Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sacred Music on B-16's Front Burner

The train's leaving the station, according to Magister, who is a very reliable reporter:

In the span of just a few days, a series of events have unfolded at the Vatican which, taken all together, foretell new provisions – at the pope's behest – to foster the rebirth of great sacred music. T

The first of these events took place on Monday, October 8. On that morning, Benedict XVI held an audience with the "chapter" of Saint Peter's basilica – meaning the bishops and priests who, together with the archpriest of the basilica, Angelo Comastri, celebrate Mass and solemn Vespers each Sunday in the most famous church in the Christian world. The pope reminded them that "it is necessary that, beside the tomb of Peter, there be a stable community of prayer to guarantee continuity with tradition."

...One example the pope gave to the chapter of St. Peter's was the celebration of the liturgy at the abbey of Heiligenkreutz, the flourishing monastery he had visited just a few weeks earlier in Austria.

In effect, since just over a year ago, Gregorian chant has been restored as the primary form of singing for Mass and solemn Vespers in Saint Peter's basilica. The rebirth of Gregorian chant at St. Peter's coincided with the appointment of a new choir director, who was chosen by the basilica chapter in February of 2006. The new director, Pierre Paul, a Canadian and an Oblate of the Virgin Mary, has made a clean break with the practice established during the pontificate of John Paul II – and reaffirmed by the previous director, Pablo Colino – of bringing to sing at the Masses in St. Peter's the most disparate choirs, drawn from all over the world, very uneven in quality and often inadequate.

Fr. Paul put the gradual and the antiphonal back into the hands of his singers, and taught them to sing Mass and Vespers in pure Gregorian chant. The faithful are also provided with booklets with the Gregorian notation for Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and the translation of the texts in Italian, English, and Spanish. The results are liturgically exemplary celebrations, with increasing participation from a growing number of faithful from many nations.

...The second event took place on Wednesday, October 10, again in Saint Peter's Basilica. The orchestra and choir of Humboldt Universität in Berlin, conducted by Constantin Alex, performed the Mass "Tu es Petrus," composed in honor of Joseph Ratzinger's eightieth birthday by the German musician Wolfgang Seifein, who was present at the organ. Make no mistake: this was not a concert, but a real Mass. Exactly like on November 19 of last year, when in St. Peter's (see photo) the Wiener Philarmoniker provided the musical accompaniment for the Eucharistic liturgy celebrated by cardinal Christoph Schönborn, with the Krönungsmesse K 317 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

[The very same Ordinary which Rembert Weakland, OSB, disparaged when the Berlin Philharmonic was engaged to play it for the feast of SS. Peter and Paul under the reign of JPII. How's them sour apples now, Abp. W.??]

It is no mystery that the reciprocal enrichment between the Catholic liturgy and great sacred music is especially close to Benedict XVI's heart. The pope made this clear with particular force during his recent trip to Austria, with the Mass he celebrated on Sunday, September 9, in the cathedral of Vienna, accompanied by the stupendous Mariazeller Messe by Franz Joseph Haydn, and by a communion antiphon and Psalm in pure Gregorian chant.

...The third event is Benedict XVI's visit to the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, on the morning of Saturday, October 13. To the professors and students of this institute – which is the liturgical-musical "conservatory" of the Holy See, the one that trains Church musicians from all over the world – the pope cited Vatican Council II, where it says that "as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy" (Sancrosanctum Concilium, 112). He also confirmed that "three characteristics distinguish sacred liturgical music: sanctity, true art, and universality, meaning its ability to be used regardless of the nature or nationality of the assembly."

And he continued: "Precisely in view of this, ecclesiastical authorities must devote themselves to guiding wisely the development of such a demanding genre of music, not by sealing off its repository, but by seeking to insert into the heritage of the past the legitimate additions of the present, in order to arrive at a synthesis worthy of the high mission reserved to it in the divine service. I am certain that the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, in harmonious agreement with the congregation for divine worship, will not fail to offer its contribution for an 'updating', adapted to our time, of the abundant and valuable traditions found in sacred music."

This expectation could soon be followed by the institution, in the Roman curia, of an office endowed with authority in the area of sacred music. It is already known that, as a cardinal, Ratzinger maintained that the institution of such an office was necessary.

[That would be an unusual move, but obviously one which is necessary. Interesting that it is being contemplated, much less rumored-in-writing.]

The fourth event, which came shortly before the first three, was the replacement, on October 1, of the director of pontifical liturgical celebrations. To replace Piero Marini – who will go to preside over the pontifical committee for international Eucharistic congresses – the call went out to Genoa, to Guido Marini, who's close to his predecessor in name, but to pope Ratzinger in substance. The removal of Piero Marini leaves unprotected the man he had brought in, in 1997, to direct the Cappella Sistina after Bartolucci's dismissal: Giuseppe Liberto. As director of the choir that accompanies the papal liturgies, Liberto is not the right man for the current pope.

One final event must be added to the events already mentioned, one that provides background for all the others. It is the promulgation of the motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum," by which Benedict XVI liberalized the ancient rite of the Mass. It is increasingly evident that with this decision, pope Ratzinger wanted to make it possible for the modern liturgies to regain the richness of the ancient rite that they are in danger of losing: a richness of theology, textual form, and music.

No pun intended: "Let him who has ears to hear, hear!!"

Got that, Liturgeist Establishment? Your heads may be exploding on receipt of the news, but hey! The 1960's are history!! Over!! Done with!!

It behooves you to either learn and DO Chant, or gracefully resign.

Hara-Kiri will be equally acceptable. Just don't mess up the sanctuary or organ-loft.

MUCH more can be found at FrZ's place.


Anonymous said...


Are you coming, or do you know anyone who should be coming, to Fr. Skeris' sacred music workshop in Stevens Point?


Dad29 said...

I have participated in several years' worth of Fr. Skeris' seminars and way or the other.

There is no doubt in my mind that the knowledge imparted will be both quantatively and qualitatively more than anyone could hope for.

This blog has 3 readers; some may show up.

Chironomo said...

And you thought that Benedict was speaking in "code"... hmmm.... Another very curious article showed up in our Diocesan newspaper today on this same topic. I'm going to try and get it up with comments at Chironomo's Podium by the end of tonight, but it is a long article. Either the author is misinformed, or else the "Directory for Music and the Liturgy" has been kicked back to the BCL, and they are solving the problem by rolling it into the revision of MCW and presenting it to the Holy See as one document. I can't think of any other explanation for what the author says, as he seems to cite parts of both documents, such as the oversight of hymns belonging to the Bishop of the Diocese where they are published, and the "three-fold judgment" and return to "progressive solemnity" as all belonging to this one document. The article also says that an "appendix" to the revised Music in Catholic Worship contains a mandate to produce a "core repertoire" of hymns within three years. This was an idea from the Directory, not MCW, wasn't it? Strangest of all, the author notes that the document, like it's predecessor, is titled "Music in Catholic Worship", whereas the BCL press release last week cited the title of the new document as "Sing To The Lord"... there seems to be MUCH confusion about this project, or else a lot of obfuscation going on! Try to get over to my blog in the next few days and check...