Pastorally Imperative: They are all we have.

ARDINAL SEÁN P. O’Malley, OFM, Cap. recently ordained eight men to the Priesthood on Saturday, May 20, 2017, at Immaculate Conception Church in Lowell, Massachusetts. (The Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston is currently under renovation.)

Please pray for these new priests! Fr. Jason Rinaldo Giombetti, Fr. Pablo Gomis, Fr. Kevin Paul Leaver, Fr. Godfrey Musabe, Fr. Wellington Oliveira, Fr. Joel Americo Santos, Fr. William Paro Joseph Sexton, and Fr. Michael Louis Zimmerman

FFORDED THE OPPORTUNITY to direct the music for this ordination, I hoped to emphasize to the choir the following:

What we do is not simply “important” music for an “important” Mass. This is a day that these eight men will carry in their hearts for the rest of their lives. Not only what we sing, but how we sing will have spiritual impact beyond a nice memory. It will help shape their formation.

Music itself won’t solve any problems or persuade any newly ordained priest to adjust their liturgical inclinations. That’s not the point.

But music sung in prayer and with joy hopefully permeates their hearts and minds. It can reach the hearts of their family and friends who will support and accompany them throughout their lives. To sing in prayer and with joy is pastorally imperative for they are all we have.

ERHAPS OF INTEREST, you can watch a video of the Ordination in the Archdiocese of Boston here. We are deeply grateful to Evan Landry for this recording.

Recording for broadcast is always tricky, especially capturing the true blend of a choir in the room. Mr. Landry did an exceptional job (with omnidirectional microphones) capturing a fairly representative blend of the choir while contending with specific restrictions in space.

Music of note:

• 4:15 • INTROIT • Sacerdotes Dei, benedicite, Mode VI • (Marc Demille intones verses) I chose to have men and women sing in unison for a brighter sound, to create a more energetic pronouncement. This was followed by the hymn This Is the Feast of Victory by Hillert.

• 20:45 • Kyrie and Gloria from the Mass of the Angels (Allesandra Cionco-Dahlberg, soprano)

• 28:30 • Psalm 23 • Jeffrey Ostrowski (Jaime Korkos, psalmist)

• 34:15 • Gospel Procession, Alleluia, Theodore Marier

• 36:24 • The Gospel is beautifully chanted by Rev. Mr. Joseph J. Sanderson

• 1:07:56 • Litany of the Saints (Marc DeMille Cantor)

• 1:16:30 • Holy Spirit, Come and Shine Chant, arr. Leo Abbott (Tom Manguem, cantor) and improvisation • repeated at 1:27:25

• 1:44:00 • Christ the Lord, a Priest Forever, RJC, Ps. 100

• 1:52:00 • You are My Friends, RJC • Jn. 15:14, Ps. 100

• 2:27: 40 • Agnus Dei XVI, Byrd/Agnus Dei XVIII

• 2:30:13 • Sicut Cervus Palestrina

• 2:33:28 • Adordo Te devote

• 2:53:45 • THAXTED, O God Beyond All Praising, arr. Richard Proulx

• 2:59:45 • Processional, Mathias • Dr. Janet Hunt, FAGO, organ

Photos by George Martell • Archdiocese of Boston

I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero • E. Ethelbert Miller & Richard J. Clark

ARCH 24TH marks the anniversary of the assassination of Blessed Óscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador. On Sunday, March 23, 1980, the day before his assassination, Romero addressed the soldiers in his homily:

“En nombre de Dios, pues, y en nombre de este sufrido pueblo, cuyos lamentos suben hasta el cielo cada día más tumultuosos, les suplico, les ruego, les ordeno en nombre de Dios: ¡Cese la represión!”

“In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cries rise to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you in the name of God: stop the repression!”

Listen to a recording of this part of his homily here.

While Romero was not interested in Liberation Theology, he spoke vehemently against the human rights abuses of the Salvadoran government. He gave voice to those who had no voice: the oppressed, the poor, the victims of abject cruelty. For this, he paid with his life.

