Westminster Cathedral’s Master of Music Resigns

Martin Baker 2013 280

There will be differences of opinion concerning the degree to which the liturgical music at Westminster Cathedral, London’s Catholic cathedral, contributes to (and has contributed to) the musical aspect of the Anglican patrimony.  (Two pieces of evidence on the side of claiming a symbiosis between Westminster Cathedral’s music and Anglicanism’s musical patrimony are the work of Richard Runciman Terry on bringing the Tudor Masters back into the repertoire, both Catholic and Anglican, as well as Terry’s influence on the music of the young Herbert Howells.)  But regardless of how intertwined the music of Westminster Cathedral is with that of Anglicanism, the news of Martin Baker’s resignation is troubling for liturgical music in general.

Here is the link to an article on this development.


Closing of St. Matthew’s, Twigworth

“St Matthew’s Church in Twigworth [Gloucestershire] is shutting it doors for the final time after opening in 1844.”

St. Matthew’s is the final resting place of composer Ivor Gurney and of Michael Howells, son of Herbert (and Dorothy) Howells, who died at the age of nine. Partly because of the devastation caused by World War I, H. Howells had already found a means of expressing the elegiac in his music as a young composer. According to Howells’s daughter, Ursula, though, Howells spent hours and hours in this church after his son’s death. She urged him to turn this grief into music. That mourning eventually contributed to HH’s _Hymnus Paradisi_ as well as the hymn tunes Michael and Twigworth.  (Herbert Howells, by the way, is buried in Westminster Abbey.  His wife is buried at Twigworth.)

St. Matthew's Twigworth

Mindfulness & Music on the Feast of St. Cecilia

Attached below is a reflection on mindfulness and liturgy by Fr. Albert Scharbach of Mount Calvary Church in Baltimore, Maryland.  Among the paradoxes of liturgy is that it is meant to be “understanded of the people,” as the English reformers put it, and yet it celebrates mysteries that cannot be fully articulated or understood.  Turning our minds to the words and actions does not mean pinning meanings down but being thrown off balance by what they reveal, if only partially.

Music expresses a similar paradox.  If we listen closely to a piece of music, we seem, often, to have a new understanding, whether because of the music itself or because of the way the music expresses a text.  But if we analyze the music, it is not always clear why we respond as we do.  Compositional choices are made with great care, and performers bring the best of their training and technique to a performance.  But even then, something beyond all of this careful, human control is communicated.  As someone said about the late Dr. Joseph Flummerfelt (under whom I had the privilege of singing when I was a student at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey), at the height of his brilliance as a conductor, after years of study and experience, he conducted Brahms’s _Ein Deutsches Requiem_ one evening, then, afterwards, said to a friend, “I *think* that’s the way it goes?”  As this friend of his reports—and the friend is an experienced conductor too—Dr. Flummerfelt said this with a sense of helplessness and humble uncertainty.

Mindfulness about communicating the incommunicable is a good reminder on this feast of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.  I’m sure the Church honors patron saints of other art forms.  But I confess I don’t know who those saints might be.  If the Church accords a preeminence to music, it says a great deal that among the treasures of the Anglican patrimony is its musical heritage.  Those of us who have been formed in this patrimony have an august responsibility to give this mystery its due.  “Blessed Cecilia / Appear in visions to all musicians / Appear and inspire”.


Dear Parishioners and Friends,

Mindfulness in the mundane can bring a monastic-style spirituality into daily life and work.

Last week, we considered the monastic origin of Christian mindfulness and how this is reflected in the Anglican patrimony of our parish. The poetic rhythm of liturgical language helps to keep our minds focused on the present act of worship.

Brother John-Bede Pauley points out how this can be carried over into the liturgy of life.

Monastic poetry is not only about reading and writing but also about discovering the beauty of God’s presence in the ordinary, which means perceiving liturgy, theological reflection, and quotidian tasks as forming aspects of the same integrated whole. Even utensils—garden tools, for example, or stirring spoons—are to be treated, according to the RB (Rule of St. Benedict), as though they are “sacred vessels of the altar.” Conversely, the ordinariness of the garden shed, the kitchen, and other places of everyday life has its resonance in the oratory. All is both reverent and familiar, awe-filled and quotidian. Patristic/monastic spirituality favors the stillness of the domestic and the “homely” rather than the “disputations” of scholastics or the exaggeration and drama that characterized much spirituality and art in the late Renaissance and the Baroque.

This perspective on mindfulness in the mundane is the fruit of a particularly Benedictine spirituality that continued in England longer than the continent, and continued to form English Catholic spirituality. It is brought forward in the poetry of our Ordinariate worship today.

In our worship at Mount Calvary, we say that “we lift up Christ in the beauty of holiness.” But the beauty of holiness means infinitely more when it extends outside our church doors and into daily life.

May Christ be lifted up in every aspect of our lives today.

In Him,
Fr. Al Scharbach


cecilia pre-raphaelite

Commemorating the Tenth Anniversary of Anglicanorum Coetibus at Our Lady of Walsingham Cathedral, Houston.

Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit in commemoration of the Tenth Anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. 3 November AD 2019 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston, Texas.

Click here for a link to a video of the liturgy

Please note, during the second reading, we lost video for a moment, but you still get the audio of the reading.

olow choirCelebrant: Most Rev. Steven Lopes; Concelebrants: Very Rev. Timothy Perkins, Very Rev. Charles Hough IV, and Rev. Richard Kramer; Deacon of the Mass: Rev. Mr. Mark Stockstill.

Podcasts on William Byrd


One of the most important composers of the Anglican patrimony’s musical expression is William Byrd.  A composer of the Chapel Royal under Elizabeth I, Byrd’s high musical standards helped establish a high benchmark for liturgical music in the Anglican tradition.

I have not finished listening to two recent podcasts about Byrd, but based on what I have listened to thus far, they are worth one’s while in gaining a better understanding of how the Anglican musical heritage owes so much to Byrd as well as to the importance of music, in general, in the Elizabethan era.

Episode 49—A Catholic Composer in Queen Elizabeth’s Court, Pt. I—Kerry McCarthy

Episode 50—A Cathoic Composer in Queen Elizabeth’s Court, Pt. II—Kerry McCarthy

Byrd was also Catholic, and this at a time when Catholics were being executed for celebrating Mass, fined for not attending services of the established Church, and so on.  Exactly how Byrd not only survived but thrived as a Catholic composer in the very heart of Elizabeth’s ecclesiastical establishment is a mystery that might never be completely solved.  (It seems Byrd was not only an intelligent composer but also a diplomat of no mean ability.)  But the work of scholars such as Joseph Kerman and Kerry McCarthy indicates Byrd’s theological perspective, as a Catholic, is expressed in the compositional choices he made, certainly in his music written ostensibly for Catholic liturgy (though not permitted to be performed as liturgical music, it seems), and no doubt in his music for Anglican liturgy as well.

Anglican Choral Music Brings Catholics in Ottowa Together for Candlemas

People from across the Catholic community in Ottawa (including the Nuncio!) came together a few nights ago to celebrate a choral High Mass in the Anglican Use, the first time this particular feast day has been celebrated with full choral music by Ordinariate Catholics in the city. (The first write-up from the evening can be found here: Anglican tradition Candlemas with the Papal Nuncio.)

[A full account by Christopher Mahon is found here.]

190202 Candlemass ottowa