Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The sound of music

Our assistant pastor is a man with much on his plate. He's the sort of gregarious guy who presses the flesh and has big ideas, most of which actually get implemented in some form. It's tricky, though, if you're relying on him to be in charge of something, because the man is busy and has many demands on his time.

Father is technically the director of our schola. As we're often singing at events over which he's presiding, the actual direction of the singers at functions has fallen to me. At first I felt extremely inadequate, waving my hands and pretending I knew what the hell I was doing. Now (after having directed at most of the Stations of the Cross, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter morning) I feel a bit more competent, but I still wish I knew what the hell I'm doing. Can any of our vocally inclined readers recommend a book or resource for the direction of small ensembles? We don't necessarily just sing chant -- I'd particularly like to branch out into some polyphony such as Byrd or Tallis.

It seems that there is a hunger for this sacred music. People have been excited about hearing the chant in it's proper context, and someone even commented, "Gee, wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to get some of this chant into the mass! Is that allowed?" (We don't get a huge amount of Mass exposure because currently we only sing one Sunday Mass a month -- at 7:30 AM.)

But I'm hopeful. Our parish ministry fair -- excuse me, DiscipleSHIP 2008 -- is in two weeks, and the schola will have a booth. I'm not necessarily looking for new membership, especially as that will require auditions. Rather, I just want the parish (especially those who attend Masses at which the musical style is rather different from our own) to know that we exist, and that this music is still living and being used in its proper liturgical context.

To that end, I have another question: can anyone translate this into Spanish for me?

The Schola Cantorum at St. Elizabeth is dedicated to helping our parish rediscover the beauty of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony within the liturgy. Encouraged by Pope Benedict’s desire for a renewed emphasis on Gregorian chant, we strive to create a new appreciation for this ageless music through an emphasis on beauty of tone and technical excellence.

The Schola currently sings the 7:30 AM mass on the third Sunday of each month, as well as at parish events such as Stations of the Cross during Lent and the Festival of Lessons and Carols in Advent.


Bill E. said...

For polyphony, my personal favorite is Palestrina.

I have a friend who could probably translate that.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I asked my friend Gabby if she could take a crack at it. I haven't heard back from her yet, but it should be quick. (You remember Gabby, don't you?)

LogEyed Roman said...

Mrs. Darwin:

I know a real authority on choir directing who happens to speak Spanish. He was choir director at his church for many years, and is a self-taught expert on tradtional Church music and on music theory and on directing small choirs. Darwin knows him well; it's the Franlin of Formenor. Darwin should be able to contact him. If not, I can put you in touch.

LogEyed Roman

LogEyed Roman said...

Ooops, I meant "Franklin." Not the "Franlin" of Formeor. Little typo there.

LogEyed Roman

Barb said...

So you have all the noise down there...tehehe...(and I don't mean your schola!)
I would like to hear your schola...perhaps someday we will make our way there and get up on a Sunday morning for 7:30 Mass...
A blessed day to you...

Amber said...

That's great that you'll have an opportunity to spread the word a bit more. That's one thing that I think parishes could do better - give people a better idea of what is happening at other masses, especially if they aren't all pretty much the same. I would never have found the wonderful Mass I've been attending if I hadn't just stumbled into it, and I wonder how many other people in my parish would be interested in it if they only knew about it.

Bernard Brandt said...

Dear Mrs. Darwin:

I must probably plead guilty to being the "Franklin" described by LogEyed Roman. Alas, I most probably have neither the skill at choir directing nor aptitude at Spanish to which he most generously gives me credit.

Nonetheless, I can think of two resources which would perhaps be of help to you.

The first is "Conducting a Choir" by Imogen Holst. The author was the daughter of the English composer, Gustav Holst, and had been for many years the director of one of the finest amateur choirs in the England of her time. This book has some of the best and simplest directions and advice as regards learning music, learning directing, and teaching/directing a choir that I have ever found. I cannot recommend it more highly.

The second bit of advice would be to use BabelFish ( to do a rough translation, which you then show to a spanish speaker who would be happy (after he or she finished cringing) to correct the errors and give you a readable text. I've already taken the liberty of doing just that, as follows:

"El Schola Cantorum en St. Elizabeth se dedica a ayudar a nuestra parroquia vuelve a descubrir la belleza de gregoriano canta y polyphony sagrado dentro de la liturgia. Animado por el deseo de papa Benedict para un énfasis renovado en gregoriano cante, nos esforzamos crear un nuevo aprecio para esta música eterna con un énfasis en la belleza del tono y de la excelencia técnica.

"El Schola canta actualmente la masa de 7:30 el tercer domingo de cada mes, tan bien como en los acontecimientos de la parroquia tales como estaciones de la cruz durante prestado y el festival de lecciones y de carols en advenimiento."

Hoping that this might be of some help to you, I am

Very truly yours,

Bernard Brandt, Fr.F.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Darwin: The preceeding commenter is indeed the "Franklin" I have accused him to be. He is also modest. Don't believe him. I can believe that his Spanish is perhaps not fluent, but though he may be an amateur, self-taught choir director, he's a good one.

LogEyed Roman

mrsdarwin said...

Thank you, Roman and Bernard. I'll start looking for Imogen Holst's book. And there's an interesting bit of choir coincidence there -- Gustav Holst is the composer of my favorite hymn tune, THAXTED, otherwise known as Jupiter from The Planets.