His cause for canonization was opened in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II. At a standstill for some years, it was furthered in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI. On February 3, 2015, Pope Francis decreed that Romero was martyred in odium fidei (“in hatred of the faith”). Romero was then beatified in El Salvador on May 23, 2015.

N 2016 JENNIFER LESTER, Music Director of the The Seraphim Singers, was intent on commissioning from me a work to honor Óscar Romero. The result was music set to I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero by E. Ethelbert Miller (b. 1950).

The text of the poem is here and below.
A Spanish translation by Nancy Morejón can be found here.

Here is a recording of a live performance by the Seraphim Singers in 2016:

E. Ethelbert Miller writes:

I Am The Land: A Poem In Memory of Oscar Romero was first published in my collection First Light: New and Selected Poems (Black Classic Press, 1994). It’s one of the few poems I wrote specifically for a public reading.

The “tone” of the poem echoes the work of Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Ernesto Cardenal.

The work was an outgrowth of my interest in liberation theology. One of the major issues in our world today continues to be poverty. “The people of El Salvador are the people of the world.” This line should connect with everyone. I hope my poem also speaks to the role of the church in our society. The doors of this institution must always remain open, for pilgrims and strangers. Our faith must be made visible. I believe it begins with an open heart. Finally, the poem connects life to land. I wanted to link Oscar Romero to the grass, trees and wind. Even after Romero’s death, one should be able to open a window and inhale his beliefs and memory.

He who is resurrected is revolutionary.
He who is resurrected believes in peace.
This is the meaning of light.
This is the meaning of love.

– E. Ethelbert Miller
March 14, 2017

From my own program notes: “…Romero’s message is a powerful voice crying out for the voiceless, the oppressed, and the slaughtered. Phrases in a modern harmonized Gregorian Chant style are in complete service of Miller’s text, and therefore Romero’s lifelong example of humble service towards justice and peace.”

NE OF THE GREAT JOYS of the creative process is to work with and meet great artists who also happen to be beautiful people. Out of Jennifer Lester’s vision came the opportunity to live intimately inside of E. Ethelbert Miller’s words. His poetry evokes images far beyond the vivid emotions on the page. His words elicit further questions, leaving in their wake a burning desire to experience more that has already come alive on the page.

A man of kindness and vision, Miller’s work lives well beyond his words, flowing into action, exuding a joy of living.

I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero

I am the land.
I am the grass growing.
I am the trees.
I am the wind, the voice calling.
I am the poor.
I am the hungry.

The doors of the church are open
as wide as the heart of a man.
In times of trouble
here is a rock, here is a hand.

God knows the meaning of our prayers.
I have asked our government to listen.
God is not dead
and I will never die.

I am the land.
I am the grass growing.
I am the trees.
I am the wind, the voice calling.
I am the poor.
I am the hungry.

He who is resurrected is revolutionary.
He who is resurrected believes in peace.
This is the meaning of light.
This is the meaning of love.

The souls of my people are the pages of history.
The people of El Salvador are the people of the world.

I am Oscar Romero, a humble servant.
I am the land.
I am all the people who have no land.
I am the grass growing.
I am all the children who have been murdered.
I am the trees.
I am the priests, the nuns, the believers.
I am the wind, the voice calling.
I am the poets who will sing forever.
I am the poor.
I am the dreamer whose dreams overflow with hope.
I am the hungry.
I am the people.
I am Oscar Romero.

– E. Ethelbert Miller

Communion Antiphons for Lent & Easter • NEW • World Library Publications

I AM PLEASED to announce the release of my Communion Antiphons for Easter with World Library Publications. These thirteen antiphons are set from the English translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. All the verses set are those prescribed by Graduale Romanum. On a personal note, this is perhaps my favorite collection to date.

You may also view and listen to the Communion Antiphons for Lent here or below.

