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2018 Catholic Favorites

  • Jennifer Pascual and Sounds from the Spires: Interviewing the interviewer

    Jennifer Pascual

    Jennifer Pascual is Director of Music at St. Patrick’s Cathedral since 2003 and the first woman to hold this position. She holds degrees in organ and piano performance and in music education, culminating in a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Organ Performance from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. She hosts Sounds from the Spires on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM, where she interviews musicians and music lovers of all stripes.

    How did you get involved with Sounds from the Spires? 

    The Archdiocese of New York began a collaboration with Sirius XM in 2006. The Catholic Channel (now on Sirius XM, Channel 129) first launched in December of that year. It is 24 hours of programming of various religious topics, and of course, mine is about music. The Archdiocese asked me if I would host a one-hour per week program related to music to which I responded, “I have no radio experience, but I'll give it a shot! I work two blocks away from the studios, so I think this will work!” I have been hosting the program ever since and am one of the few original hosts that saw the launch of The Catholic Channel

    What is it like to prepare for the show?

    Other than the sound engineer in the room during the program, I do all the work myself. Each week I try to feature a different musician, and they can either be live in the studio with me or over the telephone. Guests range from instrumentalists, singers, composers, historians, publishers (Mark Lawson (ECS Publishing Group President) has been on my program before!), conductors, chant scholars, priests, seminarians, writers, organ builders, etc. Most of the time, I am featuring music composed and/or performed by my guests, and part of the preparation time is listening to their recordings. I travel a lot, so I often have guests from places I have traveled and am usually carrying CDs home from most trips! If I know someone will be in New York on a certain date, I try to reserve that date for that person, and keep the other open dates flexible. Sometimes people reach out to me and tell me they have a new recording out or they’d like their music to be featured on my program. If I don't have a guest on a particular date, I do the program myself and pick a composer who has a significant anniversary, or focus on a particular liturgical season.

    We all have a tendency to get stuck in our own little worlds, and if I hadn't hosted my radio program for almost 12 years, I think I would be quite out of touch with what is out there aside from cathedral-type music. I have a real appreciation for music that I am not necessarily familiar with, and even more so when the composer or musician tells the story behind it. Many times I find myself feeling generally exhausted and run down, and in speaking to some of these musicians who are so full of life and positive energy—it’s really encouraging. I hope that listeners get a sense of this as well.

    What are some favorite experiences you’d like to share? 

    Favorites… that’s a difficult one—like picking out my favorite dessert! Some of my favorite guests have been people from foreign countries who have become good friends of mine and my family’s over the years: two organists from St. Peter’s Basilicain theVaticanJames Goettsche, an American, and Juan Paradell Solé, a Spaniard—both have lived in Rome for many years. When I interviewed Solé in the studio, his wife served as the translator. Whenever my family and I are in Rome, we always try to visit with Solé and Goettsche over a meal. If I happen to be at St. Peter’s for a Papal Mass, one of them would find me and have me play the postlude!

    Another two favorite guests are from Russia: Marina Omelchenko, Principal Organist at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Moscow, and Fr. Daniel Maurer, CJD, an American who serves in Vladivostok, which is in far eastern Russia—he was instrumental in reopening a parish there after the fall of communism in the 1990s. Long story short, the former Roman Catholic Cathedral building would only be released to the Church if, in part, it were used as a magnet for organ music. Ms. Omelchenko was their first organist, and also was baptized in the parish after the suppression of religion was lifted. I was there in 2015, along with Ms. Omelchenko, to dedicate a new Diego Cera pipe organ, which was built in my mother’s hometown of Las Piñas, Manila, Philippines.

    On vary rare occasions I have had live performances —our own St. Patrick’s Cathedral Choir did a Christmas program one year. Other live performances were Argentinian pianist Rosa Antonelli performing works of Argentinian composers, and New York pianist Eleni Traganas performing works of Alexander Scriabin on the 100th anniversary of the Russian composer’s death. On one occasion, I hosted Armenian duduk player Oganes Kazaryan, and he demonstrated that ancient Armenian wind instrument during the interview. He lives in Moscow and is a duo team with Ms. Omelchenko.

