Thursday, 25 December 2014

Midnight Mass: Palestrina with Sackbuts and Cornetts from Westminster Cathedral

Westminster Cathedral Choir sang the Missa Hodie Christus Natus Est for Midnight Mass. From BBC Radio 4 (where you can listen to the broadcast, which will be available for the next 4 weeks at time of writing):
"A Venetian-style First Mass of Christmas with splendid Gabrieli motets and Palestrina's Missa Hodie Christus Natus Est (Today Christ is Born) make for a very special atmosphere as the Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols celebrates the First Mass of Christmas live from Westminster Cathedral. The vibrant sounds of traditional sackbutts and cornets played by the vituoso English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble will echo and re-echo around the cathedral exploiting its unique spacial properties. The service closes with the resplendent brass and organ voluntary: Hodie Christus Natus Est by Heinrich Schutz. The renowned choir of Westminster Cathedral is directed by Master of Music Martin Baker and the organ is played by the Assistant Master of Music Peter Stevens."
What is not mentioned in the BBC's precis, or on the cathedral's music list, is that the Gradual (Tecum Principium) is not the chant Gradual from the Graduale Romanum but rather a truncated version of the Dixit Dominus from Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers! By omitting the Virgam Virtutis Tuae section, and everything past the Tecum Principium In Die section, the same text of the gradual is sung, though not in order. I suppose if you have sackbuts and cornetts, you may as well maximise their use!

Credo III was interrupted for an extended "Et incarnatus est" (as is customary, to allow people to kneel, though common sense must be brought to bear in the choice of setting) - I am unable to identify where the Westminster Cathedral setting is from, but it is not from the Credo of the Missa Hodie Christus Natus Est).

Update: Westminster Cathedral seems to use this polyphonic setting of the "Et incarnatus est" often (perhaps every year) rather than the "Et incarnatus est" from the ordinary (I suppose this avoids the need to learn two separate prices - for Midnight Mass and Mass of Christmas Day, and there are some settings of the ordinary for which no Credo was composed). See below video from the Midnight Mass in 2001, where the ordinary was the Kodály Missa Brevis. I am pleased to say that I am not the only one to have speculated as to the origin of the polyphonic setting used at Westminster. Perhaps penned by a past Master of Music?

Back to Midnight Mass 2014: The Sanctus was from Mass IX (Cum Iubilo) not the Palestrina setting as previously listed.

St Mary's Cathedral Choir, Sydney, also had the Missa Hodie Christus Natus Est, with beautiful organ accompaniment, for the Mass of Christmas Day. Interpretation and singing were spot on. For Midnight Mass it was the lovely Malcolm Missa Ad Praesepe with some lively improvisation after the intonation of the Gloria. The Gospel was beautifully chanted, and for once we had the proper tone for "The Gospel of the Lord" (in Sydney there is widespread use of a most curious tone that I've not seen in any books, not even my superseded E J Dwyer Missal, and the new English Roman Missal was not successful in displacing it!)

Wishing a very happy Christmas to one and all.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

"All good music is contemporary": Herreweghe records William Byrd

When it comes to Byrd recordings, we really do have an embarrassment of riches. Now Philippe Herreweghe has recorded the Mass for Five Voices and the monumental Infelix Ego with the Collegium Vocal Gent. The maestro shares some of his insights into Renaissance polyphony.

Speaking of Byrd, listen to last weekend's installment of the Music Show on Radio National - it features an interview with the author of a new biography on Byrd, and extracts two pieces from the new recording by the Westminster Cathedral Choir, The Three Masses (Ave Verum Corpus and the Agnus Dei from the Mass for Three Voices). Note: if you stream the program, you can listen to the listed tracks in full, but they are shortened in the mp3 download, probably for copyright reasons.

My favourite part is when the interviewee says, "I'm just imagining Byrd walking down Victoria Street in the 21st century ..."

Westminster Cathedral Choir and Collegium Vocale Gent sing Byrd's music with quite different techniques, but I find each greatly effective.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Christmas Music at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney

  • Friday 19 December, 19.30: Service of Lessons and Carols
  • Christmas Eve, 17.00: Solemn Choral Vespers
  • Christmas, 00.00: Midnight Mass (preceded by carols at 23.15, 24 December). The ordinary is the lovely Malcolm Missa ad Praesepe.
  • Christmas, 10.30: Mass of Christmas Day. The ordinary is the Palestrina Missa Hodie Christus natus est, though I can't imagine that it will be accompanied by a chitarrone (see below).

See the full music list here.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Archbishop of Sydney to celebrate Mass at St Mary's Cathedral for the victims of the Martin Place siege

The Mass will take place today, 16 December 2014, at 1.10 pm Sydney time.

