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Showing posts from April, 2022

What Does It Take?

Obviously, when someone is chosen to direct or perform music for the liturgy, the first consideration is musical ability. (OK, maybe sometimes availability is a prior concern, but let's hope that musical ability is important to your superior too.) But that's not the only thing that determines whether or not you do the job well.  There's another quality, beyond musical ability, that is crucial to your future as an excellent liturgical musician - I call it Game . Whether you're the organist, the choir director, the cantor, or a single soprano in a vast sea of sopranos, to some degree you have taken a step to put yourself out there.  Congratulations! It's a leap of faith, and it can be hard to make! The further out front you are, the more obvious it is when you make mistakes, as everyone inevitably will. You can insulate yourself from fear a little by being prepared, but you have to acknowledge at the outset that You Will Make Mistakes And People Will Notice .  The onl

Things Go Wrong

(Posted with my choir members' permission.) Since I'm trying to help you figure out what to do, and why it's important, I tend to focus a lot on The Ideal. Just in case you think that The Ideal is somehow attainable, and therefore you are failing desperately since you can't seem to reach it, I'm going to tell you what it's really like. Good liturgy, just like good theater, involves staying in character. Mistakes get made, but you can't say "Oh whoops, I mean this instead" or it distracts from the liturgy. This is especially true when you're working with others.* On Holy Thursday , I completely forgot to put numbers up on the board for the congregation, and when I began to announce the opening hymn, I had to stop mid-sentence and flip through the book to find the number. Then at the end, I announced that we were going to sing Pange Lingua in English, then in Latin, even though I don't like our translation. We didn't have time for any Lat

Hymn of the Week: The Strife is O'er (VICTORY)

(I buried this hymn in the Holy Week Music post, but it deserves to be in the spotlight.)   Hymn Title: The Strife is O'er Tune Name: VICTORY Meter: 888 with Alleluias Stately, triumphant, joyful, sounds great with the organ turned All The Way Up - what more could you ask for in an Easter hymn? We round out our Triduum with this piece, because it requires very little focus, and if the choir members are tired (which they are), they can let the organ support them as much as they need. Still, the rising Alleluias in the refrain always seem to reach down deep inside them and find as yet untapped stores of energy for bursting forth in song, somehow. We sing all five verses, and the congregation always stays to sing, many of them even staying for the organ postlude, despite the late hour. This arrangement pretty much speaks for itself, except that I seem to need to remind my choir from time to time to be careful not to "yip" the ends of their Alleluias. There is plenty of ti

Lighten Up!

Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Because I kind of overloaded on music postings last week, I'm just going to share a piece of choir humour today. How many sopranos does it take to change a light bulb? - Just one: she holds the light bulb and the world revolves around her. How many altos does it take to change a light bulb? - Two: one to climb up and change the bulb, and one to ask "isn't that a bit high for you, dear?" How many tenors does it take to change a light bulb? - Ten: one to change the bulb, and nine to say "Oh, I could have done that." How many basses does it take to change a light bulb? - Basses don't change light bulbs, they prefer to stumble about in the dark, bonking their shins on things. How many choir directors does it take to change a light bulb? - No one knows, because no one ever watches the choir director. How many organists does it take to change the bulbs in a chandelier? - Just one: he changes two with each hand and one with his feet.

I Went to the Chrism Mass!

I have a Ritual Mass Bucket List. Before I am called into the Heavenly Liturgy, I hope to attend as many different ritual Masses here on Earth as I can, and this week, I got to cross another off my list: the Chrism Mass. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a Chrism Mass until a few years ago, and thus I shouldn't have been surprised that a majority of the people I excitedly told about it replied "The what? What's a Chrism Mass?" So, forgive me if I now make the opposite mistake and tell you all about it. The Chrism Mass is a special Ritual Mass that is supposed to be celebrated on the morning of Holy Thursday (but for pastoral reasons may be held earlier in Holy Week), at the cathedral, by the bishop. Priests of the diocese attend*, fully vested, in order to commemorate the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Orders by renewing their priestly vows in the same way that we the faithful renew our baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil. The evening Mass, the

Holy Week is Awesome (and so is All This Music) - NOW with links to SEVENTEEN pieces of music

(This post took me days, and I realize that I am now posting it a little too late to be especially useful, but once it's on the Internet, it will be here forever - or at least until next year. Plus hey, some people may still be scrambling to figure this out! Who's going to help them if I won't?) Holy Week is the pinnacle of the music director's year. It's an incredibly taxing undertaking for a chorister or organist, let alone a choir director, and so it should be! This is the Big Game, the Final Exam, the Master Work for the liturgical musician. It would be pretty stupid if it was an easy toss. Suitable music can make the difference between a deeply moving experience and just another week before Easter with extra long gospel readings, so let's dig in. You can skip between sections if you're looking for a particular liturgy, I've included all of them!  Palm Sunday I'm going to assume that you're preparing for the Solemn Entrance form 1. (This is d

Hymn of the Week: My Song Is Love Unknown (LOVE UNKNOWN)

 Hymn Title: My Song Is Love Unknown Tune Name: LOVE UNKNOWN Meter: 66 66 88 When a hymn title and its tune name match, you know you're in for a treat. In this case, a 20th century melody is written for a 17th century text, and oh, is it beautiful. The elongated line in the middle connects the lines of poetry, avoiding the dreaded choppiness of so many "short meter" hymn tunes, and the second half of the verse brings out the hidden A-B-B-A rhyme scheme of an 8.8. meter that is secretly a 4.4. 4.4. section. (Does that make no sense at all? The numbers in a hymn tune's meter indicate how many syllables are in each line. "Short Meter" - or SM - is 6.6.8.6, a common enough meter that it has a shorthand name; "long meter" - or LM - similarly, is 8.8.8.8.) Take a look at the first verse of this hymn: My song is love unknown, My Saviour's love to me; Love to the the loveless shown  That they might lovely be O who am I, that for my sake My Lord shou