Post quinque annos transactos

Directorium - Papa



Miserere: singing the final psalm

We are a week away from Holy Week. Jitterbugs we become. A lot of things are to look forward to during Holy Week, so much so that some of us experience that obscene sensation called excitement in the preceding days. Solemn and ancient liturgies often coax out a rare species of dedication to prepare and rehearse that the saner of our lot would call cramming. Left and right issue forth the trousseaus of damask and brocade earmarked for the hallowed days. Ceremoneers inventory all their servers and assign days for service, and rescue Holy Week ceremony books gathering dust in the sacristy drawer. Santeros and camameros fret about the missing accessory of their gerenciales. And choirs delve into their repertoire, vast or not, handpicking the de rigueur and rethinking the workable.

Una cofradía pasando por la calle Génova, Sevilla
Una cofradía pasando por la calle Génova, Sevilla | Alfred Dehodencq | 1851

Whether de rigueur or workable, one Holy Week piece commands admiration, exudes an unparalleled spellbinding appeal that has captivated, and continues to captivate for that matter, many souls, believers or not. It is Allegri’s Miserere, whose history is as interesting as the mystique surrounding its accessibility is mythological. Today, of course, when the ornamental technique so closely guarded by the papal choir has but faded, the restrictions having become quite likewise moot, or so we believe, we can experience its beauty from performances by historically-informed professional choirs.

The Miserere, of course, refers to psalm 50, the psalm whose first verse is chanted at the end of the Asperges every Sunday outside Eastertide. In the older praxis, the priest is expected to recite the entire psalm from memory while passing through the nave sprinkling blessed water. But this is not the part where the Miserere obtained its fame. Its stint in the Office of Darkness, the Officium Tenebrarum, what we fondly call tinieblas, is what poised it for the renown it was to acquire and accumulate. The tinieblas encompasses two canonical hours: matins and lauds. At the end of lauds, after the strepitus, that is, the din and crash signifying the astonishment of all creation at the death of the Son of God on the cross, those praying the Office, in a gesture of repentance and penance, recite the entirety of psalm 50, submissa voce and recto tono.

Up until 1955, the rubrics for its recitation indicated that it should be so. Choirs from many places of the world have for a long time chanted the psalm in ways equaling the respective variety of expertise and situation. After 1955, the reformers’ shears accidentally (or was it intentionally?) pruned it off the Office, so it officially ended its existence. But, for better or worse, fine taste and culture refused to submit to enforced desuetude. For that matter, since the Miserere gained fame during the Renaissance, we shall for the moment ignore its latter fate. The first time the Miserere was sung in the tinieblas was in the Sistine Chapel, in 1514, in the reign of Leo X. In the words of the then master of ceremonies of the Sistine Chapel, Paride de Grassi:

Office of Darkness, Wednesday, 1514. At the end the Cantors said the psalm Miserere with a new method: for they chanted the first verse while harmonising, and then alternately (with chant), which was well and devoutly executed.

Officium Tenebrarum. Die Mercurii 1514. In fine Cantores dixerunt psalmum Miserere cum novo modo ; nam primum versum cantarunt symphonizando, et deinde alternatim, quod fuit bene et devote.

The following day, however, the opposite transpired:

Thursday, Office of Darkness. The Cantors at the end, since they wanted to harmonise cleverly, rather than pleasingly, were not praised.

Die Iovis. Officium Tenebrarum. Cantores in fine cum vellent symphonizare doctius, quam suavius, non fuerunt laudati.

On Friday, the papal choir returned to the original composition. And so, having thus weighed and found wanting, this composition never even received the honour of being included in the Sistine Chapel’s collection of misereres. The positive result of this tentative attempt is the fact that it launched a three-century love story that climaxed with Gregorio Allegri. The milestones of this project, the significant plot developments of this love story, according to Giuseppe Baini, are below:

1517 Costanzo Festa 2 verses of 4vv and 5vv
1533 Luigi Dentice 2 verses of 5vv and 4vv
1582 Francisco Guerrero 2 verses of 4vv
1588 Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina 2 verses of 4vv and 5vv
After 1601 Teofilo Gargano 2 verses of 4vv and 5vv
Giovanni Francesco Anerio 2 verses of 4vv and 5vv
Felice Anerio 2 verses of 4vv and 5vv with last verse of 9vv
Unknown 2 verses of 4vv
Giovanni Maria Nanino 2 verses by Palestrina with last verse of 9vv
after 1617 Sante Naldini 4vv with last verse of 8vv
after 1599 Ruggiero Giovanelli 4vv with last verse of 8vv
1638 Gregorio Allegri 5vv and 4vv with last verse of 9vv
1680 Alessandro Scarlati 4vv and 5vv with last verse of 9vv
1714 Tommaso Bai 5vv and 4vv, with last verse of 8vv
1768 Giuseppe Tartini 5vv and 4vv, with last verse of 8vv
1777 Pasquale Pisari 5vv and 4vv, with last verse of 9vv
1821 Giuseppe Baini 5vv and 4vv, with last verse of 9vv

In due time, the sequence was fixed: Baini on Spy Wednesday, Bai on Maundy Thursday, Allegri on Good Friday. This was for the Sistine Chapel, where the pope attended the Office. The canons of the patriarchal basilica of Saint Peter, canonically bound to the recitation of the Office in choro, chanted their own Tenebrae wherein the Miserere of Valentino Fioravanti was sung on Spy Wednesday, Francesco Basili’s on Maundy Thursday, and Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli’s on Good Friday. But of all the masterpieces here mentioned, alone Allegri’s reached the zenith of legend.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

[1] Giuseppe Baini, Memorie storico-critiche della vita e delle opere di Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1828 Rome).
[2] Charles Michael Baggs, The ceremonies of Holy-Week at the Vatican and St. John Lateran’s described (1839 Rome).

Changing hymn texts

The original first verse (top) of the matins hymn of Epiphany (from the appendix of the Hymnariolum Adventus & Nativitatis) compared against the Urban-ised version (bottom) of the verse (from the Nocturnale Romanum)

Change to our liturgical texts did not end with the infamous Urbanite hymnographical classicalisation (the quantitative altīssimī donūm Deī flirts with classical metre but spars with a chant rhythm that faithfully favours its original Christian poetic dónum Déi altíssimi) eventually reversed after the Second Vatican Council, nor with the subsequent postconciliar mut(il)ations and antimediaevalist historical revisionism (peccatricem qui solvisti sounds like a musical apology for the centuries-old qui Mariam absolvisti) that evened out whatever good the aforementioned reversal boded. Well-meaning choristers and cantors continue to change the text of our hymns.

Our first example is the fifth stanza of Veni, Emmanuel, which appears correctly as below:

Veni, O Iesse virgula,
ex hostis tuos ungula,
de specu tuos tartari
educ et antro barathri.

Mantegna - Discesa al Limbo
Discesa al Limbo | Andrea Mantegna | 1492
Sint Jans - De Boom van Jesse
De boom van Jesse | Geertgen tot Sint Jans | c. 1500

Church musicians sometimes rewrite the boldfaced word above as spectu, presumably the ablative of an unknown and undocumented fourth declension Late Latin spectus. This change makes no sense since the stanza is already correct by all standards of Latin grammar. The whole stanza is an imperative, the two commands being veni (come, intransitive) and educ (lead out, transitive). The direct object of educ is, of course, tuos (yours), which appears twice, the only instances of the accusative case in the stanza. Singing this verse implores the Iesse virgula (Rod of Jesse, vocative) to lead out (educ) everyone who belongs to Him—his children, his faithful, his sheep, his disciples—(tuos) out of three places: out of the ungula hostis (claw of the enemy); from the specus tartari (abyss of hell); and from the antrum barathri (the cave of the netherworld). Notice likewise how the sequence progressively moves from the most intimate bosoms of the realm of darkness (the claw of the enemy) outwards to its exteriorities (the abyss, and finally the cave). The metred translation of this stanza unfortunately emasculates its exigent petition—O come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem, | from ev’ry foe deliver them | that trust Thy mighty power to save, | and give them vict’ry o’er the grave—dynamically deleting ungula and equivalently enfeebling specus and antrum by reducing them into grave. This notwithstanding, let us keep in mind its true meaning, and, in Advent, filled with hope, let us correctly sing: Come, O Rod of Jesse, lead Thine faithful out of the claw of the enemy, from the abyss of hell, and from the cave of the netherworld.

