Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lent and Latin, Latin and Lent

Latin is still, on paper at least, given pride of place in the
Roman Mass. Yet except for an occasional Latin Gloria at
Christmas or Greek Kyrie in Advent, suburban Catholic Mid-America
saves Ye Olde Languages for Lent. That's if they don't totally
ignore them, of course. I had at least one pastor who made it
clear he had exactly zero use for Latin.

There's a great O Henry short story (title long-forgotten, sorry)
about an atheist newspaper writer that decides to throw a big
Christmas party for all the homeless so they're not stuck with the
usual mission propaganda. Then he watches in horror as it
degenerates into one guy after another giving his testimony about how
far he's fallen but with God's help he's going to come back, and they
start singing "those awful southern harmonies". The whole shebang
turns into an exact replica of the mission Christmas dinners he so
abhored. Really funny stuff.

We ARE still wretches. Forgiven beloved wretches, but still. The
more we go around the rest of the year pretending we're not, the
better a season like Lent begins to look. It's kind of like food
cravings - our spirit needs the same kind of balanced diet our bodies

Lent doesn't resonate with everyone, of course. But a lot of the
rest aren't coming to church anyhow. I'm sure we all have friends
who do Mardi Gras big time, don't do Ash Wednesday at all, and can't
understand why the party has to stop.

Here's a thought - and it's an outsider's observation, in that I did
NOT grow up Catholic - but I wonder if the "returning to Latin" is in
a sense a return to our childhood relationship with the church? For
those who grew up with the Latin mass - like my wife - the
Lenten "You are dust" message is not too unlike the every-week
message she used to get, back when we were wretches year-round and
had to be continually warned of the fires of hell, and had to
continually return to the confessional. Those "wretch" memories are
from the same time span as the memories of the Latin mass - and the
message stopped when the Latin did - and hence the language and the
attitude seem to somehow belong together. N'est-ce pas?

For the younger generations, that specific connection would be gone,
but parents hand a lot of baggage down to the kids, and the ongoing
practice of returning to Latin at Lent sure seems like it could be

Friday, November 30, 2007

CS Lewis Anticipates the Style Wars. Sort of.

Thanks to Dave Simmons for enlightening me...


"There are two musical situations on which I think we can be confident
that a blessing rests. One is where a priest or an organist, himself a
man of trained and delicate taste, humbly and charitably sacrifices
his own (aesthetically right) desires and gives the people humbler and
coarser fare than he would wish, in a belief (even, as it may be, the
erroneous belief) that he can thus bring them to God.

"The other is where the stupid and unmusical layman humbly and
patiently, and above all silently, listens to music which he cannot,
or cannot fully, appreciate, in the belief that it somehow glorifies
God, and that if it does not edify him this must be his own defect.
Neither such a High Brow nor such a Low Brow can be far out of the
way. To both, Church Music will have been a means of grace; not the
music they have liked, but the music they have disliked. They have
both offered, sacrificed, their taste in the fullest sense.

"But where the opposite situation arises, where the musician is filled
with the pride of skill or the virus of emulation and looks with
contempt on the unappreciative congregation, or where the unmusical,
complacently entrenched in their own ignorance and conservatism, look
with the restless and resentful hostility of an inferiority complex on
all who would try to improve their taste – there, we may be sure, all
that both offer is unblessed and the spirit that moves them is not the
Holy Ghost."

- CS Lewis

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Poor St. Cecilia

Trumped by a turkey this year. Ah well, sing something nice. Have some cranberries.


Monday, August 06, 2007

Five Masses, four parishes, one weekend

I don't think I'll try that again, but it was fun. About 250 miles on the car though. Only real hitch came when the 6pm cantor didn't show, so I had to lead the mass at a strange parish I'd only played at once before. But even that went okay, though I punted on some of the less familiar tunes / settings. I had learned them well enough to accompany, but not to lead.

Here's a songlist of sorts - it's from memory, but I think it's all there. Note - sometimes things add up to 5 because of repertoire changes at the two-mass parish:

All Creatures of Our God & King (LASST UNS ERFREUEN)
Embrace My Way and Cross (Glover)
Take This Moment (Bell)
We Come to Praise Him (?)

Creation (Haugen) x2
Mass for Grace (Haywood)
Mass in Memory of Fr. William Cunningham (moi)

Ps. 49, Rise Up O God (AURELIA, Morgan)
Ps. 95, If Today (Haugen)
Ps. 27, The Lord is My Light (Haas)
Ps. 95,If (Cooney) x2

Alleluia / Gradual Sequence Hymn:
Thy Word (Grant / Smith)
Mass of Remembrance (Haugen)
Alleluia, Give the Glory (Canedo/ Hurd)
Alleluia, Jesus Is Lord (??)

Lord, Hear Our Prayer (Alonso)
Lord, Hear Our Prayer (Hay)
-spoken- x2

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart (SLANE)
The Servant Song (Gillard)
Lord, Increase Our Faith (Haas)
Only This I Want (Schutte)
Calling My Name (Walker)

Preface Dialogue:
(Brown) x2
-spoken- x2

Mass for a Soulful People (Brown)
Mass of Creation (Haugen)
Sing Praise & Thanksgiving (Joncas)
Mass of the Angels and Saints (Janco)
St. Cyprian Mass (Louis)

Mem Acc:
Mass of Remembrance (Haugen, adapted)
Mass of Creation (Haugen)
Sing Praise & Thanksgiving (Joncas)
Mass of the Angels and Saints (Janco)
Jesus Died Upon the Cross (Brown)

