Thursday, July 31, 2008

Arrival in America


Apparently all is set and United Flight 903 is to leave as scheduled. The only change is that it says now that it will arrive on Friday at Dulles at 2:45 PM rather than 3:02 PM. I would say, don't worry about it. Planes usually arrive late anyway. Show up around 3 PM and everything should be fine. Alles ist klar?

Herr Kurt (German: "Koort," American: "Kert," Australian: "Kayrt") Poterack

More Jane Austen

For all of you "Austenites," a slight difference of opinion:

Earlier someone posted a remark about Jane Austen not writing romances but studies of human nature that I could not agree with more. The formal classification of Austen's work is "Novel of Manners". Austen's novels are not so much about romantic love as they are about behavior in a small and very sharply defined society. She might have chosen other milieux, but we may be glad she didn't, because she knew no other mileu than the one she wrote about, the English rural gentry of the early 19th century under William IV. Austen was remarkable not only for her penetration but also for a degree of realism hitherto unknown in the English novel. Walter Scott said of "Emma" that it was of "a class of fictions which has arisen almost in our own times, and which draws the characters and incidents introduced more immediately from the current of ordinary life than was permitted by the former rules of the novel, . . . copying from nature as she really exists in the common walks of life, and presenting to the reader, instead of the splendid scenes of an imaginary world, a correct and striking representation of that which is daily taking place around him". Austen herself once wrote to a friend, deploring the lack of realism characteristic of the common stock of romantic fiction of her day, that "pictures of perfection make me sick and wicked". And in her "Plan of the Novel", she mocked the very qualities that defined the romance of that time: "there will be no mixture... the Good will be unexceptionable in every respect -- and there will be no foibles or weaknesses but with the Wicked, who will be completely depraved and infamous, hardly a resemblance of Humanity left in them". Many of her contemporary readers admired the plausibility and depiction of real life in Austen's novels, as opposed to "the sensationalism, unlikely meetings between long-lost relatives, villainous aristocratic would-be ravishers, etc." that were served up to an eager public. But I would take issue with one thing the poster said that marriage and courtship are incidental to Austen's novels. This, I believe, is untrue, because courtship and marriage are not incidental to the society she wished to analyse; rather they were, as Austens' novels reveal on every page, its almost sole preoccupation.

Richard Divozzo
Circulation Team LeaderThomas M. Cooley Law School
Grand Rapids
616 301-6850 x6932


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Franz Xavier Witt's Grave

Here it is: the grave of Franz Xavier Witt. 19th century Germany Catholic priest and founder of the Caecilian movement. His ideas were picked up by the Italian Fr. Perosi, who went back to Venice where they were picked up by his bishop (Giuseppe Sarto - "Joe Taylor") who then became Pope Pius X. Then, of course, he wrote the famous motu proprio of 1903 on Sacred Music. These same ideas were expounded upon by various other popes and they made it into Chapter VI of Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.

We sang his "De Profundis" (the same one in the red book, Christendom Choristers) at his grave, and then I personally asked for his intercession for all of my choir students for the up coming year. Incidentally the grave is in a cemetary in "Landshut" which is north of Munich. Saw the Basilica in which he was in residence and it was stunning. Off course my camera battery chose to run out again at that point.
I have added to my "Some Reflections" post so please check that.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Munich Images

I should get to bed soon, so here is a picture of the Marienplatz with one of the many outdoor cafes in Munich. Also a picture of a string quartet which was playing classical music. I encountered at least four musicians/groups on my walk to the Cathedral which was only about a 15 minute walk. There was, in addition to the string quartet, an accordianist, a gypsy band, a marimba player playing Bach and Mozart.

I will try to blog more tommorrow.

Gute nacht!

Some Reflections

Here are some reflections on Switzerland and Munich:

TELEVISION: the funniest thing. In addition to their own shows they have lots of American movies and television shows which are dubbed into German. This puzzles me in that Europeans tend to speak 2 or 3 languages, many of them understand and speak English quite well. We Americans tend to only speak English, so you would expect them to use just subtitles which they could check every once in a while, and us to insist on dubbing. It is the exact opposite.

HOTELS: None of the hotels from Reichenau to Munich has had air conditioning. NOT A ONE. At least Reichenau had a fan. The others had windows you could open. I am all in favor of fresh air, but this is a bit strange. While the other hotels were closer to "bed and breakfasts," this is a big city hotel. (Fr. Skeris said it is common and European hotels are only slowly introducing air conditioning. The older ones don't have the duct work.)

Breakfast has been free at all of my hotels and not what we call "continental breakfast." Here is is definitely classier. It is a combination of buffet and waitress style here. You have to give her your room number and then she will get you "coffee, tea, or something else (I forget?)." When I made the mistake of saying coffee in American ("KAW-fee" instead of "kah-FAY") she stated speaking to me in English, but I faked her out by giving my room number in German, "Ein hundert, ein und zwanzig"). It generally consists of your choice of yogurt, real cereals (not frosted flakes), thinly sliced meats, cheese, croisants, breads, etc.

FOOD: In Switzerland it was the healthiest. I saw, maybe, two American chain fast food restaurants in Switzerland/Austria. I didn't see Zurich, because I was driven immediately away from the airport. Munich is a little different, because it is a big city, but still you see fresh fruit and vegetables sold everywhere - from rest stops to outdoor markets to the train station. Southern Germany is a little bit more "lumpen" as you start seeing dumplings, sausage, pastries, bologna, beer.

PEOPLE/CULTURE: Definitely slower and more relaxed than in America. Outdoor cafes all over the place. The people smoke like chimneys in Munich (NOT Switzerland), but they seem to be trimmer than in America. People ride bikes IN the city center of Munich, but it is easier because there are so many "platz's" - huge long stretches of street where no auto traffic is allowed. In Munich, an odd layering of Catholic culture (names, buildings, churches, music - even the gypsy band played some classical music) combined with some of the worst aspects of big city vices. [An outdoor display of post cards at a shop had a row of naked picture post cards, then a row of post cards with Pope Benedict XVI. (Said Fr. Skeris wryly, "Well, at least they're not Zwinglians.")]

The women are marginally more modest in their manner of dress in Munich than London, but that isn't saying much. I swear, before London, the last time I saw so many exposed breasts and thighs was in the poultry section of a supermarket. It makes me appreciate the Christendom gals even more. Even some of the stylish young Muslim women in Munich find clever ways of subverting the purpose of the burkah.

Which brings up the subject of Islam. I would say that easily 10% of the women in the downtown area are Muslim. Didn't see anything like that in Switzerland (nor London from what I remember). But as I pointed out above, it remains to be seen in what direction the influence will go. When you see a burkah with cleavage (as Bill Stoops did), it makes you wonder to what extent it is custom over substance.

AMERICANS vs. EUROPEANS: No doubt about it. They have the culture, art and sense of "gracious living." We tend to be more pragmatic and functional. A "can do" people who get the job done - and are rather literal-minded in a touching way. If there is something wrong, we want to "fix it," and often we succeed. Sometimes we get ourselves into trouble. They tend to love culture and art (e.g. all throughout Switzerland in the smallest of villages, there was always an organ being tuned - being gotten ready for a concert) AND they love ideas passionately, which gets them into trouble sometimes. They can be very stubborn about letting go of bad ideas (Communism, Socialism, Catholic liberalism, etc.) - things that just don't work, but appeal to certain minds. Then again, we sometimes don't take ideas seriously enough, or pursue to the depth to which they should be pursued because our concern is, "what can it do for me?"

Nonetheless, they seem determined to adopt some of the worst aspects of out mass media culture, albeit in their quirky European ways - at least in the big cities. Where will it all end? The whole question is, "what is the purpose of life?" "what are you living for?" Secular materialism provides no answer except: "the present - comfort, ease." This just does not satisfy the human heart in the end. We were made for something more. But we can be "drugged" into being happy with less - for a time. All of their customs, art, traditions of living, stem from an answer which a number of them don't seem interested in anymore. Will Islam jump into the void? I really don't know.

CARS: Lots of small European cars - even some small American cars like the Ford Festiva. French Citroens and Pugeots. Many different types of Italian Fiats - Doblo (a little truck), even the famous Cinquecento; Volkswagons, BMWs. Especially - tell this to Brian Black - the Sprinter truck. I see these all over the place in Munich, all throughout Switzerland, and even two on the Isle of Reichenau.

Achtung, Herr Michael Collins!


