There is a lot of music out there in the pew hymnals today that honestly doesn’t belong in Church. Sometimes the music at certain Catholic parishes reminds me of either summer camp or kindergarten. Some hymns even have questionable texts and some even contain heresy! But thankfully, there are a few organizations that are starting to help reform and renew the music of the liturgy in the United States, and they believe that timeless beauty and true doctrine are must-haves for the music at Mass.
One of my favorites is Corpus Christi Watershed.
If you have any interest at all in liturgical music, Corpus Christi Watershed (.org) has something for you! From the beginner with no knowledge of how to read chant, to the accomplished choir director and organist, there is so much to be explored on this site.
In my online searches for inspiring resources for Catholic musicians, I’ve only discovered a handful of organizations, but the lack of quantity is made up for by the amazing quality. Corpus Christi Watershed is one website that I look up to in terms of excellent videos, collections of rare books and sheet music, a beautiful new missal for the Extraordinary Form…and the list goes on.
I’d like to introduce you to this site, and give you some ideas on how you can use it. There is something for all musical levels, so don’t worry if you know nothing about reading Gregorian chant!
For the Beginner/Liturgical Music Newbie
Would you like to learn how to read and sing Gregorian chant? CCWatershed has 11 lessons waiting for you to try! There are sound clips and videos to help things along, but you still might need to google a few unfamiliar terms.
Before your first lesson, and just for fun, you might want to review “Do, a Deer” from the Sound of Music so you know what solfege is. (Just remember that the real spelling is Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do).
Ok, back to Gregorian chant. The 11 lessons are found here.
Now, if you are in need of a missal for the Latin Mass, they have a brand new “St. Edmund Campion Missal and Hymnal” that looks amazing. It’s on my birthday wish-list.
For the Music Director
Do you need ideas for what to sing each Sunday? Suggestions for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms are available. Click on Liturgical Music, pick which Sunday you want, and you will be given options for hymns, chants, kyries, offertory chants, music for communion, and more! And again, there are practice videos so choir members can practice with confidence! And most of the music is printable, so you won’t have to go hunting for the music yourself.
There are also organ accompaniments and SATB arrangements of well-known hymns here.
And you have to listen to the works of Kevin Allen for 3 voices! I highly recommend downloading his 12 motets, Motecta Trium Vocum, which are appropriate to sing all through the year. The individual parts are not difficult, and your choir members can listen to the free practice videos…done by Matthew J. Curtis, who is currently singing with the internationally-known Chanticleer!
For the Schola Director
A few years ago, I had the privilege of singing with a schola that sung the propers for the Latin Mass. It was an amazing experience, and a first for me to sing in a choir. Also, even though I had gone to a Latin Mass for almost my entire life, I was unaware that there are unique chants for each Sunday of the year. And they are continuous melodies: they are not “verse and refrain” style.
Here is how our choir director used Corpus Christi Watershed to help make her job easier:
1. Before the choir practice, she would print the propers for each Sunday from ccwatershed.org. (Find the Sunday you want by scrolling down the page. Click on “Score” to view and print the chant.) Every choir member was given a “packet” that had all the propers stapled together: the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion.
2. Choir members took their packet home, and practiced all week with the videos. (Found on the same page as the printable propers.)
3. Sunday morning before Mass, the choir would practice the propers once more.
For the Liturgical Music Enthusiast
On the Site Map page, there is a large, impressive list of projects that CCWatershed has completed. You can find rare books that have been digitized, hard-to-find organ accompaniments, documentaries, religious clip art, and much more to quench your thirst for musical knowledge and more resources for your local parish!
The music at Mass is not supposed to have a Kum-Ba-Ya feel to it. That type of music could be appropriate for singing at home, in the car, or…at camp. The documents of Vatican II did NOT say to get rid of Gregorian chant and replace it with 70’s-style folk songs. An excellent article explaining that Vatican II actually affirmed that Gregorian chant should remain in the liturgy can be found here on Corpus Christi Watershed by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.
Does the music at your parish raise eyebrows, or raise minds and hearts to God?
Does the music you hear on Sundays during Mass help or hinder your experience? Do you raise an eyebrow when you hear a hymn that somehow reminds you of summer camp or kindergarten? Or, does the music help you to pray better, and literally lift your mind and heart to God?
Update! On April 23, 2014, I saw a tweet from ccwatershed that they have just completed this gorgeous pew book for the Ordinary Form! This is a HUGE step in a movement towards dignified, theologically-sound music at your local parish. If you like what you see (and hear), please consider passing it on to your parish priest!