St.Cecilia’s have a new website

The Benedictine Nuns of St.Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight have a new website.

You can even hear recordings of the community singing the Gregorian Chant they are so renowned for.

On the question and answers page, this particular response struck me :-

Why do you still sing your liturgy in Latin?

“If girls don’t know Latin when they enter – and they usually don’t know any – they learn it in the novitiate. It is astonishing how quickly you pick it up with one-to-one teaching and singing it in the liturgy several times a day. The same is true of Gregorian Chant. Most of us are not “musical”, but our choir mistress says she has found that anyone can learn to sing the Chant. People nowadays often use discipline in posture and breathing as aids to prayer, or learn to discern the promptings of the Spirit through their memory or imagination or emotions. Learning Latin and music for the sake of praying through the Chant is just another discipline which centuries of experience have shown to be a way to deeper union with God.”



TODAY  is the Thursday of the 3rd Week in Lent – in case you have lost your calendar or just woken up from an exceptionally long slumber.

That means, WE ARE HALFWAY THROUGH LENT!!!!!!!!    (‘Only halfway?’  I hear the Chocolate-lovers cry.)


Half down, half to go..  The end is in sight

Hymns for ‘Laetare’ Fourth Sunday in Lent


Q. Why is the 4th Sunday in Lent called ‘Laetare’?

A. Because the Introit begins ‘Laetare Jerusalem!’

Q.  What does ‘Laetare’ mean?

A  ‘Rejoice.’

Q. Why is the priest wearing pink-coloured vestments?

A. They’re not pink they’re rose-coloured. We only see these vestments on Laetare and Gaudete (3rd Sunday in Advent) – another reason to celebrate.

It’s the only Sunday in Lent that the organ can be loud,  so this week really ‘pull out all the stops…!’


Hymns everyone will know:


The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Be thou my Vision

The Lord’s My Shepherd

Amazing Grace

Attende Domine

Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us

Praise to the holiest in the height

Christ is the world’s light

Lead Kindly Light  (Queen Victoria’s fav!)   JB Dyke or CH Purday

O Christe Domine Jesu (Taize)

Immortal Invisible


How about a Marian Hymn for the end of mass?  It is Mothering Sunday after all…


Holy Virgin by God’s Decree

Ave Maria, O  Maiden, O Mother


Trickier hymns:


My Song is Love Unknown

Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring

Out of Darkness – Christopher Walker

Lord who throughout these forty days

Thou whose almighty Word

Awake, awake fling off the night


Hymns we will not be singing but you can if you want:


Colours of Day

Be light for our eyes (David Haas)

God has chosen me (Bernadette Farrell)

Gather us in – Marty Haugen

Shine Jesus Shine

Tartini’s Stabat Mater



When you mention the Stabat Mater, most people instantly think of Pergolesi’s beautiful setting of the sequence. I have recently found a three- part choral setting of the Stabat Mater  by  Giuseppe Tartini, a man more  known for his Violin Sonatas and fencing… This piece is quite simply, divine. The verses alternate between the Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Alto polyphonic settings and the plainchant melody.  As it is Laetare Sunday this Sunday, we have a virtuoso organist coming play and conveniently he is also a very good counter-tenor so he can sing alto.

I can’t find any recordings of Tartini’s Stabat Mater except for  this solitary film on You Tube which actually is rather brilliantly sung.


The full score can be found at ChoralWiki

Stan Metheny on ‘Oculi Mei’ the Introit for 3rd Sunday of Lent

Stan continues his series on the Introits of Lent, exclusively for this site.

In the Rome of the early Christian centuries the solemn services on the third Sunday of Lent were held in the Church of St. Lawrence, to thank God for the grace of Baptism and the sonship of God, which was attained through it. The catechumens joined the baptized for the beginning of the liturgy. At the church of the deacon St. Lawrence, their patron, they were examined today, as on seven other days of Lent, about the doctrine they had studied, and inquiry was made into their manner of life. So the present Sunday was also called the Sunday of scrutinies. Prayers were said over the catechumens and the first exorcism performed in order to destroy the power of the devil in their souls.

