Monday, December 24, 2012

Midnight Mass at St. Peter's

Tonight I was very fortunate to be able to attend Midnight Mass at St. Peter's Basilica. It was exceedingly beautiful. Here is the libretto. The music was wonderful, with the Missa cum iubilo, and with the proper Entrance and Communion chants marked for the Schola and the people. And I would argue that this is exactly right. Whether or not congregations have historically been expected to sing the quite simple Entrance and Communion antiphons, the fact is, we have a literate and capable society. If everybody has to be able to adjust to Word 2007, then for goodness' sake we can certainly all learn to read square notes. These antiphons are repeated several times over the course of a procession in a large church, and can become familiar in one Mass without unduly distracting from the procession itself.

The chants, I believe, are meant to become part of memory. They are meant to stay with us through the week, breaking through the world's chatter, recalling us to the last Sunday or the last great Feast. And songs stay in the memories of those who sing them.

There was marvelous polyphony tonight, and a beautiful brass ensemble in the rear balcony. The overhead bells rang. It was a wonderful overload, an abundance of sound.

The musical high points for me were the solo voices, one in the treble range, and three adult male voices, singing the Christmas Proclamation, the Gradual (!), and the Gospel.