The Music of Angels

Saturday, October 29, 2005. Sacred Heart Cathedral, Raleigh, North Carolina.

I attended the Vigil Mass at the Cathedral, my first time there. Msgr. Hadden was the celebrant, and he actually sang portions of the Mass in a lovely tenor voice — wish he’d sung the whole thing. But the congregational music, the psalm, hymns, responses, were badly overseen by a Romantic-style piano-player who doesn’t understand chant and who took everything at a sleepy tempo. In addition, there was the ubiquitous dreaded Haugen-Haas presence that I find not only distracting but downright profane.

Two hours later, those same walls echoed with the glorious music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina — music fit for the angels — as the NC Master Chorale Chamber Choir performed a selection of sacred works in the Cathedral.

The program began with the exquisite Missa Papae Marcelli (Pope Marcellus Mass), followed by Henryk Gorecki’s “Totus Tuus,” and a very modern but surprisingly gorgeous setting of three poems of e.e. cummings by Eric Whitacre.

I sat near the piano, in the present-day choir section (the lovely choir loft being nearly abandoned) and gazed across the Sanctuary to the Tabernacle where the Lord in the Eucharist lay reposed: “You have to suffer so much ugliness from week to week… isn’t it lovely You can be celebrated with such music here tonight?”

I like to think He was very pleased indeed.

From the "Uh-huh, and What Did I Tell You?" Files

Exxon has reported record earnings for the third quarter of this year.

Well, DUH! Our gas prices have doubled in recent months and show no signs whatsoever of returning to a reasonable rate in the foreseeable future. My little economy car is now costing me the whopping sum of $40 per week to operate, with my two requisite trips to Raleigh; formerly I could do two trips and a little local driving on $25.

They’ve got us over the proverbial barrel — the oil barrel, that is. What can ordinary citizens do that the Government won’t?

I mean, I love President Bush — I voted for the man, and I fully support him on the war on terror; he told us September 11, 2001, exactly what we’d be facing, and he was right. But his economic policies are killing me — !

Yes, it’s my birthday —

Forty-Eight today. As my ex-brother-in-law Al would say, “I’m forty-eight years old, I’ll soon be fifty!” Thanks, Linda! for the birthday wishes. I don’t have any expectations for today, but I have plans for tomorrow. I’m ushering for a Chamber Choir concert tomorrow and going out for dinner and laughter with friends before and after. And yesterday I treated myself to a makeover at one of our local department stores. Yum!


One Hundred Posts. I never imagined, when Randy got me doing this in late April, just a scant six months ago, that I’d last for a whole ONE HUNDRED posts. I sure as shootin’ never dreamed that anyone other than a few close and ridiculously loyal friends would ever bother reading my blog.

Y’all are fantastic. I don’t have a guest book — how about dropping a comment in lieu of signing the traditional guest book?

I’ve got WCPE playing in the background — wine and hors d’ouvres on the table. Make yourself at home.

And God bless you all!

Chorale News and Reflections

I just got off the phone from ordering my chorale outfit; it’s starting to get more and more real to me that I’m actually singing with this phenomenally wonderful group.

Tuesday night we recorded a demo of a new composition entitled “Here Stands in Honored Glory,” by Donald B. Miller. This is a very nice choral piece based on the inscription of the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetary, and it is going to be marketed, I understand, to be performed at funerals and patriotic events for servicemen, veterans, and others; proceeds from the sale of the sheet music and the CD are going to benefit the widows and orphans of those courageous men and women who have given their lives in the war against terrorism. I’m proud to have been part of this project.

Don and his wife were present Tuesday evening for the recording session, a lovely couple, so warm and gracious. I arrived at our rehearsal venue at the same time they did, so we struck up a conversation before I found out why they were there. Don autographed my copy of the score, and I’ll be framing it … probably next week.

The recording was a lot of fun. We were squeezed like sardines in the sanctuary of the church where we rehearse, and I had the great thrill of sitting right beside the tenor section. Tenors were pouring out of the choir pews and sitting on the floor, right by my feet — ah, bliss! And when we sang, I found it was actually easier for me to hit my pitches with the other voice part beside me. hmmm… I’ll have to think on that one a bit.

The really cool thing was, after each take, the sound man, after a moment of silence, could be heard saying “Wow.” We had a small brass ensemble playing with us, you see, and a tympani — and after the first take he actually had to ask the chorale to back off a bit, we were overpowering the brass! Oh, what a good laugh we all had over that. And the First Trumpet stood up and said, “Impossible!” as if he were truly indignant — but of course he was joking with us. It was a lovely experience.

I’ll be posting info about how to order the CD single as soon as it’s available — and I’ll try to figure out how to post a sound file here on the blog, even a short excerpt. Don’t hold your breath, though.

Messiah rehearsals continue apace. The hardest thing for me, so far, is that Al wants to lighten up the melismas a bit by varying the emphasis on certain notes. Ordinarily, 16th notes are counted in a very rigid ONE-ee-And-a-TWO-ee-And-a… But Al wants us … well, to scat the runs! Like a jazz arrangement, almost — YA-da-da-YA-da-da-YA-da… It actually works! The emphasis falls according to the movement of pitch instead of a rigid four-count, and the effect (when we get it right! — you’d be amazed how hard a habit it is to develop, those alternate rhythms!) is to lighten the long runs considerably, making them dance rather than plod.

I’m having a blast! I only wish you could all come and join us!

Okay — This is post #99, I’m going to go now and post my obligatory 100-post party.

Anne Rice finds God?

I’ve never, ever read a work by Anne Rice. As someone prone to “moods” (read: depression), I am far too suggestable to read certain genres of literature. I’ve made a serious point of avoiding the work of Rice, Stephen King, and other wildly popular writers whose characters fall into the demonic or the psychotic.

So it was with great shock and delight I found a news link that says Anne Rice is about to publish her first religious novel. Out of Egypt is a fictionalized/speculative account of the life of Christ as a young boy, and it is said to reflect Rice’s return to the Catholic Church.

According to MSNBC, a series of deep personal crises — including the death of her husband of more than 40 years and her own serious illnesses — has led Rice to rediscover a deeply-rooted Catholic faith of her childhood. She expects an outpouring of outrage from her long-time fans of the vampire and “soft-core S&M” novels she’s written for decades —

I, for one, applaud the change and eagerly await the opportunity to read my first novel by Anne Rice. May God bless her and direct all her steps!


If you love classical music, WCPE is a fantastic listener-supported radio station that offers full internet streaming in a variety of formats. Fortunately, I live near two of their translators, so I can listen just about everywhere I go! — In fact, my car radio is preset: 1: Raleigh 2: Aberdeen 3: Foxfire Village. As I migrate from one signal area to another, I just push buttons.

This week they’re observing the Fall Fund-Raiser, but they’re still playing a lot of great music.

And on Sunday mornings they have several hours of glorious sacred music. It really helps support my mindset as I prepare for Mass.