    What feedback have you received about the show?

     My hope is that people listening are getting something out of my program, whether it be musical ideas for their church programs, spiritual inspiration, exposure to new music or musicians or instruments that they’ve never heard of, or even just enjoying the music of the guests that I host.

    Some cool notes that I have received from listeners are, “I liked such and such a piece that I heard on your program and I will start using that at my parish,” “I’m glad I heard so and so and you mentioning their upcoming concert because I was able to attend,” “I listen to you all the time when I am driving in my car!” “I heard your show and I hope you consider my music to be played on your show.”

    Describe the connection between your work at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the radio show.

    If I were not at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I never would have been asked to host a radio program. It was a direct personal ask from the Archdiocese, and I am here to serve!

    I should make mention of the man who hired me at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Edward Cardinal Egan. He was on my show once, along with two other musicians whom he wanted to feature. Ideally, I would have wanted to interview him alone, but I never had the chance to do that before he passed away. He was my boss, but also my friend and a good mentor.

    I was responsible for the liturgical music for the 2008 visit of Pope Benedict XVI and the 2015 visit of Pope Francis to New York. I interviewed different musicians from different cities involved in those U.S. Papal visits—those were some very memorable interviews for me.

    In addition to the radio program, our 7:00 a.m. Mass is broadcast live Monday to Friday, and our 10:15 a.m. Sunday Mass is as well. I used to play the organ for the early Mass (which used to be at 8:00 a.m.) 4 times a week. The Cathedral Choir, which I conduct, can be heard on the Sunday broadcast from just after Labor Day through the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, and during other special liturgies when they are broadcast. One of the most memorable notes I received from a Mass listener was, “I listen to Mass every day when I commute to work, and it helps me to pray every day.”

    Our annual, standing-room-only “A City Singing at Christmas” concert is a favorite of The Catholic Channel staff, and they make it a point to re-broadcast it on Christmas Day. The two Papal visits, of course, were broadcast on The Catholic Channel, and I did a couple of solo shows featuring the music that was to be heard at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as well as at Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden.

    What first attracted you to the field of church music?

    I went to Catholic school, K-12. Playing the piano since age 5 was ok, but when I joined the choir in 8th grade, I saw that an organ was pretty cool. The organist was playing on several keyboards and with his feet. I only played the organ once during elementary school when the organist was late for Mass. Then in high school, after my organist friend graduated, I wanted to try it out as there was no one else to play organ for Mass. I was hooked onto the organ from that point on! One of my teachers told our parish priest that I could play the organ, and I have been playing the organ every Sunday since! The instruments in themselves are cool, but working with liturgical musicians is far more rewarding than sitting in a practice room, solo, all day for a performance stage. I consider myself to be a liturgical musician before a performer. The years of hands-on experience, education and networking have made me the person I am today.

  • Responsorial Psalm Singing with the Five Graces Psalter, Part 2

    The Five Graces Psalter by Luke Mayernick The Five Graces Psalter

    Guest post by Kelly Dobbs-Mickus

    The new volume of Responsorial Psalms for the 3-year Lectionary by Luke Mayernik is receiving rave reviews from customers as an excellent resource for psalmody. This second post continues to explore the practice of responsorial psalm singing in the context of Roman Catholic liturgy using The Five Graces Psalter for reference. We hope that these reflections will be helpful to cantors and accompanists, no matter where they are on their liturgical music journeys.

    The first part of this post considered the liturgical role of the cantor as psalmist and then moved to the art of singing and accompanying psalm refrains. This second part will focus on the verses and psalm tones. Our context is a “regular” parish setting, but we acknowledge that all worship situations are not identical.

    As we discussed in part one, the psalmist’s role for the refrain is primarily about communicating the words and modeling how the assembly will sing the response. The verses are a much more complicated topic, and this post can really only scratch the surface. Because of that, we will concentrate on the most important points for psalmists and sprinkle in some information for accompanists along the way.

    The psalmist sets the emotional tone of the psalm, and should possess an understanding of this particular part of the story of salvation and how it relates to the other Scripture readings. An excellent resource for psalm spirituality is Sr. Kathleen Harmon’s book Becoming the Psalms: A Spirituality of Singing and Praying the Psalms. Preparation of the psalm must not be solely an exterior one; it is the psalmist’s privilege and responsibility to pray the psalms.

