Choristers' Challenge

Sing like a Catholic. Sing the Mass.

Tag: Sing the Mass

Do you want to transform your congregation? Sing the Mass!

Singing the Mass adds less than 3 minutes to the length of Mass, yet it completely revolutionizes congregational participation. By directly engaging the congregation with simple dialogues and prayers, the priest cultivates a heightened liturgical experience.

Continue reading

Elementary School Challenge Repertoire

Music Booklet This booklet contains the following music:

O Sons and Daughters

Lord, have Mercy Mass in Honor of Saint Cecilia by David Hurd

Alleluia Mass in Honor of Saint Cecilia by David Hurd

We are the Stewards Sara Kalamaja

Preface Dialogue

Holy, Holy, Holy Mass in Honor of Saint Cecilia by David Hurd

Mystery of Faith Mass in Honor of Saint Cecilia by David Hurd

Amen Mass in Honor of Saint Cecilia by David Hurd

Our Father

Lamb of God Mass in Honor of Saint Cecilia by David Hurd

How Lovely is Your Dwelling Place, O Lord of Hosts J. Michael McCabe

Regina Caeli

Alleluia No 1


Elementary School Mass Challenge

As the 2015-2016 school year winds up to its hectic conclusion, we have one more challenge to complete:

demonstrate how well we have learned to

Sing the Mass as a school

In 2011, Archbishop Lucas encouraged us to prepare to receive the Third Edition of the Roman Missal by singing the Mass. He even provided us with a new Mass setting and new antiphons to help our archdiocese make this transition. As a sign of gratitude to him for his leadership and assistance, we will finish our school year by recording the elementary school singing the Mass in Honor of Saint Cecilia by David Hurd, the Mass dialogues and Archdiocesan Antiphons at the weekly school Masses.

The Music List

Recordings of Repertoire


Sing the Passion

Fr. Samuel Weber, O.S.B., has set the Passion of Saint John to music so that it may be sung.

pdf score

N = Narrator: The Narrator has the largest role, chanting for about 12 minutes.

S = Crowd or other speaker: This role chants in the upper range. Parts of this role may be sung by the Turba chorus.

+ = Jesus: The role of Jesus has a low range.

Turba choruses may be sung in unison or SATB.


Narrator – in 2 mp3 recordings

1 of 2

2 of 2

S – sample of first lines




Singing is for Lovers

I enjoyed singing these two songs this past week at Mass: “Transfigure Us, O Lord” (by Bob Hurd) and “I Received the Living God.” One of the adult singers came up to me after Mass on Sunday and said that when she sang “I Received the Living God and my heart is full of joy,” she really meant it and felt it and wanted to share that experience with the whole congregation.

Lord, thank you for the gift of music. Bless the work of your musicians and all those who love to sing your praises.



The topic of this post is congregational singing and how to improve it.

This past week,  I traveled with a colleague to St. Peter and St. Joseph Catholic Churches in Bellwood, NE to provide music for a funeral of a friend’s father. The brother of the deceased presided at the funeral accompanied by a dozen priests. The full church sang every hymn, every Mass part with gusto. My colleague and I remarked how uplifting it was to experience congregational singing at the funeral of a loved one.

The next day, I traveled on a bus with our RCIA group and a dozen singers to St. Cecilia Cathedral for the Rite of Election. Here, again, I experienced fantastic hymn singing and extraordinary organ playing.

In both instances, it reminded me just how moving congregational singing can be and how important it is as a means of stirring hearts. Throughout my childhood, I was blessed to experience rousing congregational singing as a normal part of worship.

Unfortunately, as it turns out, congregations often don’t sing. Especially at Funerals and Weddings, but even on Sundays, congregants don’t open the hymnal and sing. Instead they listen to an amplified Cantor or to a choir sing music that is intended for the congregation to sing.

When faced with a non-singing congregation, what do you do? What is the secret key that will unlock their voices? In the above instances, both churches had a pipe organ. The natural resonance of a pipe organ encourages singing. Both churches had fine acoustics, so that the sound resonated in an exhilarating way. Thus, basic needs for good congregational singing: 1) A good pipe organ and organist 2) Good acoustics. Beyond that, congregational singing can thrive when the church space is at least 75% full. Obviously, singing in the pews is improved when the music is familiar.

However, beyond these basics, there are other factors that influence the success of congregational singing. For instance, every community has a unique culture that is reflected in how they sing together. Think of how people sing differently in South Africa, in the Philippines, in Italy.

To improve the culture of singing in our community (which has always been fairly good), our priests often sing the Mass.  At the cathedral, we sang the petitions. By singing the Mass, a ritual foundation is established with singing as normative…to be expected…not a showy solo…and so easy, you don’t hesitate to join in.

May God bless the singing Catholics in Bellwood, at Saint Cecilia Cathedral, at Sacred Heart Parish and throughout the world!



The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord

On Tuesday, February 2nd, we will celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord with holy Mass at 2:15 pm at Saint Mary’s Church. This will be an all school Mass during Catholic Schools Week. Grandparents have been invited to attend Mass with the students.

Gloria Singers and the Sacred Heart Youth Choir (those members who attend Norfolk Catholic Schools) will team together to lead the music for this Mass. We will be singing brand new music that was composed for the new edition of the Roman Missal.

