Thanks to a parish and pastoral staff that recognizes the importance of music ministry and supports it, we now have Finale® Music Notation Software downloaded on our computer!
For hundreds of years, printed music had been prepared by hand, punching notes into a metal plate backwards, so that when the paper picked up the ink from the depressions, it would appear correctly. Then came music typewriters with notes and dynamic markings rather than letters and numbers, but the finished product didn’t look as good. But the computer has revolutionized music publishing. Now, anywhere printed music appears, (like in our Breaking Bread) Finale® likely created those pages. And now I, like so many other musicians, can create, edit, print and maybe even publish a variety of musical scores.
By purchasing music typesetting software, the parish has made my job easier to make music more accessible. It takes time and effort to arrange music for all our needs, and that comes at the cost of not doing other work, like practicing. But now I don’t have to write out music by hand anymore, or use a laborious slow online computer program! I can make better arrangements for our bell choir, cuori BELLissimi! as well as educational worksheets for them and others. I can make rehearsal recordings for our choir members. I can have parts ready more easily for guest instrumentalists. I can share music files much easier with other members of the Diocesan Music Commission. And because I’m a private music instructor working at a religious institution, we were eligible for a significant discount, saving us about 40% off the retail price! So thank you!
Each summer, the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington presents The Liturgical Music Institute; a five day comprehensive program offering musical, liturgical and pastoral formation for liturgical musicians. Sr. Mary Ann and I had the privilege of attending Vespers and a workshop led by Rory Cooney and Steven Warner. Rory Cooney is a composer and director of liturgy and music at St. Anne Catholic Community in Barrington, Illinois. Steven Warner is the founder of the Notre Dame Folk Choir, and composed the Mass of Charity and Love we sing during Lent. They both introduced new music they had composed, but ironically, the piece we liked the best was by neither one of them but by a Notre Dame graduate student of Steven Warners, Karen Schneider Kirner. Called “Path of Mercy”, it’s a simple reminder of the call of the faithful to be examples of mercy in our world. The text is based on the “Morning Offering” by Catherine McAuley, the Irish nun who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831…
God of morning, God of sunlight, look on me with tenderness.
Help me see with eyes of mercy and respond with heart aflame.
May my hands embrace your likeness, So your love transforms my life,
As I walk the path of mercy, May your mercy be my own... Isn’t that a great text for this Jubilee Year of Mercy?
As our World Youth Day pilgrims continue exploring religious and historical sites of Poland, they’re also in places where great music has been composed.
They flew into Warsaw, where Frédéric Chopin grew up. This virtuoso pianist of the romantic era wrote primarily for piano, including waltzes, nocturnes and polonaises, a dance of Polish origin. (Polonaise is French for “Polish”.) Do you remember Barry Manilow’s “Could It Be Magic”? It’s based on Chopin’s “Prelude in C minor”!
Ignacy Paderewski was also a pianist and composer who graduated from the Warsaw Conservatorium. A favorite of concert audiences around the globe, he met with President Woodrow Wilson in 1918 to obtain the explicit inclusion of independent Poland as point 13 in Wilson's peace terms called the Fourteen Points.
After visiting Czestochowa, they traveled to Kraków, where Krzysztof Penderecki graduated from the Academy of Music. Famous for his choral work St. Luke Passion, many films feature his music, such as The Exorcist and The Shining. From there they visited Auschwitz, the German concentration camp where millions lost their lives, including Saints Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein. In many of these camps, prisoners who were musicians were forced to play during the work day; occasionally at the gas chambers; and for the entertainment of German personnel. At one point, Auschwitz had six orchestras and a brass band of over 120 musicians!
For the last two weeks, we presented our 10th Annual Vacation Bible School — Cave Quest: Following Jesus, the Light of the World. And while VBS is advertised as “Totally Catholic”, be aware that musically, here it's also TOTALLY LIVE! Our “spelunkers” had a ball and didn't miss a beat as they sang and danced accompanied by a live band of keyboards, guitar, flute and percussion!
Additionally, we featured Adam Bueno on flute on "I’m All In", a song affirming that God gives us direction. Hannah Dono had a cello solo in "Majestic", accompanied by the “blue” spelunkers on hand chimes as we expressed what we could give back to God—our praise! "Majestic" is a song by Lincoln Brewster, an American contemporary Christian musician and worship pastor.
