20 September 2010

What a few days this has been.

What a blessed time, and not only for Cardinal John Henry Newman!

Anyone else unable to wipe the grin off their face?

It was so wonderful to hear His Holiness on mainstream TV, unmediated, in his own words. It was so wonderful that everyone who wanted to could listen.

Yes, I was anxious about how His Holiness would be received, simply because of the the press coverage.

But as I mentioned to Mike, it depends what you watched. I was switching between EWTN and Sky, and I can tell you, in a Sky vs BBC news off, Sky wins hands down (I did catch a bit of the BBC coverage, just in a spirit of fairness you understand!). There was little of the : "Well, that was very 'interesting', we've heard a bit from a 'catholic', but now let's hear from a pansexually transgendered ex 'catholic', a humanist, a rationalist, a scientist and of course, a nun", from Sky.

There are a few moments that stand out for me, mostly good, but a few I feel a bit iffy about. The iffy ones are just teensy quibbles, but I have to get them off my chest.

So in no particular chronological order, the first big one, is the responsorial music written by James Macmillan, those 'people parts' we've been hearing so much about. I'll probably be strung up for saying this, but I didn't like them that much *ducks and covers*.

It sounded as if Cecil B de Mille (I just love those movies!) had commissioned them. They were just too fussy, and they went on too long. True, I am a musical philistine in a lot of ways, but what's wrong with a simple, dignified chant? Do we need swooping responses that go on...and on...and on..? (Come to think of it, did we really need Be Still For the Presence of The Lord? Gack!).

The 'staging' I also thought was pretty awful. There was a flat-pack look to most of it, and the Catholic Mothership had definitely landed in Birmingham, with a retro stained glass effect sheet of a hanging that was really rather nasty.

So, in no particular order, this Best Thing shouldn't be a surprise: it was the use of Latin, and the Mass at Westminster Cathedral (apart from the couple of token serviettes).

There is nothing like singing responses in Latin, nothing like it in the world, always brings a tear to the eye. The creed, the Our Father, I'm blubbing. It's always an 'Oh thank you, God!' moment when you get to sing those at Mass, and to see and hear the Holy Father well, it was just amazing, and I only watched on TV. What must it have been like to be there?

So, another Best Thing. Who still believes that the Pope isn't down with the kids? The Holy Father's address at the Big Assembly and to the youth at Westminster Cathedral should have blown that myth out of the water!

I could go on and on, but I won't, because I hope perhaps you'll tell me in the combox what you thought about it all.

God Bless Pope Benedict!


Mac McLernon said...

The MacMillan pieces went on too long because the "powers that be" decreed they should be sung cantor-response... something which James told us, at the Faith Summer Conference, that he hates. It wasn't written that way, so would be better in the normal parish setting.

Also, the translation is accurate, so it's longer anyway, not the shortened, dumbed-down version we're used to...

Athanasius said...

I agree with every word! I can't understand why people were raving about James MacMillan's setting - I thought it was pretty bad, tbh (he's normally rather better). Someone texted me after Cofton Park to say 'JMcM claims that he is influenced by traditional hymns and chant - was not in evidence'.

The sanctuary at Cofton Park was less ghastly in 'real life' than in the preview pictures - but yes, it was somewhat strange.

I was overcome with emotion at several times during His Holiness's visit. For me, for my favourite living theologian and pastor to beatify my other favourite theologian and pastor was an event I never could have predicted even a year or so ago. Since both have played a huge role in shaping my faith, I could not but blub in an unmanly way throughout half the Mass!!!

But the real high point, I think, was the Mass at Westminster Cathedral, which must be as good as the Novus Ordo can get. I think William Byrd would have been pleased to have his setting at a papal Mass in England!

I'm still on a high from it all, and digesting His Holiness's wonderful sermons and speeches. Deo gratias!

Annie said...

Oh I see! :D

I absolutely loathe ping-pong singing. Responsorial psalm makes me spit feathers too.

Although I never have problems with accurate translations :D

Your pics of His Holiness are fab! Have you come down to earth yet?

Annie said...

Hi Athanasius :)

Glad it wasn't just me with a lump in my throat pretty much for 4 days!

david said...

Nearly 10 out 10 the mass at Westminster stands out the schola singing Byrd and not a serviette in sight,but I wish it had been in the Extra Ordinary form.I cringed at the Star Trek setting at Birmingham but I suppose we have to let the trendies have their way.God bless our pope for drowning out the voices of the devil.

MC Man said...

I thought that the serviettes to use your rather unkind term were very good as all the servers at the various liturgys were.They all looked smart moved about the Sanctuary with reverance and performed their tasks without fault.I must admit I didnt like the albs on the servers in Glasgow,cassock and cotta look much smarter.Female servers are here to stay and I would serve alongside them in any form of Mass.

Annie said...

Hi MC Man

We'll have to agree to disagree I'm afraid, whether they do a good job or not :D

In the Latin Mass it's chaps only, and to be honest, I think that should hold true for Novus Ordo as well. Seed bed of the clergy and all that :)

Et Expecto said...

The Cofton Park sanctuary was much better in reality than the artists' impressions. The only bit i disliked was the back projected stained glass. A plain background would have been much better.

The servers were excellent at Cofton Park, even though some of them were girls. They all held their hands together, genuflected and bowed perfectly and in unison, and they clearly knew what they were supposed to be doing. The clergy, Concelebrants were a different matter. None of them held their hands together, most slouched in their chairs and were looking around much of the time. It did not look good.

The two choirs were very good at what they sang. I agree that the Macmillan Mass was not all it was cracked up to be. Perhaps this is because he was asked to write a Mass for the congregation to sing, and consequently wrote something very simple. It should have been obvious that a congregation of 50,000 spread out over 100 acres cannot be expected to sing like a choir.

Overall, it was very good.

David O'Neill said...

I too must agree that serviettes under any circumstances are unacceptable. An American priest commentator made 2 very valid points.
(a) the cassocks & cottas worn are Male apparel.
(b) it is usual for seminarians to serve papal Masses (perhaps we don't have enough?)

The McMillan music did indeed (in my opinion) not come up to his usual high standards but was it not the case of "he who pays the piper calls the tune"? Certainly I found no connection between traditional hymns & that setting. As to chant?..forget it.