Sunday 5 March 2017

International declaration on sacred music

Here at The New Liturgical Movement

The list of over 200 signatories, of which I am one, Here

Still singing.


Mass XVII, Credo I
Marian anthem

Wimped out and did the 13 verse Tract to a psalm tone, otherwise complete Gregorian Propers.
Attende Domine.

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Palm Sunday

Plus Mass XVII, Credo I, Audi benigne conditor and an undergraduate musician in the parish has rehearsed and will conduct Byrd's Ave verum for Communion.

One of the things I enjoyed about the LMS Facebook posts on Passion Sunday is being reminded that those of us engaged in the weekly production of music for the traditional liturgy, are of course all united in singing the same music up and down the land.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Gregorian Chant Hymns, the website, again

A version of this article appears in the Autumn 2015 issue of The Monastic Musicians Newsletter.

Gregorian Chant Hymns, ( our website, grew out of a very practical need. Frequently, people decry Gregorian Chant Hymns, ( our website, grew out of a very practical need. Frequently, people decry the music that they hear week by week in ordinary Catholic parishes. Complaints are made about the choice of music, the quality of the choir and the level of audible participation from the congregation. The people involved in producing this music are usually very dedicated, following the lead of others, but so very often a feeling of dissatisfaction is experienced, that after great efforts expended, the desired result is not achieved. A music is needed that is apart from the world and which creates an atmosphere conducive to prayer. We have this music. It is chant.

Gregorian Chant Hymns sets out music that is an integral part of the tradition of the Church in a manner that makes it possible to sing it in an ordinary parish.

Countless articles have been written describing the grave need for chant in the liturgy and readers of this newsletter hardly need another apologetic, especially from a lay person. It remains a paradox however, that whilst recordings of chant from monasteries and abbeys are very popular in the secular world, it can be very hard for lay Catholics to have access to this music in a liturgical setting. Our website offers some practical assistance, so that where there is a will to sing chant, there is a way in. It sits alongside other very useful and free internet resources and will support those who having perhaps attended a chant workshop are wondering what they might usefully do next.

Gregorian Chant Hymns gathers together recordings that one may listen to online, alongside the notation and translations into English of the texts. The recordings use both male and female voices, so can be useful for a variety of groups of adults and children. We have been generously assisted by St Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde and Pluscarden Abbey, who have allowed their recordings to be used for non-commercial purposes. As Wikipedia reminds us,' In 1974, Pope Paul VI issued Jubilate Deo, a selection of plainchant pieces, to every bishop in the Church to encourage the singing of Simple Gregorian melodies in parishes. The Community [of St Cecilia's] recorded the chant to support this endeavour, in what was the first recording of nuns in the UK. ' This website merely provides the means for parishes to do this in the Internet age. Other groups have kindly allowed their editions to be used and Dr Candy Bartoldus has been meticulous both in citing all copyright holders and obtaining permission for their work to be used.

An example
If at Communion, you wished to sing Adoro te devote, from scratch, some of these steps may help you.

Click the Hymns tab at the top of the home page.
The music available is displayed in alphabetical order.
Click on Display score and play Audio.
The image left appears.
Click on the arrow, recording will begin.
The arrow has now turned into a pause button.
Click pause to stop the recording at any point.
The notation for each verse is displayed separately, with a translation beneath.
This allows you to listen and to practise singing.

You may want to distribute this recording to members of a church choir who do not have Internet access.

Under the hymns tab, you can also Click Download MP3.
You can then save the recording onto your computer.
The recording may be burned onto a CD.

If you are to sing the music in church, you need sheets.

Click Download Latin text and you have a sheet to sing from.
Click Download translation and there it is.

If you are going to produce a booklet, it may be necessary to alter the size of the notation and to edit the size of the text. Go to Build-a-booklet. There you can download images (JPEGs) of the chant notation and translations in PDF format.

A simple example and you will see that there is much more on offer, particularly in the Build-a-booklet section. There may just be something there that will save someone a great deal of time.

To those who say the task is too great, I say, in five years of singing chant every Sunday, practising for 20 minutes a week after Mass, we learnt Masses I, IV, IX, XI, XVII and the Requiem Mass, plus about 30 devotional chants and office hymns and sang the propers every week to psalm tones. Most people can memorise a large number of chants and as we bring out chants particular to the liturgical season each year, so our appreciation grows of this beautiful music.

Our Catholic music.

Thursday 29 October 2015

Taking the Slow Road

And playing the long game.

Over here in the land of fruit tea bread, the daily rhythm of getting up at early o'clock to teach, tootle and mark is brought to a brief halt for half-term.

The time has worked out well; concerts on the two Saturdays and visits to seaside friends on the two Sundays. In between, visits to my parents for Dad-sitting, mobile phone sorting for my Mum and being at home.

This half-term, I do all sorts of great jobs which include deep cleansing the house, clearing the garden, addressing all my Christmas cards and making the Christmas cake.