I made a mistake. My flight DEPARTS Munich Friday at 11:35 AM (Munich time). It will ARRIVE at Washington Dulles at 3:02 PM (American time - on Friday August 1). It is United Flight 903. Terribly sorry! Entschuldigen Sie, bitte! I hope this will not be a problem. Incidentally, I cannot get at my e-mail. I am having a problem getting hotmail to open on my computer - have had the problem before in the States and, of course, it had to strike now. So - not being sure how often Michael checks my blog - would one of my Front Royal readers ask him to check my blog the night before? This is the only way I can convey information. I will then know for sure if my flight time has changed or not.

Incidentally, I arrived safely in Munich and am at the Hotel Europaeischer. It was a nice bus ride through Italy, Austria and finally Southern Germany. Wednesday will be the Mass at downtown St. Peter's Kirche. We sing the propers and do the Byrd Mass for 4 Voices. As with the last several Masses, I end up being the director since Fr. Skeris either celebrates or concelebrates. Am trying to pull my "special" Byrd interpretation out of the choristers - having some success. After that to Franz Xavier Witt's grave to ask for his special intercession for my choristers for the coming year. Finally on Thursday, the tour of Orlando Lassus' stomping grounds: the Imperial chapel where his music was performed, even the house he lived in.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kloster St. John

A bit about the tour of the church. This was originally a church founded in the 9th century. There is a legend that it goes back to Charlemagne (Karl der Grosse) and recently they radio carbon dated some beams which go back to 757 AD. (If done accurately radio carbon dating can have an error margin of about 75 years in either direction). You can see part of the church and also barely see the pass through which Charlegmagne did indeed pass when on his way down to Rome to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the pope in 800 AD. On his way down he thought, "well, I might as well subdue the Lombards while I'm at it." And he did. Anyway, the legend is that he came back in February when the snows were heavy and that he had the chapel built-and a monastery established-to give thanks for passing through safely. His wife had another church built. Both still stand.

It is a believable legend.

Anyway, the second picture is of a "column-eater," a whimsical figure meant to remind us that "Alles ist kaput" (I can't remember the future tense) - "All will pass." Momento mori. Even these strong pillars, which are over 1000 years old, will pass.

The last picture is of one of the three apses. You can see the original fresco, very faint, which is Carolingian. The figures are wearing Roman clothing. Over it is the more "modern" 12th century fresco were everyone is wearing Frankish clothing. The monks had left and nuns moved in at that time. As Fr. Columban, our guide who spoke limited English said, (as best I can remember):

"und dann die Schwestern kommen"
(and then the sisters came)

"und Frauen wollen sehr Modern sein"
(and women wish to be very modern)

"so they had these up-to-date 12th century frescos painted over the Carolingian ones."
(I forgot the German.)

To be fair, this was done all the time by men as well - as on the Isle of Reichenau. But I found funny the idea of the nuns as 12th century interior decorators.* Actually this was done often. You can see elements of Carolingian, Romanesque, Gothic, and finally Baroque in this one chapel. They were a little more consistent in trying to integrate in the past- sometimes by just covering up with white wash. Things look so crazy now because restorers in the 19th-20th century started uncovering things and then the government, and finally international authorities, like UNESCO, get involved. A lot of these churches are protected by law as historical sites and so the church authorities cannot change them without permission. It's a mixed blessing.
"Oh, those men! They've been here for four centuries and have changed the decor about as often as they put on a clean shirt!"

Latin Grave Inscription

Here is the Latin grave inscription of which I had been speaking. Double click on it to see more clearly. Took a tour of the church and so much to say but little time before a Benedictine lunch of "Brot und Suppe." Point is, I learned that the Capuchins were here and had a long time presence going back to at least the Middle Ages (The church itself goes back to the 800's) AND the Capuchins ran a hospital/chapel elsewhere in the town during the Middle Ages taking care of the sick and homeless - so the "virtutibus" (virtuous works) makes perfect sense for our Ludovicus.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Muistair - First Full Day

Sunday was our first full day in Muistair, Switzerland, which is a tiny village not more than 5 minutes from the Italian border - but that is a matter of some con-TRO-versy, as our Australian David Malloy says. Actually this is historically South Tyrol (Austria) and the villages on the other side of the border were forcefully incorporated into Italy by Mussolini in 1928. Almost every one in the villages is ethnically German and speaks German, but signs are in Italian as well. I do get at least two Italian television channels at the hotel in Muistair, though. Saw this strange program involving an attractive Italian blonde lady in a yellow dress who would sing and then trade quips with five men in easy chairs on the stage - all in tuxedos but one in a hideous pink one. Then there was some contest in which, out of other singers, one was chosen to sing and present his/her music video. Everyone was between 35-55 and the music sounded oddly like Bobby Vinton from the 70's - kind of safe "popular" music of that era (Think of Anacani singing "Eres tu" on the Lawrence Welk show.) It was this strange combination of The Mike Douglas Show/Wheel of Fortune (with roles reversed-and 5 Pat Sajacks)/and Star Search for people of more mature years.

It was very odd and slightly tacky, but also touchingly innocent. It made me more favorable to the Italian land grab of 1928. If this is what the Swiss get instead of the German pornography channel, then my hat is off to Mussolini.

The main point of the day was, of course, the Sunday Mass, so let me tell you about this. It was at Kloster St. John which is no more than 100 meters down the road. The picture above is from the graveyard. It is a nun's convent, but the chapel is open to the people. I wasn't expecting much, which was wise. It oddly reminded me of a parish Mass in Grand Rapids, MI from about 1973 - but slightly better. It was actually because the young Swiss priest was more towards the conservative side. The Swiss can be pretty bad, so he and the nuns (and we) kept it from being too bad. We sang Mass VIII and some of the Latin propers, plus a Lasus motet (Exsultate justi). There was only one server - an altar BOY, and no lay distributors, but there was a woman in a pant suit who did the reading. The rest of the Mass was in the vernacular - or I should say vernacularS: German and Romansh. I was just fascinated to hear Romansh. My reaction was indeed that it sounded very much like Latin. That may be because I know, say, Italian and Spanish and therefore would react, "O, that's Italian or Spanish," rather than notice the similarities to Latin - as I did with Romansh. I am not sure. I believe the Pater noster began "Pater noster" (or perhaps "Pater nosse") and a lot of the Latin words were changed by an "s" becoming "sh," as in "Jesu Christus" becoming "Jesu Christoosh."

(Fr. Skeris said, "Ja, ja it's those mountain people with their thick tongues during Caesar's day trying to speak Latin. S's would get turned to sh's because of their unwieldy tongues and then it got written down that way.")

The choir did OK. There are some talented people, every one is very nice, but there are a fair number of "enthusiasts." I miss the professionalism of my college choirs and schola. Can't say anything more here, only quote Chesterton, "If something is worth doing it is worth doing poorly." (i.e. often culture is passed on simply by doing it, even if not always in the most perfect way.)

We then had lunch and crossed over the Italian border and went to visit a famous monastery which I will blog on more later. Just too much to say and we will go back Tuesday. We had two rehearsals, had dinner and a long conversation with Fr. Skeris and three others on chant interpretation which continued after he left for another hour or so.
I was able to read a grave inscription on a stone just outside the church this morning. Given the state of the stone and the type of carved letters my guess is that it would have been early 2nd millenium (i.e. close to the year 1000 AD). It said:

"Hic iacet religiosus ex virtutibus factus bonus.
Ludovicus fuit vocavit et ex capucinis fuit datus."

which, I think, translates:

(Here lies a religious who was made good through virtuous works.
He was called Ludovicus and was given out of the Capuchins)

P.S. I will try to put a picture up tommorrow, so you can write in and tell me what you think.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sicut Cervus Parody

For all my Christendom Choir students - a "Sicut cervus Parody" (kind of) which I learned from a Swiss priest today. He said he found it carved into a monastic choir stall:

"Sicut boves in prato, vos in choro boatis."

(Like the cows in the field, you in the choir bellow.)

P.S. Please understand that I thought you would find it funny, I did not mean to imply you SING that way. (Quite the opposite.)

Hotel Munsterhof

Three pictures of things about the Hotel Munsterhof: 1) my room, which is the most "charming" of the hotels I have stayed at, (O my goodness, church bells are ringing throughout this small, charming, Medieval town now! Right now! It is hard to describe the experience!), 2) the ceiling of my hotel room with its old painted designs (and crack!), 3) the old fashioned key to my room.

The Town of Mustair

This truly is a hamlet with narrow, Medieval roads which the bus driver had to navigate.