Amen I (Robinson)
Mass of Creation (Haugen)
Sing Praise & Thanksgiving (Joncas)
Mass of the Angels and Saints (Janco)
Amen from Total Praise (Smallwood)

Lord's Prayer:
The Lord's Prayer (Malotte)
-spoken- x3

Sign of Peace:
All These Blessings Come From God (trad?)
-spoken- x3

Lamb of God (McLin)
Mass of Creation (Haugen)
Sing Praise & Thanksgiving (Joncas)
Mass of the Angels and Saints (Janco)
Lamb of God (Ray)

Once No People (Durran / Pulkingham)
You Are All We Have (O'Brien)
One Bread, One Body (Foley)
Gift of Finest Wheat (Westendorf / Kreutz)

Communion II:
Give the Lord Your Heart (Mahler)
Silver & Gold (Franklin)
Taste and See (Moore)
-omitted- x2

Christ is alive! Let Christians sing (TRURO)
How Great Thou Art (O STORE GUD)
For the Healing of the Nations (ST. THOMAS)
Bless The Lord (Walker)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Goodbye, Karen Marie

I didn't know Karen well, but she opened her home to me for the 2005 NPM convention. We spent some quality time together, she filled me in on Milwaukee history - I grew up there, but left in '69, still a teenager. I had the privilege of pushing her around town in her wheelchair, we shared a concert and "dinner at a nice place" together... and, outside of sending her a thank you note, I don't think we talked since. But she was still a small point of light in my journey, and I won't forget her.

Check out her blog, Anchor Hold, at .

Thanks to Mark Shea for the info, and Brian Page for the heads-up.

She was a great Christian. I'll miss her.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

More on the Motu Proprio

Given the series of concessions that have already been made to Catholic traditionalists, and the radical views and program of those to whom this pope has given his approval and endorsement in the past, it is difficult to believe that with Summorum pontificum a definitive compromise has been reached and the matter will end there. A more plausible understanding of the present moment is that it marks another step toward a goal that the vast majority of Catholics would not countenance if it were openly acknowledged-namely, the gradual dismantling of the liturgical reform in its entirety.

I mostly agree. Though I am not fond of slippery slope arguments, the trend lines here are undeniable. And the SSPX's explicit rejection of the paschal mystery's centrality to the Mass - and the implicit embracing of that view by reinstating the old mass - is especially troubling.

Friday, July 06, 2007

New Motu Proprio

Chiding both sides in the furious debate over the wider availability of the 1962 Missal for voicing “very divergent reactions ranging from joyful acceptance to harsh opposition, about a plan whose contents were in reality unknown,” according to an advance copy of the documents obtained exclusively by Whispers, Benedict yields a clear verdict as the “fruit of much reflection, numerous consultations and prayer.”

IOW, something for everyone to hate. Or gripe about, at least. After all, we ARE Catholics.

It'll be interesting. I can't think of any priest I've worked with (not counting the occasional wedding) who would like this. Well, maybe that LOC priest I used to work with. Anyhow, some of the guys couldn't say a Latin Mass if their lives depended on it.

Interesting times.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Pentecost 5C at St. Paul's Episcopal, Romeo, MI
Entrance - In Christ there is no East or West (McKEE)
Gloria / Kyrie - Gloria (Mass for Grace, Haywood)
Psalm - Ps16 (TALLIS' CANON, Morgan)
Gradual Sequence Hymn - Alleluia (Sinclair)
Offertory - I Have Decided to Follow Jesus (unk)
Sanctus - Sanctus (Mass for a Soulful People, Brown)
Mem Acc - (omitted)
Amen - Amen I (Robinson)
Lamb - Lamb of God (McLin)
Communion I - Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart (SLANE)
Communion II - (omitted)
Exit - Shine, Jesus Shine (Kendrick)

Hymns are from Hymnal 82 and Songs of Praise 4th ed. Except Shine Jesus Shine which is in a homegrown collection for which we use a CCLI license.

Entrance, Psalm, and Communion are all possibly for pipe organ - haven't decided yet. At Clem's, I always did a real gospelly send-up of McKEE on piano. And I haven't used the organ yet for a psalm or for communion here, but there's no reason I couldn't. Obviously.

If you're looking for good metrical psalm paraphrases, Morgan's Psalms for Christian Worship is a great resource, though he's a bit careless counting syllables sometimes. $17 well spent.

The rest of it: acclamations, except the Robinson (H82) and Sinclair (SOP), are from Lift Every Voice. I'm not a fan of the Haywood Gloria - superfluous refrain, clunky transitions between phrases. Rev. Stacy likes it a lot, though, so I'm stuck with it for the next couple of months. Brown's Holy is better, but it sounds too much like his other ones. The McLin Lamb is nice. And this is our first week with the Sinclair - a staple at Elizabeth's, and my swanelluia at St. Clem's - but they'll fall right into it right away, even if they don't know it already - I imagine they do, given how long they've been using Songs of Praise in this parish.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The awesome power of prayer

For those of you who are inclined to discount this kind of stuff, you'll find plenty of reasons to do so this time too. But if you believe God can and does intervene in response to prayer…

...Mom-in-law Stella, 89 now, has lived with us for the past 5 years, and has a lot of health issues, but none of them life-threatening. Until now. Docs found fluid behind her heart and an aneurysm, put her on diuretics, she didn't handle the diuretics well, and a heat wave earlier this week nearly put her away. Kim called 911, we stayed at the hospital with her most of the night, they sent her home a day or two later after stabilizing her. Seemingly water under the bridge.

But after last night's choir practice, we had our usual closing prayer, and at the end, I asked everyone to pray for Stella, gave them a little detail, and a lot of eyebrows furrowed as they went into deep-prayer mode. I had just tossed it out in passing, they took it to another level, I decided it couldn't hurt, and didn't think much more about it.

