Garrison Keillor on Episcopalians and Singing

Taken from the website of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Bellingham, Washington.

[The photo is of members of the Boys’ Choir at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City, from the archives of LIFE magazine.]

[I somehow think asking Episcopalians to sing “For All the Saints” to Vaughan Williams’s SineNomine—especially if it’s sung on All Saints’ Day—will elicit an even more robust response than “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.”  But Keillor is correct, I think, about congregational singing being a normal aspect of the Episcopalian ethos. 

I attended a liturgy at an Ordinariate group at which there were apparently more cradle Catholics than former Episcopalians, for when I, standing in the pews, sang the ordinary of the liturgy (Healey Willan’s St. Mary Magdalene Mass) along with the paid quartet, vested and standing in the chancel, some members of the congregation looked daggers in my direction!  “United but not absorbed,” I kept telling myself, as I continued to sing.

Brother John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.]

We make fun of Episcopalians for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese.

But nobody sings like us.

If you were to ask an audience in Des Moines, a relatively Episcopalianless place, to sing along on the chorus of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore,” they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Episcopalians, they’d smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! ….And down the road!

Many Episcopalians are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person’s rib cage.

It’s natural for Episcopalians to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you’re singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it’s an emotionally fulfilling moment. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.

Competition for the 2020 Schellhorn Prize for Sacred Music Composition.

Link to the page announcing the prize:

This prize is geared towards the 1962 missal (EF) rather than the Divine Worship missal (DWM).  But the “Christmas-themed text” option can apparently be in English (or in any language, perhaps?), which opens up possibilities for works that could easily accord with both the EF and the DWM.

There are also somewhat considerable restrictions on who may enter.  But this is apparently for the laudable goal of encouraging and mentoring young composers and those who are at home with the liturgical choral heritage–more Catholic in this case than Anglican–in England and Wales.

Cantus Magnus, which organizes the competition, also promotes and commissions new music from composers outside the parameters of the Schellhorn Prize competition.  Go here for more information.

Live Streaming of Choral Evensong, 2020-2021, Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham, Houston.

Chorus Angelorum, a professional choir located at the cathedral of the North American ordinariate (the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter), has announced its 2020 – 2021 schedule of choral Evensong.  The services, which will begin at 4:00 pm CT / 5:00 pm ET, will be livestreamed at and on Chorus Angelorum’s Facebook page.

If you live in the Houston area, you can also attend these events live at the Cathedral.

Here is the schedule for the 2020 – 2021 season:

Sunday, Sept. 27 – Evensong for the Patronal Feast of Our Lady of Walsingham

Sunday, Nov. 8 – Votive Office of the Dead and Requiem

Sunday, Dec. 13 – Advent Lessons & Carols (Gaudete Sunday)

Saturday, Jan. 9 – Epiphanytide Festival of Lessons & Carols

Sunday, Feb. 14 – Evensong for the Anniversary of the Dedication of The Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham

Sunday, Mar. 21 – Evensong for Passion Sunday

Sunday, May 9 – Evensong for Sixth Sunday of Easter (Mother’s Day)

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.