05 February 2007

Great days

What a wonderful time we've had at the parish over these past days with the ceremonies and events surrounding the blessing and dedication of the Casavant Freres pipe organ. Prayers and parties, music and Masses, and now Monday has come with its return to the normal schedule.

The Friday evening Solemn Choral Evensong with the Blessing of the Organ could not have been more beautiful. Plenty of incense, a thundering organ, the choir in top form, processions and chanting all done decently and in order, as an experience of the best in English worship it just couldn't be topped. The organ builder who had refurbished and installed the Casavant was there to record the event, and in his words,"I haven't heard anything like that since I was in Westminster Abbey!"

Saturday had some interesting wrinkles. Because James David Christie was holding a masterclass for organists in the main church, our ten o'clock morning Mass was moved to the Sacred Heart Chapel. It was First Saturday and St. Blase Day, so the place was packed. But I did discover that a hundred people really can fit in space for eighty. After the Mass, the Blessing of Throats, and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament I actually was able to take in some of the masterclass, since a visiting priest offered to hear confessions for me. When I saw him later in the day he managed to croak, "I don't know when I have heard so many confessions..." I'll admit that I saw the line snaking for quite a distance, and I probably should have shared the load. But Father was insistent that he wanted to give me the rest of the morning free, so I selfishly took it. The "old organ student" in me came out, and I thoroughly enjoyed observing the masterclass.

Sunday morning was as usual. Mass at 7:30, another at 9:00, and yet another at 11:00, so three of the four Sunday Masses were done by 12:30. One of the deacons preached an excellent sermon at all the Sunday Masses, and there was plenty of anticipation for the afternoon dedicatory recital with lots of people telling me they'd see me later as they were leaving Mass.

People began arriving at 3:00 p.m. for the 4:00 p.m. recital. And they came in floods. By the time things were ready to begin I would estimate there were about three hundred people, ready to hear the program. And what a program it was! James David Christie truly is a master organist. There were the usual crowd-pleasers, Buxtehude and Bach. And then, a whole section entitled "Homage to Jean Langlais in observance of the centenary of his birth." In this portion of the program there was a brilliant juxtaposing of Langlais organ works with some of his simple choral pieces for "two equal voices and organ." This was where our wonderful students came into the picture. About fifty of our finest young choristers joined with the organ, and included in their pieces was the American premiere of the Messe d'Escalquens. It was pure, innocent beauty. The whole thing was recorded and we will be producing CD's which should include Evensong and the Sunday recital, so you can hear for yourself if you like.

The recital ended at about 5:15 p.m., and the crowd moved off to the reception in the Library to greet Mr. Christie, while several of us prepared for the last Mass of the day. At 6:00 p.m. we began the celebration of the evening Latin Mass. I noticed several of the visiting musicians who had been at the recital found their way into the church to hear our small but fine men's schola and for one last listen to the magnificent organ.

It was a great few days, and a lot of us are tired with that "good tired" which comes from doing something enjoyable but important. It really couldn't have gone better, and if it sounds as though I'm pleased it's because I am.

I'll get some deeper and more meditative postings going soon. Right now I'm finishing my cup of Earl Grey, and it will be an early night tonight.