Tuesday, December 30, 2003

More on VOTF Atlanta and Archbishop Donoghue One of the posters below rightly took me to task: "You haven't read Abp. Donoghue's letter, in which he lays out his reasons for his decision on VOTF-Atlanta," and this was true. I was pleased to check out the web site and read the various statements earlier today. I was also pleased to see the archbishop had actually met with VOTF: something commendable I had not known. Clearly, his decision to ban VOTF was not a knee-jerk reaction. But his response to VOTF does state "confusion" regarding his perception of a lack of clarity on VOTF's goal three. It is true that other prelates have raised concerns on behalf of the faithful, and I'm assuming the archbishop does so on behalf of his flock when he describes his lawful and rightful role as bishop. "You've let loose w/a torrent of epithets at a selective list of named bishops (where are others -- Weakland most notably?)" True: I did not condemn every bishop who has erred or sinned. Some bishops harbored predators. Others have cooperated in the reassignment of predators after their best advisors told them in 1985-88 that the cure rate for sex abusers was practically nil. I am disappointed at some bishops, certainly: Weakland for his affair, Mahony at the high-handed way he administers his diocese, Bruskewicz for abuse of excommunication -- but these were not criminal acts. Harboring sexual predators is germane, and perhaps I should have neglected to mention O'Brien's hit and run fatality. All of these examples, though, point out shaky morality among some members of the episcopate. "Todd, might I suggest that you gain a better command of the facts before you go off half-cocked?" I receive your suggestion with seriousness. I will research things more diligently in the future. But I stand by my disappointment in Archbishop Donoghue. The laity of his diocese are not sure the hand of ministry and compassion has been extended to all victims, and VOTF seems an appropriate watchdog, lacking any diocesan agency. Transparency, within the bounds of appropriate legal procedure, is necessary. And sadly, a bishop's word might be as honored (or even less) than that of a lay person (dissenter or not) these days. If Donoghue has doubts about VOTF Atlanta because of what the national office says or does, are people right to doubt Donoghue because of what other bishops have said and done?

Monday, December 29, 2003

Banning VOTF Archbishop Donoghue is getting press for refusing to permit Voice Of The Faithful meetings on church property or VOTF advertisements in the diocesan newspaper. Though I've heard he seems to be a decent bishop, I guess I just have to add him to the list of prelates who Still Don't Get It. Banning VOTF seems to be a knee-jerk reaction from somebody who gets all nervous over the notion of lay people having a say in church governance. "Structural change" becomes an under-the-bed monster in the episcopal sleeping chambers. Imagine! Adding lay people to priest-personnel boards. Having lay people interview prospective pastors and help a bishop make some good assignments. Forwarding the names of good parish priests for consideration when the Church needs a bishop. Why, the very foundation of St Peter's would turn to skim milk and run down the Tiber. What bishops such as Donoghue and Myers (of Newark) say publicly is that they don't want ordinary Catholics confused because some VOTF members advocate women priests or married clergy or local selection of bishops. They criticize VOTF by their association with individuals or groups who support such efforts, even when VOTF takes the high road by saying it will not take stands on such controversial issues that are not germane to their stated mission. Still not enough, though. If the USCCB were to be held to the same standards as opponents hold VOTF, there shouldn't be a bishop left standing from 2001. Donoghue and Myers, among others, have stood with bishops such as Law who have perverted the sacrament of orders by their cover-up of scandal and protection of predators. They are in the same organization with hit-and-run felons, liars, settlement hardballers, and a few other people with shady histories. Even so, I tend to be open-minded, especially with my own bishop. I like my present bishop and I trust him. I really admire my previous bishop in Dubuque. I trust him too and admire him as a good pastor and leader. Granted, there is little precedent for a bishop to call out another bishop publicly on such matters of governance or personal scandal. But if VOTF-phobes in the episcopacy expect a repudiation of VOTF members who hold individual positions contrary to Church dogma or discipline, they are being naive at best, and sinfully hypocritical at worst. Take a poll. Ask Catholics who is more tainted with guilt by association: VOTF with CTA or generic Joe Bishop with McCormack, Law, Daily, Grahmann, O'Brien, etc.? Then if you want to talk scandal and confusion and banishment, tell a bishop to look in the mirror. Some of these guys still don't get it.