So the composer of this Introit was concerned in a special manner to give prominent expression to one word, the word which predominates over the rest of the antiphon: evellet—He liberates me, plucks my foot from the snare, frees me. Whatever of consolation and joy—a joy like that of Easter—this word contained, was to penetrate into the heart of the catechumens; at the same time it was to arouse a powerful longing for happiness, for the freedom of the children of God. Evellet takes the part of a leitmotif, receiving a wonderful development especially in today’s Gospel. However great Satan’s power may be, a superior power will take the field against him. Christ will conquer him, will cast him out from the souls of men and despoil him of the weapons in which he had placed his trust. Thus prays the Introit: Oculi mei—my eyes are ever fixed upon the Lord. Text and melody exhibit a pleasing, symmetric construction.

In the first part we look up to God; in the second we beg Him graciously to look down upon us. Each part, in its second phrase, adduces a reason. “My eyes are towards the Lord,” quia. . . ” for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare;” in the second part: “look Thou upon me,” quoniam. . . “for I am alone and poor.” In the first phrase, the melody, corresponding to its text, tends upward: Oculi mei…and especially evellet. In the second phrase we must regard it as more than mere coincidence that there are four descending fourths over the petition: Look Thou upon me. Oculi, setting in with an interval of a fifth, reminds us of the first word of the Introit for the third Mass of Christmas, Puer. The melody over me is also known to us from the same Introit. There it occurs over the word nobis. Similarly the close: sum ego, sounds like that of the Christmas Introit over Angelus. Then, like imperium in the Christmas melody, evellet ascends to high f. In the present Introit, however, the development is more ornate, it is drawn on a grander scale, and the accents with the frequent pressus forms are more energetic. With unflinching eye the singer gazes upward to God. This is shown not only by the protraction of the dominant, but especially by the annotated manuscript reaching back as far as the tenth century. Over semper they demand a broad rendition of all the notes—a valuable psychological indication. We meet the cadence of Dominum again at the end of the second part over unicus, and in a somewhat extended form over (miserere) mei. The unsatisfactory cadence at the close of the first part would lead us to expect a continuation. The second part, respice—”look upon me”—is melodically more tender, more fervent, more suppliant, but its range is less extended.

Respice still has a range of a sixth (g-e); the subsequent members of the phrase, however, confine themselves to a fifth (f-c). The harsh triton over pauper agrees well with the subdued feeling. In the psalm-verse a light secondary accent on the third syllable further increases the rest and the rhythmic clearness. Thus, after the introductory formula over Ad, quiet two-note groups follow. In the second half of the verse the significant little word te “(in Thee . . I put my trust”) must not be neglected; still the flow of the whole must not be interrupted by it.

If, in the first place, the Church prayed in the stead of those who are preparing for Baptism, she has to pray for many today who after Baptism have again become the prey of the devil, who have again strayed into his snares, from which they cannot or will not liberate themselves. From our own experience we know that he does not very readily resign his domination over a man; that, like a spider, he spins his webs, employing our evil propensities and the seductions of the world to ensnare us. We are well aware of the difficulty of the struggle and the extent of our weakness. This calls for much and fervent prayer; we must fix our eyes on the Lord (Oculi mei semper ad Dominum), we must implore Him to look down upon us in his mercy. And this we do eloquently in the words of the Collect:

Deus, omnium misericordiarum et totius bonitatis auctor, qui peccatorum remedia in ieiuniis, orationibus et eleemosynis demonstrasti, hanc humilitatis nostrae confessionem propitious intuere, ut, qui inclinamur conscientia nostra, tua semper misericordia sublevemur.
God, author of all mercies and all goodness, who has shown us the remedies of our sins in fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, look graciously upon this admission of our lowliness, so that we who are bowed down by the weight of our conscience might always be lifted up by your mercy.

Oculi Mei – Introit for 3rd Sunday in Lent

A reflection on the difficulties of the Introit for the 3rd Sunday in Lent:-

Singing the introit instead of a processional hymn might be the ideal in the Ordinary Form but in practice it is challenging. It excludes the congregation and it excludes half the choir.

This Sunday, in both the EF and OF masses we are singing or some may say struggling through the same introit.

‘Oculi Mei Semper ad Dominum

My eyes are always towards the Lord

qui a ipse evélet de láqueo pedes meos :

for He shall pluck my feet out of the snare:’

Personally, I think this is a really tough Introit. I struggle with Mode 7. I haven’t sung a great deal in Mode 7 and the pieces I am familiar with tend to have some sense of fearful apprehension associated with them. The ‘Lauda Sion’  for example, THAT sequence for Corpus Christi, a test of anyone’s physical and mental endurance – mode 7. The ‘Hosannah Filio’ which is always sung in great chaos as people jostle to get to their places outside, often in the wind and rain, as Palm Sunday commences, is Mode 7. The ‘In Paradisum’ and so on.