Journey over the Alps

Above is a picture of the Swiss Alps which we had to go over on our journey to Muistair today, which is close to the Italian border. I took this picture at the Ofenpass. Everything is quite beautiful. I also took a picture of Swiss cyclists which is above. It is quite strange, but there it is. There are a lot of people who go cycling through the Alps - even a handful of people pedaling actual bicycles (Fahradden). Some of the curves in the mountain road are literally LESS than 45 degrees. When I saw the first one, I thought, "No, that's another road connecting to ours - like an entrance ramp. Then we will both proceed forward past that part of mountain obscuring the road." But I was wrong. Think of an inverted "v" of a little two lane road, and that is the sort of turn "Koort" the bus driver had to take more than once. He did it well.

We stopped at a rest stop just before the Alps. Understand that a Swiss "rest stop" -in addition to gas- has a book store, and a grocery store with fresh fruit. There was one "fast food" place, but it was closer to "Panera Bread" than McDonald's. Gas, however, is the equivalent of $8 per gallon.

Finally, a sign along the way which has the elusive "Romansh" language on it. The top line is Italian. The second line is German. Both mean "camping forbidden"- although I am told that "campieren" is a fabricated German verb. The third line is the Romansh. German, again, for the last line. These final two lines mean "is totally forbidden for the territory of the community of Susch." Notice the Romansh "tuot" is from "totus" (all, completely) and "cumun" is from the Latin "communio" (community). Of course, Romance languages like French, Italian, Spanish derive from Latin so you can see root words in common as well. It is just that Romansh is supposed to be a direct historical survival of the "vulgar Latin" of the 8th century and then, before that, of the Latin dialect of the people of the Helvetica* region which would have been harsher, rougher - more German, and less refined than, say, the Latin of Cicero.
*"Helvetica" is the Latin word for the modern region of Switzerland. You will still see the Swiss use the abreviation "CH" for their country which means "Confederatio Helvetica."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Last day in Northern Switzerland

Tommorrow morning we leave for Muistair which is in Southeastern, Switzerland near the Italian border. Supposedly free Internet access in the hotel there, but we shall see. I really must get to bed as it is past midnight here. I will miss the friendly region of the Appenzell, which is the most stereotypically "Swiss."
On an interesting side note, I see that Bianca Jagger-former wife of Mick Jagger-has signed a petition asking the British Bishops to make more Tridentine Masses available. Check it out on Actually, I am only mildly surprised. It says she regularly goes to the Brompton Oratory. Maybe she was the lady who bumped into me - as she just looks like an ordinary middle aged British lady now.

Tschoos, Tschoos!

Pictures of London

Since I have free access to the Internet AND on my own computer to boot, I figured I would put up some of my London pictures. They are: Big Ben, Westminster Abbey OR the Houses of Parliament? (they are close to each other and the same style), the red brick Westminster Cathedral, and Brompton Oratory.

John Singenberger's Church

Johann Singenberger was born in St. Gall, Switzerland and emigrated to the U.S. where he founded in 1874 the American branch of the St. Cecilia movement and the journal "Cecilia" - which later became "Sacred Music" (and which I edited for a few years). We went to visit his baptismal church of St. Peter and Paul in nearby Kircheburg. It is a very beautiful Baroque style church and we were met by one of his descendants - the very spry 84 year old gentleman in the top picture - who presented us with an inscribed family genealogy. He is the grandson of one of Singenberger's brothers. We sang Singenberger's Ave Maria in the church for him. Then he took us all out for a drink - a glass of white wine with sparkling water in it (Wasser mit Gase)

Konstanz and Einsiedeln

The Three Kings (Die Drei Mohren) on the door of the Cathedral of Konsatnz carved in 1470. Medieval shops in the town of Konstanz from the 13th century. Finally, the Monstery of Einsiedeln.

Cathedral of Konstanz and Conclave Hall

The Cathedral where the 15th century Council of Constance was held (and for which Isaac composed his 'Choralis Constantinus') and the hall in which Pope Martin V was elected.

Sanct Gallen Cathedral/Monastery

This is St. Gall Cathedral which was founded originally as a monastery in the 8th century on the spot of a hermitage of St. Gall, who had been a disciple of St. Columba. Along with Einslieden, it was founded on the spot of a hermit. Einsiedeln means, one (eins) + hermit or wayfarer? (siedeln). It was St. Meinrad. These were part of the roaming band of Irish monks and bishops who came to the area at the time. Anyway, the Benedictines took over the monastery in 747 AD. We toured the library, but didn't get to see the actual famous St. Gall chant manuscript from the 9th century. It is locked away in a special room for scholars with credentials. We did get to see, among other things, an 11th century collection of tropes and sequences with the older notation (in campo aperto) in the margins of the text. Of course, St. Gall was a leading producer of the "sequence," one of the early composers being its monk Notker Balbulus ("Notker the Stammerer"). At one point there were over 5,000 sequences floating around Europe, but the Council of Trent reduced them to four, with a fifth one readded in the 18th century.

In the 16th century the city was allied with the Lutheran movement - the abbot/prince losing much of the land and buildings which had all been under his jurisdiction. However, two separate St. Gall's continued (a civil Lutheran one and a Catholic ecclesiastical one) until the early 1800's when Napolean's troops marched in and the monastery was dissolved with it becoming a cathedral instead. The area was turned into a secular Swiss canton. The current cathdedral - obviously Baroque/Roccoco was rebuilt in the 1760's while the monks still inhabited it.

(The second picture is of a side altar which is one of five within the sanctuary. You can see the carved wood choir stalls in the back.)

More St. Gall Pictures

Thursday, July 24, 2008


One last post about various things before I go to bed, which I should do soon (the time is after midnight here).

PEOPLE ON THE TOUR: In addition to Fr. Skeris, there are 12 musicians: 4 Americans, 1 Australian, and 7 Hungarians - plus 2 additional people (the husband and daughter of one of the American ladies) and the bus driver. So, though we have a choir of 12 (Fr. Skeris directs or, when I direct, he sings tenor), we have a total of 16 people on the bus or at the group meals we have. Fr. Skeris drew up a seating arrangement and I get to sit at his right hand. Interesting.

The Hungarians are all out of the Ferenc Liszt Conservatory in Budapest - the Catholic Church Music Department (yes, there is one and its head was this Laszlo Doszay who wrote the book on the "Bugnini Liturgy." He retired recently, but his replacement is good, too. They speak, well, Hungarian, but they all speak German well, and all but two speak English well. These two gals, Agnes and Agnes (unrelated) speak English better than I speak German, but not as good as the others. Nonetheless lectures and rehearsals are in English it is just occasionally one of them will look lost and Fr. Skeris will say, "Ja, also, auf Deutsch . . . " They are quite pious - young, twentysomethings, very knowledgeable about Catholic music (although semiologists). They are from all over Hungary, but one of them is from Transylvania . . .

LANGUAGE: The South Germans and Swiss speak a similar sort of German (to my ears). It is a rather sing-songy, bouncy cheerful, "Ja, Ja . . . etc." Our hotel waitress cracked me up because she put me in mind of a Swiss version of Siobhan O'Connor (only the Christendom people will know her). Bouncy, cheerful, but Swiss rather than Irish. I guess a "Swiss Miss."
The Hungarians - like some other South European nationalities (Greek, Italian, etc.) - can have a slow, even slightly sultry (pouty?) cadence, " I am . . . . . Miklos." Not that they are actually being that way. It is just more the cadence. However, when they go into German, they liven up, and when they speak English they adopt a British accent ("that's a great idear.")

SWISS/GERMAN DIFFERENCES: The Swiss are still proud of their independence. They have their own currency AND - when in Konstanz - I saw that they had their own Train station! There is the train station of the city of Konstanz where all trains enter and leave, then there is the separate one a block down for Swiss Rail. Fr. Skeris is offended by this, but I still too charmed by them to get upset.

GERMAN TELEVISION: In the hotel last night in Reichenau. Many dubbed American movies and television series from the 80's/90's (Cheers, Roseanne, etc.). Even a 1940's Agatha Christie movie with Miss Marpel from England! News programs in German. A home improvement show called, I think, "Ihre Traum Haus" (Your Dream House). Original shows in German. One seemed to be about a husband-wife team who fight crime on the "Auto Bahn" - a bit like "Hart to Hart" from the 80's but a younger couple and much less glamorous. Maybe it was just the one episode involving the Autobahn. Some better original German programs. A German imitation of an incredibly goofy American stock comedy from the 80's involving: 1)standard "cool guy" character, 2) standard "klutzy guy" character, 3) standard "jolly, overweight guy" character, and 4) standard "attractive dumb blonde" character. Sadly, a channel devoted entirely to pornography.

