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."

This is Why We Use Ictus Markings:

I got several very helpful replies on the CMAA forum in response to my query... here are a few of the helpful reasons why we use the ictus markings in Gregorian chant:

We mark ictus locations because it helps us stay together perfectly.

A chant line should have shape. You cannot give shape to something that does not stick together. Marking locations of ictus provides singers with a sense of what binds the chant line together. Instead of singing 1-1-1-1-1-1-1, you come to see things like 12 123 12 123 12 1... Experience suggests that better legato singing will result.

Also, marking ictus helps to provide bouyancy to the chant. There is a tendency in some singers to hammer away at text accents as if they were bludgeoning cats. Talking about "upbeat" and "singing smoothly over those 12 12 12's" helps to keep the sung line afloat, as it were. It helps to mitigate against ponderous accents.

So there are two reasons, at least.

I do plan to use the "bludgeoning cats" illustration in the future... I got a good laugh when I read it! Here is another:

The ictus also marks the beginning of a gesture which can be described as either arsis or thesis. Of course the large-scale shape of the phrase, or of the entire chant, is probably of greater importance. But having these subtle shadings of rising and falling, elan and repos, keeps the musical line in motion at every small step along the way.

The main reason is that it provides a method for counting through the chant, which gives an idea of forward direction. to me, the main advantage is that it prevents getting stuck or slowing down.

yes, the forward motion is important in music.

Yet another:

So ictus is as essential as solfege. (It's just more subltle to realize that.) It's the rhythm that gives music 'life.'

From a friend I met at Chant Intensive:

By the way our schola is learning Communion chant "Qui manducat,' which I love.(The text is really the core of our faith, and the music is so beautiful. I can talk about this forever.) We listen to Stepping stone Cd and another one by a famous group who I believe in a 'different style'. We all agreed that Stepping stone sounds better than the other. The other had too much contrast of long pause and the fast notes for neums, I think. Too much contrast of musical elements seem to be not quite right in chant singing. (Another advantage of ictus. Control of the rhythm, not sounding random. I hope this is not starting another heated discussion of the two different styles of singing chants.(although I learned a lot from it.) It's just my opinion)

You are 'lucky' that your group don't mind solfege. I had a long talk about it, because a couple of members in my group believe that they don't need it. They say that they always sang songs just by ear (one is in a folk group also.) and they can get by. Spending time and effort on learning solfege is more than what they want to do. (Another words, music is just a music. It can be that serious.) Well, I guess I'm too serious that I spent all my life learning music, and I still have so much to learn.

Another friend from Colloquium and Chant Intensive:

It's so tempting to answer "because I say so," the way one's mother did. It is all about forward movement in chant. I haven't broken the "ictus bad news" to my schola yet because the solfege whimpering has to die down to a respectable level and we're getting ready to sing on Candlemas.

It is my recollection that Scott suggested initially delivering already marked-up music to your singers, particularly if time is an issue. Actually, I think they'll be happy to sing 1-2,1-2,1-2-3, etc. after their weekly dose of solfege.

OK, so I shall try again this week to convert the nonbelievers to believing in the usefulness and beauty of Gregorian chant rhythmic markings this week... wish me luck.

Here is a short excerpt from the Parish Book of Chant (p. 175) regarding rules for assigning ictus locations (in order of precedence):

1. as indicated by the ictus mark (Don't change the monks' markings!)
2. as it falls at the beginning of a long or doubled note: (look for those pressus locations)
3. as it falls on the first note of a neume
4. by counting backward by twos from the next known ictus.

There were three others given to us by Scott Turkington at Chant Intensive -- they came originally from the book by Dom Gajard:

5. as it falls on the last syllable of a word
6. as it falls on the 1st syllable of a dactyl (a dactyl has the accent on the third syllable from the end: ex. Dominus or Gloria)
7. off-ictus accent

Next time maybe I'll post my chironomy rules... what fun.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why Mark Ictus Locations?

Last night at chant practice, one of the members of the schola asked a question that resounded among the schola members... she asked "Why do we mark ictus locations? What value does this have for us?". Obviously, she and others in the schola were not finding them particularly useful to them in singing the chants. It made me stop and think about it.

It shows that I have not been effective in convincing them of their usefulness. I find them immensely helpful in my directing and in learning new chants and in keeping the rhythm flowing properly. I am afraid that my answer was not completely persuasive.