Update: Here is the Archbishop's beautiful homily.
We are not used to hearing words like 'siege', 'terrorist', 'hostages' and 'security forces' associated with our city. Yet for the past day and night we were subjected to pictures and sounds we tend to associate with alien lands. In a café only two blocks away from St Mary's Cathedral, only one block away from the Supreme Court, even closer to the New South Wales Parliament, the Reserve Bank and the Channel 7 studio, hostages were pinned for hours against the windows and forced to hold up a flag which blasphemously used the name of God as a threat. The distress was visible on their faces, as was the relief of the first five to escape. We went to bed hoping to wake to good news. But despite patient efforts to maintain calm and negotiate there were, in the early hours of this morning, flashes of gunfire, intervention by our police to save lives, merciful escapes, but finally death. Hell had touched us.
Only history will tell how much 16 December 2014 will affect our attitudes, behaviour, life-style. But today the heart of our city is broken by the deaths of two innocent 'hostages' along with their tormentor, the injuries of four others and trauma to many more, the paralysis our city has experienced this day past. One of the deceased was Katrina Dawson, a mother of three young children and gifted barrister, presumably on her way to chambers for another day's service of her clients. The other, Tori Johnson, was the young manager of the café, likewise intent on serving his customers. And the third was Sheik Man Haron Monis the perpetrator of this nightmare. Much is still unclear about him, his motivations and affiliations, and we must avoid too quickly jumping to conclusions and pointing fingers.
We are used to living in a peaceful, tolerant, secure society in which people may enter a café and order a hot chocolate without fear: I've been a customer at the Lindt Chocolat Café myself more than once. For such ease of living, such assumptions of safety, to be so radically challenged can be disorienting and harden our hearts. The risk is that we become cautious, cynical, suspicious of our neighbours, or worse, that we turn on them. In the process we undermine what we most love about our Australian way of life.
Christmas is around the corner and we have had a Christmas crib with well-lit Christmas trees, and a very beautiful laser light show projected upon the façade of the cathedral every night. But last night it was in darkness. That is true to reality, as it is often is, true to the Gospel. In the middle of all the romance of Christmas, the astonishing Good News of God-made-man for us, the angels, shepherds and wise men adoring, the Gospel report that all was not quite as it ought to be. There's suspicion about the pregnancy; the husband considers divorcing his wife; a mother nearing labour is required to travel a great distance; there's no room at the motel for them; the child is delivered in the squalor of a cowshed; in the Temple the proud parents are warned of trouble ahead; the family must flee as refugees to a strange land; meanwhile the King's men kill the rest of the little children.  
So the backdrop to the Light who will dawn for us at Christmas is in fact darkness. The Way, the Truth and the Life comes to people who often lose their way, to a civilisation sometimes more comfortable with lies than truth, to what is often a culture of death more than of life. The Christ is threatened from the moment of His birth until the violence of this world finally catches up with Him on the cross. And our world today is every bit as mixed up as it was at the first Christmas. There's plenty of talk of human rights, the dignity of the person, equal respect and care. We are replete with resources, technology and know-how to help people through troubled times. Yet innocent people are threatened the world over and a little bit of what is commonplace in the region of Christ's birth has even come to Martin Place. Christmas, we think, is supposed to be different - but in a sense it was always like this.
Yet we Christians believe that the Babe of Bethlehem is the Prince of peace, God-with-us, God-one-of-us, God-saving-us. So why, if the Prince of Peace has come, do these terrible things keep happening? Perhaps the answer is in the first Christmas carol, when the angels sang "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to those of good will." The God who saves still leaves men free. They choose whether to be of good will or not. The Christ-child proposes peace, again and again; He gives us the wherewithal to be reconciled and live peaceably with our neighbours; but in the end we choose whether to live in His kingdom, by His values.
Is the joy, love and peace of Christmas really possible? Or do we have to adopt a more 'realistic' posture, more cynical and self-protective? Do we have to buy into the endless cycles of violence and recrimination? Do we have to take our own hostages? Reports have emerged this morning of the heroism of the male victim of the siege. Apparently seeing an opportunity, Tori grabbed the gun. Tragically it went off killing him, but it triggered the response of the police and eventual freedom for most of the hostages. Reports have also emerged that Katrina Dawson was shielding her pregnant friend from gunfire. These heroes were willing to lay down their lives so others might live, imitating the sacrifice of Christ who said that there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for each other (Jn 15:13). Now spontaneous tributes are appearing in Martin Place and on the internet. Leaders of all religious, political and ethnic backgrounds are calling for calm, for prayer, for support for each other. Services are being offered for the victims, their families and friends. The darkness need not overcome the light. Indeed, the Christmas-Easter-Christian message is: it cannot! There is something greater than hatred and violence. There is Love, that humble, self-donative Love that comes in the shape of the Christmas Babe, the Prince of Peace. He can soften the hardest hearts. He can convert the most hardened sinner. Come Prince of Peace. Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Sydney subdued after tragic end to siege in legal precinct

What a terrible, terrible event with a such desperately sad ending. Among the two hostage victims was a barrister from chambers across the road from the cafe. The legal fraternity is in utter disbelief at this shocking tragedy and offers its condolences to the victims' families and friends.

Update: The late gunman's name is well known in the legal profession, due to the High Court case of Monis v The Queen (2013) 249 CLR 92 on the constitutionally implied freedom of political communication, arising from Mr Monis' prosecution for sending certain malicious communications to the families of deceased Australian military personnel. Mr Monis sought having the statutory provision under which he was charged declared constitutionally invalid. After a unanimous decision against him in the New South Wales Court of Criminal Appeal, Mr Monis appealed to the High Court, which comprised 6 rather than the usual 7 Justices (due to the imminent retirement of Justice Gummow at the time of the hearing). The High Court was split 3:3 on the question of the constitutionality of the statutory offence with which Mr Monis had been charged. The Judiciary Act 1903 solved the tie by requiring that the decision in the court below be affirmed. Hence, the relevant statutory offence not being unconstitutional, the prosecution of Mr Monis continued.

