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Thursday 17 January 2008

Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J. celebrates first Missa Usus Antiquior!

Twenty years ago I lived in Ottawa. I was a young turk on Parliament Hill working for a dynamic Cabinet Minister, traveling the country and close to the levers of power. It was there that my long and continuing journey away from the “cafeteria” began. I was thirty and had not been to the Sacrament of Confession for the second half of my life at all. Well, those “Oratorians” changed that! One Thursday afternoon, feeling down I found myself not far from my Lowertown apartment walking into an old beat up church named St. Brigid's.

I met a man in a cassock and biretta who had just finished singing what I later learned to be Vespers. That night, I attended my first choir practice. The Religious Brother is now a priest in Vancouver and his name is Father Lawrence Donnelly. It is to Father Lawrence that I owe my thanks because he first taught me to sing Gregorian Chant. The next Sunday I met the four priests. Fathers Ashley, Parsons, Teeporten and the late Father Neilson, may he rest in peace. He was probably forced into an early grave at a difficult time for a group of serious Catholic priests trying to start an Oratory of St. Philip Neri in a place where they were not wanted.

During the battle, the then Archbishop of Ottawa, the late Joseph Aurele Plourde accused me and others like me of "suffering from nostalgia neurosis!" Yet, I was just 30 and it was the Novus Ordo liturgy I could barely remember and knew little of the Usus Antiquior and hey, we just wanted to sing Gregorian Chant and Palestrina!

It did not seem likely then that twenty years later (it was only that long then from the destruction of the liturgy) the Archbishop of Ottawa would publicly celebrate a Traditional Latin Tridentine Mass according to the Roman Missal of 1962. But then, not likely to us...but with God...

Deo Gratias!

By Deborah Guyapong
Canadian Catholic News
Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast celebrated the traditional Latin Mass for his first time during a visit to St. Clement's, a parish that has had a special waiver or indult from the Vatican to celebrate the Tridentine Rite since 1988. (Of course there is no longer an "indult" but it is the right of every priest according to the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum to celebrate the usus antiquior. Further, there has been a Tridentine Mass in Ottawa at St. Clements--though at a different location and pre-FSSP since the early 1970's thanks to the then French Ambassador to Canada and the saintly Father Mole.--Vox)

"I had never celebrated the 1962 Mass as I had been ordained in 1972 and we were in a new liturgical era then," Prendergast said in an email interview. As a former teacher of Latin and Greek, he did not need help with the language, but he did need assistance with the rubrics of the Mass, such as the prescribed order for the incensing. On the Thursday preceding his Jan. 12-13 visit, Prendergast did a reconnaissance mission to examine the layout of the church.

"The priests reassured me that they and the servers would make sure it all went well," he said. "I think it did."

"Before my arrival the fathers loaned me the Latin ritual books to brush up on my rubrics for this beautiful and reverent liturgy," Prendergast said.

"Even though it was his first time celebrating the traditional Mass, we in the congregation could not have known it from watching and listening," said parishioner Desideria Desjardins Caron. "We were all delighted that he came to St. Clement''s and that he wanted not just to visit us, but to celebrate Mass as well."

As comfortable with modern praise songs accompanied by electric guitars as he is with more traditional forms of worship, Prendergast has encouraged the use of some Latin in familiar prayers and hymns in response to the pope's apostolic exhortation last spring to bring back more reverence to the celebration of the liturgy, including the use of Gregorian Chant.
Archbishop Prendergast is the Canadian Bishops' representative on the Vox Cantor...er, I mean, Vox Clara Commission overseeing the re-translation from the trite, banal and theologically compromised ICEL translation of the 1970 Roman Missal.


Thursday 3 January 2008

The Organ and Hymn Singing

A very erudite piece on the accompaniment of an organ for hymn playing and it would follow for the Ordinary of the Mass when sung by a congregation from the New Liturgical Movement...a few organists might want to re-acquaint themselves with this...unless of course, "the people are not supposed to sing!"
A Short Primer on Hymn Playing
posted by Michael E. Lawrence

Hymn playing is considered by many to be one of the most necessary skills for the church organist. Yet, as I pop in to parish after parish, it becomes apparent that many organists have not been properly trained in this art. Like every other musical subject, there is a great diversity of opinion on this. It goes without saying that my own opinion will color what I have to say here; nevertheless, I hope that this piece proves helpful to those who might be looking for fundamental advice on hymn playing.

So without further delay, here are some areas on which an improving organist should concentrate:

1. Preparation

As with all music, it helps to break a hymn apart when beginning the learning process. Separate the hands and the feet. Learn the right hand, then the left, then the pedal alone. Then combine the left hand with the pedal. (When I was a beginner I found this to be the most crucial step.) Then combine the right hand with the pedal. After you've done all that, put everything together at a slow tempo.

