follow God's Will in this situation? It is a puzzle.

It's a crazy world we live in... thank goodness for Gregorian chant.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Quis non amantem -- Corpus Christi Watershed

h/t Jeff Ostrowski at Corpus Christi Watershed. Take a look at this video and listen to the lovely music. Great stuff!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Are you considering the Colloquium?

Here is a wonderful link to the music that was sung at the Colloquium last summer. Take a listen and then put in your registration... this has to be shared!

See also my post here:

Poor Clare Monastery Recordings re-posted

I had a request to put the Poor Clare recordings up again... so they are there on the sidebar. If you are ever in Roswell, NM, attend Mass with them at 7 am. If you are wondering why the brilliant purple widget color... it is for Lent!

If you would like to hear the Sugar Land, TX recordings, go to this link:


Monday, March 9, 2009

When the Family Pet Dies...

Yesterday we noticed our dog seemed less excitable than usual... more calm, quiet, sleeping more, eating and drinking less... Yet, there were no big indications that she was near the end of her life. The day was beautiful... she was happily sunning herself out on the grass yesterday afternoon when we called her in before going to pick my husband up from work.

Later, when we arrived home, she greeted us with a wag of the tail... she quietly moved here and there around the house, tending to her watchdog duties as usual...

When it became close to bedtime and we needed to let her outside one last time, she was not able to get up. We are assuming she had a stroke. She would not try to eat or drink and seemed very lethargic. After we gave her a few ice chips and an aspirin, she perked up a bit, but it wasn't a sign that she would really improve.

We sat up with her, feeding her ice chips and trying to keep her comfortable... but she died early this morning. It is especially hard on my boys, who have had her around their entire lives. Of all the dogs we have had over the years, I can't say she was my favorite... she was always a bit too high-strung and prone to bark at everything (very loudly). But it doesn't make it any easier.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Seven Quick Takes (vol. 5)

Another Friday is near... the second Friday of Lent. I'll take a little time out to see if I can put together seven thoughts... Check out Jennifer's blog over at Conversion Diary.

1. It is finally nice and warm again. Yesterday the temp got into the mid '80's. The boys were happy to play outside. We have a fairly steep driveway, that seems to be perfect for riding scooters and flying turtles at breakneck speed and narrowly missing the live oak tree at the edge of the drive before careening off onto the grass... I keep saying it looks too dangerous to me... my husband says it is just what boys like to do. So, I insist they wear their helmets and try their best to avoid the tree and try not to look.

2. I've received my 5 copies of Sing Like a Catholic. One copy went to my pastor... one went out on loan to a schola member. Two are packaged up to send off to my parents and former pastor. One is marked up with pencil markings where I found a few more corrections I missed before the first printing. Happily, they weren't earth-shatteringly bad... just little minor things... even things that could be considered a matter of taste.

The Church Music Association of America now has a vendor site on Amazon where several books are listed for sale. I've been monitoring the inventory and processing shipping requests, so it has kept me busy. Check out the site here.

3. We are the happy purchasers of a quarter of beef... all nicely packaged and in the freezer. It was a young cow raised by a 4-H student and sold at the annual auction... so, no weird stuff fed to it... we had steaks last night and they were very good. Nice and tender.

4. I would really like to make it to the parish stations of the cross tonight... so maybe we'll make an evening of it with the boys...

5. Getting older is not for the faint-hearted. It also helps if you have a good sense of humor. Next week I hit that lovely milestone -- and to honor it, I got my temporary AARP membership card. Now I just would really like to know why they don't have any more sense than to send a woman such a vivid reminder of her age the week before the birthday... surely not many are so tempted by their fabulous benefits that they send in the membership fee...

I can tell you, it didn't work with me. I did keep the temporary card, though, and have had quite a few laughs... perhaps I'll try to get the senior discount at dinner tonight by waving it at the waitress...

6. We are working through some really lovely chants with the schola. Since we are still a new schola, there are many propers I would love to do that are just a little too much for this year. But, I have chosen some absolutely wonderful choices for this year during Holy Week. We'll be singing on Palm Sunday, Good Friday and probably also on Easter morning. There are so many wonderful chants...

