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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 : 86.86.4.7.8. An absolute staple hymn, Praise to the Lord has been published in 376 different hymnals, according to Hymnary.org - 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

The Liturgical Musician as Teacher

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 "He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 18:2-3) Children are amazing. They begin knowing nothing except that they are needy, and over a remarkably short period of time, learn to eat, walk, talk, read, navigate relationships, dress themselves, memorize and repeat an astonishing quantity of information, and so on. For the most part, this is done simply by having things around for them to learn from, by being intentional in speaking to them, and by expecting them to participate to the best of their ability in every day life, correcting gently where necessary. No adult can possibly absorb as much as any average child - our crusty old brains still rely on the patterns acquired in infancy to process and integrate information. Our Mother the Church treats us as the children we are: she places us in a prepared environment  (a beautiful church), speaks to

Hymn of the Week: The God Whom Earth and Sea and Sky (EISENACH)

 Hymn Title: The God Whom Earth and Sea and Sky Tune Name: EISENACH Meter: LM (88 88) As we are coming up on the Feast of the Assumption (a holy day of obligation... unless your diocese habitually lifts the obligation for feasts that fall on a Monday or Saturday, lest people have to attend Mass two days in a row ), it's time to reach into your Marian Hymn Box. Oh, what have we here? A hymn to our Blessed Mother that isn't Hail Holy Queen or Immaculate Mary? Sign me up! The trick to using Marian hymns in the Mass* is to make sure that at least some of the time, they are addressed to God. If the antiphon for which you are substituting a hymn is addressed to Mary, you may use a hymn addressed to Mary. Otherwise, you want one like this one, which concludes: O Lord, the Virgin-born, to thee eternal praise and glory be, whom with the Father we adore and Holy Spirit evermore. This is not out of any disrespect to Mary, of course! But if you were at a wedding, and found that all the

Resource Review: Worship 4

My overall rating: 2.5/5 Content:  2/5 Book Quality: 4/5 Ease of use: 3/5 Musicality: 2/5 Summary: has some good stuff but won't be everything your parish needs, making it a very expensive supplement. The Worship hymnal line from GIA Publications has been one of their flagship resources for a really, really long time. The fourth edition was published in 2011, so as to include the new translation of the Novus Ordo. Their site rates it as "80% traditional, 20% contemporary," so it's clear that they don't use the same metric as I do for that divide. Per their website, " Worship IV is filled with the finest organ-based hymnody GIA has to offer. " I don't doubt that this is true. the Good There's a ton of stuff in here. There are over 1200 separate pieces of music, encompassing hymns and canticles for the Liturgy of the hours, eight complete Mass settings, alternate psalm settings, traditional hymns, contemporary works, and more. The accompanimen