Sunday, May 31, 2009

Musicians: A Changing Church with New English Translations

Hello everyone and I hope you are having a blessed Pentecost. Mine is not going as I had planned. I woke up this morning here in Miami, left the hotel with plenty of time to catch my flight to Washington, then on to Chicago. Unfortunately, I-95 is closed on Sundays for repairs. I took the detour, promptly got lost and thought I was south of the airport, so got back on I-95 north. Unfortunately for me I was in the express lanes, which took me another ten miles past the airport. I finally arrived (after trying to follow the whacky signs to Avis), only to miss my flight. This is a first in my life. C'est la vie! So here I sit at Miami International for five hours. Tried to find the interdenominational chapel, hoping to go to Mass for Pentecost, only to find it in a very remote location, empty, with no lights on. So I said a prayer and joined my heart to the hearts of all of you who have the privilege of celebrating this great feast with your communities. Veni Creator Spiritus!

At any rate, I had a wonderful experience here in Miami. The music conference at Barry University was focused on music ministry in a changing world and Church. I gathered with several musicians and one priest on Friday afternoon for three hours. We sang through some rough draft settings of the new Mass parts, including the dialogues. People generally felt that new musical settings of the Mass parts were preferable to some of the reworked versions of present musical settings, with some exceptions. We did sing portions of the ICEL chants and all unanimously agreed that these chant settings should be learned in every parish so that we could have a common repertoire across the United States and in English-speaking countries throughout the world. I found the session to be personally engaging and informative.

On Saturday, I presented the keynote to the attendees, giving a history of the "why" behind the new translation. I also focused some attention on change management as well as a good dose of baptismal spirituality. This was a prelude to an afternoon panel session. Among the panelists were Monsignor Terry Hogan, rector of the cathedral in Miami and head of the Worship Commission, Sr. Mary Francis Fleischaker, OP, D.Min. of Barry University, Fr. Juan Sosa of the Archdiocese of Miami, and yours truly. Monsignor Hogan shared the plans for catechesis for the Archdiocese in the coming 18 months, which will begin with catechesis for the priests, then liturgical ministers and those involved in forming young people in schools and religious education, then the lay faithful. Monsignor was honest and upbeat. We all expressed the hope that the feelings and attitudes surfaced during this time of catechesis would help all in the Church understand and appreciate the Mass more deeply. There were good questions from the musicians in attendance. We walked through some of the changes (texts available on the USCCB's web site). People were generally uneasy at first, but the more we talked, the more the uneasiness seemed to abate. I think that this is what will probably occur during the period of catechesis implemented by dioceses throughout the world in preparation for the changes.

I left this conference with a few impressions. I know that the changes will elicit some strong negative reactions from many priests, musicians, and the people in the pews. It will take careful and honest formation by leaders to address these issues. Musicians will be in a key position to assist in both the catechesis and in the implementation. Parishes will need to begin financial planning now for the purchase of the new Roman Missal and for the resources and music that will be needed for music ministers and for the assembly. I want you to know that, as a publisher, we are committed to providing the best, most affordable music resources for parishes. This has always been at the center of WLP's mission. We will serve this transition in the best way we know how.

Well, that's about it for now. I am refreshed and invigorated after this terrific music conference here in Miami. Again, I hope that your Pentecost celebrations fill you with the renewed power of the Holy Spirit. Gotta Sing! Gotta Pray!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Parish Musicians and Change

Hello everybody. It's still overcast here in the Midwest, but they are saying that we might see a peek of sunshine this afternoon. Let's hope.

Tomorrow I will be flying to Miami to give a number of presentations to the area parish musicians. Barry University is the site for the event, which is entitled "Christ Yesterday, Today and Forever: Music Ministry in a Changing World and Church." I will, of course, spend some time talking with musicians about the upcoming release of the new English translation of the Missale Romanum. I have been doing this for a number of years with musicians. At the beginning of the session, I plan to talk about change management itself and how people deal with change in general. My hope is that these musicians will gain insight into how people adapt to change. When the new translation is implemented, musicians will be asked to learn and then teach new English settings of the Gloria, Sanctus, and Memorial Acclamations at the very least. They will also be asked to work with their priests, deacons, and communities in implementing sung forms of the dialogues during Mass. I think that this will be a challenging—and enriching—time for the parish musician. I am not working in full-time music ministry in a parish, so I will be experiencing the transition from the pew each Sunday. 

I will try to post tomorrow during my travels. I'd like to talk about the power and potential of mystagogical catechesis. I think that this catechetical method will assist greatly in the implementation of the new English translation of the missal.  If you have some time and like to read papal documents, check out what Pope Benedict has to say about mystagogical catechesis in his Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, which you can find here. You'll want to focus on paragraph 64.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A "Bone Transplant"

Hello Everyone. I apologize for the lack of posts in the past few days. After the holiday weekend, I spent yesterday at the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit in St. Charles, Illinois. This is a gathering of publishers, authors, composers, and religious booksellers from around the world. Two of our artists, John Angotti and Aaron Thompson, performed at a concert last night. Here's a piece performed by Aaron. It's called Blessed One.