Did you know a spelunker is a cave explorer? It’s a Latin word: from spelunk, meaning "cave." If you hope to be a spelunker someday, you probably have a love of dark, damp spaces and headlamps!
We had fun playing our own version of Dancing with the Spelunkers! We challenged each other to see who performed these songs with the most appropriate enthusiasm, and our six semi-finalists were Holden and Xavier Beelders; Marcus Bueno; Thomas Dono; Waylon Gomori and Lucas Kablan. But the enthusiasm we share at VBS needs to be continued into our Sunday liturgies, so YOUR challenge is to set an example for our young friends each Sunday at Mass with the passion of your praise.
In the Liturgy of the Word, the Church feeds the people of God from the table of his Word (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 51). It begins with readings from Scripture. Every family has its story; how our parents met, or how a cousin earned a particular nickname. When we gather for Mass, we hear God’s story of His love for us through Scripture.
The Responsorial Psalm is sung between the readings. Do you know why it’s called that? Not because there is a response or antiphon for the people to sing. The “response” referred to is our reflection and absorption of the reading which just took place, and the Gospel which is to come. So we “respond” to the Word of God by our repetitious singing of the theme of the readings.
The high point of the Liturgy of the Word is the reading of the Gospel. Because it tell of the life and preaching of Christ, it receives several special signs of honor and reverence. We stand to hear it; and it’s introduced by an acclamation of praise; Alleluia, derived from a Hebrew phrase meaning "Praise the Lord!" (Except during the solemn season of Lent.) Did you know that our participation in singing the Gospel Acclamation is so important that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal says that if it isn’t sung, it should be omitted?!?
After the Scripture readings, the celebrant preaches the homily, drawing from the texts lessons that may help us to live better lives. In many Masses, the Profession of Faith then follows, and the Liturgy of the Word concludes with the Universal Prayer, also called the Prayer of the Faithful.
Connor Whelan sings with the choir; cantors; plays piano or organ, assists with Vacation Bible School and has subbed for me many times. He earned Eagle Scout honors after successfully organizing a benefit concert last year to raise money for the Sisters of St. Joseph of Brentwood. He’s majoring in music at Brooklyn College, in addition to how he has been cultivating his pastoral musician formation here at Immaculate Heart of Mary. While he continues to develop his knowledge and skills to teach and play, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops calls for his development “to respond to people’s needs as well as take initiative that leadership requires.”
So starting next week, Connor will be in charge of music at the 5:00 PM Mass on the second Saturday of each month. This is to afford him the opportunity to become a collaborative leader by working in a reoccurring schedule shared with Liz, Maureen and myself; assist him in establishing a rhythm for himself that provides an appropriate balance of work, study, practice and leisure; and help him develop a heightened awareness of the congregation to whom he ministers.
As a parish, we can assist him as he prepares for a career in music ministry. Make suggestions to him as you would to me. Tell him when you like or dislike something. Let him know if you want percussion or Latin hymns, Bilingual hymns, etc. And of course, pray for him. But if you really want to support his development, sing for him at Mass, so he can learn the subtle nuance of leading a congregation better...
In Today’s Liturgy, composer Ben Walther reflects on his song Make Your Home in Me: “One sunny afternoon in the middle of the Gospel of Matthew (8:20), some star-struck fan of Jesus shouts across the crowd his intention to follow Jesus wherever he might go. Jesus’ response is more than curious. He says that foxes and birds have homes, but he does not. Why so cryptic?
We don’t know, because Matthew ends the encounter there. All we know is that this fellow is a ‘would-be’ follower who didn’t make the cut, probably because this scribe had a complicated devotion to Jesus, but Jesus is simple.
Make Your Home in Me is very simple and approachable, much like the Jewish carpenter we worship. Jesus wants us to make this invitation to come and live within us, that his light might sine in us. It is at once a childlike response to the person of Jesus and a mature declaration of discipleship. It is a constant reminder to be the hands and feet of Christ today. Verse 1 is a meditation on the homeless Jesus, the vagabond, the rogue. Verse 2 is a challenge to serve him in the poor.