EUROPEAN CULTURE: I must muse on this more as it is too soon, and - per above - I have gotten very mixed signals.

More tommorow.


OK, I will tell you what I had for dinner. This hotel restaurant (Appenzellerhof) grows its own vegetables - just like the one in Reichenau - and they gave us a very good salad. On it, according to Fr. Skeris, I had to put vinegar and oil in the ration of 4:1. So I did. And it was surprisingly good. The bus driver with my name (Koort) ordered a "Weizenbier" so, since we had the same name, I thought I should order one too. I have never tasted beer this good. He only speaks German, but I could tell that he and Fr. Skeris were argueing the merits of the various Weisenbiers in Germany, Switzlerland and Austria. This one was made in the very town of Appenzeller. It means "wheat beer." Fr. Skeris said American beer is not as good because they replace some of the hopps with rice, because it is cheaper. Then we had cooked vegetables with chicken - raised in the town.

This dinner was on the house - except for the drinks - so I took advantage of it. However, I am going to have to be careful as I think I could gain weight. I have been losing weight up to this point. The food is healthy, but Fr. Skeris is not the best influence on me when it comes to eating - which he likes to do a lot of. (I like food, but I also like to fit in my pants.)

His perpetual joke is, "The life of a priest is a life of sacrifice . . . would you please pass the bread rolls?" In his defense, not only have I learned much from him over the years, he has a great way of dealing with people. Especially speaking German with the locals, you can tell people of all ages and types enjoy his liveliness. Interestingly the priest at the Abbey said a few things that were, well, not kosher theologically, but Fr. Skeris had a very clever way of showing respect for the man (who was older than him), his office, and his human dignity without just letting him get away with it. He had a playful, joshing, respectful, non-ruffled way of reacting.

I wish I could do that.

The Monastery of Einsiedeln

Turns out the Hotel Appensellerhof has free Wi-Fi which works, so I will blog some about the rest of my day. (Those who want to see more pictures, don't worry. I will download pictures of today from someone else's digital camera - we checked the connection and it works (I had the cord with me during the day), but she went to bed so I will have to do it tommorow AND my camera will be up and running tommorrow as it will be all charged up so I will be able to take pictures of St. Gall, which we visit tommorow.)

In the afternoon we went to the Benedictine Monastery of Einsiedeln which is about a two hours drive from the hotel we are staying in now. (Incidentally the name of the previous hotel "Hotel Mohren" is from "Die Drei Mohren" - "the three moors," what the Germans call the three kings or the Magi. Anyway there is a carving of them on the cathedral door at Konstanz which dates from 1470 and was carved by one Simon Haider I believe. I will try to include a picture. It was spared distruction by Zwingli's people for some reason who destroyed quite a few of the original altars at the time of the Calvinist Uprising.) Anyway, we had a tour of Einsiedeln given by Fr. Renz - a long time monk of the Abbey - who was very knowledgable and spoke English. It is an exquisitely beautiful-and stylistically unified-Baroque/Roccoco Abbey built in the early 1700's. The abbey itself dates from 934 AD and was founded by St. Meinrad, however they had outgrown the original building so it was torn down and this "newer" structure was built. I am not completely certain, but I think that Fr. Renz said that the architect was a pupil of Bernini's - who, of course, planned the new St. Peter's in Rome. (I am not sure if the time line is right, or maybe the initial sketches happened many years before they began building.)

At any rate, the center piece of the Abbey -from the standpoint of Gregorian Chant- is the Codex 321 (I may have the number wrong). This is often simply known as "Einsiedeln." It is the red colored line of those 9th century neumes in the modern day Graduale Triplex above the square note notation. The book, a small hand-holdable one (not like the later huge medieval chant books), consists of only the Graduals (not the Introit, Alleluia, Offertory or Communio) and eight sequences: words and the early neumes ("in campo aperto" - in an open field, i.e. without a staff). This was clearly a book of reference for the early Gregorian cantor, to jog his memory when he would forget some of the more complicated graduals which he and others learned by memory. (It only shows that the notes go up or down, or are repeated, etc., but not the specific pitches) What is significant about it is that it has many expressive signs in it. (the St. Gall manuscript is another) The semiologists make hay of this, but there are two problems: 1) there is still considerable dispute about what all the signs mean and, 2) it was their local interpretation of the chant in the 9th century - which, if some of the interpretations are correct, and parts of them almost certainly are, it is quite virtuosic.

The whole point of the modern Solesmes method as developed by Dom Mocquereau/Dom Gajard was to give a uniform, clear interpretation that was musical and yet respected the received chants as best as possible - and could be done by good amateurs. Often people who did not rehearse together regularly - and even those who got together at a moments notice (e.g. at a convention or festival Mass.) It is kind of a lingua franca, or standard English, or "Hoch Deutsch." I think about Charlemagne and what he tried to achieve uniting his empire - with a common Missal, and the development of the miniscule script (which Reichenau Abbey was the biggest diseminator of at the time) and how unity is created and culture advance by these things. And then I think about how semiologists have kind of busted that up - they don't even agree with each other - in their elusive attempts to restore the absolute "pure" 9th century chant interpretation.

End of rant.

But the manuscript is interesting and, of course, Dom Mocquereau consulted it in his researches.


Not too much time. I am writing from a "Phone-Internet Shop" run by German speaking Turks in the city of Konstanz. Gave my lecture on Heinrich Isaac and the "Choralis Constantinus" he composed for the Cathedral of Konstanz in 1509. Gave it in the crypt which dates back to 6th century, however the upper church dates from the Middle Ages with Renaissance and Baroque additions - these combinations work much better than the Abbey in the Insel Reichenau.

Of course, the battery in my camera chose to run out just before we arrived. I will not be able to recharge until I get to our next hotel this evening in Appenzell. But someone else has a digital camera I can download from - if I can get an internet connection in the sleepy hamlet Appenzel is. Konstanz is a beautiful city! - the center of which is Medieval. Many buildings dating back to the 13th century (1260, 1273, etc.). Most of them have stucco over the original stone, but the original structure is there. This has a different feel than Reichenau. More of a "city," albeit a Medieval one.

It was here in the Cathedral that the Council of Constance was held in the 1400's definitively ending the heresy of "conciliarism." Saw the choir stalls from which Isaac`s pieces were originally sung in the early 1500's by the choir that commissioned them. Thrilling! It was in what is called "Konzilhall" that Pope Martin V was elected. Not the Cathedral proper. The hall is 200-300 yards from the cathedral. It is now a restaurant-banquet hall, which is not too bad because it originally was a grain storage hall before the bishops used it.

As I said, I may or may not make an internet connection outside of the "big city" of Konstanz, but I am trying hard to blog once a day!

Goodbye for now!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

St. Georg Church

Here are some of the wall paintings at the church of St. Georg. Obviously they are fairly faint now, but apparently they "shined" in their day according to the poet-biographer Purchart. These probably date from the rule of Abbot Witigowo in the 10th century. They illustrate the various miracles of Christ. This is the "largest connected cycle of monumental wall painting from the period around 1000 AD north of the Alps. The middle picture is what I believe is called a "rondell"? but I am not sure of whom it is. Most likely one of the apostles.

Finally, another painting - this one on the antechamber to the choir, and quite different in style, caught my eye - so I took a picture. I thought, "that is Medieval, but much later Medieval." Looked it up in a guidebook and found out it was from 1308. The words were hard to decipher because they were not Latin, but German - and medieval German AND with abreviated words.

Looked it up in another guide book and found that the painting turns out to be one with two women talking and four demons carrying a bear hide with an inscription (and another demon) on it. It is a moralizing (and somewhat sarcastic) poem about gossip:

"I want to write here/About these silly women/What is spoken bla bla here/A great deal during the week/It's probably righteous/If it's brought before the judge."

The Medieval German word for "bla bla" is "pla pla."

Thought everyone might enjoy it.

P.S. Maybe our lady sacristan was a descendant of one of the Medieval "Pla Pla Ladies."

Isle of Reichenau

On top is a picture looking out onto the Bodensee from the Isle of Reichenau. I don't think that is the city of Konstanz across the water (in fact I am 90% certain it is not), but it would be on the same penninsula. They grow a number of things on the island, but are known for the wine made from their own grapes. They give you two complimentary small bottles in your room - a red and a white - and it is known simply as "Insel Reichenau" brand. This is a great place. We had perch for dinner last night which was caught right in Lake Constance, and this afternoon I had a salad made out of vegetables grown right behind the restaurant.