The third stanza of O esca viatorum, which appears correctly as below, is our next example:

O Iesu, tuum vultum,
quem colimus occultum
sub panis specie,
fac, ut remoto velo,
post libera in coelo,
cernamus acie.

Raffaello - La disputa del Sacramento
La disputa del Sacramento | Raffaello Sanzio | 1509–1510
Bouts - Moses and the burning bush, with Moses removing his shoes
Mozes en het brandende braambos | Dirk Bouts (attr.) | c. 1465–1470

In this scenario, we sometimes find ourselves singing facie instead of acie. The stanza is again an imperative, the command being fac (make, intransitive). The accusative tuum vultum (Thine countenance), which the second and third lines modify, is the direct object of the subjunctive cernamus (may we see). When and where we hope to see the Lord’s face, the fourth and fifth lines declare. With what should we gaze at the Lord’s face, the ablative acie (pupil of the eye), described as libera (unrestricted), answers. Turning acie into facie (face, visage) sours the whole point of the stanza, and comes across as irreverent. Immediately associating acie with the sense invoked in that phrase applied to Our Lady—terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata (terrible as an army arrayed in battle)—is perhaps the pitfall that leads to this misfortune. But acies is not merely an army; it also means vision, sight, and, by extension, eye or the pupil of the eye. Now that we know better, let us abandon this misconstruction. Let us, from now on, correctly sing: O Jesus, afterwards in heaven, when the (sacramental) veil has been lifted, allow us to see with unrestricted eyes Thine countenance, which we worship hidden under the appearance of bread. Insist with facie and we might just be struck down for maintaining arrogance, where Moyses had once chosen to hide his face (cf. Ex. 3, 2, 6).

Our final example does not come from what we may call a Latin hymn of ‘good standing’. Nevertheless, choirs for some time have sung it in the Traditional Latin Mass despite its purportedly New Age provenance. The third stanza of this hymn, Veni, Domine, appears correctly as:

Deus meus, in te confido :
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
sine te nihil est in homine :
Iesu Christe, Redemptor omnium,
te laudamus ; veni, Domine.

Van Eyck - Het Lam Gods
Het Lam Gods | Jan van Eyck & Hubert van Eyck (attr.)| 1432
Bouts - Het verzamelen van het manna
Het verzamelen van het manna | Dirk Bouts | c. 1464–1468

For some reasons, it took us a long time to realise that we were approaching heresy by substituting homine with Domine, not to mention the difficult grammatical situation to which we were condemning ourselves. Firstly, to address the Lord, and then say that, without the Lord (sine te), nothing is in the Lord (nihil est in Domine), is an exercise in absurdity that borders on the preposterous. The more questionable thought, however, this sponsors is the claim that nothing is in the Lord! Some comment that error can be averted by construing nihil est in Domine as nobody is in the Lord, but this is ultimately futile since, ignoring the impaired declension of Domine, nobody is normally nemo or, to some extent, nullus in Latin. Secondly, as noted, Domine is declined incorrectly. The preposition in requires the accusative or ablative of the noun or pronoun (which homine, the ablative of homo, satisfies), never its vocative (which is what Domine is with respect to Dominus). Finally, the confusion most probably stemmed from the difficulty of resolving the phonetic sound produced by its singer, the Czech actress Barbora Basiková. However, listening more closely should suffice to convince us that the phoneme being produced is a voiced glottal fricative, such as [ɦ] (as in a Bohemicised reading of homine), and not a voiced alveolar stop, such as [d̪] (as in a Bohemicised reading of Domine). Considering these three points—rational, grammatical, and phonetic—we should, starting today, sing this correctly, if ever we still elect to sing it at Mass: O My God, in Thee I trust; O Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, without Thee nothing is in man; O Jesus Christ, Redeemer of all, Thee we praise, come, O Lord.

Pronaos of the Pantheon
Bare and bronze-less ceiling of the Pantheon’s pronaos

Pope Urban VIII, born Maffeo Barberini, who had the bronze ceiling of the Pantheon’s pronaos removed and allegedly melted for use on the baldacchino of Saint Peter’s basilica, earned a brilliant lampoon on Pasquino: Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barberini (What the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did). He also had the Latin hymnal reformed (read: classicalised). So, unless we stop tampering with the text of our Latin hymns, unless we put an end to this hymnological metalogosis, then a similar pasquinade can be levelled against us: Quod non fecerunt Barberini, cantores fecerunt moderni (What the Barberini did not do, modern cantors did). Quieta non movere, as Romans used to say. Hymns are part of our Catholic patrimony. They may not occupy the same position as sequences and antiphons in the Liturgy, but they are our patrimony nonetheless. Just as man has a body and a soul, a hymn has a melody and a text. Let us keep both whole.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

A life dedicated to prayer


Pope Benedict


29 June 1951
Ordained priest
28 May 1977 Consecrated bishop
27 June 1977 Created cardinal
19 April 2005 Elected pope

Lent, Benedict XIV, and sacred music

Today is the 269th anniversary of the promulgation of Annus, qui hunc, which set forth guidelines on ecclesiastical discipline and sacred music. Benedict XIV, concerned about the spiritual welfare of Catholics who would go on pilgrimage in Rome in the Jubilee Year of 1750, as well as the opinion of other visitors during said time, issued the encyclical a year ahead of the celebrations.

Borrás Abellá - En el coro
En el coro | Vicente Borrás Abellá | 1890

The epoch may be remote, but the problems Benedict XIV identifies and attempts to remedy are as fresh as a pulsating newly-caught catfish. With this, we invite everyone to re-read the encyclical towards the end of this post, either in the original Latin or in the full English translation we provided. We opened a series quoting in three parts the words of the encyclical on organ music (here, here, and here). If the length daunts us, then let us offer it as penance this Lent.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Alleluia’s farewell in the Mozarabic Rite (a followup)

As we are all aware, unless we are following a different calendar, today is the First Sunday of Lent. In the Mozarabic Rite, it is called Dominica in carnes tollendas. In both Mass and Office, the alleluia receives a sort of standing ovation as it departs the repertory of the ensuing days leading to Easter. Also, since pre-Lent vanished in the novus ordo (or was it banished?), this Sunday, rather than Septuagesima Sunday, is closer to the last day of the alleluia.

Simonet - Flevit super illam
Flevit super illam | Enrique Simonet Lombardo | 1892

We thought people might be interested in the improvisation below on the hymn Alleluia piis (we are still preparing our transcription), courtesy of Professor Luca Ricossa of the Haute école de musique de Genève. This hymn, assigned to vespers of the First Sunday of Lent in the Mozarabic Rite, we discussed on the eve of Septuagesima Sunday.

The Mozarabic notation of the hymn is actually different, with a noticeable prolix neume group on the Alleluia perenne. With the current state of Mozarabic chant scholarship, the adiastematic notation remains melodically undecipherable.

We have already said farewell to the alleluia three weeks ago, of course, and hopefully, we have thusly spent Forelent readying our mind and body, our soul and flesh, to intensify those rigours that shall certainly redouble our joy and mirth come Easter Sunday.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Lent and psalm tone

Penitential seasons, one observes, are when Holy Mother Church returns to Her liturgical roots. We notice the unmistakable traces of austere Roman-ness in our Lenten liturgies, a character that intensifies as we approach closer to Holy Week. It is during the entire season of Lent when every feria is honoured with a complete set of readings distinct from that of the Sunday and of the other ferias. We can therefore generally look forward to singing an entirely different piece of Gregorian chant on each of the forty days of Lent.


Sacromusically speaking, we can expect chant to be sublime and grave. We see a lot of even-numbered modes. Cantors, in fact, who cultivated the Gregorian repertoire for Holy Week tracts, built their comfort zone around the plagal of the Dorian mode. But what is perhaps the most chorally striking about Lent itself is that on its first and last Sundays the longest tracts in the Graduale Romanum are sung. The sheer length of these tracts—Qui habitat for the First Sunday of Lent, and Deus, Deus meus for Palm Sunday—understandably terrifies us cantors and choristers to such a point that for fear of attracting attention either to our indiscreet polyphonies, or to our vocal insecurities, or to our wandering key, we usually whimper into a corner of the choir loft and sing out the tracts in psalm tone.

And so Lent also unmasks our ongoing incapacity to own Gregorian chant, to treat it as a treasure worth displaying in its full glory. For, in reality, the temptation to retreat into the undemanding exercise of psalmodic chanting plagues us the whole year round. Peace is to a succession of puncta and virgæ, as chaos is to a scandicus subbipunctis and a torculus resupinus initio debilis. It is fashionably modernist to think that complexity is a disease, and that its medicine is simplicity. How easily we are egged on to equate time-honoured complexity with hierarchical arrogance and no-nonsense simplicity to self-effacing humility. We do not pride ourselves as modernists, but the idea of simplicity still interests us, usually qualified as noble. And, sadly, we have been deceived that the lingering tradition of psalmodising Gregorian chant has had an ennobling effect on this brand of simplicity.


History teaches us otherwise. Psalmodising Gregorian chant, in due time, created a humiliating effect on simplicity. The practice altered churchly thought processes, pointing at a direction of a more radical way forward. We have already humbled sacred music by resolving the extraneous salicus, the whimsical porrectus, the contentious quilismata into harmless puncta, to the barest and merest chant grapheme, why cut back in our adventure now? And we wonder why the people enacting the reforms after Vatican II entertained neither trepidation nor indignity in subordinating Gregorian chant, sanctified for centuries in the lips of our saints, to alios cantos aptos, endorsed by eccentrics more for their latent sloganeering than for their liturgical suitability, no. 116 of Sacrosanctum Concilium notwithstanding.

In the usus recentior, an element of enforced uniformity ensures that alii canti apti preferentially remain in the forefront of music in the consecrated edifice. We are thankful, at least, that the modern concept of uniformity attracts weaker clout in the usus antiquior. That is, no one can force us to use psalm tone or use authentic Gregorian melodies, although instructions and decrees govern the exercise of sacred music. We know that approved books for both options are available, and we know that the former practice is tolerated by decree of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. Publication and toleration, however, are not a culmination that leads to naught.


We like to think that the monks of Solesmes did not compile the Chants abrégés to replace the Graduale Romanum or the Liber usualis. They have worked so dearly to reestablish Gregorian chant in its pristine form and practice, why would they want to throw everything out of the window in 1930? In the same vein, it would be criminal to think that Father Rossini published his psalmodic propers around the same time with the intention of replacing Gregorian propers themselves. After all, his mandate from the bishop of Pittsburgh was to carry out the reforms outlined by Pius X in Tra le sollecitudini, not invent something else. There is, therefore, a common denominator in these two efforts so seemingly separated by distance, and that is the perennial concern and maternal affection of Holy Mother Church for Her children. She understands that not every Catholic can readily cast out the old corrupted praxis and with tantamount haste embosom chant as restored by ongoing scholarship. Chants abrégés indeed advises:

These abbreviated chants are meant exclusively for churches where it is not possible to execute in a convenient manner all the melodies of the Graduale Romanum, and for those which tolerate a simple psalmody of the sacred texts (S. C. R., decree 3697, at 5). Anywhere there exist sufficiently skilled choirs, they should make use of the official chant from the Graduale Romanum.

Ces chants abrégés sont destinés exclusivement aux églises ou il n’est pas possible d’exécuter de façon convenable toutes les mélodies du Graduel Romain, et pour lesquelles on tolère la simple psalmodie des textes sacres (S. C. R. n° 3697). Partout où il existe des chœurs suffisamment exercés on doit s’en tenir au chant officiel du Graduel.

But we need to look beyond this horizon. Boldly we shall claim here what we would otherwise acquiesce to ignore: that psalmodic chant is not an end in itself, to which alone we should aspire to gain impeccable virtuosity. It is not even a paradigm where we can elect to situate ourselves in our attempt to avoid the disagreement between ictualists and semiologists. It is, rather surprisingly, a tool, a methodology, at our employ to attain that supreme goal of mastering Gregorian chant. We, therefore, join fellow workers in the Lord’s vineyard who had noised abroad the oft-overlooked preeminence of the Graduale Romanum [1].

Holy Mother Church believes that we can learn the chant that sanctified hundreds and thousands of Christians before us. It would be a monumental failure on our part if we detect in these psalm-toned propers nothing but an invitation to isolate ourselves in basic simplicity, rather than an encouragement to build steps around that facility and ascend to the summit of sacred music. For these simplified chants personify a foretaste of that heavenly harmony, that holy terror, that hope for the Beatific Vision, we often associate with well-executed Gregorian chant.


The objective to restore Gregorian chant, driven by paleography, obtained its momentum in the 19th century from the realisation that there was something wrong with what we chanted and how we chanted it, a thorny question that continues to evolve and inspire debate across different disciplines. It was, ultimately, the same festering wound that Charlemagne decided to remedy in 774 A.D., rectifying Frankish chant through a return to the source that was Roman chant [2]. Unfortunately, when some wounds heal, they leave scars. Our inability to wean ourselves from the ease of psalmodic chant cements that blight, that scar, that continues to disfigure the face of sacred music we so zealously claim to defend and uphold.

And we decry this because sacred music and sacred liturgy are inseparable. Qui bene cantat, bis orat, Saint Augustine is thought to have said [3]. “The chant proper to the liturgy” ought to be “the liturgy itself in chant”, says Maestro Fulvio Rampi [4]. Often, it is the gradual, the alleluia, the tract, and the offertory that fall under the scythe of our beholden dedication to psalmodic chant. We thus redouble our disapproval because oftentimes these are the most beautiful parts of the propers of the Mass.

For this we reecho the plea of our predecessors in the choral office: In this holy season of Lent, let us sprint to that extra mile, let us deny our hankering for ease, let us stir our dormant spirits, and sing in full the chants that Holy Mother Church keeps in Her liturgical treasury.

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

[1] Jeffrey Tucker, Fr. Rossini’s Proper Settings (23 October 2007): New Liturgical Movement (2007)
[2] John the Deacon, De vita Gregorii Magni bk. 2, ch. 9: PL 75 (1845) 91; cf. Monk of Angoulême, Vita Caroli Magni ch. 8.
[3] Saint Augustine, Exposition on Psalm 72: PL 36 (1845) 914.
[4] Fulvio Rampi, Il canto gregoriano: un estraneo in casa sua (16 January 2013): Chiesa (2013)

Annus, qui hunc: On the organ (3)

The preoccupation about the organ and permissible musical instruments in general, in the context of their use in the Liturgy, obtained its vigour in the ongoing (at that time) disparity of the reaction towards the question. On one hand, there were churches that approved their use; on the other, there were churches that condemned the same. Annus, qui hunc wisely obviates identifying which position is correct. Rather, it isolates the graver issue and laments the ongoing failure to remedy it: both unaccompanied chanting and accompanied singing, as well as polyphonic music, were, in the practice of that time, impaired. The admission of the organ into church music had seemingly opened the floodgates of musical vanities that, in a short time, church music appeared to arrogate upon itself the obscene right to fraternise with theatrical music. The problem was so pivotal that Benedict XIV concluded that no one would object if a distinction were to be established between the music proper to churches and that which was proper to theatres. To winnow out the chaff from the grain, so to say.


The opinion, therefore, that they—who, from those climes where there is no usage of musical instruments, travel to Us and to Our cities, in whose churches they shall hear polyphonic music not different from those in theatres and other profane places—are to receive from Us, anyone can attain by himself with easy conjecture. Even foreigners will come, there is barely no doubt, from those regions in whose churches singing and musical instruments are used, as in like manner is usually done in some of Our places. But if these men be prudent and pious, they shall indeed sorrow over not finding, in the singing and in the sound of Our churches, that remedy that they hoped to be brought forth for curing the wrongdoing of their churches. And indeed, having neglected this controversy, in which some bicker amongst themselves, some of whom disapprove and criticise polyphonic music and the use of musical instruments in their churches; while some approve and praise them: there is certainly no one who would not desire some distinction between ecclesiastic chant and stageworthy crooning, and would not doom theatrical and profane songs to be not tolerated in churches.