We'll be singing the following pieces:

Palm Sunday:

Hosanna Filio David
Gloria Laus (although this is typically done during the procession, I'm not sure where we'll use it)
Pater, si non (Communion proper) click on it to listen to a recording of it at

Good Friday:

Reproaches -- Popule Meus (this is the very powerful proper text to use during the veneration of the cross -- and the refrain portions are really not that difficult. The schola has already learned the two different refrains... I'll sing the verses in between)

The words can really bring you to tears...

Here is a sampling of it:

Refrain in Latin: Popule meus, quid feci tibi? Aut in quo contristavi te? Responde mihi.
translation: My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? answer me.

1st verse: Quia eduxi te de terra Aegypti: parasti Crucem Salvatori tuo.
translation: I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Savior to the cross.

2nd Refrain in Greek/Latin: Hagios o Theos. Sanctus Deus. Hagios Ischyros. Sanctus Fortis. Hagios Athanatos, eleison hymas. Sanctus Immortalis, miserere nobis.

translation: Holy is God! (Greek) Holy is God! (Latin), Holy and strong! (Greek) Holy and strong! (Latin), Holy imortal One, have mercy on us! (Greek and then Latin)

2nd verse: Quia eduxi te per desertum qudraginta annis, et manna cibavi te, et introduxi in terram satis optimam: parasti Crucem Salvatori tuo.

translation: For forty years I led you safely through the desert. I fed you with manna from heaven and brought you to a land of plenty; but you led your Saviour to the cross.

It continues on for several verses, alternating with the two refrains... it has a very haunting melody, sounds very middle-eastern in places.

I'll fill you in on more pieces that we are learning... next week.

7. One of the gifts I got for my soon to be coming birthday is The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, published by Baronius Press. One of the schola members brought it with her one evening... I was so enthralled by the beautiful book and its lovely chants for the office... I've been learning my way through it.

Wishing you many blessings as I approach a half century...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cool New Gadget

I was browsing at Amazon, looking for old, obscure music stuff, when I happened across this video clip that demonstrates the soon-to-be-available Kindle2. As I watched and read about the features of this amazingly cool tool, I was envisioning old Star Trek shows with actors pretending to read from an electronic device...

Being an avid reader, I can see that this would be something I would really enjoy in the future... the nearly $400 price tag is a bit off-putting to me now. I also wonder if I would really be able to find the books I want in the list of offerings. In taking a quick look through the available books, I found all the bestsellers (at a mere $9.99 each), and international newspapers and liberal news magazines... also some blogs (those that Amazon deemed worthy to include -- probably based on volume). They make it very easy for you to buy many, many books and magazines at the click of a button! Having a somewhat unusual taste in reading material, in books, magazines and blogs, I am unsure that this would have as much appeal for me for all my reading. I am not convinced they would be uploading my particular choice. Plus, I am not a person who rushes out and buys novels in hardback form as soon as they are available. I typically can wait for the paperback edition (and do). I rarely pay $9.99 per book for an entertaining novel now.

One bright spot... it has the capability for downloading and reading Word or pdf files from your computer. This would be great to be able to review/edit things while on the go without taking the entire computer along.

Check out the video clip... it is a very cool thing. Not being on the cutting edge of technology, I'll probably not get one of these things until the next couple of generations pass through... but I look forward to it!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Seven Quick Takes (vol. 4)

Jennifer, over at Conversion Diary, has a weekly sort of meme, where readers can give updates... check out her blog at:

My seven thoughts/updates for the week:

1. The Church Music Association of America (CMAA) is taking registrations for the annual Colloquium that will be held again in Chicago this coming summer (June 22-28). Each year there are poor seminarians and religious who need scholarships in order to be able to attend this event. This year, in order to try to fund this effort, Jeffrey Tucker has a new book, a compilation of his writing about the subject of Sacred Music, that will be coming out soon. All net proceeds will go toward these scholarships.

