Bouguereau’s Angels

Organist Randolph Nichols writes here from time to time on the works of painters inspired by music:

We’ve seen the image countless times on Christmas cards, parish bulletin covers and even coffee mugs, but scarcely give a thought to where, when and by whom it was painted.

Song of the Angels, an oil on canvas measuring 60 x 84 inches, was painted in 1881 by the French artist William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), an artist who exemplifies, as perhaps no other, how sudden change in fashion can mar a seemingly unassailable reputation. He was as well-known and financially successful in the nineteenth-century as Pablo Picasso in the twentieth. Showered with official acclaim, popular with the art-buying public (especially American millionaires), he was also a highly regarded teacher. But towards the end of his life academic painting, i.e., the neoclassicist rendering of mythical and religious tableaux in which he excelled, fell out of favor. Bouguereau’s reputation ebbed and the artist was considered by many as nothing more than a huckster aiming to please the gullible middle-brow. Such an assessment, however, could not be sustained because Bouguereau, though indeed old-school and at odds with his now famous avant-garde peers, was a brilliantly talented draughtsman and manipulator of paint.

After its debut in France Song of the Angels came directly to the United States and years later (1940) was acquired by businessman and art collector Hubert Eaton to grace a private chapel of his business enterprise, Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. (The painting now resides in the Museum at Forest Lawn, framed by the liturgical enclosure that had held it in the chapel.)

Sentimental, yes, but a masterful composition: a mother and child sleep in a wooded setting while a trio of hovering musician angels offer strains of a lullaby left to the viewer’s imagination. The work demonstrates the artist’s uncanny skill at rendering realistic flesh tones and subtle gradations of white, the latter with a luminance more often associated with watercolor. Color and form lead the viewer’s eye from face to face, hand to foot in a life-like yet supernatural scene. You perhaps may not initially notice that the angels and Madonna are modeled on the same face, thought to be that of the artist’s wife Nelly who had passed away four years before this painting was finished (as had their 9-month-old son). This quiet scene therefore is most likely Bouguereau’s lasting tribute to his departed loved ones.

Rev. Joseph T. Nolan (1921-2016)

[Randolph Nichols offers a recollection of the priest and liturgical writer.]

Given a choice, most of us would ask that death come after a fulness of years untouched by diminishment of mind and spirit. Few are granted that wish, but when it happens for others we rejoice. Upon learning this past Monday that my friend and mentor Fr. Joseph T. Nolan, age 95, had returned to God, feelings of thanksgiving triumphed over sadness. Having just read earlier in the day his latest reflection, entitled “Alive in God and for God” from his daily e-mail journal Thoughts for the Journey, I could only marvel how his life’s passion persisted to the very end.

You may have encountered Fr. Nolan’s English translations of Christus Vincit and Ubi Caritas in the St. Pius X Hymnal, texts later retained in Theodore Marier’s Hymns, Psalms and Spiritual Canticles. As a graduate student he had sung in Marier’s schola at St. Paul Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts before becoming a prominent early advocate of liturgical reform who implemented at various parishes in the mid-West, with his bishop’s consent, many changes that would become the most identifiable features of the post-Second Vatican Council rite.

Fr. Nolan had an interesting career before becoming a priest. Winner of the coveted Fulton prize in debate as a student at Boston College, he joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation upon graduation in 1942 and was assigned as an agent in Arkansas. Later he was “invited,” to use his wording, by the FBI to serve as an officer in the navy during World War II. At war’s end he was reassigned to the New York bureau. It was in New York that he met Dorothy Day, an experience that would fuel a desire to become a priest and inform his growth as a theologian. (At the 50th anniversary of his ordination, when asked by a Boston College student why he left the FBI for the priesthood, he replied, “It was easier to get confessions.”) Before solidifying his decision to become a priest, however, he completed a graduate degree in history at Boston College.

Rev. Joseph T. Nolan,
with his mother

I had a long association with Fr. Nolan. After his seminary training at Conception Abbey in Missouri he became a priest in the diocese of Wichita and was assigned as pastor of three small parishes, one of which was in my home town. When I left for college study in the Northeast, years passed without any further contact until he phoned me one evening at my apartment in Winthrop, Massachusetts (which, by coincidence, was Fr. Nolan’s hometown), asking whether I could play carols for an upcoming Christmas Eve Mass. Being a professional classical pianist who had never touched the keys of a pipe organ, I was understandably hesitant. Fr. Nolan would not take no for an answer: “If you can play Beethoven sonatas you can play Christmas carols.” I didn’t know it then, but my life was about to change, radically. Besides providing the impetus to a career in church music, Fr. Nolan would later hire me as a staff writer for Good News, his homiletic service read by priests throughout the English-speaking world, and would be instrumental in my completing the Master of Theological Studies program at Harvard Divinity School. He would later joke, “You shouldn’t have answered the phone!”