Mr Monis ultimately pleaded guilty and was convicted. He subsequently appealed against his conviction, seeking to agitate the same constitutional argument that had previously failed (albeit in unusual circumstances). He applied to have the proceedings removed to the High Court. That removal application was heard on Friday 12 December 2014, but two Justices of the High Court declined to exercise their discretion to order the removal of the proceedings, and Mr Monis' application was thereby refused.

Simply horrendous.

Flags on Sydney's Harbour Bridge flying at half mast, on a grey and foreboding morning that stands in sharp contrast to yesterday's brilliant summer weather.
A stunned silence has fallen across the usually bustling city. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Ecce Sacerdos Magnus by MacMillan, Bruckner

I note that the MacMillan Ecce Sacerdos Magnus was programmed for the Bishop Comensoli enthronement but apparently not sung. It is a lovely piece, sung at the enthronement of Archbishop Fisher recently in Sydney, and was originally commissioned for the ordination of Bishop Gilbert, the current bishop of Aberdeen, Scotland. Westminster Cathedral Choir have recorded the work.

One of my favourite settings of Ecce Sacerdos Magnus is by Anton Bruckner. Here Westminster Cathedral Choir sing the piece after the Papal Mass at Westminster Cathedral in 2010. I have deliberately started the video a few moments before the piece begins, to serve as a reminder of what remarkable affection young people showed towards Pope Benedict, an affection clearly reciprocated by the Holy Father (as he then was). Your patience will then be rewarded by a stunning account of the Bruckner motet.

Bishop Comensoli enthroned in Broken Bay

Watch the Mass of enthronement here, download the order of service here. I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised with the selection of music. Other information about the ceremony can be accessed here.

Read about the ceremony here and here (with pictures).

Congratulations to the new bishop of Broken Bay.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Gentleman of the St Mary's Cathedral Choir Sydney: CD

The Gentlemen of the St Mary's Cathedral Choir, Sydney, under the fine direction of Thomas Wilson have recorded a CD: Mass and Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The recording took place in 2011 and was released earlier this year.

The CD is on the excellent Herald label, which specialises in church music, and is part of the Aid to the Church in Need project. Details of the CD are now online here, here and here. Funnily enough, if you want to hear excerpts of the CD you must go to the Dutch Aid to the Church in Need website "kerkinnood".

I would recommend giving the CD as a Christmas gift. Indeed, despite the main theme being Marian, the Mass IX setting (Cum Iubilo) included on the disk can also double as a Christmastide setting (a perfect way to offset a long polyphonic Kyrie and Gloria is to substitute the Kyrie with that from Mass IX - this also improves the proportion of direct congregational participation).

I bought the CD shortly after its release, from the Cathedral shop. My favourite track is the Victoria Magnificat. The countertenor line is sumptuous indeed. The CD is full to the brim with polyphony and plainchant, beautifully sung and recorded. Highly recommended.

St Mary's Cathedral Choir, Sydney, sing Fauré's Requiem at Cardinal Clancy's Funeral: Video

xt3 have the full video of the beautiful solemn pontifical Mass of Christian Burial of His Eminence Edward Bede Cardinal Clancy, the seventh Archbishop of Sydney on 9 August 2014.

Yet again, the wonderful St Mary's Cathedral Choir showcase their superb singing - another reminder of how essential such choirs are to glorify God and sanctify His people. Sydney is blessed to have a choir of such outstanding class.

Since his installation in November 2014, the new Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher OP, has already described the choir he inherited from Cardinal Pell as "most excellent" and "the finest in the Land".

Monday, 24 November 2014

Lo! He comes with clouds descending

What a superb descant in this recording by the Lichfield Cathedral Choir. Along with the introit Ad te levavi and the plainchant Advent Prose, this hymn sets the tone Advent season perfectly.

A polyphonic setting of the Advent Prose:

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Fabulous French Festal Music for Christ the King as Papal Envoy Mamberti Makes Flying Visit to Sydney, Celebrates Mass with New Archbishop and Papal Nuncio

The Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States, French-Corsican Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, who has recently been appointed to succeed Raymond Cardinal Burke as the Prefect for the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, is currently in Sydney, where is his presumably having discussions about affairs of state with the Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who will replace Archbishop Mamberti as Vatican Foreign Secretary. Both were present, along with the newly enthroned Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher OP, at the solemn choral Mass at 10.30 this morning. It had been advertised that this would be the first Sunday Mass at which Archbishop Fisher would be celebrant, but in a lovely show of fraternal comity, Archbishop Mamberti was invited to be the principal celebrant.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, incoming Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, outside St. Mary's Cathedral Sydney after Mass on 23 November 2014

I'm not sure if His Excellency was forewarned of the impending choral force 10 gale, however he cannot but have been impressed by the Cathedral Choir's splendid singing of:

  • the Introit Dignus est Agnus; 
  • the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei from Widor's Messe à Deux Choeurs et Deux Orgues; 
  • the Alleluia Potestas eius;
  • Dupré's motet Laudate Dominum; 
  • the Communio Amen dico vobis: Quod uni; and
  • Christus Vincit.