Monday, May 25—Memorial Day this year—marked the 51st anniversary of my baptism. At Mass on Sunday I recalled once again how grateful I am for this greatest gift. You might want to pause for a moment right now and lift a prayer of thanksgiving yourself for this gift.

There have been several comments posted related to the upcoming release of the new translation of the Missale Romanum. I know there are many of you out there who read this blog for a number of reasons. Many are looking for some ways to connect the sacramental life to daily living. Others are curious about what a publisher might have to say regarding matters liturgical and musical. Others are simply curious. Others have told me how stunned and surprised they are that there seems to be so much contentious debate about liturgical and musical issues in the Church. I have suggested that the issues raised with respect to the new translation will ultimately be ecclesiological ones. I believe many of the comments posted reflect this sentiment. For those of us so directly involved in Church life, whether as composers, clergy, religious, publishers, music directors, liturgists, catechists, etc., there is something fundamental that we share in common: we celebrate together at Mass. I hope that for each of us, Sunday Mass is the "source and summit" of our lives. When something occurs that strikes at the heart of what is our "source and summit," it's natural for us to expect lots of debate. 

One liturgical scholar—in her early forties—recently shared a metaphor with a group of us at a national meeting. She told us that the current translation of the Missale Romanum has been her only experience of the liturgy. She said that these texts she has prayed all her life are "in her bones." Then she said that she felt that the upcoming new translation will be like a "bone transplant" for her. This image elicited a visceral reaction from me, but the more I thought about it, the more I started to concur. When I read the new translations of the Eucharistic Prayers, for instance, my bones began to ache. Consider the new translation from Eucharistic Prayer III. 

Here's the current translation of one section:

Look with favor on your Church's offering,
and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself.
Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood,
may be filled with his Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.
I don't know about you, but this is a prayer that is "in my bones."

This is the new translation of the same section:

Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church
and, recognizing the sacrificial Victim by whose death
you willed to reconcile us to yourself,
grant that we, who are nourished
by the Body and Blood of your Son
and filled with his Holy Spirit,
may become one body, one spirit in Christ.

It's going to take some time—for this set of ears and this praying heart at least—to appropriate these words. I wonder if each and every time I hear them in the future I will be distracted rather than being drawn into the prayer. I hope for the latter, but I am not sure. 

We are going to need lots of good help to move through this transition. I hope that we here at WLP will provide some of that help. In this time of change, we gotta sing and we gotta pray.

Friday, May 22, 2009

ICEL's Music for the English Language Roman Missal - A Gem

Many of you probably already know this, but ICEL (The International Commission on English in the Liturgy) has posted an introduction entitled Music for the English Language Roman Missal. You can find it here. I have not yet had the time to read through this introduction in its entirety, but at first glance it looks like a very valuable resource for clergy and musicians as we approach the time of implementation of the new translation of the Missale Romanum. The dialogues, set to chant in English, appear in this introduction. A story here. At Sunday Mass in my parish a few months back, after the entrance song had been completed, the pastor (who had never done this before with us) looked up at us, began to make the sign of the cross, and he chanted it. Without hesitation, we chanted our "Amen" right back at him. In a large gothic structure, with no absorbent material anywhere in sight (save our clothing), the chant was glorious, as it is when we chant the preface dialogue each week and the Lord's Prayer in English during Lent. There is a transparent and simple beauty to this unaccompanied chant. My hope is that musicians and clergy everywhere will read the introduction on ICEL's web site and begin talking and experimenting (not at Sunday Mass yet, of course) with these new texts set to these tones. What is very helpful about ICEL's introduction is that it walks us through the committee's decision-making process on many of these chants, letting us in on the reasons why one or another chant setting was discarded. And to actually be able to see and sing the approved and discarded settings is so helpful. All will obviously not agree on every decision, but this is a great piece of history and catechesis all at the same time. Bravo to ICEL.

As we move into the celebration of Memorial Day, I'd like to wish every one of you a peaceful and relaxing weekend. I, for one, am greatly looking forward to three days off. Let's remember those who gave their life serving in the armed forces of the United States, as well as those who died in service to their own countries throughout the world. Perhaps we can take the opportunity this weekend to pick up the Gospel mandate and—as we pray for those who have died—also pray for our enemies.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More On the New Translation of the Missale Romanum

Good day all. My recent posts on microphones and choirs, as well as the issue of the new translation of the Roman Missal generated some great comments from you. Thanks for those. jdonliturgy said the following regarding the new translation:

"Most non-liturgist Catholics I have spoken to about the changes not only think they are another pointless burden from Rome, but are mildly nervous about having to make the changes at all. While it certainly is a laudable idea to create all this new music, even in a singing parish this may well create an added burden for parish musicians. They will be perceived as the "bad guys" introducing the new texts as what appears to be a musical change."

This is a sentiment I have heard over and over again from musicians. I have come to understand at least two ways that people react to change. If they perceive change happening organically, from within, they are much more willing to embrace it. Think, for instance, of a company that decides to change the way they do business. They name the problem, bring many people around the table to discuss ways to better serve their customers. They then map out a plan of action, set timelines and goals, as well as options for the future. Employees are brought on board throughout the process. When the change is implemented, some resistance is there, but it is very low. Think, also, of another company that takes a different approach. Employees arrive at work one day to be told that a major change will be implemented the following week. The decision was made by the senior management team, with no consultation. Even if the change is the very best idea in the world, most employees will react negatively. 