SCORES FOR EASTER are available in hard copies or digital format:

Order • View sample pages:
Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Easter” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

“Click & Print” • PDF Download:
PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Easter” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

All are chant based.
Can be sung with cantor or unison schola
Ample opportunity for optional SATB

HERE IS A SMALL SAMPLE of recordings—four of the thirteen communion propers are directed by Paul French. French and his singers beautifully captured the joy, movement, and energy of these chant inspired works.

Order • View sample pages:
Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Lent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

“Click & Print” • PDF Download:
PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Lent” (for SATB Choir; Cantor; Assembly)

HERE YOU CAN LISTEN to recordings of seven of the thirteen communion propers:


Nuptial Blessings • Practice Videos • Order of Celebrating Matrimony

R. JONATHAN GASPAR of the Archdiocese of Boston has kindly recorded the Nuptial Blessings of The Order of Celebrating Matrimony. The new English translation is according to the Second Latin Typical Edition, 1991.

This revised rite has been mandatory for use as of December 30, 2016, the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph—a most fitting beginning!

Each Nuptial Blessing is comprised of a short invitation and a prayer. Whether sung or spoken, the rubric calls for silent prayer in between. (For the purposes of these practice recordings, there is simply a quick pause.) After the silent prayer, the chant elevates into a Preface-like reciting tone, marking a distinct transition in the blessing.

The rubrics also indicate the following:

205. In the invitation, if one or both of the spouses will not be receiving Communion, the words in parenthesis are omitted. In the prayer, the words in parenthesis may be omitted if it seems that circumstances suggest it, for example, if the bride and bridegroom are advanced in years.

FR. GASPAR ELOQUENTLY emphasis key words and phrases, underscoring the beauty of the sacrament. Note especially how he sings in Nuptial Blessing A, “May her husband entrust his heart to her, so that, acknowledging her as his equal and his joint heir to the life of grace, he may show her due honor and cherish her always with the love that Christ has for his Church.” I found this to be deeply moving.

Nuptial Blessing A is sung here in a higher key. B and C are in slightly lower keys. A is the longest (4:30). B is much shorter (3:40). C is by far the shortest (2:40):

* *  YouTube • Nuptial Blessing A

* *  Mp3 Download • Nuptial Blessing A

* *  YouTube • Nuptial Blessing B

* *  Mp3 Download • Nuptial Blessing B

* *  YouTube • Nuptial Blessing C

* *  Mp3 Download • Nuptial Blessing C


Sacred Music for Christmas on “Sounds from the Spires”

RECENTLY joined Dr. Jennifer Pascual, Director of Music for Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, on her program Sounds from the Spires. I am very fortunate to have been on the show several times. This will explain any drop in the ratings.

Pascual’s weekly show can be heard on SIRIUSXM 129 Radio, The Catholic Channel, Saturday, 11pm-12am, Sunday, 6am-7am and 8pm-9pm (All Eastern times)

You can listen to a PODCAST of this interview broadcast on 12.4.2016:


Light Upon the World | Richard J. Clark, baritone; Produced by Paul Umbach | Available on iTunes and CD Baby.

Communion Antiphons for Christmas | SATB, Organ, Trumpet, Assembly • World Library Publications • Recordings Directed by Paul French

Madonna & Child | Organ • recorded on the Smith & Gilbert Organ (IV/52) at St. Cecilia Church, Boston

Although this conversation with my children happened before a prior interview, the story bears repeating:

My six-year-old son put me in my place before a radio interview. My daughter, who was eight, said, “Daddy is lucky because he is famous because he is being interviewed.” My son who was six responded: “No, he’s not famous. Never, ever! Only God is famous.” This, coming from a boy who loves getting into mischief, especially if it gets a laugh from his siblings and disapproval from his parents. But here he was dead serious and spot on!

Soli Deo gloria!