Here is a recent upload to Youtube, the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School Schola Cantorum and others singing the Kyrie and Gloria from the Widor Mass at a recent centenary Mass at Westminster Cathedral.

In Sydney, it was a most fitting celebration of the feast of Christ the King, and a happy coincidence that on the day of an unexpected visit from a French Archbishop, one of the most effective modern French settings of the Mass was programmed.

Incidentally Burke was himself recently in Sydney. What a lot of activity in the Antipodes!


Vespers was most beautiful this evening, and occasioned a visit from the fire brigade.

Perhaps the axiom "If I can see the Blessed Sacrament, there is not enough incense" needs to be updated to "If the fire brigade did not attend, there was not enough incense"!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Bishop Comensoli appointed to Broken Bay, Sydney loses another auxiliary

Sydney has become a two man show, comprising the newly enthroned Archbishop Anthony Fisher and his auxiliary Bishop Terence Brady, as news comes through that Bishop Peter Comensoli will become the third bishop of Broken Bay diocese. Sydney's other auxiliary, Most Rev Julian Porteous, was translated to Hobart earlier this year.

Incoming bishop of Broken Bay
Broken Bay's cathedral was located in St Ives, but several years ago it was moved to Waitara.

Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral, Waitara
Broken Bay is still in many ways a fledgling diocese, having only been established in 1986 for reasons which do not immediately seem convincing. St Leonard's, not 10 mins by car to the Sydney CBD, was torn away from the bosom of the Sydney Archdiocese. The suburb of Manly, from where you can see the spires of St Mary's Cathedral, likewise.

Broken Bay effectively stretches from Sydney Harbour (except for a small enclave on the "lower north shore" comprising suburbs such as Neutral Bay and Mosman) up to the Central Coast of NSW, divided by the enormous Hawksbury River.

The bishop-designate has stated on Twitter that he is "looking forward to getting to know the family that is Broken Bay Diocese."

News and press releases are collected here.

Read about the bishop's coat of arms here and here. His motto is Praedicamus Christum crucifixum - We preach Christ crucified.

The enthronement will take place on 12 December 2014, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, at a time to be announced.

I wish his Lordship all the best.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Enthronement of Ninth Archbishop of Sydney, Most Rev Anthony Fisher - Full Video

What a wonderful and joyful occasion the enthronement was. The Cathedral Choir, described by the new Archbishop as "most excellent", sang MacMillan, Palestrina, Victoria, plainsong and several hymns with great distinction. There was plenty of "active participation" by the people in the parts that pertain to them, as the video will reveal. Contrary to an earlier version of this post, the order of service has indeed been made available online. Apart from being a slightly unconventional square shape and with dual columns, it was beautifully typeset and printed by Catholic Communications of the Archdiocese of Sydney, and included all music and translations needed by the people. I am in fact quite impressed with the availability of resources including the Archbishop's homily in text and mp3 formats. Sydney has sprung headlong into the digital information age!

Normally I would write a full account of the evening, but given the availability of the video in full, and my unfortunate lack of time, I will let the video speak for itself. And the Archdiocese now has a good general summary.

I add my thanks to all who were involved in preparing this most beautiful Mass, and Deo gratias, we have a new Archbishop at long last. May he serve and be served well.

xt3 version

Youtube version (with introduction)

Viewer advice: These videos contain sound and images of (well performed) contemporary worship music accompanied by a guitar in a neo-Gothic cathedral, the incongruence of which may cause distress to some viewers of this blog.   

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The day of the Archbishop's enthronement

has arrived - and the Sydney Morning Herald has a very informative (and mercifully neutral) article about tonight's proceedings. They provide this useful summary (we will forgive the American spelling of crosier):
  • "[Most Rev] Anthony Fisher will arrive at St Mary's Cathedral wearing the "choir dress" of a bishop before changing into Marian vestments, plain white and purple dress made in Australia from European liturgical silk and donated to the cathedral by a local family.
  • He will wear the episcopal ring and pectoral cross and hold the crozier, or pastoral staff, that belonged to the first metropolitan Archbishop of Sydney, John Bede Polding, 1842–1877.
  • His music choices for the ceremony include Summae Trinitati set to music by contemporary Scottish composer James MacMillan, the Te Deum of Tomas Luis de Victoria and the serene polyphony of the Missa Te Deum laudamus by Palestrina. Australian compositions include the hymn In faith and hope and love by Richard Connolly and James Phillip MacAuley. 
  • A papal bull, or letter from the Pope, will be read by the Apostolic Nuncio, confirming the authenticity of the appointment. The Holy See will be informed when the installation has taken place.
  • Mass will be followed by a reception at Cathedral House, Archbishop Fisher's new residence."

Westminster Cathedral Choir sings Victoria's Te Deum. 
Pictures are from the ordination of Bishop Peter Comensoli.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Archbishop Fisher's enthronement; Two new auxiliary bishops for Melbourne; Apostolic Nuncio to Australia to depart after elevation

Too much is happening and time is woefully lacking. So a brief summary of events will have to suffice.