When I got home, my sister-in-law was there as well as Kim & Stella, and I found out that Stella had another episode, Kim called 911 again, this time in tears - never did the tears before, but this time Stella really looked like she was fading - and then, as the EMS truck pulled into the drive, Stella snapped out of it, and said, "you know, all of a sudden I feel okay." EMS gave her the once over and went on their way without her, leaving Kim, and Debbie when she arrived, shaking their heads wondering what just happened.

So they told me this, but it didn't occur to me to ask exactly when all this happened. I did THAT this morning when I was getting ready for work. You guessed it - near as we can tell, the miraculous recovery happened almost exactly as we were praying for her. Nobody was looking at their watches, but it was +/- 10 minutes tops.

Something similar happened a few years ago, when a musician friend of mine nearly died from alcohol-related stuff. He also had a miraculous recovery, though there were differences - the timing wasn't as tight, and there were a whole lot of folks praying for him, all over the internet, not just our little choir. But the result was off the charts - not only did he not die, but he has thrived, kicked the alcohol habit, has his symphony career back on track, and released a solo CD.

When I left St. E's the last time, in 2004, I was concerned about losing that level of spirituality. And it happened, pretty much - I felt truly ungrounded during my stint at St. Clem's. And had a little trouble getting it back when I returned to Elizabeth's, probably due at least in part to the intervening deaths of our pastor and our assistant director. In fact, we prayed last night for all the folks we've lost, and thanked God for our time with them. So maybe a little saintly intervention too?

First thing I did this morning when I got to work was to call the choir director and let her know. She made a crack about St. E's having an inside track, but I gotta wonder.

Here's a song I wrote for my teen choir 8 or 9 years ago. I may dust it off and see if my choir / prayer team wants a stab at it:

"There is power in prayer, power in prayer:
God has power to change what needs change in my life.
There is power in prayer, power in prayer:
God will answer each prayer that I pray."

I should listen to myself more often, LOL...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Apologies... those of you who have left me comments over the years. My new layout ate your comments. Hopefully, the new comment engine (Blogger rather than Enetation) will be a bit more reliable.

In other news, I fixed the "email me" link. And the new layout ate the "other blogs" links as well, but they were largely inactive anyhow. And you can click "about me" to get to my other blogs, GS Blog and Graytail Adventures.

Like the new pic?
From the Tiber to the Thames

A small Episcopal Church near my recently departed parish gave me a call. Their director, a colleague of mine, is leaving for warmer climes, and they're considering replacing her with me. I've done some reading up on Episcopal worship - as usual, the de jure doesn't exactly marry up with the de facto - the transition won't be too tough. It's aided, of course, by my 40 years as a Presbyterian: I could sing their Lesser Doxology in my sleep.

At any rate, I've attended a mass there, and sat in; and then accompanied a mass the following week. I guess, from what I heard later, that they enjoyed my style, despite an awful schoolhouse piano and an anemic parlor organ. Apparently it helped me get an "in" there when I recommended a GEM pRP-800 digital piano to replace their Wurlitzer Firewood Edition (TM) spinet. Reverend Stacy had already looked at much more expensive Kawais and Rolands and been unsatisfied, but she wrote me a few days ago to say they had bought the GEM. Hopefully with some sound reinforcement - the built in speakers are a bit anemic.

We have not come to terms on salary yet, but given their generous sub fee, I'm not worried. It will be interesting (a) working with a female priest, (b) working collaboratively for a change, rather than the loose-leash approach that I've come to loathe, (c) working with a priest without that built-in altar rail of arrogance I loathe even more, (d) playing a mass typically attended by 30 people or so, (e) working without amplification, except the new digital piano, and (f) returning to my Dad's church - he was born and died Episcopalian, though he did a lot of wandering in between.

I love their open communion table, and the ready participation from the pews - no coaxing required. Hate speaking the psalm, but maybe I can do something about that. I'd like to introduce them to responsorials, too. Part of their heritage, but apparently unexplored at this parish.

Best part is - mass is over at 11, so I can make it to St. Elizabeth's for noon mass. St. E's is okay with an occasional late arrival: traffic is out of my control, of course.

And THIS is going to be a real useful planning site, though I'll have to also do some digging. They/we have the old Cursillo Songs of Praise in the pews, plus a homegrown supplement, in addition to Hymnal 1982. Funny, I was part of Oremus' mail list for years, but never used the website before.

Friday, February 09, 2007

"Once and Future" Once Again

I was sacked last week, without warning, via FedEx: "You are hereby terminated". Classay... apparently Fr.'s Dream DM became available and he jumped at the chance. Arrogant and cavalier to the last. The choir and cantors are upset: to quote one, "Well, Fr.'s broken up yet another family".

So I'm back at my old urban parish playing Gospel Hammond again. And not likely to leave this time. Speaking of family.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Wishful thinking, but I hope they're right

EUROPE'S top human rights body, the Council of Europe, said today the death penalty in the US was "on its deathbed" after two key rulings by US courts.

"The United States of America is on its way to join the rest of the civilised world where this inhuman and barbaric punishment has already been rejected.


"These decisions... mark the definitive beginning of the end... I have no doubt that this trend is welcomed by a lot of Americans who, given a proper choice, prefer just security to cruel revenge," Mr Davis said.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Chrysostom on the Real Presence:

I'm guessing Arinze hasn't seen this. Or was unmoved.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy St. Cecilia Day!

Sing something! C'mon, I'm waiting...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Through the Past, Snarkily - a digest of my gear experiences, as told to

- a first - a cross-post between my two blogs. But on-topic for both...