Fr. Nolan remained a diocesan parish priest for only 14 years. Given permission to do graduate work in theology at Harvard, he blossomed as a writer, poet, teacher of theology (Boston College) and popular seminar director on liturgy and preaching. He had a special gift: blessed with a mind capable of grasping complex theological concepts, he could express those ideas in direct, eloquent speech understood by all. Another unusual trait, especially for an academic, was his effusive, passionate conviction of the presence of God. When dining with him you knew the conversation could very likely become one-sided. It wasn’t egotism or self-centeredness, but simply a mind and heart on fire. He was irrepressible because he saw God in everything and everyone. His theology, if I dare compress it into one sentence, stressed the fullness of Eternal Life and the Reign of God as alive and active in the present. In other words, be it only a foretaste, we need not wait until death to experience Resurrected life. It is understandable why in so many of Nolan’s writings he credits art and music, capable as they are of transcending the confines of space and time, as confirmation of this fuller living reality. It is also no surprise that two dedicatees of his autobiography, A Life in Liturgy: Rediscovering the Mass, were Theodore Marier and the Rev. Joseph Collins, the pastor of St. Paul Church during the formative years of its famous choir school.

Make no mistake, Fr. Nolan was a true progressive. To him, the old rite didn’t express the theological fulness of Resurrection faith. When at the end of Mass he said, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” he meant all the social engagement and responsibility those words imply. But he was also acutely aware that the post-Vatican II rite fell short, particularly in music, language (oh, how he could groan over hymn texts) and preaching. Being more sympathetic to the old rite, I would suggest to him that his expectations fell short because most priests simply don’t have his skills to bring off the reformed rite as he envisioned it. Undeterred, he would remind me of the old horrors: the auctioneer’s speed often adopted at Mass, the emphasis on guilt at the neglect of God’s love and mercy, not to mention the disregard of Scripture and the presence of Christ in others as components of Real

Presence. Such back and forth exchanges instilled in me an important lesson that one’s love of tradition must never preclude an openness to criticism, self-examination, and growth.

I will greatly miss Fr. Nolan’s intellectual prodding and irrepressible Christian witness. He kept me honest and there is no adequate way to measure the value of such a friend.
[Randolph Nichols is an organist, pianist, and choir director, and sang in the men’s schola at St. Paul Church in Cambridge.]

New publication: two-voice motets by Peter Philips (1560-1628)

Dr. Janet Hunt, FAGO, director of music at St. John Seminary in Boston, writes about her recent work:

The publication of my edition of sacred vocal music by the English composer Peter Philips is the result of a long yet enjoyable work process covering several years.  The new volume, 75 Motets for Two Solo Voices and Organ Continuo from Paradisus Sacris Cantionibus (1628) represents the bulk of an even larger collection of 107 motets last published posthumously in 1641, and is the first time these particular motets have appeared in print since then.  So, how did a harpsichordist/organist from Texas (me) end up editing Philips’ vocal music?

I became acquainted with Philips’ keyboard music while studying harpsichord in college and playing several selections by him found in The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book. This large volume of keyboard music was collected by Sir Francis Tregian (1548-1608), an English Catholic imprisoned during the persecution of Catholics in Elizabethan England.  Several of the composers represented in the FVB were Catholic as well, and as I pursued their individual stories I became fascinated with those who chose to remain in England – William Byrd, for one – and those who fled to the Continent, such as Peter Philips.

Following initial musical training in London, Philips left England in 1582, “pour la foy Catholique” as he later stated.  He travelled to Rome, then to other cities in Italy, Spain and France before arriving in Brussels in 1590.  He entered the service of the Hapsburg Archduke Albert in 1597, and remained a member of the court chapel until his death.  Albert and his wife, Isabella, were sympathetic to recusant English musicians arriving at their court, where sacred music enhanced their frequent liturgies.  Moreover, they were people of great faith who supported public acts of piety in the form of Eucharistic and Marian processions in Brussels, as well as encouraged confraternities of lay people dedicated to the Catholic faith.  Both Brussels and nearby Antwerp had a thriving printing industry, and thus Philips’ compositions were published in the early 1600’s.

Almost four centuries later, I first heard a motet from Paradisus Sacris Cantionibus on a recording of a Belgian vocal ensemble.  Immediately attracted, I searched in vain for the scores, only to find that the group sang from copies they made from the original 1628 partbooks.  Over time, I discovered that Christ Church Library in Oxford, England possessed a complete set of partbooks, and I was able to obtain a microfilm copy, along with permission to prepare the edition.

The result is what I hope will be a welcome addition to a little-known genre, the accompanied small-scale motets of the early 17th century.  These works by composers such as Peter Philips, Felice Anerio, Richard Dering, and Giacomo Finetti, are set for one to four solo voices with organ accompaniment.  They embrace late Renaissance as well as early Baroque compositional traits, by combining occasional moments of imitative polyphony with Italianate expressive and florid solo passages.  The texts are taken from antiphons and responsories for various saints’ days.  Many Eucharistic and Marian-themed motets complete the collections, making them suitable for a variety of liturgical celebrations.

The Philips edition is available for purchase through the website

[Dr. Hunt has graciously allowed us to share a sample motet from the collection, Misericordias Domini.  The text is Psalm 88:1-3, 6; originally for the third nocturn, first psalm at Matins on December 25.]