The people are very friendly and most of them speak English. Only one person (my maid) spoke no English which forced me to communicate with her in German, which was good for me.

In the morning we sang a Tridentine Mass at St. Georg's (middle picture), parts of which date back to 980 AD at the latest. The most famous resident of Reichenau, from the standpoint of our tour, was Hermannus Contractus (Hermann the cripple) who was a monk credited with the Salve Regina and the Alma Redemptoris Mater. He really lived here, although there is some scholarly question as to the authenticity of the attribution. Still there must be something to the tradition. Anyway there was quite a scholarly tradition here on the island, and a number of architectural treasures. Some of the chants we sang at Mass would have been composed at about the time the church was built - as Fr. Skeris told the very talkative lady sacristan. Also we sang the Heinrich Isaac polyphonic setting of the chant communio "Gustate et Videte" which would have been composed as part of the "Choralis Constantinus" for the Konstanz Cathedral Chapter - for use at the Cathedral. It is possible some of this work made it across the lake and was sung in the very building of St. Georg about the the time it was written in 1508, or shortly there after. It certainly sounded good when we did it at St. Georg's.

The Monastery Church is still on the Island, although there are no more monks there. It, however, was very influential in its day - having its hey day from the 8th through the 12th centuries. The last picture, however, is from within the church of St. Peter. In particular, I wanted to show the "crazy quilt" of styles. If you double click the picture you will see three distinct eras. On the apse you can see the Carolingian paintings dating from 1104 to 1134. Then sometime during the Renaissance they punched a hole in the wall and put that stained glass window in (cutting right into the original painting). The stained glass in place now seems to date from sometime between 1880-1920. Then look at the top and see the late Baroque, Roccoco ceiling.

I have seen this before. The architectural deformations after Vatican II are not totally without precedent.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Arrived Safely in Zurich

My flight to Zurich was fine. It was about a half hour late due to something or other, but I landed just fine. Started to hear the Swiss languages. Someone at the gate saying on a cell phone, "Oui, exactemaw, exactemaw!" But mainly it is German here. The Swiss are very efficient with touches of south German. They greet each other with a sing-songy "Grus Gott!" We (the tour bus) got pulled over by Swiss cops. Not so much pulled over as they started flashing : "Folgen . . . Bitte . . . Folgen . . . Bitte" on an electric sign over the Polizei car as they pulled in front of us. No sirens, no loud speakers. Just very quiet and polite. And we followed politely to a truck stop area. It was a random inspection. I thought this was efficient, but the German driver, Kurt (pronounced, "Koort") complained as we left, "Zweite malle? im zehn jahre!" Zweite malle? im zehn jahre!" [only twice in ten years! (i.e. those guys are off their game!)]

Fr. Skeris is, of course, speaking German all over the place and it is coming back to me. He gave a talk on the bus (in English) about Charlemagne or, as he prefers, "Karle Grosse" - "as he really was a German." (when not "Carolus Magnus"). I will try to blog some on this tommorrow.

The Insel Reichenau is quite beautiful. It reminds me somewhat of Macinaw Island, but without some of the tackier tourist traps. However, they do let cars on the Island - but there ARE many bikes and bike paths. Obviously the hotel has a very good Wi-Fi internet connection.

We drove though Konstanz and I caught a glimpse of the Cathedral.

I must get off the Internet and take a short rest before dinner as I have been up since 5:30 AM London time. It is now 4:30 PM (Reichenau is actually just across the German border) - and I lost and hour between England and Germany.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Westminster Cathderal

My last comments for London, as I must go to Yotel, pack, and get some sleep to get up early for my early flight to Zurich. Just in case, don't worry if I am not back on-line for awhile. That will not mean my plane crashed. It will just mean that I have been unable to get on-line on the Isle of Reichenau where we will be bused almost immediately after landing in Zurich - although the hotel claims it has Wi-Fi. I just haven't had luck with wi-fi here.

Anyway, quickly, I saw the MAN himself: Martin Baker. A still youngish looking, mid-to-late thirtysomething handsome man. Vespers was 5 lay clerks singing stupendously well, chanted, but the even verses of the Magnificat were polyphony by one "Zacharius." Sounded like a 16th century composer, but I had never heard of him. The Mass had the Propers chanted and they added a woman (or male alto) to the 5 male clerks (as the boys were "on holiday")to do a Mass by Sam Sheppherd (another 16th century composer).

Sadly the attitude of the Cathedral Administrations seems to be, "well we inherited this choral tradition thingy from Cardinal Vaughan back in 1903, and we have this famous choir school, and they have made all of these famous recordings, so we just can't get rid of them, and, drats, we have to accomodate them some, but - let's try to just ignore them as much as possible." Only slightly better than the way Basil Fawlty treated customers. I have heard this from others and that was the "feel" of Mass and Vespers. Others have told me of this and I concur. It has been going on for the last 20 years or so. James O'Donnell left over this. We'll see how long Martin Baker lasts. He has my sympathy, but this is one of the hazards of the job.

I am thinking of creating the Tomb of the Unkown Choral Director.

I want to thank everyone who has written comments and the clock, thanks to Ken's advice, should be right for London now.


Comments on Particulars

As I begin my third (and final) day in London, I would like to comment on the particular things:

MONEY: the exchange rate is almost exactly $2 to £1, although I have planned well enough so no problems. The bills are pretty enough. The coins take getting used to. They all have pictures of the Sovereign (Queen Elizabeth II) on them, but that is not the unusual thing. I cannot make any sense out of the size. Their penny is copper colored, like ours, and about the same size. Then they have the two pence ("tupence") which is also copper colored and about the size of our quarter. Their five pence piece looks almost exactly like our dime,it is silver,too. The ten pence looks like our quarter, but is silver rather than copper. The 20 pence piece is silver, about the size of a penny, but is seven-sized (you need this if you want to get into the public loos - these odd things that are somewhat like a telephone booth (no glass of course) and are stand alone, like in a traffic circle.)

They do not seem to have a one pound note - at least I have yet to recieve one. What I always get in change is a coin which is about the size of a twenty pence coin, but gold and thicker. Then there is a two-pound coin which is the biggest of all.

NATIONALITIES: there are, of course still many Anglo-Saxon types, but many Pakistani/Bangladeshi/East Indians (and think this was an older immigration),and, surprisingly, a noticeable number of Eastern Europeans (mainly Poles, I think) - you hear Polish spoken on the subway, in fact the gal sitting next to my on my flight out of Washington Dulles was Polish, but a British citizen. If there are many Middle Easterners, I have not yet seen them, unless they are blending in with the Pakistanis.

LANGUAGE: I still find the accent charming and am beginning to recognize the variations. In more formal situations, esp. from people of a certain status, the King's English is used. I heard this during the priest's homily (although it was funny to hear him mention counseling a newly married couple who had their first "row." (pronounced "rahw"). It is also funny to hear the recorded voice of the elegant British lady on the tube say, "This is a Picadilly line service to Cockfosters." Strange. Also, because there is a slight gap between the train and the platform they say, "mind the gap." I think we would just say, "watch your step." Also, it was announced that a particular stop was closed for "refurbishing." ("Sybill, I wish you wouldn't always be refurbishing yourself!")

Most ordinary people use something that is closer to Cockney (not anywhere near as bad as Eliza Doolittle), but there are many variations on this. But it is closer to the "'ello, 'ello" stereotype.

Certain words are accented differently. For them it is the week-END and the GA-rage. It is not just a shift of accent, it is a different type of an accent: more tonal than dynamic. We definitely are more flat and unmodulated in the way we speak. They do not speak in a sing-songy way like the Chinese, but there is definitely more pitch.

STREET SIGNS: I have seen none in London or Westminster. What first appear to be street signs (and definitely not on every corner) are signs pointing to important landmarks. The "street signs" are on the sides of corner buildings - when they appear (which is about 80-90 percent of the time). It took me almost an entire day to figure this out.

THE PEOPLE: Overall I have found them friendly and helpful. I have had four people approach ME asking for directions! Two of them were obviously tourists, but two of them had strong English accents ("'ere mate, can you help a bloke out."). They must not have been from London. Funny, I have had this happen in strange American cities. I don't know if this is something about me, or if everyone experiences this.

FOOD: I finally had some actual English food - at a cafe run by Pakistanis (whom I have found to be friendly). I had the traditional "full English breakfast." The "heart attack on a plate." But I only did it once - and am limiting myself to one major meal a day, anyway-and I didn't overly enjoy it. It was messy, sloppy: two sunnyside up eggs, baked beans, cooked sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, bangers (sausages), bacon - all mixed together. I preferred the French restaurant, which was more of an organic, gourmet cafe/bakery.