I had the opportunity to read the book early, which will be entitled: Sing Like a Catholic yesterday (I'm a fast reader). It is a wonderful collection of some of his best work. It covers many different issues in a humorous and gentle way and offers a great deal of information for those not really familiar with the subject and all the talk surrounding it. I plan to purchase several copies for distribution to friends and family. I think it will, perhaps, help them to see why I am so nutty about this topic. I hope others will do likewise. It will help the overall effort to improve the state of music in Catholic parishes in two ways that I can see: a) it will generate funds for the scholarships. In training our future priests and religious, we will be developing leaders of flocks who will have a well-formed understanding of what the music of the liturgy should be, according to the writings of the Church. b) getting more people to understand the issue (by reading the book) and why it is of concern to all of us will help in the grassroots efforts toward bringing back the sacred nature of the music in liturgy.

The book is available to order NOW! I just ordered five copies... look out friends and family... you may not be surprised at your next gift from me... To order some for yourself, just follow this link... If you would like to donate to support these scholarships, you can easily do that at the CMAA site -- all tax-deductible, of course, since CMAA is a non-profit. The tuition and room and board for one person for the entire week is amazingly low -- only $745. Where else can you get this much training, a private room and three meals a day for that? CMAA makes it as inexpensive as possible to allow the maximum number possible be able to afford it.

2. My garden is beginning to sprout... I planted onions, which are sending up nice green shoots in the rows I've planted. Later on this year I should have my own home-grown yellow onions for cooking. I use a lot of them... Also looking very good is my crop of radishes. I am always amazed at how quickly they grow. They are ready in a little over 3 weeks or so. We've also planted cucumbers, carrots, peas and green beans, although they aren't showing any above ground progress yet. Later on we'll add tomatoes and squash to the mix.

We also planted seed for various herbs to start an herb garden. I have (at least at the last few homes we've had) always planted a nice fresh herb garden outside the back door. It makes for ease of use in cooking. I never seem to use the fresh herbs I buy at the grocery store before they get slimy in the refrigerator... by far the best solution is to plant them and cut when I want to actually use them. This year we have started them in a little planter inside... they currently get great light right from my kitchen windows. We started basil, parsley, dill, oregano and thyme. They are all looking good. When it gets a bit more consistently warm, we will transplant outside.

3. The boys and I just got home from morning Mass at San Mateo. My oldest boy is an altar server, so he served for Mass. He normally serves along with someone else and has been very dependent on whoever that is to tell him what to do when. This morning, when serving by himself, I could see that he needs a refresher and frequent reminders before he does this... he was never quite sure where to stand, when to kneel, just what to bring to Father and when... this is something we need to work on at home. All that aside... it is very nice to see his sweet little self, dressed in cassock and surplice, holding the missal or ringing the bells... that would have been missed without his presence.

4. Last week I didn't participate in the Quick Takes because I was at a Sacred Music workshop in the Houston area. For two days, I and a few of my schola members studied and sang with Chant Master, Scott Turkington. You can hear the fruits of our work by clicking on the music player at the top right side of my blog. The first portion was from a concert presented by the local St. Theresa Schola featuring the work of William Byrd. Farther down the list are all the chants that were sung during the 5 pm Mass on Saturday, February 14th.

The pastor gave a great homily on the subject of Sacred Music -- and especially Gregorian chant. I have transcribed the entire homily and submitted it to him for his review. After that, I hope to be able to post it so that others can read what he said to his parishioners and to us. I, (along with the other workshop attendees), am very much in agreement with what he had to say, so he was, in some ways, preaching to the choir... stay tuned for the chance to read it soon.

5. I belong to a neighborhood book club, that I don't attend very regularly. Many of the book selections are not of any interest to me, so I just skip those. I did go to the meeting this week, however, where we discussed this month's book The Shack. This group is made up of a mixture of religious backgrounds -- a few Catholics among them, but mostly Protestants. Many of those attending the meeting had lots to say about various ideas presented in the book... many were so enthusiastic about the book that they had purchased multiple copies and given them out. I found myself a bit uncomfortable with the discussion in general because, while I don't particularly dislike the book, I just can't relate to the underlying [Protestant] theology.