Fender Rhodes Stage 88, 73 - both were frustrating, but both were magical when everything clicked. The Rhodes is the reason I got serious about playing. Still love my 73 (replaced the 88 in '79), but am fully cognizant of its flaws.

Krakauer upright - man, I wish I still had this. Very warm, round tone. Action was a bit sluggish, but I grew up on it, so I was used to it. Gave it away on one of our moves. It was actually my great-grandparents': circa 1890 or so. I have to stop talking about it, I'm bumming myself out.

Boston Grand, K Kawai Grand - love these! The Boston especially, beautiful sound. The Kawai and I have come to terms - it's my main board on my current church gig. A bit bright, but I keep the cover closed and play harder. Keep the humidifier filled, she keeps her tune. For a while. Wouldn't trade her for anything now, not even the Boston. The Boston was like the hot girlfriend that got away - The Kawai is like the wife. LOL.

Casavant pipe organs - I've played two regularly, they're both completely different, one neobaroque, one French romantic - but they are great! Sweet, sweet sounds. Need to spend more time with the one I still have access to (the French romantic). It's too good an instrument to just be sitting there.

Allen Digital Pipe Organ - this was a rental at my college, replaced with the Wilhelm tracker, listed (far) below, in 2004. Very sweet sounds, okay touch, fully AGO compliant, and lots of fun to play the alternate tunings and reverb settings. IIUC, it would have cost less that $20K to buy. It would have been a better investment than the Wilhelm, which cost 4-5x as much. Though there is something to be said for real pipes, and I think that was a big part of the decision. Point of pride for the department, yadda yadda yadda. Whatever. This Allen sounded better.

Hammond L100, A100, M3, D152 - Love all of these, but what a difference a Leslie makes! Only the L and A had Leslies - the A had 3 (!!!). And only the D is in my possession anymore. But one of these days, the D will have a Leslie. Maybe soon.

Clavinet D6 - loved the short throw, the rythmic sound. Big fun to play guitar parts on it, too. Only keyboard I ever had feed back, LOL. well, until I test drove the VP-550 the other day and had the mic too hot. The D6 was a fragile little thing, though.

Arp Solina SE-4 - magical string tones. Magical. Busted now, but I can't quit her...

Arp Axxe, Odyssey - Odyssey is a dream board, but I only picked it up a couple of years ago - on this board in fact. Love the sounds. The Axxe was what I used back in the day, that was great IF you had a phaser and an echo. I did. Mrs. Daf made me sell it for $65, 15+ years ago. I've never let her forget that.

Sequential Circuits Prophet 5 - ultra cool, but I paid way too much. If I had waited a year, I could have gotten a used one for $700 instead of the $3300 I paid new in '82. Hindsight. Still have it, though, in great condition. Still my go-to synth.

Yamaha KX-88 - the ultimate controller by which all others will forever be judged. Sadly in disrepair now, and repairs would cost more than buying a decent used one.

Yamaha TX-7 - I had a pair. Still do, somewhere. I loved these. Even had a cool EP sound that didn't sound at all like a DX EP. So many innovations - FM, breath control, midi. Well, it was my first midi setup anyhow (with the KX).

Ensoniq KT-88 - Church rig, I was the backup keyboardist. Killer sounds for an ensemble setting. I understand it hasn't gotten much use since I left the parish 9 years ago, so it's still alive & kicking. Last I heard. Wonder if my sequence is still in it? Best one I ever did...

Yamaha TQ-5, DX-11 - I know. Nobody else liked the TQ. But I loved the onboard fx, the multimbral sequencer, the ez-edit functions, THE ONBOARD CLOCK! Nobody else had a clock on their module ever! W00t! I still have a B3 patch on this that I love. And some cool pads as well. The Dx-11 is a recent acquisition, with the same sound engine. I bought it as a controller, and now am having some trouble with it. It will rise again, though.

Alesis QS-8, QS-8.1, QSR - best feeling board ever. EVER! Sounds are hit or miss, but when they're good, they're very very good (yes, you can finish the rhyme). The 8.0 got me through 5 years as music director at my little country parish I started at. The 8.1 is still holding forth at the center of my live rig. QSR is backup - I lost the amp section on the 8.1 3 times. Should be fixed now, though.

Novation K-Station - Does everything! Big fun! Wish it were sturdier. Wish it had more notes. Wish it had patch names. Still a great board.

Yamaha VL-70m - OMG, what amazing sounds! I love this thing, wish I had more time for it.

Kurzweil ME-1 - gorgeous sounds, limited interface, completely uneditable, organ sounds don't respond to mod wheel. But gorgeous sounds trump all. Price point is amazing.

Roland VK-8 - great organ sounds, and I love the implementation for a second board and pedals. Other sounds suck, but who cares?

CME UF-5 - love this controller! Drawbar mode is a really cool idea. Wish it had memory. Wish I could edit drawbar mode (VK-8 won't respond). Still, great feel, tons of controls - even a BC input! Yay!

Alesis Fusion 6HD - hoping and praying this one works out. I like it well enough to buy it. Any day now. Another excellent price point.

Roland VP-550 - Church will be buying one shortly if I can't work out the Vari-OS / VC-2 combination (see below). Test drove the VP a couple of days ago - exactly what I need for banging out choir parts and distributing via CD.


Conn home organ - had a leslie of sorts, had some fun stuff, but real limited in the sounds it could get. The flutes were pretty good, the rest was awful. Had some stupid rhythm stuff on it too. Mom gave it to a church when she sold the house.