I, of course, mentioned how useful they are to me in directing (which they could all see), but they were unconvinced that those pesky little marks had anything to offer them, as singers. I then tried the tack of telling them it would help them understand my directing since my hands move in time with the rhythmic markings... that still left them cold. I've spoken in the past about how the groupings help get the feel of the piece (still not making contact). I sang an example of a sort of monotone - every note getting the same exact rhythm without the groupings and then with the groupings... (apparently, my example wasn't dramatic enough).

Back when we first learned the rudiments of ictus marking in Shreveport, I can recall how upset and bored this exercise made some of the schola there. An irritated sort of unhappy attitude developed among some of the group at that time. They felt that it was a complete waste of precious time to go over rhythmic groupings with the entire group. I couldn't completely understand why they found it so annoying then (even though I really didn't yet even know all the rules to properly mark them)... and I find myself surprised again by this here.

I guess I need more information -- a better way of explaining their value to new chant singers. I can see that my feeble defenses aren't working yet. It is time to pull out my books and relearn that part again. Perhaps it is exposing a weakness of mine... I really didn't quite question the technique all that much... I just wanted to learn how to do it. The frustrating thing for me initially was that I didn't know what the rules were. Once I learned them at Chant Intensive, it made a big difference to me. I never really questioned their intrinsic usefulness.

I need to be a bit more considerate of my schola... I'll be doing more of the marking of music in advance in the future... taking less group time for this activity. We have come along so very quickly in such a short time. I think I might be working them too hard. Time to back off and give some time to relax and enjoy.

We worked on several things last night at chant practice:

Introit: Veni adoremus (5th Sunday of Ordinary Time)
Communion (ad libitum): Qui manducat
Jesu Dulcis (review)
Ave Maris Stella (new)
Pange Lingua (new)

They all picked up the two new pieces very quickly. Ave Maris Stella will be a new favorite, I believe. I'm now looking at plans for Lent and Holy Week. There is so much wonderful music that could be done, that I have a tendency to be a bit too ambitious. I'm going to try to keep it very simple so that we have plenty of time to learn well what we will sing in the next couple of months.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chant Preparations Today

Many people in the chant world were very excited to see that Solesmes has graciously allowed CMAA to post the entire Gregorian Chant book online, free for use by all. This is an amazing gift and will lead to more and more widespread use of chant in the liturgy, I think.

The Gregorian Missal was one of the first books we purchased when beginning our schola in Shreveport. It is so wonderful to have, not only the entire list of Proper chants for all Sundays of the Church year, as well as the order of the Mass and Kyriale, but also the translations into English. I think I have 3 copies of this book (one is very heavily marked up with my pencil markings and notes) for myself and for sharing. Having it available to download and use in Mass programs or for scholas who don't own copies is a wonderful thing.

I decided to make data discs for all my schola members, so have been making up discs this morning. On the disc I included:

Communios (an entire folder full of all the Communion propers set by Richard Rice with psalm verses included)
Parish Book of Chant additions (this is another generously provided set of chant hymns provided by Richard Rice for those hymns in the PBC that have several verses)
Chant Abreges (Graduals, Alleluias, Tracts)
Gregorian Missal
Liber Usualis
Memorial Acclamations (Richard Rice's settings of English Memorial Acclamations)
Rossini Propers
Sunol book on Gregorian Chant

Every thing here was downloaded at one time or other from the CMAA website (FOR FREE). Look at the massive amount of chant material that has been provided for the world here! I am astounded when I look at it... Donations to CMAA are gratefully accepted here.

I love having the digital copies available... but I also love having the actual books that I can thumb through and mark up. After I left Shreveport (and had to leave behind the Liber Usualis that belongs to the church that I had borrowed from the church library) I looked online for quite awhile to find another copy so that I would be able to have the book in my hands when I want it. I also have the Communio book that has the entire set of Communion propers that Richard Rice put together. I have two copies of the Sunol book... and I have a book of the Kyriale...

I think once folks see the wonderful chant books digitally they will want a hard copy of their own to use as well. I hope the publishers are ramping up for big demand.

In the U.S., Paraclete Press distributes the Gregorian Missal, Graduale Romanum, Cantus Selecti, Liber Cantualis, Graduale Triplex and other Solesmes publications... check out their website here. Other places also sell their books, including Canticanova (they also include a nice translation from the Latin for at least some of the books that are entirely in Latin). You can still get the Parish Book of Chant at Aquinas and More. The Communio and Kyriale that CMAA publish are available from their website here.

Reading Update

I'm working on several things right now... Eucharistic Miracles, by Joan Carroll Cruz. I am about 50 pages into it and have been amazed to find out how many instances of Eucharistic miracles there have been over the years. I hope to finish this book in time for our book club meeting this week.

I am also reading a book sent to me by my mother in law -- The World is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman. I am finding it fascinating. It is a book about the 'flattening' of the world due to the achievements made in modern technology. I am only about a third of the way through the book and am still learning about all the underlying technological advances that allow us the free use of the internet, email, etc. It has become more clear to me why it is that whenever I call for assistance with my computer, or an appliance repair, etc., the young person who answers the phone almost always has an Indian accent.

Lastly, my most recent issue of First Things is sitting on my table beside my bed. I've been reading some of the articles in that latest issue, including one by the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. He must have worked nearly up to the end of his life...

Time to get schoolwork going for the boys...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Seven Quick Takes vol.1

I have been a follower of Jennifer's blog (Conversion Diary -- Formerly Et Tu). She has begun a sort of meme among her readers... we are tasked to share seven things... to see the entire list of responses from her readers, check out her blog. See "Et Tu" on the left side where my blog list sits...

This will be my first attempt at thinking of seven (at least marginally) interesting things to share:

1. My two boys have been enjoying the unseasonably warm weather... yesterday it was 82 degrees and sunny. Today (78 degrees) they actually talked me into letting them use the water hose in the sandbox to build amazing sand structures and tunnels and towns, etc.

2. We are working along toward the end of grade levels for the boys' schoolwork. We are on week 30 (of 36), so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I really love Seton's entire curriculum. I must admit that I have to remind myself that we don't really have to do absolutely everything listed in the lesson plan...

3. As our new president makes some of his first changes after coming into office, I am particularly dismayed by the attack on the unborn. It really doesn't seem fair to me that tax dollars are to be used to fund abortions in other countries just on the strength of his signature...

4. I registered this week to attend the CMAA Colloquium (that will be in Chicago in June) and am very excited to see that there will be many people I have met at other conferences and workshops will be there, too. The week of hearing and singing such heavenly music and daily Mass, morning and evening prayer, etc. sounds really wonderful.

5. I ordered three new books that we'll be reading in my Catholic Women's Book Club today. This month's books were:
The Blessed Eucharist: Our Greatest Treasure, by Fr. Michael Muller, CSSR
Optional/Additional Reading: Eucharistic Miracles, by Joan Carroll Cruz

The books coming up in the next few months are to be:

February: Angels and Devils, by Joan Carroll Cruz
March: The Spear, by Louis de Wohl – Novel on the Crucifixion [ I've read this -- I like anything by de Wohl]
April: The Devotion to the Sacred Heart, by J. Croisett
Optional/Alternate Reading: Love Peace and Joy, Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus According to St. Gertrude, by Andre Prevot
Suggested Summer Reading: Attaining Salvation, by St. Alphonsus Liguori

6. We have almost used up our first quart of homemade yogurt. I need to get to the grocery store and buy more milk... can't wait to try some of the other recipes in my new yogurt recipe book. I'm particularly interested in trying out making 'yogurt cheese'. Apparently, if you drain the yogurt through a sieve, most of the whey will drain out and leave a sort of soft cheese reminiscent of cream cheese... I can imagine making delicious cheese balls and dips with it.

7. I have not been knitting as much lately and really need to finish the sock I have halfway completed before I forget where I am in the pattern. Knitting socks has been a fun way to pass the time when I have to be present and watching over my two little schoolboys. I have found some great buys on sock yarn a and made 6 pairs of socks the past couple of months. Perhaps it is the warm weather... I like knitting more when it is chilly outside...

I can't get the wonderful 7 Quick Takes logo to work on my post... if anyone can tell this digitally-challenged person how to do it, it would be much appreciated!

Housewifely Things

Before Christmas my husband and boys were asking me what I might like to get for Christmas... I am a bit difficult to shop for (you never know for sure what books I have already read... being primarily a homebody, I don't really go much for jewelry or perfumes...).