I pray that this song inspires a new and fervent devotion to Jesus in the hearts of our congregations. As he makes his home in us, may he find a pure and humble abode there.”
This summer, Immaculate Heart of Mary presents our 10th Annual Vacation Bible School — Cave Quest: Following Jesus, the Light of the World. We’ll be grounding kids in the rock-solid foundation of God’s love, a love that takes us through life’s dark times.
And while VBS is advertised as “Totally Catholic”, be aware that musically, here it's also TOTALLY LIVE! For years now, our kids have a ball and don't miss a beat as they sing and dance accompanied by a live band of drums, keyboard and guitars! But the enthusiasm we share at VBS needs to be continued into our Sunday liturgies, so your challenge is to set an example for our young friends each Sunday at Mass.
This year, in keeping with the theme, we'll explore a new arrangement of This Little Light of Mine, which was written in the 1920’s and became a civil rights anthem in the 1950’s and 60’s. We’ll also discover Learning to Be the Light by the Canadian Christian pop/soul band Newworldson. Chris Tomlin, an American contemporary Christian music (CCM) artist will teach us in his song that Jesus Loves Me. And with your help we’ll learn to carry that love Everywhere I Go, a song by Lincoln Brewster, yet another CCM guitarist and worship pastor!
Register now for Cave Quest, which happens July 5th – July 15th. For more information, pick up a registration form in the rectory, or email S. Mary Ann at email@example.com.
Go Out, Go Out is featured on Curtis Stephan’s CD Amid Passing Things. In an interview in Today’s Liturgy, the composer reflects: “In the Pixar movie The Incredibles, Mrs. Incredible instructs her children of the dangers they face as they prepare for a dangerous rescue mission. ‘Be strong. Dash, use your powers. I want you to run as fast as you can.’ ‘As fast as I can?!’ he replies in utter surprise, amazement, and joy because—for the first time in his life—he’s free to be incredible.
In my college years, I was afraid I would be branded a ‘Jesus freak’. Sadly, this attitude even creeps into our church community where this joyful proclamation is sometimes met with disdain and encouraged to be kept private. Oh, to truly have that freedom, like Dash, and the courage in the power of the Holy Spirit to be incredible! Oh, to break free from the dark captivity of fear of the opinion of others and shine as a true light for the world to see!
In Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis challenges us, ‘Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel’ (20). Go Out, Go Out is used often as a recessional when we boldly send forth our assembly on a mission to witness the transforming joy of the Gospel. Holy Spirit, give us courage, make us strong, and set us free to be truly incredible!”
Last month, in honor of my birthday, the choir bought our parish a cajón! Pronunced “ka-HON”, it’s a box-shaped percussion instrument played by sitting on it and slapping its face with your hands and fingers; or sometimes brushes, mallets, or sticks.
The cajón, which means "box”, “crate” or “drawer”, was originally developed during the 18th century period of slavery in coastal Peru. It’s a direct descendant of a number of boxlike musical instruments from west and central Africa, especially Angola, and the Antilles. The African slaves made these instruments from the Spanish shipping crates they unloaded, especially fish crates. Since the Peruvians banned music in predominantly African areas in an attempt to control the slaves better; cajones could easily be disguised as seats or stools, thus avoiding identification as musical instruments.
For the modern cajón, thick wood is used for five sides of the box. A thinner sheet of plywood is nailed on as the sixth side, and acts as the striking surface or head, commonly referred to as the “tapa”. A sound hole is cut on the back side, and drum snares or cords are stretched inside for a buzz-like effect. The player sits astride the box, tilting it at an angle while striking the head between their knees, or playing the sides with the top of their palms and fingers for additional sounds.
It’s often used to accompany the acoustic guitar. It’s heard extensively in Afro-Peruvian music, as well as contemporary styles of flamenco and jazz. It’s played in modern Cuban Rumba; and the cajón de tapeo is used in Mexican folk music. It’s become a popular instrument in the folk music of Ireland and is often played alongside the bodhrán, an Irish frame drum that we also have! So now, all we need is someone to play it! If you know anyone who plays, or might be willing to learn...