A practical tip: Using Sibelius 7.5 for Gregorian Chant Organ Accompaniments

[Here’s a practical tip submitted by reader Peter Kwasniewski.  Thanks!  He writes:]

Recently, I had occasion to type up for a friend a set of detailed instructions for using Sibelius 7.5 to prepare a nice-looking score for an organ accompaniment to an English plainchant. This information may be either totally beside the point if you’re not a Sibelius user, or totally superfluous if you’re already a master of it, but my friend, who was a rookie, found it helpful, so I wanted to pass along the written instructions.

[A sample score produced by this procedure is available at this link.]

1) Starting off 

  • a. Launch Sibelius and create a new score: CTRL-N
  • b. Click (once) on “Blank”
  • c. Click on “Change instruments”
  • d. Select “Organ [manuals],” then “Add to Score” and OK.
  • e. Scroll down to Key Signature, select key.
  • f. Enter title for piece.
  • g. Click on “Create.”

2) Document setup

  • a. Press CTRL-D.
  • b. Make sure your unit is inches.
  • c. Enter 0.28 as the Staff size.
  • d. Select “Mirrored” for the margins and enter 0.8, 0.6, 1.0, and 0.8 for the margins, then OK.
  • e. To remove bar numbers, go to “Text” menu, select “Numbering,” then select “No bar numbers.”

3) Creating the framework

  • a. We will use 8th notes as our basic unit, corresponding to the punctum. Determine how many “measures” (as defined by full bars, half bars, or quarter bars) you are going to have in your score and how many 8th notes will be in each of these measures. If you need more measures, press CTRL-B to generate more. NB: Include one extra measure, for the empty space to follow after the end of the chant.
  • b. Enter, for each measure, the needed time signature: ALT-C, T, then the numerator and denominator (e.g., 13/8, 16/8). Point the blue arrow at the measure that needs the time signature and click.

4) Entering the music

  • a. Drag the “keypad” into a convenient location.
  • b. With Voice 1 selected (that’s the blue box at the bottom of the keypad), select the 8th note, and then enter notes, either with the mouse, or using the letters on the keyboard.
  • c. When you have entered the entire melody, go back and beam the groups of notes as you would like them to be. To do this, select a note, then select the third “page” of the keypad (it says “Beams/tremolos” when you hover the cursor over it), and select the appropriate option—e.g., the single note (“No beam” when you hover the cursor over it) will isolate a note by giving it its own flag, while the note with a beam going off to the right only (“Start beam” when you hover over it) will connect an isolated note to its neighbor.
  • d. Now that your melody line looks the way it should, you can enter in the remaining notes—which we will call alto, tenor, and bass for convenience.
  • e. To enter the alto, make sure all objects are cleared (hit ESC will always do this), select Voice 2 from the keypad (it’s the number 2 at the bottom and it will turn green when clicked), select your note value, and enter the notes in the treble clef just as you entered the melody.
  • f. Do the same, in the bass clef, with Voice 1 for the tenor and Voice 2 for the bass.
  • g. You won’t need Voice 3 or Voice 4 unless you intend to have more than 2 independent voices in either stave. If you ever need a chord in the treble or bass staff, you can create chords by inputting a note and then “piling up” notes on top of it using Arabic numerals (e.g., pressing ‘3’ will place a third on top of the note, or pressing ‘5’ a fifth).
  • h. When all the notes have been entered, go back and highlight any note that needs to be tied to a subsequent note, and notes that need to be tied to successive notes, and select Tie from the keypad.
  • i. Highlight all the time signatures and press Delete. This will make them disappear, although the measures will still retain the right number of 8th notes.

5) Adding episemas and quilismas

  • a. To add an episema over one note, highlight the note(s), and from the keypad, select the “tenuto” symbol.
  • b. To add an episema over multiple notes, highlight the first of the notes, press ALT-C, then L, scroll down till you get to the horizontal line, and click on it. Then, grab the highlighted square on its right side, and drag until the line is as long as you want it.
  • c. To add a quilisma, highlight the note over which it is to appear, press Z, and choose the Inverted mordent.

6) Formatting barlines

  • a. Highlight the full bars and convert them into short bars or ticks, as needed. To do this, highlight a given bar (or bars), go to the menu “Notations,” click on “Barline,” and select the kind you need.
  • b. Highlight the very last barline and change it to an “Invisible” barline. If the program spontaneously creates another bar at the end, just highlight it and delete it, and you should end up with a final bar without a barline.
  • c. Highlight the second-to-last barline and change it to a “Double” barline.
  • d. To make the final measure wider, click in the middle of the invisible bar, and, while still holding down the mouse button, drag the mouse rightwards. This will increase the width of the final measure and decrease the width of the preceding measure(s). (Of course, dragging the mouse leftwards will do the opposite.)
  • e. If you want to indent the first system, select the bar line furthest to the left, and drag with the mouse rightwards.
  • f. NB: You can split a bar in the middle by selecting the note where you’d like the split to take place and then choosing, from the Home menu, the Split option, then click OK.

