The Music of Angels

Saturday, October 29, 2005. Sacred Heart Cathedral, Raleigh, North Carolina.

I attended the Vigil Mass at the Cathedral, my first time there. Msgr. Hadden was the celebrant, and he actually sang portions of the Mass in a lovely tenor voice — wish he’d sung the whole thing. But the congregational music, the psalm, hymns, responses, were badly overseen by a Romantic-style piano-player who doesn’t understand chant and who took everything at a sleepy tempo. In addition, there was the ubiquitous dreaded Haugen-Haas presence that I find not only distracting but downright profane.

Two hours later, those same walls echoed with the glorious music of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina — music fit for the angels — as the NC Master Chorale Chamber Choir performed a selection of sacred works in the Cathedral.

The program began with the exquisite Missa Papae Marcelli (Pope Marcellus Mass), followed by Henryk Gorecki’s “Totus Tuus,” and a very modern but surprisingly gorgeous setting of three poems of e.e. cummings by Eric Whitacre.

I sat near the piano, in the present-day choir section (the lovely choir loft being nearly abandoned) and gazed across the Sanctuary to the Tabernacle where the Lord in the Eucharist lay reposed: “You have to suffer so much ugliness from week to week… isn’t it lovely You can be celebrated with such music here tonight?”

I like to think He was very pleased indeed.

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