Sunday, 19 April 2015

The London Oratory School &c.

Here is a concise description of the London Oratory School in Fulham, a few miles from the London Oratory with which it continues to have close ties.

"The Oratory School
The School was founded in 1863, and is located in Fulham, London SW6. It offers education to boys aged 7 to 18, and girls between the ages of 16 and 18. It is part of the Catholic Church with a philosophy and liturgical tradition which dates back to 16th Century Rome [ed - assuming the writer means the School, not the Catholic Church, do they celebrate the Mass of the Ages at the School?], and specifically to the Patron Saint of the School, St Philip Neri. St Philip Neri, an Italian priest who devoted his energies to the teaching of young men, formed an influential movement in the Catholic Church called the Congregation of the Oratory. St Philip Neri also gave his name to the London Oratory Church; the School and Oratory Church maintain close links with one another, sharing strong liturgical traditions. When the School was founded, its mission was to offer Catholic education for the benefit of Catholic children from all over London; that continues to be one of its key objectives today. Indeed, the pupils are drawn from over 300 parishes and primary schools, and 40 local education authority areas in and around London; it is reported that fifty three languages are spoken in the School, and that over 70% of its pupils travel more than 5kms to attend the School. 
Religious worship plays a substantial part in school life; the admissions process of the School has, thus far, ensured that its pupils are fully committed and practising members of the Catholic Church. In pursuing the objectives of Cardinal John Newman (who introduced the Oratorians to England in the nineteenth century), the strong religious ethos, in the Canonical tradition, is combined with academic strength. The School’s Ofsted and other independent inspection reports describe the school as “outstanding”. 
The School espouses two distinct and fundamental objectives: 
i) To serve the Catholic community across the whole of the London area (referred to in the documents as its “pan-London mission”); and 
ii) To preserve and enhance strong Catholic religious and academic teaching in the spiritual and musical traditions of the oratories of St Philip Neri. 
The School is, unsurprisingly, very popular; the places (usually approximately 160 places for admission in Year 7) are, each year, vastly over-subscribed (typically, there are more than 800 applicants). The School is concerned to minimise the extent of random selection of its pupils while promoting its strong Catholic ethos."  
This was taken from a judgment that was handed down on Friday in the High Court of Justice of England & Wales (for Australian readers not familiar with the English legal system, the High Court is the superior court of record of first instance in civil cases - like a State Supreme Court, or the Federal Court). Read the judgment here.

The Oratory School has an excellent liturgical choir - the Schola Cantorum directed by Charles Cole. Recently they visited various churches in Spain where they sang pieces from El Siglo de Oro by composers such as Victoria, Guerrero and Vivanco. Read about the tour here, and background here.

Guerrero and Victoria, among others, wrote some of the finest and most enduring sacred polyphony, and it is a delight to know that it is being sung in the context for which it was composed (and an even greater delight when one actually experiences it being sung in such a context), as well as in the context of concerts.

First, a video of the Schola Cantorum, apparently filmed on their recent Spanish trip. It's just a short extract, from the Croce motet In spiritu humilitatis I believe:

And here is a stunning piece from Guerrero, the motet Maria Magdalene et altera Maria:

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Interesting Lecture from the Antipodes on Gregorian Chant

This was given in 2012 by Associate Professor Neil McKewan, a New-Zealand-Australian academic at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and choral director at Christ Church St Laurence (high C of E church in central Sydney). Contains some useful explanations, and demonstrations by "monks" in dress up. He has recently released a CD - Mysteries of Gregorian Chant - sung by the Singers of St Laurence, which I am just about to listen to.

Friday, 17 April 2015

(Belated) Happy Birthday Pope Emeritus!

Celebrating the occasion yesterday with a halbe.

I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Mass in C minor of Mozart is one of his favourite pieces - it's one of mine too (last count I have about 9 recordings). So enjoy this performance of the work - Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Monteverdi Choir and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.

And here is a video of the choir formerly conducted by his brother, the Regensburger Domspatzen - they're singing the wonderful motet for Maundy Thursday by Lassus - Tristis est anima mea.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Holy Week in Sydney and Cologne: Collected Videos

The full video (picture and audio) for the Mass of the Last Supper at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney is now available. I will take the opportunity to post all the Holy Week videos in one spot. Also, a few of the Holy Week videos from the High Cathedral of Saints Peter and Mary in Cologne - along with St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney and Westminster Cathedral, one of my favourite churches.


