THERE has been much to admire, much to enjoy and much to ponder over and discuss in the experiences of those fortunate enough to be in Cologne last week for the Fourth International Congress of Church Music.
Each day the great cathedral or one of the larger churches of the city has been packed for the singing of Pontifical High Mass, the vast crowd alternating throughout with a famous European choir.
Of the four interesting examples of Masses composed for choir and congregation that by Hermann Schroeder (Mina (Jregoriana) is one that deserves to be welcomed into English churches as soon as possible.
Older forms were splendidly represented also. We listened proudly to the choir of Edinburgh
Cathedral directed by Arthur Oldham, sing Byrd's Proper (Cihavit cos) and a fine Scottish motet by Robert Johnson, on
which occasion the Cologne Seminarians sang the Common to Mass X. The Edinburgh boys sang again later in the week equally admirably. this time the Missa Brevis of Benjamin Britten. One morning over a thousand Dutch children sang a Plainsong Mass and demonstrated by their beautiful and affecting singing the excellence of the Ward method of instruct' on.
Perhaps the most memorable enactment of the Sacred Liturgy was that of the Byzantine Rite. Many of those present felt that
the style of the tOttsiV, the diract melodic lines and the translucent harmonies might well meet some of the present needs of our western liturgy.
The other selling of the Mass which was unusual to many of us was composed for a choir with wind instruments by Heinrich Lemacher; the ascent especially. from the low bassoons and horns of the first Agnus Del to the urgent cries of the trebles in the last was most moving.
Something must be said, too, about the hymns which were sung before and after each Mass; alternate verses of these fine German chorales were sung heartily. and at a business-like pace by many thousands of Voices, but the other verses were performed to most elaborate, often soaring settings, by the choir. and made hymn-singing the thrilling experience which we England should be sharing more often.
The concerts of music from the various participating countries were heavily weighted in favour of modein compositions. Very impressive amongst these was Max Baumann's setting of The Passion for speaking choir. voices and instruments (especially percussion and wood-wind).
But of some other works one felt that the qualities so often found in modern music. frenzy, bombast, noise. should not be given a place in music relating to holy things, and perhaps this was one of the reasons why the programme given by the Westminster Diocesan Choir of English religious music. starting with the fifteenth century, was received with such delighted acclaim bs everyone including the highest ecclesiastical and musical authorities present and the German press
The subtle and sensitive singing of this choir (direacd by Fr, W. Purney) so perfectly suits the meditative and undemonstrative character of this music, until now SO little known abroad. No less appreciated was the organ-playing of Douglas Mews from Southwark Cathedral, both on this occasion and at his recital of English works in Cologne Cathedral,