It is a bit hard to describe without getting back into the details of the book (and it has been several months since I read it), but basically it has none of the truths that are foundations of my faith as a part of it. How could it, since the author has no belief in those things? The core of the Catholic Mass -- the Holy Eucharist, the Communion of Saints, the Sacraments, Prayer, Grace, Confession and Absolution -- none of those ideas are represented in this book [or at least not in a way in agreement with Catholic theology] about a man's spiritual struggle and redemption. It was a nice story, but had no real relevance to my beliefs as a Catholic. The author completely discounted the value of organized religion and (if I recall correctly) even tried to indicate that God is in agreement with him.

I really didn't think it was the proper forum to begin discussing theological differences, so I simply said I thought it was a sweet story about forgiveness and that it had value in the idea that we need to forgive others and also heal ourselves thereby. I made the comment that I didn't necessarily agree with the underlying theology (could have kept that part to myself) and got a rather stunned silence in response.

What if we were all to read a book that is completely steeped in Catholicism as a monthly selection? I wonder if they would have felt a bit alienated?

6. I've really got to get going on taking the time to eat more healthy foods and exercise more. I still haven't found my groove here in the new place. Our neighborhood is a wonderful place to walk (my preferred exercise), but it is pitch black dark at the time when I could walk before my husband goes off to work in the morning. My kids are still too young to leave alone while I walk, so if I wait until the sun is up, I have to take them with me... just not the same.

I've actually put on a few pounds and have even sunk to eating many more sweets and unhealthy foods here... does it all go hand in hand? Anyway, I've got to do better.

7. My boys have discovered the amazingly funny (Peter Sellers - Blake Edwards) Pink Panther movies. We have the entire set on DVD, and they have been working their way through the episodes (I have had to fast-forward through a few little sections I didn't think they needed to watch, but mostly it is just ridiculous slap-stick fun).

Hope your weekend is wonderful...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

St. Isaac Jogues Chant Site Created!

Check out this wonderful new resource for your schola: . This site was created courtesy of the same folks who brought free downloads for the entire Nova Organi Harmonia (except for Book VII, I believe, which has not yet been located for copying), the Chabanel Psalm Project and many other wonderful FREE resources. I can recall when we were first trying to learn how to sing the various neumes nearly two years ago, we were very happy to find the Christus Rex recordings and also the Schola Catharina site in order to actually hear how they were supposed to sound. Well... this new site has the added benefit of very clear recordings of the propers, the pdf files of the music and potentially also the NOH accompaniments at some point.

This is great news for chanters... check it out and consider sending a few bucks their way...

Monday, February 16, 2009 Trailer

There is a new 10-part series entitled: Catholicism coming to TV and DVD soon... check out the trailer over at Sacred Miscellany. This is very inspiring... thanks, MJ.

Sugar Land, TX Sacred Music Workshop

This was a busy and exciting weekend! I and a few of my schola members traveled down to the Houston area to the CMAA-sponsored Sacred Music Workshop that was held at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. The director for the workshop was Scott Turkington, who directs a wonderful schola up in Connecticutt and who is an instrumental member of the leadership of the Church Music Association of America. We left Ft. Worth at about 6:45 a.m. Friday morning. Prior to driving to the parish here I stopped to fill up the gas tank and decided to take a closer look at my 'mapquest' map that I had so efficiently printed out in anticipation of the trip. To my dismay, I discovered that the mapquest program had saved me a few miles by sending us onto a 2 lane blacktop road for about 134 miles through the middle of Texas (parallel to I-45). That didn't look good.

So, I had to devise a re-routing using the map of Texas I had in my car that didn't have much detail available. Thankfully, our pastor, who was at the church already for his daily recitation of the office (he was there before 5:30 a.m.), was able to help me plan the trip.