    Because psalm tones are unmetered, they allow for much freedom of expression. The psalm tones in The Five Graces Psalter are particularly expressive—they are melodic and harmonically fresh. (Listen to some samples here.) The downside of unmetered music is that it can be more difficult to interpret, due in part to how it looks on the page. How do we get past the notation to create musical prayer?

    The best place to start is with the words of the psalm verses. Read them aloud and study them apart from the music. Memorize them if you can. Here is part of the psalm for Immaculate Conception, Psalm 98:1–3ab:

    O sing a new song to the LORD,
    for he has worked wonders.
    His right hand and his holy arm
    have brought salvation.

    The LORD has made known his salvation,
    has shown his deliverance to the nations.
    He has remembered his merciful love
    and his truth for the house of Israel.

    Notice the natural stresses of the words, the punctuation, and the sequence of ideas. Make note of the emotional tone and strive to reflect it in your singing. Internalizing the psalm in this way is crucial for being able to proclaim it, and the bonus is that it will make the work of interpreting the psalm in song easier.

    The next step is to put the words together with the music. First, let’s define two helpful terms:

    1. Reciting notes are notes that have multiple syllables under them. It is important to sing the words/syllables under reciting notes with their proper stresses, and not plow through them in a robotic or quick fashion simply because the pitch doesn’t change.
    2. Cadential notes lead into the cadence of each phrase. It is important to observe proper stresses for these notes as well, keeping in mind that, although the note is changing, the syllable may be an unstressed one. (The two sets of brackets under the second cadential note indicate that psalmists and accompanists skip those notes/chords.)
    All examples: Verses from The Revised Grail Psalms, Copyright © 2010, Conception Abbey/The Grail, admin. by GIA Publications, Inc. Setting Copyright © 2017 Birnamwood Publications (ASCAP), A division of MorningStar Music Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted for educational use only.

    Here is the first line of Verse 1, notated first showing a poor interpretation, and second showing a good interpretation.

    These two brief examples lend insight into the many variables that exist when interpreting each phrase of a psalm, and how much preparation on the part of the psalmist is needed to communicate the psalm well to the assembly. Go back to the first example and try singing Verses 2 and 3, making sure not to emphasize unaccented syllables, speed through syllables under reciting notes, or unduly lengthen cadential notes.

    There are different types of tones within Mayenik’s Five Graces Psalter. Each phrase of the tone just discussed has a reciting tone and then a cadence with multiple chords. In that kind of tone, it is easy to mis-accent the cadential notes because, after singing several syllables on one pitch, it is natural to emphasize the changing pitch.

    Here is an example of a different kind of tone, from the First Sunday of Advent C.

    This tone is less complicated, because each phrase has a second reciting note rather than multiple cadential notes. This means fewer opportunities for mis-accenting syllables. However, it is still important to find the word accents within the reciting notes, and the fact that there are two reciting notes means that there are fewer syllables under each, which has its own issues. For example, how do you treat a single syllable under a reciting tone, such as “Teach” in the second phrase of Verse 1? My vote would be to lengthen that note a bit, but you and your accompanist might agree on a different approach.

    Two other features of this tone are 1) a repeated phrase at the end of the first verse, indicated by brackets, and 2) an optional cue note on the penultimate chord of each verse. (Cue notes are also included in the first example.) Cues indicate optional notes that a cantor or choir might use for variation on one or more verses. The introduction to the psalter has more information on cue notes, especially for use with choirs.

    There is a third kind of tone that is a combination of the two already discussed. Look at the third and fourth phrases of Psalm 51 for Ash Wednesday and you will find both a second reciting tone and cadential notes. Try singing through those phrases for an idea of the interpretation issues involved.

    Now that we have talked about reciting and cadential notes and natural word accents, let’s move to breathing. There is no single correct method for when to breathe. The easiest way to talk about breathing is to link it to punctuation. There is little argument for breathing at periods, colons, or semi-colons. Keep in mind that taking a breath usually implies a lengthening of the syllable that precedes the breath.