7) Entering the words

  • a. Highlight the note where you wish to begin entering text.
  • b. Go to “Text” menu, select “Lyrics,” then “Lyrics above staff.” 
  • c. You will see a blinking cursor above the note. Begin typing in the text. Use hyphens to separate syllables and the space bar to skip over notes.
  • d. To include a mode number at the start of the antiphon, type in the number and period, then CTRL-SPACE, followed by the first syllable of text. (This will keep the mode number and first syllable together rather than treating the number as if it was its own syllable.)
  • e. When you need an asterisk after a syllable, do the same: [syllable], CTRL-SPACE, [asterisk], then SPACE and the rest of the words.

8) Putting in a number for the chant

  • a. If you need to give the chant a number because it’s part of a series of chants, double-click the instrument title on the left (“Organ”) and backspace to delete the instrument name.
  • b. Right click with the mouse on any blank spot on the music score. This will pull up a menu.
  • c. In the menu, hover the cursor over “Text.”
  • d. Move the cursor rightwards, over “Other Staff Text.”
  • e. Move the cursor over “Plain text” and click.
  • f. The arrow will turn blue. Point it to any blank spot near where you want the number to appear.
  • g. Type the number, followed by a period, and press ESC to fix the number in place.
  • h. While leaving the number in blue, press CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-T to get the Styles menu.
  • i. It should already have “Plain text” highlighted on the list, but if not, scroll down and select “Plain text.”
  • j. Then click on “Edit” (or press ALT-E).
  • k. There are four boxes with numbers next to “Size in score” and “Size in parts.” Highlight the upper left of these numbers and change to desired point size (let’s say, 18 point).
  • l. Then click “OK” or press ENTER.
  • m. Then click “Close” or press ENTER.
  • n. Using your mouse, move the number wherever you want it on the page.
  • o. To indent the top system, click on the very barline prior to the clefs and, while holding the mouse button, drag rightwards.
  • p. Once you have two systems on the page, you’ll need to highlight the abbreviated instrument name (“Org.”) and simply delete it.

Semana Santa in Popayán: the Triduum

Priest and servers, in a Good Friday procession in Popayán

[J. Richard Haefer completes his guest columns about a Holy Week visit to Colombia and to the Festival of Religious Music at Popayán:]

As I was not writing during the Triduum and, after Easter, we took a trip into the heart of the Andes, to the Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Las Lajas, by narrow roads with deep ravines on one or both sides, this last report will reach you in the Easter season.

The concerts of Holy Thursday and Friday noon were strictly secular: strange, since they are the most sacred days of the week. Thursday noon saw a presentation of music for flute and piano by the Barcelona flautist Patricia de No accompanied by Cristina Casale from England (the online information is incorrect), including works by C. P. E. Bach (1714-1788), François Poulenc (1899-1963), the Hungarian Franz Doppler (1821-1883) and twentieth-century composers Gary Shocker (U.S.A., b. 1959), Astor Piazolla (Argentina, 1821-1992) and Francois Borne (Spain, 1840-1920).

The evening concert featured one of five professional orchestras of Colombia: Orquesta Sinfónica de EAFIT (consisting of faculty and students from EAFIT university in Medellin and organized in 2000) and conducted by Cecilia Espinosa of Wednesday’s Coro de Cámara “Arcadia”. The opening overture by Emil von Rezncek (1860-1945) was quite delightful and the highlight of the program. Astor Piazzolla’s “Estacione Porteñas” is certainly a candidate for a concert of “disaster pieces of music.” Several sections ended with quotes from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and one section featured the cellos playing the ostinato from Pachelbel’s Canon in D. The violin soloist, Oksana Solovieva, born in Russia but raised in the West, did a splendid performance of the solo parts despite the mundane nature of the composition. With so many excellent contemporary Latin American composers it is too bad this trite piece was chosen. Sibelius’ Symphony number 2 (Op. 43) concluded the concert.

At noon on Holy Friday the ensemble Macondo Chamber Players (string quintet, piano and oboe) presented works by Mozart, Borodin, Rachmaninoff, and Brahms. While interesting, none would qualify for use in any religious situation.

On Friday evening the Orquesta Sinfónica de EAFIT, along with the Coros de Cámara de Popayán, Arcadia, and Los Gatos presented Brahms’ German Requiem, Op. 45. A wonderful balance between choruses and the low strings opened the composition but soon the full orchestra overpowered the singers, as happens with many orchestra conductors. As with the previous evening and the concert by Arcadia, the overall sound was flat and unchanging throughout this wonderful composition. The highlight was the solo by baritone Valeriano Lanchas and the soprano solo by local singer Julie Fernández was also well done.

As for the festival as a whole, it was certainly successful. The audience for nearly every concert was full, with admission free except for the last two evenings. With the exception of the latter, the audience was a mix of townsfolk and tourists with many locals attending all the free programs. It was interesting to see the appreciation for music in general as nary a program was left behind, unlike at concerts in the U.S., where programs are scattered on the floor of the concert hall.  As the director of the festival (Dra. Stella Dupont) refused my request for an interview, I have no idea how the groups were chosen or any details of the arrangements. While the organizers tried to obtain advance information about the concerts and performers, it is likely that some were booked at the last minute, and the program booklet was filled with editorial errors. I assume that no restrictions were imposed as regards repertoire, though I would have preferred to have at least some religious music on every concert.

