Thursday, 19 February 2009

Music in church

Specifically referring to the Latin rite here, as the Byzantine/Eastern Rites are completely different here in so far as they are always sung. There's an excellent article by Michael E. Lawrence over at the Recovering Choir Director. Whilst this particularly referred to the Tract for the 1st Sunday in Lent, it's true for any Graduals & Tracts which are often the longest [& most beautiful] items of chant in a given Mass.

When we provided the singing for the EF Masses in York before their temporary suspension pending a new Celebrant, I was always conscious of time, especially if the priest singing the Mass had come a long way, and regrettably, the Gradual or Tract, and occasionally even the Alleluia verses, were curtailed to psalm tones, either basic or from Rossini, to save time. Even this wasn't good enough for some people who complained that there was too much music & they would rather have Low Mass all the time, despite the norms indicating that Sung or even High Masses are the ideal.

Sometimes you just can't win, no matter what you do!

It is hoped, that when EF Masses resume, with the proposed new Celebrant, who is now here, once he has been fully trained, and is confident enough to start celebrating Sung Masses, we will sing the full Gregorian Propers from the Liber/Graduale. I for one, won't be clock watching to see how long it takes!

Meanwhile, I urge you to read Michael's post. It really deserves a wider circulation.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Carpets in church

Whilst taking a break from work for Ushaw, I'm tring to catch up some of my favourite blogs. I have to admit, that I have a great admiration for Jeffrey Tucker of the New Liturgical Movement.

He has written an excellent item on carpets in church. In case you missed it, here it is.

I am in total agreement. :-)

Ushaw Update

Just taking a brief break from music preparations for what is now going to be known as "the Conference at Ushaw". Had a look round today. The chapel is magnificent, but it's given me yet another problem to solve, as there's no way that the chant Schola and the polyphonic choir [hoping that we get one!] can realistically occupy the same space, which puts an end to my thoughts that people singing chant could also 'double up' and sing polyphony in the closing Mass.

I'm glad I know *now*!

This of course, means that we need a completely separate polyphonic choir. I'm going to start work on this tomorrow evening. The intention is still at this stage, to have music by Byrd as we're celebrating a great English Feast, so why not have music by one of the greatest English composers?

On another note, I'm a bit miffed that I hadn't discovered the online Officium Divinum before. It could have saved me a lot of work, and has, in fact given me some more to do, as I may now have to make some revision of services that i've already prepared. :-(

Still, better to find out at this stage, rather than at the event itself!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Prayers and Practical Help needed!

The cat is well and truly out of the bag!

As has already been reported by Fr Ray Blake, the legendary Fr Z, Fr Michael Brown and also advertised in this week's Catholic Herald, the Latin Mass Society of England & Wales have made public their plans for a Residential Training Conference for Priests Wishing to Learn the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass) at Ushaw College, Durham.

Quoting from the press release...

"The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales (LMS) is organising a residential training conference for priests wishing to learn the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (Traditional Latin Mass) at Ushaw College, Durham, one of England’s most prestigious seminaries.

The conference will run from Monday 20 April to Thursday 23 April 2009 (i.e. Low Week) and will feature Traditional liturgies in Ushaw’s magnificent neo-Gothic St Cuthbert’s Chapel together with a Gregorian Chant schola and polyphonic choir.

Expert tuition in the celebration of Mass in the Usus Antiquior will be provided on a small group basis. There will be guest lecturers and all participants will receive 1962 Missals and altar cards.

Daily devotions will include Lauds, Vespers, Benediction and Rosary.

Further details and registration forms can be obtained from the LMS office (Tel: 020 7404 7284) or downloaded from the LMS website,"

What's this got to do with me?

Well, I've been asked by the organiser to provide the Gregorian Chant schola and the polyphonic choir!

This is a HUGE task for one person (particularly as I'm not a professional musician) and it therefore should go without saying, that I'll need considerable help to get enough singers + organist on board to do ourselves justice.

I don't wish to compete with the excellent Schola Sainte Cecile who provided the chant at the Merton Conferences, or the polyphonic choir which, I believe, was provided by one of the Oxford Colleges, BUT I do need reasonably confident chanters for the Schola, who will need to cope with the demands of Mass & the Divine Office for the duration, and a balanced polyphonic choir to sing Byrd's Mass for 4 voices, and motets, O Quam Gloriosum, Ave Verum and Regina Caeli for the Solemn High Mass on St George's Day which will conclude the conference.

