A Gift to Priests

By Mohnsen, Rosalind | Sacred Music, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

A Gift to Priests


Mohnsen, Rosalind, Sacred Music


Blessed is the Ordinary: Stepping Stone Chant Project. Michael Olbash, conductor, BRAV-0822, braverecords.com, 2008.

This beautifully-sung chant CD gives us the Mass in the ordinary form in Latin for the Twenty-Seventh Sunday of the Year. Here we have the propers, the ordinary (Mass II, Credo III), and the dialogues of celebrant and congregation, for a completely sung Mass based on the Graduale Romanum and the Missale Romanum, as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council. Not included are the lectionary readings and intercessions, parts of the Mass assigned to a lector or deacon, and which may be done in the vernacular when Mass is celebrated in Latin.

The musicians on this CD recording are seven men, all professionals, directed by Michael Olbash, himself one of the seven singers. Contrast is between schola and cantor or the "celebrant." The vocal sound is resonant and warm and the intonation flawless. Recorded in the countryside Chapel of the Holy Family in Lydonville, Vermont (completed in 2007), the beauty of the chant, the perfection of the singing, and the fine acoustics transport one to prayer and to union with the heavenly choirs. One could easily sense being in a medieval stone chapel in another time and place, united with the church through the ages.

Michael Olbash has served churches in the greater Boston area, and presently conducts the chant schola at St. Mary Star of the Sea Church in Beverly, Mass. As a church musician, he is known for using only quality music worthy of the liturgy, and for defending this position no matter what the personal cost. Now we hear his contribution to the world of chant and his support of the normative Mass of the Second Vatican Council. The other singers are Richard Chonak, Robert Cochran, Mark Husey, Randolph Nichols, Stephen Olbash, and John Salisbury.

Readers of this journal will already be familiar with the CD recording Inclina Domine, reviewed in these pages by Jeffrey Tucker. (1) That recording uses the voices of men and trebles (boys, girls, women) for the Mass of the Twenty-First Sunday of the Year.

The interpretive approach on this recording is based on the Graduale Triplex, with rhythmic choices being informed by the signs therein which come from two medieval manuscripts. The approach gives, in this case, a fluidity and sense of line to the chants which is very convincing and attractive. These rhythmic interpretations are always done with subtlety, which reflects a high level of musicianship and control in the ensemble. One senses them as natural and never in any way calling attention to themselves. There is a fine, consistent balance between the flowing character and the peaceful, solid quality of the singing, fitting well with the texts, which speak of faithfulness and obedience to a loving, eternal God. No changes, however, were made to pitches in the square-note Vatican notation. This was intentional, in consideration of scholas using this recording for learning purposes.

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