I will complete this report by mentioning a little about the state of church music in Colombia and about the second reason I chose to be in Popayán during Holy Week.

To date I have witnessed church music in Colombia only in Bogotá and Popayán, and I am sorry to report that it is as dismal as in most Spanish-speaking parishes in the United States: multiple guitar players and some percussion, with happy-clappy songs, clapping often encouraged by the priests (and, of course, altar girls). Brethren, we have a long way to come to return the dignity of the Mass to its proper state.

Our Lady of Sorrows, in the
Good Friday night procession

As to Holy Week in Popayán: as in many cities in Spain (especially in Castile, León, Murcia, and Andalusia), in Colombia in the cities of Pamplona, Monpox, and especially Popayán, nightly processions are held throughout Holy Week. Carried in the processions are life-size statues and groups of statues arranged in biblical Passion scenes, each paso carried by eight Cargueros, all men. The processions last up to four hours and demand much endurance, especially since some of the streets are hilly. In Popayán family groups support each paso, while in Spain the pasos are organized by brotherhoods, and one or two dozen men carry the larger Spanish pasos.

Each day is devoted to a particular topic: Friday of Passion Week, “Friday of Sorrows;” Palm Sunday, the Passion; Tuesday of Holy Week, Our Lady of Sorrows; Wednesday, the Love of Jesus; Thursday, “Our Lord of the True Cross”; Friday, the “Funeral of Christ”; and Saturday, “Jesus Christ Resurrected.” Appropriate statues and scenes illustrate each procession, numbering from seven to seventeen pasos.

Also included in each procession are bands and choruses, as well as the Archbishop of Popayán, priests from each of the churches from which the different processions start, and various dignitaries (including local members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem). Dies Irae on Friday, and two choruses even sang traditional Latin hymns. The bands marched at a pace of about 30 beats per minute and the Cargueras stopped about every half-block to rest the pasos, weighing over 400 pounds each. In a future paper I will be discussing the religious-commercial-patrimonial “conflict” of the modern Popayán Holy Week processions, with input from interviews with various people involved with the events.

In the earlier processions, the bands played secular music — the large drum sections could be heard five to ten blocks away — while during the Triduum Spanish religious songs were played, as well as the

If you have enjoyed these reports or would like more information, please feel free to contact me.

[Thanks to Dr. Haefer (rhaefer at for the guest contributions. — Ed.]

Semana Santa in Popayán: Wednesday of Holy Week

[We continue J. Richard Haefer’s account of this year’s Festival de Música Religiosa de Popayán.]

The Coro de Cámera ‘Arcadia’, a semi-professional chorus from Medellín, presented a concert of predominantly 20th-century religious music. Due to the variety of contemporary vocal expressions and harmonies the works are best suited for concert performance and not for church usage. The opening Kyrie by the Argentinean composer Alberto Balzanelli (b. 1941) utilized Sprechstimme, whispers, shouts, and dissonant harmonies in seconds and constant interaction of all of these elements. A hugh dynamic climax ended the Christe section. The word Kyrie was probably repeated more than a hundred times. Though not suitable for Mass it was a very interesting piece and very well presented. Some of his many contemporary religious compositions can be heard on YouTube.

The exact identity of the composer of the Salve Regina was unclear from the program but I believe it to be the Venezuelan César Alejandro Carrillo and not the Puerto Rican Carlos Carillo. Both have written contemporary religious music as did the Mexican Julio Carrillo who composed for more than 32 divisions of the octave. The Salve Regina provided a more pleasant melody than that of Balzanelli, however, alternating modal and tonal harmonies with sections of much dissonance. Czech Composer L. Zedneck’s [Zdněk?] Parabolas Salomonis (text based on Venerable Bede’s writings) may be characterized as very dissonant with much “shouting” of the text. Similar to the previous was Javier Busto Sagrado’s O Magnum Mysterium with male Sprechstimme over dissonant oohs and hums of the ladies ending with extremely loud dynamics. Busto is a prolific composer of religious music for various voicings. Arcadia Director Cecilia Espinosa’s forte is the presentation of contemporary music but unfortunately the overall sound seemed the same with predominant blend problems in the soprano section.

The latter half of the concert provided a nice change of harmonies beginning with Bruckner’s motet Os justi (1879) based on the Gradual of the Commune Doctorum. (Vulgate, Ps. 36). The choir struggled with the Lydian mode but was able to recover. The motet ends with a short Alleluia sung in unison and repeated. Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah (a text for Holy Thursday) was written as two motets. The choir performed both the Aleph and Beth sections, the latter a nice predominantly homorhythmic section, composed in five voice parts performed as SATTB though they lacked any subtlety and again the sopranos dominated the sound. Victoria’s Sancta Maria sucurre miseria was a much better presentation, though there were intonation problems in many of the melismas. The choir appeared tired throughout the second half of the program. O vos omnes by the Catalan Pau Casals (1876-1973) began with two-voice male imitative lines, gradually adding the alto and soprano lines to moderately modern harmonies, thus ending the religious works.

