Latest Episodes of Square Notes: The Sacred Music Podcast
  • Hi all,

    For those of you who haven't been keeping up with us on social media or YouTube, here's a list of our currently published episodes (hyperlinked) and the ones you can look forward to rolling out (not hyperlinked below) as the summer rolls along.

    You can listen to us at our website, on YouTube, on SoundCloud, on Stitcher, or on iTunes. We're also on Facebook.

    Episode 1– An Archbishop’s Reflections on Sacred Music – with Archbishop Alexander K. Sample
    Episode 2 – Beauty and Catholic Culture: a Story of Conversion – with Vida and Josh Hernandez
    Episode 3 – The Role of Sacred Music in Catholic Education – with Charles Cole
    Episode 4 – Introduction to Gregorian Chant – with Dr. William Mahrt
    Episode 5 – The Spirituality of Gregorian Chant – with Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB
    Episode 6 – Historical Techniques for Teaching Music to Children – with Charlie Weaver
    Episode 7 – The Role of Sacred Art in Evangelization and Church Patronage of Art – with Dr. Elizabeth Lev
    Episode 8 – Evangelization and Catechesis through Music: South American Jesuit Missions and Working with Underserved Populations – with Lisa Knutson
    Episode 9 – Modern Sacred Music – with Kevin Allen
    Episode 10 – Teaching Sacred Music in Nigeria – with Fr. Jude Orakwe
    Episode 11 – Developing a Sacred Music Program: St. Vincent Ferrer, NYC – with James Wetzel
    Episode 12 – The Participation of Little Children in the Sacred Liturgy – with Dr. Timothy O’Malley
    Episode 13 – Seven Common Misconceptions about Sacred Music – with Peter and Jenny
    Episode 14 – All about Saint Cecilia, Or: When in Rome – with Gregory DiPippo
    Episode 15 – The Spiritual Fruits of Singing the Mass for Both Priests and the Laity – with Fr. Nathan Cromly, CSJ
    Episode 16 – Musical Treasures of the Mozarabic (Hispanic) Rite – with Jim Monti
    Episode 17 – Beauty, Happiness, and Whether It’s All in the Eye of the Beholder – with Dr. Alice von Hildebrand
    Episode 18 – St. Elizabeth of the Trinity as Musician and Spiritual Friend – with Dr. Anthony Lilles
    Episode 19 – The Catholic Traditions of Hymn Singing – with Jeffrey Ostrowski
    Episode 20 – The Pipe Organ: King of the Instruments, and Splendor in the Roman Rite – with Dr. Nathan Knutson
    Episode 21 – William Byrd: English Catholic Composer and Recusant – with Dr. Kerry McCarthy
  • janetgorbitzjanetgorbitz
    Posts: 889
    I can't speak for anyone else, but despite the fact that I really don't typically listen to podcasts... I am hooked on this one. Thanks for doing this, Jenny and Peter!!!
  • Jenny Donelson
    Posts: 161
    Thanks for listening!
  • RCS333
    Posts: 17
    Indeed, Square Notes is great! I know at least one other person in my Schola who agrees!
    Thanked by 1Jenny Donelson
  • Heath
    Posts: 805
    Jenny, you've got a slew of heavy-hitters, well done!
    Thanked by 1Jenny Donelson
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 980
    I SO MUCH appreciate the work you're putting into this! It's fantastic!
    Thanked by 1Jenny Donelson
  • Jenny Donelson
    Posts: 161
    Feel free to send along suggestions for topics you'd like to see covered. We've got a giant list in the wings, but we're happy to hear from y'all as well.
  • janetgorbitzjanetgorbitz
    Posts: 889
    How's the traffic so far?
  • Jenny Donelson
    Posts: 161
    It's been great hearing from so many different quarters about how people are enjoying the podcast. And with just 9 episodes (a 10th coming on Sunday), we're nearing 20,000 listens/downloads.