I have asked musicians how they perceive the impending changes in the translation. Do they see what is about to happen reflecting the first company example or the second? The vast majority say "the second." The sentiments are reflected in this statement: "What is Rome doing to us?" I think the real issue here is an ecclesiological one. Catholics here in the United States often times do not have a sense that we are connected with over a billion brother and sister Catholics around the world. Rome is far away and perceived as dictatorial. In a democratic society, we balk at the suggestion that someone is going to make a decision that directly affects us, without our having had a "vote." The way the Church works appears to fly in the face of this kind of thinking. Whether we want to admit that we like it or not, decisions made in Rome do affect us, as well as the rest of the Catholic world, most often without our "vote." But I do believe that the challenge is for Catholics here in the United States to remember that what does occur in Rome is actually occurring from within—from within the same Church of which we are a part. I am not advocating blind submission here, because I do believe that Catholics should speak up to their pastoral leaders when they have strong feelings about an issue. As a Catholic publisher, we certainly hear from Catholics with strong feelings on liturgical issues, and we try patiently to direct them to the appropriate pastoral leaders to listen to their points of view. 

My hopes for the new translation have more to do with the opportunities the change affords us rather than the challenges. There will be challenges, though. When the changes begin, I think that many Catholics will be outraged. Do they have the right to be? If the change is one that creates alienation, a decline in faith, or a decrease in Mass attendance over time, then I think people have the right to be outraged. If the new translation is not easily proclaimed, or if it is not intelligible to clergy and those of us in the pews, we will have a very difficult time. My hope is that the period of catechesis leading up to and during the change will help all to appropriate the new texts and help weave them into the fabric of our liturgical prayer. Without catechesis during this time, we will be dealing with a critically difficult problem. Herein lies the opportunity: good catechesis.

The initial period will require lots of listening on behalf of pastoral leaders, especially clergy and musicians. And I know in my Catholic heart that we will get through this initial stage. I am praying that people will not be alienated from the community they love. As a Catholic publisher, we will do everything we can to provide the very best musical settings for the new texts. Folks, this is going to happen. When we emerge from the initial phase of the change, we, hopefully, will be stronger in faith, because we all know that as Catholics, we gotta sing and we gotta pray.

Listen to this snippet from Steve Warner's All Will Be Well. This is my prayer for all of us. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Choirs, Fermatas, and Spiritual Warm Ups

Hello everyone. It is currently 78 degrees fahrenheit here in Franklin Park, Illinois. It is sunny and breezy, the kind of day that makes you want to sing to the Lord a song of praise and thanksgiving. Here is one of my favorites from the treasury of WLP songs. This is Praise God in His Holy Dwelling: Psalm 150, music by Jan Vermulst, text adapted by Omer Westendorf. You can find the octavo here.

Yesterday I raised the issue of choirs and microphones. I assume some of you "got" my intentional use of the word "mix" in the blog's title—Choirs and Microphones: A Good Mix? 

Today I'd like to raise another issue that has to do with choirs. When I left full-time parish ministry in 1999, I began working here at WLP. Since I was no longer working in a parish, I began to "shop around" for a good parish. I settled for awhile in one here in Chicago. At the Mass I usually attended, the parish's contemporary music ensemble ministered at the liturgy. They were a fine group of singers and instrumentalists. They had a beautiful blend and were obviously well trained pastoral musicians. I'll never forget what happened on the First Sunday of Advent. The song "My Soul In Stillness Waits" was the song sung during the Preparation of the Altar and Gifts. If you know the piece, you know that there is a fermata in the refrain. For those of you who are not musical out there, a fermata is a sign placed over a note that indicates the fact that you can hold on to that note longer than its ascribed value. So, for this particular piece, the fermata was placed over the note corresponding to the word "waits." It is a clever and appropriate use since those singing the piece hold onto the word "waits," in a way mirroring the kind of longing and waiting we do as we look forward to the coming of the Lord. Unfortunately, the music director decided to vary the length of time the choir sang that note each time the refrain came around. Totally oblivious to the assembly, the director, facing the choir, indicated in her directing style that they were to hold onto the word "wait" for as long or as short a time as she preferred. This approach threw the assembly into chaos, especially since the particular word ended with an "s." We sounded like a family of snakes who couldn't get their act together. I noticed many people, including me, who simply put the hymnals back into the racks. I have been in other parishes where this same kind of thing occurred. So, what's my point here? I guess I would urge choir directors to remember that there is a church full of people, most of whom want to sing, ready to raise their voices in sung prayer. The director really needs to pay closer attention to the assembly. After all, when the choir is singing something that the assembly sings, the choir is there primarily to support the assembly's song.

Now that I have that off my chest, I feel much better. Overall, I enjoy the ministry that choir directors perform in parishes. The thing I miss most about full-time parish ministry is that sense of satisfaction I received when the choir sang a piece that we had worked hard and long on. And when they sang it with all the shaping and coloring that we had worked so hard to perfect, it simply lifted my mind and heart to God. 