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Music of the Day Dan Kantor's "Night of Silence" is worthy hymn and a worthy addition to the Christmas musical firmament, even if has become a tad commercialized. It wasn't the first "partner song" for Silent Night, and it won't be the last. But it's one of the best. The text tells a story, putting the singers in the place of those who longed for a Messiah. Our memories fill in the details, if you let them, and bring extra meaning to the words, "voice in the distance, call in the night" suggestive of angels, and the allusion to Revelation 21:23 in "star unknowing of night and day," Christ the light in the New Jerusalem.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Christmas peace, all. I was getting into a fervent discussion on optional celibacy for diocesan clergy on another blog. At a suggestion I was being arrogant (my wife will confirm this quality) and impolite, I thought I would offer a few brief thoughts here: - I think celibacy is more of a challenge today for diocesan priests who try to live a monastic discipline (what was learned in seminary) in a decidedly non-monastic setting (what amounts to a secular-laced hermitage). - Many, if not most priest proponents of optional celibacy are not self-seeking in their favorable opinions, hoping for moral nookie in the rectory. I think it would be very difficult to make a case for an ordained person to marry. Instead, I think the priests publicizing petitions are looking out for the good of the Church. - Optional celibacy would expand the pool of priest-candidates to people who have been married for 10-40 years, who have adult children (or mostly grown), and who are at least forty years old. - Local bishops or national conferences should be able to make the determination of optional celibacy for their priest-candidates, not Rome. Rome should have a say in guidelines for ordination, but the call on mandatory celibacy should be at a lower level. All most of us want is an open discussion on the matter. Nobody is suggesting mandatory marriage for existing clergy. Nobody is suggesting an immediate unilateral relaxation of this discipline. For the good of the Church, the matter should be carefully discerned now. And not by Roman fiat.
Music of the Day Not really music so much as Richard Wilbur's text, " A Stable Lamp Is Lighted," one of my all-time faves. I set it to music a few weeks ago, but I have a faint suspicion it is too much like Joncas' early 80's setting, which I have liked. I've seen choral settings of this text, but nothing that grabs me. Because the text is still under copyright, I will not type it here. You can find it in a few GIA hymnals. The original is in Wilbur's collection Advice to a Prophet, Harcourt & Brace, publishers, I believe. Check the book out from your local library. Tell them my 12th grade English teacher and I sent you. (I did a paper on Wilbur for Advanced Placement English.) Anyway, my ensemble and pick-up schola each did very simple arrangements of my setting. If and when I figure out audioblog, I may play it. You'll probably have to wait till next Christmas, though.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Christmas peace to all. I wonder as I wander out under the sky, how Jesus the savior did come for to die, for poor ord'n'ry people, like you and like I. I wonder as I wander out under the sky. When Mary birthed Jesus, 'twas in a cow's stall, with wise men and farmers and shepherds and all; and high from God's heaven a star's light did fall: the promise of ages it did then recall. If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing, a star in the sky or a bird on the wing, Or all of God's angels in heav'n for to sing, he surely could have it, 'cause he was the king. I notice many recorded versions of this, most of which I've never heard. Of the ones I have, I favor Anne Hills' rendition on the collaboration "On This Day Earth Shall Ring," a 1985 release on Hogeye Records. I find I really dislike the more bluesy or jazz versions I've heard. Voice and guitar with a mandolin sounds just about right. People who know me know my tastes in music run unabashedly American: jazz, spirituals (white and black), bluegrass, rock, and the various fusions of the above. And even in classical music, I prefer Hovhaness, Griffes, Gershwin, Ellington, Barber, Ives, Beach, Copland, Rouse, Adams, Glass, MacDowell, Hanson, Cage, and the others above pretty much everything from Europe. So I'm going to narrow myself to Christmas songs from my own country. Which