Chant from the ground up

Posted February 4, 2009 by Jim
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One of my other recent projects that has kept me from regular blogging was the organisation of a neighbourhood ‘chant’ group. Since attending the Sacred Music Colloquium 2008, I wanted to spread knowledge of chant to other Catholics. Thankfully, South Bend, IN is not wanting for Catholics, though it is wanting for chant opportunities.

Now, I’m talking very small steps here. I began simply by inviting some of my friends from my local parish, which would not traditionally be understood as traditional, as well as other friends near my neighbourhood. There are about twelve of us and we will soon be having our fourth meeting. The goals are small: to chant vespers prayerfully, praise God in doing so, and introduce more Catholics to an inestimable treasure of the church. 

At our first gathering, we sang compline which, except for the Salve Regina, was entirely in English. I used a simple setting I received at the Sacred Music Colloquium. After that, I took some time to put together a ‘Vespers for the Pauline Year.’ The general format is of the new breviary, with three psalms and the hymn at the beginning. The antiphons are in Latin, and borrowed from the old calendar’s Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, as well as the Feast of St. Paul (which is the day immediately following Sts Peter and Paul in the old calendar).  The psalms themselves are in English, the Our Father in English, and the Magnificat in Latin. For those interested, I would be happy to share this via e-mail, with the caveat that this is my first pointing of psalm texts (simply send me an e-mail request).

Compline, at our first meeting, went really well. The group is mixed musically – we’ll not be a schola anytime soon, but that’s not really the goal. One member has a degree in vocal performance, while most of the rest of us are really in various levels of the amateur category. None other than myself really knew how to read chant notation to begin with, so it is instructional as well. 

Our next meeting which was our first attempt at the full Vespers was a bit more halting. But the session after that we definitely made significant progress. As anyone who has played or sung in an ensemble knows, there is such a difference in singing by oneself compared to lending your voice to the whole. And of course, the same can be said for praying where two or more are gathered.

And so in some small way, I hope, and hope that our little group, can contribute to the growing resurgence of chant. I will have more posts as our group continues.

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Poetry

Posted January 24, 2009 by Jim
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One of my side projects…

The bead counters number less and less
On Sunday mornings, I would confess
A longing for the summer sun. Its light
On green gilded boughs encountered
We mark the seasons turn from green to gold
While rays, and leaves, and snow fall amongst us.

And when it all is done, it starts again
There is no death knell rung for nature’s end
Before the robin’s carillon call is sung
Again. For beauty is in eternity
And the memento mori of a leafless tree
Serves to remind us of the fruits to come
A spotless apple and a perfect plum
Dripping in a sun-tipped Tuscan dawn.

For in that ancient sacrifice is life,
Post-mortem, more eternal than summer’s day
In the even pulse of neume to neume
Beats the heart and breathes the lung of body
Resurrected. There is no beatification of
Death. No praise of this darkened end.
For there will be no end of Sunday morn
As the psalms are sung for eternal dawn. 

See here for some context.

It’s been awhile…

Posted January 24, 2009 by Jim
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since my last post. Partially due to my work schedule, and to some other side projects I’ve been working on, I simply haven’t had the time to write any kind of meaningful posts. But I’m hoping to start back up again, with perhaps a slow and hopefully steady pace. 

Upcoming posts will include some poetry, a look at Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord novels, and some detail about a chant project.

Additionally, I would like to say thanks to those who left some comments during my hiatus. Insight from readers is always very much appreciated.

First Things on Art

Posted October 5, 2008 by Jim
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See the article here.

A must read – the Pope on Culture

Posted September 13, 2008 by Jim
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Please check out the Address by the Holy Father to the world of Culture.

Here are some excerpts:

I would like to speak with you this evening of the origins of western theology and the roots of European culture. I began by recalling that the place in which we are gathered is in a certain way emblematic. It is in fact a placed tied to monastic culture, insofar as young monks came to live here in order to learn to understand their vocation more deeply and to be more faithful to their mission. We are in a place that is associated with the culture of monasticism. Does this still have something to say to us today, or are we merely encountering the world of the past? In order to answer this question, we must consider for a moment the nature of Western monasticism itself. What was it about? From the perspective of monasticism’s historical influence, we could say that, amid the great cultural upheaval resulting from migrations of peoples and the emerging new political configurations, the monasteries were the places where the treasures of ancient culture survived, and where at the same time a new culture slowly took shape out of the old. But how did it happen? What motivated men to come together to these places? What did they want? How did they live?

Our present situation differs in many respects from the one that Paul encountered in Athens, yet despite the difference, the two situations also have much in common. Our cities are no longer filled with altars and with images of multiple deities. God has truly become for many the great unknown. But just as in the past, when behind the many images of God the question concerning the unknown God was hidden and present, so too the present absence of God is silently besieged by the question concerning him. Quaerere Deum – to seek God and to let oneself be found by him, that is today no less necessary than in former times. A purely positivistic culture which tried to drive the question concerning God into the subjective realm, as being unscientific, would be the capitulation of reason, the renunciation of its highest possibilities, and hence a disaster for humanity, with very grave consequences. What gave Europe’s culture its foundation – the search for God and the readiness to listen to him – remains today the basis of any genuine culture.

Well, there are at least twelve people…

Posted September 12, 2008 by Jim
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standing up for true beauty in art outside Paris. And a handful of disgusted tourists who can also tell art from, well, not art…

Here’s the key quote:

“I paid to see all of Versailles,” said Sylvie Guérin, an administrative technician from Montreal. “I didn’t come here to see a red lobster that I can buy in a gas station in Quebec to go in my pool.”

Also, check out why Pope Benedict loves France over at Rocco’s. Hat tip to TLM in Maryland.

The committee

Posted September 12, 2008 by Jim
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In the Catholic blogosphere, few bureaucratic institutions are more maligned than the liturgy committee.

I am a member of one.

But folks, I am here to tell you that there is something worse than the liturgy committee. 

The Parish Pastoral Council. They have asked the liturgy committee, and other committees in the parish to make suggestions on how to have a shorter mass (50 minutes) rather than an hour, due to the ‘unanimous suggestions pouring in.’ If they are receiving such suggestions, is this not a good opportunity for catechesis on the importance of the mass? A time for shepherding perhaps?

It makes me sick. 

Now our parish isn’t an overly traditional one (there aren’t many in the area), and while there are a lot of things I would like to change, the person in charge of the music and liturgy at our parish strives for excellence; she takes pride in her work and no one could question her commitment. We have nice masses, but we don’t have missa cantatas. The typical mass at our parish lasts but an hour.

An hour.

50 minutes…

You have got to be kidding me. Is this a church, or a social club?

—We like the welcoming atmosphere and community, but could we have a little less mass?—

—Can you not watch one hour with me?—