Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Shared Love

One connection between the present Pope and the Blessed Cardinal Newman is their shared love of music.

In the Idea of a University, the future Blessed John Henry presented similar ideas when he wrote,

"Music, I suppose … has an object of its own … it is the expression of ideas greater and more profound than any in the visible world, ideas, which center indeed in Him whom Catholicism manifests, who is the seat of all beauty, order, and perfection whatever, still ideas after all which are not those on which Revelation directly and principally fixes our gaze"

In addition to melodies by Newman, the Birmingham Oratory hymn book contained tunes by Beethoven, Mozart, Mendelssohn, and others, adapted to the lyrics. Bellasis advocated:

"Take up then the Father’s book, hear the people at the May devotions sing such winning songs as the “Pilgrim Queen” (No. 38, Regina Apostolorum), and the “Month of Mary” (No. 32, Rosa Mystica), or listen during Saint Philip’s Novena, to “Saint Philip in his School” (No. 49), “in his Mission” (No. 50), “in Himself” (No. 51, “Regulars and Saint Philip”), and “in his Disciples” (No. 54, “Philip and the Poor”), and we conclude that, as with the saint, so with his distinguished son, it has been his “aim to make sacred music popular”; and may we not further say that the cardinal, without any parade whatever, but in the simplest fashion, has somehow succeeded at Birmingham in his aim?

The following description of Newman is from Bellassis:

"[Newman] got to know fairly well Mendelssohn's canzonet quartet and Schumann's pianoforte quintet Op. 44; but we recall no musical works heard by him for the first time in very late life making any particular impression on the Father, with one notable exception; Cherubini's First Requiem in C minor, done at the Festival, August 29, 1879. We were to have gone with him, but a Father who accompanied him wrote to us instead next day: "The Father was quite overcome by it, and that is the fact.

He kept on saying, 'beautiful, wonderful,' and such-like exclamations. At the _Mors stupebit_ he was shaking his head in his solemn way, and muttering, 'beautiful, beautiful.' He admired the fugue _Quam olim_ very much, but the part which struck him most by far, and which he spoke of afterwards as we drove home, is the ending of the _Agnus Dei_--he could not get over it--the lovely note C which keeps recurring as the 'requiem' approaches eternity."

When it was done twice in its true home, the church, later, on the 2nd and 13th November, 1886, he said, "It is magnificent music." "That is a beautiful Mass" (adding, with a touch of pathos), "but when you get as old as I am, it comes rather too home."

A diary noting the service on All Souls' day, says: "His Eminence was at the throne in his purple robes. I was in the gallery at the end of the nave, and the dim-lit sanctuary (with the Cardinal's _zucchetto_ the only bit of bright colour in the gloom), the sublime music, all had a most impressive effect."

On November 13, 1885, he heard in the church and for the first time, the Florentine's Second Requiem in D minor, for male voices; and thought it beautiful and devotional, and in no way lacking in effect through the absence of _soprani_ and _contralti_, which he had not missed. He was most struck with the _piano_ passage in canon beginning with the words _Solvet sæclum_. On September 1, 1882, he heard at the Festival the same composer's Mass in C, and characterized as "beautiful" the fugue at the end of the _Gloria_, the part in the Offertory where the chorus enters in support of the soprano solo, and the conclusion of the _Dona_."