N A FAMOUS letter written circa 1996, Justice Antonin Scalia (d. 2016) opened up in a very personal way to Justice Harry Blackmun, saying he felt worried: “I am beginning to repeat myself.” Like Justice Scalia, I try not to repeat myself on these pages, but sometimes it’s inevitable. Perhaps readers remember why I no longer compose. It was when DR. CALABRESE came to Los Angeles and conducted a brief SATB KYRIE by Father Francisco Guerrero (d. 1599). At that point, I had already spent two decades studying 16th century counterpoint, conducting Renaissance polyphony, and transcribing thousands of pages by Palestrina, Victoria, Handl, Marenzio, Croce, Lassus, and so on. But something hit me in that moment. I realized that Guerrero was composing on an entirely different level. Therefore, I stopped composing—because it was embarrassing for me to pretend that Guerrero and I shared the same profession. (Nor would I step onto the basketball court with Michael Jordan.)
Not Completely • Since that time, on those rare occasions when I do compose, I utilize a fake name. For every rule, however, there is an exception. This morning, I sat down and wrote a brief SATB arrangement for “What Child Is This?” (which I consider a truly beautiful Christmas carol). Then I attempted to record all the vocal parts—including the girls’ parts!—and here’s how it turned out:
* PDF Download • SATB “What Child Is This?” (IN LATIN)
—For an English version, cf. #677 in the Brébeuf Hymnal.
Repeating The Answer • Something we must keep repeating: the Brébeuf Catholic Hymnal is dedicated to metrical hymns. The Liber Usualis is a gorgeous book—but the Brébeuf Hymnal is different. Some people say: “I think the Brébeuf Hymnal should have included the same pieces which the Liber Usualis included.” It’s difficult to understand why they say this. If they want the Liber Usualis, they ought to purchase the Liber Usualis. But the Brébeuf Hymnal is different, because it’s dedicated to metrical hymnody.
Cheetah Vs. Giraffe • After all, a cheetah is not a giraffe—so it’s rather silly to complain that the cheetah’s neck isn’t as long as the giraffe’s neck. Similarly, people sometimes say: “I think the Brébeuf Hymnal should contain all the Gregorian hymns that were printed in Cantus Varii.” Again, it’s difficult to understand why anyone would say that! Those who desire Cantus Varii should purchase that book! But the Brébeuf Hymnal is different, because it provides what can be found in no other book … viz. the finest Catholic metrical hymns.
Expanding The Mission • Some parishes are not allowed to sing in English. They use Latin only. Therefore, I have created a whole slew of “personal additions” to the Brébeuf Hymnal. Essentially, I take the Latin texts found in the Brébeuf Hymnal—along with the superb literal translations—and create performance editions. Obviously, these Latin hymns (which often contain elisions) would not be suitable for congregations.1 Very soon, I will release all these editions online; I just need to find a sensible way to do this. I’ve amassed quite a collection!
1 With a few notable exceptions (such as “ADESTE FIDELES”) congregations sound pretty terrible when they try to sing a whole bunch of Latin verses. I learned this the hard way!