Westminster Cathedral is not just for London or even England; it is for the world. The beauty and solemnity of the sung worship in the Cathedral give glory to God and edification to all those who come there, including visitors from every land.
am disturbed by the asser tion of Mr J. F. Marighetti (January 10) that the choir has ignored the reforms of Vatican II. Cathedral choirs and their traditions are clearly confirmed by both the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and the Instruction on Sacred Music of 1967.
Permission for the vernacular and thc encouraaement of congregational singing in no way militate against choral music or Gregorian chant in' Latin. Both are assured of their proper place, and the priority is clearly given in the documents to chant and to Latin which are commanded as against the vernacular which is allowed.
To dismiss the tenors and basses is to destroy the choir by rendering it impossible to sing the polyphonic music that is the art of the Westminster choir. Destruction of choirs and traditions of long-standing excellence does not thereby encourage the vocal participation of the congregaition.
Rather, by reducing the artistic level the sacredness of worship is impaired and man is removed farther from God whom he seeks through the means of sacred signs — music, painting, poetry. It is sacred art that transcends this world and puts us into touch with God who dwells in light inaccessible, The condition of Church music and the liturgy in general in the United States, brought about by erroneous and illogical ideas such as Mr Marighetti repeats, should be ample warning to English Catholics. The art of sacred music is an integral part of sacred liturgy; to destroy the art is to attack the liturgy itself. And Pius X has assured us that liturgy is the indispensable source of the spiritual life.
Preserve and foster the polyphonic music and the Gregorian chant of the Westminster Choir. Add where necessary the vernacular and popular forms that pastoral reasons dictate. To foster one does not require the destruction of the other.
(Mgr) Richard J. Schuler General Secretary, Church Music Association of America The Church of St Agnes, 548 Lafond Avenue, Saint Paul, Minnesota.
How saddened I was to read in the Catholic Herald of December 27 that Westminster Cathedral choir is to be disbanded. Might I have the opportunity through your columns to express an opinion from Australia?
Without a doubt Westminster Cathedral choir's reputation for its splendid singing of plainsong and polyphony is well known in Church music circles in this country, for through the able leadership of such musicians as I erry, Malcolm and Mawby the choir today enjoys an international reputation.
Westminster has the calibre of the choirs of King's College, St Paul's and Westminster Abbey, and it surely must be ranked as one of the finest Catholic choirs in the world.
I heard the choir on a visit to London some 12 months ago and was impressed by the conviction and sincerity with which the music at the Capitular Mass and Vespers was performed.
I dismiss Anthony Milner's remarks (January 17) about the liturgical values of the choir and its "narrow repertoire," and suggest he read the recent message from Cardinal Knox on behalf of the Holy Father urging the need to preserve in Catholic worship the use of Latin Gregorian Chant, which has fed devotion in the liturgy through the centuries.
Let's face it, the old liturgy — now demolished in practice — was replete with the beauty of holiness, being one of the great monuments of Western civilisation. Life moves on, of course, and the accumulations of the past must be sifted, and some discarded and remorselessly jettisoned.
However, to me the essential thing is that liturgical change should be mindful not merely of "modern relevance" but of the timeless value of beauty. Obviously we cannot put the clock back and return to the past.
But there are elements of enduring value in yesterday's world, and Westminster's repertoire upholds that enduring value in its "specialised and authoritative performances" of plainsong and polyphony. To abandon the treasures of our Catholic past means impoverishment, not progress.
We are all aware of the escalation of costs and scarcity of income, However, let us hope that a settlement can be reached with the Cathedral Administration. We must not forget our stewardship of the whole heritage of Catholic music, and that our children are heir to it. Canon Bartlett should remember that history will judge us all severely!
Christopher F. Kelly 4 Uno Street, Belmont 3216, Victoria, Australia.
My letter of January 10, concerning musical policy for Westminster Cathedral's liturgy has been predictably misunderstood.
1 in no way whatever attacked the Latin liturgy as such — only its excessive use. Nor did promote the cause of any second-rate music.
My purpose was to indicate that the Cathedral can provide leadership and gain support only by representing the BEST of sung Latin AND English liturgy and for both to facilitate proper congregational involvement.
The need for this is clearly stated in Section 34 of "Music for the Mass" by the National Commission for Catholic Church Music. Contrary to some inferences. there is plenty of fine English music available, but it has seldom been given a proper hearing.
Extreme views and irrelevancies have bedevilled this debate. We need the middle ground where all responsible needs can find expression.
J. F. Marighetti Deputy Headmaster Westminster Cathedral Choir School, Ambrosden Avenue, London, SW1.
Few people know that there have been young girls' choirs in the same way as boys' choirs in the past in women's monastic churches with a cathedral status.
Such was the case at the Women's Cistercian Abbey of Las Huelgas in Burgos, where 40 young girls were trained to sing the very complicated polyphonic motets, published in H. Angles' Codex Musical de las Huelgas, back in the 13th century, They led the way in polyphonic singing.
-hie church, the size of a cathedral, was served by some 20 clerical members dependent on the abbess, with a hundred Cistercian nuns.
Few people know that there have been double monastic cathedrals, one behind the other, such as at Milan, Pavia, Como, in many places in France — written about by Jean Hubert — and these double monasteries did solve the problem, to some extent, which arose due to the division of the Sexes in monastic orders.
It cannot be looked upon as the most satisfactory answer to the problem. It is understandable that in the past these monastic cathedral services did serve their purpose and may have been necessary then, but not today. We need to shake off the customs arising from a single-sex celebration in the Church, where women anyhow outnumber men by three to one, if not more.
I myself belong to a secular institute (Italian) formed of priests and laymen and women. In our liturgical celebrations we are able to act altogether, and sing altogether, with or without the assistance of a choir.
1 have an axe to grind, as Michael Lander (January 31) suggests; but it is not quite the one he is thinking of. I do not just want to push women forward. I want the full cooperation of sexes in the Church as a fundamental right and duty. Until the "Two are One" Our Lord will not come again.
Joan Morris 27 Red Lion Street, London WC1.