Friday, December 14, 2007

class concludes, festivity

Hooray! 17 credit hours are more or less complete. Class is done for the semester and all that remains is the formidable foe of finals. Light and fluffy snow presently falls upon us in clumps. It covered my car which makes driving difficult. I looked in my trunk and found a large red broom with plastic bristles. Off came the snow! However, the handy broom was not the best of the evening. My professor held a party for members of the University chamber choir this evening. There were a bunch of college students, some other professor-ly types (and spouses), pizza, delightful munchies, and a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans straight off a plane from Portland (courtesy of the sister-in-law of our gracious host!) Everything was magnificent! I will shamelessly admit that I love majoring in something where I can hang-out with my teachers and joke about class/music, Church, and/or politics off the clock. Musicians don't clock-out- this is not so much a job as it is a way of life. So, I was talking with my professor's husband (and his sister) and the conversation wove its way through a number of topics: a Jesuit mission trip to Columbia, my former seminarian life, Church Hierarchy, the Latin Mass and finally the Latin Mass in England where they formerly lived. And then he showed me a picture of his wife and the late Basil Cardinal Hume (O.S.B.), Archbishop of Westminster. What an outstanding prelate! He could administrate while balancing British identity with Roman Curial demands. And speaking of balance: his cathedral's choir. The Westminster Cathedral choir must be the best Roman Catholic Cathedral Choir in the world. They are proof that the Roman Church has no reason to be ashamed of taking musical cues from our Anglican brethren. I have several recordings of the choir under James O'Donnell- and they are exquisite! I can only hope to visit soon. Even though the choir was initially patterned after the Anglican model they manage to maintain a distinctive, bright treble sound. Somewhat atypical in the Anglican tradition, this tone has nonetheless garnered the admiration of the likes of Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Howells and others - and resulted in commissioned works! Though not as well known (but she can hold her own from how it sounds), composer Roxanna Panufnik was commissioned to write a Mass for the celebration of Cardinal Hume's 75th birthday. The aptly titled "Westminster Mass" contains all the typical ordinary of the Mass plus a special piece. This piece, "Deus, Deus meus" (O God, my God) comes from the text of Psalm 62(63). Cardinal Hume specifically selected this text, a favorite of his (and incidentally, mine as well) which shows up in Sunday vespers. The music is hard to forget once you've heard it. Panufnik juxtaposes minor and major chords of the same root simultaneously! The resulting clash creates a distinct sense of urgent longing which paints the text beautifully: "for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a weary land without water." If you are curious, this piece can also be found on the Hyperion label: "The Music of Westminster Cathedral Choir." Now I must sleep. In eight hours I must play cute organ music with flutes 8' and 2' while the Bishop blesses creches. (Oh, that rhymed!)

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