MEDIA: it is this odd combination of high class and low class - but that is not unknown in America (the New York Times AND the Tabloids). Some of the television is perfectly vulgar (at least we still have reticences for certain things, although it may not count for much, they seem to have none), but some of it is not so bad.

Well, that is all for now. I must get on the tube and go to the national Gallery. I will try to check in after Westminser Cathedral.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

2nd Day in London

OK, here is my second day. I got a fairly good night's sleep of about 8 hours - after being up for about 48 hours! (yes, I slept little on the plane - no more than 5 minutes a couple of times.)

Anyway, Brompton Oratory. This dates from the 1850's, I believe, and was founded by Father Frederick Faber. The Birmingham Oratory was founded by Cardinal Newman and Fr. Faber was a part of that, but they went their separate ways and Fr. Faber founded this one. (Fr. Faber composed "Faith of Our Fathers" - yes that's a Catholic hymn, originally, but to a rather sentimental 19th century tune. I won't hold it against him.) It is right next to the Albert and Victoria Royal Museum which I went into for awhile and which is huge. The museum kind of dwarfs the Oratory, which is itself quite big. A real pile. It is in the Kensington neighborhood which is both quieter and more gentile than London proper. However, there is a shopping district as you go past the Oratory which includes Harrod's and is kind of upscale. I haven't seen anything really upper-class yet, except for the outdoof cafe at Herrod's which seemed to be strictly coat and tie, old boy. And I was in coat and tie, but had already eaten at a French Restaurant [Le Pain quotidien - Daily Bread - panem (nostrum) quotidianum], so I didn't give it a try. Had a real French waitress, incidentally.

The Brompton Oratory is a kind of an Italienate Baroque-cum-19th century-ornamentation structure, unlike Westminster Abbey, which is Medieval-tail-end-of-Gothic with all sorts of clutter added reflecting the oddities of the English national mind set. More about that in a second. The Oratory is a house of prayer. No mistaking that. From the instant you walk in, you want to pray. At least I did. It is partly the fact that people are praying there all the time and all around the place. Westminster Abbey is full of tourists, because it is more famous, and the vergers do make an effort to kick people out at the time for Evensong, Morning Prayer, etc. who are mere tourists - but there is more to it then that, and I don't think it is my Catholic bias.

Let me explain.

The first thing I saw at the Abbey when I walked in at the north chancel entrance (if I remember correctly) were a whole bunch of statues of kings and royalty. Then there is "Poet's Corner" - tributes to Shakespeare, Dryden, etc. I also walked over the grave of Charles Darwin - or at least it was a floor plaque tribute to him in the nave. You see this is the problem. When good old Archbishop Cranmer fundamentally changed the church in England along the lines of a kind of Calvinistic theology in the 16th century, this created a number of problems. This is the law of unintended consequences. He quite sincerely believed that he, among other things (and it should be mentioned that he was an EXCELLENT English stylist, i.e. the Book of Common Prayer) thought he was going to remove all the distractions to worship and emphasize Christ as the sole mediator, this went contrary to human nature which responds to a fact of reality.

The fact is that "holiness" is an objective conforming of oneself to God and a reflection of HIS holiness. People recognize this and honor - but do not adore - such a person. This person can intercede in the same way a friend who is alive can pray for us. But more intensely because they ARE closer to God. This in no way detracts from Christ's mediatorship because, when we are baptized into Christ, we have a share in HIS mediatorship. Anyway, once the concept of "holiness" is lost (i.e. as something that can truly enter into the world), then--for most people--the "holy man" gets replaced by the "famous man" and that is what you see in Westminster Abbey now; a place which honors a man (Charles Darwin) who didn't even believe in God. Absurd, but that is what you see. Not that there is no sense of Christian prayer at the Abbey, there is, but the Catholic void got filled by a kind of national hero worship.

I hear St. Paul's Cathedral is similar. I may have a chance to pop in, but I am afraid I may see a statue of Winston Churchill puffing a cigar.

Anyway, the choir at the Oratory was fantastic - professional - and no more than 10 singers. Better than the Sydney choir visiting the Abbey, yesterday. They sang Benedetto Croce's "Missa Percussit Saul." It sounded very late 16th century "Venetian School" (i.e.antiphonal, block chords with some counterpoint, Gabrielli-ish, organ accompaniment). They also did a Lassus 6-voice Salve Regina. Superb. The Propers were chanted quite respectably and the women in the choir chanted parts. It was very respectable. I don't have any plans for this, but it can work - I have heard this done in other places, like the Colloquium. Vespers wasn't as special as I had hoped - only 3, rather than 5, copes - but it wasn't a special feast. the choir sang the Elgar Ave verum (which we have done) and a 5-voice Magnificat which as anonymous, but sounded 16th century. (They also did a harmonization of the Lucis Creator by one "Wright" which was modern and very good - must investigate.)

The organist was quite good doing Bach's "Fantasia in G minor" at the end of Mass and then Bach's Fugue in G minor at the end of Vespers. The organ seemed to be a 19th century one under decent expression - and some good reeds, esp a 16 one on the pedal that he added at the tail end of the fugue! It was in a balcony just underneath the south transept, which was where the choir sang from. I could here the organ and choir throughout the church.

A few observations about the people: dressed nicely, lots of coats and ties but not snobby. Lots of praying by all ages - and young people coming in at odd hours to pray at side altars, etc. And not goody-two-shoes ones always. Some dressed in slight hip, urban ways. Wonder what they were praying about, but none of my business. Very touching. Kind of reminds me of that young lady coming in to the church to pray in the opera "Tosca" whom the painter Cavadarossi (sp?) spies. But I don't have his, well, dirty mind - or a jealous girlfriend (Tosca).

The people did sing-not great-but they try. Kind of reminds me of Msgr. Schuler's church. A good Novus Ordo-Latin-Ad orientem place. They do the Trid., but I hear that has kind of been taken over, congregation-wise, by a certain type of closed mouth fanatic. Sad. This whole business of not doing responses has a complicated history, but in many ways can be traced back to the immediate post-Trent period when clergy discouraged people from saying/singing the responses at Mass, or even saying their PRIVATE prayers in Latin. There was a deliberate attempt in some quarters to make Latin an exclusively "clerical language." Read Fr. Augustine Thompson's book "Cities of God." It was quite normal for ordinary people in the Middle Ages and Renaissance-long after it was no longer a vernacular--to say their "Pater's" and "Ave's," and to know even more in many cases.

Finally, the British concept of "queueing." They're crazy. At least at Mass. You would think that from a people who are so orderly that they wouldn't do it this way, but they do. When we Americans go to communion we wait for an entire row of a pew to exit, and then, after the last person of the pew ahead of you has come out, the first person in your pew gets behind that person. They don't do that. They just race up to the front. Many people who are at the end of their respective pews will just tear up to the front of the church. I had a lady bump into me. And then they just stand willy-nilly about five feet before the communion rail, waiting like hawks for an opening, and will criss-cross if they see one. Funny.

Well, that's all for now. I will try to go to the "Tate British" (the National Art Gallery) and then to Vespers and Mass (both sung) at Westminster Cathedral. I hope it is Martin Baker and, at least, the Lay Clerks- as I hear the boys are on "holiday." (I hope it is not another visiting choir)

The McDonald's next door claims to have free Wi-Fi, if not I suppose I could come back to this place to blog. Incidentally, it is only £2 per hour, not £10 as I said early. My mistake.
KP Update: Exactly same crazy aproach to "queueing" in Westminster Cathedral as at Brompton AND I had a lady bump into me there as well!

First Day in London

Very quickly about the internet. It seems the problem may have been mainly in Heathrow airport and at "Yo-Yotel" (about which more later - I have never been in a dorm room as small), as I found a place in Kennsington where the internet works, although it costs £10 in hour. (got to use the "£" sign - will it come through in America?). I have an hour before Vespers at Brompton Oratory so I will give quick impressions, and try to say more afterwards.

First, I took the tour bus, "Original London Sightseeing Tours." It was OK. What I spent most of my time on, however, were the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey - especially the Abbey. They are to me the most striking buildings in London, because of the neo-Gothic and Gothic styles, respectively. The Houses of Parliament are much bigger, with Big Ben being especially impressive and huge and high - and I got to hear the "Bong . . .Bong . ." striking of the hours.

