Monastic life in Poland

I have just come back from Tyniec Monastery near Krakow in Poland on a trip organised by the Gregorian Schola at St James, Spanish Place.

This remarkable Benedictine Abbey probably has the youngest average age of any Benedictine monastery in the world. It is thriving. There are forty monks and still they keep coming.

While we were there, we had a chant lesson with the Abbot.

We sang with the Monks (well, quietly from the pews) for first Solemn Vespers for the Feast of the Birth of John Baptist which of course included the Office hymn Ut Queant Laxis (Leutgeb calls it Do-re-mi Sunday!) The community sing Vespers and Compline in Latin and the rest of the office is sung in Polish.

Sunday Mass was so beautiful. Polish with Mass VIII and the Latin Propers.

Lots of priests.

Lots of incense.

Lots of people.  (The church is also a Parish church and this was one of six Masses held on Sunday – all of them were packed. )

Go to Tyniec!

More photos HERE 

Thoughts on singing the Office

Over the last couple days we have sung Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. Most of the hours were sung in English, the only exception was  Second Vespers for the Most Holy Sacred Heart, and some Latin in Compline.

It is evident that singing the office has a profound effect on people. Talking to someone last night after Compline he said how moved he was to sing the Nunc Dimittas in Latin. He said it brought it all back, it was what he had grown up with. I, however, did not have that luxury. As the first generation to know nothing but the realities of Vatican II, my generation  have not grown up hearing the psalms of the office chanted.

Yet Sacrosanctum Concilium states

99. …the divine office is the voice of the Church, that is of the whole mystical body publicly praising God…all who pray the divine office, whether in choir or in common, should fulfill the task entrusted to them as perfectly as possible: this refers not only to the internal devotion of their minds but also their external manner of celebration.

And there’s more:

100.  Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in Church on Sundays and on the more solemn feasts.  And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.

So what went wrong?

From my experience of collating the texts and music for the last couple of days it seems quite obvious, the resources to sing the office just are not there, particularly in England and Wales. How can priests encourage the laity to collectively recite the divine office if there are such limited resources?

For example, in order to sing the lesser hours, None, Terce and Sext, I had to take the texts from Universalis and then match the psalms with the Grail Psalter translations (Universalis cannot publish the Grail Psalter online for copyright reasons. ) These texts were then kindly notated by Ian Williams, which is not an easy job to do. I had to point some of the psalms copying his template and it takes a long time to do. For Lauds and I Vespers of the Sacred Heart we used Fr Samuel Weber’s settings taken from the Mandelein Psalter (the latter is available online.)  Whilst the Mandelein Psalter with its Gregorian based tones is a tremendous resource and it is simple enough for congregations to pick up, the translation has only been approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. If you want to sing the English and Wales approved translation of say the Benedictus at Lauds you will have to point it yourself.

If you want to sing Vespers in Latin there is now the beautiful Antiphonale Romanum which just covers Sundays and feastdays but it is tricky singing from this if you are not accustomed to chanting psalmody to the Gregorian psalm tones.

Compline is much easier thanks to Fr Weber’s brilliant book which was published last year. Read the review on Chant Cafe. Jeffrey Tucker rightly points out though that Ignatius Press have the copyright on this book and there are no free digital downloads available. Whilst this book is good value at £10, few parishes are going to cough up £300 plus just to purchase a small set.

To conclude; if we are going to comply with the intentions of Sacrosanctum Concilium we need help. Bishops of England and Wales we want a fully approved, notated version of the Hours in English set to simple Gregorian or Gregorian based tones. It also needs to be available as a free download so it is affordable for parishes. Surely it cannot be that difficult. The Ordinariate have managed it. (See page 9 in the Portal Magazine for Monsignor Newton’s article on the forthcoming publication of the customary.)

40 Hours Part V – Friday continues

11.45am – The children from our primary school next door are coming in in small groups to pray.

12pm – Sung Mass for a Solemnity. Propers, Gloria XVIII and Credo III and a couple of hymns.

12.45pm – Mass is over. It’s time for more candles…

2pm – Behind the scenes at 40 Hours

3pm  There never seems to be less than 15 in the church at one time. I can hear the click of rosary beads and muttered prayers.

5pm Sung Vespers in Latin. I won’t lie to you. At times it wasn’t beautiful but God loves mistakes – and when do you ever get that many people turning up to a small parish church to participate in the daily office? If only the Magnificat hadn’t been in Mode III. We made up for it with the wonderful office hymn ‘Auctor beate saeculi’ and the Salve Regina.

The whole set of photos are HERE

40 Hours Pt 4 – Friday

6.20am I was surprised to find a fair few people to in the church. Speaking to one parishioner, she had been there since 7pm last night. She wasn’t the only one.

7am Had to go and run off more copies from Lauds because of the unexpected numbers. We sang Lauds from the Mandelein Psalter with the English rather than American Benedictus. One of my choir members Mary, who recently came to us from the Eastbourne Ordinariate has sung at every Office.

