Monthly Archives: March 2014

First Solemn High Mass in over 50 Years!!!

Last week, we had our Lenten Parish Mission with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf as our guest speaker. The Mission ended with a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form. It was the first Solemn High Mass celebrated in over 50 years! It was life changing! Here are some pictures from the Mass.

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For the Propers we did Psalm Tones generated by GABC, except for the Communion Antiphon, which was taken from the Liber Usualis and Psalm verses were added from Communio put out by CMAA. It was a great success! Thanks to all who participated!

Going to the Next Level

It’s been just over three months since I put together a small group of chanters to make up the Schola Cantorum for our 5:00 Traditional Latin Mass. Our little motley crew has been faithful in attendance and enthusiasm. Due to the difficulty of immersing volunteers headfirst into neumes and propers in a “dead” language, we have employed psalm tones to make the sung Propers of the Mass more accessible. This is especially useful when rehearsals are limited to approximately one hour once a week.

We’ve gotten into a groove with our Psalm tones. After I intone the first portion of a Proper, the Schola enters with confidence. It’s almost as if the terminations have become second nature! This is an exciting time!

During Lent, it is most preferable if the organ is silent from Ash Wednesday to Easter Vigil, though it can be used to aid the singing if the Schola is not proficient in singing the chant alone. We are a fledgling Schola, so we’re still getting the hang of it. (This is why we’re using the organ during Lent). The organ’s silence poses several other interesting “difficulties”:

1. There is far more silence in the Mass
This is actually not a difficulty at all. Silence is golden, and should give the faithful a beautiful time to prepare themselves for the Communion they are about to recieve.

2. The difficulty for the Schola is that the Offertory and Communion Antiphon are short, and setting them to Psalm tones typically makes them even shorter. I’m not saying that we have to fill as much time with music as possible, but it is nice to be able to cover the liturgical action carried out by the sacred ministers.

3. What can we do that keeps with the Season of Lent, but still allows us to cover the liturgical action? We are five people in total counting our organist. We don’t have the voices to sing four part motets (yet).

While perusing the MusicaSacra website, I found the answer. In the Latin basic chant resources available, I stumbled upon a wonderful little book entitled “Communio” that contains Psalm verses connected to each communion antiphon used in the TLM. This is a great way to sing during the distribution of Holy Communion and help elevate the prayers of the faithful! There’s only one catch: it uses the actual communion chant found in the Liber Usualis. This means that we have to “step up” a little and learn one authentic chant per Mass.

This is a great opportunity for a beginning schola. We’ve gotten comfortable with seeing a variety of neumes in the Psalm tones, and the next logical step is to “up the difficulty” without completely overwhelming the schola, which is made of volunteers.

We will attempt this approach during Mass for the first time tonight, as Father John Zuhlsdorf, author of the Catholic blog Reading Francis through Benedict (formerly known as What Does The Prayer Really Say), closes our Lenten Mission with a Solemn High Mass (the first one celebrated in our parish in over 50 years). Hopefully, the chant will be a beautiful addition to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass! I’m also hoping next year to sing the chant unaccompanied for the season of Lent. 😉 We’ll see where we are when that time comes!DCS_2798

Psalm Tones: They’ll Save Your Life!

Imagine this scenario: you’re a freshly hired Director of Sacred Liturgy. You’ve been handed the task of coordinating Lectors, Altar Boys, EMHC’S, and establish new choirs for the parish (in addition to its already existing 3 choirs). One choir provides music for Holy Days of Obligation and special feasts, and the other is a Schola for the Traditional Latin Mass.

Also imagine that with regards to a Schola, you’ve gone to one Chant Intensive hosted by the wonderful folks of CMAA, and the rest of your chant knowledge was gleaned from internet sources from the wonderful people at MusicaSacra.com, CorpusChristiWatershed, and the ChantCafe.com. (Links here, here and here) Are there enough tools at your disposal here to successfully get the Schola off the ground? Even if you teach your people solfege, will they be able to navigate the melismatic medieval chants compiled by Saint Gregory the Great? Will you be able to learn the Propers of the Mass fast enough for each Sunday along with a Mass Ordinary and proper responses?

Gregorio Sample

The answer is “yes”. It has been my experience over the pastfive months that teaching volunteers the proper chants from the Liber Usualis is probably too much for people with little experience with chant. The good news is there is a way to be faithful to the text of the Propers, and present them in a way that is singable! The answer to the problem is using Psalm tones!

If constructing Psalm tones is not in your tool set yet, it’s fine. There is a wonderful internet resource out there that can help! GABC is a gregorian chant software that is free online. If you’re a Google Chrome user, you can download the app for free in their app store. If you prefer a different web browser, you can go to http://gabc.romanliturgy.org/.

This is a game changer. Any Mass that is needed for Sundays and major feasts is here. It will transcribe the propers in their original melodies, and if they are too difficult for your group to sing, you can click the option for Psalm toned propers. This option can be done for all of the propers in a feast, or for specific ones. Now if a certain chant is too difficult for your schola to tackle at the time, you can make it a Psalm tone that is accessible and singable!

I’ve employed this method with my Schola since its conception in Advent. It is an incredibly successful way to get people started singing the Propers of the Traditional Latin Mass. If you’re thinking about starting a Schola at your parish, I highly recommend checking this out!