    Thanks for listening, everyone!
    Thanked by 1LongBeachChant
  • toddevoss
    Posts: 68
    I have enjoyed them very much. I listen via Youtube. Hopefully that goes into your "count".
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,466
    I enjoy listening to them - but on your most recent podcast (with the Delightful Kevin Allen) I must admit being aghast that the only modern composer you could think worth mentioning was Arvo Part. Seriously? No Karl Jenkins, or Ola Gjeilo, or Imant Ramnish, or LAURIDSEN? Why just Arvo? Or did I miss something?
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 224
    Probably because Part is the single most popular and, by many metrics, the most technically skilled composer of his generation, with due regards to Jenkins and Raminsh who I like a lot. Gjeilo and Lauridsen don't bear mention in the same breath as Part, though, and their music lacks the spiritual dimension that so strongly characterizes his music.
    Thanked by 1Jeffrey Quick
  • ClemensRomanusClemensRomanus
    Posts: 958
    I do love me some Arvo Pärt!
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,466
    Welllllllll, that's certainly a point of view, Mr. Sconbergian!
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 224
    It's not. Lauridsen has serious technical issues with the way he writes for the voice that are immediately apparent to most trained vocalists. Also, all his pieces sound the same. As for Gjeilo, he's never sung in a choir and just seems to be fascinated with what cool effects he can come up with for singers.

    Are these two really who we should be idolizing as the princes of modern-day composition?
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,634
    If I understand Gjeilo right, based on the composer notes in some of his published scores, he seems to disclaim an intention to write music on sacred texts as an expression of faith; his aim is to produce interesting sonorities.

    Perhaps this is consistent with the naming of some of his works, given titles unrelated to their ostensibly sacred texts. His "Pulchra es, anima mea" is titled "Northern Lights", and a Kyrie setting he wrote is titled "The Spheres".
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen BruceL
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,466
    If I understand Gjeilo right


    If I understand Schubert right, based on the source of his original texts [e.g. Ave Maria], he wasn't concerned with an expression of faith either. Elgar wasn't exactly a faithful Catholic by the end of his life, either. Yet we still use their pieces. Are we to assume since their authors had no intention behind them, that any sort of religious feeling we experience from such pieces are to be considered counterfeit?

    And who said anything about idolizing them? I simply asked why they only felt the need to mention one single composer. The composers I mentioned were the ones who most immediately came to mind - I could think of more, definitely. (Tavener comes to mind right now.) If they want to debate the supposed merits or failings of other composers, fine. I thought that was what this show was supposed to be. A discussion. Not an idolization on one composer to the exclusion of those who don't happen to fall under the heading of "elites" because they "seem to be fascinated with cool effects".
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,066
    Miserere (Górecki), just one of the amazing works by this late Polish master:

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    Thanked by 1Andrew Malton
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,066
    Totus tuus (Górecki), another sublime example:

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    Thanked by 1Andrew Malton
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 7,634
    There are indeed others who deserve attention: e.g., Tavener (yes), Gorecki (thank you, CHG), MacMillan (e.g., his In splendoribus sanctorum); the British composer Ivan Moody (not to be confused with the metal singer of the same name).
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • ClemensRomanusClemensRomanus
    Posts: 958
    I do love me some Górecki too!
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 224
    Schubert obviously wasn't a composer of much sacred music. There is the Mass in G major, which warrants some consideration alongside the Masses of Mozart and Haydn. Beyond that, there is limited liturgical material of any kind. Schubert's real gifts are in his compositions for piano, his solo Lieder, and some of the chamber music and symphonies - none of which apply to the liturgy, obviously. To compare him to his great colleague Beethoven, it is worth noting that Schubert much more rarely imbued his music with some kind of other-worldly spiritual or sacred quality (i.e. Symphony No. 9, the late string quartets, Missa Solemnis, the last four piano sonatas), despite both of their reputations being as concert composers. It just wasn't in Schubert's DNA.

    I think that's different than Elgar, whose liturgical works are well-suited for concert and liturgy alike. And, of course, there is Vaughan Williams to be considered, a staunch atheist who wrote some of the most spiritual music ever penned. And we can't forget about Brahms, whose sacred music possessed far more charm than many of the Cecilians.