Secular compositions by F. Ochoa (“Rising Sun”), V. Agudelo (Ensalada de verdugas, a silly song sung in chef hats and aprons with spoons and bowls for rhythm instruments), and A. Gallo (Invierno) concluded the program. Interspersed was a nice villancico by J. de Aroujo, Los Coflades de la Estleya.

Written for two soloists and chorus, the Coro performed it with baroque guitar accompaniment and drum and hand clapping. The performance was the highlight of the program for me. While contemporary music appears to be the emphasis of the conductor and chorus, their overall sound was monotonous despite the variety of vocal techniques in the music.

One of the best performances of the Festival de Música Religiosa de Popayán occurred at 5PM in the theatre. The brilliant Colombian baritone Valeriano Lanchas performed the complete Schubert’s Der Winterreise. Not religious, but spectacular! [Here he performs Verdi’s Confutatis.]

No religious music for Holy Thursday’s concerts, but perhaps I will write more about the Processions and the music accompanying them.

Semana Santa in Popayán: 4. Tuesday of Holy Week

[Professor emeritus J. Richard Haefer continues his letters from the Festival of Religious Music in Popayán, Colombia.]

What a marvelous day for traditional Catholic music and Baroque music in general. Syntagma Musicum, a professional ensemble from Costa Rica, presented the noontime concert. All of the members except two are faculty at the University of Costa Rica and the flautist and oboist perform in the San José symphony. Baroque flute and oboe and a natural 4’ trumpet were used though the other instruments were modern. The concert consisted of several trio sonatas by Purcell, Loeillet, de la Guerre, and Mancini any of which would be suitable as special music before or after Mass. Of vocal interest were the several villancicos.

Ausente del alma mía by the New Spain Antiguan (today Guatemala) Rafael Antonio Castellanos (1727-1791) is a villancico for the Ascension for two violins, voice and continuo. Doctor María Clara Vargas Cullell, the director of the ensemble, performed on the harpsichord and a bassoon added the bass to the continuo. They chose to add castanets and tambourine as percussion, acceptable for the style of the times but for paraliturgical use (I would not add the percussion in church). The text is predominantly Spanish but with several africanisms. The syncopated style of the villancicos was well done. Castellanos was a prolific composer of villancicos and sacred compositions in Latin text and many are available in recordings today.

Three additional villancicos were performed in the same style: Alto mis gitanas (anonymous from the Cathedral Archive in Bogotá), Niño mio by José Francisco Velázquez (active in Caracas 1755-1805), and Atención a la fragua amorosa (anonymous, Ecuador, New Granada, 17th century). The first two are religious in nature, both for the birth of Our Lord while the latter is secular. The gitanas refers to the “Guitana” of the 16th chronicle of Juan de Castellanos, a character who is cruelly evil against all things or people who are good. The villancico text asks for Our Savior to free the people from the “Evil One,” and from the evil caciques in New Spain. The piece was found in the Archivo Musical de Chiquitos in Bolivia (Nueva Granada). Atención, also called a tonadilla, speaks of the meeting of lovers.

The motet Deus Meus by Francisco Antonio Godoy (late 18th century) was arranged for the entire ensemble including a small marimba (instead of the natural trumpet). The original was found in he archive in Antigua. Ignacio [de] Jerusalem (1710-1769)  was one of the most important composers in 18th century Mexico City. Although recruited to lead the music at the Coliseo de México he was soon recruited to provide compositions for the Cathedral but many of the priests resisted the modernity of his music. Finally in 1750 he was appointed Maestro de Capilla. Cherubes y pastores is an aria for the nativity season. Among the secular music performed was a Costa Rican Indian dance tune promising service to the Santo Cristo de Esquipulas, the crucified Christ depicted in a renowned image in Guatemala.   (Videos of the ensemble from a festival of early music are here.)

The five p.m. concert by the German ensemble Calmus (four men and one woman) provided an excellent presentation of Baroque music by German composers. All with German text (unsuitable for the Latin mass), the theme of the program was centered on Vulgate Psalm 116.The concert per se was by far the best of the series with the expected Germanic precision and control of all elements of the music. The texts were clearly understood and the intonation impeccable. The blend between soprano, countertenor, two tenors and bass provided a soothing sound. The only disappointment was the opening Canto Gregoriano, Dilexi quoniam audies Domine (Ps 116) that was sung on a psalm tone as an entrance procession. The mixture of male and female voices was most disturbing to a traditionalist.

Waiting now (11:00 PM) for the Procession to reach our hotel. It left the church of San Augustin some three hours ago.

Semana Santa in Popayán: 3. Monday of Holy Week

[J. Richard Haefer reports on the Festival de Música Religiosa in Popayán, Colombia:]

Popayán is one of Colombia’s oldest Colonial cities founded in 1537 by Sebastián Belalcazár and is located on the way between Bogotá (a one hour flight to the East) and Quito (about 20 hours by road to the Southwest). An important religious and cultural city (the university was founded in 1827) Popayán is today a curious mixture of Indito, Mestizo, and Hispanic culture and lifeways.