isn't to say the French or the Brits don't kick liturgical butt from time to time, but you have to start somewhere. And home is a good place to do it. Leading off a Twelve Songs of Christmas, "I Wonder as I Wander" is pretty much unparalleled whether Anne Hills sings it or my wife. Either way, pass the guitar and a glass of Christmas cheer. Blessings to you and yours this first day of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Peace, and Happy Christmas to all. "I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old familiar carols play, And wild and sweet The words repeat Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And thought how, as the day had come, The belfries of all Christendom Had rolled along The unbroken song Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Till, ringing, singing on its way, The world revolved from night to day, A voice, a chime A chant sublime Of peace on earth, good-will to men! Then from each black accursed mouth The cannon thundered in the South, And with the sound The carols drowned Of peace on earth, good-will to men! It was as if an earthquake rent The hearth-stones of a continent, And made forlorn The households born Of peace on earth, good-will to men! And in despair I bowed my head; "There is no peace on earth," I said; "For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!" Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: "God is not dead; nor doth he sleep! The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men!" The genesis of Longfellow's poem is easy to trace on the net. A simple search turned up many links on my browser. I had not known that Calkin tinkered a bit with a few words and the stanzas when he set this text to music in 1872, so I placed the 1864 original above, which gives more depth to the poet's expression of melancholy in the sixth stanza. This is not my favorite Christmas poem, but one of my top twenty. The sentiment of "despair" is very powerful. I cannot imagine living in a nation with hundreds of thousands of war dead. But I see the mockery of peace remains with us today, though safely and sanitarily beyond our borders for the most part. I also see such mockery in the petty small sins around me. And I have my part in these, of course. I find myself grateful for my three choirs who will sing today. We all had fine rehearsals earlier this week to prepare for this day's Masses, and I find myself hopeful and expectant of their part in good celebration and liturgy. May God continue to be with us. And of course, my Christmas prayer is that your singing this Christmas, be it in your church, in your home, or in your heart, will join with the depth of faith expressed these holidays and help banish the Wrong which seems all too prevalent in our times.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Peace, all. No music of the day selection today. The alligators are a snappin' and I'm trying to stay above the fray. Five funerals in five days here. Midnight Mass choir practice gets bumped. Evening Prayer gets deep-sixed. Church decoration goes head-to-head with children's choir practice. Usually, it's enough for me to ask God to keep my parishioners alive through the holidays, but the renovating neighboring parish sent us three of their funerals. I know I have pull in high places, but my influence is nearly nil outside my own parish. I wish those other liturgists would learn the method. The good side of all the schedule switching is that I have Sunday night home with my family. Maybe we'll decorate the tree. Ten years ago I would have been horrified at the thought of early celebration, but I don't even mind the Christmas music now. I tell you truthfully: I'm getting a terrible itch to see a hockey game. Not one of those beer commercial-laced Gary Thorne-fests on ESPN2, but a real live hockey game with all the trimmings. Last year, at least I had an eighty minute drive to Topeka to see the Scarecrows, but they moved to St Louis or something in the off-season. Those New Yorkers: they have three teams in their metro area. And here I sit in the largest American SMSA without a pro hockey team on any level at all. Not really very fair, if you ask me. May we please have the Devils back? They were once ours, you know.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Peace, all. Nothing on music yet, but I wanted to post a link to a discussion on church architecture/decoration from Amy Welborn's web site. In pondering the utter failure of plainsong to take hold in my parish this Advent, I was wondering if the discussion above on decorative church interiors works for music as well. Do people respond more enthusiastically when church music is more ... full? Is plainsong a monastic taste that has little hope of latching on in a mainstream parish? What do you think?