The Abbey of course is much older, the current building dating back to the 1300's. There is something very touching about this and you can feel it in the stone. It is NOT as big as I expected, but I have been in much bigger churches (e.g. Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in DC). Nonetheless it is impressive - especially the Lady chapel with the fan-vaulting.)

I took the tour of it and then stayed for Evensong which was at 5 PM. It was NOT James O'Donnell and the men and boys of the Westminster Abbey choir as they were "on holiday," but a visiting choir from the Anglican Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. A big disappointment as they were good, but they just weren't Westminster - but they were quite competent, shining at certain moments. I liked the organist especially, both because he had a very good sense of the Abbey's organ - using its stops to achieve some subtle registrations, and the fact that he could accompany them from the organ which is on top of the rood screen which is the facade to the "quire" area from where the choir sings. It is quite a distance from one to the other.

The visiting choir, as with the Westminster Abbey choir, was probably no more than 30 voices so the vergers invited us to sit in the quire area with the choir. That is, me and the approximately 60 other motley tourists - some of them even wearing stretch pants! Anyway, the people behaved themselves - partly because they had some notion of wanting to worship, partly because the vergers would have cracked them over the head and ejected them. Those guys can be pretty tough. I saw two people with cameras busted - as pictures are not allowed inside.

Just in case it isn't clear, this used to be a Benedictine Monastery, so about 100 monks would celebrate the Divine Office within the quire area throughout the day which is an enclosure in front of the sanctuary with the altar. Most catholic parish churches haven't ever had such a place, even before Vatican II, so it is hard to imagine. Though not really part of "the nave," for practical purposes one could think of it as being at the "front of the nave" before the altar rail - so the stretch pants on overweight middle-aged bodies weren't quite so offensive. But well . . . anyway.

I saw the chapter house were the monks used to meet and some old murals from the time which were only uncovered in the 19th century. It had a good acoustic, so I could imagine no problems being heard during a medieval chapter meeting.

I want to compare and contrast my experiences here and at the Brompton Oratory (and the buildings), but I need to be going soon and should experience Vespers first - as I must be at Brompton in about 10 minutes. It is just down the road.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Arrived Safely

Everything went off without a hitch. Arrived in London. And then . . . had serious problems getting the internet to work. Serious frustrations. Yotel claimed they had Wi-Fi, but when my computer sensed nothing and I talked to the gal at the front desk she said, "we don't have that." When I pointed out that they say they do even in the literature left in the room she said, "well it doesn't work." I tried a number of other schemes-all frustrated-until I finally got this to work. I haven't left the airport yet. I must go see London.

Lots of charming accents even in the airport. I had a bohemian couple stop about ten feet in front of me on my way to customs. When the man realized I had to walk around them I could have sworn he said (in a Mick Jagger voice) "'ere, let's get out of the way luv, it aint fittin 'n propa"

He probably did. I have heard some of the other cliches, too.

Incidentally, this computer won't cut and paste. Yes the person at the terminal next to me confirmed this. Otherwise I would have started a new post with my sister Anne's interesting comment on Jane Austen, but read it as a comment under "final preparations."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Washington Dulles

I have hooked into the airport wi-fi and am blogging wirelessly (my how modern I am!) because I have some time to kill. Young Master Collins, my factotum and chaffeur, got me to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I made it through the check-in. It is busy but efficient. Got the lonely CPB officer in the corner office of the basement to sign my 4457 form, and made it through security with only a minimum of fuss. I am currently waiting at Gate D-1 for the flight, but we will not even board for another 45 minutes. (The time listed on this blog is off by several hours. I am not sure how to change it.)

Incidentally, Michael, the return flight will be United flight 903 arriving at 11:35 AM on August 1.

There will probably be nothing more until I reach London.

The Day!

Well, everything seems to be going according to plan. All I have to do today is review the things I have packed and see if I have forgotten anything (my checked luggage didn't even weigh 40 pounds) - and I have to pick up my glasses from LensCrafters. Then, after lunch, when Michael C. drops me off at the airport, I need to get customs to sign form 4077 (number? I don't have it with me right now) to prove that my laptop and camera belong to me. Then check in and take United Flight 920 from Washington Dulles straight to London Heathrow which should arrive at 6:55 AM London time. Check into the "Yotel" which is in Terminal 4 of the airport, get my Oyster Card, and take the tube to Kennsington Station (? must double check) where I will go to the 10 AM Mass at Brompton Oratory - I would like to go to the 8 AM Trid, but that might be a little tight. Go on the "Original London Sight Seeing Tour" and make various stops along the way. Finally, end up hearing Evening Song at Westminster Abbey at 5 PM. (And then, who knows? Go to Harrods and buy a bowler hat?)

We will see if it all goes according to plan. I want to thank everyone who made this possible and, please, say some prayers for me so that I have a safe journey. Also, any of my family and friends reading this blog, please do not hesitate to comment - even if it is only to say "hello" - it will be much appreciated. (I will be busy and, obviously, surrounded by people - but very much alone for four days. I don't want to turn into Travis Bickle! So some contact with familiar people would be nice.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Final Preparations

Yes, this is the day before I leave. I see that my "Original London Sightseeing Tour" Ticket arrived in the mail. I also have to finish writing my brief address on Heinrich Isaac's "Choralis Constantinus." I downloaded the the Introit for Easter Sunday (Resurrexi)recorded by the Tallis Scholars. Very medieval sounding in the beginning. After the incipit it began with open fifths and - I think - a double leading-tone cadence. Anyway this was 1508, not 1590. I think I shall compare Isaac's setting of the Resurrexi to Byrd's (I may have a recording by Chanticleer). Give the audience concrete examples - I can play both on my laptop.

Also, I checked out Jane Austen's "Persuasion" from the library upon the recommendation of a friend. Something to do on the long flight to England. I may blog on this, so you Janeites stay tuned.

Update: I finished the "lectio brevis" on Isaac. People ask me if I am 'excited' about my trip. The answer is that, no, I will begin to be excited only when I am actually on the plane. Too many little things to worry about until then. I will only be able to relax when they are done. It's just the way I am.

P.S. I am excited about Isaac. We need more German popyphony in the choir - or at least earlier Renaissance polyphony (like Ockeghem) - its more manly and scary. [That's what we need at Mass, more testosterone and fright - but in a sacral way. (Just listen to me!)]

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Trip to Switzerland

Here are two pictures. The map of Switzerland shows with the white markers the three places that I will be staying. The first, at the very top of the picture, is the Isle of Reichenau. It is an island in Lake Constnace which is technically in Germany, but just across the Swiss Border. I will be staying there from July 22-24. Very near it, on a penninsula jutting out into the lake, is the town of Constance where there is a Cathedral which was once seat of the largest diocese in Germany. (The second picture shows more detail) It was for this cathedral that Heinrich Isaac was commissioned in 1508 to write the Choralis Constantinus - a polyphonic setting of the propers of the Mass for the liturgical year. (It was also where the Council of Constance was held in 1414.)

The next white marker is placed at the town of Appenzell (famous for its cheese and not giving women the right to vote until 1989) from which I will be visiting the famous chant connected monasteries of St. Gall and Einsleiden. I will be here from July 24-26.

The final place in Switzerland will be Muestair, which is the last white marker in the south-eastern corner of Switzerland just across the border from Italy. I will be there from July 26-29. I will probably hear some Italian , but this is supposedly in the Romansh-speaking section of Switzerland, so I may here some of that. "Romansh," as I have had further clarified is thought to have come directly from a "vulgar Latin," which was a rather degraded form of Latin which is the step reached in the 9th century just before the early forms of the Romance languages (Italian, Spanish, French, etc.). So when I find out my landlord has finally finished constructing the new steps to my apartment, they wouldn't necessarily understand me if I said, "Habemus gradus!"

Finally, I will be in Munich, Germany (hoping to visit the actual chapel in the Imperial residence where Lassus' pieces were first performed) from July 29-Aug. 1.

One Friend Writes in Response to Another Friend

I think you may mistake your friend's point. He wrote: "OK, so my kid can identify a Renoir and a Rembrandt. So what. That act values two ideals: the artist as an individual, and the work of art as an individual piece of creativity. And I wonder if these two values are true, or manifestations of modernism." He then asked the reader to considert the Bayeux Tapestry, or Chartres Cathedral.