First, the enthronement of Archbishop Fisher at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney will take place at 7.30 pm this Wednesday, 12 November 2014. I had heard informally that the service was to be preceded at 7.00 pm by Vespers sung by the Cathedral Scholars, and at long last we have official confirmation of this - it will be led by Bishop Peter Comensoli). The Cathedral Choir will carry the bulk of musical duties for the evening, although there is likely to be the addition of some brass in a similar fashion to the enthronement of Archbishop Nichols at Westminster Cathedral in 2009 (see here for video highlights - unfortunately most of the Cathedral Choir's singing has been edited out). The music list looks excellent, however experience suggests that there may be some pieces not listed and not performed by the Cathedral Choir.

Importantly, the enthronement will be webcast - if you cannot make it to St Mary's Cathedral, visit this webpage for the live broadcast. I implore the people responsible for the broadcast (xt3) to make the service available to watch again after the fact. What better place to make this available than xt3's very own Youtube site? Most recent enthronements in Australia and overseas have been made available to view in this way, so not only is there a precedent, but I would submit an imperative for Sydney to follow suit.

Secondly, news came through late last week that two auxiliary bishops have been appointed to Melbourne - the Reverend Monsignor Terence Curtin and the Reverend Father Mark Stuart Edwards OMI. The former was born in Cremorne, Sydney (where the author of this blog has his humble abode). Congratulations to the bishops-designate. In contrast to the Archbishop Fisher episode, Melbourne has taken the novel approach of announcing the date and time of the episcopal ordinations at the same time as announcing the appointments! The people of Melbourne will be overjoyed to hear that the ordinations will take place at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne on Wednesday, 17 December 2014 at 7.30 pm.

Finally, as Raymond Cardinal Burke (recently in Sydney) is transferred to Cardinalis Patronus of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, the role (Secretary for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State) of his replacement (Archbishop Dominique Mamberti) as Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, in a display of considerable alacrity on Rome's part, has already been filled by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who for the past two years has been Apostolic Nuncio to Australia. One trusts that this is not a manifestation of what was described in Yes, Minister as an attempt at "Approbation, elevation, and castration" in one fell swoop, and "In defeat, malice. In victory, revenge!" In any event, with the weight of office lifted from his shoulders, Cardinal Burke will be able to participate more actively in discourse pertaining to current ecclesiastical affairs.

Talk about an episcopal shake-up!

Congratulations to His Eminence, His Grace, His Excellency and Their (soon to be) Lordships.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Victoria in Queensland!

T. L. de Victoria that is.  And what a splendid rendition of the 1605 Requiem by the St Stephen's Cathedral Schola (Brisbane) conducted by James Goldrick in rehearsal for a concert that was performed on All Souls day 2014.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

New Archbishop of Sydney's coat of arms revealed

The design of Archbishop Fisher's beautiful coat of arms has been revealed at the website of an American priest, Fr Guy Selvester.

His Grace's motto is Veritatem facientes in caritate - doing the truth in charity.

From Fr Selvester's website:
"The archbishop retains the arms he first assumed when becoming auxiliary bishop of Sydney. Those arms combine the armorial bearings of the Order of Preachers (more commonly referred to as the Dominicans) of which he is a member impaled with arms that are based on the arms used by St. John Cardinal Fisher when bishop of Rochester, England with some minor alterations for difference (i.e. the inclusion of the Marian symbol). Over this on an inescutcheon (sometimes referred to as an escutcheon “in pretense” although that expression isn’t wholly appropriate in this case) is the arms of the See of Sydney."

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Stop press! Watson, could We have got it wrong?

With no official announcement as to all the essential details of the "liturgical reception and installation" of Archbishop Fisher, the anxious people of Sydney have had to infer these details from various sources.

But it seems that one inference has proved to be wrong.  The instruction that "the people are to be seated by 7 pm" is apparently an invitation that that they be seated half an hour before the service commences.

The source of this information is not cited.

"Archbishops delivered and installed at no extra cost"

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Westminster Cathedral Choir sings Victoria's Requiem with fervour and finesse

The occasion is the solemnity of All Souls, 2011. The setting is Westminster Cathedral. The music for the Mass is Victoria's Requiem (from Officium Defunctorum 1605), sung by the Cathedral Choir under Master of Music Martin Baker. The celebrant is Fr Alexander Master, the Cathedral's Precentor. BBC Radio 3 broadcast the service.

I was going to wait until All Souls to share this video, uploaded to YouTube only yesterday. But it demands immediate attention. First, because of the remarkable singing of the choir. The choir recorded the Victoria Requiem in 1987 (under David Hill), and that remains a benchmark recording. However, the singing in the above video is just that much more polished, refined, and exquisitely phrased.  Secondly, because the Mass is such a splendid example of sung liturgy that it serves as a model to all others. The singing of Fr Master is, well, masterful. It helps to have a fine signing voice, like the Reverend Father evidently has. But more important is to be completely at ease with your own Rite's tones - ditto for Fr Master in terms of the execution of a given tone, although not in terms of choice. (This is a wholly pedantic observation in the circumstances, but when you sing the simple tone for the Preface - which is quite correct for Masses for the Dead - why not consistently use this tone for the Mysterium Fidei, the Doxology, and the orations?)

Also, the BBC presenter got a little muddled when translating Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis, referring to "perceptual" light. But kudos to the BBC for still broadcasting such occasions. This really is a great service to the Christian population, but also more widely in the sense that it promotes Britain's choral tradition.