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Peace, all. Liturgically, the home stretch, as it were. I can't help but begin to look back over Advent with an eye of assessment. My pastor perceives our new hymn, "Creator of the Stars," as "unreceived," and points out our "older" Masses pretty much have refused to sing it. The only positives I've heard about it have come from the folk group and the cantors. The latter group chose to teach and program it over "The King Shall Come," "O Come Divine Messiah," and contemporary options. Interestingly, last year's "new" Advent hymn, Gather's Canticle of Zachary set to the tune of FOREST GREEN was sung enthusiastically at most Masses last weekend when it was programmed. I scratch my head on this one. My supportive pastor even preached on the new hymn at his three Masses the first Advent Sunday. My good parish is largely conservative, and there is a small but strong thread of neotraditionalism much like the prevalent attitude around St Blog's, but it would seem plainsong -- this particular chant -- was rejected. The pastor has been hinting we need one more Mass setting to complement our current ones and fill out the seasonal rotation. Lurking around St Blog's had been tilting me to consider a plainsong setting. I was doubtful the parish choirs would accept a Mass setting without the bells and whistles, and though I'm not quite willing to give up my eclectic and inclusive ideal on musical genres, I'm seriously doubtful I can pull off a chant ordinary based on my charm and good looks alone. Meanwhile, I have one of my favorite opportunities coming up at a Sunday night practice. About a dozen singers who mostly have never sung together before and only half sing regularly in music ministry -- this group must pull off Midnight Mass. There's nothing like pulling together new ingredients for an untested recipe. Once I get through this particular liturgy, it's clear sailing on Christmas Day, for thankfully, my splendid and talented wife consented to cantor the noon Mass on the 25th, when I expect to be putting my fried brain to rest.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Music of the Day Peace, all. I had wanted to include an old postconciliar chestnut in this series, but keep forgetting to put it in. No parish I've ever been in has done this song. I think it's buried and forgotten in the dim recesses of the early 70's, but I have always had a fondness for John Foley's "Rise Up Jerusalem." It was one of those "live" performances on the endless Neither Silver Nor Gold collection. Honestly, "Live at Liturgy" works for me for the St Louis Jesuits and Taize. The latter especially can be great in the liturgical setting, but I find the studio recordings of Berthier's liturgical music a bit tedious. Back to "Rise Up." In college, my last director wanted to do the other one by Schoenbachler. My post-college home parish did just about every other song in the Jesuits' oeuvre, but not this one. I can't remember the last parish I was in that had Glory and Praise. It might have been 15 years ago. And the song is not without problems, mind you. Looking over the sheet music for it today, I find the language of "thy" and "thee" a bit pretentious or affected. Foley has probably done a better job of harmonization in the past 33 years. But it's one of those songs that has just stuck with me. Clearly, some liturgical songs are the product not only of a composer's imagination, but also of a community praying. A liturgical composer needs the latter, and I have some sense that this song has it.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Music of the Day Maybe it would be the social justice song Lauryn Hill sang in Rome. Just kidding. I was going to post yesterday of my admiration for Paul Tate's "You Will Draw Water Joyfully," but though it is a setting of the assigned "canticle" for the third Sunday of Advent, cycle C, alas, it has no refrain appropriate for Advent. I think you could cram in yesterday's antiphon into the existing music, if you really wanted to. Anyway, Paul Tate is a good composer and has quite a few nice pieces out there. Check him out, if LifeTeen music is to your liking. By the way, at the parish Sunday night Mass, I chose Bob Hurd's "To You O Lord." Seeing as how we're on the verge of "O Antiphon" country, I should probably mention "Veni Emmanuel," which I have sung in Latin and in English at Mass. I tend to not want to use it in early Advent, but people ask for it. I also prefer to use it during Communion when I can get all seven verses sung, but the clergy like it as a processional. It's a great song, for it adapts well to any number of instruments and voice combinations. I have a jazz arrangement of it I did several years ago. Just plain plainsong is cool, too. I should also mention "My Soul In Stillness Waits" while I'm in the neighborhood. This is an easy piece to butcher -- and too many church musicians do this. I think there's a clear and present danger in taking this song too fast so as to obliterate the text and mood. My only criticism of it: I wish Marty Haugen had taken the time (or been given the time) to compose a verse parallel to each of the O Antiphons instead of just four. The two-verse adaptation of Psalm 95 is pretty nice, though.