Quam igitur opinionem de Nobis accepturi sint, qui ex illis regionibus, ubi nullus musicorum instrumentorum usus est, ad Nos, nostrasque Urbes proficiscuntur, in quorum Ecclesiis concentus musicos audient, non secus ac in theatris aliisque profanis locis, facili quisque per se coniectura assequi potest. Venient etiam, haud dubium est, exteri ex illis regionibus, in quarum Ecclesiis cantus et musica instrumenta adhibentur, perinde ac in aliquibus nostris fieri solet. Sed si isti homines prudentes et pii sint, dolebunt quidem in cantu et sono Nostrarum Ecclesiarum, remedium illud, quod malo suarum Ecclesiarum curando afferri optabant, non invenisse. Etenim, omissa controversia illa, qua nonnulli inter se decertant, quorum alii cantum musicum et musicorum instrumentorum usum in Ecclesiis reprobant ac vituperant ; alii vero probant ac laudant : nullus certe est, qui inter cantum Ecclesiasticum et scaenicas modulationes discrimen aliquod non desideret, et theatrales profanosque cantus in Ecclesiis tolerari non condemnet.

The list of what impair sacred music has been evolving, that it would seem counterproductive to even admit that there is an impairment. Many of us perhaps know of the anecdote of the Palestrina intervention which saved polyphony from being cast into the exterior darkness, upon which action greatly contemplated Pope Marcellus II, to resolve the question pitting the intelligibility of the text against the aesthetic value of the music. Then came the temptation to assimilate techniques and forms that are more attuned to the atmosphere of the theatre than to the hallowed precincts of the church, a problem that had been prefigured in the decretal of Pope John XXII. Now, with musical instruments almost universally accepted in the Church, the guitar, together with the drums, is another pathogen worthy of destruction. Let us heed the call of our holy popes and resist the tide that attempts to erase the distinction between church and tavern, to literally assert the omnipresence of God in order to erode the importance of the consecrated edifice, and having thusly demolished the Church, to finally declare that there is no enclosure anymore brandishing an exclusive claim to salvation. Steadfast in our faith, singing wisely, let us fight this good fight!

Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.

Reference: Benedict Pp. XIV, Encyclical Letter Annus qui hunc, 3, near the end.

Happy 9th anniversary!

Today, we turn 9 years.

Choir at 9

We came to the Traditional Latin Mass under different circumstances. We stayed. And, in 2009, we decided to sing. Eleven of us gathered in that first practice we ever had to stake our future on Attende, Domine, glowing nonchalantly on the back of our heads the enervating sun of that second Saturday in February 2009, right after afternoons began to swelter, when the amihan would usually and disappointingly whimper into a mere memory of Siberian coldness.

Choir demographicsIn the course of our nine years the demographic of this first eleven has become a fascinating factoid, not because our youngest was then a teenager and our oldest not yet quartering a century, nor because most of us were still working for our undergraduate degrees, but astonishingly because most of us unexpectedly and perplexingly came from that institution, which, as a neonate, allegedly received in 1910 the moniker la escuela del diablo thanks to a parish priest from Surigao [1]. It must really be quite disarming that most of the first members of the choir—many came and went; many stayed—pursued and finished their education in the University of the Philippines (click on that doughnut graph and look!).

Novem abhinc annos, we continue to whittle down a little and swell up a little. And so we soldier on, in season and out of season. Not because change is so fearsome we would rather bury our heads in our enormous chant books, but because nothing out there can quite replace the beauty of the sacred music we are privileged to sing and experience in the Traditional Mass. “We carry a mission transcending time and space: the transmission of Tradition that has gained for the Church triumphant greater glory in heaven, the Church militant assiduous warriors on earth, and the Church suffering spiritual respite in purgatory” [2].

Deo gratias !

[1] Michael Tan, American UP (8 January 2008): PDI.
[2] Siniculus, Spes Ecclesiæ juventus (17 February 2014): Dei præsdio fultus (2014)