At my parish, we have a wonderful music director who has done wonders with our dedicated choir members. The shape of their sound is improving weekly. When they sing a piece themselves (usually in the Gospel tradition), my heart just sings. I appreciate the work that our director, and directors everywhere, do to create this kind of sound.

Speaking of choirs, did you know that WLP has a wonderful resource for praying with choirs at rehearsals? Blessed Are the Music Makers: Warm Ups for the Musician's Spirit is a great resource to help shape the spiritual lives of singers as you help shape their choral sound. You can find it on our web site here. Alan Hommerding is the author. Alan, who is senior liturgical publications editor here at WLP, is a bundle of talent. To close, I'd like to share a snippet of Alan's choral arrangement of  Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning. When I hear Alan's arrangements, his original music, and sing his wonderfully crafted texts, it urges me to say once again, "Gotta sing, gotta pray."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Choirs and Microphones - A Good Mix?

Hello everyone. I hope your Tuesday is going well. Mine began with a 6:30 spin class at the gym. I thought I could catch a train in time to meet my carpool companions on time, but nothing seemed to work out and I made everyone late for work. So not the best start to the day, but it is a beautiful day here in Chicago—sunny and warm.

I'd like to raise the issue of the use of microphones for parish choirs. Some history here. When I was the music and liturgy director at a parish in Florida many years ago, we had a choir of just under fifty. The acoustics of the church building were certainly not ideal (carpeting under the choir member's chairs, carpeting beneath the pews), but I never even entertained the idea of placing microphones in front of the choir. Their sound filled the church. When they sang acclamations and hymns, their harmonies supported the singing of the assembly. When they sang pieces by themselves, I felt quite confident that the nuances of their choral sound were being communicated well to those who were listening. Several years after leaving the parish, I returned for a visit. I found an entire new system of hanging microphones all over the choir area and a professional person was in attendance at Mass to be the "sound guy." The choir (which was even larger in numbers) had a very different sound. It seemed kind of artificial to me. This scenario was repeated in another parish where I subsequently served as music director.

This past Sunday while at Mass in New England, it was the parish choir's final Sunday of the year to sing at Sunday Mass. They were taking the summer off. Again, this was a substantial group of singers, yet there were microphones placed on the different levels of the choir area. There is little natural reverberation in this church. Sound gets absorbed quickly. Unfortunately, microphone placement was not ideal. There were voices heard above others because those people were standing closest to the microphones. What could have been a blended choral sound was really destroyed by the use of microphones. They sang a magnificent piece after communion. Unfortunately all I heard were a few voices "sticking out" over the sound of everyone else.

My advice? If you can, remove the microphones for choirs, unless they are absolutely needed. Try working with an acoustic sound rather than an amplified one, especially for groups whose choral sound is adequate for the space. I welcome any and all comments. I know that we "gotta sing," but do we really need that song to be amplified all the time?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Hail Mary and the General Intercessions

Hello everyone. Hard to believe that Easter is winding down (if that's even possible). I am back in Chicago after a weekend with family in New England. I went to Sunday Mass in a parish while there and something odd happened after the final intercession of the General Intercessions. Instead of concluding the prayers with a prayer, the celebrant began the "Hail Mary," which the entire congregation picked up on immediately. After the "Hail Mary," we all sat down and the preparation of the altar and gifts began. Just wondering if anyone out there has ever witnessed this custom, knows that it occurs regularly somewhere else, or knows the reasoning behind it? Curious. Any comments are welcome. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

Consider the Convention

I hope everyone is having a blessed day today. I am traveling to Boston tonight (weather-permitting) to spend the weekend with my family and to celebrate May birthdays. Once again, thanks for adding your comments to this blog. Some of you out there might feel hesitant about sharing a comment. Just feel free to comment at any time. I think the discussions here are good ones.

Before I leave, I want to give a plug to the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. Their annual convention will be held here in Chicago (actually in Rosemont—just up the road from WLP's home office). The convention runs from July 6 to 10. Being a major music publisher in the United States, WLP will be sponsoring many events, workshops, and concerts during the convention. A special highlight will be the event at Chicago's Symphony Center, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The William Ferris Chorale, under the direction of Paul French will perform, as well as Fr. John Moulder and his jazz ensemble. This should be a terrific event. WLP's own Meredith Augustin will be singing in the lobby area before the concert begins. I've had a peek at the program for the evening and all the musicians gathered will be joining their voices together for a choral piece. It should be an exciting evening. The hotels around the Rosemont Convention Center are fairly inexpensive (for these kinds of things), so please consider attending the convention.

I hope you have a great weekend and that your celebration of Sunday Mass brings you closer to the Lord Jesus, the eternal song of the Father.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Today: Matthias and Gerald Henri

As this glorious Easter Season continues to unfold, I hope that you still have the energy to lift your voice in a chorus of "Alleluias." Today is the feast of St. Matthias, apostle. He was the apostle chosen to replace Judas Iscariot. I was born on his feast day in 1958. This morning the staff here at WLP surprised me with a birthday breakfast. No one sings "Happy Birthday" like our staff does. It sure helps that so many of them are terrific musicians! This is a wonderful place to work and a wonderful staff to work with and to have the privilege of leading. Our staff is dedicated to bringing the Church the very best in resources for praying and singing. Today is a day I am especially proud of them as I celebrate God's goodness in my own life.