I came up with a new kitchen gadget that they ordered for me. It is a yogurt-maker. I generally have tried to avoid getting lots of new kitchen gadgets since we move so frequently. If it can be done with a simple knife, I generally don't want new slicer-dicer things... having been married over 26 years, I pretty much have all the pots/pans/appliances I need. But this one little simple gadget (that merely keeps the mixture at the right temperature for a prolonged period of time) is just what I had hoped for.

We have tried it out... very simple to do. I purchased one plain container of organic yogurt with live cultures at the store to use as a starter... then added my own organic milk... followed the recipe. I have often found that the plain yogurt in the stores is a bit more tart than my youngest (picky) son likes. So, I processed it only 6 hours... it has a very smooth texture, not so tart taste and it is delicious. We made some of it into frozen treats (I know it must be cold somewhere, but it was up to 82 degrees here yesterday) with frozen raspberries, blackberries, orange juice and a scant teaspoonful of sugar -- no High fructose corn syrup here. It has gotten rave reviews.

I also got an accompanying book that gives loads of recipes for using yogurt... from appetizers, middle-eastern dips, sauces, soups, desserts... This gift was a winner!

Why I Don't Donate to Public Television

Late last night, as I was finishing (yet another) book... this one by Scott Turow... I happened to hear portions of a program on the Public Television station my husband had turned on. I began watching and did see the last 15-20 minutes or so of the show and was reminded again why I don't financially support public TV (aside from my tax dollars -- the spending of which I have no control over). It was an action-packed thriller show where MI-5 (in Great Britain) was tracking down violent anti-abortion extremists who were hell-bent on blowing up peaceful abortionists. Here is the Public TV show description:

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Operatives try to stop an antiabortion extremist (Lisa Eichhorn) who recently acquired a cache of explosives. Tom Quinn: Matthew MacFadyen. Zoe: Keeley Hawes. Danny: David Oyelowo. Harry Pearce: Peter Firth.

Two thoughts came to mind as I watched these sensible, reasonable investigators and their pursuit of these religious wackos:

1. Oh, yes, it has always been my experience that pro-lifers are uniformly violent and ready to do harm to anyone and everyone in a [misguided] effort to kill abortionists.

2. What a lovely show to put on the air (not just once, but THREE times during this week) in commemoration of the Roe v. Wade anniversary.

The woman playing the part of the anti-abortion would-be bomber seemed to be completely unhinged and hateful (quoting directly from the King James version of the Bible with lots of Thees and Thous). It all seemed very realistic to me, based upon my own experience with those folks who pray in front of abortion mills and who work to stop abortion. Bombing innocent bystanders has always been at the forefront of their efforts!

Give me a break...

P.S. Our little family said a family rosary for an end to abortion last night before the boys went to bed. I'm thinking most pro-lifers are more likely to pray than to bomb.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Colloquium 2009 in my future...

I just registered for the 2009 Colloquium... I had to make a choice between the Colloquium and Chant Intensive. What a hard choice! Last summer I went to Chant Intensive... what a wonderful experience. I think it really helped me along with my work with the schola. I would have loved to be able to go to both events this summer, but it is just too much time away from home.

I'm going to re-post the link to the YouTube promotional video... I highly recommend this to anyone who loves and works toward promoting Sacred Music. The staff is world-class and the accommodations up at Loyola University in Chicago are very nice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Been reading books...

In the past week I have read three novels and am in the midst of the fourth. I don't usually binge on books this way, but between traveling and having my mother give me a stack of books I hadn't read, I couldn't help myself.

The most recent titles:

Stone Cold, by David Baldacci
Cat & Mouse, by James Patterson
Simple Genius, by David Baldacci
The Simple Truth, by David Baldacci

I got started on this list from a wish to follow the antics of David Baldacci's characters in the book The Camel Club. Stone Cold is a sequel to it... Then, the others just seemed to follow in type of plot. I must admit I don't much care for novels with lurid descriptions of gratuitous sex. I much prefer legal or crime thrillers with interesting characters.

Now, each of these books took me, maybe, one day to finish... so they are not heavy reading [but very enjoyable]. So... if you are looking for light diversion...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Learning Gregorian Chant is not that difficult...

Just prior to Christmas I had the opportunity to speak with the Abbess of the Poor Clare Monastery that I've been writing about lately... during our conversation and discussion about our shared love of chant, she mentioned that she has not found it that difficult for the novices to learn. Her experience has not been anything like what we have been led to believe in that regard.