Peace, all. Just had to comment on Lauryn Hill's taking the Vatican to task a few days ago. Reuters gives this brief tale at http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=638&e=3&u=/nm/20031214/en_nm/pope_protest_dc if you want to look it up. Online today, I've read people calling Ms. Hill narcissistic, boorish, self-righteous, rude, delusional, and immature. I've been surprised by a few sympathizers, and I'd like to cast my hat into the latter ring. I can't say I was in attendance that fateful night, but from what I've read attributed to the singer, I see nothing drastically out of kilter. I have no doubt that her remarks were felt as quite hurtful by a few prelates in the audience. But certainly, this is no instance of Sinead O'Connor tearing up the pope's picture on Saturday Night Live. It sounds to me as if Ms. Hill was indulging in two of the works of mercy: admonishing the sinner and instructing the ignorant. I hold no sympathy for the crowd who is outraged that someone would presume to insult the clergy so. And in the Vatican, too. Rome seems the perfect place for someone to criticize the hierarchy's handling of clergy sex abuse. My advice to the bishops: take your medicine and keep the nose to the grindstone on this issue. Ms. O'Connor's career pretty much went into the tank after her demonstration. Somehow, I suspect Ms. Hill will be seen much more sympathetically by Catholics and non-Catholics alike for what she said and where she said it. But I wonder what song she sang. Does anybody know?

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Music for a few days Peace, all. Sorry about the absence here, friends. Busy past few days. More snow overnight and new toboggan runs to set up in the backyard for my daughter. Caution: do not try to snow surf on a kid's toboggan. I guarantee it will not work, especially if you are over forty. How about some contemporary Advent music, and you give me a few more days to research some psalms? David Haas' "Advent Intercessions" from Light and Peace have always impressed me. The recording is great, and I sang them once long ago at Evening Prayer. Kathy Powell's "You Will Set Us Free" also impressed me, though I have never sung it in liturgy. More often than one might think, the "second tier" of liturgical composers comes up with something that stands way out, from even the cash cows of the pack. Early LifeTeen music from Tim and Julie Smith: "Come O Lord." But I can't really say for sure it was they who wrote it. It was their group playing it. I have a bootleg recording of a liturgy from St Tim's in Arizona, and I remember it being a very cool, almost rap-like number. It might be Tom Booth's piece, though. Speaking of Tom Booth, "Find Us Ready" is just outstanding. Did it during Sunday night Mass in Advent years ago and it was a hit with the musicians and the people sang the refrain pretty well. My friend Barb really played the spit out of it on piano. I thought, "Hey. That sounds fun; I wish I were playing the piano." But alas, I was on electric bass for those Masses. So ... I think that catches me up. Tomorrow, the best setting ever of Isaiah 12. Be sure to get out and play in the snow this weekend.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Give in to the hate, Luke Peace, all. A few blogs have been tooting the horn of hatred as an appropriate response to the trials and tribulations of the modern Catholic. Beset with the terrors of political correctness, same-sex marriages, the Gore-Dean ticket, abortion on demand, too much press coverage of Catholic sex predators, and those idiots who cut us off in the parking lot after Mass, some commentators are urging we start hating. Unable to find any virtuous Catholic in history, our friends are turning to Aragorn of the Lord of the Rings for wisdom. When facing impossible odds in the battle against Saruman's manufactured Uruk-Hai, the Heir of the Kings urges his fellows to give no quarter in the fight, for they will certainly receive none from the Lord of Orthanc. I find it convenient that frustrated Christians need to turn to fiction for their spiritual guidance. I'm fascinated that a struggle against non-humans is equated with the challenges of living a virtuous, conservative life today. Have a problem with gay unions, abortions, or wussy priests who mislead the faithful? Just demonize them, hate them, and be assured you're following the Tolkien doctrine. He was a Catholic after all. If the Bible is too deep and you have to indulge in fiction, I think of Darth Vader urging Luke to give in to his hate and become powerful. Certainly a Christian who gives in to hate will find a great power at work in her or his life. But I tend to doubt that it will be the power of God at your right hand. A few reasons why love still rules. First, you don't have to go farther than St Paul and St John to find that love is the most honored of the virtues. Second, love, even if unrequited, builds up grace in the person as they cooperate with God's will and set aside their own. If Christ and Paul and John and Francis and Dorothy and all the great figures of love are not enough to convince you, consider this: Hate is infinitely easier to master. It will take our whole lives and much more for us to begin to plumb the depths of love. The thing about hate is that it doesn't take much for a person to begin to resemble Evil: even a novice hater can look very devilish. Love is a lot more hard work. But somewhere we have to find the faith and persistence to see it through to the end. My suggestion is if you're feeling like giving in to the hate, go out and bang a drum or shovel someone's driveway or something. Get a Life. Now, off to bake some cookies with my daughter.