I have audited the small pots of stew, liver and bacon, soup and mashed potato in the freezer and calculate at three homemade ready meals a week, I have enough dinner to see me to the end of term. I have tackled my house insurance, renegotiated it down to a reasonable sum and put the savings to a far better use. ( I declined the bit where you can insure the contents of your freezer. ) If Kids Company had adopted this manner of house-keeping they might be able to talk us through what they have done with £46 million of our money. But I digress.

And then there was The Synod. Apart from spawning new words. Synodality? Don't bother explaining, it reminded me of one time on 29th June. I ran from my classroom to a church a mile from work to get to a lunch-time Mass, because there was a concert that night so I couldn't go then. When we got to the point where you might expect the Creed, the Priest asked the congregation if he thought we should do it properly and say it. We stared back blankly. Not a sound. Can't remember what happened. You could imagine that anyone who attends a Mass which involves missing their whole lunch hour, might be into trying to doing it properly. Or not. Then I ran back to work in time for pm registration, which I am legally obliged to take. Failure to take the register, which can only be completed by a qualified teacher, can land you in a formal disciplinary process. Fairly basic. Can you account for every child in the building? Not something you can be vague about. Saying the Creed on a Solemnity? Clearly lots of wiggle room.

Whilst that was going on in Rome, I have been reading a book about Padre Pio. It's about the investigations carried out in the 20s and has lots of the interviews conducted with him and other people around him at the time. It's rather repetitive, because they all get asked the same or very similar questions. The repetition could be annoying if you read it in one go, but is fine for short bursts on trains. What interests me is the nature of the questions, because it reveals what was considered important then. And what was important was how well Padre Pio lived his monastic rule, his daily life, how he interacted with other people. Interestingly, he is regarded as a good religious, but not exceptional. He just carries on hearing Confessions, saying Mass and attending the Office. Relentlessly. Whilst the drama unfolds around him.

Anyway, I shall continue to do my things, which involve reading the lives of the saints and ignoring much else. It's interesting that Christ the King EF, coincides with the clocks going back at the end of October. And yes, I know it's a very new feast. But it all ties in with the seasons.

Monday 3 August 2015

Gregorian Chant Hymns - UPDATE

Last summer saw the launch of Gregorian Chant Hymns, a website that provides, notation, text, recordings, and pics of chants you might want to sing in an ordinary everyday parish. The recordings, which are downloadable and free, are a mixture of St Cecilia's, IOW, Pluscarden, St Cecilia's + our female schola and just us. The site has been receiving a very healthy number of hits from all over the place.

There are now booklets for use at Mass.

A further project is providing booklets for Sunday Vespers in the Extraordinary Form. So, should you find yourself hunting for the Magnificat in the correct tone attached to the correct antiphon, this may be just the place for you. These are being used weekly at the Oratory in formation, Washington DC.

And there's Sunday Compline there too.

In other news, great quote from Sir James MacMillan on 'Front Row,' R4 earlier. On what his Fourth Symphony sounds like - "I don't know, the first rehearsal is tomorrow." I shall be telling my form when they are composing impossible things for various instruments that Sir JM, knows the faces of the BBCSSO player for whom he is writing.

Sir James MacMillan 4
Gustav Mahler 5

That's tonight's programme - not a football score.
Kicking myself for not going.

Bravo! Great ending.

Saturday 18 July 2015

Monastic Chant Forum at Quarr and St Cecilia's Abbey

What a marvellous five days!

Reunited with my chant buddies, we enjoyed a rich diet of talks, Offices, singing and Benedictine hospitality, all whilst clutching a Graduale Triplex.

The balance of participants was heavily weighted towards religious and so we were able to enjoy a very particular atmosphere. Silence.

The talks focused on music for Marian Feasts. Dr Gidrius Gapsys, who teaches chant at the Paris Conservatoire, took us through how the propers for the Assumption have varied between the 9th and 20th centuries. We got to see overheads of the original manuscripts and dipped into some discant. He also re-explained the semiology symbols of St Gall, something that I, at least, cannot have a revision session on too frequently. After having first encountered them at Solesmes in 2009, on Dom Saulnier's summer course, something may be coming together in my mind.

Sr Bernadette Byrne, choirmistress of St Cecilia's, spoke on office antiphons for Marian Feasts, with a particular focus on modality and was brilliant as ever. On two of the days, we were at St Cecilia's, so we benefitted from the presence of a number of the community in the big parlour.

And Fr Xavier Perrin, Prior Administrator of Quarr, took our nightly Mass practice, preparing for the Mass the following morning. All was organised with a sheet giving all the page numbers, and he provided a written and verbal spiritual commentary on the chants. What an excellent teacher and inspiring example.

Meantime, much organisation had gone on and much work, by many and the whole week ran like clockwork, without a hitch.

Altogether a precious few days.

We were very sad to leave. We really didn't want to go at all.

Quarr Abbey is looking very good indeed, with a new visitor centre explaining their life, a thriving and excellent cafe, pigs (yummy sausages,) whilst all the while, the magnificent Abbey houses the Divine Office.

Monday 18 May 2015

Mutual enrichment grass roots style

So there I am at a church I don't usually go to Mass at.

Half the congregation go up to Holy Communion and receive standing.

Then the next lot all kneel down.