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...