Only a few adventures away (we inadvertently ended up on the HOV lane heading in to Houston and were very afraid we wouldn't be able to exit until we were in the downtown area), we arrived safely in Sugar Land in time for a bite to eat before beginning.

I and those in my schola who attended enjoyed this workshop so very much! It was, in many ways, different than other weekend workshops I've attended (and heard about). The emphasis was on the teaching of chant theory, it seemed to me. It was a sort of condensed Chant Intensive. We got into much more detail about solfege, rhythmic markings, modes, and understanding of neumes than I have seen in the past. The attendees seemed to be generally more advanced in their musical background than you sometimes see at these workshops... so the questions asked by the students ranged from simple questions about why we need ictus markings to comments on Pelagian heresies (that comment came from a home-schooled high school student who was attending the workshop).

It was a most congenial group, a beautiful church, welcoming pastor... several seminarians and priests were involved in the workshop and Mass. The Mass was absolutely packed... The pastor's homily was outstanding... I am attempting to transcribe it... once I get it done, I'll send it to him for approval and then, perhaps, post it. It had many quotable things in it!

Another difference... normally it seems that women usually outnumber the men in attendance -- not even close this time. If you listen to the chant recordings I have posted, you can probably tell what a wonderfully strong section of men we had singing at the workshop... I also had a general sense that the women had less experience and understanding of chant than the men.

The concert provided by the local St. Theresa Schola, directed by Dr. Gregory Hamilton, was very wonderful on Friday evening. They did a selection of William Byrd pieces. As well as the Mass for Four Voices, there were also some harpsichord and organ pieces and a solo ( lament for Thomas Tallis) performed by a schola member with harpsichord accompaniment also... but I only posted the Mass pieces...While I was recording my simple recording using my handheld digital recorder, they were also making a professional recording, which will include all the music. Check out their parish website later on to see if they have it available on CD.

Scott (Turkington) was overheard to say: "Are we still in Texas???"

Some discussion [on the Musicasacra forum (] about this more advanced type of weekend workshop brought forward the question about how beginners (to chant) will be able to learn the basics in a bit less intense format. In response, I have modified my personal information on this blog to indicate that I would be willing to help local groups that want to learn the basics in a less intense setting. I envision offering short seminars to teach the basics of square-note notation, learning a few simple chants that every Catholic should know in a 1 1/2 to 2 hours time period. I have done one such seminar with a church choir here locally since moving here. This could be done for a small or large group very simply if there were demand for it.

I think any of us who direct scholae and who have received the training from CMAA should and could share this information with Catholics living around us who are interested.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentine cookies

I know it isn't yet Valentine's Day... but I'm going to be chanting away on Valentine's Day this year. So... in response to a request by my boys, we made cookies today...

This is the old standard sugar cookie recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that I bought with gift money when I graduated from high school. That cookbook has been much-used over the years (and looks like it, too).

The frosting is a standard buttercream frosting with lots of heavy cream and homemade vanilla...

Don't you wish you were at my house?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Seven Quick Takes (vol. 3)

Once again I am giving an update on the week and things that have occupied my mind... check out all the Seven Quick Takes over at Jennifer's blog at Conversion Diary.

1. Alright, many of us have suspected that soft drinks weren't especially good for us for some time. Whether because of the extra calories and high fructose corn syrup in the regular variety, or the artificial sweetenings of the diet variety, my assumption has been that it just isn't worth it (unless I happen to be REALLY thirsty and nothing else is available).

Well, new evidence confirms that cola isn't good for women, especially. The Baylor Innovations magazine (Winter 2009 issue) has an article about a study results that show that cola tends to lead to lower bone mineral density in women, whether diet or regular. The study seems to indicate that this is peculiar to colas. Other beverages, such as orange drinks and ginger ales, seem to have no effect. Also, the colas don't appear to affect men in the same way. The targeted suspect is the phosphoric acid in the colas (added for tartness). So... if you are one of those who starts her day with a diet cola... think about a switch...