Monday of Holy Week featured the Misa del Cargueros. The cargueros are the men who carry the large palios or platforms with the life size statues and scenarios during the nighttime processions. It takes eight strong men to carry each platform that is about six feet by eight feet in size, many with three or four life-size statues. The Mass was prayed in honor for those who had died since last year and to honor those with up to fifty years of service.

At noon in the rebuilt 18th-century style church of San José with an audience of more than 150 the choir with the funny name “Las Gatos — Coro” (“Cats Choir“) presented a stunning concert of sacred motets from the 16th and early 17th centuries. Director Félix Córdoba Galvis showed a clear understanding of Renaissance motet style conducting the mixed choir of thirteen singers in an aesthetically pleasing presentation. Professor Córdoba from Cali, has a very relaxed conducting style but with an obvious control over the choir exhibiting carefully measured dynamics and tempi.

Of the fourteen motets (complete list follows at end) all would be suitable for use at a Mass. Most were “old war-horses” such as Lasso’s Super flumina Babylonis and Palestrina’s O bone Jesu and Sicut cervus, and most were for four part voices, though two were @5 with an SSATB chorus. Others such as Victoria’s Vere languores and O lux et decus Hispanie are less well known. Purists (or priests) might object to the Palestrina Haec Dies at the Gradual of the Mass for Easter but it is a wonderful composition.

The blend of the group was excellent for the most part, though frequently one soprano voice “stuck out” due to her vocal quality. Contrasts between homorhythmic sections and the contrapuntal points of imitation represented the style nicely and the choir managed the modal harmonies with little trouble.

Presented chronologically, the motets well represented the sacred music of the Renaissance from Lasso to Victoria. With the exception of the Franco-Flemish Rolando de Lassus (as Orlando di Lasso he wrote in the Italian style) and Francisco Guerrero and Tomas Luis de Victoria, the composers were all Italian though the latter represent the best of Spanish Renaissance music.

The program concluded with two secular villancicos by Manuel Machado and two madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi. One must carefully check the texts of villancicos to determine if they are secular or religious in nature. Some villancico texts may seem on the surface to be secular but they may well have been used for para-liturgical celebrations. More about that tomorrow, as we will hear more villancicos then. Some villancicos were also used in Colonial times to replace Responses at Matins for particular feasts. These two, however, are definitely secular compositions.

Machado was born and trained in Lisbon but moved to Madrid where his father was harpist at the Royal Chapel. In 1639 he became a musician at the palace of Felipe IV for the rest of his life. Although he wrote several sacred compositions, he is best known for his secular cantigas (@3 or 4) and villancicos.

Monteverdi’s two madrigals appeared to come as a shock to the audience with his harsh dissonances contrasting with the smooth, readily resolved dissonances of the rest of the program. However, to a musician who loves Monteverdi they were a pleasant ending to an excellent concert.

The evening concert was strictly secular music for a group of ten violas and an actress (with a pedagogical aspect suitable better for elementary school children). However, tomorrow promises to be another day of excellent religious, if not sacred, music.

List of compositions performed:
Orlando di Lasso: Super flumina Babylonis
Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina: O bone Iesu, Sicut cervus, Haec Dies, Adoramus te
Felice Anerio: Ave Maris Stella
Francisco Guerrero: Ave Virgo Sanctissima
Tomas Luis de Victoria: Vere languores, O lux et decus Hispanie
Tomas Luis de Victoria: O quam gloriosum, Popule meus, Estate forte in velo, Iesu dulcis memoria, Gaude Maria Virgo
Manuel Machado: Bien podeis corazón, [O]Escurece las montañas
Claudio Monteverdi: Lasciate mi moriré, Ecce mormorar fonde

Semana Santa in Popayán: 2. Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday)

[J. Richard Haefer continues his observations on the Festival de Música Religiosa in Popayán, Colombia:]

In one of Colombia’s most provincial towns we are delighted to find a marvelous theatre, beautifully decorated with four balconies and excellent acoustics. The Teatro Municipal Guillermo Valencia is home to the Festival de Música Religiosa de Popayán, for the last 52 years a “supplement” to the 456-year old Processions of Semana Santa. While the latter activity is what attracts hundreds of people to Popayán each Holy Week, any cultured person would be happy to attend the two concerts held daily in the town.

On Palm Sunday the first of the twice-daily concerts featured a youth orchestra from the city of Cali on the opposite side of the state of Cauca. Unfortunately the group presented a less than auspicious start to the festival, though I will say nothing more as their entire repertory was secular music. After an couple of hours of local cuisine (marvelous papa relleno, empanada con ají de maní, jugo de curuba) and a tour of the beautiful house of the famous Colombian poet Guillermo León Valencia Castillo (1873-1943), we returned to the theatre named for him to be delighted by a concert featuring the local University of Cauca Orchestra, the Coro Cámara de Popayán (Popayan Chamber Choir), and guest soloists, with every seat in the house filled. An interesting Catholic aside is the fact that Guillermo’s parents added his second name, León, in honor of Pope Leo XIII who became Pope in 1878, a tradition continued with his son, Guillermo León Valencia Muñoz who became president of Colombia in 1962.

