In the right sidebar of this site, there is a list of must-read articles, and among them is “Towards the Future – The Singing of the Mass” by Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth. This brilliant speech put in words what many of us had intuited for a very long time. The language is diplomatic, the message very precise, and the argument at once clever and pastoral. His message concerns the role of music at Mass, which isn’t about entertainment or showcasing but rather about giving flight to the language of prayer that is the liturgy itself.
Taken seriously, this message would amount to dramatic shift in the Sunday praxis of nearly every parish in the English-speaking world. And so this speech – which he wisely released into the commons – has become something of a model going forward as we cross into another reform with the Third Edition of the Roman Missal.
Here too, Msgr. Wadsworth has played a huge role as head of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy – and this role has been essential. He has been a great friend to people on all sides of the current liturgical divide, showing himself to be a master of the liturgical arts but also a great intellectual and diplomat as well. As an observer from the outside, it strikes me that his role has been to make possible what many people (I’m included here) thought was probably impossible. For this reason alone, he enters into the annals of Church history.
He is a priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster in the United Kingdom as well as an accomplished musician. His first degree was in music (majoring in voice and piano). After graduate studies in choral conducting and piano accompaniment at Trinity College London and the Royal Academy of Music, he trained as a répétiteur with English National Opera. In 1985, he was awarded the coveted Ricordi Prize for Choral Conducting. As a singer, he has performed extensively and has recorded as a soloist with the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge under the direction of the late Dr Mary Berry, the person who, more than anyone else in the whole of the UK, served as a bridge for Gregorian chant to cross between the preconcilar and postconcilar periods.
Msgr. Wadsworth holds graduate degrees in Italian from the University of London and Theology from the Pontifical University of Maynooth. Ordained in 1990, he has had a wide range of pastoral experience in parishes, schools, universities and hospitals. A former professor of Ecclesiastical Latin and New Testament Greek at the Westminster Diocesan Seminary, he has also taught Italian at college and university level. From 1998-2009, he was full-time chaplain to Harrow School where he also collaborated on a number of performance and recording projects in choral music and music theater. His published research is in relation to Dante, Marian studies, and the history of liturgical translations in English since the Second Vatican Council.
In recent years, he has traveled extensively, directing a number of seminars for priests concentrating on the ars celebrandi in both forms of the Roman Rite. He was appointed Executive Director of ICEL in Fall 2009 and currently resides in Washington DC where the Commission’s Secretariat is based. He is in demand as a speaker and has lectured and conducted workshops on the implementation of the new translation of the Roman Missal both throughout the United States and in England, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Canada, France and Italy.
I should also mention that it has been during Msgr. Wadsworth tenure that ICEL has taken a new progressive direction in using technology to distribute music of the Roman Missal. All the music from the Missal is now posted online and has been for the full year leading to implementation – something that was nearly unthinkable five years ago. This is a dramatic and bold move on the part of ICEL, one that has earned ICEL praise from musicians all over the world. This giant step has prepared the way for chant to regained its first place at the liturgy, making the dreams of several generations of musicians seem realizable. For this, and for whatever role he played in taking this step, he has earned the gratitude of everyone who loves sacred music, and solemnity and beauty in liturgy.
At the Sacred Music Colloquium, he will speak on the new Missal and work with attendees on methods and approaches for implemented the musical side of the changes implied by the Missal.