As my little schola has been learning introits along with some Communion propers, I think they may at times think it is a lot of work to learn a chant that will only be sung once in a year. I keep telling them that, over the course of a few years, these chants will be like old friends when the liturgical cycle comes back around.

As Mother Mary Angela said (not a direct quote -- my memory is too poor for that) it wouldn't seem like the beginning of Advent without Ad te levavi.

Poor Clare Monastery Recordings posted

I have posted the music recordings I recorded during my visit to three different daily Mass times this past week. See the music widget on the left... The recordings are NOT professional... lots of coughing, clearing throats, etc. However, I think you can get a sense of the clear, sweet sound that we hear at Mass with the sisters.

I had let my old file hosting account lapse, so I decided to try another one... I am not happy with it because of some of the pop-up ads you find when you visit their site. I will probably be looking for a different one soon (and would be very happy to have suggestions!).

UPDATE: 4/21/11 A new posting of the Poor Clare Recordings is now available on the blog here: 

We are back safely at home... Mass was very nice again this morning with the schola. We sang the proper Introit this morning, the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time. Our list of songs for today was:

Introit: Omnis terra
Kyrie: VIII / Gloria: VIII
Responsorial Psalm and Alleluia (simple chant in English -- I need to work on my enunciation... I have been told that I am a bit difficult to understand in spots -- what is the point if the words cannot be understood?! I'll be working on that this week)
Offertory: Jesu Dulcis
Sanctus: XVIII Agnus Dei: XVIII
Communion: Qui Manducat (ad libitum Communion chant)
Post Communion: Anima Christi
Closing: Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

It is officially time for me to put together my music plan for Lent... the housework can wait, right?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Poor Clare Monastery, Roswell NM

If you check out the "Useful Sites" on the left hand side of the blog page, you will find that I added the Poor Clares Roswell, NM. A friend of the monastery created the site in order to let any young women who may be discerning a vocation find some information about their life and the monastery here, as well as the history of the order, etc. I find the site very nice. I love the photos of the sisters doing their daily tasks, as well as the special occasions.

The sisters are not linked up with the world wide web, (I am assuming) preferring instead to remain a bit more separated from the outside world than would possibly be the case when linked to such instantaneous access to/from the world. Because of the fact that so many people get their information about all kinds of things from the internet, they wanted to offer some help to those who may be seeking information.

I would also recommend the book by the late Abbess, Mother Mary Francis that describes the life of a cloistered nun in a wonderful way -- A Right To Be Merry. It is published by Ignatius Press.

Once I have time to edit the recordings I made while attending Mass, I will be posting those that turned out well. I was so happy that I received permission to share them.

We have no idea what a blessing contemplative orders are to the world... the Poor Clares are a wonderful example!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mass with the Poor Clares

Well, I did make it to the 7:00 a.m. Mass with the Poor Clares this morning. It was wonderful and peaceful and lovely, as always. I tried desperately to find what they were singing from my Graduale, but was not successful, other than for the ordinaries. I did record it though, and will take some time to listen and also maybe contact the sisters about what they are singing on weekday Masses. It should have been the Feast of St. Remigius (if I looked at the Graduale correctly, but the priest said we were celebrating the Feast of St. Mauro). In any case, I looked for the propers for both of those feasts and did not find a match with the music that was used. They didn't do the proper Gradual or the Offertory or the Communion for either feast... perhaps upon better listening to the Introit later I can figure out what was sung... The ordinaries used were the Mass XVI Kyrie and Sanctus and another simple setting of the Agnus Dei... still need to look it up and find exactly which one it was.

I will try to go again tomorrow (perhaps tomorrow they'll do St. Remigius). Whether or not I get good recordings or can identify the propers... the sound is lovely. Too bad I won't be here for a Sunday morning Mass...

All is well here... beautiful sunny day in SE New Mexico!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chant on Down the Highway

Well... the family is on a road trip. We drove a bit more than 7 hours yesterday... A good portion of that time was spent listening to two chant CD's. One was a CD I burned so that I could listen well to the music they sang in San Diego at Winter Chant Intensive. The Epiphany propers were wonderful. I especially liked the Gradual. Hear them for yourself at Mary Jane Ballou's site. Click on "Music" and Look for "Mass in San Diego".