2. Articulation

It is important in the process of preparation to incorporate the articulation that is going to be used. The various voices will not always receive the same articulation at the same time. For instance, repeated notes in the lower voices are most often tied together. Not so for the melody, however, in which repeated notes should each be re-articulated. An alternative method to use, when applicable, is to repeat not only the melodic notes but also the notes in the tenor, while tying the alto and bass notes.

Another aspect of articulation is the treatment of the ends and beginnings of phrases. One can of course lift all voices, but often this has an undesirable, abrupt sound even in some lively acoustic spaces. Often a more becoming result is gotten from lifting only the soprano and tenor voices, or even lifting only the soprano voice. Other combinations are possible, too. Experiment to see what works with the available instrument in the acoustical space.

3. Phrasing

This is a real flash point for many when it comes to the singing of hymns. I've worked with singers who insist on breathing at every comma. I suppose we need only ask the question: Do we breathe, pause, hiccup at every comma when we speak? Generally it seems to me to be a good idea to breathe in large phrases. It usually works to follow the musical phraseology, though there will be occasional exceptions. One important question to ask if you're tempted to do some kind of unusual phrasing is: Will the congregation ever figure out what I'm trying to do?

One way mid-phrase commas might sometimes be treated is with a slight lift, perhaps lifting only the soprano.

4. Tempo

It is important when playing hymns to establish a firm tempo. It's also important not to be martial about it. Listen to the way people sing when they sing spontaneously. Yes, they drag, and the pitch sags, but besides that, listen to how they treat ends and beginnings of phrases. Take this into account in your playing. The organ is not a metronome. This does not mean that you let the congregation direct you. Just keep in mind that it's okay to push and pull the tempo a bit in an organic fashion.

The selection of overall tempo depends on many things. More live acoustics often demand somewhat broader tempi. The style in which the organ is built might suggest one tempo as being more appropriate than another. A thinner musical texture will allow for quicker tempi; a thicker one, particularly one with many chord changes (fast harmonic rhythm), will require a broader tempo. Finally, factors such as weather and the age of the congregation have a role to play in all this as well. Dreary weather, or a dropping barometer in general, may require quicker tempi, as will an older congregation, which does not have the lung capacity of a younger congregation. Smaller congregations tend to do better with quicker tempi, as well.

5. Registration

When registering the organ for hymn playing, it is important to remember that the organ, if it is used for hymn singing, leads the hymn singing. It does not accompany the congregation or the cantor. It leads them all. Consequently, whatever registration is used must be sufficient for this task. (Most Catholic organists are too timid when it comes to this.) Generally this will include foundation stops (8' principals, flutes, and strings that are not celestes) and at least some upper work (4', 2', mixtures) on at least one manual coupled to the pedal. There are very few organs whose scaling allows for the omission of upper work on hymn playing.

Sometimes it will be necessary or desirable to solo out the melody on a separate manual. Any number of possibilities come into play here. One to keep in mind is the use of the separable cornet (8' principal or flute, 4' principal or flute, 2 2/3', 2', 1 3/5') for the melody. If you're lucky enough to have one of those wonderful Romantic organs with a singing 8' Diapason, these often work well as solo stops.

Experiment to see what works on your instrument. Just avoid one thing: NEVER, never, never use the celestes or tremolos. Tremolos create a vibrato effect on the organ, and celeste stops are deliberately tuned slightly sharp to created a similar undulating effect in the sound. These are not conducive to finding/keeping the pitch. It's also inconsistent with the needed texture for hymns.

6. Introductions

Again, there are a number of possible approaches. For hymns that are not familiar, one might wish to play a whole verse as an introduction. It's also okay to do it this way just because you want to. For more familiar hymns, the first line might suffice, or the first and last lines together. On some longer tunes, such as Wie schoen leuchtet der Morgenstern, it might be best to play straight through the verse but to skip over the repeated material. This allows for a thorough introduction that is not at the same time unduly long.

Be sure that the tempo in the introduction is the same as the tempo at which you intend to sing. Once you start, there's no turning back. Also, avoid what American football fans might call the "no-huddle" introduction: banging on five or six notes then plowing into the piece. Omitting the introduction would be better than that.

7. Remember: This is music

Keep in mind that when we're singing hymns, we're singing music. These are not pedal exercises in the Ritchie-Stauffer organ technique book. So don't be afraid to play beautifully. Learning the proper technique is important, but when that has been done, don't forget to ask yourself, "What will make this hymn beautiful?"

It's also important to note that, while culturally expected in many places, the organ is not necessary for hymn singing. There is plenty to justify the existence of the organ in the church besides hymns. Sometime, you may wish to try a hymn, or at least one verse, without the organ. The results may surprise you.

Posted by Michael E. Lawrence on 2.1.08 Comments (16) | Trackback