Easter 2024

28 November 2011
Palestrina - Matin Responsory

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27 November 2011
Milner-White, Eric - "Advent"

O Lord, my years grow long,
      my time short:
Let me make haste with my repentance
      and bow head and heart:
Let me not stay one day from amendment,
      lest I stay too long:
Let me cease without delay
      to love my own mischief,
and abandon without a backward look
      the unfruitful works of darkness.

Lord, grant me new watchfulness
      to lay hold upon opportunity of good:
Make me at last put on
      the whole armour of light:
Rank me among them who work for their Lord,
      loins girded, lamps burning,
            till the night shall pass
                  and the true light shine.

Let me sing the new song,
      following the Lamb whithersoever he goeth,
      loving wheresoever he loveth,
      doing whatsoever he biddeth,
            unto the perfect day
                  and for ever and ever.

    Eric Milner-White (1884-1963)

My God, My Glory (1994) p. 16, ed. Joyce Huggett

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26 November 2011
Aquia Church, last

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia.

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25 November 2011
Aquia Church, 10

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia

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23 November 2011
Aquia Church, 9

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia

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22 November 2011
Duruflé-Chevalier, Marie-Madeleine - perf. of Vierne

This is how I mean to play it, but my swell box doesn't move that fast. Neither do my fingers. Or my brain.

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Aquia Church, 8

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia. Interesting to note that this church was built without any sacristy or other "backstage" area. The present sacristy in the third photo is merely opposite the Communion rail.

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21 November 2011
"Christ the King" - liturgical/theological reflections on

I've been thinking a lot about the Sunday just past, and I think we as a church have a problem.

The Episcopal Church does not call the last Sunday of the Church year “Christ the King.” In our Prayer Book it is simply “The Last Sunday after Pentecost.” Yes, our prayers and lessons are about the kingship of Christ. At Solemn Mass and at Evensong we will sing some of the greatest hymns on this theme. I think our Episcopal Church’s particular decision merits wider and greater appreciation.

Since its earliest days the Church has had a feast of the kingship of Christ. It’s Epiphany, which along with Easter, Pentecost and Christmas are the great ancient celebrations of the Church. Note that aside from Trinity Sunday, the liturgical tradition does not have thematic Sunday observances. Our celebrations are rooted in the historical events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Our days and our lives find their meaning in his life, in his gospel.

"From the Rector: Commitment to Christ" St. Mary the Virgin, New York, Volume XI, Number 52, November 22, 2009

I have a modest proposal: that we stop slapping the words "Christ the King" or -- the silly attempt at neutral language -- "Reign of Christ" on our service leaflets without thinking why we are doing so.

Might "Christ the King" join the ranks of "Good Shepherd Sunday" and "Laetare Sunday" and "Gaudete Sunday" as a nickname, and not a feast unless this is what the church really wants?

Absolutely that's what the lessons are about, but aren't we robbing Epiphany of it's full meaning?

Our 1979 Prayer Book lists Epiphany as a Principal Feast -- yet how many parishes fail to celebrate it at all?

Rather than over-solemnify a name given to this Sunday by the Revised Common Lectionary let us carefully ponder the theological importance of what we are doing and reclaim the full celebration of Epiphany as one on par with the other six Principal Feasts of the church: Christmas, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and All Saints.

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Leighton, Kenneth - Missa Christi at St. Thomas, New York

This is the forth year in a row that the fine choir of St. Thomas, New York has sung Kenneth Leighton's Missa Christi (service webcast) on the Last Sunday after Pentecost (called "Christ the King" Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary"). I hope that it occupies this place in their music list for many years to come.

It's a thrilling piece, and one with some meaning to me personally.

The Missa Christi, Kenneth Leighton's last choral work, was commissioned in 1988 by my mentor at Christ Church, Indianapolis, Frederick Burgomaster. It was one of the first major pieces I accompanied at Christ Church in my tenure as assistant organist there (quite an initiation!).

Leighton grew up as a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral, and he said of his composition "In my music … I speak as one who comes from inside the Church." That may be, but this insider's voice is not a tame one. Even church "insiders" can't help but stand up a little straighter and be taken with the immense physiognomy of the Gloria as a whole and the incredible, layered density of the Amen at the end, catapulted by an organ chord from another harmonic dimension into that "vast expanse of interstellar space" where hosts of angels praise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ as he sits at the right hand of the Father.

The rest of the Mass is pretty nice too.

That quirky bass solo in the Benedictus was written for one of the basses of the Indianapolis Choir, whom I had the good fortune to know in my time there.

The clarity that emerges at the words "grant us peace" in the Agnus Dei is heart-wrenching.

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Aquia Church, 7

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia

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19 November 2011
Aquia Church, 6

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia. By English law, all Altars of this time had to contain the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed.

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18 November 2011
New York - Messiaen performances in

An Olivier Messiaen convergence occurred in New York this past week.

Last Friday, Olivier Latry performed an all-Messiaen recital at Alice Tully Hall.

On Tuesday Jon Gillock performed Méditations sur la Mystère de la Sainte Trinité on the new organ at Church of the Ascension

Both performances were reviewed in the New York Times

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Aquia Church, 5

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia

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17 November 2011
Aquia Church, 4

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia

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16 November 2011
Aquia Church, 3

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia. Photos taken 14 Nov 2011, so the Advent wreath receptacle seems a bit premature.

