Monthly Archives: November 2012

Hey, look, I was in a concert!

So one of the things that’s kept me busy lately has been preparing for a concert at my other parish, which recently got its building, complete with baby grand piano and well-crafted digital organ. So I wanted to share what I did yesterday, playing Domenico Zipoli’s Toccata in C Major. Please excuse some audio glitches, which are the fault of the recording device and not the fault of my friend recording it. (Skip to 1:39 if you want to avoid my pre-piece introduction.)

UPDATE: In case the embed is malfunctioning, click here to hear the piece.

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7 quick takes: Deo gratias, Alleluia

— 1 —

So sorry about the lack of posts lately. As you might imagine, I’m crazy busy, especially with the Advent and Christmas seasons closing in. I’m going to write posts when I can, but I may not be able to get back to regular posting until after Christmas.

— 2 —

Yesterday’s bilingual Thanksgiving Mass was a rousing success. First off, we had the kids singing three hymns: “Demos Gracias al Señor,” “Table of Plenty,” and “This Is the Day,” the old gospel-style song, but non-gospelified. The 15 or so kids sang loud and well (not easy to do both, believe me). And I had gone through all the music for Mass with them the day before (even though they weren’t going to be leading then), so they made sure that pretty much every hymn filled the church with singing. Big success. I’m hoping Christmas will be the same way.

Oh, but wait, there’s more! I successfully got a new trilingual hymn added. That’s right, trilingual (English and Spanish for the verses, but Latin for the refrain). It’s called “Deo Gratias,” and it has a measly eight verses (taken from Psalm 145), all of which we used as the priest incensed the altar. The congregation loved it and joined in vociferously on the refrain. And the closing was “Alabare,” an old classic for the Spanish-speaking congregation.

I think it’s fitting that this Thanksgiving was on the feast of St. Cecilia.

Were those instruments invented yet when St. Cecilia was around?

She totally came through. And, you know, the kids were well-behaved and quiet during Mass, too. So you know who else came through? St. Jude. Because seriously, isn’t keeping kids quiet during Mass pretty much a lost cause?

— 3 —

The choir’s choral books are in! Here’s an example:

I am thrilled. A big chunk of our psalms are in there. Many of our hymns are in there. And there are hymns that are in this book that aren’t in the hymnal, which means I can use them as choir pieces.

I’ll be handing these out the first week of December.

— 4 —

The other parish I play at regularly has finally moved into its church building (yay) and has an organ (double yay). However, because of what I believe we call a “day job,” I was unavailable for the orientation session for the organ. I’m going to try to get into church tomorrow to learn about the organ, but I’m dependent on someone being able to let me in. If not, I’ll have to go in cold on Sunday and hope I can figure out the settings on the fly. Because I’m a weekend warrior organist and not a music-degree-trained type, that means I’m really going to have to hope I figure this out quickly.

— 5 —

I saw “Skyfall” with a close friend who, the day after, moved to Indianapolis. I already miss him. Luckily, “Skyfall” was an incredible movie. However, it moved the number of Bond movies I’ve seen beginning to end to … um, one. On the other hand, for an introduction to Bond movies, this was a good one. And on the other other hand, isn’t the Adele song for the movie (which plays over the opening credits) basically perfect to set the mood for the film?

(Spoiler alert: “Skyfall” is the villain’s childhood sled, and Bond spends most of the movie trying to figure out how it motivates the villain.)

— 6 —

I also visited a couple friends and their 1-year-old over the last weekend. Adorable kid. And he liked me immediately, even though I was eating a chunk of his leftover birthday cake (I hadn’t been able to go to his party, so I dropped by the next day). I love kids, and I’m pretty good with them (the kids’ choir likes me, and they actually sit and listen to me without me having to yell, which I appreciate). With any luck, one day I’ll have my own.

— 7 —

Will attempt to do all Christmas shopping online this year. Do not like crowds. Do not like wrangling for things. Shipping is faster than usual during holidays. I can handle that.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

7 Quick Takes: ABCDEF Cookie Monster

— 1 —

This is the cutest thing ever.