The Seraphim Singers Premiere “I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Óscar Romero” • E. Ethelbert Miller & Richard J. Clark

ENNIFER LESTER, director of The Seraphim Singers, molds highly adventuresome programming through faith and personal conviction. Seraphim’s upcoming program “Oppression, Exile, and Solidarity” will be another strong statement, musically and socially.

From their website:

This concert of musical works bearing witness and standing with human suffering includes James MacMillan’s Cantos Sagrados, on Argentina’s Dirty War; Zachary Wadsworth’s setting of Whitman’s “Old War Dreams”; the premiere of Richard Clark’s I Am the Land, a poem inspired by Óscar Romero, and Howells’ exquisite Requiem. With Heinrich Christensen, organ.

ESTER was intent on commissioning a new work about Óscar Romero, a voice for the voiceless. The result was music set to I Am the Land: A Poem in Memory of Oscar Romero by E. Ethelbert Miller (b. 1950), a tribute to the late Archbishop of El Salvador. Assassinated on March 24, 1980 while saying Mass, Romero was beatified by Pope Francis on May 23, 2015.

From my program notes: “…Romero’s message as a powerful voice crying out for the voiceless, the oppressed, and the slaughtered. Phrases in a modern harmonized Gregorian Chant style are in complete service of Miller’s text, and therefore Romero’s lifelong example of humble service towards justice and peace.”

The text of the poem is here.

From Miller’s publicist:

E. Ethelbert Miller is a writer and literary activist. He is board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies and a board member for The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region. Miller is an inductee of the 2015 Washington, DC Hall of Fame and recipient of the AWP 2016 George Garrett Award for Outstanding Community Service in Literature and the 2016 DC Mayor’s Arts Award for Distinguished Honor. His most recent book is The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller, edited by Kirsten Porter and published by Willow Books.

IF YOU ARE IN THE BOSTON AREA be sure not to miss this premiere as part the Seraphim Singer’s ” Oppression, Exile, and Solidarity.” There will be two performances:

Sunday, November 6, 2016, 3:00 pm
Eliot Church of Newton, 474 Centre Street, Newton

Sunday, November 13, 2016, 3:00 pm
First Church (Congregational) 11 Garden St., Cambridge, MA

$20 general admission and $15 senior/student.

• Tickets are available at the door or purchase online here
• Download the concert poster here
• Watch a video postcard here

HE SERAPHIM SINGERS ARE ENORMOUS ADVOCATES of new music with several new commissions each year. Jennifer Lester’s programming is astonishingly vast, from Gregorian Chant and Renaissance Polyphony to Twenty-first Century works. Yet, her programming flows with astounding unity and beauty.

The Boston Music Intelligencer writes:

“Ingenious programming by Jennifer Lester…”

“Anyone who cares about these genres owes it to him/herself to hear this gifted ensemble whenever possible.”

“Technically, the ensemble was in fine form, performing incredibly challenging choral repertoire with a high degree of finesse.”

Hope to see you there!

The Unhealthy Liturgical Obsession with Self

N OBSESSION with self-affirmation can lead to problems in everyday life. Those who do not need it, even in the face of adversity and criticism, tend to be happiest. (This is no easy thing and requires a lifetime of struggle.) Those who are in service to others tend to also be happiest.

But those who require self-affirmation, especially immediate attention, are at risk of covering up real emotions. They are at risk of masking pain from unaddressed problems, which can lead to a host of dire consequences.

Please note, none of this is a judgment. I struggle with these very same things as I am mindful of the myriad planks I should remove from my own eye. (I often joke that I write these articles because I am emotionally needy, and I seek affirmation from the Internet.)

If an obsession with self-affirmation is something contrary to personal happiness, then why does this crop up in the liturgy so often?

It is not found in the Roman Rite. It is not there in the scriptures. We are in fact inserting such self-obsession. The ubiquity of self-congratulatory lyrics and added sentiments (not in the Roman Missal) has normalized this mindset. No, we have not gathered to celebrate ourselves, but the Sacred Mysteries, which are eternally present, now and always. This is the sacramental reality of the Eucharist. This is worth celebrating with joy far beyond our limited human understanding.

Avoiding self-focus does not preclude building a welcoming parish. Reverent prayer and being inviting are not mutually exclusive in the least. In fact they go together beautifully. Placing Christ at the center is a dynamic agent of change in our hearts and therefore change in the world.

Furthermore, a need for self-affirmation is quite different than underscoring service to our fellow parishioners. The latter is vital to a successful parish and key to the concept of Lex Vivendi, which is the law of how we live our lives according to our prayer and our beliefs.

OUNTERINTUITIVE PERHAPS is that the more focused we are on God—and less on ourselves—the happier we may be. As such, the more a community makes Christ the center of their prayer, the stronger its bonds. This in turn helps a community be of greater service far beyond the four walls of the sacred worship space.

As a leader—as a choir director—one must never make the liturgy about oneself. Yes, we are entrusted with decisions, but it must be in the service of God and others—not an affirmation of self-worth as a musician.

INALLY, THE IMPORTANCE of hymnody with solid Roman Catholic theology cannot be overestimated. Better still, sing the propers whenever possible. Sing the Mass. In doing so, we are singing the scriptures. In doing so we put God at the center.

Then watch what happens deep within our soul.

Soli Deo gloria

The Power of Wordless Presence

passages have contained an interesting exhortation—one somewhat outwardly uncharacteristic of Jesus himself. Jesus tells a parable of the difficulty of passing through the narrow gate. When those knocking on the door, asking to be let in, not once, but twice, the master of house says, “I do not know where you are from…”

A few days later, the Gospel contains Jesus’ parable about the ten wise virgins. Again, they knock on the door asking to be let in. The bridegroom replies in nearly the same fashion, “…I do not know you…”

While each parable has a larger lesson—one of humility and the other of readiness—there is an beckoning to “know” the Lord.

Knowing another human being requires an investment of time and an investment of oneself. I suppose “knowing” God is quite similar. The masters in these stories are unlike Jesus in that we are told over and over in scripture that the Lord knows our every need and has known us before we were born. Psalm 139: “Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.”

This is the value of simply being in the presence of God or of one of his children. Our our pastoral roles, this is much harder work than dealing with the music alone!

Many of us are gearing up our choir programs at this time. There has likely been an enormous amount of planning that has taken place during the summer. We are getting into “recruitment mode.” There is no end to preparations and implementation.

Yet if we do not invest of ourselves time to “know” the Lord, our work may be for our own glorification rather than for God’s. (I write this as a reminder to myself.)

Each year, I am astounded to learn something new about a choir member or parishioner. These are people that I thought I knew well. It often involves a unique cross that individual is carrying. It changes my perspective, and hopefully more towards mindfulness of greater mercy. This only came about while being “present” to know the person.

Likewise, spending time with music—even over a period of years—allows that music to take hold in our hearts, and not just in our minds and voices. Such presence, such being, lends to service of others. This is the value of rehearsal.

Finally, my happiest times with my children are probably times in which I am simply present for them. I try to do this because my parents—and my father—took time to be simply present with me, especially at stages of difficulty.

No words were shared. Just presence. I remember these times, and I hope my children remember them too. Do this with others in our pastoral work, and the impact may be beyond something we will ever know.

If we know God, he knows us. Remember this, even if swamped with work and obligations. Remember the power of accompanying others in their struggles. Remember the power of wordless presence.

Communion Antiphons for Advent & Christmas • NEW • World Library Publications

ORLD LIBRARY Publications, the music and liturgy division of J. S. Paluch Company, Inc. has recently released my collection of Communion Antiphons for Christmas. These nine antiphons are set to the English translation of the Roman Missal, Third Edition, with verses according to the Graduale Romanum.

You may also learn about and listen to my Communion Antiphons for Advent here.