As this period of mystagogy unfolds in our lives, I'd like to ask you to reflect once again on your own baptism. A little story is in order on this special day.

Some of you may know that I studied for the priesthood after leaving high school. I spent eight years at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. As I neared the end of theological studies, it became apparent that, at the time, the ordained priesthood simply wasn't for me. It was a sad and difficult time in my own life, but one for which I am most grateful today. After finishing the Master of Divinity degree, I moved to Altamonte Springs, Florida, and began my ministry at St. Mary Magdalen Church as Director of Liturgy and Music (pictured above). My spiritual formation in the seminary had prepared me well to live a priestly spirituality, but here I was, living in a one-bedroom apartment, right down the road from the Holiday Inn, with its "Why Not? Lounge." Life was very different than what I had prepared for. I felt that my spiritual footing was shaky at best. I then remembered that, even though I was not ordained, I still was a member of the laity—of the priesthood of the laity, and that my baptism was at the foundation of this priesthood.

So, I decided to go on a pilgrimage to the place where I was baptized: St. Anthony's Church in New Bedford, Massachusetts. I arrived there one day and the religious sister in the rectory helped me gain access to this huge building. My Dad had told me that I had been baptized in the sacristy of St. Anthony's. When I entered this massive church, I made my way to the sanctuary and then into the sacristy, where I found the baptism font—an old wooden font with the kind of top that swings to the side. I approached the font (which obviously had not been used for baptisms in many years) in the hopes that the top would swing open on its hinge pin. And sure enough it did. I just stood there, staring down at the two small porcelain bowls, which were rusty and crusted around the edges. I said to myself, "My little head was right here!" Suddenly I was overwhelmed by what had actually occurred here. It dawned on me that right there, on a day back in 1958, my life changed forever. I simply would never be the same again. This moment was one of those for which I am very grateful. God gives us these moments as times of sheer clarity.

I took a photo of the font and returned to the rectory to thank the religious sister and to let her know I was leaving. She said, "Father wants to see you." I then was introduced to the pastor, who said, "Sister tells me you were baptized here. When were you born?" I told him, and then he beckoned me to follow him into the parlor. Behind a huge mahogany desk was a set of doors, which he opened to reveal stacks and stacks of leather-bound books: the parish records. He lifted one out and asked me for the date of my birth. He turned large page after large page, and then said, "Here you go." He turned the book around so that I could read the entires and, sure enough, there before me was the date May 25, 1958. Next to the date was my name: Gerald Henri Galipeau. Next to my name were the names of my parents: Henri Galipeau and Yvette (Dessert) Galipeau. Next to their names were the names of my godparents: Albert Galipeau (my grandfather - my "Pepere") and Pauline Grady (my dear Aunt Pauline) - God rest them both. I just stood there, staring at the names inscribed with a fountain pen in perfect penmanship. Without my asking, the pastor then opened a drawer of the big desk, pulled out a piece of paper, began writing on it, then placed the paper in the machine that imprints the parish seal, and then handed me my baptism certificate. Just like that! As I took the certificate in my hands, I was reminded of the many ordination invitations from my seminary classmates that I had received in these same hands in the last year. That's when it really dawned on me that this certificate represented so much. It was a sign that I had been baptized in Christ and that I was called to lead a Christ-like life for others for the rest of my life.

Since that very day, I have been most grateful that there were people in my life that loved me so much that they gave me the greatest gift that anyone on this earth can give another: the gift of baptism.

Friends, I'll spend these next eleven days awaiting the 51st anniversary of my own baptism. All I ask is that you take some time to say a prayer of thanksgiving to those who loved you so much that they gave you an opportunity to receive an outpouring of God's grace in your baptism. I found out that May 25, 1958 was a special Sunday in the liturgical year. It was the Feast of Pentecost. I hope that the Holy Spirit fills your lives with a renewed sense that your baptism has made all the difference in the world. And for this, we gotta sing and we gotta pray!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Translation of Texts for the Mass - Thoughts?

I apologize for not posting yesterday. I was working with a parish team at St. Stephen's Church in Anoka, Minnesota. This is one huge parish—4400 hundred families, a school, and a staff of 65. The parish leaders invited me there to lead a day and a half workshop on the implications of the RCIA for parish life and ministry. It was an energizing time for all of us. I applaud this parish leadership team for all wanting to "be on the same page" with regard to the kind of parish envisioned in the RCIA. I hope that our days together opened up all kinds of new possibilities and ideas for them as they plan for the future.

Once again I'd like to thank those of you who have been visiting this blog. I've heard that some friends have been posting the link in their parish bulletins. A special thanks to those who offer your comments in a civil manner. The issues that this blog has raised are ones that elicit strong emotions. I appreciate the kind tone reflected in your comments.