Miller console piano - well it's family, was my Grandma's. Doesn't sound great, but useful for banging out parts, and a nice piece of furniture in my living room. The Krakauer would overwhelm the LR, so I guess it's a good thing.

Roland P-55 - not bad piano sounds, but not great. Tried to sell it in my Katrina sale last year, then realized I didn't know where it was anymore. Better APs and EPs than my TX's, so useful when I got it, but just barely.

Roland S-50 - my first church board - it was pretty dated when I got to it. Apparently my predecessors had some fun sampling sounds, but I only got to use it for playback, and 12-bit (or whatever it was) don't cut it. It got stolen after I was there about a year, and we replaced it with the KT-88 described above. I was dragging my own (equally dated) stuff in until then, that's how much I disliked playing the S-50. But it DID do sampling, and had a dedicated cpu screen. So some cool potential there, I just never got to do much with it.

Korg Wavestation, Yamaha TG33 - jury's still out on these two, but it doesn't look good - bought them a year or two ago. Haven't found much I liked yet.

Roland Vari-OS - just bought this, now can't find a VC-2 card, which was the only thing I bought it for. Hope I find something to like.

Classic Organ Works midi pedalboard - works well enough, but I can only use this with an AGO bench, and the pedalboard is heavy as hell. I was trying to set up something portable for the church, and it seems I've failed. Still, cool to have this - it's mine, not the church's. Not sure where I'll put it if I ever leave, though. It's HUGE!


Heathkit Vox Jaguar combo organ - ecch. All I could afford then, but ecch! What awful sounds!

Allen analog church organ, Lowrey Genie, Baldwin 500, Allen digital/pipe combo church organ - these were all awful. The digital / pipe idea is the worst! Pipes shift in pitch with the weather, digitals don't. Might have sounded better if it had an overhaul - I remember the other guy (YEARS ago) getting good sounds. But when I finally had a chance to use it, it had sat unmaintained for 5-6 years. The Allen analog was just bad - no good sounds, wobbly pitch, those awful little princess pedals, underpowered for the room (sanctuary only sat 200, but still underpowered!). And the Genie - our current practice room organ - may be the worst organ ever manufactured. With the Baldwin (at Mom's retirement village - I'd practice on it when I visited) a close second.

Yamaha P-50 - dedicated piano module on which EVERY SINGLE PIANO SOUND SUCKED. What I get for buying without trying. Icky-poo.

Roland XP-10 - some okay sounds, some not. Awful interface, totally non-editable. X-Y thing was dumb. Hated that it forgot everything when you powered down - 16 channels multitimbral: that's a lot of work to set back up every time. And having to reboot to go from GM to normal? Who makes up this stuff? Oh yeah, hate the Roland paddle too. Wheels good, paddle bad.

Kurzweil SP-88 - I liked the touch on this, hated the sounds. So it would be logical to use it as a controller, but I just could not get next to the ribbons in place of the mod and pitch wheels. Gone now. Don't miss it.

Roland U-220, Proteus 1, Kawai K-10 - Yeep. Who knows, maybe these were okay back in the day, but OMG. Bought them used and cheap (except the K, which was a church board), but nothing at all to like about these.

Wilhelm tracker pipe organ - a custom install (as are all Wilhelms) at my college, it has weird little wooden keys, flat pedalboard instead of radial, 30 pedals instead of 32, and is impossibly shrill at close range. And the player is always a close range because the pipes are right there. I really wanted to like this organ, but it's just stupid for an American university with an organ program to have its only organ fail to meet ANY of the AGO specs.

Roland A-30 - nice feel, horrible implementation. And I hate paddles.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Still here. Haven't had much to say. But here's something.

Choir started up this week - we sing during the summer, but don't rehearse. Back to the regular drill now.

So only one rehearsal, and already I'm facing a near revolt over our concert situation. The choir, most of them, seem to be as much about reliving the glory years with a previous director, with pageants and cantatas and songs from Broadway, as about anything else. Maybe that's overstated, but it's certainly a dynamic. Me? I'm just trying to get them to sing for mass.

But the sticking point right now is the schedule - I'm anticipating the front office will insist that any Christmas concert be done during Christmas season. And they want to do it during Advent - which is when everyone is still hopped up on hearing Christmas carols, doing Christmas shopping, and having Christmas parties. I broached the idea of a "Little Christmas" (i.e., Epiphany) concert, that wasn't too popular either.

The world, of course, starts celebrating Christmas after Halloween. My wife starts in March, fercryinoutloud. To the secular world, there is no such thing as Advent - sort of like there's a Mardi Gras and an Easter, but no Lent in between, unless you count the smelt on the menu at Big Boy's. I suppose that's fine, but what should the church do? Should the church ignore Advent as well? Or just give it lip service at mass, and then conduct the rest of our business the way the world does?

If the answer seems obvious, it really isn't - it's partly the way I'm framing the question. The right-vs-left fights in the church over repertoire and ritual come back to this question a lot: how much of the world do we let into the church? Do we desanctify holy ground when we sing pop-style songs, or conduct the entire mass in the vernacular, or stand during communion or...? The counterargument is that keeping the world out of the church also keeps the church out of the world. And the world needs the church badly.

An interesting dynamic on the Christmas-in-Advent question is that the debaters often switch sides here: i.e., it's usually the NPM types who get fussy here, and the AGO/Adoremus types who suddenly get all laissez faire. There are valid pragmatic reasons for early Christmas concerts, most obvious being the school year: School concerts need to happen while the kids are in school, because a lot of them will be gone during winter break. Especially true at colleges, where students are often from somewhere else, and return home for Christmas. So here's this string of concerts going on all around us - why can't we as the church do the same thing? And then there's Christmas caroling. Our choir carols at a couple of local nursing homes each year - always a week or two before Christmas. So why is that okay but a concert not?

