Sunday, September 27, 2015

Terror in the organ loft

I wrote before about the "Ave Verum Corpus" Gregorian chant that comes up now and then at Mass. This is the Latin text that Mozart famously set to music. But today we sang it as the Gregorian Chant.

What a beautiful chant!

The only trouble was, as I noted before, the women have to sing that one phrase by ourselves. We are always understaffed on days when this happens, I do not know why. Today it was pretty much me and a group of teenage girls. Nobody else was there. We got through it.

O Jesu dulcis
O Jesu pie...

And then the guys come in with us. Whew!

There are just these couple of lines the ladies sing by ourselves and it is tremendously stressful. At the end of the "Ave, Verum Corpus"  I turned to the teenagers and we all smiled and gave each other thumbs up.

"Good job," I whispered. I added: "This always makes me nervous."

That is the truth!

It is one thing to listen to Gregorian chant. It is another thing to sing it in your everyday life. With an entire church listening, I should put that out there too. It is beautiful but frightening to be in the organ loft during a Tridentine Mass. At the start, I always love that moment, all of us standing there waiting, nobody breathing, waiting for the priest to start us all off.

Then sometimes during the mass there is a screw-up. We might do the wrong verse or something and everyone looks at each other afterwards, and there are grimaces and rolling of eyes.

How did we mess that up??

This was the kind of thing I worried about when I was invited to join the choir at church. I know what goes on in organ lofts.

It is not pretty!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pope Francis speaks of Wagner opera

Alex Ross over at the New Yorker is working on a book about Wagner and his effect on culture, and he wrote something very cool about Pope Francis and his knowledge of Wagner opera.

Mr. Ross put a link on Twitter which, it is great when something good comes out of Twitter, you know?

He writes in his story that His Holiness especially liked the conductors Wilhelm Furtwangler and Hans Knappertsbusch. Fu and Kna -- remember?

"He mentions the Furtwängler La Scala Ring and the 1962 Knappertsbusch Parsifal as prized recordings. He is known to be a Furtwängler enthusiast; earlier this year, Angela Merkel presented him with a Furtwängler box set. But he also makes a broader point about intellectual rigidification and self-deception, using Wagner's works as points of reference: “When does a formulation of thought cease to be valid? When it loses sight of the human or even when it is afraid of the human or deluded about itself. The deceived thought can be depicted as Ulysses encountering the song of the Siren, or as Tannhäuser in an orgy surrounded by satyrs and bacchantes, or as Parsifal, in the second act of Wagner’s opera, in the palace of Klingsor. The thinking of the church must recover genius and better understand how human beings understand themselves today, in order to develop and deepen the church’s teaching.”

Pope Francis, talking about Parsifal in the palace of Klingsor! And he has favorite Wagner conductors!

This is Francis we are talking about, not my man Benedict XVI!

They are the same generation though. Gentlemen of that era knew about music and the finer things.

Read the whole column. It's not long, and it's free.

By the way I agree with Pope Francis: the church must recover genius.

Let's start by getting rid of all the folk guitars.

Monday, September 14, 2015

How Beethoven liked his coffee

My friend Steven who is a classical music nerd par excellence alertly snapped a picture of a cafe sign in Southern California. That is it above. The coffee shop is Peet's in Cotati. Calif.

Who knew that about Beethoven, that he measured his coffee beans? Not many people, I will tell you that right now. And many may call this information a hill of beans but I say fie. Fix that number in your mind, 60. Anyone who knows how to wake people up as creatively as Beethoven did surely knew a thing or two about caffeine.

Bravo, Peet's! Peet's is a California chain and I am not sure they are all as musical as this particular branch. But you can become a Peetnik on their Web site.

Steven also admired this sign at Peet's promoting the joy of saxophone duets. He is a former saxophone player! But that is another story for another day. Perhaps tomorrow.

After I have measured out my 60 beans. Tomorrow I am going to test Beethoven's formula.

I will report!