Just going on memory, I'd say the chapel at Loyola in Chicago must have had a bit more 'live' acoustics than the church in San Diego... the singing was lovely.

The other CD we listened to was a CD sent to me by the Monks at Clear Creek in Oklahoma. It is the Christmas chant CD that was recorded at Fontgombault (don't know if I spelled it correctly). I have sung several of the chants on that CD and found myself singing or humming along. Especially the Viderunt omnes was familiar, since our schola here sang it as a seasonal Communion chant for the entire Christmas season. Another particular favorite is the Christmas Day Introit -- Puer natus. I just love the opening words...

Tomorrow morning I hope to attend Mass at the Poor Clare monastery here. I brought my Graduale Romanum along this time and also my recorder. I am hoping I can record their singing. If I receive permission from the sisters, I hope to post the recordings later. There is a beautiful, clear, almost ethereal sound to their singing.

It is crisp and clear here in southern New Mexico... all is well.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Catholic Fire Tells the Truth about Abortion

I just read a very detailed blog regarding facts about abortion... The author has really done her homework on researching the various issues relative to it...

Check out her blog here:

To me, even if you cannot see that abortion is intrinsically wrong, the health issues for the woman alone would be reason enough to rethink the whole issue. After all, what is best for the mother is the main concern for pro-choice folks, isn't it?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sacred Music Workshop in Sugarland, TX

I just registered for the Sacred Music Workshop that will be at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugarland, TX. It will be February 13-14, culminating with the 5:00 pm Mass there. I have one schola member who has made the commitment to go with me so far and probably have at least two others who will join us. This will be a fun road trip down south and a great chance for more learning about Sacred Music.

Scott Turkington will be the guest director there... I am looking forward to singing with him again. I also think it will be great for the members of my schola to get to sing with him and see how a person who really knows what he is doing directs!

It falls on the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, so I am guessing the chants will be chosen from among the following (with some replaced by polyphony pieces):

Introit: Venite, adoremus
Kyrie orbis factor XI (just my guess)
Gloria orbis factor XI (again, guessing)
Gradual: Tollite hostias (I would bet we substitute a wonderful polyphonic version of this somewhere in the Mass music and use a simply chanted responsorial psalm here)
Alleluia: Laudate Dominum
Offertory: Perfice gressus (probably a polyphonic piece instead?)
Mysterium fidei
Sanctus XI (?)
Agnus Dei XI (??)
Communion: Multitudo languentium
Closing: Probably a nice English hymn

I'll refresh my memory on these things in any case and hope at least some of my predictions are correct. We are planning to sing the Introit at San Mateo that weekend in any case, so I do hope that turns out to be one they use.

Update: I had looked at the calendar and seemingly couldn't read it... the workshop falls on the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time... all my predictions were for nought. The ordinaries will most likely be from Mass IV, from a little contact with the DoM there. Also, there are now four of us making the road trip down there for it... should be fun. I need to pack some goodies to share.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Inside Catholic's 8 Responses to the Pro-Choice Mindset

Check out this great article by Jennifer Fulwiler (also author of one of the blogs I like to follow regularly -- Et Tu or Conversion Diary). She gives some very interesting points about how she held the pro-choice point of view, what changed for her, and some ways for pro-life folks to approach the topic when discussing this issue.

h/t Inside Catholic

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dad's Potato Soup

I know this is not even remotely related to my usual "Gregorian Chant" main topic. But, even schola members have to eat, right? On a cold winter's evening, there is nothing better than homemade soup (imho). A few years ago, when we were living in the Albuquerque, NM area, I got a couple of my father-in-law's soup recipes. Now, this is no simple feat since he scoffs at the idea of following a recipe... so, I had to follow him around while he made it and write everything down (often making him stop so I could get an estimate of quantity).

My husband pronounced tonight's soup a very good facsimile of "Dad's Potato Soup". I'll share:

Dad's Potato Soup

2-3 T. oil (optional)
3 strips bacon, diced
1/2 lb. Polish sausage, sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 med. yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic (finely chopped or pressed)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. beef bouillon granules
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. fresh or dried parsley
2 c. peeled, diced potatoes
2 T. butter, melted
3 T. flour
salt and pepper to taste

Place, bacon, sausage, onion, celery, paprika and oil in soup pot. Braise until onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook a minute or so longer. Add in the potatoes, bouillon, bay leaves, vinegar and parsley. Cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir flour into melted butter to form a thickening paste... stir into the pot until fully integrated. Cook until soup is thickened.


Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana update

OK... back from my little rant about NPR and Sesame Street...

Our schola had its rehearsal last night and got much work done. We worked on the new Communion chant that we had begun learning last week -- Qui manducat. Also, we worked on the Introit for the 2nd week of Ordinary Time -- Omnis terra. They did very well with both of them. We also worked on Jesu dulcis memoria and Ave verum corpus . In addition, we did a quick review of the chants we'll be singing this weekend.

I have been talking to them all about the workshop that will be given in Sugarland, TX in February. You can see details about it here. Scott Turkington will be the director, so I know it will be a very good workshop. I think it would be very good for the schola members to get the opportunity to study chant with him and to experience singing with so many other singers of like mind. The polyphony portion of the workshop may turn out to be a bit difficult for our group, since we do strictly unison singing at this point, but even so it will be a great experience.

This coming weekend (the last Christmas season Mass) we will be singing:

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Opening: Angels We Have Heard on High
Kyrie VIII / Gloria VIII
Responsorial Psalm (chant tone by Arlene at Chabanel)
Alleluia (simple chant tone)
Offertory Cordis natus ex Parentis (chant hymn)
Sanctus XVIII
Our Father, chanted in English
Agnus Dei XVIII
Communion: Viderunt omnes (we are getting really good at this chant!)
Post Communion: Anima Christi
Closing: Good Christian Friends (I would prefer a not-so-politically correct version in which the friends remained "men", but this is the version in the misallette)

It is time to get going on the day... no more reading the forum and email in an attempt to avoid my housework!

Monday, January 5, 2009

11th Day of Christmas

Happy 11th Day of Christmas! We are back at it with the boys' schoolwork. Thankfully, there has been almost no trouble at all getting back into the swing of it. We are beginning the fourth quarter of the school year, so we have lost a little ground. We were a full two quarters ahead of the regular school schedule, but have been taking our time with the schoolwork this year. Particularly, I find that it is taking much more of my time in helping them with their creative writing assignments. More is expected of them in terms of content, grammar, length, vocabulary, etc.

It is time to start taking down the tree. It is a pitiful, dried-looking thing today. I have been somewhat afraid to touch it the past couple of days for fear that all those pine needles will fall in a shower.

One this that does seem to have helped this year is that we did something a little different on our tree. A family tradition that my father carried out while I was growing up (and even still) was to whip up Ivory soap to make a concoction that looks rather like meringue and then slather it onto the branches to make it look like snow. Once it has dried, it looks quite realistic and does seem to hold the needles onto the tree a bit.

To make ivory snow for your tree:

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Put the lights on your tree first before you begin this!

Grate two small bars of Ivory soap (use the finer grate for best results)
and put into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of boiling water (you may need more)
and then beat well until the soap (or most of it at least) has dissolved and it looks like
stiffly beaten egg whites.

With a rubber spatula, slather a bit of this stuff onto each branch of the tree.

Let the soap dry completely before you add ornaments... It looks great and gives
a very unique smell to your home (in a good way).

I suppose I should have shared this recipe during Advent, but now that I have the results of how it went this year, I can give a total report! We'll most likely begin doing this every year, so next year maybe you'll get a photo before the tree is completely dead!

There is an ice storm going on here. My husband will be home shortly, as they dismissed them early from work to avoid driving when it gets worse. Outside the trees are completely covered with ice, which is beginning to build up. It is looking like I will have to cancel our schola rehearsal this evening because of it... I'm very sad to cancel a rehearsal! Happily, we are ready for all the music for this Sunday, I was working on music for Ordinary time, though, and had lots to do!

Yesterday we sang for Epiphany:

Opening: The First Noel
Kyrie VIII (de angelis)
Gloria VIII (de angelis)
Responsorial Psalm (Arlene's chant tone version from Chabanel)
Alleluia (simple chant tone)
Offertory -- Puer Natus (chant hymn -- and we even got to the verse about the kings)
Sanctus XVIII
Our Father, chanted in English
Agnus Dei XVIII
Communion: Viderunt omnes (Proper for Christmas)
Post Communion: Anima Christi
Closing: We Three Kings

This was our first week to sing the Anima Christi. We are planning to make that a weekly occurrence during the ablutions. With a bit of time, I am sure the people will pick up on it.