Another idea I put before the choir was a 12/24 concert, a la Lessons and Carols. But 12/24 is a Sunday this year, so masses will run to noon, and our Christmas Eve masses start at 4pm anyhow. I suppose a 1pm-3pm concert is possible. This requires more thought.

One last issue - It's our Casavant's 25th anniversary this year. Eighteen stops, absolutely gorgeous French romantic sound...

...and essentially mothballed since my arrival there 2+ years ago. My organ playing just doesn't measure up. My bad. But I know good organists who could put on a heck of a concert. So it would be great if we could work the anniversary in to the concert - but that would sort of force the concert to be before 12/31. Ruling out Little Christmas. Sort of.

< Fagin >I think I'd better think it out again!< /Fagin >

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bye, Mom.

Mom passed away this past November, after a brief illness, at the age of 78. She would have turned 79 last week. She spent the last 10 years of her life in Kalamazoo, in a retirement community there.

Before Kalamazoo, she spent 25 years in the Detroit area, and still had many friends there. So we had two memorial services, one in Kalamazoo in November, and another last week in Clinton Township, a Detroit suburb in Macomb County, two days after her birthday.

A number of Mom's friends were too frail to travel, and sent remembrances to be read there. All told there were about 15 people with something to say, although there were only 5 speakers.

Mom was big on church music, I mention that below - and my article here about her influence on my church music career is essentially what I said in her eulogy. For her service in Kalamazoo, she requested several pieces of music: Immortal Invisible (St. Denio), Eagles Wings (Joncas), I Danced In The Morning (Shaker Hymn, Carter), and a fourth I'm forgetting. We also sang Noble's Come Labor On (Ora Labora) and the traditional Steal Away to Jesus at prelude, and I played a postlude on Green Grow the Rushes, her favorite campfire song. Church friends of mine came and played piano and sang - it was a great celebration.

The music for the second service is a little fresher in my mind. My choir came down from Romeo, and we borrowed the Peace Church organist and one of their soloists (their choir couldn't make it), and their pastor emeritus, Jim Kesler, a good friend of Mom's, presided. Here's the music from that:

O Master Let Me Walk With Thee (Maryton)
Ps. 116, The Name of God (Haas)
Alleluia from "Come to Me" (Joncas)
Eye Has Not Seen (Haugen)
Breathe on Me, Breath of God (Trentham)
I Wonder As I Wander (trad)
Beneath the Cross of Jesus (St. Christopher)
I Am the Bread of Life (Toolan)
This Is my Father's World (Terra Beata)

The organist played a prelude and a postlude as well - I didn't recognize those. The 4th through 8th tunes were interspersed with the remembrances. Because they were, essentially, remembrances.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Liturgiam Authenticam rightly stresses exactness in rendering liturgical and biblical texts into the vernacular in order to assure doctrinal fidelity. But even St. Jerome, the great doctor of the Sacred Scriptures, who spent twenty years translating the Bible, was not a literalist. He himself said: “If I translate word by word, it sounds absurd.” Father Chupungco has observed: “Fidelity to the original refers to the content or meaning of the text, not to its form or component words and phrases. That is why a word for word translation is not a guarantee of fidelity to the original text.” And yet Liturgiam Authenticam in norm 43 specifies: “It should be born in mind that a literal translation of terms which may initially sound ODD in the vernacular language may for this very reason provoke inquisitiveness in the hearer and provide an occasion for catechesis.” I see this statement clashing with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy which states: “The rites should be distinguished by a noble simplicity…They should be written within the people’s powers of comprehension and normally should not require much explanation.” There is even a fundamental inconsistency between norm 43 of Liturgiam Authenticam and its own general principle which says that the content of the original text should “be evident and comprehensible even to the faithful who lack any specialized intellectual formation”.

Seems some lines are being drawn in the sand here. The short form goes something like "we don't need Italians to tell us how to speak English, thank you very much." I find Trautman - he's the bishop in charge of the new translations for the USCCB - and his arguments pretty compelling. And you?

Oh, and for more fun, and sort of on topic:

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Evidence of God in the back yard

Exactly 8 ducks on the pond this year (make way for ducklings!), plus an occasional crane and a pair of canadian geese. Ducks and geese haven't come to terms yet. Not sure if deer are living in our yard this year, but they're certainly frequenting it. Lots of rabbits, a few squirrels/chipmunks, and the tree frogs are chirping like nobody's business.

Robins now, the other non-water birds usually make themselves known later: pheasants, turkeys, martins, cardinals, crows. We get a Hitchcock-worthy crow collection by the fall. Haven't had swallows since we added rails to the deck 3 or 4 years ago - I think we blocked their pond approach. We were tired of getting dive-bombed on the tractor anyhow.

Over my head, I hear music in the air,
Over my head, I hear music in the air,
Over my head, I hear music in the air,
Ther must be a God somewhere.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

More on the Style Wars

I think some people will never be "fed" by traditional music, or
choral music. Bob Batastini, late of GIA, suggested it may be a
background thing - if you sang in a good school or church choir
growing up, you appreciated choral music. Or playing in a symphony
or concert band with some exposure to the classics could do it. I
know my semesters in college choir a few years ago really broadened
my appreciation for choral works.

But many many people are never exposed to the joys of performing the
classics, or art music of any sort, and are not engaged by it in any
way. The numbers I heard, from a guy who should know, were that
about 4% of the population would actually choose to listen to
classical radio if it were available. Since his career is in
classical radio, I tend to believe him. Of course, some people
listen to news or opinion radio, and may still have an appreciation
for the classics. But an overwhelming number of folks are choosing
to listen to some other kind of music when they listen.

