Pentecost 2015

The story of Pentecost where everyone was able to speak different languages and share the message of the Gospel demonstrates clearly for me that from the beginning of the church, the Gospel was not meant to be proclaimed in only one way, but in a multitude of ways so that it can reach and be understood by a large diverse group of people. Music is a language of communication, and just as the spoken word exists in multiple languages, so does music. While we recognize French, Spanish, and Chinese (for example) as foreign languages, it is possible to learn to communicate using these languages (so that they no longer are foreign). Musical languages are called styles and include classical, romantic, contemporary and a whole host of other classifications depending upon how refined you wish to be.

Liturgical music today must reflect the multicultural diversity and intercultural relationships of the members of the gathered liturgical assembly. … Liturgical leaders and musicians should encourage not only the use of traditional music of other languages and peoples, but also the incorporation of newly composed liturgical music appropriate to various cultural expressions in harmony with the theological meaning of the rites. (Sing to the Lord, #60)

I know from my experience learning French that when we try to speak or understand a new language, we may encounter some difficulties, but it is also an opportunity to expand and grow. Changing our language requires us to shift perspectives. When we have to think about our words, we become more aware of our choices and can learn more about our own perspective.

In the next few weeks, we will be learning a new musical setting of the Eucharistic acclamations. The words will be familiar, but where the music we have been singing was adapted from music for the previous translation or for other sets of words, this music was written specifically for the most recent translation. As we learn the new music, trust in the Holy Spirit to give you the voice to proclaim God’s praise in a different tongue just as on the Feast of Pentecost.


Bulletin Notes for the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen, May 24, 2015

Annual French Organ Music Marathon

Come hear eight area organists play works of the French masters from 1pm to 5pm on Sunday afternoon. Each performer will present a 30 minute program of music and information about the pieces being performed. Wm. Glenn Osborne will play the following works from 2:30-3:00 pm:

  • Camille Saint-Saëns – Prelude & Fugue in B Major, op. 99, n. 2
  • Darius Mihaud – Petite Suite
  • Pierre Perdigon – Cinq versets sur Veni Creator
  • Alexandre Pierre François Boëly – Fantasie & Fugue in Bb Major

Choral Vespers

Stanford-1921On Sunday, April 26th, at 5 PM, The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen of Baltimore presents Solemn Choral Vespers. The Cathedral Choir will sing solemn Vespers for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, also known as Good Shepherd Sunday. All music (hymn, anthems and organ pieces) will be by Charles V. Stanford. This concert is open to the public, no tickets required.

A Stranger on the Road

On the road to Emmaus, the disciples enter into conversation with a stranger. How often do we enter into conversations with strangers? I’m guessing that most of us tend to speak to the same people week after week, ignoring any strangers in our midst, and that our musical habits follow the same as our speaking habits. We listen to the same radio station every day and, if we go to concerts, it’s probably to hear the same music we hear on the radio. We like the music we like, and we stick with it until something forces us to change.

Have you ever driven far enough that you lost the signal for your favorite radio station? Maybe you flew somewhere, rented a car and needed to find a new radio station. Emmaus was a long journey for the disciples. They left behind what they knew and were headed to a new location. The journey forced them to move outside their comfort zone and known territory. Their conversation with the stranger gave them a chance to learn more about their faith until their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. While a radio signal grows weaker as we move away from it, the disciples grew stronger through their encounter with the stranger as they moved away from what was familiar.

Music can be the stranger that leads us closer to Christ. Familiar songs can reinforce what we already know and believe, and new music can shed light upon aspects of our faith and practice that we might not have considered or understood yet. While the cliché says we should not judge a book by its’ cover, music (and people) can get labeled very quickly. Whether you like “traditional” or “contemporary” music, I’d like to suggest that you not let the label keep you from interacting with a stranger. The disciples walked many steps with the stranger before they recognized him. So too, our own musical journeys might require a lot of time with the unfamiliar before we understand. Explore, reach out, listen (and sing!) so that you too might discover Jesus along the way beside you.


Bulletin Notes for the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen, April 19, 2015

How many verses?

How many verses of a hymn should we sing?

In planning music for Mass, one of the items I have to consider is how long a hymn is. Most usually, there is a liturgical action taking place at the same time as the music, so I need to figure out if the music is too long, too short, or just right for the time that the liturgical action takes. If the action goes faster than I expect, will the hymn still make sense if we leave out the last verse? Just as our lectionary will skip certain verses in the readings from the Bible, sometimes we can skip verses in the hymns and still have a coherent story, but sometimes we need to finish the hymn in order to not leave Jesus in the tomb or not leave the Holy Spirit out of the Trinity.

The text for our entrance hymn this weekend was written by Jean Tisserand in the 15th century. Tisserand was a Franciscan monk, founded an order for penitent women, and possibly served as confessor to King Charles VIII of France. With nine verses, there is rarely time for us to sing all of O filii et filiae at Mass, though there certainly would have been plenty of time at Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament on Easter Sunday, the liturgical moment when the French Missals placed the hymn.

With a hymn like this that has a refrain and many verses, another option might have been to sing it during the Communion procession. Would we be able to sing all the verses then? Would anyone besides the cantor actually sing the verses then? There would be time to sing all the verses if it were the Recessional hymn, but how many people would actually stay to sing them all? The Offertory is definitely too short for a long hymn like this, so that leaves us the Entrance as the best option. Because our Gospel reading today focuses on Thomas, we will skip verses two through four in order to sing the verses that tie in more closely to our celebration of the Second Sunday of Easter. Hopefully this will provide a match between the sensibility of the hymn and the liturgical action and keeps the music a partner in our celebration of Mass.