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Music of the Day Peace, all. Thinking about Psalm 25 all day today. My wife would insist I mention Bob Hurd's setting. So I did. I could mention a little more of my admiration for Bob Hurd. He had two recordings in 1973 and 74 with FEL: good guitar sounds and nice songs. I thought his recording Roll down the Ages, though too heavy on Mass parts was a real gem. I notice he often collaborates with other musicians, something you don't see much of anymore. And his forays into gospel music and other styles are quite successful, I think. So I don't mind listing one of my dear wife's favorites today. She's upstairs now working on her homework. Because of the weather, she might not get to class tomorrow. Personally, I'm hoping for a nice blanket of snow overnight, sensible delays for the schools, and time for a nice warm breakfast (maybe some kicked-up pancakes and omelets) with my family tomorrow. "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ..."

Monday, December 08, 2003

Music of the Day Peace, all. Lots of music to consider on today's feast. In finding something Marian and suitable to Advent, I could have chosen "I Sing a Maid" which might be one of the finest Marian hymns written in the last century. My friend Fr Jeff (see the New Gasparian in the side bar) might fall over if I suggested "Alma redemptoris," which I love but since I've never landed monastically in Advent, I've never actually sung in a liturgy. Or if I did, it was with the Trappists when I was a young, naive college student. I could appeal to another of the Hours and suggest a Magnificat. But you know? I've never actually encountered a setting of Luke 1:46-55 that I've thought stood with my other favorites. The "responsorial" Magnificats I reject on principle, though some (Chepponis or Gelineau) I've used and can tolerate. So I think I'm going to ponder this dilemma today: what is the best Marian Advent liturgical song. I'm hoping to take a break from my parish tonight and go somewhere for Mass where I can pray and not worry about liturgy. My wife returned from early Mass and her cantoring duties to tell me three stories about the liturgy I really didn't want to hear. I probably get away from my home/work parish far too infrequently for my own nourishment. I missed choral vespers at the Cathedral yesterday because of server training. Somehow, the Tallis Scholars also got in and out of town under my nose last week. Oh well. See you in church.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Music of the Day Turning to contemporary Advent music, I have loved the hymn "Each Winter As The Year Grows Older." William (words) and Annabeth (music) Gay have penned something which stands with anything written for this season in the past century. Here's a hymn which has a plot like a story, and moves from troubled thoughts to a hopeful heart. I wish I knew more of the story behind these composers and this hymn. for now, singing it is enough.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Music of the Day Peace, all. "On Jordan's Bank" isn't really one of my favorite hymns, though I use it every year. I really like Michael Connolly's arrangement of it. The 7/8 time signature appeals to my Dave Brubeck sensibility, halving the fourth syllable of every measure. The measures that get to four syllables, that is. If I had time to figure out audioblog, I would sing a stanza for you, but unless you want to order the piece from GIA (probably too late for that now) just take my word for it. One more hymn tomorrow, then I want to take some time with my favorite settings of Advent psalms: 25, 80, 85, and maybe 126 and the Isaiah 12 canticle which appears next Sunday.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Whew! I don't have to ditch my dulcimers. Peace, all. I noted the CNS story on the pope's new document on sacred music. Two quotes: "'To the degree that they help the prayer of the church,' other instruments and musical styles 'can be a precious enrichment.'" Roll out the drums and dulcimers. The pope also criticized "elitist" attempts to "introduce into the liturgy ancient or contemporary compositions which, while perhaps having artistic value, indulge in a language that is incomprehensible." I love Latin plainsong more than most Catholics, but even I have to feel a bit of relief at this comment. Imposing an exclusive high-church culture cannot possible hope to succeed for the mainstream parish music ministry.