Some percentage of people, of course, prefer their church music to
be "holier", I guess. Or fitting with their tradition. And those
people are fed as well by the classics. But if you seek engaged
worship, there are a lot of people who want to sing or hear something
that sounds like what they choose to listen to during the week - a
hooky chorus, a cool beat, etc. Example: a year later, after only
one weekend of using it, people are still asking about the version of
Psalm 22 we sang at Palm Sunday - a hard rocking responsorial we
adapted for piano and choir. They were engaged.

You can dismiss everything that doesn't sound good on pipe organ as
cotton candy, but we're not really talking about God anymore at that
point, we're talking about personal preferences, and aesthetic
hierarchies that we were taught by our music teachers. It's my job
to reach the whole flock, so they get hymns and contemporary stuff,
every week. And hopefully (my ongoing mantra) learning to sing the
other guy's song in the process. That's part of our Christian
calling - the mile in his/her sandals. I don't think we're excused
from it just because our professors taught us that some types of
music were better than others.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Power of Prayer

So, I almost died. Subarachnoid brain hemorrhage, Dec. 23rd. Thanks to some talented doctors and the prayers of thousands of parishioners and internet friends, I pulled through.

Boy, my head sure hurts, though. Another couple of weeks for that, they say. I returned to work and to my parish music job last week.

In the words of Fr. Doc, "Please continue to pray for Jay. We have have Lent and Easter coming up, and he better not pull the same trick again." Ha ha.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Recycled pre-blog bits: entry #2, from 3/4/2001

The Desert Island Game - For Real This Time

Most of us have seen some variation on "the desert island quiz". If you were stranded on a desert island, what 3 CDs would you want to have with you (presumably, you'd also get a CD player and a large supply of batteries)? Or what two people would you want to be stranded with (answer: my wife and almost anyone except Gilligan)? Or what dozen supplies?

You get the idea - You're suddenly left without all the thousands of things that get you through the day - what handful of things are most important to you? It's a potentially intriguing intellectual exercise, but is that all it is?

Alzheimer's Disease, and, to a lesser extent, Senile Dementia, can be very much like an unplanned trip to a desert island. Your memories are stripped away, and eventually you're left with just a handful, that come and go as they please. Entirely beyond your control if you have Alzheimer's.

My grandmother, who had a mild case of senile dementia, lived until she was 97. Toward the end, she would do this daily litany of reciting the important facts of her life: "My name is Mildred Schneider Kent, I was married to Lee Carson Kent, who died in 1966. I have four children named Martha, Carson, Nancy, and Joan. I have eleven grandchildren, their names are..." It was how she kept rein over her memory.

My wife's Aunt Frances did have Alzheimer's. Several years into her disease, at church one Sunday, she began muttering in Polish. Her kids were with her, and didn't speak Polish, but were able to find some nuns that did. And they recognized her mutterings as traditional Polish prayers she would have learned as a child. They knelt and prayed with her for nearly a half hour. Then she sort of went blank again. The kids called up Aunt Sophie, the keeper of the family lore, and confirmed that they had learned these prayers as children. To her knowledge, Frances probably hadn't said those prayers for 65 or 70 years.

Song is an excellent memory device - most of us learn to sing our ABCs in order to learn to say them. And I'm guessing a lot of us have big chunks of Psalm 91 memorized, thanks to Fr. Michael Joncas' "On Eagle's Wings".

Here's something I've mentioned before: weekly hymn singing with my family when I was growing up, and what a big influence that was in my adult life. My mom told me later that the reason she and Dad had decided to do that was because of the Cuban missile crisis. They bought little ID bracelets for us in case we got separated, and taught us hymns that reflected our faith, so that in case we were orphaned or abducted, we'd know the tenets of our faith.

So songs like "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise", "The Lord's Prayer", "Onward, Christian Soldiers", "What A Friend We Have in Jesus" - these were all mini religious ed lessons. And we learned them, without ever knowing it was supposed to be good for us (hey Mikey!).

I'm guessing, should Alzheimer's ever strike, it'll be these songs, plus the Gloria Patri and the Presbyterian Doxology (both of which I sang every Sunday for 40 years), that stick with me after I've forgotten a lot of other important things. And I'm sure my folks weren't thinking about Alzheimer's when they did it, but they've made sure I won't forget my faith.

So what prayers are you teaching your kids? Do you sing together? Sing at mass? These are all great ways of helping remember exactly what it is that we all believe.

All together now, Psalm 91: "And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn..."

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Recycled pre-blog bits: entry #1, from 4/26/2001

Cantor: Make a Joyful cacophony unto the Lord!

Assembly: Make a Joyful cacophony unto the Lord!

Cantor: Praise the Lord, all ye nations. Let every thing that lives and breathe
praise the Lord. Let the geeks and salesmen and farmers praise him. Let soccer
moms and image consultants and internet addicts praise him. Let the
structurally unemployed, functionally unemployable, and underground economy
worker praise him. Let those with bad breath, crooked teeth, big ears, and
excess facial hair praise him.

Assembly: Make a Joyful cacophony unto the Lord!

Cantor: Praise God with the timbrel, and cymbal, and harp. Praise the Lord with
vocoder and vibraslap and hubkapaphone, with alto sax and tenor sax and soprano
sax and C melody sax and baritone sax and bass sax, with rototom and timbale and
rhythm sampler, with clarinet and clavinet and clavichord and harpsichord and
blues harp and blues band and brass band and euphonium, with B3 and C3 and M3
and M100 and L100 and A100 and XB2 and VK7 and VK77 and Leslie 147 (or 122 in a

Assembly: Make a Joyful cacophony unto the Lord!