2. In the same issue, results of a study on fertility yield information on 10 things you can do to increase your fertility.
They are:
Avoid trans fats found in many commercially prepared and fast foods,
use more unsaturated vegetable oils
, such as olive oil or canola oil,
eat more vegetable protein,
like beans, nuts, whole grains and seeds; eat less animal protein, choose whole grains and other carbs that are lower glycemic,
drink a glass of whole milk
or have a small dish of ice cream or full-fat yogurt every day, take a multivitamin that contains folic acid and other B vitamins,
get plenty of iron
from fruits, veges, beans and supplements -- but not from red meat, beverages matter -- water, coffee, tea and alcohol (in moderation) are ok; leave the sodas alone,
aim for a healthy weight -- if you are overweight, losing 5-10% of your weight can help ovulation,
daily exercise can help (unless you are already an exercise nut and don't have enough body fat -- this was never my problem).

3. I have finished the book for our book club this month, Angels and Devils, by Joan Carroll Cruz. It was quite interesting. I particularly liked the first part, about the angels. In our family, we have a habit of including the Guardian Angel prayer in our prayers with the boys before bedtime... the book has reinforced my belief that we should be aware of the help and love offered to us in our journey to God by our Guardian angels. It also warns of the dangers of dabbling in the occult.

4. One of my sisters sent me a subscription for Magnificat. The first issue I received was for February. Well, this week has been my first opportunity to begin reading it daily. I have enjoyed it so very much. The various articles on the lives of saints, the monthly chant hymn (this month's hymn is absolutely beautiful -- Aurora soli praevia, for the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes), the morning and evening prayers and readings, as well as daily Mass readings are very nicely put together. I have the big Christian Book of Prayer, with the Liturgy of the Hours for morning and evening prayer and like it also, but I find the specific information about each day that is contained in the Magnificat is also very nice and seems to be helping me to do my readings each day a little bit more diligently.

This morning our family attended the 7 a.m. Mass at our parish. It was very nice to have my Magnificat to follow along with the readings. We are hoping to make Friday Mass as often as possible as a family.

5. There is much consternation among the musicians of the Church Music Association of America this past week or so. The issue in question is eloquently described by Jeffrey Tucker in his posting at the New Liturgical Movement in his article from a couple of days ago here. Also, he has a new article at Inside Catholic here. As I see it, even if a music composer wanted to compose Mass settings in English and make them available for free to all church musicians for use in the liturgy, ICEL still wants its royalty (at least the way the rules seem to stand now). This seems to me to be a very sad situation -- one that encourages commercial publishers in their source for income and that discourages the free exchange of music by individual composers. Do we really want to be saddled with another ubiquitous setting of English Mass music like the Mass of Creation with the release of the new translation? I hope not.

6. This week I have been working away at completing my plans for Lent, Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday for the schola. I think I have a pretty good plan that is not too ambitious for the schola to achieve. I am waiting for our pastor to let me know what changes he would like on the first drafts. Some of the music (if plans are approved) will be:

Offertory Hymns: Parce, Domine and Attende, Domine
Communion chant: Qui meditabitur (we'll use it as a seasonal chant)
Palm Sunday: Hosanna filio David (antiphon)
Offertory: Gloria laus
Communion: Pater, si non
Good Friday: Veneration of the Cross: Popule meus
This is a very long piece with alternating refrains (two different refrains) with verses sung by a cantor. The words are amazingly perfect. Here is a short excerpt:

Popule meus, quid feci tibi? Aut in quo contristavi te? Responde mihi. Quia eduxi te de terra Aegypti: parasti Crucem Salvatori tuo. My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me! I led you out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom, but you led your Saviour to the cross.
Gospel of John: Three cantors (still discussing this possibility - I have a wonderful setting I bought from St. Meinrad while still in Shreveport, but never got to use)
Communion: Pater, si non
Holy Saturday: This will be a bilingual Mass, so readings will alternate between English and Spanish. I also have set the responsorial psalms alternating between English and Spanish. This was only my second time to set psalms into a psalm tones in Spanish. (I did it recently for a Spanish Wedding Mass.)
Exultet: chanted in English (another wonderful St. Meinrad setting I bought)
Sprinkling Rite: Vidi aquam
Offertory: Exultemus et laetemur

I would love to do the shortened version of the Te Deum at the end of Mass at the Easter Vigil, but I think that would be pushing it... it will probably be something else (perhaps the English version of it -- Holy God, We Praise Thy Name).

