Tu es Petrus

In his earlierpost Jeff gives us a pointer to the PapalMusic YouTube channel, one I discovered a while ago. And fantastic it is too!

I wanted though to pick another piece of music from that channel that I had wished he’d selected.

Imagine this. You are the Pope. You’ve come to England and Scotland on a State as well as pastoral visit. The “Magic Circle” of liberal bishops have put together a prayer vigil in Hyde Park that looks like a combination of televangalist kitsch meets sci-fi movie set with more kum-by-ya than you can wave a pontifical crozier at. Westminster Abbey has pulled out all of the stops and threatens to be the liturgical highlight of the visit. You are saying mass at Westminster Cathedral and you want it to be the exemplar of how the Ordinary Form should be said, you want to make your point to the bishops by example. It has the potential to go quite horribly wrong.

Or does it?

At Westminster now is an ArchBishop, who in spite of his leftist leanings on social teaching is the product of his time as Cardinal Hume’s Auxilliary and has been schooled in the late Cardinal’s appreciation for dignified liturgy. Assisting him is the Administrator of the Cathedral Canon Chris Tuckwell, a former Grenadier Guards officer with an understanding of “occasion” having been involved in state occasions as a soldier. With him is a highly intelligent and orthodox Sub-Administrator Fr Slavomir Witon. The Master of Music, Martin Baker, is a fine musician with an ear for the right music in the right place. In the background of this small group is Msgr Marini the Papal Master of Ceremonies.

A decision was taken, and it was a fine decision. Before the introit would be a motet, Tu es Petrus, and it would have to set the tone for the occasion. There are many fine settings, but it was fitting and proper to commission a new setting. The Cathedral commissioned James MacMillan.

James is a committed, orthodox Catholic. He (in spite of being a world famous composer) conducts his little church choir in Glasgow. He loves this Pope. He understands liturgy, he understands that when the Pope enters the Cathedral, the Mother Church of England that his music must say something about who the Holy Father is. And so he writes his piece. As Fr Z would say, MacMillan “gets it”, he really, really “Gets It!”

11 Replies to “Tu es Petrus”

  1. Well, it's a fine music and maybe was a 'pastoral' decision for the occasion. To me it's rather too dramatic (or theatrical). Remind me of big old movies, like Quo Vadis? Sort of music that accompanies the Roman emperor entering a theatre. I would have appreciated a bit humble, but dignified and quiet music.

  2. What you get is the awe and the majesty befitting the man commissioned by Christ to lead his church, majesty passed to his successors. The awe, the terror of that commission, juxtaposed by the quiet, polyphonic resolution of the piece just after the timpnoy and before it went to the Introit, Dignus est Agnus.

    I thought it was amazing.

  3. Although drastic shift of the fine music can be amazing, I have a reservation for too much of dramatic contrast for the music in Mass. I think this has to be done carefully so not to be overdone.
    The spiritual experience of Gregorian chant is very sublime with the subtle beauty that avoids the extreme of emotional turmoil by its nature of hiring musical concepts that avoid extreme range, volume, tempo…, so the emotion and feelings are naturally moved, not felt as if forced by external elements, which can be appropriate and needed in other places.

    By the way I'm a fan of all your postings. I guess just this one I have a bit of disagreement. Thank you for all your work.

  4. The awe, the terror of that commission, juxtaposed by the quiet, polyphonic resolution of the piece

    Precisely what I heard! "You will suffer" at the beginning, "unsettled" music illustrating 'the gates of Hell', and a gentle, loving, "I will give you the keys"–as if to say "I will love and support you" at the end.

    Marvelous stuff.

  5. Also very Catholic is that there is no attempt byany of those processing in to maintain a unison gait. Anglicans would control the visuals more perfectly.

    It's interesting to hear no complaint about percussion in church…..

  6. I agree. The procession could have been neater. While the sound of music enhances the procession, the visual also enhances the music. Some people in the procession look so detached and casual.(Just a little detail. Don't mean to be critical.)

  7. "Also very Catholic is that there is no attempt byany of those processing in to maintain a unison gait. Anglicans would control the visuals more perfectly."

    Huh. Have you seen the processions at St Peter's Basilica? Even under Marini I, the choreography was nearly always perfect. Far better than any procession with the presiding bishop of the TEC at least.

    When people think of Anglican liturgy they automatically think of Kings College Chapel or Westminster Abbey. Even just popping into St Paul's or Canterbury Cathedral you see a very different, much more relaxed and natural style imo.

    Keith – you forgot to mention in addition to all those people – the Choir of Westminster Cathedral, the finest in the land (the world) for the past 25-30 years at least, who even in the preBXVI days never let their standards slip. It's almost a given, that even without all the people you mention, the choir would still have delivered something spectacular!

  8. We are splitting hairs with this liturgy, which was magnificent, particularly when you think what would have been done even 10 years ago. Surely the programming and performance of the music was the finest heard at any Papal liturgy in decades. And considering the numbers of participants involved in a service such as this, the ceremony was remarkably well-done. Yes, many of the provincial clerics had no idea how to behave in choir, what direction to face, or how to walk. But a minor point considering how much rehearsal was involved to get them to behave with as much Catholic decorum as they did. Remember that most of them assume a Presbyterian arrangement in which they just stand in a clump behind a table and "preside." And surely the MCs involved faced a certain amount of resentment and resistance from the same clergy who felt all if it to be remarkably right-wing.

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