On a practical note, I would encourage priests around the world to use this as a training tool for singing the All Souls Mass on 2 November.

Last Wednesday's BBC 3 Choral Vespers was from Westminster Cathedral

Hear the service at this link.  Four weeks left to listen at time of writing.  

The music list:

Introit: Sicut cervus (Palestrina)
Hymn: Caeli Deus sanctissime (Plainsong)
Psalms: Ps 125, 126 (Plainsong)
Canticle: Colossians 1:12-20 (Plainsong)
Reading: Ephesians 3:20-21
Magnificat sexti toni (Victoria)
Homily: Fr Alexander Master
Motet: Sitivit anima mea (Palestrina)
Antiphon: Ave Virgo sanctissima (Guerrero)
Organ Voluntary: Prelude in B minor, BWV 544 (Bach)

The choir sang choral evensong with the Westminster Abbey Choir at the Abbey last Friday - see here and here. Below the choirs are pictured rehearsing.  

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Archbishop-designate of Sydney - Time of enthronement announced

According to an event co-ordinator interviewed by the Catholic Weekly, the newspaper of the Archdioceses of Sydney, the "congregation [are] to be seated by 7 pm" on 12 November 2014.  I take that to mean the enthronement will commence at this time.

We now have all the pieces of the puzzle, so here is a concise summary of the details:

Event: Votive Mass of the B.V.M. for the Enthronement (or "Liturgical Reception and Installation") of Archbishop-designate Anthony Fisher OP as ninth Archbishop of Sydney
Date: Wednesday, 12 November, 2014
Time: 19:00
Place: St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney

Update: official statement here, dated 3 October 2014.  

Happily, the unreserved seating is first in best dressed, unlike so many similar occasions that are "ticketed", which is a repugnant practice.

The headline of the Catholic Weekly is rather intriguing - "‘Main focus on people’ at installation Mass" - that can't be so, surely.  After all, it is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Meanwhile, if you want a manual on how to conduct an enthronement, you could do worse than consult the order of service from Archbishop Nichols' enthronement in Westminster Cathedral in 2009, which may be viewed here along with a press pack for the occasion here which contains some interesting information about the music at the service:
Two antiphon texts traditionally sung at the Installation of Archbishops were composed for the occasion by James MacMillan. Two brass fanfares were composed by Colin Mawby, former Master of Music of Westminster Cathedral. The Mass was sung by 19 Choristers and 10 Lay Clerks of Westminster Cathedral Choir and the Organ played by Matthew Martin and Charles Cole under the direction of Martin Baker, Master of Music. The fanfares were performed by 4 Trumpeters, 3 Trombones and 1 Timpani of the Royal Academy of Music, conducted by James Watson.
And who can forget the remarkable setting of Tu es Petrus composed by MacMillan for Pope Benedict's visit to the UK in 2010?

Monday, 29 September 2014

Ordination of priest at St Christopher's Cathedral Canberra

Some good news indeed!  Congratulations to the ordained.  Also nice to see the Archbishop of Hobart (formerly auxiliary bishop of Sydney), the Most Reverend Julian Porteous, who was the ordaining bishop.

Laus Tibi, Christe

Tu es Sacérdos in aeternum
secundum ordinem Melchisedech.

Thou art a Priest for ever 
after the order of Melchisedech.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Date of enthronement announced for Archbishop-designate Anthony Fisher

Anthony Colin Joseph Fisher OP, Archbishop-designate of Sydney, will be enthroned in St Mary's Cathedral on Wednesday 12 November 2014 (see here and here), at a time to be announced (it will presumably take place post meridiem). The date chosen for the enthronement is the feast of St. Josaphat, a 17th century Lithuanian archbishop and martyr.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Christopher Hogwood - Requiescat in pace

So soon after the death of Frans Brüggen, the world has lost another of the great period instrument musicians, scholars and conductors, with the news today that Christoper Hogwood CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire), founder and long standing director of the Academy of Ancient Music, has died aged 73 (see also hereherehere and here). Listen to a recent BBC interview with the Maestro. Most classical music CD collections will have a generous amount of Hogwood's recordings, many of them on the Decca L'Oiseau Lyre series. He regularly collaborated with the great cathedral and college choirs of England.  Here the AAM and the Westminster Cathedral Choir (under David Hill) perform Mozart's Regina Coeli KV 127.

His recording of the Mozart Requiem (also with Westminster Cathedral Choir) remains one of the finest.

Hogwood recorded the first full period instrument performance of Handel's Messiah (and also remains one of the finest), with the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (in about 1978, with, I seem to recall, Simon Preston as the Choirmaster).  A few years later, an almost identical performance was broadcast on the BBC, though the choir had changed (Westminster Abbey Choir, filmed inside the Abbey - and I believe Simon Preston was now Master of the Choristers at the Abbey).  Also look out for a young Harry Christophers singing tenor.

Returning to Mozart, Hogwood recorded the complete Symphonies with the AAM. Here he gives a spirited performance of the final movement of the forty-first and final ("Jupiter") symphony in Japan. The final few bars are positively explosive!  And how nice to hear a "Bravo" from the Japanese audience (across the world this has largely been replaced by a generic form of hollering).