7. The neighborhood children have had a wonderful time out in the woods behind our house this entire winter. With no poison ivy to be concerned with, the fort-building and game-playing has been a constant thing. Every day nearly, the boys have wanted to head outside to work on their 'bases', pocketknives in hand, during their recess periods. When they hear the school bus drive by each afternoon, bringing their friends home, they can't wait to gather them together for fun and play. It is usually starting to get dark by 6:30 pm or so -- that's when the fun ends...

Tuesday I got a guided tour of the three main 'bases'. They have shown a great deal of ingenuity in using the tree branches for structures, cut grass for a roof, yucca leaves to weave various things... I am not anxious for the poison ivy to begin sprouting... it is very difficult to keep it at bay here in summer. They told me yesterday that they had talked about it and have a plan in mind: When they grow up and have wives and kids, they want to move back here and live in this house together so that their children can play out back as they have... I told them I think that is a fine idea!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


As I sit here drinking a final cup of tea while I wait for my husband to arrive home from a trip, all is quiet here. The boys are nestled snugly in their beds and our world is at peace. I love to keep the house cool during the winter time. To me it only seems logical that, as the temperature outside drops, it should also be cooler inside... no running around in shorts and flip-flops here in mid-winter. I keep the thermostat at a standard 67 degrees (sometimes lower unless my husband complains). We have a separate system that serves our master bedroom... in there I turn it completely off. Many mornings I'll jump out of bed to turn on the heat for my husband (who really doesn't share my enthusiasm for cold rooms) and the temperature will show only 54 degrees.

The trick to making it nice is a beautiful down-filled feather bed -- not the type you put underneath, but the German type that goes on top. I first learned of the joys of feather beds when we lived in Germany in the mid 1980's. The first time I stayed at my husband's Opa's home and snuggled into that warm bed with the soft-as-air 'federbett' on top, I was hooked.

Before the Berlin wall came down, we made a trip to East Berlin when my parents came for a visit. We drove through East Germany, staying carefully on the approved corridor and driving neither too slow nor too fast, lest we be stopped by the East German police and questioned. My husband was required to wear his military uniform during the entire visit when we were in East German territory. We had been counseled before our trip that we should try to be inconspicuous and try to blend (I am so sure we were going to blend in with our West German car and my husband's uniform). The counseling did no good. My mother and I were so excited to see the huge piles of featherbeds for sale (at a very reasonable price in comparison to West Germany's department stores) that we ended up with a fairly large mound of bedding to try to stuff into the trunk of the car.

Two of those same featherbeds, purchased in East Berlin in about 1986 or so, are now warming my two boys during winter nights. Things have certainly changed in the world in the past 23 years... in a huge way for Germany and the former Soviet Union. But the comfort of a warm bed on a cold night is the same...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Seven Quick Takes vol.2

Once again, I am trying to put seven thoughts together in one post in response to Jennifer's blog over at Conversion Diary. Here is the news for the week:

1. I have managed to spend a good portion of the week working on various chant projects. I transcribed the music for the Easter Vigil Exultet, and the Gospel of John reading. Also, the responsorial psalms for the rest of Ordinary Time of the church year through week 7. I know I should be getting better at singing psalms without music in front of me, but it is so much easier with it. I am getting very adept at using the St. Meinrad's square notation font.

2. We had quite a nice little ice storm here. What a difference a week makes. Last week, I was allowing my boys to play in swimsuits with the water hose in the backyard. This week we had school closures, trash pickup postponements, sheets of ice everywhere... Yesterday morning the temperature outside was only 19 degrees...

