|Wassim Sarweh plays and conducts from the loft.|
Wassim's singers are all first rate, and his approach to playing the organ was like nothing I've heard before in this context. Forget nostalgia and dated sentimentalism This is something completed different. The celebrant's voice is clear and his Latin diction is perfect. The singing is as precise as it is effervescent. If you attend on the right day, you can even hear the Gradual chant sung in organum with middle eastern musical accents.
Many people know that I'm no fan of accompanied chant, but Wassim took an approach that was enough to make me a new believer at least as regards the people's chants. He didn't use organ on the Mass propers -- all sung from the Graduale Romanum - but rather on the ordinary of the Mass and the credo in particular, since the rest of the Mass ordinary was sung according to a setting by Orlando di Lasso.
|Wassim Sarweh with his books|
I asked Wassim where he found such an amazing version. I should have known: he wrote it himself. It is not published. It should be. It should also be on youtube. It would be a revelation for many.
Wassim has an interesting life and history. He immigrated from Syria as a young man, and he fell in love with music, studying it formally for a good part of his life. He is a wonderful singer with a brilliant tenor voice that is capable of singing most alto parts it full voice, which he uses to read any chant in the Gradual right there on the spot. His organ playing is not romantic (there is no "19th century" in any aspect of this liturgical event) but edgy in medieval sort of way. It is confident and vigorous. Incredibly, he is not actually a full-time musician but rather a banker.
I'm equally impressed by the support community that has done so much to make this a wonderful place. The pastor is Fr. Peter Hrytsyk and he is clearly the driving force. But the community is otherwise packed with talent. You know the giant book of sung readings for the extraordinary form? It originated right here with the work of Mr. Michel Ozorak.
It was a great privilege for me and for Arlene Oost-Zinner to sing with the choir on the Sunday when we happened to be there following a parish workshop in Lansing, Michigan. I can't imagine what it would be like to have access to such a glorious liturgical event week after week. If you live anywhere near this parish, it is worth a drive just to see what is possible. More than any "old Mass" I've attended, this convinced me that this really could be the Mass of the future.
Congratulations to everyone involved!