So with that back history of Mode 7, the subject of this Third Sunday Introit seems particularly apt. We see the psalmist in the pit of darkness looking up to the light asking merciful God to free his feet from the snares of sin and despair. It could almost be a metaphor for the singer struggling for their notes as they reach for that first 5th on the ‘Oc’ of ‘Oculi, that trademark fifth that begins so many Mode 7 pieces of chant.   As we continue, lingering briefly on ‘semper’ to reinforce our prayerful intentions, we launch with great gusto into the second line, ‘evelet’, the highest point in the Introit.

‘Evello‘ means to tear out, to root out, to remove. ‘Laquem‘ can be a snare, a trap or even a noose.

From this point of great determination the psalmist looks back towards the darkness and proclaims,

et miserere mei.’

Have Mercy on me.”

As we sing the notes quietly at this point, we acknowledge our humility and our failings.

Quonium unicus et pauper sum ego.”

“For I am alone and poor.”

The words become difficult to say, and so the music continues to be equally formidable. The two liquescents on ‘et pauper’ remind us to tread carefully through the syllables. These words have to be said with great sincerity or the intention is lost.

This Introit is difficult. The text is challenging. The neumes are challenging. The tonality is challenging. We are not even half way through Lent and the singers could be hitting their musical equivalent of the ‘Dark night of the Soul.’ We can either keep on struggling to learn these Lenten Introits or chuck the Graduale in the corner and go back to singing a hymn at the beginning. A hymn would be much easier after all.

‘Ad te Domine levávi ánimam meam ; Deus meus, in te confido, non erubéscam.”

‘To you Lord I lift up my soul : My Lord, I confide in you, I am not ashamed.”

Top 10 Ave Marias EVER!

For the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord:



(not compiled by Galaxy)

(What no Bach?   No Schubert……?)

10.  Ave Maria  –  Gregorian Chant Antiphon

9. Victoria  –  Ave Maria

8. Elgar  –  Ave Maria

7.  Gombert      –       Ave Maria

6. Arcaldelt  –  Ave Maria

5. Mendelssohn – Ave Maria

4. Donizetti –  Ave Maria

3. Bruckner

2. Parsons – Ave Maria

1. Rachmaninov – Bogoroditse Devo  (Ave Maria)

Hymns for the Third Sunday in Lent (A)


3rd Sunday in Lent  – Hymn Suggestions

Theme : Water.       Loving and Merciful God.


The Hymns everyone will know:


The King of Love my Shepherd Is
Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer
The Church’s One Foundation
Praise my Soul the King of Heaven (make sure your version doesn’t have Alleluias for the Refrain.)
Love Divine All Love’s Excelling
O Lord Hear my Prayer (Taize)
Bless the Lord my Soul (Taize)
God of Mercy and Compassion
Praise to the Holiest in the Height
The Lord’s my Shepherd


The hymns the congregation might know:


O Praise our great and Gracious God (adapted by Vaughan Williams)

Lead Us Heavenly Father Lead Us

Across the years there echoes

Lord Who throughout these forty days

Rock of Ages

Attende Domine  (Hear Us Almighty Lord)

Now are the Days of Humblest Prayer (Faber)



The hymns you probably don’t really want to do because you sang them enough in the 1980s:

Abba, Abba Father

Water of life – Stephen Dean

As the Deer longs for Running Streams – Bob Hurd

You Shall Cross the Barren Desert

YH I know you are near

Do Not Be Afraid

40 Days and 40 Nights

God So Loved the World – An easy Motet for Lent


The Bob Chilcott (nothing to do with the Iraq War enquiry) “God So Loved the World’ is a brilliant motet for Lent.

“God so Loved the world,

that he gave his only begotten son

that who so believeth, believeth in him, should

not perish but have everlasting life. “

John 3:16



It can be sung in unison if you don’t have the resources to sing in parts – you just need one reasonably strong singer for the Soprano Solo. It is less well known than the Stainer ‘God So Loved the World’ so the congregation are less likely to know if you sing the wrong notes – always advantageous…

It can be found in the Ash Wednesday to Easter for Choirs book. Published by Oxford University Press

Note to our Choir – We are singing it this Sunday!

Tibi Dixit Cor Meum – 2nd Sunday in Lent. Stan Metheny

On the 2nd of the Lenten Sundays, in the Ordinary Form, the chants echo those  of the   feast of the Transfiguration, which is the Gospel of the day.

In the Introit, Tibi Dixit cor meum, we sing in the ethereal Mode 3, which Guido  D’Arezzo called  mystical, as we contemplate the majesty of the face of God  revealed to us in  Jesus transfigured  on the mountain. The melody clearly portrays  this with  several sustained notes on the   dominant do. We reach for the heights to  which  the transfigured Jesus calls us and  which he shows us are our destiny, if we  really hear Him. The words of the psalmist here are clear: it is my heart that seeks  to  contemplate God as he is. Heart is most  often used in the Scriptures to  represent the    deepest dimensions of the human person, the font of life, the will, the  desire, a type of  understanding that surpasses that of the mind—although the liturgy  tells us that the  mind provides important underpinnings and support to the emotions of the heart that  drive us and our behaviour. We keep our feet solidly on the ground, even though we  are on holy ground and reaching for the One Who Is beyond us.

Tibi dixit cor meum, quaesivi vultum tuum, vultum tuum Domine requiram: ne faciem tuam avertis a me. Ps. Dominus illuminatio mea et salus mea: quem timebo?

My heart said to You, I have sought Your countenance; I will seek Your countenance again, Lord. Do not turn Your face away from me. Ps. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom will I fear?

Here again, as we saw last Sunday, the chants have a very uplifting and positive thrust, despite the fact that we are in Lent, the season of penance and sorrow for sin. The Preface explains briefly why we need to hear this message today. Like the apostles, we will soon face the reality of the passion and death of the Lord. We must not forget that it leads to His resurrection. [in monte sancto suam eis aperuit claritatem, ut per passionem, etiam lege prophetisque testantibus, ad gloriam resurrectionis perveniri constaretHe showed them his brightness, so that it would be clear that he would come through to the glory of the resurrection, as the law and the prophets bear witness.] For a more thorough explanation of this, read the extract from a sermon of Pope St. Leo the Great found in the Office of Readings for the day. (An English version is available at

The psalm verse in the Introit speaks to this very directly. Confronted by the startling gap between the glory of God revealed in Jesus and our own sinfulness, we do not need to fall down in fear, as the apostles did on the mountain. The cross and resurrection of Jesus, pre-figured in his transfigured body, are now a living reality in our world. Fear is driven away when we can see the Lord as our true light and our salvation. No wonder that the chant is triumphant; it is a chant to accompany our entrance onto our own holy mountain, as the priest goes before us to ascend the altar of sacrifice on our behalf: Jesus Christ going to the cross to offer Himself to the Father. It is a powerful reminder that our Lenten self-denial is not negative for its own sake, but as a means to transform ourselves into the fully human person we are called to be. Only by stripping away the false and transitory can we see what is true and enduring.

In recent decades, it’s become popular to think that our Lenten self-denial should generate monetary savings and that in turn will fund our almsgiving. Not a surprising way of thinking in an age when economic ‘quid pro quo’ measures loom large in our minds. But . . . well . . . ‘not exactly,’ as the popular expression goes. Eating less, drinking less, speaking less, shopping less, less media stimulation, or however else we might deny ourselves customary comforts, are all ways to provide more time for prayer and silence, and to strengthen us for the struggles we face. Then, in that quiet, we learn the transforming value of prayer and the liberating exhilaration of almsgiving. In their turn, praying and sharing change us; they make us richer. Just as we ask God to not turn his face from us, so we must not turn our face away from the needs of the poor, in whose face we behold Him. Or as the Collect succinctly says it: verbo tuo interius nos pascere digneris, ut, spiritali purificato intuitu, gloriae tuae laetemur aspectu. deign to feed us inwardly with Your word, so that, once our understanding has been purified, we may rejoice in the sight of Your glory.

In doing these things, we will be telling others of the great vision we have seen. And Christ is now raised from the dead, so it’s indeed time to tell the vision. Sing this Introit with gusto!