3. Last night was my Catholic Women's book club meeting. We talked about the Miracles of the Eucharist book that I have been reading. The conversation also wandered to a discussion about how young First Communion catechism classes are going (one of the members teaches them), personal experiences of a supernatural nature, The Shack (while a nice enough Protestant novel about forgiveness, it does have a few things that were troubling to those of us who had read it), and the Eucharistic texts of so many traditional Latin chants. One of the book club members who also sings in the schola with me had brought her Parish Book of Chant. She read the translations of Ave Verum Corpus, Ecce Panis Angelorum and a few others to give them the idea... The theology behind the texts of those chants makes One Bread, One Body seem very insipid in comparison.

4. My sweet husband made coffee and had it all ready for me this morning. That was a nice way to start out the day.

5. I had not baked anything sweet or particularly good for my boys since Christmas baking. It was time to make them something, so I decided to make cookies. They participated and did a nice job of finishing their schoolwork in a timely manner... Perhaps a good batch of Ginger snaps. I have a really great recipe:

Gingersnaps (preheat your oven to 350 degrees)

3/4 c. butter, softened 2 c. sugar 2 eggs 1/2 c. molasses
2 tsp white vinegar 3 3/4 c. flour 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ginger 1/2 tsp. cinnamon 1/4 tsp. cloves

Cream butter and sugar; add molasses, eggs and vinegar. Add dry ingredients, small quantities before the flour, mixing well. Roll into balls; then roll in granulated sugar. Bake 2" apart for about 10-12 minutes. This recipe makes about 6 dozen 3" cookies. They are nice and chewy (I have another recipe for crunchy -- maybe next time).

I watched the film Made of Honour and had a couple of thoughts. It was a film that had a sort of redeeming quality in that it did make me laugh several times and had a sort of message. The message was that, in the end, sexual promiscuity does not make one happy. However, it also seemed to say that another person can ultimately fulfill all your needs and desires. We know that only God can do that. Aside from the fact that it is definitely a 'chick-flick' and focuses on romantic love as the be-all and end-all, it had several parts with bad language and sexual references that were unnecessarily crude. This was a PG-13-rated film. I would NOT let my youngsters see this film.

and finally,

7. I finished reading Fr. Richard John Neuhaus' article in the February 2009 First Things, "Secularizations". I recommend it very much. Also, in this month's journal, I particularly liked Mary Eberstadt's "The Will to Disbelieve" and Gilbert Meilander's "Progress Without Pause". I also finished reading Fr. Neuhaus' "The Public Square". He must have had an inkling that his time left on earth was not long. Here is a short excerpt from the final pages of the issue:

"As of this writing, I am contending with a cancer, presently of unknown origin. I am, I am given to believe, under the expert medical care of the Sloan-Kettering clinic here in New York. I am grateful beyond measure for your prayers storming the gates of heaven.

Be assured that I neither fear to die nor refuse to live. If it is to die, all that has been is but a slight intimation of what is to be. If it is to live, there is much that I hope to do in the interim. After the last round with cancer fifteen years ago, I wrote a little book, As I Lay Dying (titled after William Faulkner after John Donne), in which I said much of what I had to say about the package deal that is mortality. I did not know that I had so much more to learn. And yes, the question has occurred to me that, if I have but a little time to live, should I be spending it writing this column. I have heard it attributed to figures as various as Brother Lawrence and Martin Luther -- when asked what they would do if they knew they were going to die tomorrow, they answered that they would plant a tree and say their prayers. (Luther is supposed to have added that he would quaff his favored beer.) Maybe I have, at least metaphorically, planted a few trees, and certainly I am saying my prayers. Who knew that at this point in life I would be understanding, as if for the first time, the words of Paul, "When I am weak, then I am strong"? This is not a farewell. Please God, we will be pondering the world for years to come. But maybe not. In any event, when there is an unidentified agent in your body aggressively attacking the good things your body is intended to do, it does concentrate the mind. The entirety of our prayer is "Your will be done" -- not as a note of resignation but of desire beyond expression. To that end, I commend myself to your intercession, and that of all the saints and angels who accompany us each step through time toward home."