    It is often appropriate to breathe at a comma, but not always. I recently heard this good tip: When there are two commas close to each other, breathe/break at one, not both. In the first phrase of Verse 1 above, breathing both before and after “O God” feels choppy. However, there is also a way to use a break in the sound, not an actual breath, for a smaller separation. Another option is to lengthen the syllable that precedes the comma, even if you don’t breathe or break at the comma.

    The Ash Wednesday example has unusually long phrases in the first two lines which require attention. Breathing after “God” in the first line and after “compassion” in the second line will be a necessity for many psalmists. But even if a singer didn’t need to breathe there, doing so will improve the assembly’s understanding of the text. To underscore the breaths, the accompanist might repeat the chord, or perhaps tie the melody note and repeat the other notes.

    A less obvious practice in singing psalm verses concerns connecting phrases by avoiding breaths between them. It can be appropriate to do this when the two phrases of text have no separating punctuation or when a connection of the meaning is otherwise implied. In the Psalm 51 example, look at phrases 3 and 4 of Verse 4. The psalmist could breathe after “Lord,” and then connect “lips” with “and,” and the accompanist could underscore this by connecting the chords.

    It should be obvious that if the accompanist and psalmist do not rehearse and agree on the details of breathing, the interpretation will suffer. When these points regarding breathing are understood by the accompanist, s/he will be free to underscore the interpretation in other ways: the volume/voicing of the accompaniment, the registration/octave of the accompaniment, articulation, alternate harmonizations, etc. In addition to those factors, the accompanist and psalmist should decide how to begin the phrases of each verse—there is some freedom here. For example, the accompanist could play the first chord of each verse before the psalmist enters, but could begin the following phrases with the psalmist. The accompanist’s role during the verses is to creatively support the psalmist without calling attention to the accompaniment. When the refrain comes around, the accompanist becomes the leader again.

    These are but a few of the many nuances involved in singing psalm tones. The previous emphasis placed on internalizing the text cannot be overstated; without this personal connection to the psalm itself, the details that should enable its prayerful expression will instead get in the way. Even experienced psalmists should continually ask themselves how well they are interpreting, communicating, and praying the psalm—how well they are fulfilling their ministry.

    Visit our website for more information on The Five Graces Psalter, especially the options for both print and downloadable versions, and the sample recordings.
  • Celebrating Paul Bouman

    Composer Paul Bouman will turn 100 on August 26, 2018. In a century he has certainly built a legacy, particularly in Lutheran church music. In 2015 the Center for Church Music produced an interview with Bouman (led by another MorningStar composer, Michael Costello), providing a great resource in getting to know the composer quite well in just an hour.  We also love this article by Northwestern Magazine, which details Bouman's connection to composer Michael Wolniakowski.

    View Bouman's music here.


    Paul Bouman was born in Hamburg, Minnesota on August 26, 1918. He has a B.S. in Education from Concordia College, River Forest, Illinois, and attended Westphalian Church Music School, in Herford, Germany. He has held positions as a Director of Music and as a teacher at Ebenezer Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin; St. Paul Lutheran Church, Melrose Park, Illinois; and at Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest, Illinois.

    He has received many honors including the Spiritus Christi Medal from Concordia College, River Forest, Illinois; the Te Deum Laudamus Award from Zion Lutheran Church, Dallas, Texas; and Dr. of Humane Letters from Christ Seminary-Seminex, St. Louis, Missouri.

    Bouman's other activities include: Staff member at Lutheran Worship Conferences as well as workshops for Chorister's Guild and AGO in Dallas, Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Ft. Lauderdale, etc. with particular emphasis on children's choirs; Staff member of Lutheran Summer Music Program since 1986; As a member of the Illinois Grade School Music Association his children's choirs always received a top rating in the Illinois Grade School Contests.

    In 1971 he co-founded with Carl Schalk the Bach Vesper Cantata Series at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, Illinois. In 1984 he was invited to prepare the Children's Choirs for the Bethlehem Bach Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Bach Choir of Bethlehem.

    Bouman holds memberships in the American Guild of Organists, The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, the American Choral Director's Association, and the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians.

