söndag 17 februari 2013

Four decades of Catholic music - 1

Italian devotion in London by TheAltruist
Italian devotion in London, a photo by TheAltruist on Flickr.
My first encounter with the Catholic church was here, the Italian church of St Peter's in Clerkenwell Road, London. It was January 1975 and I was there to check out if there was enough light to enable me to take the photographs for some friends whose wedding was due to be held there a week later. As it happens, the only time available was for a Sunday Mass. I will say only that this was an instant conversion and that I did not understand a single word of the proceedings, since the Mass was in Latin and the readings in Italian. It is impossible to say what would have happened if things had been otherwise, but I doubt if my path would have been an easy one if the Mass had been said in English and the music had been the kind of thing that became the norm in Catholic churches a decade later. These things would have been obstacles. I suspect that is true for a lot of people and is a good reason why Mass should not be said in the vernacular. Being able to understand the words can get in the way of what is first and foremost an action.

At that time the reforms that were initiated by the Second Vatican Council had not fully taken effect. The church had a very competent choir and an organ with a beautiful tone. The music was the Missa Pontificale written in 1897 by the composer Perosi (1872-1956).

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