Bulletin Notes for the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen, April 12, 2015

Out of the Depths

Out of the Depths600
A concert of organ music for Lent and Holy Week presented by Wm. Glenn Osborne at the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen in Baltimore, MD. Music selections listed below or PDF of the program here:

Aus tiefer Not, BWV 686
Johann Sebastian Bach
Herzlich tut mich verlangen
Johannes Brahms
Psalm Prelude, Set 2, no. 1 – De profundis
Herbert Howells
IV. Longing for Death from Job
Peter Eben

Dominica in Palmis
Jean Langlais
Suite in French Classical Style on ‘Vexilla Regis’
Wm. Glenn Osborne
Da Jesus an dem Creutze stundt
Samuel Scheidt
III. Crucifixion from Symphonie-Passion
Marcel Dupré

Wm. Glenn Osborne

Bulletin Notes – Out of the Depths

Out of the Depths600Everyone has heard the expression that to sing is to pray twice. Music provides an additional dimension to our prayers that can add meanings beyond what the words alone can say. Instrumental music therefore can express thoughts and feelings that we may not have found the words to express.

The pipe organ with its variety of musical colors (especially the large instrument here at the Cathedral) has the capacity to convey a wide range of emotions. The US bishops make this clear in Sing to the Lord:

Among all other instruments which are suitable for divine worship, the organ is “accorded pride of place” because of its capacity to sustain the singing of a large gathered assembly, due to both its size and its ability to give “resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation.” Likewise, “the manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God.” (STL, #87)

While we rejoice the triumph of Jesus Christ over death, there are many stories of pain and suffering also in the Bible: the slavery of the Israelites, the trials of Job, and even the crucifixion of our Lord. The concert this afternoon will explore how different composers have chosen to paint in music these songs of lament. Beginning with settings of Psalm 130 (Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord), continuing through the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and concluding with the death of Jesus on the cross, the program offers a wide palette of musical styles and emotions that I hope will bring you not into the depths of despair but into a deeper relationship with God. If you are able to be here, please come.

More information about the event including a complete program listing may be found here.

Holy Week 2015 at CMOQ

The complete list of music for Holy Week at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen is available here. The program booklet is available here (cover) and here (pages).

Links to rehearsal or other performance videos are listed below for reference.

Palm Sunday

Anthem: Solus Ad Victimam – Leighton (NCA 79)

Chrism Mass

Mon, Mar 30, 7:30 pm – 6:00 call
Dilexisti justitiam

1. Listen now     

Holy Thursday

Apr 2, 7:30 pm – 6:30 call
Washing of feet: Mandatum Novum – Berthier (W812)

Ubi caritas – Duruflé (58)

Ave Verum – Byrd (36 or NCA8)

Good Friday

Apr 3, 3:00 pm -1:30 call
Timor et Tremor – Poulenc (189.1)

The Reproaches – Victoria
Ecce Quomodo Moritur – Handl

Easter Vigil

Apr 4, 8:00 pm -6:30 call
Ye Choirs of New Jerusalem – Stanford

Hallelujah Chorus (Messiah) – Handel

Easter Sunday

Psalm 118 from the Audubon Park Psalter

2. Listen now     

(Live recording from 10am Easter Mass in 2014 at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church)

Haec est dies – Gallus

Hallelujah Chorus (Messiah) – Handel

Music Notes for 2/22

One of the items I’ve started doing for the Cathedral is including information about music in the bulletin every week. As these notes also reflect my thoughts and vision of church music, I thought I’d start posting them on my website for a larger audience than those that show up in the pews here in Baltimore. These are the notes for the bulletin for the first Sunday of Lent when we will begin using the Mass of Charity and Love by Steve Warner.

Music should be considered a normal and ordinary part of the Church’s liturgical life. However, the use of music in the Liturgy is always governed by the principle of progressive solemnity.

Progressive solemnity includes not only the nature and style of the music, but how many and which parts of the rite are to be sung. … Musical selections and the use of additional instruments reflect the season of the liturgical year or feast that is being celebrated. (Sing to the Lord, #110 & 112)

It has been my experience that in many parishes, music for Mass looks the same week after week. Sure, the hymns may change every week, but in most places, you would have to listen to the prayers of Mass rather than the music to know what time of the church year is being celebrated. I’ve lost track of how many celebrations I’ve attended where the music just seemed to be a selection of the organist or choir director’s favorite hymns with the same Eucharistic acclamations that have been used for years.

In celebrating the liturgy singing is not to be regarded as an embellishment superimposed on prayer; rather, it wells up from the depths of a soul intent on prayer and the praise of God and reveals in a full and complete way the community nature of Christian worship. (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, #270)

Music is a means of prayer that should help us celebrate the liturgy and mark the season. Everyone clearly recognizes that singing Christmas carols is best done at the Christmastime. Likewise, there are hymns that are most appropriate in Lent or Easter. As we begin this season of Lent, we will also change the music for the Eucharistic Acclamations. The new setting I have chosen is a simpler setting, based upon a familiar tune, but chant like and requiring only simple accompaniment (if any). This will enable the music we sing to take on a more humble penitential spirit that reflects the nature of the Lenten season. We will change again at Easter to mark the joy of the resurrection. In this way, our music is integrated into the celebration and the season.

Wishing you a happy Lent,