Music of the Day Peace, all. The tune is matchless. Bach's harmonization is near divine. The setting of Matthew 25:1-13 is neat -- you can never go wrong with that chapter! I get goosebumps just going over the hymn in my head; I don't even have to sing out loud. Ta da! WACHET AUF rules! Can you tell this is in my top three or four? I will concede the tune is long. 898898664448 is about the strangest metrical pattern you'll find in sacred song. If your parish doesn't know it, it might take a whole season of Advent for it to sink in. I don't know many assemblies that have the patience for it. It's in the fringe repertoire at my parish, but I haven't programmed it this Advent. I think I'm worried that another few attempts will bring requests for retirement. Anyway, I'll sit in my den today with goosebumps for another few minutes. This might be one of the few central European tunes mentioned in my music list this season. Enjoy it, if and while you can.
Bishops: trend against homegrown St Louis and Phoenix get new bishops, Burke and Olmsted respectively. And while I suppose these are considered good career moves for the guys in question, this whole deal of episcopal maneuvering bothers me. First, having lived in small cities most of my life (and never in a cardinal's see) why wouldn't I object to a good leader in my diocese getting bumped up? St Louis and Phoenix already have NHL teams -- what do they want with a great small-city bishop? Let 'em find their own. Don't cities like New York or Chicago have any good priests? When was the last time you heard a priest from a cardinal see appointed to be a bishop in Fairbanks or Helena or Metuchen? Second, these moves, and the fact that the Congregation of Bishops still do them as standard policy, shows that Rome just doesn't get it. Sex abuse cover-ups took place in part because bishops owe little or no loyalty to the clergy and laity of a diocese. They didn't grow up there. They didn't go to school there. They don't have seminary classmates among the presbyterate. They didn't cultivate working relationships with people in the dioceses and parishes there. If diocese-hopping is part of the prelate culture, that will only reinforce the natural desire to avoid messiness, to cover up, to make it look good for the boss. Third, this practice is just not in alignment with Catholic tradition. Cardinal Law mentioned after his crimes became public and when he was urged to resign that a bishop is traditionally considered "married" to his diocese. This relationship is meant to possess a special intimacy that can't be severed just because of public opinion. I would actually tend to agree with him on this one. As I would also have to call him an adulterous wife-swapper -- so what was Springfield-Cape Girardeau, a trial marrriage? In a situation in which a diocese is beset by scandal, or division, or requires an outstanding talent to lead the people out of a morass (perhaps Boston), I can understand going to someone from outside the flock. Maybe I could see as many as twenty percent of bishops appointed from outside their diocese. But the persistence of the curia in appointing bishops as they do reveals a desire to enforce loyalty to hierarchy, over and above fidelity to the faith and to Tradition. So as I wish Catholics of Phoenix and St Louis and Wichita and LaCrosse good luck with their new bishops, I have to send a sputtering raspberry across the Atlantic to our shameful bureaucrats in the curia. Wake up guys: episcopal careerism is not healthy for the Church.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Music of the Day Peace, all. "O Come Divine Messiah," included in many hymnals and disposables (maybe because the text and tune are public domain and a publisher can copyright an arrangement) but I don't hear it that often. First, it's a great guitar song: as long as you don't play it too heavy, it can really rock. Second, it's another tune that translates well on just about any instrument or combination of them. Third, it's part of what I call the French Trinity (People Look East and Angels We Have Heard being the other points). This would be a prime example of a good song to teach children for liturgy. The lyrics are thoughtful enough in which to explore the notion of Advent. I can probably think of 20 other Advent songs I like better, but this piece should be a staple of school and RE liturgies, and it works just fine for the Sunday assembly, too.