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Hello and welcome to Blessed Sacrament's music ministry page! Here you will find information about our upcoming music performances, choir schedules, and articles for further education in your knowledge of Catholic music.

Adult & Handbell Choir

The adult music ministry is open to anyone high school age or older. Both the adult choir and handbell choir rehearse on Wednesday evenings in the church choir loft. The adult choir sings for the 11:00 AM Mass on Sundays and the handbell choir plays for special feast days and other celebrations. All parishioners are welcome and invited to join regardless of musical ability.

Our special Masses throughout the year include Christmas Eve, Easter Sunday, Epiphany, Pentecost, the Corpus Christi Outdoor Mass and many more! Come on up and join us!

Youth Choir

The youth choir is open to all students in grades 3-8. Students are required to audition for the ensemble in order to place them in the appropriate vocal section (soprano or alto). All auditions are accepted. The youth choir rehearses for 50 minutes after school on Wednesdays and sings multiple times a month - at 9:00 am on Sunday or 8:00 am on Friday as the schedule dictates. 

Attending youth choir rehearsal is comparable to taking private voice lessons and students are trained in healthy vocal technique that stays with them as their bodies continue to grow and mature. The middle school members of the choir are given individual cantor instruction and have the opportunity to cantor as soloists during our scheduled Masses. All students in grades 5-8 are also trained to play the handbells for special occasions. Send your student up to the loft for this wonderful opportunity to participate in the musical stewardship at Blessed Sacrament!

What are the Antiphons?

The Introit (entrance antiphon), Offertory, and Communion Antiphons are propers of the Mass which match the Gospel/Feast of the day.  Proper texts of the Mass change every day.  In addition to the Antiphons, the Responsorial Psalm and the prayers said by the priest are also proper texts.  Proper texts differ from the ordinary texts of the Mass which never change: Gloria, Kyrie, Agnus Dei, Credo. etc.  Most parishes in the United States still use the Proper Antiphons during weekday Masses (which are spoken instead of using hymns).  Up until Vatican II the antiphons were sung in Latin by the choir instead of an opening, offertory, and communion hymn.  The congregation joined in singing the Creed, Gloria, and chanted Mass responses (which they still do).

Why do we use hymns instead of the Antiphons now?

After Vatican II, translating the Antiphons into English was not at the top of the Pope’s priority list (no, seriously...).  So, church musicians looked for an English alternative.  The only readily available English alternative at the time were Protestant hymns.  The tradition of singing hymns in the vernacular instead of the antiphons has continued to the present day.

Why are we using them at Blessed Sacrament?

The revised translation of the English Mass caused many Catholics to re-discovering the Proper Antiphons, which were a part of our Mass tradition for roughly 1,950 years.  Since Vatican II did not suggest that the Proper Antiphons be removed, many contemporary Catholic composers have been looking for was to incorporate them back into the Mass.

We have been singing the Entrance Antiphon from the Introit Hymnal (the skinny) for several months now. I hope the incorporation of the daily text enhances your worship and is another reminder of the Gospel message for the day.

Please feel free to email me with any further questions or comments you may have!  Most of all, please prayerfully open your heart to these antiphons as the Adult Choir sings them for the aid of your worship.  We will be sure to proceed in the direction of beauty and wisdom if we consult the Holy Spirit as we prayerfully make our decision.  Amen!

Join us as the Blessed Sacrament Adult Choir begins the Easter Season with William Byrd's Mass for Four Voices on Easter Sunday, April 20 at the 11:00 am Mass. We will be joined by guest artists Caroline Anderson, Tracy Hoover, Andrew Nguyen, and Rachel Phares on the viola da gamba. The choir will also be accompanied by the Blessed Sacrament Handbell Choir and our organist, David Spatz.

William Byrd (1540-1623) was an English court composer under the reign of Elizabeth I. He composed for the 'underground' Catholic church in England during Elizabeth's notoriously anti-Catholic reign. These Catholics gathered to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass in private homes belonging to the Catholic nobility (a far cry from the catacombs). Byrd was a student of Thomas Tallis. Both composers were among the first of their time to have the printing press at their disposal. Because of great anti-Catholic sentiment, Byrd's Catholic Masses were printed without the names of either the composer or the printing house. 