After an hour of Rossini and Mozart (an early piano concerto), the second half of the concert featured Mozart’s “Coronation” Mass. I leave it to each individual to decide if this is “sacred” music or “religious” music, suggesting that one keep in mind what Pope St Pius X says about multiple text repetitions in his 1903 motu proprio, especially the repeated Benedictus. I have heard it performed many times as the Ordinary of the Mass, but only for very important occasions. In this concert presentation, as is often the case in concerts, too large an orchestra often obscured the text. If you choose to use this piece in a Mass, be sure to have an appropriate Mozartean size (or even smaller) orchestra. Quality soloists are necessary, especially in the Kyrie, the fugal Amen of the Gloria, and the wonderful Et incarnatus est quartet of the Credo. The soprano solo in the Agnus requires an excellent singer. Unfortunately the soloists in Popayán did not perform as well as expected. One should also keep in mind tempo considerations as a concert presentation requires some different tempi than those used at the Mass.

The local Coro de Cámera de Popayán was founded in 1967 by Maestra Stella Dupont, a native music educator and director of the entire music festival. The thirty members of the chorus are amateurs but performed with precision the moderately difficult mass. It is a tribute to the love of music in this provincial town to find such a fine chorus. They have performed throughout Central and South America and sang at the Mass when Pope Juan Pablo II visited Popayán in 1986. At that time the local cathedral was still in partial ruins following the 1983 earthquake. Interesting is the fact that the earthquake during Holy Week did not stop the Processions as the statues were carried through the rubble of the city.

Semana Santa in Popayán: 1. Looking ahead to the festival

(The Chant Café welcomes J. Richard Haefer, professor emeritus of music, Arizona State University, for a series of articles. This week, Dr. Haefer is writing to us from Popayán, Colombia, where he is observing Holy Week and attending the 52nd year of the Festival de Música Religiosa.

Here he gives us some background on the event.)

For centuries Holy Mother Church has used and encouraged drama as a means of catechizing the people. Witness the recitation of the Rosary and the Via Crucis known to nearly all Catholics, though today rarely presented in dramatic fashion. Less well known are the mystery or miracle plays prevalent in the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, and still practiced in many out-reaches of Catholic missionary territory. Musicians would know the “Play of Daniel” with its monophonic melodies, and Catholics in the Southwest of the United States may have participated in Los Pastorelas or Las Posadas (the latter encouraged by the Knights of Columbus throughout the U.S., though with little musical information). Also known in the Southwest and in northern Mexico are the Lenten festivities of the Yaqui and Mayo (not Maya) Indians where members of the cults of Phariseos and Chapayacas make promises or vows such as not speaking during the 40 days of Lent, as an offering of penance to Our Lord.

All of the dramas mentioned above and more owe their origin in the New World to the Hispanic missionaries of the 15th – 19th centuries. Such is Semana Santa in Popayán. The Holy Week processions and celebrations in Spanish cities such as Seville, Salamanca and Murcia are well known, featuring large floats of statues organized by fraternities portraying Passion Week in the life of Christ and offered as a penance each year. The priests who accompanied the Conquistadors and later colonizers brought this tradition to the New World which continue in many locations in one form or another. The town of Popayán in southwestern Colombia has presented the tradition of religious processions for more than 450 years. As the most developed of Holy Week activities in Colombia, the festivities were added to the UNESCO list of Intangible World Heritage in 2009.

Some five decades ago a festival of religious music was added to the Holy Week

The Teatro Guillermo León Valencia in
Popayán (credit: Telepacifico)

celebrations in Popayán, now one of the longest continual festivals of religious music. In the next few days I will review some of the musical activities of that festival for the readers of The Chant Café.

Perhaps this is an opportunity for us to reflect on the difference between “sacred” music and “religious” music. Holy Mother Church has given us not only distinct criteria to define such music, but also several centuries of examples in the treasury of Catholic sacred music, which unfortunately have been forgotten by most. There exist, however, many examples of religious music appropriate for concerts during Holy Week, which although not “sacred” might direct our thoughts and hearts to the Passion of Our Lord: for example, the music of Bach comes to mind. We will see in the next few days what Popayán has to offer.

One final thought for today refers to the music of the processions. Though not part of the music festival per se, it might be that the alabados and alabanzas sung during the processions may prove to be the most “sacred” music of the overall festivities.  The procession of last night, Viernes de Dolores (Friday of Sorrows), had only secular music, as two local bands led and concluded the procession that featured ten beautiful “pasos” with life-size statues, each carried on the shoulders of eight young men.     The religious significance of each Holy Week procession, the statues, and other elements, such as the flowers featured on each paso, indicate that more than 450 years of visual catechism has successfully developed a Catholic culture within this part of Hispanic America.