Light is a dominant theme for the Feast of the Presentation, for when Mary and Joseph present Jesus at the Temple, Simeon, a devout Jew who was awaiting the Messiah, recognizes and acknowledges Jesus and says: “…my eyes have seen your salvation…a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Luke 2:22-40

Also called Candlemas, the Feast of the Presentation includes a blessing of the church candles to be used in the coming year and a candlelight procession.

Here are clips of the Sacred Heart Youth Choir learning the music for the Presentation:

Behold, our Lord will come with power

A Light for Revelation to the Gentiles

Responsorial Psalm: Who is this king of glory? It is the Lord. Psalm 24

We are Marching in the Light of God



All Saints: does this generation want to sing the Mass?


Sacred Heart Choir, Sacred Heart Youth Choir, and Gloria Singers

Today, we sang the Mass to celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. For the last two years, we have sung the Mass at one of the scheduled Masses for every holy day. When I imagined this particular Mass, I envisioned the normal 9:30 am congregation joining in the dialogue chants with gusto as they have done in the past, accepting the extra singing in light of this joyful feast of All Saints. However, since we haven’t had a holy day for awhile, today felt like we were really doing this for the first time. Other aspects made singing the Mass feel more cumbersome to me than it has at other times. For example, the 9:30 am Mass crowd filled the church to capacity with people sitting in extra chairs and standing in the back. Two issues, the time change and Halloween, made the 9:30 am Sunday Mass an especially popular Mass time this weekend. The 9:30 am Mass is always full, but today it was crowded and that changed the vibe. People weren’t sitting where they normally do. The 9:30 am regulars were outnumbered by visiting parishioners. In our parish, when we gather like this (this also happens at weddings, funerals and at Christmas and Easter), when we gather in a different manner than the norm, our usually confident congregational singing weakens. These factors made our Mass chants and music more choir led than I would have liked, even though our pastor did a great job leading the sung orations and the choirs sang well.

What is the good that is being accomplished by singing the Mass in a crowded church where most of the people aren’t prepared to participate in this way? I could argue that with repetition, people would be more able to participate, but singing the Mass makes the Mass last longer, so it isn’t something that we will do every week. Or, I could say that the greatest good is that the choir members have learned how to sing the Mass. The choir members consist of youth and adults who rehearse weekly. Learning to sing the Mass in rehearsals helps form their liturgical spirituality, helps them to contemplate the beauty of the Mass. Finally, I would argue that this is what we are asked to do by Mother Church: sing the Mass. From the first popes to the second Vatican Council, the Church asks us to sing the Mass chants. However, in light of overwhelming current practice of not singing the Mass, these arguments aren’t compelling. They don’t promise an obvious objective good, like increased collections, or increased attendance by non-church goers.

A colleague and I frequently discuss how to successfully evangelize today. I appreciate my colleague’s insights and wisdom. He meets with people in all walks of life through marriage prep, baptism prep and RCIA. I admire his understanding of where people are spiritually. He shared with me that, in his experience, good evangelists have a knack for listening as much as talking. They listen in order to learn about the person they would like to evangelize: listen to their story, their concerns, their life experience. A less successful type of Evangelist draws from his own experience and projects that onto everyone else. Sometimes, converts fall into this trap as they have experienced great joy in becoming Catholic and are ready to force others to experience that joy. This is soapbox evangelism, in your face evangelism. I remember as a child visiting New York City and seeing an evangelist on a street corner standing on a box and shouting out the Gospel to the city. What an incredible witness to love, but also what a very limited tool for evangelism.

I try to argue that zeal is attractive, but it’s obvious that there is truth in what he is saying. So, is singing the Mass an example of in your face evangelism? An attempt to put the liturgy on a soapbox? I think of this in light of the titles of a couple of Matthew Kelly books: Rediscovering Catholicism and Rediscover Jesus. The order of publication of these books shows the problem that we face today as Catholics. The author wanted to share his Catholic faith with disheartened Catholics, ergo the first title. However, the feedback received from this attempt showed that it is not just that Catholics don’t know about Catholicism (which is true), it’s that they don’t even know about Jesus, ergo the second title. In this way, one could argue that singing the Mass really misses the mark in terms of what normal Catholics are able to appreciate, and that all this chanting actually discourages them by making participation in the Mass more demanding and tedious.

Each of us face these issues every time we try to share our faith. How do we make our faith attractive to this generation? In this case, how do we make the sung Mass a tool of the new evangelization?

What does it sound like to Sing the Mass?

With the implementation of the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, Archbishop George Lucas encouraged the priests of the archdiocese of Omaha to sing the Mass. That is, to sing the prayers and dialogues of the Mass rather than to speak them. At Sacred Heart Parish, we have been blessed with singing priests and have had great success in promoting participation at Mass through singing the Mass.

Before the implementation of the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, the congregation experienced singing at Mass as four songs and a sung Mass setting. This gave the impression that singing is external to the Roman ritual, an add on, a form of entertainment. Due to this, congregational participation was weak and timid. The congregation appreciated listening to great soloists.

Since our priests have begun singing the Mass, our congregation participation has grown in confidence and purpose. Singing the dialogues engages the people in the pew with a simple but important task: to sing simple responses. I can’t describe how blessed I feel when I hear our priests singing the Mass.  It is an evangelical experience to be in the midst of a congregation that is unified in singing the Mass.

Singing the Mass at Sacred Heart Parish – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time