Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Musical Quotes And Thoughts

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." (Aldous Huxley, Music At Night)

As a musician by nature and education, I agree. And as a song leader/cantor at my local parish, I have recourse to invoke St. Cecilia.

"He who sings prays twice." (Attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo)

I can remember two occasions when this seemed to be true.

The first was when I was the director of the Sanctuary Choir at St. John's Lutheran Church, Sioux City, IA. It was the Sunday after the first Gulf War started. The piece I selected for that day was the round "Dona Nobis Pacem". The choir's performance was satisfactory. The silence afterward summed up nicely what the congregation had in mind and heart.

The other was when I was a member of the Concert Choir at Minnesota State University, Mankato. During a spring tour we had arranged for a rehearsal at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Rapid City, SD. We pulled out Franz Beibl's "Ave Maria" (a setting of the Angelus) and sang through it. I think it was the best we had ever done with it. Nobody wanted to break the silence after we finished. I couldn't help but think, "Folks, we didn't sing; we prayed." Ora pro nobis, indeed.

"Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast,/To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak." (William Congreve, The Mourning Bride)

John Dryden (who converted to Catholicism later in his life) wrote two odes related to the power of music: A Song For St. Cecilia's Day, 1687 and Alexander's Feast. There's also a little history lesson about festivals on this day.

"If music be the food of love, play on,/Give me excess of it that, surfeiting,/The appetite may sicken and so die." (William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night)

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