And here Hogwood conducts a memorable performance of Haydn's The Creation with the Choir of New College, Oxford (although I believe the venue is the stunning Gloucester Cathedral).

Thank you Maestro for many happy musical memories.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Deo Gratias - New Archbishop of Sydney is announced - Most Rev Anthony Fisher

It was this evening announced that His Holiness Pope Francis has appointed the Most Reverend Anthony Colin Fisher OP as the next Archbishop of Sydney. He succeeds George Cardinal Pell, now Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy of the Holy See. Click to see the official announcement from the Australian Nunciature, the Bishops' Conference statement here, new stories herehere and here, and the Archdiocesan website here and here (biography, media release from Parramatta Diocese, statement from Apostolic Administrator).  Bishop Fisher has been the Bishop of Parramatta since 2010, and was auxiliary bishop of Sydney before that. Before his priestly vocation, the Archbishop-designate read law at the University of Sydney (Australia's oldest law school) and worked at one of Australia's oldest law firms, Sydney-based Clayton Utz (see also here and here) - must be a good sort!

Listen to interviews with the Archbishop-designate here (ABC radio) and here (Vatican radio).  

The date of the Archbishop-designate's enthronement will be announced in due course.

Sydney still sede vacante

Friday, 29 August 2014

Photos from Pontifical Mass in Sydney offered by Cardinal Burke

Beautiful pictures have emerged of the Solemn Pontifical Mass at the Throne offered on Wednesday night by His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke.  The pictures were taken by Paul Brazier and the full set is available at this Facebook page.

The Mass, which was very well attended (the under 35s appeared to make up a large number of the congregation, possibly a majority), was followed by a delicious supper at which there was much conviviality.

The music was excellent, as always from the incomparable St Mary's Cathedral Choir.

As you will see from the pictures, the front altar installed in 2008, was used for the Mass.  It is no slight to Cardinal Pell or Pope Benedict XVI (who consecrated the front altar during WYD 2008) to say that it is a shame the original high altar can no longer practicably be used for Mass whether in the Extraordinary or Ordinary Form.  By contrast, the high altar was used in 2007 when George Cardinal Pell offered a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form.

Here is the order of service from the 2007 Mass, which I retained for posterity. Credits for the beautiful order or service appear within the document.

Well done to all concerned.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Raymond Cardinal Burke is in Sydney

where he will offer a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St Mary's Cathedral tomorrow (27 August 2014) at 19:00.  See here and here.

Will the lovely high altar be used, or will they use the (also lovely) modern immovable front altar blessed by Pope Benedict in 2008?

The last time such a Mass was celebrated was in November 2007 - by Cardinal Pell the Archbishop of Sydney at the time.  I was in attendance.

The music list for the Mass tomorrow:
  • Introitus: Deus misereatur nostri
  • Kyrie: Missa brevis Palestrina
  • Graduale: Confiteantur tibi populi, Deus
  • Alleluia: Iubilate Deo omnis terra
  • Offertorium: Afferte Domino
  • Sanctus: Missa brevis Palestrina
  • Agnus Dei: Missa brevis Palestrina
  • Communio: Laudate Dominum
  • Motets:
    • Ecce sacerdos magnus Elgar
    • Iehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei Purcell
    • Salvator mundi (I) Tallis
  • Organ:
    • Marche Pontificale (Symphony No. 1) Widor 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Mozart's Requiem Tonight in Sydney

UPDATE: The concert was excellent.  

There is a first time for everything - this will be the first performance of the Mozart Requiem that I have attended.  It will be at St James, King Street in the heart of Sydney's legal precinct.

I have about 10 recordings of the work, my favourite being the one by the Cologne Chamber Choir and Collegium Cartusianum, conducted by Peter Neumann.

I gather the orchestra for tonight's concert is playing on period instruments PP

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Le chef d'orchestre Frans Brüggen est mort

declares Le Monde.  Requiescat in pace.  Brüggen was one of the best conductors of the period instrument movement, and was also an accomplished flautist.  I had hoped to see him conduct the Johannes Passion in Paris earlier this year but he was too ill (he had been incapacitated for some years but heroically kept returning to the stage time and again to conduct some riveting performances).  At this very moment I have his recording of Schubert's "Great" Symphony being shipped from Japan.  His recordings of the Bach Sacred works, the Beethoven Symphonies (he recorded two cycles), the Haydn Symphonies and the Schubert Symphonies are the leaders in their field.  The world has lost a great flautist and conductor.

Listen to his (first) recording of the Bach B minor Mass from 1993 with his own Orchestra of the 18th Century and the Netherlands Chamber Choir - excellence beyond compare.

Brüggen conducts Mozart's Requiem in a live performance from Japan

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Setting the standard for "parish" church choirs

I keep returning to videos of the excellent Cappella Nicolai - the resident liturgical choir of the Church of St Nicholas, Amsterdam.  Sint-Nicolaasbasiliek is hardly your average parish church - it was elevated to the status of minor basilica in 2012 and is the predominant church in Amsterdam (the cathedral for the diocese of Haarlem-Amsterdam is St Bavo's in Haarlem).  What a great model for other churches around the world (and let's face it, many cathedrals as well).

