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: