FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR: “SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG”
Many people are firmly convinced that, at one point in the movie Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart turns to the nightclub pianist and utters those now famous words, “Play it again, Sam.” Unfortunately, that’s not what Bogie said. In a similar way, many people believe that Saint Augustine of Hippo once wrote, “He who sings prays twice,” though that’s not what he wrote, or not exactly. This is too bad, since such a pithy quote would be an admirable way to start an account of the role of the choir here at Saint Mary’s. In fact, however, Augustine was making a more subtle theological point. In his commentary on Psalm 73 he writes as follows:
For whoever sings praise, not only praises, but praises joyfully; whoever sings praise, not only sings, but also loves Him for whom they are singing. There is a praise-filled public proclamation (praedicatio) in the praise of someone who is confessing and acknowledging God; in the song of the lover there is love. (Exposition on Psalm 73.1)
For Augustine, the singing of sacred music is not simply a convenient way of doubling up the significance of prayer; it is a way to enhance the singer’s experience of loving God. I think that this is true for those listening to spiritual song also. We are fortunate to have a deep-rooted tradition at Saint Mary’s that values music and sacred singing as a vital element of our liturgical practice. The congregation sings hymns lustily and with real enthusiasm, happy to be encouraged to greater effort and sound, on occasion, by a little extra hint from the organ. Each week, music is well integrated into the essence of our worship, from the tolling of the bell signaling the start of Mass or the glorious ringing to proclaim the Sanctus to the singing of the minor propers, Mass ordinary, and seasonally appropriate motet. And for that to happen we need a well-rehearsed and experienced choir.
Since arriving here in August, I have spent much time meeting and auditioning many of the freelance singers who work in and around New York. Some of them would like to be part of the regular team that will sing for the Solemn Mass each week, while others already have a regular Sunday commitment elsewhere but would like to join us for the big mid-week holy-day Solemn Masses when we might augment the choral sound to help celebrate especially important days. Putting together a new group of singers for the new choir season is an ongoing process, and you will perhaps notice that the sound from the Gallery during the month of October changes from week to week. Throughout this month we are hearing different combinations of singers each week. My hope is that by the end of the month it will be clear which singers work together best to make the most musically convincing and exciting contribution to Saint Mary’s, and they will become the core of our choir here.
So what was I looking for in each singer? In the auditions, I was listening for musicians who could convey different moods in their prepared piece (think of the different sentiments that need to be articulated in quick succession in the Gloria of the Mass) and who showed a real ability to sing plainchant in a flexible and accurate way. Sight singing—the ability to pick up a sheet of previously unseen music and sing it correctly—is not a skill that all singers or musicians exhibit, but it is a key asset for working with a group that gets through so much music over the course of our choir season. The sight singing given to each singer was a portion of plainchant; it is important that our singers are experienced in this nuanced style, so different from other aspects of ensemble singing. I was also looking for singers whose voices and personalities would work well together. Achieving good blend in a choir is difficult and requires many skills: listening to one another to maintain the prevailing pitch, ensuring that dynamic levels are consistent with one another, and emulating others’ phrase shaping and further stylistic nuances. Good breath control, an ability to stay in tune and to understand subtle issues of intonation, and a strong rhythmic sense (oh, and punctuality) are also key skills that our singers need to have in abundance. My hope is that as time goes by our choir will settle into well-established practices and will continue to uphold the great musical traditions so well established here. It’s a great blessing to have so many talented people available to the parish and to me as a choral director; it will be very hard for me to put the final group together. I greatly appreciate and am so grateful to the people who want to be a part of music at Saint Mary’s. —Simon Whalley
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Pat, Nargis, John, Peggy, Dianne, Vicki, Maxine, Veronica, Jean, JoAnn, Quinn, Mala, Mark, Gerry, Kenneth, Yves, Heidi, Nancy, Rasheed, Toussaint, Linda, Catherine, Babak, Mazdak, Trevor, David, Abalda, Takeem, Arpene, Pamela, religious, Sidney, deacon, Erika, priest, Paulette, priest, Gaylord, priest, and Harry, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 11: 1897 David Abeel Storer; 1931 Wallo Geralde Campbell; 1950 Alice Louise Brown; 1960 Mary Cornish; 2013 Charles William Barker.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, October 11, 10:00 AM, Arch Room, Mission House, Second Floor, Adult Education: The Two Michelangelos, Part II . . . Monday, October 12, Columbus Day, Federal Holiday Schedule. The church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM. Only the noonday services are offered. The parish offices are closed . . . Wednesday, October 14, 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall, Wednesday Night Bible Study Class . . . Saturday, October 10, confessions will be heard by Father Jim Pace, and on Saturday, October 17, they will be heard by Father Jay Smith.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . Stewardship packets will be mailed October 12–13. We invite you prayerfully to consider your commitment, including your financial commitment, to the parish for 2016. If you have questions about pledging, please contact a member of the Stewardship Committee, MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or Marie Rosseels.