    He is married to Victoria Bartling and has five children.

  • Michael Burkhardt: Featured Sacred Composer

    image of Michael Burkhardt Michael Burkhardt

    This month we got to know composer Michael Burkhardt, who is particularly known for his skill as an organist, choral clinician, hymn festival leader, and for his creative work with children.

    How did you first become involved with music?

    I became first involved with music when my grandmother, a self-trained church organist, taught me to play a few songs on the piano. I then sang in the first-ever children’s choir at the church of my growing up, a country church of 100 or so people in an unincorporated village in Wisconsin, a church where everyone seemed to sing, whether they could match pitch or not—what a gift! I began studying clarinet in sixth grade in public school and applied everything I learned in my clarinet lessons and church children’s choir experience to playing the organ at the church. By eighth grade, I was one of the organists who played on a rotational basis for worship. Hearing a live performance of Paul Manz’s Partita on St. Anne during that period convinced me forever that I needed to be involved in performing and creating music.

    Was there a critical moment when you became a composer, or was it gradual work and realization?

    I believe there was a creativity seed planted inside me before I was born. I have always loved making and creating things, whether it was at the keyboard or in the kitchen or shop. I never planned on becoming a composer, it seems to have just happened. My first published compositions began as organ and choral improvisations for worship and concert that were later transcribed by myself and at times, by and with my students.

    Where or when do you feel most inspired to compose?

    I am inspired to compose when I feel compelled and convicted to create a piece for worship or concert that will inspire, engage, teach, and challenge the adults and children with whom I work. I am also inspired when a text, albeit old or new, makes it way in front of me, and keeps taunting me to create a musical setting of it. I am probably most inspired when, in worship or leading a hymn festival, the singing by the congregation and choirs, enlivened by the Spirit, energizes me to create on the spot, in the moment.

    What is your favorite medium to write for?

    Choral music and hymn-based organ music.

    How much does a piece of yours change from its inception to its publication?
    • In relation to an organ piece, the published version is really a composite transcription of multiple improvisations on the same hymn tune. Hence, the organ piece for me is ever-changing, but for the performer it is what it is on the page.
    • Regarding choral editions, there is not much change.
    • Regarding choral settings of hymns, at times there is little or no change, and at other times I wonder how I could have imagined and thought that what I created would really work with singers or result in a musically satisfying offering. Thank goodness for grace and my own choirs who are willing to try out new works!
    • In relation to non-hymn based choral works, there is little or no change, but the compositional process takes much longer from inception to completion, resulting at times in several versions composed and discarded before the version that feels right emerges.
    How do you spend your time when you’re not engaged in musical activities?

    Traveling, hiking, and connecting with people, especially in coffee shops!

    What’s your next project, musical or otherwise?

    Working on organizing the materials, procedures, and processes of the Hearts, Hands and Voices Series for worship and fine arts children's programs. The series represents a variety of different kinds of musical resources to provide children’s choir leaders with creative and educationally sound resources.

     

    For a complete listing of Burkhardt's works published by MorningStar, click here.

    For another great story on Michael Burkhardt, check out EMU Today's article from September 2017.


    Internationally known for his innovative and inspiring hymn festivals and for his creative work with children, Michael Burkhardt is in frequent demand as a choral clinician, organ recitalist, and hymn festival leader.

    Dr. Burkhardt is Artist-Professor of Organ at Eastern Michigan University, and for the past nine years has served hearts, hands and voices Worship and Fine Arts Program as Artistic Director and Holy Cross Lutheran Church as Cantor. From 2001-2007 he served on the faculty of Carthage College (ELCA) in Kenosha, Wisconsin, as Director of Choral Activities, College Organist, and Artist in Residence. Prior to his appointment at Carthage, he was a Faculty Associate in organ at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Dr. Burkhardt is a graduate of Carthage College, Kenosha, WI. He earned his M.M. degree from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, and his D.M.A. degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.

    He has performed and led seminars at both national and regional events for the American Guild of Organists, the Hymn Society, the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians, the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts, and the American Choral Directors Association, and since 2003 he has made seven performance-teaching tours to South Korea and Singapore. He will return to Singapore in November of 2018 to prepare and conduct children’s and adult festival choruses for and in an Advent-Christmas concert at the Esplanade, the country’s newest and foremost concert hall. In addition, he will present several organ recitals and workshops throughout the country.

