Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Singing Priests of Tulsa

Here is a wonderful initiative by Fr. Mark Daniel Kirby, O. Cist., to teach priests to sing. I'm a bit stunned to see this myself because I spent the good part of the evening last night reading his incredible essay in this book called Beyond the Prosaic. This book is my next project. Many years ago, I wrote a review of it that was wildly unfair and reflected my own issues more than the content of the itself (I relentlessly criticized it for not pushing an exclusive 1962 Missal agenda, back when the push for the sacred was split three ways). I now realize is an extremely important volume in kicking off the new liturgical movement. The articles by Fr. Kirby is one of the best on the role of chant I've ever seen. I've intended to post another review that corrects my previous one, which is fortunately not online.

In any case, back to this work by Fr. Kirby.

He writes:

Singing Priests

Yesterday, here at the Cenacle, we held the first meeting of the Diocesan Priests' Schola Cantorum, a group of nine priests who have decided to come together weekly to study the chants of the Graduale Romanum, and to sing them at various liturgical celebrations of the Diocese of Tulsa. We will sing for the first time in Holy Family Cathedral at the Mass of Chrism during Holy Week.

Our first session began with a presentation of certain characteristics of the Lenten Propers in the Graduale Romanum, followed by some simple vocalizations (warm-up exercises). We worked on two pieces; the Introit, Dilexisti, and the hymn, O Redemptor. Given that it was the very first time the group of us had sung together, the effect was not at all displeasing. A suitably Lenten luncheon followed.

An Indispensable Element of the Roman Rite

One of things that emerged in our discussion is the spiritual value of the Propers of the Mass. (The Propers, by the way, are a constitutive element of the Mass of the Roman Rite. A Mass without them is truncated, deformed, and theologically impoverished. To replace the Propers with "something else" is, effectively, to dismantle the spiritual architecture of the Roman Rite.

As I sang through the Gradual of this morning's Mass, I was once again seized by an inner awareness of the "sacramental" potential of the Chant. Nothing conveys the Word of God as efficaciously as the Chant of the Church:

Cast the burden of thy cares upon the Lord, and He will sustain thee.
V. Still I will call upon the Lord; He will not be deaf to my appeal when many take part against me. (Psalm 54: 23. V. 17a, 18b, 19a)

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