    It's more than just the personal beliefs of the composer; it's the spirit of each work that matters. Gjeilo's works seem superficial and do not plumb the depths of belief like choral works of comparable difficulty but superior spirituality, and those are the ones that should be programmed in my eyes. His music is as manipulative as sacro-pop to me.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,771
    If I were an interviewer I might have asked "What do you think of Arvo Which composers do you consider your peers?" and been intrigued if Pärt were mentioned before McMillan. Pärt's Beatitudes is the most beautiful setting in English, and thanks to Paul Hillier's commissioning project there are many Gospel motets in English, such as Tribute to Caesar. Macmillan's Latin Strathclyde Motets occupy a similar niche, but can we admit that his occasional lapses, more 'use-music' than truly useful? We still lack a vernacular mass to put alongside Schubert's (and by the way, while I consider Gerontinus to at least be in a league with Schubert's late masses, Elgar's "liturgical works" would be …um, the Vesper Voluntaries?).

    Another of the giants is Penderecki, Gorecki (1933 – 2010) and One-R-Tavener (1944 – 2013) having joined the immortals.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,476
    Guys... Jenny wasn't doing journalism here. "Who are your peers?/Who are your favorite living liturgical composers?" would be a fascinating question, but also one fraught with danger for the interviewee. The point was to show off Kevin, and Kevin's ideas, not to play gotcha, and she and Peter did a fine job of that.

    Of the Catholic liturgical composers in the US, Mr. Allen is most like me in style and aesthetics.

    And come this fall, 2 of America's best Catholic composers (Daniel Knaggs and Mark Nowakowski) will be living in the D. of Cleveland, woo-hoo (I just work there; I live in the D. of Youngstown.)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,771
    Jenny wasn't doing journalism here
    Oh dear! Would she agree with you?
    I'd better admit I've been kibbitzing on the thread comments. Listening to the interview, Jenny does in fact ask the open ended question, to which the answer is "Bruhkner", the Pärt Q being a follow-up by Peter.
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,476
    OK, I just listened once! But if in fact she asked about living composers, and he said "Bruckner", she let him slide. Which was I think gracious.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Jenny Donelson
    Posts: 161
    Thanks for listening, gentlemen, and for a lively discussion on modern choral music!

    Since kibitzing seems to be the modus operandi of the discussion of late, though, it seems a good thing to quote correctly. To wit, my question was

    When you think of really great choral music in the modern time, who do you think of? Or when you think of composers who are really great at composing for amateur church choirs, who do you think of?


    In response, Kevin mentioned the music of Richard Hillert, Carl Schalk, Cardinal Bartolucci, and Nicola Montani.

    To say that for Peter to follow up with a question about Pärt, unquestionably one of the greatest choral composers of the modern era and some of whose works are quite performable in the liturgical context, was unreasonable or some sign that we couldn't think of anything else to say seems a bit ungracious, both to us and to Kevin, no? If you're coming to the colloquium this summer, you'll be singing a motet by Ola Gjeilo, a shared suggestion on my part. But even so, to consider Gjeilo or Lauridsen on par with Messiaen, Pärt, or Gorecki isn't warranted in my opinion, pace some in this thread. This is, I would assume, what Kevin was driving at when talking about how a fair amount of music being written now is mostly profane, only vaguely religious, or not practical because of performing force requirements. I generally agree with a lot of what Richard Taruskin wrote in his article "Sacred Entertainments" (Cambridge Opera Journal, 15, 2, 109–126 [2003]) when he critiqued some compositions of the recent decades as superficially religious, attempting to offer "spiritual content" as a marketing angle, but ending in "shabby topical hypocrisy."

