A Message from a Button?

When I was growing up (and then some), I was always on the look-out for omens.  Seeing a particular kind of bird, being struck with the way autumn light looked on a wall, finding money on the sidewalk – you name it, I thought it might mean more than it seemed.

I thought I’d completely outgrown this.  However, I was recently mending a pair of hiking pants, sewing back on an errant button.  Then I saw the message: “Face The North.”  Oh my goodness, I thought of realigning with my true self, finding the pole star of my life, regaining true purpose and strength. There was great truth being communicated to yours truly by a simple button.

Then I noticed the label on the pants: The North Face.  Dang! It wasn’t a message at all; just me reading a noun as a verb.

But it was great while it lasted!

Best Thing to do in Group Meetings? Listen!




The following is taken from “The Wisdom of Group Deicision by Craig Freshly via the Co-Housing Newsletter (and no I don’t live in a co-housing community, I’ve just gotten the newsletter since forever). What do to when someone else in the meeting is talking:

“Bite your tongue. Cool your jets. To listen, do not talk. Do not be distracted by planning your talk. If I let you talk first while I listen, it gives me some practical advantages. First, to hear where you are coming from helps me choose my words. You have likely provided me some new information that I can incorporate. Second, once you have your words out you are more likely to be open to hearing mine.”

I think this applies in any group situation – business, church, community or arts organization.  Just listen. And I think the group can be as small as two.  This quote came by chance as I’m getting ready for a group meeting.  I think I’ll stick a copy in my notebook – after I tape my mouth shut!

Five Years From Now – Thinking about your future

One of the most dreaded interview questions has to be “Where do you see yourself five years from now?”  I always wanted to crawl under the chair when they asked that.  What’s the right answer?  “Anywhere but here?”  Probably too snarky.  “A leading contributor to my field and a valued asset to this organization?”  Sounds like a textbook answer.  And so on. 

At the same time, it’s probably a question worth asking yourself – especially if that first response is the one that springs to mind. 

If you’re a musician in a church job, are you where you want to be in five years?  If you want to stay, how do you want your music and your choir to sound?  If you want to move, where would you go?  Or would you rather do something else?  Or add another string to your musical bow – arranging, composing, solo performing?

I’m not saying what anyone should do.  I’m just suggesting the question.

Requiem pour une américane à Paris for Organ and Trumpet

Richard J. Clark

Previewing a remarkable composition for organ and trumpet by Boston-based composer Richard J. Clark.  Seven movements based on the Gregorian chant propers for the requiem mass, performed by the composer on the organ and Richard A. Kelley, trumpet.  Learn more about the composer at http://www.rjcceciliamusic.com/

I’m not a big fan of modern organ compositions, many of which sound like something is dreadfully wrong with the instrument or that the performer is having a medical emergency.  This is different – just the right combination of tonality and dissonance.  The mix of organ and trumpet is well balanced.  In short, Clark nails it.

Thoughtful, enjoyable, and most excellently performed.  Definitely going into the rotation for The Classical Fan Club (every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on WFCF Flagler College Radio, an iHeart radio station).

Palm Sunday At Last!

The journey through Lent has finally brought us to Palm Sunday.  The 11 o’clock Mass at the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine started outside with our bishop, Felipe Estevez and the Cathedral clergy, Knights of Columbus, St. Augustine’s Royal Family, and a huge church-full of worshippers.  The Passion was read well and the Cathedral choir did their best.  Of course, the mighty Casavant organ was in top form.  And wait, I almost forgot the Blessing of the Fleet that followed.  Everything from tiny pleasure craft to shrimp boats to our own Black Raven faux pirate ship!

Coming up for me is Holy Week in Spain – Madrid, to be precise.  Looking forward to processions, liturgies, and music.  Also great museums, food, and a side trip (I hope) to Avila.

Rocking Out with Organ Voluntaries

small english organ There are absolutely no pieces that are more entertaining to play than 18th century English organ voluntaries.  And I treated myself to two volumes of these.  Great slow full diapason introductions, followed by fugues or trumpet tunes with winsome echos.  Most of them are  by lesser composers who were leading organists in their day.  Boatloads of fun for the fingers.  And many are quite useful for entrances and for that time with the wedding guests straggle out of the church.

Rethinking Recto Tono Chant

I’m responsible for a weekly vespers service at the Shrine of La Leche in St. Augustine.  This service is offered on the basis that all who come can sing (in contrast to the monthly vespers with Cantorae St. Augustine).  Consequently, while we have a few regulars, many of the people who come are drop-ins who’ve seen a sign at the Mission Nombre de Dios or in the Shrine chapel itself.

We’ve tried various experiments with chant in the last 18 months or so.  And I won’t bother recounting the disasters.  I did shift to a fixed text from Benedictine Daily Prayer a few months ago, the premise being that familiarity with the words would help the regular attendees and make them a stronger support for the visitors.  I used three basic psalm tones for the three psalms we used.  Everything was fine if, and only if, I were there.  However, I travel.

When I was in Mexico City, I happened to be in the Metropolitan Cathedral when the canons and choirboys were chanting Lauds in Spanish.  Amazing – it was RECTO TONO!  This means “straight tone” and is best understood as one note.  Yup – just one note.  And it sounded wonderful.

Changing the Wednesday materials for Lent gave me the opportunity to try this out with my own singers.  And it was a smashing success.  It was easy for people to stay together.  The two-choir split worked fine.  Everyone was happy at the end (including me) – and when I’m out of town they will know just what to do.

We did leave the hymn to the tune of Jesu dulcis memoria and the Marian antiphon remained the simple tone Salve Regina (I only change for the Regina caeli in Eastertide because I’m not interested in performing solos on the others.)

So you can sniff and turn up your nose at recto tono all you want, but if you want a random group of untrained singers to have a positive experience of psalmody, it’s a good way to go.

Cantorae at the Shrine in Spring 2014

Tomorrow evening at 6 p.m., Cantorae St. Augustine will launch its spring series of Choral Vespers at the Shrine of La Leche.  We hope that all who can will join us for this first evening, as well as taking note of the dates for the months ahead.  Always on a Friday and always starting at 6 p.m., here’s the rest of the schedule:

  • February 14th (Why not bring your Valentine?)
  • March 21st
  • April 25th
  • May 23rd
  • June 13th

Again, all are invited for these vespers that combine Latin and English to provide a time for prayer and reflection in the oldest Marian shrine in what later became the United States of America.