Catholic Arts Today

Here’s a well-done online magazine about sacred music and art, beauty, transcendence, and so on.  Here’s an excerpt from a recent interview, for instance:

“The curious thing, when you think about it a little bit, is the fact that a whole range of composers since Wagner in the twentieth and now twenty-first century, have been profoundly religious men and women, in one way or another.  It is astounding.  Stravinsky was as conservative in his theology as he was revolutionary in his music.  The other great polar figure of early modernism, Schoenberg, reconverted to a practicing Judaism after he left Germany.  His later works are full of that Jewish theology and culture and tradition.”

“…John Cage went to study with Schoenberg because I think Cage saw in him a fellow mystic,” Sir James continued. “…you know the curious thing about that piece 4’33”, that four minutes and thirty-three seconds of silence which was a kind of provocation to the culture and their listening sensibilities or lack thereof?  The original title for that was: Silent Prayer.  So that was Cage’s initial concept.  And there are academics pushing the idea he got the idea for Silent Prayer by wandering into an American Catholic church in the 1950s.  And of course, as you know when silence descends in the Extraordinary Form Mass, it’s at the moment of Consecration, which usually lasts about four and a half minutes.”

Gregorian chant in the vernacular

Screen Shot 2018-04-12 at 11.35.33 PMPara quem fala portugues, tem um site “Inspirado no Gregoriano” – mantido por Lincoln Haas Hein – que oferece cantos tradicionais traduzidos em portugues. Eu prefiro manter o Latim, mas para quem precisa ou prefere usar o portugues, este site é um bom recurso, e um grande ajuda nas circunstâncias atuais.

Por exemplo, aqui as partes moveis para a festa de Cristo Rei.

Ele oferece também muitos links sobre o canto gregoriano em geral para quem quer aprender ler a notação, entender o lugar de musica sacra na liturgía etc. Vale a pena dar uma olhada.

For English speakers: this site, called “Inspired by Gregorian” an interesting project to provide Gregorian chant in Portuguese. The idea being to provide a bridge for congregations or people who might be put off by Latin, but could learn to appreciate and sing Gregorian chant in the vernacular and develop a liking for it that way. The melodies of the original chants are maintained, in as much as the text permits. It’s certainly a labor of love!

The site also has a wealth of links to other resources in English and/or Portuguese for learning about sacred music, Gregorian chant, notation and so forth.

Have you ever wondered what medieval music looks like? — Cantus Lambed

Medieval music notation looked very different to what we are used to seeing in the modern world… Cantus Lambed uses medieval music to perform it’s services, monastic offices, and concerts. But did you know that our Director Paul translates and transcribes straight from original medieval manuscripts? In the images below you can see how different […]

via Have you ever wondered what medieval music looks like? — Cantus Lambed

Cistercian chant

Splendor Veritas is a private project to photograph and make available Cistercian chant books (the Cistercians have their own rite and chant, different here and there from the Roman Rite). Most of the books are from the 20th century, some pre-conciliar, some post.

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Sarum Rite Chants

This comes from the Gregorian Institute of Canada, at McMaster University, and includes a vast amount of material from this old English rite. Here’s their summary of the project:

The Sarum Rite of the Western Church developed through the period 1066-1558, and was used throughout much of Great Britain and parts of North-Western Europe. Sources for the Sarum Rite rite exist in a considerable number of medieval manuscripts as well as a large number of printed editions dating from the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Under the rule of Elizabeth I, the Latin Sarum Rite was finally abolished and replaced (in Britain) by the English Book of Common Prayer. The Gregorian Institute of Canada is in the process of publishing The Sarum Rite, containing the full text and music for the Breviary Office, for the Processional, and for the Missal. This edition is being published serially in PDF format. Publication began in January 2006. New installments are published every six months.