Friday, 8 August 2014

Edward Bede Cardinal Clancy: Requiescat in pace

Quæsumus, omnipotens et misericors Deus, ut famulos tuos cardinales et episcopos, quos in terris pro Christo legatione fungi tribuisti, his emundatos sacrificiis, consedere facias in cælestibus cum ipso.
Qui vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculorum.
Let us pray.
We pray, almighty and merciful God, that, as you made your servant Cardinals and Bishops ambassadors for Christ on earth, so you may raise them, purified by this sacrifice, to be seated with Christ in heaven.
Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

I do not remember too much about the late Cardinal, however I do recall that when aged about 11, I was the boat bearer for Midnight Mass at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney.  I also remember the placing of the spires on said Cathedral in or about 2000, thus essentially completing William Wardell's magnificent design. This would be one of the Cardinal's last acts in office, as he retired in 2001.

There are many news stories about the late Cardinal, but I particularly like this one written by Stephanie Wood of the Sydney Morning Herald.

A vigil Mass will be held tonight, at 7.30 pm (Friday 8 August) and the Funeral Mass will be on Saturday 9 August at 10 am.  The Cardinal will be laid to rest in the crypt of his cathedral.  

Thursday, 24 July 2014

KCCC's tour of the Antipodes

King's College Choir, Cambridge, are in the Antipodes.  They sang Monteverdi's Cantate Domino on breakfast TV this morning:

Their concerts have been reviewed here, here, here and here.  Download the program here.

You can hear their Melbourne concert here (program 2).  The choir sounds in good form, and the reviews (except for one of the two Sydney Morning Herald reviews) have been glowing.  The Sydney Morning Herald article by Clive O'Connell was concerned about a certain blandness to the program, or the performance of the various pieces thereof.  I am not convinced that those observations are borne out, but in any event I think there is a more problematic aspect to the programs - they are a bit sparse, for the price of the tickets anyway (up to about $130).  The first program at least contains a major work, the Faure Requiem.  However, even then the accompaniment is organ only.  King's could muster the orchestral forces for their latest recording of this work (and their innumerable previous recordings of the work).  In fact, I am not aware of any recordings that opt for the 'liturgical' approach of organ only.  Why, then, is this a satisfactory state of affairs for an audience charged handsomely for their tickets?  On the choir's tour of Asia last year, local orchestras were engaged.  It seems like this time an opportunity was missed to collaborate with the ACO, the ABO, or some other very fine local ensemble.  In contrast, in Cambridge earlier this year, I attended a performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion (an immense work) with full orchestra and soloists.  Top price tickets were significantly less than top price tickets for the Choir-only concerts in the Antipodes.  The choir and/or orchestra then backed up for various Easter services, and a performance of Handel's oratorio Israel in Egypt, a few days later.

Perhaps a comparison of two videos will best demonstrate my point.  I wish to stress that I am not saying that the performance with organ accompaniment will not be exceedingly beautiful.  Perhaps it could even be as beautiful as the orchestrated version.  What I am saying is that for absolutely premium tickets, to see a top choir, at a major venue such as the Sydney Opera House, the expectation is that a work like the Faure Requiem would be in one of its orchestrated versions.

Organ only:

With orchestration:

A shame, because the Antipodean concerts have been, and will continue to be, excellent in every other respect.

Missa in angustiis - Update

Xt3 - a "content driven social networking site" operated by the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Archdiocese of Sydney - has produced this video of excerpts from last Sunday's 10.30 am choral Mass at St Mary's Cathedral attended by the highest ranking members of the Parliament and the Executive of the Commonwealth and the State of NSW.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Missa in angustiis

The imposing St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney today became the focus of Australia’s attention as the nation comes to terms with the shocking aeroplane disaster in eastern Ukraine.  Many of the wretched souls aboard the flight were Australian citizens or residents, including a nun from the Society of the Sacred Heart.  Requiescant in pace.

Yesterday, it was announced that the Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbot, and the Governor-General, HE Sir Peter Cosgrove, would attend Sunday Mass at the Cathedral.  As it transpired, they were accompanied by the Governor of NSW, HE Marie Bashir, the NSW Premier, the Hon Mike Baird, the leader of the (Federal) Opposition, the Hon Bill Shorten, and a host of other politicians.  Also present were members of the Society of the Sacred Heart, girls from the Society’s convent school Kincoppal Rose Bay, and representatives of the Dutch community (the flight’s provenance was Amsterdam and the great majority of passengers were Dutch). The celebrant was the Most Rev Peter Comensoli, Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Sydney (the Archdiocese is still sede vacante).  

The Mass was the solemn choral Mass at 10.30 am, with the usual mixture of plainsong, polyphony and hymns.  The Mass setting (Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei), that of modern British composer Judith Bingham, has been described as “uncompromisingly austere” and “unsettled”, and so (unwittingly since this setting was chosen before the awful events of the last 48 hours) appropriately reflected the nation’s mood: subdued and troubled.  The Bingham Mass was juxtaposed with the familiar and comforting melodies of Credo III and the Sanctus and Agnus Dei of Mass XI (all sung in Latin), and two hymns.  The offertory motet was The Beatitudes (Albinoni arr Giazotto).  The full music list is here.  

From 11:08 of this news bulletin (available to view for 7 days) you can hear the choir singing Credo III.

And in this video you can hear the choir singing the Introit Ecce Deus adiuvat me.