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15 November 2011
Sibelius, Jean - BREAKING NEWS

This is huge! Watch the video on this page and skip ahead to about 2:00 in unless you speak Finnish.

These are probably fragments of Sibelius's lost Eighth Symphony.

English translation of article.

(found this at "Is this the Sibelius Eighth" at The Rest is Noise)


improvisation - sheer

I really like Keith Jarrett, and this may have to do with my parents' wedding.

They were married outside on a big rock, and despite this, they had organ music for their entrance: a cut from Jarrett's Hymns & Spheres.

The residue from this moment and my experience listening to his playing has made me a fan -- and more than that. I myself improvise now, and I can only aspire to have this beautiful, often genreless, pure, emotional approach to this art.

I have no idea, moment to moment, how to prepare for these things, either. What actually happens is so much in the moment, so much of a nanosecond. And I know a lot of people probably are skeptical about whether they really are always improvised. I myself feel skeptical, even though I know they were.

A fascinating interview with Jarrett on NPR about his newest album: Keith Jarrett: Alone in Rio and Ready to Fail

I've written about Jarrett here before: improvisation - art of and improvisation - Keith Jarrett

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Aquia Church, 2

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia

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14 November 2011
Aquia Church

Aquia Church, Stafford, Virginia

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12 November 2011
lost cause? - is the National Cathedral a

The National Cathedral wants you to know that they need help.

Even on this reopening weekend, what should clearly be a joyous occasion, the images plastered on their website are those of plaster, and mortar, and crumbling stones -- the images of a cathedral in disrepair.

The news has not been good lately.

The National Cathedral
photo by the author, June 2008

The budget was $27 million in 2008. It was slashed by more than half in 2010 and 100 staff members were let go.

Then there was the earthquake earlier this year which closed the cathedral indefinitely. The Cathedral reopened this weekend, but $15 million (source) is needed for repairs. (Even this figure was announced with an additional hefty dollar amount -- $10 million -- needed to fund "cathedral operations through the end of 2012.")

I suspect that not wanting to dip into the principal of its $50 million endowment (interestingly, the Cathedral is not a member of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes, which seems strange) the Cathedral will rely on the approximately 14,000 members of the National Cathedral Association and other donors -- because the 800 members of the congregation surely can't foot the bill.

Let's pause here for a minute.

These dollar amounts don't really work out when you're talking about a congregation of 800.

Of course, this isn't your average congregation, this is an Episcopal congregation. Historically Episcopal congregations haven't been shy about throwing a lot of money around.

And this isn't just any congregation, it's a cathedral, and cathedrals certainly play different, larger roles than parish churches.

Indy choirboys hangin' out with Woodrow Wilson

And this isn't just any cathedral, it's the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in the capital city of the United States: it styles itself as the National Cathedral, and it has occupied a tremendously important place as a spiritual home of 300 million nominally deistic Americans. United States Presidents have been "ordained" and buried here.

But that's only once or twice every four years, or so. And yes, it's a beautiful spot...

But when we start to look at how much money is at stake for a diocesan cathedral -- I'm just going to go ahead and ask the question -- is it worth it?

Is there any cathedral in the country, in the world, that costs so much to operate?

This is a huge building. It's not the biggest, or the longest, or the highest in the world, but it does appear on all these lists.

Major funding for the St Peter Tower
was given by Mr & Mrs Eli Lilly
of Indianapolis.

And really, it was just finished. In 1990 the bell towers were finished, which marked the end of an 83 year construction period. Not bad.

And there it sat for 21 years until it started to fall apart in a big way. Ironically, it was one of those "acts of God" things.

So, here we are in 2011, and while the cathedral is not looking at another 83 year construction period, it is looking at a major repair.

And for a building this size and of this scope, this will not be the last. But as cathedrals go this is a brand new place, and if it's going to be around for another 1,000 years before being rebuilt then these are just growing pains.

However, we live in a very different climate now than 1907, and while I in no way mean to diminish the vision and perseverance of those who built the cathedral, I feel that it would be unfair at this time not to ask some questions.

The Episcopal Church grew steadily from the beginning of the twentieth century through the mid-1960s, but has been shrinking steadily since 1966.

Current membership levels in the church are those that we first surpassed in 1939.

And that's not all. Sunday morning attendance -- the actual butts in the pews/cathedral chairs -- is at a much lower level than it was in the 1930s. And these patterns are changing rapidly.

In the diocese where I work Sunday worship attendance has declined by 25% in less than a decade. (I find this statistic terrifying, which is why I keep repeating it)

If we see a trend toward fewer people in church nationally, why should those supporting a very large church building, the National Cathedral, continue to do so? At what point does it become throwing good money after bad?

What functions do cathedrals have in this country anyway? They simply aren't native to this soil -- they're definitely imported from our mother church where they sprang up organically over many hundreds of years.

While I raise these questions in good faith, I don't pretend to know how to begin to propose another way forward. And it wouldn't even really be my place to think about this, except for that moniker "National" Cathedral. But it might be worth allowing the cathedral and the diocese, with their new bishop (congrats, by the way!) to take a deep breath in regard to the priorities and the timetable.

(For instance, when is the next Virginia earthquake? How much will need to be spent to repair it then?)

All of these issues are in God's hands, and these things will work themselves out in due time.



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