As most of you know, within the next two to three years (hopefully), Catholic parishes in the English-speaking world will be asked to embrace a new translation of the Missale Romanum. In other words, many of the texts we pray at Mass will be changing. The National Association of Pastoral Musicians has been offering workshops at their conventions for the last few years on how we will deal with the changes. I've been privileged to have been asked to lead two of those sessions. Musicians in attendance were generally wary of the changes. They voiced strong opinions, saying things such as: "Why is Rome doing this to us?" and "Are you saying that what we have been praying for years are inferior or bad texts?" These responses, I believe, are understandable first responses. As humans, reaction to change is, at first, usually filled with negative reactions. I challenged them to try to move beyond these first responses. Whether we like to admit it or not, when the changes do occur, it is the clergy and parish musicians that will bear the brunt of the assembly's first reactions. I guess I would like to throw a question out there to the musicians, and faithful pew Catholics who read this blog. How will we negotiate this change of translation? 

Some have suggested that we gradually introduce new texts and new, or revised, musical settings of these texts. Others have suggested that we simply change everything at once. Others have suggested that we not pay any attention to the new translations and simply sing all the changed texts set to Latin chant. Others have said that, particularly with the dialogues at Mass (i.e. The Lord be with you. R/. And with you spirit., The Lord be with you. R/. And with your spirit. Lift up your hearts. R/. We lift them up to the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. R/. It is right and just.) that we immediately, upon implementation, chant these texts, so that we appropriate them right away as essential musical elements of the Mass. The thinking here is that people will have less of a negative reaction to changing their response, for instance, to "And with your spirit" if they were asked to sing it right at the start, rather than reciting it (and probably fumbling over the words). 

Thoughts out there? You can find the new translation of the Order of Mass on the web site of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Click here for the link.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Context and Music for the Liturgy

Good day to all. Thanks to all of you who have made comments recently. I think this blog has become a place for some civil dialogue. I have been carrying your comments with me through these days of Easter joy. 

I'd like to share an experience I had yesterday at my own parish, St. James, located on the near South Side of Chicago. If you visit our web site, you will see a grand building, with a grand pipe organ in the loft. Unfortunately, the organ (a magnificent and historic Roosevelt) is not playable at this time. Even if it were, we would not be able to hear it because the city of Chicago closed our church building a few months ago because of questions surrounding its structural integrity. We are currently worshipping in our parish social hall, a rather small, high-ceilinged building with wonderful acoustics. The chairs have been arranged to accommodate as many people as possible, with the piano, other musical instruments, and choir taking up a good portion of one of the sections. Wherever one sits, one has a good view of the altar and ambo, as well as the parishioners seated on the other side of the hall. The singing of the assembly is superb at St. James. Before moving into the hall, I felt that sometimes our voices seemed to get lost in the huge gothic church. I have had no other parish experience (including the parishes that I served as director of music) where the congregational singing was as strong as it is at St. James right now. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we are a people currently "in exile," missing the beauty of our church building. Perhaps it is the configuration of seats. Perhaps it is the acoustics of the hall. 

I paid careful attention this weekend to the singing. Our pastor is a Benedictine monk from St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. Even though it took us a little while to learn it, we now sing the introductory dialogue to the Eucharistic prayer wonderfully and full-throatedly. Father chants a good portion of the Eucharistic Prayer (using the chant setting from the Archabbey). For many people, this sounds so "Catholic." We also sang "We Have Been Told" at the preparation of the gifts. Admittedly, there is a problem with this piece because of its movement to a high E flat during the refrain (and I know there are those of you who would object to the singing of this particular song mightily), but, for many people, this is a "Catholic" sound as well. There is a tradition at St. James of singing Mallotte's setting of the Lord's Prayer. I had heard this about the parish before I ever worshipped there and my liturgical and musical nose was all out of joint over this. Now, after having worshipped there for nearly six years, I wouldn't trade the moment of singing this with my Catholic brothers and sisters at St. James for the world. This is another "Catholic" moment for us. I know all the arguments against the singing of this setting (not the approved text, etc.), but it is a custom that has taken root in this predominantly African-American parish, and has become a part of the fabric of the parish's liturgical life. Incidentally, during Lent, we sing the Lord's Prayer set to traditional chant, and we lift the roof off the building when we chant the text, just like we do when we sing the Mallotte setting. 

I love my parish. I love being Catholic. That is one of the reasons why I worship at St. James. It is a very diverse community. When I am not there on a weekend because of the amount of traveling that I do, I miss the parish so much. When I return, people tell me that they missed me and that they pray for me when I am on the road. That's why it is a risk for me to share my own parish experience with those of you out there in the blogosphere. I don't want the good people that I love so much to be maligned in any way, which brings me to my point for today (it's taken a while to get there, admittedly). The point is this: we cannot deny the reality of context when we consider the appropriateness of music for the liturgy. In a parish that has struggled with poverty, crime, a fire in the early 70's that nearly destroyed the building, in the current crisis, what people do is hang on to the music that is so much a part of their Catholic DNA. Others may think that the music is inappropriate. But for this community, in this place, in this time, that piece of music may be what is keeping the community of faith together. What is most important?

After the chanted Easter dismissal yesterday, we sang "This Little Light of Mine." Right now I am getting ready to go to the airport. I am headed to St. Stephen's parish in the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis. I will be giving a presentation tonight on the role of the parish in Christian initiation. Tomorrow I will be leading an inservice with the parish staff on the potential the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults can have on pastoral practice in general. I need the nourishment I receive at Mass in order to do these kinds of events with the kind of energy and passion the topics demand. I am grateful for having attended Mass at St. James this past weekend. I am inspired by the words of both the dismissal (Go in the peace of Christ, Alleluia, Alleluia!) and the words of the closing song: Everywhere I go, I'm gonna let it shine; everywhere I go, I'm gonna let it shine; everywhere I go, I'm gonna let it shine; let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!