I hope all is well in your corner of the world.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Company's a-coming!

Today I finally tackled the housework that I have been finding ever so many ways to avoid. Tomorrow afternoon we are having Father Bob over for dinner. We have been looking forward to it for some time... he is so busy, it took about a month for us to get onto his schedule (especially with all the Christmas festivities). So, today I made a list of household tasks I wanted to complete... dusting, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, laundry, de-cluttering... you get the picture. I got through most of the list, although I have to say the window washing just didn't quite get there before I ran out of steam.

I also worked on cooking for tomorrow. One of our very favorite dinners is a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa for Beef Burgundy (She spells it the French way). It takes a nice 3-lb roast beef, 1/2 lb. of good bacon, 1 lb each of onions, carrots, pearl onions, and mushrooms, 1 bottle of red wine, 1/2 cup of cognac (set afire -- much fun) and various seasonings, etc. The best part about it is that it is even better made a day in advance; then it is easily reheated on the stove with very little fuss on the day of the dinner.

Also, since I know I won't have time to do much tomorrow other than baking bread, I made dessert -- a family recipe I learned from my husband's step-grandmother, Hilde. It came originally from a very old German cookbook and was called: "Einfache Obsttorte". She then modified it a bit and it has become a family favorite... I think no one makes it anymore from my husband's side of the family. I have shared it with many others, though... it is too good to keep a secret! It is a bit like an apple pie, although the pastry is different and it is made in a springform pan, then glazed with a lemon/powdered sugar glaze while still hot from the oven. Served with freshly whipped heavy cream (not too sweet), it is the best!

Tomorrow morning, we'll be singing again for the Feast of Epiphany. As described in my post from last year about Epiphany, we'll be blessing our home again this year and marking the doorpost with chalk blessed by our rector in Shreveport last year.

I wrote a short article about our little group and submitted it to the North Texas Catholic newspaper. The editor was very nice and replied right away. I don't know that it will be considered newsworthy, but if our story should offer encouragement to another would-be schola director, I'll have done my job!

The torte should be coming out of the oven soon... then it is time for rest! I must say it is nice to have a clean, fragrant smelling home... I should clean house more often!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First Posting of 2009

My 8-year old valiantly struggled to stay awake for Mass at midnight last night. But, the church was warm and cozy, the words of the Te Deum (in English) were rhythmic enough to make it hard for him to keep those heavy eyelids open during the end of the prayers during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He soon succumbed to his tired body and was sound asleep at the end of a pew, resting on a jacket and sweater. There was no complaint about going straight to bed when we arrived home (around 2 a.m.).

Reposition of the Blessed Sacrament was more formal than the weekly reposition that normally occurs on Sunday morning, just prior to the 10 am Mass. Last night, Father wore beautiful vestments and wore a Cope for elevation of the monstrance and the actual reposition. It was the first time for the younger altar servers to assist with a Cope, but you could tell they were pleased to be a part of the solemn occasion.

Bishop Vann, Fr. Bob, and four altar servers processed into the church, incense billowing, miter and staff prominent in such a small place. Although there is an (untuned) piano in the church, I have never heard it used. At the English Masses, no instrumentation is used, even during the hymns from missalettes. It followed that pattern last night. It was quite pleasant to have a group of people in the pews singing so enthusiastically with all the Mass ordinaries and hymns. We also got very good participation from them on the Ave Maria. It was an honor to be able to sing when the bishop came to San Mateo.

This morning, I am awake and thinking about getting ready soon. I was asked by a friend, who is director at another parish in the city, to sing with them for the noon Mass today. We'll be singing the Communion proper Exsulta filia Sion. It isn't one I have had the opportunity to sing at Mass before... I'm looking forward to it, although I am still a wee bit weary. It is the proper Communon chant for Christmas Mass at dawn and also the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Perhaps next year the schola can learn it.

Several forum friends and past Chant Intensive attendees will soon be heading out to San Diego for the Winter Chant Intensive with Scott Turkington. It would have been very nice to be able to go, but just not possible this time of year. In the weeks prior to Christmas we got several updates on how people from the Summer Chant Intensive were doing in their cities... I'll post some excerpts in the coming days. Good things are happening in the world of Sacred Music.