    Dr. Burkhardt is author of Part-Singing Global Style (a resource focusing on sequential part-singing techniques in treble arrangements of global pieces), Singing with Understanding (a curriculum utilizing the great hymns, folksongs and spirituals of the Church to share faith stories and to teach the elements of music and worship), Read ‘n Ring (a graded curriculum for teaching literacy to and exploring musicianship for handbell/handchime ringers), and Worship for the Young Child (a worship resource providing engaging, inclusive worship experiences for young children with teaching guides), and Creative Hymn Playing (a hymn-based improvisation method-resource for organists). He is composer of three settings of the Eucharistic liturgy, A New Song, Missa St. Andrew, and Missa Mixolydian as well as numerous organ improvisations, choral octavos and handbell compositions.

  • Responsorial Psalm Singing with the Five Graces Psalter

    Guest post by Kelly Dobbs-Mickus

    MorningStar has recently published a new volume of Responsorial Psalms for the 3-year Lectionary cycle by Luke Mayernik. In this series, we will explore the practice of responsorial psalm singing using the Five Graces Psalter for reference, in the context of Roman Catholic liturgy, while acknowledging that other traditions also use responsorial forms. Whether singing/playing responsorial psalms is new for you, or whether you are experienced, we believe these reflections will contribute to this aspect of your ministry.

    This first part of the post considers the responsorial psalm in its liturgical context and then moves to the art of singing and accompanying psalm refrains. It assumes a “regular” parish setting while acknowledging that all worship situations are not identical.

    The responsorial psalm is one of the Scripture readings in the Liturgy of the Word and therefore has an elevated place in the liturgy. The cantor or soloist (called psalmist from here) is the proclaimer, and therefore the communication of the text is his/her most important task. As musicians, we tend to be more concerned with the music than making sure the text is understood, but this clear communication of Scripture is a skill that must be practiced and continually developed by psalmists.

    The psalmist sets the emotional tone of the psalm, and should possess an understanding of this particular part of the story of salvation and how it relates to the other Scripture readings. An excellent resource for psalm spirituality is Sr. Kathleen Harmon’s book Becoming the Psalms: A Spirituality of Singing and Praying the Psalms, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 2015. Preparation of the psalm must not be solely an exterior one; it is the psalmist’s privilege and responsibility to pray the psalms.

    Accompanists also have a responsibility to prepare each psalm setting prayerfully. Decide which keyboard instrument fits the particular refrain, assuming there are equally viable options. The refrain accompaniments found in The Five Graces Psalter are quite flexible; even those that appear to be pianistic can be quite successful on the organ (the example included here is such a refrain), and vice versa. Pianists should consider options for volume and articulation, and organists should decide what stops will be most appropriate, etc. Guitar chord symbols are provided; adding guitar to refrains and/or verses adds richness to the texture. Guitar would be a sufficient accompaniment for verses in some situations.

    The refrain melody is usually introduced by a keyboardist, with or without a solo instrumentalist. Playing the refrain accompaniment as written is a possibility, but other options are more helpful for the assembly. The keyboardist might play the melody only, perhaps in octaves. Another option is to “solo out” the melody, perhaps in a higher octave for piano, or on a solo stop for organ. This important skill for organists is most commonly done this way: Play the melody in the right hand, pair the alto and tenor voice in the left hand, and assign the bass line to the pedals. Here is the refrain for Palm Sunday, shown first as it appears in the Five Graces Psalter and then as a solo melody version.

    A pianist has the ability to play the melody more loudly so that it is heard above the texture of the other voices. Having a solo instrument play the melody is very effective, with or without accompaniment. All of these options can be tailored to fit the tone of the psalm and/or the liturgical season or feast; in general, it makes sense to use simpler approaches for seasons such as Advent and Lent and more elaborate ones for seasons such as Christmas and Easter.

