An encounter with beauty is life-changing.
Beauty has a remarkable power. Think of the soaring arches, towering columns, and spectacular stained-glass windows of Gothic cathedrals. How they inspire us! Similarly, the beautiful vocal lines and rich harmonies of polyphony and the mysterious and long-spun melodies of Gregorian chant are two powerful examples of the Church’s music, which can lift hearts and minds to God and help people to pray.
There is a growing interest in this ancient and beautiful music, as well as in modern liturgical compositions which exhibit similar senses of order, reverence, and beauty. The Christopher Mueller Foundation of Polyphony & Chant aims to offer assistance to those who desire more of this beautiful music to grace their own parishes. As the Second Vatican Council tells us,
“The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art.” Sacrosanctum concilium 112
How can we foster a more widespread use of polyphony & chant?
To that end, our Foundation is working on the following initiatives. Please visit our impact page, where you can see how this work is being enacted. To see our 2016 annual report, click here; for our program initiatives for 2017, click here.
We are spreading the love of Our Lord at Mass; evangelizing through the gospel of beauty.
1. Mustard Seeds, a gathering of youth from every state in the nation and around the world to pray for polyphony at their local parish and to share that desire with other youth who can be inspired by beauty. Some will be forming choirs to sing at Mass. If you are not ready to sing or are not inclined you can use your smart phone to share the beauty of polyphony with friends using just a click. The plan is to meet online every two months in growing numbers. Our next videoconference and webinar, our sixth, will be on the Feast of the Ascension of Christ, Thursday, May 25 at 8:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (New York), . Join us! So far we have had participants from New York, Utah, Virginia, Connecticut, Louisiana, South Dakota, Ohio, New Hampshire, Texas, Arizona and Poland. Be the first one in your area! We were blessed with the presence of 26 youth in Poland from 4 continents and 7 countries this year at our first international meeting to promote polyphony at Mass at Tauron Arena Krakow as part of the World Youth Day activities, we shared all matter of ideas, strategies and inspirations to help promote musical beauty in the Mass.
2. Polyphony for the poor, polyphonic missionaries, we hope to offer Masses in hospitals, orphanages, slums, for the homeless...with beautiful polyphony to uplift the hearts of our struggling brethren, those in most need.
3. Presentations, clinics, concerts, and music for Mass
How can you influence the music at your own parish? Perhaps you’d like someone to make a presentation to your parish about the history and centrality of beautiful music to the Catholic Mass. Perhaps you’d like a series of such presentations. Perhaps you’d like repertory suggestions for the choir you currently sing in. Perhaps you’d like to bring in a guest conductor to do a workshop with your parish choir, in preparation for the Mass for Sunday or a special parish feast. Perhaps you’d like to bring in an entire ensemble of professional singers, and even an emcee to guide your acolytes. Perhaps you’d like to introduce this music to your parish at a concert instead of a liturgy, and allow the music’s own beauty to stir the hearts of all who attend. We hope, over time, to be able to provide all these different types of services, to any parish, seminary or school that asks.
4. An introductory CD
We are in the final stages of producing a CD featuring both beautiful Renaissance polyphony and some of the modern liturgical works of composer and conductor Christopher Mueller. We think that you’ll find this disc beautiful and inspiring; it will be a clear demonstration of our vision of music befitting the Mass. Check back again and order soon!
5. A starter kit, for parishes to have the resources to begin right away with polyphony. We have helped people start up with polyphony. Send us your inquiry, we are happy to serve.
6. Learn polyphony on your own, with your whole family, or with friends
Isn’t polyphony too hard for ordinary people to sing? No! Learn some short and simple polyphonic motets with the help of the Mueller Family Schola. We’ll record the voice parts one by one, and you can pick your favorite part, or parcel them out amongst your family members and friends, practice and sing together. Go to your local parish and offer your song at Mass. We’ll provide scores, translations, and encouraging audio tracks; eventually, with consistent practice you’ll be able to sing a piece without our assistance. No musical experience is required to start out. If you have experience you will go faster. Get together with your family and friends and sing God’s word, as set in beautiful Renaissance counterpoint, the work of the Masters!
7. Polyphony and chant resource page, an online service to show the many great minds that are working all over the world for this rebirth of beauty. There are countless sources that wonderful musicians are dedicating their life to. We gather them to help.
8. Matching funds for polyphony and chant in your parish, a financial aid to beautify the Mass and to reward the effort of dedicated liturgical musicians.
9. Chant-A-Day, a subscription service
Every day can begin with chant! Each day will have a new video, featuring one of the Gregorian chants proper to that particular day or feast. Each video will begin by going over the text and pointing out moments of “text painting,” where the chant’s melody illuminates or accentuates something particular about the Scriptural passage being sung. Following these brief remarks, the chant will be sung straight through, with score and translation provided in the video. Sign up for a free trial and give us feedback; our regular price will be $25/month (less than $1 per day!). We will eventually add options for Spanish, German, and French subtitles as well.
10. Serenading Jesus from the Street, we plan appearances of polyphonic choirs singing after Mass as congregations leave their parish. Many people have never heard polyphony nor chant in the Mass, or anywhere for that matter. Here is a chance to have it enter their heart as we serenade the Lord who makes every person free.
Our mid-term goals:
To encourage the formation of choirs comprising family and friends, formed to sing polyphony & chant at their local parishes around the world. We will help provide resources, training, and means for them to meet.
To keep an interactive map with your input, of places of great liturgical beauty.
To foster the skill of sight reading music, starting with interval training. We can share with you the resources that we use, and with a little effort, you can master this.
To build a think tank gathering creative minds.
To build an endowment, that this work may outlive us and spread around the world. We feel called to this: God leads, and we strive to follow.
He has more work for all of us who want beauty…
…there is more.
Christopher Mueller received a Bachelor’s of Music degree from the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music, graduating cum laude with a dual emphasis in classical piano performance and theory/composition with an emphasis in jazz studies. He has done graduate-level work in liturgy and theology at the Institute of Religious Studies at St. Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie. Over the course of his years of work as a choir director, he estimates that his choirs have sung at least 1,300 different Renaissance motets at Mass, and he has composed more than 200 sacred choral works for the Mass himself. A lifelong Catholic, he has served as organist and choirmaster at the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist in Stamford, CT, and prior to that as Director of Music for the Church of Notre Dame and the Columbia University Catholic Ministry in New York, NY. He has worked with volunteer and professional choirs, with college students and school-age children, with a particular emphasis in polyphony and chant. In addition to his regular Sunday and Holy Day liturgies, his choirs also sang a monthly Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and numerous First Masses for newly ordained priests across the Archdiocese of New York; offered presentations for the seminarians of St. Joseph Seminary; sang at the annual Mass of Profession for the Sisters of Life, at a pro-life Mass with Cardinal Rigali in Washington, D.C., and for numerous other liturgical events. His choirs seldom repeat music during the church year, nor do they recycle much repertory from one year to the next (with notable exceptions), so that the always-changing musical experience of Mass serves as a reflection of the dynamic love and ever-new experience of Christ in the Eucharist. The motets’ texts come from sacred Scripture: sometimes a setting of the day’s Offertory or Communion proper (typically a passage from the Psalms), sometimes a passage from the day’s readings, and occasionally an Office hymn or other related text. In addition to his musical work, he also spent seven and a-half years coordinating the marriage preparation program for the Archdiocese of New York, during which time he and his wife taught pre-Cana classes to thousands of engaged couples. Christopher is an articulate public speaker who tries to employ contemporary culture to make timeless points. He likes the novels of Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton, and enjoys making his kids laugh and spending time with his wife. He blogs at Corpus Christi Watershed. Please visit his website for more information, to listen to excerpts of his compositions, or to purchase scores.