Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Return From Elba

I was pondering earlier this morning the situation in Heaven, assuming that both Wellington and Napoleon eventually made it there. When it came to the Church Napoleon was a total jerk, whereas the Iron Duke, for all that he was an Irish Anglican, was part of the loosening up of the Tudor and subsequent madness that recreated emperor worship in Britain, yet Nappy had his points, like Lenin, and I can see mercy taking the game away from justice just so he and his eventual conqueror - with not a little help from Blucher and his Prussians - could sit on a cloud together discussing the good old days.
"Your weak point, Bonaparte, was that you didn't quite grasp how to use cavalry."
"Ah, but you were a dolt about artillery, Arthur,and your grasp of supply . . . ."
And so on. Heaven doesn't change our memories, it completes and perfects them.
I had the little corporal in my mind as I recollected my most recent post in the light of certain showings of the Old Guard that have been occurring since I made and open declaration of war on all agencies defiant of Vatican Two's obvious intention to retain and make primary the place of Gregorian chant in the liturgy. Small but satisfactory stirrings of some Old Guard personnel and intentions have already occurred, days if not weeks faster than I anticipated. But as Napoleon proved in his salad days, sometimes nothing is more effective than a sharp taste of grape shot, especially when dealing with a rabble, particularly when the rabble has lost its edge.
One of the problems with living in a diocese that was run by a criminal - with a host of criminal associates - for thirty years, is that recovering the bloody thing, returning it to ordinary standards of decency in things like liturgy, preaching, confessions, a proper level of parish and diocesan spirituality, takes a long time. The mood of such leadership, the mentality of those who made deals to compromise with it, linger on. An extraordinarily strong bishop might have brought us back to the norms more quickly, of course, but the Borromeos and de Sales ride through infrequently, and my beloved Meinred Schwartz, of 'Contemplatives' fame is, sadly, merely fictional. Although the sanity of my last thirty years has been his view of a diocese, and the joy of my years to come will be the detailing of a bishop who, backed up by mystics, knew how to shoot first and ask questions later, my own real capacity for maintaining the right has extended no farther than family and the closest friends and spiritual associates. So, I have not had much reason to hope for the church at large except in the general way of believing that under the present Pope the situation will slowly improve simply through his choice of suitable appointments.
But, thanks to MT on the computer, I have been able to realize that there is more hope out there, in other dioceses, than I heretofore knew about, just as I also have to admit that Ignatius Press, even though it would not publish my novel, has been immensely useful to me and my researches with its Adoremus hymnal and related publications. My stubborn, probably God-given, refusal to go with mere memorization of written arrangements has mightily born fruit, made leaps and bounds in the acquisition of skills to make proficients out of beginners with astonishing rapidity, simply because Adoremus has not only provided the old Gregorian four line staff and the modern five line staves between the same covers, so that even a dolt like myself can make comparisons, but they have provided a three part arrangement of the melodies. Thus I can play with one note in the bass and two in the treble, or, vice versa, reading as I go. This fits in very nicely with all the other basic formulas I have been discovering. It works for numbers, it works for sol-fa, and it really works for me.
And seeing the Gregorian in print in a good working text, being able to pin its extremities - for the adult male voice from A below small c to e above middle c has started to bring that old familiar capacity to concentrate on voice quality that the Muse has been so stingy about, so long as I hadn't nailed down the essentials of a good procedure.
So, if anyone is interested in a little practice, start learning the A minor scale. I still don't know what they call it in Modeland, but I know it is necessary. That's the natural minor. No black keys. Lah, ti, doh, re, me, fah, so, lah, ti, doh, re, me. Twelve notes. I've not actually yet spotted an e in any of the chant tunes I've studied, but rounding the scale off to the fifth is practical as well as musically reassuring. This gives two ones and two fives, very essential to making good harmonies when that step arrives, and you've grasped the rule of numbers. You can sing the numbers here too, if you like, but don't get so thick that you think lah will always be one. Or six, as a certain Benedictine once dreamed.
But, for Christ's sake, go slow. The great subliminal chant line of far too many groups goes like this:

The sooner we get out of here the sooner we'll get to break

Yes, it's Ambrosian. Everything on one pitch, give 'break' two or three beats, and the same for 'fast', one whole note lower.

I mean, after all, all you need for great chant is perfect diction, the state of grace, and Slow enough so God is actually interested in listening. And, I suspect, a good lead guitar or two.

And anyone who thinks I'm too old for this is invited to my back yard the next time I have to take my twelve pound sledge to those 200 pound rocks that keep showing up in it, as I was doing an hour before I sat down to finish the latest chuckle.
Shawn really likes asparagus, and MT has been at work with two more trenches of the stuff.

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