Monday, May 28, 2007

Pentecost at St. Thomas, and elsewhere

Sung by the St. Ann Choir yesterday on Pentecost at St. Thomas Aquinas:

Orlando di Lasso, Missa osculetur me
Gregorian sequence, Veni, Sancte Spiritus
Jacobus Gallus, Factus est repente

So, another big treat this week: another complete Renaissance Mass setting, right after last week's observance of Ascension with those mass propers by Byrd.

To those who may ask "Don't those old settings make the Mass last too long?" I'd say, yes, they do make it last longer... but not too long. For one thing, most of the settings from the sixteenth century are really pretty compact. And the somewhat more leisurely pace gives you time to really think about what's being said in the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, but not enough time to get restive. As I've said many times here, our ancestors in the Faith weren't dummies.

As for the "elsewhere" in this post's title, that would be a popular Protestant church in this area, Los Altos United Methodist. Earlier in the day, I sang with their regular choir as a "ringer" -- that's someone who comes in to reinforce the usual choir on a special occasion (there were a lot of us). They were doing the Wilhousky arrangement of Battle Hymn of the Republic, quite a dynamite setting which benefits from a sizable choir, and rarely performed in this liberal bastion.

They plan their services carefully at LAUMC, and are favorably representative of Protestant congregations around here, but after attending Mass at St. Thomas, with its real-deal liturgy, its solid Pentecost message (LAUMC had picked other scripture that day so that the pastor could deliver an anti-Iraq-war sermon) and its glorious Renaissance music, my reaction to the LAUMC morning service was simply: how pallid. And despite the evident effort and planning -- how cobbled-together it seemed by comparison. Yes, I grant that it might be attractive in the short term with its superficial contemporaneity, and the Battle Hymn setting was a fine jolt of musical caffeine, but after you've had enough of that... there's not much else there.

I've seldom felt more blessed to be Catholic.