8am Ann

9am Terce notated for us again, by Ian Williams. It is much easier when there is only one Antiphon!

9.30am  The Sacred Heart altar

The day continues with:

10am Rosary

12pm Sung Mass

3pm Divine Mercy Chaplet

5pm Sung II Vespers of the Most Sacred Heart in Latin

11.45pm Compline followed by Benediction

Come down ..


40 Hours Part 3

8.45pm The church is packed as the Polish Community lead an hour of Eucharistic songs and prayers. It was interesting hearing the Adoro Te sung in Polish.

9.10pm 40 Hours is a good excuse to stay up late.

9.40pm Singing the Salve Regina at the end of Compline

The rest are HERE

40 Hours – Part Two

11.30am There are still at least 15 in the church. I don’t think anyone can believe the numbers turning up. There were over 40 at Mass this morning at 8am!

12pm Sext is sung.

2.30pm Laurence takes a break from blogging

2.45pm More parishioners arriving.

3pm Christine leads the Divine Mercy Chaplet

3.20pm None is sung. Have to run off more copies on the photocopier because of unexpected numbers. Many thanks to Ian Williams who specially set the little hours in English for us to sing over the next couple of days. Have a look at his beautiful handiwork. None Booklet – Brighton June 2012

5pm Father Ray leads the sung First Vespers of the Sacred Heart. We used the Fr. Weber setting.

6pm The weather is turning. The light is starting to go outside, but the candles burn on.

Vocations UP!

(Our Schola enjoying a cup of tea at St. Cecilia's last summer.)

The Catholic Herald reports that the number of women joining religious orders has almost tripled in three years. Sadly that number has gone from a mere 6 to 18.

I wonder if the increase in vocations  is thanks to the new song specially commissioned by Fr Christopher Jamison, the former Abbot of Worth Abbey, who he is now the national director for vocations.


Fr Jamison described the song as a “wonderful gift given to the Church. The words are poetic and inspired, worthy of the psalms.”

Those weren’t exactly my words when l listened to it but if you like ‘handbaggy’ kitsch electro-pop it’s not bad. I can’t imagine the sisters at St. Cecilia’s (one of the 18) listening to it though.

My favourite quote from the Herald is Cherrie Anderson, the band’s lead singer, said after writing the song she realised that Cheryl Cole also planned to release a single with the same name. “This is a weird and uncanny coincidence,” she said. “Whereas her song is about her lover calling out her name, our song is about God calling out our name, summoning us to a higher life in which we fulfil our holy and God-given destinies.” Who’s to say Cheryl’s song isn’t also summoning her too a ‘higher life’ especially after her performance at the Queen’s Jubilee Concert.

Singing Gregorian Hymns No.1 – Adoro Te

There are a tremendous amount of valuable resources on the internet to aid parish choirs to sing the Propers and the Ordinary at Mass. There is very little on Gregorian hymns.

So where better to start, and on the transferred feast of Corpus Christi, than with the Adoro te devote, one of the five great Eucharistic hymns of St Thomas Aquinas written for the feast of Corpus Christi in 1264 at the request of Pope Urban IV.

Rev Matthew Britt in The Hymns of the Breviary and Missal writes:

The hymns of the Angelic Doctor are remarkable for their smoothness and clearness, and for their logical conciseness and dogmatic precision….. It is fitting that a great Doctor of the Church and a great Saint should have confined his hymn-writingto a single subject, and that, the sweetest and profoundest of all subjects, the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar

Adoro Te written in Mode V is frequently sung in Benediction at as a Communion hymn. Our parish choir always sing this hymn starting on a D. It is important that when sung it is phrased as four lines, rather than eight. Ignore those quarter bar lines. If sung at a reasonable tempo, you should not need to breathe at the quarter bar lines. Each of the four lines should be sung as a beautiful Romanesque arch of sound rising up to the summit of the high neumes with a graceful crescendo and then back down to the end of each line. As you sing up to the summit of each line, do not be afraid to sing out, particularly in the climatic third line of each verse. Coming back down keep the sound well supported, particularly with the descending clivis’. All this should be sung as legato as possible.

A good tip is to practice singing the last word of each line which is always a dactyl with a lighter middle syllable. In the first verse, these are the rhyming couplets Dé-i-tas and lá-ti-tas and then súb-ji-cit and dé-fi-cit. Be careful not to shorten the final syllable. The first accented syllable must be given its full length, a fraction longer than the non-accented syllables.

Another important point is not to sit too long on the dotted punctums.

The best way to sing hymns is to always sing them antiphonally particularly if you have a mixed choir. The common practice in our choir is to all sing verse One, ladies verse two, chaps verse three and so on with the the final verse sung tutti. When sung in this manner, it makes it much easier to pass fluidly from one choir to the other between verses with no break, in the same manner than psalmody is sung.

(All images are taken from the Parish Book of Chant available for download from the Musica Sacra site.)