The Last Word Each Evening …

Quaterly, Anita and I receive the newsletter from Norwegian Cistercians at Tautra. They maintain a web page, simple and appropriately Cisterician. I thought these notes from their February newsletter would inform some recent discussions on music:

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum!

The greeting of the angel Gabriel to Mary was the first words sung at our Maria Concert last October 14, after our chaplain Fr Anthony had blessed our new pipe organ. The concert actually began with the mellow saxophone tones of Tore Ljøkjel and a text on the Annunciation by St Ælred of Rievaulx, imagining that the Virgin Mary was actually reading the prophecy of Isaiah about a virgin conceiving the Son of God, when the archangel appeared to her and said, “Hail, full of grace!”

Four different arrangements of “Ave Maria” were performed by our local Frosta choir, a women’s choir from Trondheim, the nuns, and the saxophonist. Then there were some solo numbers, and more songs honoring Mary were interspersed with several more saxophone melodies and texts from the Cistercian Fathers.

The sisters provide no sound clips I could find, but the saxophonist has a handful of recordings available online, and you can get a sense of his “mellow” tones on this site offering his music for sale.

A recent comment mentioned that nobody joins the Catholic Church because of G&P or Gather. I’d say that newcomers don’t register the parish hymnal in their minds as a factor so much as the quality of the music they sing and hear. There are parishes with great music that use contemporary hymnals. And people are attracted to them.

I strive for a certain eclectic catholicity in my approach to church music. I smiled when I read the Tautra sisters had a saxophonist at the service dedicating their new organ. It’s probably enough to put them off the traditionalist-approved list of women’s communities, but I think it’s delicious.

The organ sounds like a marvel:

Our organ was installed the week before the concert. The builder, Henk Klop from the Netherlands, told us that two weeks before he was to deliver the organ, the barn next to his workshop caught fire. If the firemen had arrived 10 minutes later, we wouldn’t have an organ! The organ is a work of art, with all wood pipes. The case is beech and matches our stalls and benches perfectly. The keys are spruce with ebony overlaid, and bone on the accidentals. The 388 pipes are red cedar with an inlay of pear wood. The wind chest is oak and mahogany; the pedals oak. We are delighted to have this new organ so soon after building the church.

Sadly, I couldn’t find an image of this organ on their site, so here’s the front page of the newsletter:

The program concluded with two settings of “Salve Regina,” the last one being the traditional Cistercian melody sung in Cistercian monasteries all over the world at the end of Compline, the last prayer of the day. We commend ourselves to Mary’s protection during the night. The last word on our lips each evening is “Maria.”

My ideal parish would be one in which all the parish meeting and gatherings would end about 9PM, and everybody would come to the church for daily compline. Even better would be an invitation for families to pray compline at home, or at least sing the Salve Regina as children, then parents go to bed. (Whatever time that would happen to be, of course.)


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to The Last Word Each Evening …

  1. Gavin says:

    My point wasn’t that people will join the Church (presuming they’re not already Catholic or Christian) because of a hymnal, but the music. The Glory & Praise genre doesn’t attract people. The Haugen genre doesn’t attract, and neither does Haas’s. Now, truly modern secular music MAY attract some, but one would wonder if they are truly attracted because of Catholicism or to hear a hip tune. The evidence is against the often made argument that secular styles will attract (more) people, which I’m sure you have never made (and certainly No True Scotsman, errr Progressive, ever made that argument)

    In anticipation of your valid point, would someone converting because of chant or polyphony really be converting to the Church, I’d still say yes. That’s what we read in this article: Salve Regina isn’t just a pretty tune, it’s the music of the Church.

    Anyway, on to more collegial matters, I totally agree with you about the perfect church ending at 9. Instead we have people who don’t want Jesus to get in the way of their day. Although I still think it’s worth it to have the office publicly said even if if it’s just 3 people and the priest. I’ve approached my boss about public compline or vespers several times, but his response is always the same: “no one would come.” And inside I think “I’d come, doesn’t that amount to anything?”

  2. Todd says:

    Gavin, I wouldn’t hold to the same definition of genre. But I do think that contemporary music attracts a lot of people when they shop for parishes. But only when it’s done well.

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