If you are a pastoral musician or liturgist working in a parish, you know that the weeks and then the
days leading up to Christmas are chock full of preparations, intensifying the regular Sunday-to-Sunday routine with weekday liturgies about which everyone has extraordinarily high expectations. Christmas is to church sort of what Thanksgiving is to home: everyone comes over with high hopes for a great experience, and the last thing you want to do is disappoint anyone. At Thanksgiving, of course, it's the meal itself and the festive gathering. At Christmas, in church, it's the music, along with the conjuring of memory and re-grounding we experience in the nativity story itself. We "dress the table daintily, our finest treasures use/ That all a-sparkle it may be, and bright with lovely hues," as Alfred Burt wrote famously in one of his wonderful carols, and then reminded us with kind piety, "And you who would the Christ-child greet, your heart also adorn."
Winter has its own plans, of course, so it's not unusual in these northern climes to have inclement weather cancel a rehearsal, or dissuade all but the most dedicated of singers from making the trip to the church to practice on a frigid evening. Thus into the mix of accelerated activity and stress Mother Nature is capable of further complicating the process of Christmas preparation. One sets ones sights first on the afternoon of December 25 when the crush of preparation will subside and one can begin to interiorize the beauty of the day for which one's life is being spent, with one sleepy eye open and one side of brain aware that the weekend, and then the holy day of January 1, and then ANOTHER weekend, are just a few days away.
All of this is by way of saying that the last thing one needs is for the pastor to announce that the archdiocese is celebrating welcome masses in the vicariates (yay!) for the new archbishop (yay!) and we've been selected to host one of the first ones (yay?) on January 15, three weeks after Christmas (WTH???) And this bomb was dropped about a week before Christmas, about as inopportune a time as it can be imagined. And yet, as you can see, two and a half "yays" outweigh one and a half "WTHs" and so one goes about the work of mustering the forces and doing what I do best: foisting off work on other people.
I want to begin by saying how thrilled we all are in the archdiocese that we have been blessed with Blase Cupich (pronounce SOUP-itch) as our new bishop. Hours after his arrival he was already doing things that impressed us, reaching out to the sick and politically marginalized, and making clear that his leadership style was Franciscan (in the papal sense, not specifically the OFM sense) which let the entire midwest, and maybe the country, breathe a huge sigh of relief. It is the overwhelming sense of gratitude about his appointment and arrival that made the preparation work easier, if not always a joy. It meant more meetings, and you know how I feel about meetings.
(A quick aside: pity Archbishop Cupich for having a given name spelled in such a way that autocorrect wants to turn it into "blasé" even when it's capitalized, even in this blog, and certainly in every Microsoft product available. I wonder whether instructions will be issued downtown about how to disable the accent mark in autocorrect so that Twitter won't titter when news releases and cathedral programs refer to the archbishop by a derogatory adjective where his first name should be!)
The first thing I did was contact the music directors of the twenty-five or so Catholic parishes in our part of the archdiocese. Our Vicariate 1 comprises the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago. It's a geographically large area comprising all of Lake Country and part of Cook as well, so two masses were planned for the Vicariate, a second one being scheduled for a month from now in Vernon Hills, about ten miles north and east of us, for the more northerly parts of the Vicariate. I received responses, mostly well after Christmas, because, one might say, "the luck of the draw that created more work in your life does not constitute a crisis in mine." I'm not complaining—I'm guessing that if this had happened to one of my colleagues, I might have waited until after Christmas to open that email too, or at least respond to it. Heck, Jesus didn't go visit the mortally ill Lazarus until three days lapsed.
We had our one rehearsal last night with the choir, and what a great night it was. We had over a hundred choir members from seven parishes (including ours) show up. We're singing parts of the mass in English and Spanish, and have included Polish and Italian in the response to the Universal Prayer as well, and the Agnus Dei from chant mass XVIII. Everyone was so enthusiastic. We were given an entire section of the floor level of the church, and we completely fill it up. Tonight, we're going to have a rehearsal with most of the instrumentalists, the Barrington Brass Quintet and the rhythm section from the World's Most Dangerous Liturgical Band, along with Gary Daigle and Marcy Weckler Barr, who are playing piano for most of the music. Tomorrow evening for mass we'll add the string quartet, sax, and our new archdiocesan music director, Wendy Silhavy, playing flute.
So this, along with the conference in New Orleans and preparing for a concert with Terry in St. Louis in two weeks and the Composers Forum after that, has been occupying my time, and why I don't have the psychic space to write much on this blog. Don't think I don't miss it, but at least I've been putting myself to good use in the meantime! A big shout out of gratitude to my choir and musicians, along with Pat Stewart from St. Francis de Sales in Lake Zurich, Gary Daigle and the folks from St. Edna's, Marcy and her group from St. Thomas of Villanova and Dan from Our Lady of Wayside, both in Arlington Heights, Siobhan McGuire and the choir from St. Hubert's in Hoffman Estates, and Brian Fife and his choir from Mt. Prospect.
I'm saying "thank you" in advance, because you gave your hearts and souls and time to this effort, so even if I screw something up tomorrow, what matters is we did this for the right reasons: love and service of the gospel and our vocation as music ministers.
Thank you also to the publishers, GIA Publications and World Library in Chicago, and OCP in Portland, along with composer Ricky Manalo CSP and Marcy Weckler-Barr, for allowing us to use your music and getting us copies for this large choir. For all of you who might be interested in what the music for the mass will be, here it is. It's the mass of the day, a weekday in ordinary time, made a little extraordinary by the circumstances of the archbishop's coming to town.
The liturgy is at 7:00 p.m. at St. Anne's in Barrington, with prelude music beginning at 6:30. If you come, bring your own shoe horn and Crisco. I think there will be a Christmas-sized crowd there for this wonderful event.
PRELUDES to include:
Marcello, Psalm XIX, the Barrington Brass Quintet
Bach, Brandenburg Concerto #3, Chicago String Quartet
"He Is Risen," South African freedom song (Thula Sizwe), adapted by Marcy Barr
"We Praise You," by Michael Balhoff, Darryl Ducote, and Gary Daigle
"You Have Built Your House of Living Stones," by Rory Cooney
Entrance song: All Are Welcome, by Marty Haugen (GIA)
Penitential rite from "Lead Us to the Water," by Tom Kendzia (OCP)
Salmo 95 (94) by Eléazar Cortés "Ojalá Escuchen Hoy la Voz" (WLP)
Celtic Alleluia, by Fintan O'Carroll and Christopher Walker (OCP)
Multilingual Intercessions, by Ricky Manalo CSP (English, Italian, Polish, and Spanish) (OCP)
Preparation rite: We Come to Your Feast, by J. Michael Joncas (GIA)
Eucharistic Acclamations: Misa Luna, by Peter Kolar (WLP)
Agnus Dei from Mass XVIII
Communion: Heart of a Shepherd/Corazón de un Buen Pastor, by Rory Cooney (GIA)
Communion: Within the Reign of God, by Marty Haugen (GIA)
Sending forth: I Send You Out, by John Angotti (WLP)
Cantors: Terry Donohoo and Luís Galvez, with a little help from our friends.