Gotta sing. Gotta pray. This piece, "I Know the Lord Laid His Hands On Me," captures the way I felt when I left St. James on Sunday. I hope your experience of Sunday Mass lifted your heart and convinced you that the Lord had laid his hands on you as well.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

A New Christian: Joyful Hearts

"You have put on Christ, in him you have been baptized, Alleluia!" These are photos of the baptism of Chloe Kolar, daughter of Peter and Marianna Kolar. Peter oversees the Hispanic music and publications area here at World Library Publications. When I received this photo from Peter yesterday (it is used here with his permission), I responded: "You two just gave Chloe the greatest gift you will ever give her. Congratulations. The Christian family is made new once again." 

As I look at this beautiful new Christian, it occurs to me that she will have many challenges in her life as she grows into a person called to be Christ for others. She is born into a society that will tell her that she should care more for her appearance than in caring for others. She is born into a world torn by war and poverty. When I look at this picture and see the faces of Peter and Marianna, however, I am blessed with the assurance that this young child will grow to be more and more like Christ because her parents do this so well and so plainly for so many people. 

Again, I want to ask you, during this glorious season, to say a prayer of thanks to God for the gift of your own baptism. Probably somewhere there are photos of your own baptism. Look for them and make that an opportunity to celebrate your Christian inheritance. On the day I was baptized, I wore a baptismal garment, a dress really, that my own grandfather wore at his baptism. This gown has been passed from generation to generation. Baptism connects us to billions of Christians who have gone before us. And each time we celebrate the Eucharist, we are united with them as we join our voices with the great chorus of angels and saints. 

Listen to the Glory to God from Peter Kolar's Misa Luna, a Mass setting growing in popularity all over the country. I am sure that when Peter looked into the eyes of Chloe, the song in his heart was one of overflowing joy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Grateful Heart

This is the day the Lord has made.
Let us be glad and rejoice in it.
O God of new life,
we acknowledge the presence
of your resurrected Son
as we gather together in his name.
Grant us the gift of Easter peace
on this day of gladness.
May our decisions center on what really matters:
leading those whom you entrust to our care
into a deeper relationship with you.
May your sacred presence fill this room
with love, respect, and care.
We ask this in his name,
Jesus Christ the Risen One,
who is Lord forever and ever. Amen

Hello and a blessed Easter Season to one and all. This prayer is from my little book, Gathered to Serve: Prayers for Parish Leaders, available here at WLP. One of our aims here at World Library Publications is to assist those who are in leadership positions in parishes in whatever ways we can. This book of prayers for parish leaders came about because of a comment made to me by my good friend and colleague, Patricia Romeo, the music director and organist at St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence, Massachusetts. She said that her parish staff was looking for solid (and short!) prayers to begin their parish staff meetings. I wrote the prayers with Pat in mind, as well as all who work so tirelessly to lead parishes throughout the United States and beyond. Pat is one of those people who helped form me as a pastoral musician. Back in the 1970's and 80's, while I was a seminarian at St. John's Seminary in Boston, there was a group of us—the Music Commission for the Archdiocese—who led liturgical music workshops on a regular basis for the musicians of the Archdiocese. We would average somewhere around 400 musicians per event. Those were the days when new musical compositions for the liturgy were being written in abundance. Those were the days when musicians began to see themselves as important ministers to others. These were times of great promise in the Church. We were singing hymns and songs that put the scriptures in our hearts, minds, and voices. It is because of people like Pat Romeo that I began to see that a life centered in liturgy and music could be one that would be fulfilling and would help lead others closer to Christ. I am so grateful for her and look forward to seeing her at the convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians here in Chicago this summer.

I'd like to ask you to bring to mind those in your early days of formation as a pastoral minister who were influential, who helped shape you into the person you have become. If they are still among the living, why not drop them a note or email thanking them for what they did for you? 

This brings me to my main point for today. It's all about living life with a grateful heart and what a difference this kind of attitude can make. I have certainly had my share of heartaches and disappointments throughout my life. I recall some dreams that were lost. I think of friends and family, so close to my heart, who have died. I think of colleagues who have lost their jobs recently. And yet, I try to make a conscious decision every day to be grateful for the gifts I have been given. And that begins, of course, with gratitude to God and my parents and godparents for having me baptized. When all else is perceived through this prism, then one cannot help but move through life with a grateful heart. I believe you can do this even on days when the joints are achy, when the spirit is listless, when the rain never seems to stop, when the incoming emails number in the hundreds, when children disappoint, when musical style wars rage, and even when God seems absent. Friends, lift up your hearts this Easter day. Pray with a grateful heart for all those who love you and have helped you become the person you are. We gotta sing and we gotta pray: Now Thank We All Our God.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jumping Back Into the Pool of Musical Styles

Good day to all. Last night I attended a parish mission presentation given by Brother Michael O'Neill McGrath, OSFS. Brother Mickey has several books published here at WLP. He projects his artwork on a large screen during the presentation, telling stories and sharing his own deep faith and spirituality. I was inspired beyond measure. Mickey brought us to tears, to laughter, and to true conversion. If you have never seen Mickey's art, think about purchasing one of his books. Here are two I recommend: At the Name of Jesus; Blessed Art Thou. His book, Jesus A to Z, is terrific for children. 