Scores are available in hard copies or for digital download:

Order • View sample pages:
Octavo • “Communion Antiphons for Christmas” (for SATB Choir, Cantor, Assembly, Organ, Trumpet)

“Click & Print” • PDF Download:
PDF • “Communion Antiphons for Christmas” (for SATB Choir, Cantor, Assembly, Organ, Trumpet)

All are chant based including quotes of Puer natus est nobis and the Mode I Ave Maria.
May be sung with cantor or unison schola or optional SATB
Several include optional vocal and trumpet descants.

BE SURE TO LISTEN to recordings directed by Paul French, Director of the William Ferris Chorale and Music Director of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Chicago. You can hear six of the nine antiphons here. (Each antiphon has several more verses than are recorded here.)

*Note the two options for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God: Rejoice, O Daughter Zion (Exsulta fiIia Sion) is prescribed for the Mass at Dawn in the Roman Missal. It is also is prescribed also for the Solemnity of Mary in the Graduale Romanum.

HY SING THE PROPERS AT ALL? Forget GIRM 87 that gives singing the antiphons from the Roman Missal or Grandulae Romanum the highest preference. Forget the tradition of the propers being integral to the Roman Rite for well over a millennium. Forget that Sing to the Lord: Music In Divine Worship (SttL) gives singing the antiphons and psalms very high priority.

But remember the wisdom of the faithful who came before us. What matters most is that the antiphons and psalms we sing during communion most always point us back to the Gospel. Often they are from the Gospel itself or another reading. The psalms, which are just as important as the antiphons, shed deeper light upon the sacred mysteries and the Gospel. These scriptures amplify our prayer while receiving the Bread of Life.

I could go on for many pages, but I leave you with this simple story:

The best note I ever received on this topic came from a woman who probably knows nothing about the antiphons, the GIRM, or the rubrics. But she knows prayer and she knows her heart. She said “Isn’t it wonderful to sing the Gospel while receiving the Eucharist!”

This kind of intuitive understanding is born of the wisdom of the ages—from many faithful who came before us. This above all is why we sing the Mass.

Consciously or not, the scriptures sung in the antiphons and psalms touch the heart. Live daily with the Word, and we will be transformed.

Soli Deo gloria

New Organ Work • Madonna & Child

HE CREATIVE process often takes time to evolve, always in surprising ways, and sometimes takes on a life of its own even after a premiere.

I was honored to be part of a wonderful concert with so many amazing musicians. It happened to be on Father’s Day. With that in mind, I just had to compose something for my two-month-old daughter. Composing variations on her name would have sufficed. But I could not shake the significant inclusion of variations on the Mode I Chant, Ave Maris Stella, which comprises much of the middle section of this work. Ave Maris Stella became its anchor—the grounding upon which the child’s theme could flourish.

The premiere was at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts on the 101-rank E. & G. G. Hook & Hastings Organ. At the premiere, the piece was titled for my daughter, “Variations on the Name Adeline Grace,. But so many after the concert asked me, “Wasn’t that Ave Maris Stella in there?” Yes, it was most assuredly there.

FTER A FEW DAYS, I have had a better understanding of what has transpired. It took me—the composer—to realize this is really a work about mother and child. There is the gentle cradling of the child in a mother’s lap. But there is also the heaviness in the child’s theme—a premonition of a Cross to bear. As Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 8:23)

Note the word Jesus uses: daily. This goes to our calling in life. We are all called to be a disciple of Jesus. It is the mother and father who nurture the child in the Faith, to be a true disciple of Jesus.

In the end, this work was perhaps equally inspired by my daughter and her extraordinary mother. What I did not initially understand, now makes sense as a musical portrait of Mary and Jesus. One can hear the heaviness, but also the lightness and comfort Jesus found in his own Mother, who is also our Mother. In both of them we find comfort. In Jesus we find salvation.

Recorded on the Smith & Gilbert Organ (1999) at Saint Cecilia Church, Boston, Massachusetts. Recording by Evan Landry Score available at RJC Cecilia Music.