Since 2010 The Sarum Rite is also being published in an English edition.  The English Performing Edition conforms to the text-style of the Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible. This Performing Edition facilitates performance by streamlining the rubrics and by reorganizing the material where appropriate. The English Scholarly Edition (in progress) will conform to the text-style of the Challoner-Douay-Rheims Bible, which follows the Vulgate, and will follow the same order as the Latin edition.

This project aims to be both historical as well as practical.  Its connection with the living traditions of the Church can be to a great extent understood through the prespectives presented by László Dobszay in his recent book, The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite, London: T & T Clark, 2010.


Screen Shot 2018-03-25 at 7.43.04 PMAnother geeky fun resource: The Plainsong and Medieval Music Society. Academic. But seem to specialize in publishing obscure hymns and songs, such as a sequence for a Mass for St. Ursula (and the 11,000 virgins) in the old York Rite.

I also must add it’s so moving to come across versions of still-sung hymns in ancient manuscripts and hear more or less the exact same chant I know come off the page. Here’s a transcription of a version of Vexilla Regis (which friends and I sang at vespers of Palm Sunday) from a manuscript from 16th century Toledo, Spain:

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Do be generous and donate to support projects like this if you download or use material from the site! Here’s their donations page.

Ave Maria

Here’s one more chant by Saint Hildegard, and this time I include a bit of the commentaries on the songs which you can find at the site of the International Society to which I link.

This page has the text, video, sheet music and commentaries. A wonderful resource.

Some excerpts from the very interesting commentary:

“In the Dendermonde manuscript, the songs to Mary are found between the songs to God and those dedicated to the Holy Spirit, perhaps because Hildegard associated the second person of the Trinity so closely with the woman from whose womb he was born in human flesh. […] Though Mary only rarely appears as a visionary figure in Hildegard’s theological writings, the sixteen songs addressed to her in the Symphonia are the most dedicated to any one figure.”

“Beverly Lomer has argued elsewhere that the Marian repertory would have been primarily intended for performance by the nuns of Hildegard’s community, and therefore, unlike the theological books that were written for an outside audience, would have been free from external scrutiny (see Lomer’s work in “Further Resources” below). The unconventional imagery and almost divine agency that Hildegard assigns to Mary in the songs would support this supposition. While the more typical contemporary depiction of Mary’s role was that of mediatrix, in Hildegard’s Mariology, she assumes the status of an essential partner in the redemptory scheme.”

“The opening respond also showcases one of Hildegard’s most characteristic Marian themes, of the Virgin Mother healing the brokenness brought into the world by the first mother, Eve. The image of Mary treading down and crushing the head of the serpent (contrivisti, conculcasti) is a classic fulfillment of God’s words of punishment to the serpent in Genesis 3:15—but Hildegard adds her own unique spin on the theme by imagining that crushing as the tearing down of the tower of death that Eve constructed as she stretched out her neck “with puffed-up pride” at the serpent’s beckoning.”

R. Ave Maria,
O auctrix vite,
reedificando salutem,
que mortem conturbasti
et serpentem contrivisti,
ad quem se Eva erexit
erecta cervice
cum sufflatu superbie.
Hunc conculcasti
dum de celo Filium Dei genuisti,

R. quem inspiravit
Spiritus Dei.

V. O dulcissima atque amantissima
mater, salve,
que natum tuum
de celo missum mundo edidisti:

R. quem inspiravit
Spiritus Dei.

Gloria Patri et Filio
et Spiritui sancto.

R. Quem inspiravit
Spiritus Dei.

R. Hail Mary,
O authoress of life,
rebuilding up salvation’s health,
for death you have disturbed,
that serpent crushed
to whom Eve raised herself,
her neck outstretched
with puffed-up pride.
That serpent’s head you ground to dust
when heaven’s Son of God you bore,

R. on whom has breathed
God’s Spirit.

V. O sweet and most beloved
mother, hail!
Your Son
from heaven sent you gave unto the world:

R. on whom has breathed
God’s Spirit.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit.

R. On him has breathed
God’s Spirit.