A little girl named Joey has been tasked with singing the alphabet song with Kermit on “Sesame Street,” but she’s entirely preoccupied with inserting Cookie Monster into the proceedings and giggling. Jim Henson, who’s puppeteering Kermit, notably breaks character just a little bit as he tries to avoid laughing, gets through the alphabet (while Joey is still giggling), then–playing along–has Kermit “stomp off” in irritation. Joey, undeterred, finishes the segment with an ending that you’d have to have a heart of stone not to love.

— 2 —

If you don’t mind, I’d appreciate a few prayers, because my day job employer has hit a very rough patch and we simply don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a fairly well-known company, so I won’t elaborate, but I have a lot to think about over the holidays.

— 3 —

Maybe it’s the election, but I keep thinking of a couple lines from an English translation of “O Salutaris Hostia”: “Our foes press on from every side/thine aid, supply; thy strength, bestow.”

— 4 —

But enough unhappy. Back to happy. Let’s talk Epiphany, for which the choir at my normal parish will be doing a Scott Soper gem, “Child of the Poor,” that can alternate verses with “What Child Is This.”

I love this one, and it’s a keeper for future years.

— 5 —

For Christmas, the choir is getting choral books. They don’t know this yet, of course, but also, most of then don’t use the Interwebz regularly. We tend to sing only the melody for a lot of stuff, and that will continue for congregation pieces, but I’m intent on upping the amount of choral stuff we do.

— 6 —

Did Cardinal Dolan really float a return to meatless Fridays? I mean, I’ll do it if the bishops ever OK it, and it might be good for my diet, but eep. I’m not a big fish person. Although my taco place does have shrimp tacos.

— 7 —

Actual thing I did the other day: drank a beer on my train home while listening to Catholic radio podcasts. As far as Catholic podcasts go, I listen to The Catholic Guy, Busted Halo, and Catholic Answers (and occasionally Jimmy Akin’s). I’m open to other suggestions, too.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Praise music from the past: “Morning Has Broken”

Latest in a series of posts dealing with music that could pop up at Mass, though some of it probably shouldn’t.

So let’s dispel with one popular misconception right off the bat: Cat Stevens did not write “Morning Has Broken,” though he certainly popularized it, making it one of the many Christian-themed songs that gained mainstream popularity in the 1970s.

Did not write this hymn.

The actual writer was a Brit named Eleanor Farjeon. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot is known about her; according to a site dedicated to her:

Eleanor Farjeon was an endearing, eccentric, gifted writer. She wrote about her own childhood; she wrote about the poet Edward Thomas, whom she loved; and she wrote countless plays, poems and stories, many of which achieved international recognition. But of Eleanor Farjeon the woman, little is known.

Apparently, most people in her house were writers. And she wrote a lot of stuff. And that’s about it about her. She was Catholic for at least part of her life; the sources I found conflict on for how long, though she apparently had converted from the Church of England. As for hymns, another well-known one she’s written is the Advent hymn “People, Look East.” 

Eleanor Farjeon (Photo credit: farjeon.org.)

The hymntune, “Bunessan,” predated Farjeon, and it’s been used in countless hymns. But I suspect it wouldn’t be as popular with Stevens finding himself loving the song.

This is, of course, still totally usable at Mass, and my parish uses it a decent amount. It’s prone to overuse, but I think it’s still one to keep in the rotation — that having been said, use the regular accompaniment, and don’t use the Cat Stevens one, which will be a distraction.

Though I admit, I have a copy of the sheet music for the Cat Stevens version at home. And it’s soooooo tempting to want to play it at Mass, believe me.

7 quick takes: El, El, El

— 1 —

This is my latest obsession:

It’s the Spanish version of Rupert Holmes’ underrated “Him”–it’s tough to get another hit taken seriously after you’ve released “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).” This is the Rupert Holmes version:

The Spanish version is more of a novelty version; the Rupert Holmes version better captures the emotion of the song. But perhaps because it’s in Spanish, I’m listening to that version more often.