    Re: Bruckner, Kevin was discussing the difference in compositional intent between people like Bruckner, Hillert, etc. as opposed to Pärt; the former clearly considered their compositions designed for liturgical use whereas this aspect of Pärt's compositional intent is less clear.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,771
    Maestro Allen did set me to wondering about variations in short U. Last Friday I ran into a friend on his way to a composer's colloquium and I was startled that I could have misremembered Steven Stucky's passing. Fortunately when I tagged along I refrained from telling Nathaniel Stooky how much I enjoyed The Classical Style.
    Thanked by 1Jenny Donelson
  • Jenny Donelson
    Posts: 161
    Touché, Richard. As I'm sure you know, Bruckner is a particularly important name for a New Yorker to pronounce with care and intent, depending on whether one is citing a motet/Mass/symphony, or a Tom Wolfe novel...
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,771
    A famous wrong turn ;-) Does one pronounce Bruckner Boulevard in a Dutch fashion?
    The hostel in Mönchen-Gladbach has a reassuringly urban-sounding Brucknerstrasse address, but what I failed to notice is that the train station map was 1 km per grid instead of the usual 100 m. Darkness fell before I even reached the forest canopy past the outskirts…
  • Schönbergian
    Posts: 224
    One of the appreciable things about Bruckner is that he very clearly delineates those works intended for liturgical performance (the a cappella motets, Mass in E minor) from the concert works (Mass in F minor, Psalm 150, Te Deum). Modern composers of sacred texts would do well to follow his example.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,771
    Bruckner … very clearly delineates those works intended for liturgical performance (the a cappella motets, Mass in E minor) from the concert works (Mass in F minor, Psalm 150, Te Deum).

    Surely not very clearly (where?), if at all: I can find no reference to a concert performance of the f minor mass during Bruckner's life, nor any such comment on either the published or the holograph score. The e minor on the other hand is labeled as an occasional piece.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,066
    I can find no reference to a concert performance of the f minor mass during Bruckner's life, nor any such comment on either the published or the holograph score.

    From Wikipedia:
    After various delays, the mass was finally premiered on June 16, 1872, at the Augustinerkirche, with Bruckner himself conducting. Herbeck changed his opinion of the piece, claiming to know only two masses: this one and Beethoven's Missa solemnis. Franz Liszt and even Eduard Hanslick praised the piece. A second performance occurred in the Hofmusikkapelle on 8 December 1873. The manuscript is archived at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,771
    Yes, in a church and in a chapel. I can imagine what may be meant is that some works are delineated by innate Caecilian tendencies, such as intoned Gloria & Credo. Here's a paragraph from Paul Hankshaw's chapter (B's large sacred compositions) in the Cambridge Companion:
    So far as is known there is no truth to Leopold Nowak's assertion that it [f-minor] was commissioned by the Vienna Court Chapel, although it received its first performance with forces from the Chapel in the Augustinerkirche, Vienna, on June 16, 1872, with Bruckner conducting. In his review Eduard Hanslick (who was still supportive of Bruckner at the time) recognized Beethoven's Missa Solemnis as a worthy predecessor and called for a concert performance where the F minor Mass could receive more rehearsal and obtain a wider public.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • @jenny Donelson after your quick comment on one episode about how you print posters of Gregorian antiphons, I immediately tried it with the elementary school choir I was (then) directing, and it works brilliantly. It pulls the kids in and created a positive emulation to have them sight-read. Like the old "Lutrin" I guess...
    (Note: I was looking forward to do more of this with the kids but then a not-completely-unrelated "disagreement" with the school director happened, I quit, and I'll have to wait to continue this experiment somewhere else.).

    Ideas for future episodes?
    Maybe an episode looking at more analogies between Gregorian Chant and culturally more "popular" subjects, allowing non-Catholics to get over some of the "old baggage" they see in Gregorian chant.
    For example, I have been using these analogies with varying degrees of success:
    - learning to chant relying on the "memory of how it feels" (not just how it sounds), and the analogy of the Pythagorean proportions and "cosmic" origins of Gregorian modes,
    - breathing and chant: why would any Westerner need yoga, when our culture has such a tradition of spiritual breathing within Gregorian chant,
    - "shaped notes" and "singing schools" taught many protestants with no formal education to sight-sing sacred music: why could not square notes do the same with Catholics who have not learned to sight-read modern notation?
    Thanked by 2Jenny Donelson JoeM