Chrism Mass

Mass of the Last Supper

Solemn Good Friday Liturgy

Easter Vigil

Solemn Mass of Easter Sunday


Solemn Good Friday Liturgy

Easter Vigil

And here is a great video from Easter 2012 when the great Cardinal Meisner was the Archbishop. The Mass setting is the lovely Rheinberger Cantus Missae.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Musical Selections from 2015 Easter Mass at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney

I do encourage you to watch the entire Easter Sunday Mass (10.30 am) filmed at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney (see previous post) - it is a great example of the richness of the ceremonial of the Roman Rite, particularly in its treasury of sacred music. However, it is understandable that navigating through a two hour long video to find certain parts may present some challenges, so here are a few particular highlights of the music at the Mass. You will soon appreciate that this is a choir that deserves its reputation as the finest liturgical choir in the land. Indeed, much greater claims in this regard could be made. Thanks to all who made this celebration so beautiful, and particular thanks must go to those whose initiative has led to the filming of the Cathedral Holy Week services.* St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney has in recent years consolidated its place as a bastion of excellence in Roman Catholic liturgical standards, and it is high time that it receives the attention and credit it deserves. And as the Archbishop noted today, this is the standard of the Solemn Mass every Sunday, and rightly so too.

Happy Easter one and all.

Introit: Resurrexit

Kyrie & Gloria from Missa Papae Marcelli by G.P. da Palestrina

Gradual (Haec dies sung in English)

Sequence (Victimae Paschalis Laudes) and Alleluia (Pascha nostrum)

Offertory Motet: Regina Caeli for eight voices by G.P da Palestrina

Sanctus from Mass I

Agnus Dei I from Missa Papae Marcelli by G.P. da Palestrina

Agnus Dei II from Missa Papae Marcelli by G.P. da Palestrina

O filii et filiae by Tisserand arr. Baker

Just in case you missed these very kind words from our Director of Music, Thomas Wilson. He has thanked various people...
Posted by St Mary's Cathedral Choir, Sydney on Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Solemnity of Solemnities: Easter Sunday Solemn Sung Mass from St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney

Plainchant and polyphony in abundance. See the full Holy Week music list here, or the music for Easter Sunday below.

Click to enlarge

Re-post from 2013: Passio Domini nostri Iesu Christi secundum Joannem

Apologies for anyone who attempted to read this old post in preparation for Holy Week, as the videos do not appear to have been working. The problem is now fixed, for Holy Week next year! Note that the final video of the Improperia is different. The original video (Westminster Cathedral Choir) is no longer on Youtube. The replacement is from St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NYC.

Original post

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John ...

This is part one of the St. John Passion, provided to assist priests, deacons, cantors and choirs to learn how to sing the Passion on Good Friday.  It also happens to be one of the most sublime recordings of chant ever made - the cadences when the narrator introduces the words of Christ are particularly well sung.  I urge you to buy one of the Naxos CDs which has this chant on it: In Passione et Morte Domini: Gregorian Chant for Good Friday or Ultimate Chant.

Here is the pdf of the music.

There are very good English arrangements to be found.


Video of one such English version from St Mary's Cathedral on 29 March 2013 (with the crowd's parts being sung to an arrangement of T. L. de Victoria):

And another version, Latin, with the original Victoria setting for the crowd:

Also for Good Friday - the Improperia. This is Victoria's setting, sung by the Choir of Men & Boys of St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York under the direction of John Scott. Recorded live on Good Friday 2011.

Friday, 3 April 2015

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to John - The Good Friday Solemn Liturgy from St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney

Great singing all round - from the Archbishop through to the people. But of course, special credit to the excellent Cathedral Choir. And we are hearing the "proper" tone for the end of the Gospel more and more.

Bach's Johannes Passion

This is one of the finest recordings of Bach's masterpiece - the late Maestro Bruggen conducts the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century and the Netherlands Chamber Choir. No other recording of the first movement, Herr, unser Herrscher, makes the hair stand on end quite like this one.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Mass of the Last Supper from St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney

View the Mass, noting that the picture is not available until the Gospel, but the sound is there from the beginning, with a minor interruption in the Gloria from Missa Pange lingua by Josquin des Prez. Beautiful settings sung supremely well - details can be downloaded here.

The audio starts at the end of a processional hymn, followed by the Introit. I suspect the microphones are confined to the sanctuary, given that the voices, still in procession, are at first distant, though the continuo is distinct. This is Roman Catholic ceremonial at, or close to, its peak.

Wow - Live streaming of the Holy Week Services from St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney

Which can then be played back on demand. This is a truly magnificent development. I hope to have more to say about this in the fullness of time. For now, see the Chrism Mass from earlier today, Maundy Thursday 2015.