There are 12 weeks to go between now and the Opening Day. I have, at the moment, 2 singers for the Schola, and the Director of music for the polyphony. Much work needs to be done! I'm also very much aware, that this is a working week and several people who form the backbone of the current Rudgate Singers & Schola won't be able to take annual leave at that time. It is, fortunately, before the start of the University Summer Term, so I'm praying like mad that we get some musically gifted students involved!

There are two things that I'd like readers to do. Firstly, pray for it's success, as this is the most important event that we have ever been asked to be involved in, and also let me know of singers who wish to take part. We need men for the Schola for all 4 days, and at least 8 people for the polyphony on St George's Day (Thursday).

As and when I get more information, I will post it here!

Another First

Over the last few months at Leeds Trinity & All Saints College there has been a series of public lectures and special talks as part of the inaugural Eastern Christian Studies Seminar series. It began last October with His Eminence, Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia, and most recently continued with the Rev. Professor Andrew Louth from the University of Durham. A feature of these seminars is that they are preceded with Vespers in the college chapel. Last Wednesday, for the first time, we had Orthodox Vespers [slightly edited for time!]. This was the first time that they had ever been celebrated here. Another first last summer was Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at which I provided the Schola!

Celebrating Vespers was my good friend Fr David Carnelly. The Deacon was Rev. Professor Matthew Steenberg, who besides being Professor of Theology and Head of Theology & Religious Studies at the college, is also a Deacon in the Russian Orthodox Church.

What made this event extra special was the fact it was the day after the election of the new Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, formerly Metropolitan of Smolensk and Kaliningrad.

Here are some photos.

Another Ordination

Back in December, at the Priestly Ordination of my good friend, Fr David, I was invited along with others, by the Romanian priest who had come, to their own Patronal Feast day of St Macarios the Great, which is always celebrated on the weekend in January closest to his actual Feast day in the Eastern Church, which is January 19th. (In the Latin Church it's the 16th).

So, on Saturday, 17th January, a few of us set off for the Community of the Resurrection in Mirfield, where the Romanian Community in Yorkshire has the use of the Lower Chapel for it's Liturgies. What we didn't expect was another Ordination, this time to the Diaconate. Present were His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph of the Romanian Orthodox Metropolis for Western and Southern Europe and His Grace Macarios, Bishop of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Northern Europe and former Parish Priest. Indeed Fr Macarios, as he then was, was the founder of the parish.

There was also an excellent Romanian Choir, the Grupul Psaltic Nectarie Protopsaltul from Bucharest, who sang the Liturgy to traditonal Byzantine Tones, but in Romanian of course, not Greek! After the Liturgy, which lasted for over 3 hours, we were treated to a traditional Romanian meal organised by the Parish Council.

Photographs of the Service can be found here

And a video here

Thanks are due to Fr Constantin, the Parish Priest and the Community for their splendid hospitality, and congratulations to the new Deacon! [Unfortunately I never did find out his name! If anyone reading this does know, please tell me, and I'll update this entry.]

Sad News

I only seem to be updating this blog at the moment when I'm either not busy or unwell. I hope this isn't going to be the case all the time, & I'll try and keep up to posting a bit more regularly....

Unfortunately my first entry in ages relates to sad news. A friend of mine died last Monday. She had been suffering from cancer for some time, and, whilst it wasn't totally unexpected, it's still rather unsettling as Ruth was only 45. I'd known her since the early 80's when we were both students. She was the girlfriend - and later wife - of another friend who I was at school with. The funeral is on Wednesday in York. Please remember Ruth in your prayers, and also Stephen her husband and their daughter Sarah.

I've also just found out about the death of I priest last November who I knew back in the early 1990's. Hegumen Gregory [Woolfenden], an Orthodox monk who was parish priest of St Mary’s Ukrainian Orthodox Church, New Britain, Connecticut (USA). I first met him when he was still Fr Graham, a catholic priest of the Diocese of Liverpool, who had bi-ritual faculties, and was therefore able to serve Byzantine Catholic Liturgies as well as Latin Rite Mass. We met several times in Liverpool, usually at the Metropolitan Cathedral, which was host to a number of Byzantine Liturgies at that time. After he left the area and moved to Oxford, we gradually lost touch until only fairly recently when we were able to communicate with each other again, thanks to Facebook.

May his memory be Eternal!