— 2 —

In December, I believe I will be setting a record for the number of Masses I’ve played in one month: I’m currently scheduled for 25. Yikes. I’m going to be busy. This includes 12/8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, where I’ll be playing a Mass at 10 a.m., doing Spanish practice at noon, doing kids’ practice at 1 p.m., and playing Masses at 4 and 7 p.m. I might be tired by the end of that day.

— 3 —

Things are going well with the kids’ choir I formed for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve so far. They’re learning three songs: one in English, one in Spanish, and one in both. This isn’t an issue, since most of the kids speak both languages (a couple don’t speak English). They’ll be singing “Table of Plenty,” “Demos Gracias al Señor,” and “This Is the Day,” both in an English and Spanish translation.

— 4 —

I asked myself last week whether Bishop Jenky of Peoria knew what he was doing. And I’ve come to the conclusion that, pragmatically speaking, he took the wrong approach. (FWIW, Russell Shaw floated this idea as well.) So next time, lay out the principles. But no more saying a candidate or party violates them, OK? You have an obligation to give us Church teaching. Don’t risk your credibility by pushing into things you don’t know as well.

— 5 —

I much prefer Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s approach. Cordial, kind, but Mr. President, you’re on notice; we’re keeping up our opposition when you’re wrong. (But we will praise you when you’re right.) The next four years will be very interesting; here’s hoping Cardinal Dolan will succeed in protecting the Church.

— 6 —

Back to Church music: I am thrilled we’re doing “Festival Canticle” (which is one of my favorites) on the Feast of Christ the King at my main parish. But I prepared a series of much quieter stuff for Advent, such as “Patience, People.” And we’re doing chant again. I like chant.

— 7 —

Please keep in your prayers Jeannie Hayes, a Rockford news anchor who was a couple years ahead of me in college. I didn’t know her, but I knew of her; she died Thursday after a short battle with leukemia. How short? She was sick Monday, diagnosed Tuesday, in surgery on Wednesday, and dead on Thursday. She was only 29. I’m 27. That’s scary and shocking. May she rest in peace.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Hey, church music composers: no more second endings, please

I recently introduced this excellent hymn to my regular church:

Well, I introduced 95% of “We Belong to You.” I skipped out on one part: the second ending, to be played and sung after the last refrain. Except for those hymns that have been around forever, I never play the second endings, and no one seems to complain about it–probably because they don’t realize they’re there. I’m not talking about choir-only versions, where the congregation is listening more than participating; I’m talking more about hymns that are regularly scheduled for the people in the pews to sing.

BAD. DO NOT FILL IN WITH DIFFERENT THINGS.

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A post-election reflection

Written, and scheduled, after polls had closed but before the outcome of the presidential election had been determined.

On Election Evening four years ago, I was working in a newsroom at a large metropolitan newspaper in Chicago. We watched, and worked, as Barack Obama gained the electoral votes needed for the presidency, then accepted his victory in Grant Park, not far from where we were. There was no celebration (outwardly) by anyone in the newsroom; there was simply too much to do.

At about 1 a.m. or so, I had finished work and stepped out onto Michigan Avenue. The street was still impassable to cars; revelers continued to scream and yell and hoot and holler and rejoice. It wasn’t easy to get to public transit, and any buses or “L” trains were stuffed anyway. It was a relatively warm, clear night, even though it was in early November, so I decided started to walk home. At the time, I lived on the North Side of Chicago; the walk was four miles and about an hour and a quarter. I think there was loud cheering from those exiting downtown for maybe three of those four miles.

And though I hadn’t voted for Obama (and never would), I understood, and in some sense, shared his fans’ enthusiasm. It was historic that an African-American had won the presidency. He had provided the fresh face, the brighter perspective, the optimism that things would get better. Yes, I disagreed, significantly, with the president-elect on many issues. But maybe, just maybe, he would serve to better the common good.

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