Planning for Beauty

Discussions of liturgical music in many Catholic parishes have become needlessly polemical. The one thing we all agree upon is the poor state of liturgical music in most Catholic parishes. Like silly children taking up their parents’ quarrels, however, it’s not uncommon to see thirty-year-old adults arguing polemically about the “Spirit” of Vatican II and “hidebound” Latin traditions. While this irony may escape some, 2015 marks forty-five years since the Vernacular “Novus Ordo” Mass was introduced. The liturgical revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries are dying out. Priests ordained before the Council are few, and folk groups are quite literally aging out. Continue Reading »

Reflection on Ascending Light

G-major, D-major. Amen. So be it.It is week two of the Festspiele here in Salzburg, where Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms echo through the streets every day. However, in a city filled with the world’s greatest musicians performing the stuff of musical legend, it is a relatively new piece of music that floods my mind. Continue Reading »

Scops and Skalds

Becoming a Poet in Anglo-Saxon England
 by emily thornbury
 cambridge, 338 pages, $99 My years of mandatory Latin began when I was eleven. Almost immediately I hated the language more than the mandatory tie and jacket that made me an easy target for bullying on the six public buses I rode each . . . . Continue Reading »

Schubert Revived

Fierrabras
 composed by franz schubert 
performed at the 2014 salzburg festival In the world of opera today, the standard repertoire is being performed to death, while works of enormous interest from the seventeenth century onward lie moldering in obscurity. Programming unknown compositions . . . . Continue Reading »

The Theology of Patti Smith

Patti Smith is known as the “godmother of punk,” but she always had higher goals than trying to make rock sound dangerous as the hippy era came to an end. I once almost lost a friendship because I suggested that her voice was not strong enough to sustain the passion of her angrier songs. “She’s too frail to be a punk Janis Joplin,” I said. “And too New Jersey.” Maybe that wasn’t fair, especially the part about New Jersey, but I do think she sounds better when, like Bob Dylan, she works with her vocal weaknesses, not against them. She’s sometimes called the female Bob Dylan, but Dylan is a songster whose lyrics are poetic, while Smith is a poet who also sings rock and roll. Because she’s not a natural singer, melancholy fits her tonal range, and when she goes for pretty, without erasing the edginess of her tone, she sounds downright sublime. Continue Reading »

Calvary’s Lost Catholicism

Patrick Cassidy, the composer for the 2014 film Calvary, jokes about the film’s grimness: “It’s not exactly a date movie.” He’s right: The film follows a lonely Irish priest as he shepherds a cold and bitter village. Its harsh realism is profoundly humbling. Heavy as the film is, it is lifted by Cassidy’s classical score. Continue Reading »

Christmas in Harvard Square

Christmas in Harvard Square is the first recording of the St. Paul’s Choir school, the only Catholic boys’ choir school in America. Led by Mr. John Robinson, a former assistant from Canterbury Cathedral, the boys take their music and their faith seriously. Continue Reading »