Sunday, October 2, 2011

Singing in Granada

I have writer's block as I try to revise part of my doctoral dissertation. So to be inspired, I decided to take a little trip to the beautiful city of Granada in the south of Spain. This legendary city, made famous by the Muslims, was the last Muslim stronghold to yield to the Reconquista of Ferdinand and Isabel the Catholic. It was certainly amazing to kneel and pray before the tombs of the Reyes Catolicos, and I fondly remembered there Dr Warren Carroll, the founder of Christendom College, my dear alma mater. It was Dr Carroll who set many a young Catholic mind ablaze with the feats of Isabel the Catholic, and I am sure that she is interceding for him as he recently passed away.

But as much as I soaked in the beauty of Granada's famous churches and, of course, the Alhambra, there was one little surprise there which I shall never forget.

In the Palace of Charles V, the entry way is a double elliptical gallery with a stone courtyard in the middle. It is also one of those feats of acoustical engineering where the sound really is just perfect. People made their way wandering to the center of the ellipse, snapping their fingers, clapping, or talking to show the amazing dynamics of this room open to the sky.

I did it. I couldn't help myself. I figured, "None of these people know who I am, and will never see me again, so who cares?" I intoned the Kyrie fons bonitatis from memory, and walked around the entire courtyard. It was so interesting to see how the crowds fell absolutely silent. No one was impressed by my crazy impromptu rendition of this piece (followed by Jesu dulcis memoria), but by the very quality of the sound of the human voice raised to God in prayer.

This is where music, art, architecture and beauty intersect.

Now I wonder two things.

1) when are we going to put together a CMAA pilgrimage to fun acoustical sites and sing a nice Palestrina Mass in the Palace of Charles V in Granada and other fun locations like it?
2) is it so difficult to build churches with this kind of amazing acoustic? Does it take all of the gold from the New World? And of we can do it, where can I find the architects and engineers to make it happen?