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Peace, all. An observation, hopefully without too much finger-wagging. As I blog and surf others' blogs, I note that posts about the Iraq War (vehement opposition here) clergy sexual abuse and accessory bishops (go VOTF), gay unions, and other hot topics draw far, far more commentary than laudable spiritual efforts such as Fr Jeff Keyes' Advent retreats and such, which often spout electrons without a single comment. I hope to post something on Advent music each day. I don't have any delusions that these posts will up my blog traffic to great heights. Many of you will disagree with my favorite music. Maybe a few of you will be clueless as I delve off the beaten path of sacred song. That's okay. But I doubt that vigorous debates on war, church governance, etc., fun though they may be, will draw us into the expectant, joyful spirit of Advent as much as listening to good music (or better yet, singing it), reading a favorite spiritual author, or celebrating liturgy. By all means, we should continue to debate furiously our passions. But be sure to take time for the interior work. Okay. Lecture over. Back to infighting.
Music of the Day Peace, all. Hymns appropriate to Advent from the Sacred Harp tradition are numerous. If I had more time to explore this music, I might find others, but Jeremiah Ingalls' tune NORTHFIELD set to the text of Isaac Watts was one of the first early American fugue pieces I heard (back in my previous life as a public radio music host). Watts' text is sublime: How long, dear Saviour, O how long Shall this bright hour delay, Fly swifter round the wheel of time, And bring the welcome day. Lo, what a glorious sight appears To our believing eyes; The earth and seas are pass'd away, And the old rolling skies. His own soft hand shall wipe the tears From every weeping eye; And pains and groans, and griefs and fears, And death itself shall die. NORTHFIELD first appeared in the Christian Harmony (1805) and you can download the music from various internet sources, including the Choral Public Domain Library (http://www.cpdl.org). Any favorite early American Advent music you would like to mention?

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Music of the Day Peace, all. We're gonna drift a bit today. Here's a tune I've always loved but have never taught: GAUDEAMUS PARITER. I sang it at a reading session about twenty years ago. It probably didn't have Christopher Idle's setting of Isaiah 35 (see 90's GIA hymnals), but the funky Renaissance rhythm really struck me. I once heard a jazz piece called Sackbut City. I thought at first it might have referred to some piece of drug paraphernalia, but the sackbut was a precursor to the trombone. Anyhow, I can imagine this hymn tune being performed on sackbuts and krummhorns and lots of dancing going on. Probably to the horror of curial medievalists. Anyway, there's something to be said for filling out one's Advent repertoire with a jaunty tune like this. And Isaiah 35 is such a good fit for a rousing melody.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Music of the Day Peace, all. "The King Shall Come When Morning Dawns," text by John Brownlie, might have been my favorite Advent song about 10-15 years ago. Haven't done it at Mass in about 5 years, and won't be using it this year either. One of many tunes that works with organ, guitar, a cappella, or with just about any instrument or singing group you can muster. One of those tunes that for some reason, publishers don't bother with guitar/organ compatibility, so I arranged a concertato of it with 4-part voices, descant, flute and oboe in my Illinois parish (*sigh* when I had a great oboe player) back in '88. F minor is a horrible key, even for a chromatic hammered dulcimer, so it got hiked up a half-step. Two items: that fourth verse line "And let the endless bliss begin" just sends me. That's where the players drop out in the concertato version and sing 4-part a cappella. Also, I note Alan Hovhaness uses this melody in the final movement of his Exile Symphony. Between "bliss," Hovhaness, and some good dulcimer, how can you go wrong?

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