Cantor: Praise God with the plucked string, with the struck string, with the
bowed string, with the picked string, and with the hammered string. Praise him
with koto and ukelele and baritone ukelele and lute and lyre and Chapman stick
and violin and viola and cello and doublebass and sitar and mandolin and mandola
and mandolectra and banjo and piano and bass guitar and acoustic guitar and
dreadnought guitar and archtop guitar and dobro and lapsteel and pedal steel and
pedal dobro and classical guitar and solid-body electric guitar and hollow-body
electric guitar and semi-hollow-body electric guitar. Praise the Lord with
Gibsons and Epiphones and PRSs and Washburns and MusicMans and Jacksons and
Charvels and Ibanezes and Japanese Fenders and American Fenders and American
Standard Fenders and American Custom Fenders and American Custom Signature
Fenders and Squiers. Praise God with Ovations and Martins and Guilds and
Johnsons and Nationals and Yamahas and Takamines.

Assembly: Make a Joyful cacophony unto the Lord!

Presider: The Lord be with you.

Assembly: And also with you.

Presider: Lift up your axes.

Assembly: We lift them up to the Lord, unless they're really heavy. Or do you
mean figuratively?

Presider: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.

Assembly: It is right to give God thanks and praise.

Cantor: It is right, it is truly right, to give our best licks, the fruit of our
axes and the work of our hands, and our teachers' hands before us, unto the
Lord. Praise God, from whom all good licks flow. Praise him with Hendrix
licks, and Allman licks (but refrain thou from Dicky Betts licks, lest thine
fingers freeze that way), and licks of Benson and Beck and Montgomery and
McLaughlin and Summers and Scofield and DiMeola and Connors and Vaughan and
Clapton and Berry and Metheny and Santana and Chaquico and Van Halen and Vai and
Malmsteen and Django. Praise him with Feliciano licks and Williams licks and
Campbell licks and Clark licks and Gill licks and Stuart licks and Skaggs licks,
with Grappelli and O'Connor and Nance and Ponty and Krauss licks, with Herbie
and Chick and Stevie and Steve and Billy and Jan and McCoy and Nicky and Patrice
and Bernie and Oscar licks. Play unto the Lord a new lick, a Spirit-filled
lick, a Christ-did-you-hear-that lick, a God-I-wish-I-could-play-like-that lick,
not that ye would be God or as God, but that ye would be of God, and recognized
thereof, and bring the worshipful ear closer to God.

Assembly: Make a Joyful cacophony unto the Lord!

Cantor: Praise God with open flute, and chimney flute, and stopped flute, with
French flute and English flute and German flute and Dutch flute, with bourdon
and subbourdon and fauxbourdon and semibourdon and lisibourdon and bandoneon.
Praise him with Diapason and Dulciana and Vox Humana and Viol da Gamba, with
pedal and choir and swell and great and solo, with fundamental and octave and
nazard and tierce and none, with melisma and quilisma and quaver and semiquaver
and demiquaver and semidemiquaver, with tracker action and electro-pneumatic
action and electric action and tone wheel and MIDI and transistors and tubes and
amplifiers and bellows.

Assembly: Make a Joyful cacophony unto the Lord!

Cantor: Praise God with silent joy, and silent sorrow, and silent petitions and
silent adulation and silent silence.

Assembly: (silence)

Presider: And after having praised God with all that we have, and all that we
do, and all that we are, we will do so again. Repeatedly, and stopping only for
rest and sustenance and bathroom breaks and baby making and arguing with our
teenagers and bill paying and Mardi Gras. For when we've been there ten
thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's
praise than we did when we started (because it's just not right to start rhyming

Assembly: Amen. (the gateway's still down, but my earthly master and founder of the feast finally came up with something else for me to do)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Notes from the Music Guy XVII

I don't know about you all, but I sure missed the alleluia. We're singing a lot of them this weekend, partly just because, finally, we can. And partly because we must! As Christians, Christ's resurrection, his conquering of death, is the ultimate victory, the consummate joy.

Some other Christians do not forego the alleluia during Lent, even some which are in communion with Rome. The Byzantines actually sing more alleluias during Lent.

This is fine, of course. Because every Christian church sings alleluia (or hallelujah) on Easter. One of those rare things we can all agree on. Remember that every time you sing alleluia at Easter, you are joining in song with every churchgoing Christian everywhere! Imagine how that must resound in heaven.

May Christ be the song in your heart,


Saturday, March 19, 2005

Notes from the Music Guy XVI

Once a year, we all sing Psalm 22. We echo Jesus on the cross: "My God, why have you abandoned me?" At least that's what the assembly sings.

But the cantor's part is a bit more hopeful: it starts with feelings of abandonment, but it moves to cautious optimism - "...but you O Lord be not far from me", and then to all out praise - "All you descendants of Jacob, give glory to Him!"

It's kind of hard to convey that shift in message when we keep reverting to a refrain that asks why we were abandoned. This year, we're trying a setting of Psalm 22 that has two responses: "My God, my God, why have You abandoned me" for the beginning, and "I will praise You!" for the end. It moves through the same wide range of emotions that the original psalm does.

It's been suggested, often, that Jesus quoted this psalm from the cross, not because he felt abandoned, but because he knew his disciples were feeling that way, AND he knew that they knew the rest of this psalm. So He started it out, knowing that they could finish it in their heads - and wind up in a place where they were praising God. I don't know if it's true, but it's certainly true that God did not abandon his Son, and does not abandon us either. Even when it seems that way.

May Christ be the song in your heart,