What I believe he is talking about is the work of art qua art as opposed to the work of art as the effect of a personality. It is a distinct feature of modernity to be preoccupied with personality in art whether the artist's or the critic's -- and thus with the "individual"; hence, his use of the term. He contrast Renoir et al with the Bayeux Tapestry and Chartres because in them there is no personality to discern and be distracted by. Art is something other than the artist who creates it. When he creates something, it comes into being -- a new thing -- no longer an idea in the artist's mind. It becomes something truely independent of him. So, to attend to the artist -- still less anyone else -- as though he were the key or window to his art is to confuse two very different things, making one likely to misunderstand or ignore the thing of real importance (so far as the appreciation of art is concerned). The commercial use of art is particularly guilty of this as are many educators who suppose that to know something about artists and the history of art is know art, which, I thnk, is equally bourgois. Hence, your friend's disparagement of his child's bare recognition of a Renoir.

Your friend also identifies the "individual piece of creativity" as a "manifestation of modernism". In this I think he is mistaken (if I do not mistake him). Based upon what I have said above, the individual work of art is the primary and fundamental thing, which all other matters, e.g., personality, historical milieu, and formal classifications, etc. are ancillary. This is not reduce the value and meaning of art to whether or not one likes it and understands it. Rather, the principle I have in mind is that a work of art must be first and foremost taken on its own.

KP: More of this, please. This is what I wanted.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

John Ruskin - 19th Century Art and the Middle Class

Here are Eight points which could sum up John Ruskin's View on Art as formulated by the art historian Kenneth Clark:

1.Art is not a matter of taste, but involves the whole man. Whether in making or perceiving a work of art, we bring to bear on it feeling, intellect, morals, knowledge, memory, and every other human capacity, all focused in a flash on a single point. Aesthetic man is a concept as false and dehumanizing as economic man.

2.Even the most superior mind and the most powerful imagination must found itself on facts, which must be recognized for what they are. The imagination will often reshape them in a way which the prosaic mind cannot understand; but this recreation will be based on facts, not on formulas or illusions.

3.These facts must be perceived by the senses, or felt; not learnt.

4.The greatest artists and schools of art have believed it their duty to impart vital truths, not only about the facts of vision, but about religion and the conduct of life.

5.Beauty of form is revealed in organisms which have developed perfectly according to their laws of growth, and so give, in his own words, 'the appearance of felicitous fulfillment of function.'

6.This fulfillment of function depends on all parts of an organism cohering and cooperating. This was what he called the 'Law of Help,' one of Ruskin's fundamental beliefs, extending from nature and art to society.

7.Good art is done with enjoyment. The artist must feel that, within certain reasonable limits, he is free, that he is wanted by society, and that the ideas he is asked to express are true and important.

8.Great art is the expression of epochs where people are united by a common faith and a common purpose, accept their laws, believe in their leaders, and take a serious view of human destiny.

Ruskin's criticism of the art and architecture of his time seems to have had to do with what he saw as its connection with the Industrial Revolution and, to some degree, the middle class and laissez-faire capitalism. My friend's criticism of artists such as Degas and Renoir (in the posts below) seems to make a connection between individualist innovation, the middle classes, and modern capitalism, but Ruskin seemed to be of the view that modern times were less fortuitous for the individual - praising the "crude and 'savage' aspects of Gothic stonework as proof of 'the liberty of every workman who struck the stone; a freedom of thought, and rank in scale of being, such as no laws, no charters, no charities can secure. Classical architecture, in contrast, expressed a morally vacuous repressive standardisation. Ruskin associated Classical values with modern developments, in particular with demoralising consequences of the industrial revolution."

The connection is between middle class (and mass markets) and standardization; not middle class/mass markets and liberty or individualism. In fact the more liberal musicians of the 19th century were reacting AGAINST the middle class ticket buyers whom they felt stifled their freedom. Think of Schumann's 'Davidsbundler' (League of David) which was to slay the 'Philistines.' (i.e. the general public). This is from whence the term 'philistine' acquires the connotation "uncultured."

And this is ultimately where the tradition of the symphony concert involving pretty exclusively "old masters" comes from. In the Baroque era, for example, Bach was constantly writing new music - not because he was a Bohemian looking constantly to innovate, but because, well . . . his patrons expected it.

As Kerman has noted, "[w]hile many aristocratic patrons cared less about music than display, and some excercised the most whimsical tastes, others actually encouraged composers to pursue new paths, or at least left them alone to do so . . . [t]he mainly middle-class [i.e. nineteenth century] buyers of concert tickets naturally wanted value, as with anything else they bought. What counted as value was something already established as a masterpiece, something that they already knew and liked."

In other words, a mass market may find it fortuitous to promote "individualism" for its own end. (i.e. "Be a rebel, just like James Dean. Buy this exclusively made James Dean leather jacket, etc") However, by its very nature, a mass market tends toward conformity - perhaps a set of options, but a set that fits within a simple enough grid. ("Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce, special orders don't upset us," etc.) Rather shameless appeals to the individual ("L'Oreal - because you're worth it." "You deserve a break today." "Unleash the beauty that is you.") are meant simply to persuade more people to by a product - but honestly, I don't see a true connection between this and the individualism of 19th (and 20th) century liberal artists looking to innovate. Even if we may find them misguided at times-some of them very misguided esp in the 20th century. They would have found this just as abhorent.

Let's be fair.

In a sense, both liberals and conservatives were reacting AGAINST the middle class, industrialization, and lasissez-faire capitalism of the 19th century, but in different ways. Yes, liberal individualists were ultimately wrong as regards Ruskin's points #6 and #8, but humanly speaking, what were they to do? Society had broken down, the great systems of social support and patronage (the aristocracy and the clergy) were gone or severely reduced - THEY (liberal artists) didn't have the faith. What were they to do? They didn't create the system in which they were living. They pursued a path of individual innovation and aestheticism, which, frankly, in some cases produced some very striking art works.

I am sorry but I just cannot look at Degas or Renoir and see them as the forefathers of Wal Mart. (and let's not forget that Warhol, whom I am not a big fan of, nonetheless had as his point not the glorification, but the questioning of the very concept of the unique artwork of the INDIVIDUAL; and the deliberate banalization of the mass produced objects of a modern society: from brillo pads to movie stars).

My main point here is that people and ideas (no matter how bad or good they may be per se) are being lumped together with the assumption that they are sympatico or even in a cause-effect relationship. I am disputing this.

My second point is that when I look at Renoir's "Umbrellas," for instance, my reaction is, "that's beautiful," not "would this really exist in an ideal, fully Catholic culture." I am not sure that this is what a Distributist/Traddie would say, but I fear that is what some may be thinking. To my mind, all beauty comes from and leads back to God - although, I will fully admit that people can get stuck on beauty and turn it into an idol on the purely natural level. Though this need not be so. Lot's of food for thought.

OK class, let's discuss.

The Lady of Shalott

Here is another painting, this one by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917), based on Tennyson's poem of the same name. Waterhouse was not a part of the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but was influenced by them. (You need to double click on this one as well to see a nice big version of it.) You can also see a similarity in theme between this painting and 'Ophelia' below: a lonely young woman and the water. The distraught, almost suicidal look reminds me of a soprano after she's had a bad voice lesson. Yep, I would know that look anywhere.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sir John Everett Millais of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

Speaking of the Pre-Raphaelites, here is the 1852 painting "Ophelia" by one of its members Sir John Everett Millais. In this picture he creates "dense and elaborate pictorial surfaces based on the integration of naturalistic surfaces." A kind of "pictorial eco-system." This approach was promoted by Ruskin. It's too small to get a good impression, so double click on it to get the full size picture with all the detail. I don't know about you, but for some reason, looking at the woman, it makes me think, "This is so typical of something a soprano would like to do."

Frauenlob - The Ladies' Man

Mild-mannered Heinrich von Meissen occasionally experiences a change coming over him. "I don't know what happens to me, but I start to feel different. My clothes change, my face changes. I start referring to myself as 'Frauenlob,' and it is as if I am living in 1977 instead of the 13th century." He says he hopes it is only a bad dream, but has distinct memories of holding something called a "microphone" (whatever that is) and using phrases like, "I would like to dedicate this next song to all of the special ladies in the audience" and (even worse) "are those your eyes, or have the stars come out early tonight?!" Is this a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde situation spanning the centuries? Or has there always been a little bit of 1977 in the back of everyone's consciousness? Or is Heinrich just so bad with women that he figures, "What the heck, I have nothing to lose."

Take Dr. Poterack's Music History class this Fall semester and find out.
I know this is terrible, but I wanted to test my ability to post two pictures in one post AND amuse at least part of my audience. If you don't get the joke, go to my July 13th post entitled "Famous Composers and Artists."