BOOST FOR CATHOLIC PARISH MUSIC
25 August 2011
The first anniversary of the beatification of the Blessed John Henry Newman (1801-90) is marked on 17 September with the inauguration of a new Institute for Liturgical Music (ILM). The venture is the brainchild of the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory in association with the Maryvale Institute under the joint patronage of Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham and Catholic composer James MacMillan.
The Institute will provide a foundation in music and doctrine to underpin the Sunday liturgy in parishes. Its programme will initially consist of weekend events designed to promote the music associated with the new translation of the Mass which will come into effect at Advent. Sessions will include practical instruction for laity and clergy on singing the Mass, including the J.H. Newman Pilgrim Mass, and the historical background to church music.
Music in the Roman Catholic Church came under scrutiny following a row which erupted in public over the provision of music for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK last autumn: James MacMillan, commissioned at short notice to provide a Mass setting, was criticised by an ad hoc church committee for providing music it deemed too technically demanding – a charge which the composer vehemently rejected. The row prompted a timely public debate on the nature and quality of music in Catholic churches.
The ILM’s musical director, Fr Guy Nicholls, told C&O: ‘When John Henry Newman became a Catholic in 1845, he founded the Oratory of St Philip as the perfect model for the fulfilment of his own hopes for creating a community of priests to work together in a variety of pastoral arenas: liturgy, education, welfare, study and writing. Not least of these was the provision of good music for the liturgy, which was no easy achievement in 19th-century England.’
The Institute’s teaching will re-emphasise the importance and relevance of Gregorian chant – a feature of the Second Vatican Council’s discourse on music, and which many believe fell out of use due to the advance of worship in the vernacular. It also chimes with the present Pope’s desire to see the liturgy renewed by a recovery of the sense of its intrinsic sacredness, to be achieved by, among other things, singing or chanting. The Institute will bring into use the Graduale Parvum – a new, fully road-tested setting of the entire corpus of Latin texts in the Graduale Romanum by the Hungarian liturgist and musicologist, Laszlo Dobszay. ‘The melodies, which are all from ancient sources, are simple to learn, and very effective in execution,’ adds Fr Nicholls.
Speaking exclusively to C&O, James MacMillan welcomed the initiative. ‘We’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time. What’s important is that the Institute will provide encouragement to the clergy and the laity to sing the Mass again, accessing what is known as the “Priceless Treasury” of music, described in Vatican II. Resources like the Graduale Parvum will break down what have been seen as the barriers between choral music and everything else. It’s about what congregations will try – music of utter simplicity which can be taught from the pulpit – and which will allow worshippers a liminal experience, “crossing the threshold” into the transcendent.’
Choral conducting open masterclass
25 August 2011
Paul Brough is giving an open choral conducting masterclass on 19 September at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Brough, an RAM alumnus and now a professor, will coach RAM students as they conduct the BBC Singers.
The masterclass (10.30am–1pm and 2pm–3.45pm) will be followed by an informal concert at 4pm.
Admission is free, and no tickets are required.
The BBC Singers are giving the Scottish premiere of James MacMillan's St John Passion on 29 September in City Halls, Glasgow, with Mark Stone taking the part of Christ.
Fiery start to inaugural Northern Ireland International Organ Competition
25 August 2011
The senior section of the inaugural Northern Ireland International Organ Competition (NIIOC), held in Armagh on 22–23 August, was won by Ben Comeau (18) from Truro. Described by jury chairman Thierry Mechler as ‘a fantastic player and a real musician’, Comeau is a former chorister of Truro Cathedral and is about to take up an organ scholarship at Girton College, Cambridge. His NIIOC programme consisted of J.S. Bach’s Trio Sonata no.4 in E minor BWV 528, and part of his own transcription of Stravinsky’s The Firebird. The jury felt that his performance revealed ‘brilliance and profound musicianship’.
The NIIOC was launched this year in association with the Charles Wood Summer School. It is the only competition in the UK and Ireland to cater specifically for accomplished organists aged 21 and under. With a prize of £1,000 and recitals in Belfast, Dublin and Trinity College, Cambridge, the senior section for organists of post-Grade 8 standard attracted 15 entrants from cathedrals, schools and conservatoires around the UK and Ireland. Second place went to Benjamin Bloor from St George’s Chapel, Windsor, and third place to Ghislaine Reece-Trapp of Guildford Cathedral. Richard Gowers from Eton College was highly commended for his performance of the Toccata by his grandfather, Patrick Gowers.
The intermediate competition for players at Grades 6-8 was won by Donal McCann (12), a chorister at St Peter’s R.C. Cathedral, Belfast, and the junior competition for Grades 4 & 5 by Killian Farrell, 17, from Dublin.
According to chair Richard Yarr, NIIOC came about as a response to demand from local organists who wanted to encourage, challenge and celebrate the talents of young performers in a competitive environment. Thierry Mechler’s fellow judges were Belfast City Organist Colm Carey, and David Hill, chief conductor of the BBC Singers, who told C&O that NIIOC provided an excellent stepping-stone into the world of competitions for young performers who would get lost in a bigger event with a higher age limit.
25 July 2011
A donation of £10,000 has been made to Gloucester Cathedral to support the Friends of Cathedral Music (FCM) Chorister scheme. after Evensong on 10 July 2011 by the Friends of Cathedral Music (FCM) to support the FCM Chorister scheme. FCM secretary Roger Bishton presented the cheque to the cathedral’s Dean, the Very Reverend Stephen Lake, after Evensong on 10 July.
The Dean responded: ‘Music is at the heart of so much that we do here at Gloucester Cathedral, and the ongoing support we receive from the Friends of Cathedral Music means a great deal to us. Choral scholarships are important, as they enable our talented young singers to further their musical development.’
Roger Bishton commented: ‘The opportunity to support a choral scholar and to strengthen the musical talent which already exists is something FCM regards as worthy of support and meets our objectives in safeguarding the priceless heritage of cathedral music in Britain.’
The choir of Gloucester Cathedral will take part in the famous Three Choirs Festival, this year in Worcester, from Saturday 6 August.
Crowdfunding raises £80,000 for The Organs of Cavaillé-Coll
25 July 2011
In just three months, Fugue State Films has raised £80,000 for a full-length documentary film about 19th-century organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. The money was raised by 419 funders, who donated sums between £45 and £10,000; Fugue State Films has invested £40,000.
The Organs of Cavaillé-Coll, which will begin filming on 12 September in Saint-Ouen, Rouen, is the most significant crowd-funded film about classical music. It marks both the 200th anniversary of Cavaillé-Coll’s birth and the forthcoming 150th anniversary of his organ at Saint-Sulpice, Paris. Presented by English organist Gerard Brooks, it will include interviews with and performances by famous French organists and scholars.
Will Fraser of Fugue State Films commented: ‘We’ve raised £80,000 in three months. Crowdfunding was straightforward and fun, and easier than trying to raise that amount of money from a broadcaster or a cultural organisation. We now have complete freedom to make the film we want to, and it will be our biggest and most important production thus far. We look forward to using crowdfunding again on our next project.’
Full details can be found at www.fuguestatefilms.co.uk/cavaille-coll