ALL SOULS’ DAY REMEMBRANCE . . . On Monday, November 2, All Souls’ Day, there will be a Sung Mass at 12:10 PM. The Solemn Mass and Blessing of the Vault will take place at 6:00 PM. The annual Requiem Masses will be said on the days that follow (Tuesday through Friday, November 3–6, and Monday, November 9, each day at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM). The All Souls’ Day packets will be mailed to members and friends of the parish at the end of this week. A form and an envelope for your prayer requests will be included in the mailing. You may also send your prayer requests via e-mail. However, a special offering to accompany All Souls’ intentions is traditional. The envelope enclosed in the All Souls’ Day packet may be mailed back to the parish or placed in the offering basket on Sunday morning. We are grateful to all those who support Saint Mary’s so generously.
OKTOBERFEST RETURNS . . . On Saturday, October 24, 6:00–9:00 PM, we will welcome the arrival of autumn with a potluck supper in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Supper will be followed by a hymn sing in the organ loft. Please bring a dish to share; and please contact Grace Bruni or Father Jay Smith if you are planning to attend and if you are able to bring a dish with you. Beverages will be provided. This has been a popular event in the past. It is a good opportunity to spend some time with fellow parishioners and to meet those who are new to the parish. It is also a good way to introduce Saint Mary’s to those looking for a parish home.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the following Sundays: November 8, 15, and 22, and December 13 (Rose Sunday) Donations for Christmas flowers are, of course, always welcome. We also hope to receive donations to defray the costs of the reception following the Solemn Mass on Wednesday, January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 204.
FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . For this week’s music we hear music from the two most significant composers of the English Reformation. Both men wrote works that reflected the changing demands of their sovereigns and, like Robert Parsons whose music we heard last Sunday, they wrote their finest music using Latin texts, allowing them to retain a loyalty to their Roman Catholic upbringing and beliefs at a time when such a commitment could result in persecution or even execution. The Mass for Four Voices of Thomas Tallis (1505–1585), which we hear at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, dates from 1553–58. Henry VIII was still the reigning monarch for much of this time and, although Latin had not yet been banned for liturgical music, Archbishop Cranmer had made it clear—in a letter written to the King in 1544—that composers should aim for a generally syllabic setting of words “so that [a text] may be sung distinctly and devoutly.” Tallis was so ingenious a composer that he admirably fulfils this brief, using a variety of textures and occasional brief imitative sections to help articulate the different sections of the text of the Mass ordinary. Byrd’s motet Ecce, quam bonum was a rather later work, published in his 1605 Gradualia. This volume of polyphonic motets was published when James I (r. 1603–1625) was King; perhaps Byrd felt emboldened to return to the publication of Latin works and rich polyphonic textures by the arrival of the new monarch, whose mother had remained a practicing Catholic all her life. The text for this setting is the Gradual proper for this Sunday. Charmingly, the vocal parts suggest the closeness of the brothers mentioned in the psalm text by being in a close-knit texture throughout and with only a two-octave range afforded the whole choir. —Simon Whalley
ADULT EDUCATION . . . Sunday, October 11, 10:00 AM, Adult Forum: “The Michelangelos”—Dr. Dennis Raverty discusses the idealistic vision in the religious art of Michaelangelo Buonarroti, the great Renaissance painter and sculptor, in the second of a four-part series. On October 18 & 25, Father Jay Smith will discuss the religious art of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class resumes on October 14 at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The class will continue its reading of the Book of Isaiah, beginning at chapter 40 . . . Sundays, November 1, 8, 15, 22, at 10:00 AM, The Succession Narrative: 2 Samuel 11-20; 1 Kings 1-2, Led by Father Peter Powell.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Our neighbors at the Marble Collegiate Church, 1 West 29th Street at Fifth Avenue, will be dedicating their re-voiced and expanded Gluck pipe organ during their main worship service on Sunday, October 18; and to celebrate the occasion the church has announced an Inaugural Recital Series: Tuesday, October 27, 2015, 7:30 PM, Inaugural Recital by Ken Cowan; Thursday, March 10, 2016, 7:30 PM, Richard Elliott, recitalist; and Friday, April 29, 2016, 7:30 PM, Diane Bish, recitalist. Further information is available on the church’s website.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street . . . The Saint Mary’s Book Sale continues on Sunday mornings. All proceeds are used to serve those in need, at Saint Mary’s, in our neighborhood, and beyond . . . Need help finding food or know someone who does? Call 1-800-5-HUNGRY (Why Hunger Hotline, Monday–Friday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM EST) or 1-866-3-HUNGRY (USDA National Hunger Hotline, 8:00 AM–8:00 PM EST).
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, October 19, Saint Luke the Evangelist (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM; Friday, October 23, Saint James of Jerusalem, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM; Wednesday, October 28, Saint Simon & Saint Jude, Apostles, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM; Sunday, November 1, All Saints’ Day, Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Evensong & Benediction 5:00 PM; Sunday, November 1, Daylight Saving Time ends . . . Monday, November 2, All Souls’ Day, Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass & Blessing of the Vault 6:00 PM . . . November 3 through 6, and 9 at 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM, Annual Parish Requiem Masses