Monday, May 2, 2011

God's Abundant Blessings in Music and Majesty

Monday greetings from Ettal, Germany. Arrived here at this small monastery village yesterday afternoon. Before leaving Regensburg, I had the privilege of attending Mass at the cathedral, Saint Peter's.

There was a men's and boy's choir that led the music in a high European cathedral style (you can just about see them in the rear of the sanctuary in the photo below). The proper entrance and communion antiphons were chanted in Latin by the choir. The processional into the cathedral was accompanied by the organ, then when the celebrant reached his place, the chant began. The assembly was not invited to become involved in the chant.

The Kyrie was sung by the choir; lovely piece. The hymn number was then projected and the assembly alternated verses of the Gloria in Latin with the choir.

Those "regulars" in the assembly knew the chanted dialogues quite well and responded with vigor. The Creed was sung in Latin, again alternating between people and the choir. A motet was sung by the choir at the preparation of the gifts. The Sanctus was from an elaborate Mass; we all stood there and listened. The Memorial Acclamation was recited and the Amen was chanted in response to the chanted doxology. The Lamb of God was another extended setting from a Mass;we all simply waited for it to be concluded. These choir pieces were magnificently sung; but it seemed so much like a concert to me than the celebration of Mass.

After Communion, a hymn number was posted. We all sang a great Easter Hymn, with an Alleluia refrain. The Mass concluded with the dismissal with its Easter alleluias attached, to which the assembly responded with vigor.

Then came one of the musical high points of my life. There has been a brand new organ installed at this cathedral, which I read about the day before; the dedication will be celebrated next month, so I was not expecting it to be used. Was I wrong! The organist played at least a fifteen minute postlude, a complete improvisation weaving together the themes of the post-communion hymn of thanksgiving and the chant from the Easter dismissal. I stood there and felt the tears flow freely. It was absolutely stunning. Just when I thought it couldn't sore any higher, I was brought to loftier heights. I was left speechless.

After Mass came the drive south through Munich to Ettal, in Southern Bavaria. It is here that the German Alps thrust themselves out of the Alpine planes; reminded me of the music I had heard that morning.

Today I visited the "roof of Germany;" the Zugspitze, the tallest peak in Germany. The retreat began this evening. I am privileged to be playing a marvelous pipe organ all week in a startingly modern chapel that is part of this Benedictine Monastery. At two of the Masses, I will play the organ in the main abbey Church. I will take some photos of the monastery tomorrow and share them with you then. Until then, enjoy the Bavarian Alps.

Feeling God's abundant blessings today.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.
P.S. Since I do not have access to my e-mail accounts, I am not able to monitor comments. Feel free, though, to comment, and I will post when I return at the end of the week.

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