The Mass for Four Voices is composed in the polyphonic style of the era (simultaneous lines of independent melody) and is traditionally sung a cappella (without instrumental accompaniment). This era is known for being very free in its orchestration. Music was written in four parts and could be sung a cappella, played on the lute, or by any arrangement of an instrumental consort consisting of strings or wind instruments. To take advantage of this help to the vocal singers, we will be joined by four viola da gamba players. The viola da gamba, an authentic instrument of the era, is still played with gut strings, and held and bowed with original string techniques. It is the predecessor to the modern-day cello. 

Listen to William Byrd's Mass for Four Voices sung by the Tallis singers here.

Read more about William Byrd here.

Read more about the viola da gamba here.

A Commitment to Liturgical Music

As the music director, I am often asked why we don’t sing such-and-such song more often. I have yet to find a simple answer.

Since the Mass is the only place where Christ makes himself physically present to us, the role of the music requires careful thought. The Mass is a holy moment, a reverent moment, a worship-filled moment, and hopefully, a peaceful moment. It can also reflect sorrow, joy, hope, love, and many other emotions. It would be impossible for the music to try and convey all of these emotions in every Mass.

We are blessed with many different seasons in the church year that allow us to reflect on the different responses we have to our faith. The music is and should be different from Advent to Christmas and from Lent to Easter. The music also takes a different role during each individual part of the Mass. The opening hymn (or entrance antiphon!) brings us together and reminds us we are here to worship. The offertory song points to the upcoming reality of the Eucharistic Prayer. The communion hymn gives us a quiet moment to inwardly reflect on Christ, who is now physically inside us. And finally, the closing hymn inspires us to take everything we have experienced during Mass out the door with us and into our week.

The music for each Mass should also reflect the texts of the day - the scripture referenced in the antiphons and the readings. The ‘Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy,’ Sacrosanctum Concilium states, “both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify….The texts intended to be sung should be drawn chiefly from holy scripture and from liturgical sources.”

Upholding these criteria presents a challenge. I invite you to accompany me in this challenge to worship with our liturgical music. Like most experiences in my spiritual journey, challenge is never easy, but it is always rewarding. When I select music for the Mass, the result is always more beautiful when I take the time to let my ideas go and Christ is able to fill me with His desire. The next time you struggle to find a connection to the music you hear during Mass, I ask you to take a leap of faith - to open your heart enough to see how Christ sneaks inside. He always will!

God bless!

Rachel Lauer

Hello dear parishioners!

As you have noticed, we began a new Mass setting for Christmas. In case this caused confusion, our music liturgy plan is as follows. We will use the

Latin Mass setting for Advent and Lent,

The Community Mass (that you all already know) for Ordinary Time, and

a different Mass setting for Christmas and Easter (we are testing out the Mass of the Most Sacred Heart to see if it will work here).

The success of this new Mass setting - The Mass of the Most Sacred Heart - will determine whether we continue using it or find something else to use during the Christmas and Easter seasons. The Mass setting will be reviewed by the Liturgy Committee, your cantors, and adult and youth choir members for its success/difficultly level.

Here are a few notes on the Mass of the Most Sacred Heart to help illustrate why it was selected as an option over other settings.

The composer of the Mass of the Most Sacred Heart, Jacob Bancks, was born in 1982 in Minnesota. He is a self-published Catholic composer, meaning he does not work for GIA or OCP or any other big name (which are not Catholic companies). He has been commissioned directly by Catholic Churches to compose music for the Holy Mass. His settings are modal (as opposed to tonal) in composition style making them sound much more like Gregorian Chant and Polyphony than like a Protestant hymn or a modern church song. He uses new 21st century compositional sounds alongside old ones used by Palestrina, Byrd, Mozart, and Haydn.

I was immediately struck when I heard this Mass setting (available on YouTube if you care to listen again at home) by the mix of old and new sounds that were at the same time so cohesive. So often I am disappointed when I hear a new Mass setting commissioned by GIA or OCP which often sound alike and have reminisces of popular music. This Mass setting by Bancks blew me away with it's unique colors and it's integrity to our Catholic music history. I had to try it out.

Trust me, I understand - it is not an easy Mass setting to hear and sing right away. That being said, once you do know it, it is not difficult to follow along. If our review process goes well and we try this Mass setting again during the Easter season, I will again beg your patience. Please sing. I do not want to select anything that is legitimately too difficult for the congregation. However, I am willing to present a challenge - but only if I believe it is worthwhile. Stick with me on this one and help us find out if we can use the beauty of this music in our parish worship setting.

Thank you for your patience!

Rachel Lauer