Altar boys prepared forthe cold in processionRecently at Franciscan University of Steubenville, a group of students organized a Eucharistic procession for the Feast of Christ the King (OF) this past Sunday. Despite the cold, there was a good turn out …
Archive for the ‘Music’ Category
Thursday within the Octave of Black Friday is traditionally a day to stand (or sit, even) in solidarity with victims of hate crimes (and “strongly dislike crimes”) who belong to groups not recognized by any particular color of ribbon or car magnet. Thi…
In terms of the use of the vernacular languages, it’s pretty clear that the main part of the liturgy that the Fathers aimed to target were the readings. Latin is a holy tongue, and you never want it to go away, but while proclaiming the text in a language that the people don’t understand has a lot of spiritual merit, pastorally speaking, it’s a difficult proposition. In a strange sense, I think the liturgical reforms of Vatican II came too late because there was so much resentment and it was so long overdue that something be done. That being said, I don’t think that the result of the liturgical reform of 1969-70 was entirely consistent with what he council was calling for. There was no reason to reshuffle the church calendar; that was devastating and it continues to be devastating. We have a third of the year that is blocked off as Ordinary Time and it’s just not a very compelling model. There are all kinds of words that were part of the Catholic Life: rogation days, quadrigesima, the ranking of the classes of the feasts. I think it disturbed and destabilized the Catholic life in a terrible way because it messed with people’s rituals at a fundamental level. At the same time, something had to give, and I think they kind of made a mess of it, but it’s probably easier to see now than it was at the time.
The name Frank La Rocca should not be new to those who are following the recent renewal in Catholic sacred music. If you have not heard any of his music, here is a taste, compliments of Rudy de Vos and the Oakland Cathedral Schola Cantorum:
La Rocca’s journey is not too dissimilar to that of a few of his contemporaries. The story goes like this:
A composer who was trained as an academic modernist reaches a point of crisis and withdraws to silence and soul-searching, reflecting deeply upon that which is true, beautiful and good, and then re-emerges having undergone a transformation of faith, aesthetics and compositional language that is deeply rooted in the timeless beauty and ancient origins of Western music.
This journey of Frank La Rocca’s was recently recounted by the Washington Times where he is placed within the context of some of the great living composers of our day: Arvo Pärt, and James MacMillan. We also should add to this list other modern composers of sacred choral music such as Morten Lauridsen, Eric Whitacre, and Ola Gjeilo.
La Rocca undoubtedly deserves to be situated among these, but in an even more distinctive way: The majority of the work of those just listed is sung in concert performance settings, with some exceptions. Frank La Rocca’s aim is to not only write for concert and performance choirs, but most especially for choirs that sing in service of the sacred liturgy.
He has proven this intention with two new SATB, a capella pieces that set the proper Communion Antiphons in English for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and for the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass.
His choral propers Behold, a Virgin Shall Conceive (Ecco virgo) and In the Splendor of the Holy Ones (In splendoribus) can now be downloaded freely as part of an introductory offer at illuminarepublications.com.
Dr. La Rocca set these two particular texts as a starting point in what he hopes can be a larger scale compositional project, setting the proper antiphons of the Mass in English in his distinctive choral style. These two introductory settings are relatively simple in style, in an SATB arrangement, and are well within the capacity of established parish choirs.
There is still time to get these in the hands of your choirs for use this Advent and Christmas season. Although they would most properly be sung in the proper placements, both of these pieces can also be sung as choral motets throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons.
Clifford Boyd was an Australian Anglican choir director, organist, and composer of sacred music who died in 2002. Several years ago, I used one of his simpler pieces as an anthem with a small choir quite successfully. Yesterday I heard by e…
On this 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, it is well to consider that 50 years is a brief span of ecclesiastical time.
Particularly in the case of this particular document, misunderstandings still abound. They began immediately after the Council.
In 1966, Pope Paul VI wrote one of the saddest apostolic letters ever written, to the superiors of the clerical orders bound to sing the Office in common, to address a major misunderstanding. Apparently, letters requesting all sorts of indults were flooding the mails, and many of these from those whose observance of the Liturgy should be the vanguard. Not everyone can sing in Latin–but clerics can. Not everyone can learn Gregorian chant–but those who sing daily in choir can.
On pages 121-122 of his book A Pilgrim in a Pilgrim Church, former Archbishop Weakland explains how the Council of Abbots of the Benedictine Order–who should have been on vanguard–decided to completely disregard this apostolic letter.
In our day there is some evidence that a new richly observed Liturgy is being practiced more and more in religious houses. But the sad misunderstanding is still all too commonly observed instead. Who are our liturgical leaders, if not the monks?
…What is in question here is not only the retention within the choral office of the Latin language, though it is of course right that this should be eagerly guarded and should certainly not be lightly esteemed. For this language is, within the Latin Church, an abundant well-spring of Christian civilisation and a very rich treasure-trove of devotion. But it is also the seemliness, the beauty and the native strength of these prayers and canticles which is at stake: the choral office itself, ‘the lovely voice of the Church in song’ (Cf. St Augustine’s Confessions, Bk 9, 6). Your founders and teachers, the holy ones who are as it were so many lights within your religious families, have transmitted this to you. The traditions of the elders, your glory throughout long ages, must not be belittled. Indeed, your manner of celebrating the choral office has been one of the chief reasons why these families of yours have lasted so long, and happily increased. It is thus most surprising that under the influence of a sudden agitation, some now think that it should be given up.
In present conditions, what words or melodies could replace the forms of Catholic devotion which you have used until now? You should reflect and carefully consider whether things would not be worse, should this fine inheritance be discarded. It is to be feared that the choral office would turn into a mere bland recitation, suffering from poverty and begetting weariness, as you yourselves would perhaps be the first to experience. One can also wonder whether men would come in such numbers to your churches in quest of the sacred prayer, if its ancient and native tongue, joined to a chant full of grave beauty, resounded no more within your walls. We therefore ask all those to whom it pertains, to ponder what they wish to give up, and not to let that spring run dry from which, until the present, they have themselves drunk deep.
Of course, the Latin language presents some difficulties, and perhaps not inconsiderable ones, for the new recruits to your holy ranks. But such difficulties, as you know, should not be reckoned insuperable. This is especially true for you, who can more easily give yourselves to study, being more set apart from the business and bother of the world. Moreover, those prayers, with their antiquity, their excellence, their noble majesty, will continue to draw to you young men and women, called to the inheritance of our Lord. On the other hand, that choir from which is removed this language of wondrous spiritual power, transcending the boundaries of the nations, and from which is removed this melody proceeding from the inmost sanctuary of the soul, where faith dwells and charity burns – We speak of Gregorian chant – such a choir will be like to a snuffed candle, which gives light no more, no more attracts the eyes and minds of men…
Much more here.
As we continue our Chant Cafe observance of the Octave of Black Friday, some of our history-minded readers may be interested to know that Black Friday is actually based on an older holiday tradition. Much like the ascent of Christmas over the older pag…
Of all the many ways people have of deceiving themselves about their duties as Christians, the most pernicious is the use of Scripture. It seemed in danger of happening to the Lord Himself. Satan told Him to go ahead, throw Himself down from the parape…
Continuing with the Cafe’s observance of the Octave of Black Friday, I thought some of you might appreciate a bit of Sacred Music consumerism. (If you are tired of all the consumerism, you can go here to spend money on a good cause instead.) According …