Ora et labora

 O nce there were two novices working in the field, and they heard the bells ring for the Angelus. While one of them began to pray immediately, the other quickly lit a cigarette first. "Hey!" cried the first novice indignantly. "I asked the prior if I could smoke while I prayed and he said no!" "That's where you went wrong," replied the second, puffing away. "I asked prior if I could pray while I smoked, and he said yes." Jokes aside, sometimes it's hard to remember to pray the Masses we work for, especially if we are tucked away in a loft or a corner. Responsibilities will tug the corners of our mind, changes might need to be made and communicated, or just plain performance nerves get in the way. I have sat in the choir loft of many a restless choir director, as well as tried to manage my own ADHD while balancing presence for the job at hand with presence for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The struggle is real, whether you are a choir m

5 Quick Tips (5QT) to Make You a Better Accompanist Today

 When I first started writing this blog, I had a plan of sorts, which included periodic "5 Quick Tips" to improve your performance at every different job in liturgical music. This is not an earth-shaking list, it's literally just bite-sized habits you can incorporate to make things a little easier on yourself. Try working on one new little habit per month. Let's begin with the Organist: 1. Hit the "Cancel" button after every hymn. No mistake feels more conspicuous than stepping on a pedal by mistake when there are stops open. Those keys are sensitive, man. Make it a habit to turn everything off between pieces. (My five-year-old likes to sit on the bench next to me, and pressing the cancel button is his job.) 2. Choose your tempo before  beginning the intro. Changes in tempo make the congregation uncertain. An uncertain congregation is a silent congregation. Count yourself in, start playing at the tempo you intend to use throughout, and stick with it. Don&#

Let's talk typesetting

At some point in your music career, you may find yourself wishing: a) you had the arrangement from this  book set with the words from  that  book, or  b) you could find the sheet music for that thing you remember, or  c) for a legible replacement for an ancient photocopy whose original is lost to time, or d) maybe, maybe , to have gorgeous legible sheet music of something you wrote. Perhaps you check what the current top-of-the-line cadillac music engraving software is going for, and the price makes you goggle. Perhaps you download a free trial of Finale Notepad and that's made you swear off sheet music making forever. Perhaps you think about trying out MuseScore, like all the cool kids are doing, but then you hear about their somewhat shady subscription tricksies  or sketchy copyright practices and you'd rather just steer clear. (I should mention that all of the above are my experiences.) The software engine I use to create my scores is called LilyPond , and it is a free, open

The Christmas Vigil Mass

Christmas is one of those feasts where I have had a very hard time settling on the exact right music. Everyone wants to hear Classic Christmas Carols, and Christmas is a time when people crave the familiar and the comfortable. They aren't looking to hear the themes of the readings match up with the themes of the music, they just want to get their kids to Mass and hear the story of the baby in the manger and sing some songs and follow all of their cherished family traditions. But we're Liturgists! We can give them so much more, and we don't even have to jolt them out of their Holiday Zones. How can this be accomplished? The massive Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord comes in four parts: the Vigil, the Mass at Midnight, the Mass at Dawn, and the Mass During the Day. They all have their own special focus and character, and the readings and antiphons are different for each one. At Midnight, we get the narrative of the birth of Jesus from the census decree through to the ange

On Funerals

This is a sort of meta-post about the purpose of funerals and their structure. Tune in next time for more concrete suggestions and printable music you can use! Nothing brings out my Expert's Ire like watching the portrayal of Catholic funerals on TV - kind of like the way my husband spends all of every submarine movie muttering "it never looks like that" or "that would never happen." No one wants to talk about death anymore, and so the Catholic Church's teaching on Last Things is often left to one side until one must face it personally, leaving vast numbers of people without any knowledge of how the funeral liturgy works, or even what it is for. Add into that the grossly misrepresented "Christian Funeral" on almost every form of modern media, and you have a situation rife with highly uncomfortable encounters for the organist or cantor. There are few trickier situations to navigate than a funeral liturgy. On the one hand, the raw feelings of the ber

Hymn of the Week: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (LOBE DEN HERREN)

 Hymn Title : Praise to the Lord, the Almighty Tune Name : LOBE DEN HERREN Meter : An absolute staple hymn, Praise to the Lord has been published in 376 different hymnals, according to - and it deserves this widespread fame. With a metrical pattern that only a German Chorale Master could dream up, you won't find any other text set to this tune, nor this tune with any other set of words. So why am I bothering to make it available to you, when I could be featuring other, more obscure hymns? Well, because I want to draw your attention to it - sometimes a gold standard gets cast aside as "too common," and falls out of use. Also your hymnal might have watered the words down, and we can't have that. LOBE DEN HERREN is a strong, singable tune, with a solid, rational arrangement. The long opening lines should be sung in one breath if possible, which should give you a sense of the kind of brisk tempo this piece demands, unless you are in a large, espec

Hymn of the Week: The Church's One Foundation (AURELIA)

 Hymn Title: The Church's One Foundation Tune Name: AURELIA Meter: 76 76 D Andrew Seeley writes in Golden Treasures  (the companion volume to Classic Hymns For Catholic Schools ): "Many of the traditional doctrines of the Catholic Church are shared by our separated brethren. This hymn [The Church's One Foundation], one of the richest in English celebrating the Church, was written by an Anglican clergyman in South Africa and is sung to a tune composed by the grandson of Charles Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. But the reverence for the Church, the Scripturally-rich imagery, the connection with history and eternity make this an eminently Catholic hymn."* There seems to be a dearth of modern Catholic "hymns" about the Church that are actually Christ-centered. I suppose that the dreaded "Spirit of Vatican II" (which has very little to do with the teachings  of Vatican II) told us that we should turn our attention to ourselves and celebrate t