    Establish a steady tempo in the introduction, and maintain it for the psalmist’s intonation and assembly response, being careful to rehearse the transitions among those repetitions, as well as the transitions between verses and refrains. There are several ways to handle these transitions—not necessarily one “right” way—but consistency and rehearsal are necessary for confident assembly participation.

    When the psalmist sings the first refrain, there are several things to remember. Here’s a good way to think about what is happening in this liturgical moment: As part of prayerfully proclaiming this Scripture, the psalmist is modeling the best way for the assembly—a group of untrained singers—to sing this particular refrain, thereby enabling their prayerful participation.

    • The notes should be clear and in tune, and the tempo should be steady.
    • Breathe when you believe they will need to breathe.
    • Be musical, because a musical “performance” will engage the assembly. Follow the contour and expression of the musical line, emphasize/de-emphasize certain notes, etc. In other words, allow the music to be an effective vehicle for the particular text.
    • Avoid affectations in your tone (e.g., too much vibrato) and pronunciation (e.g., rolled Rs, or a “British” style) so that the assembly will feel comfortable imitating you.
    • Enunciate each syllable. Imagine that the assembly does not have visual access to the words.
    • Microphones are not a substitute for a supported vocal production; if you have a big voice, move back a bit. Rehearse with the microphone, and record your rehearsal for an objective perspective.

    The accompanist plays two different roles in the responsorial psalm: accompanying the cantor and leading the assembly. S/he needs to support but not overpower the psalmist, taking a back seat especially during the verses to allow the words of the psalm to be primary. S/he needs to lead the assembly in singing each refrain with correct notes, steady tempo, clear breaths, and appropriate volume. It can be helpful for accompanists to give more prominence to the refrain melody—as described above—until the assembly becomes confident.

    The psalmist should allow the keyboardist to be the leader for the assembly refrains. It may be necessary for him/her to help the assembly on the first repetition or two, but it is ideal for him/her to not sing with the assembly unless they are in need of his/her vocal support. When the assembly is singing confidently, an amplified voice singing over them is not only redundant—it sends the wrong message.

    The liturgical primacy of the responsorial psalm demands careful preparation. The next part in this series will explore psalm-tone verses, including the choral options possible for The Five Graces Psalter.

    Visit our website for more information on The Five Graces Psalter, especially the options for both print and downloadable versions.

  • Tried & True Works for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter

    Guest post by Kelly Dobbs-Mickus

    At MorningStar, we strive to publish liturgical music that makes a meaningful contribution to the repertoire. As you prepare for Lent and Easter, perhaps looking for some new ideas, take a few minutes to explore these tried and true editions, from Hal Hopson’s subdued Lenten Prayer to Randall Thompson’s iconic Alleluia.

    Lent and Holy Week

    James Biery’s dignified settings of the Lenten Communion Antiphons will distinguish the Lenten season, and his setting of Ubi caritas is worthy of the Holy Thursday liturgy. Philip Stopford’s Do Not Be Afraid speaks especially to RCIA participants but reminds all that God calls each by name.

    James Biery: Communion Antiphons for the Lenten Season
    Hal H. Hopson: A Lenten Prayer

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Terre Johnson: Create In Me
    James Biery: Ubi Caritas

     

     

     

    Philip W. J. Stopford: Do Not Be Afraid

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Easter

    James Chepponis’s Festival Alleluia (see separate edition for Eastertide verses), premiered at the Papal Mass in St. Louis in 1999, has become a staple gospel acclamation. John Behnke’s festive yet flexible setting of LASST UNS ERFREUEN is a perennial best-seller and is also available in a two- or three-part setting. Consider John Ferguson’s Easter Introit as a choral “prelude” to the singing of EASTER HYMN.

    James Chepponis: Festival Alleluia
    Peter Latona: My Hope Is Arisen

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Randall Thompson: Alleluia
    John Ferguson: Easter Introit

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    John Behnke: Now All The Vault of Heaven Resounds

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    To explore additional liturgical titles, check out these resources from MorningStar Music.

    Lenten and Triduum Choral Resources

    Eastertide Choral Resources


    Kelly's work at MorningStar Music Publishers focuses on resources for Catholic communities. In addition, she is organist at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Chicago.

    Kelly Dobbs-Mickus

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