Well, I am going to step back into the musical style pool again this morning. A recent anonymous poster said this: "In other words, just because GIA (for example) offers a few chant pieces, that doesn't make up for all the music they offer that has been forbidden by the Church for liturgical use." As a publisher of music for the Roman Catholic Church, I cannot allow this kind of information, or misinformation, to float out there without issuing some kind of challenge. I am coming to the defense WLP's good friends at GIA. Can someone point me to the specific document or action taken by Church authorities wherein music offered by a publisher "has been forbidden by the Church for liturgical use"? 

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Light Weekend, A Light Day

Happy Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter. This was my first weekend without travel or workshops here at home in a long time. And it was a beautiful Spring weekend here in Chicago. Saturday I went to the Polish Constitution Day parade. It's always been said that there are more Poles in Chicago than in any other city in the world, expect Warsaw. After my experience Saturday, I believe it. What a wonderful celebration. It was astounding to watch hundreds of children march for their particular Polish language school, chanting "Nasza Polska," "Our Poland, Our Poland, Our Poland." The costumes and flags, the music and dancing, were just splendid. One of the enduring Marian hymns from Poland is Serdeczna Matko, a YouTube recording of which you can find here. WLP includes this piece, in English translation (Stainless the Maiden), in most of our worship resources.

Sunday afternoon was spent at the Chicago Botanical Garden. I would say that clearly 80 per cent of the people there (crowd in the thousands) were speaking Polish. I asked a friend of Polish descent why this would be the case. He explained that for Poles, Sundays are still a sacred family time. Families tend to spend time together, harkening me back to the idea of the "Sunday drives" I experienced with my own family. 

Today is one of those "light" days in my own life. Sure, there are lots of things to do here at the office and at home, but I'd simply like to avoid any heavy or controversial subjects today and simply wish you, the members of the Christian family, continued Easter joy. Enjoy this snippet from Noelle Goemanne's Psalm 150. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

"A Tapestry of Sung Praise"

Good day to all and continued Easter joy. I am back home here in Chicago after an informative meeting yesterday at the USCCB in Washington. Thanks again for the comments that continue to stream in. I wish that I had the time to respond to them all. 

I would like to respond to one comment on my "Choirs of Heaven" posting of April 28. An anonymous writer said this: "However, I think WLP needs to exercise a lot more discretion in what they promote as music that's acceptable for Mass. The Church has been very clear the secular styles are not allowed, but WLP music is mainly written in a secular style." I would invite readers to visit WLP's web site to see and listen to the wide range of music that we do publish. I can't give you a complete taste here, but here are a few examples. 
Charles Thatcher's Seven Communion Chants for the Advent and Christmas Seasons, the sample octavo pages of which can be found here.
Godfrey Tomanek's arrangement of Michael Praetorius' Regina Caeli Jubila, the sample octavo pages of which can be found here.
Steven Warner's setting of Psalm 104, recorded here by his choir, The Notre Dame Folk Choir; the sample octavo pages can be found here.
John Angotti's Veni Creator Spiritus, a snippet of which can be found here.
Al Valverde's Vamos a La Casa del SeƱor, found here.
Kenneth Louis's Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord, from our "In Spirit and Truth: Music from the African-American Catholic Community" can be found here.

We publish music in a variety of styles. Those who sing our music are members of the Church here in the United States and beyond. Simply put, the variety of styles of music serves their needs at prayer. And our mission is to offer music and other resources that serve the needs of the singing and praying church. We are committed to publishing music that fulfills the spirit of our new guiding document from the US Bishops, Sing to the Lord. The bishops encourage us:

"Liturgical music today must reflect the multicultural diversity and intercultural relationships of the members of the gathered liturgical assembly. The varied use of musical forms such as ostinato refrains, call and response, song translations, and bilingual or multilingual repertoire can assist in weaving the diverse languages and ethnicities of the liturgical assembly into a tapestry of sung praise. Liturgical leaders and musicians should encourage not only the use of traditional music of other languages and peoples, but also the incorporation of newly composed liturgical music appropriate to various cultural expressions in harmony with the theological meaning of the rites (Sing to the Lord 60)."

"No matter what the genre of music, liturgical beauty emanates from that mystery and is passed through the talents of composers to emerge in music of the assembled People of God (Sing to the Lord 83)."

For those wondering how we are responding to the mandates issued in Sing to the Lord, you might want to take a look at WLP's Choral Subscription Service, which affords the subscriber the opportunity to take three glances a year into what we are publishing. 

Some friends who are not in the world of liturgical music have told me how surprised they are at the passionate feelings and words of contention they are finding in the responses to my postings. This is the reality that exists today. And I think that reality is a sad one. But, in the midst of the divisions that exist, I keep reminding myself that God is God and we are not. And for that, we gotta sing and we gotta pray. Thanks for listening.