Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lobet den Herrn: Chorale Tour, Day 5

Every once in a while, you get to have a profound moment that will forever change your perspective on a certain thing, and this morning was one of those moments. The choir was given the opportunity to sing Mass at the Salzburg Dom this morning under the direction of their music director, Janos Czifras. We sang Mozart's Missa Solemnis, K. 337 not as a concert piece but as liturgical worship. I want to put something in perspective for you. Mozart wrote this piece of music specifically for the space in which we sung. We sung the piece in the precise place where Mozart's choir and orchestra would have sung it. The organ upon which the organist played was the very organ that Mozart would have played. Prof. Czifras has the exact same job that Mozart's father, Leopold, had nearly 300 years ago.

In other words, we were truly living and partaking the communion of the saints; we were living, breathing, and singing in a small part of human history.

Furthermore, to sing the Mass as a liturgical aid in worship, not as a concert piece, brought a whole new level of understanding and depth to the work. The fermatas before changes in tempi are not just for aesthetic or dramatic effect. Mozart was accommodating for the reverberation of the space. The lengthy "Agnus Dei" was not only a theological statement; Mozart chose a slower tempo for the final movement because everyone in the cathedral would have taken communion during the singing of "Agnus." Indeed, in the time it took to perform the final movement this morning, everybody had taken of Christ's blood and body.

And even though the liturgy was in German, I still had a general idea of pace. The rhythms of our sacred liturgies are almost universal; every Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, and Offertory has its fixed place. When the congregation prayed a Vater Unser, I knew to pray an Our Father with them. One holy, catholic, apostolic Church, indeed.

I think I realized more than ever today that music, even the sacred music of the great masters, can be more than a relic for the museum-like concert hall. It can breathe life and carry significant meaning and weight. Music is not merely a vague aid to some kind of spiritual insight; music can be and should be a tool to proclaim the Gospel itself.

In the choir loft at the Dom - the same one the Mozarts used - to sing at Mass.
The Dom from the Choir Loft, before service.

Schift Melk monastery.

The chapel at Melk.

We're in Vienna now, and we have a huge day that will culminate with a concert at St. Stephensdom, the flagship Cathedral of Austria. I have been told that we are doing the impossible: an American guest choir singing a formal evening concert. For me to be part of the choir that will give a concert - let alone being a member of the Mozart solo quartet and to sing a Gospel solo - is a bit overwhelming.

But until then...


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