Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Cathedral of Saint Cecilia
"Progressive Dinner" Today

I have tried to find the exact Order of Worship for Archbishop George Lucas’ Installation Mass today with no success. So, my reflections on the service will be “on the fly” or “off the cuff,” so to speak.
One of the most difficult things I wrestle with when watching these ceremonies is that it’s obviously an easier path to criticize from a negative perspective when assessing from afar than to acknowledge liturgical “improvements.” This was made clear with the fur flying over Abp. DiNoia’s installation.
So, in bullets, off we go:
*Could the setting, tempo and performance of the first processional hymn set to “Lasst uns erfreuen" have been sleepier? By the seventh stanza or so, when the harmonization took some extreme turns, the organist's shoes seemed to have leaden soles a bit. I know that select camera shots don’t give an accurate portrayal of what’s actually going on in toto, but everytime a camera zoomed in upon an unwary priest already installed in a pew, said priest wasn’t singing. And there wasn’t much in the first processional to really look at, frankly.
*The second processional; was it a proper Introit? Was it antiphonal?
*Then “Praise to the Lord” (Lobe den Herrn) was taken up with some verve by all.
*As the archbishop finally entered and processed the choir took up a polyphonic proper, I assume. Nicely done. It also edified the notion of active participation through keen observation by the Faithful and ministers assembled.

One wonders at this point: why, if the intention is to engage both types of participation, was it absolutely necessary to stack so much vocal music before the episcopal introit? At subsequent moments in the Mass, much action was accompanied by instrumental music alone.

*Did anyone else hear some sort of “wind chimes” after the choral proper, and before the “In Nomine Pater?” And, given the extraordinarily milky tenor voice the Abp. possesses, why was that not cantillated? I mean, really?
*The welcome and introduction by Abp’s successor evoked laughter immediately after the commencement of the solemn liturgy. Why? I didn’t see the Dolan liturgy, but what is it about the presumed necessity to have a “Tonight Show” moment at American mega-liturgies?
*Does anyone else hate those flesh-eating Broadway wireless mics besides me?
*I don’t have my Ceremonial of Bishops handy at home, no Kyrie but a through sung “Glory to God” that seemed to quote “In Babilone” with some acceptable choral interludes.
*Everything seemed to be fudged half-way a bit:
a. Three candles flanking both sides of the altar, no crucifix.
b. The First Reading read in Spanish, AND then all the verses of a serviceable psalm also exclusively sung in Spanish?
c. The “communities” reception by the archbishop-
*The most decked-out cleric was, in fact, the Winnebago chief?
*Were the identically clad women in nylon print outfits nuns or twins?
* Was the gentlemen in the fez a Shriner, a dervish, what?
*The Gospel Acclamation: I defy anyone without the music to guess where the melody would go next. The verses rendered by the choir weren’t intelligible from the broadcast, hopefully not in St. Cecilia Cathedral. But I couldn’t help thinking that would have been an ideal location for a Latin Alleluia to be chanted.
*The “Heldentenor” deacon intones the Gospel collect and the congregation responds in force with his upper tessitura chestily. Then he RECITES the Gospel?
*The Spanish/English General Intercession’s setting was very, very tiresome. And what was with the yellow flowered English garden hiding the cantor at the lecturn? And the Abp. recites the concluding prayer of same instead of chanting…..But bishop, your voice….you could be one of the Priests! (From Ireland fame.)
*This is an honest question. What was the silver container (percolator-like) from which the wine was poured into the chalices?
*No Sanctus bells, no way, no how! How’d that happen? Or not happen?
*The Community Mass/Isele “Lamb of God”- stolid, safe choices.
*The “Pater noster” recited. I though Rocco said the archbishop knew his liturgical stuff?
*Why does the Sign of Peace at these events always morph into the “Murmuring of peace” or the “Din of peace?”
*Finally, a Latin Communio….sung well by the women….for a whole thirty seconds or so….then
*Not one, but two settings of Psalm 23 (St. Columba) and an antiphonal setting of which I’m not acquainted.
*Very long choral motet, seemed to be from the Romantic era, or the neo-polyphonic style but not like Stanford…..

Then my Tivo DVR, programmed for the block assigned by EWTN ended.

I’m not going to digest any of this yet. Just reporting what I observed.


Scelata said...

Is "milky" a complimentary or a pejorative adjective?

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Charles said...

I think that, when I lament the opportunities not taken for the archbishop to chant at other points of the Mass, one could deduce "milky" as complimentary.
Might I add his vibrato was unforced and lovely as well.

Scelata said...

Fair 'nuff -- it's just that many of us think that the the presider should take every opportunity to chant everything at almost any Mass and certainly at such a solemn occasion, even if he sounds like an electric cheese grater.

I somehow missed you comparing His Excellency to one of the Three Priests (he even bears a passing facial resemblance to the brothers, does he not?)

The sound on the tape I heard was not good, but I was impressed with his intonation, for sure.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Charles said...

"... it's just that many of us think that the the presider should take every opportunity to chant everything at almost any Mass and certainly at such a solemn occasion, even if he sounds like an electric cheese grater."

And that was precisely the point I was trying to advance without forcing the issue.

Steve O said...

The choral piece at Holy Communion was a magnificent anthem by John Ireland, "Greater Love Hath No Man Than This". The text is entirely drawn from Scripture and the them woven throughout is one of service. Although on the EWTN broadcast, some talking head priest felt it necessary to speak throughout. It was, I believe, the best piece of music in the entire liturgy - which was basically (my opinion, of course) a low-brow "show" full of the political correctness of inculturation throughout. The choir is excellent, and the organ is, as well - it's one of the few that can play in more than one temperament.

Charles said...

Yes, Steve, it was and they are! I should have given them their due. Thank you for bringing that information. If you are associated with the choir, please pass on kudos from CenCA.