Colloquium: Phil Spector's WALL OF SOUND Caps The Final Mass
  • The 13th Sunday of the Year

    If I have learned nothing else at the Colloquium, I have learned that chant has two notes, ones that drip like raindrops and ones that suspend time, as if suddenly the string of water dripping stops for a moment.

    This was apparent as Scott Turkington intoned the verse of the Asperges. The last two notes on Deus were lengthened, the first note adorned with just a bit of vibrato and then a swelling of sound just before the Schola entered.

    There is a misconception that chant is cold and non-expressive. It can be, but is not meant to be.

    No one could fail to note that every Mass began with a very slow procession and ended the same way. If Sunday Masses are to be reformed, such a procession alone could serve to bring about change. When the procession is stately it is a sign that all know that they are truly approaching the Altar of God.

    Before I forget, every homily was brief all week. This puts the Eucharist in prominence. Long homilies can be so Protestant, dominating the Mass rather than preparing for the Eucharist.

    All the chant that was sung, no matter who directed it, showed a real Photoshop technique of feathering, chants beginning softly and ending the same way, interrupting, but even more importantly, creating silence as they end. Parishes that have an abundance of talkers may find a diet of chant very helpful.

    Horst Buchholz differs from the other conductors at this Colloquium in that his style puts the fear of not God, but Buchholz, in his singers and players. And that results in a very impassioned Schubert Mass. There are certain conducting gestures that he uses that really grab the attention and are effective in tying this work together, especially the fluttering fingers.

    Organist David Hughes' playing gave the tone color of winds with the strings very, very effectively, raising the organ from the background it would normally provide in a baroque setting up into the view of all.

    The orchestra was quite professional and it was of note that only one person was a member of the PSO. Nicely done.

    The Schubert Mass is really as sumptuous as the Schillerlocken as served at the Cafe Kranzler chain. To hear this music at Mass along with Chant made an impact stronger than that of the opening of the Harry Potter area at Disney World. We didn't know what we were in for and it was just as well, for it would have been hard to sleep the night before. However, the hills we climbed did seem to make sleep easier, if not totally essential.

    As the first reading was chanted, rows of female faces appeared staring out from the right transept, ready to answer the reading with "Exaltábo te, Domine" in chant, the real Gradual for this Mass. I had the feeling the missing responsorial psalm would not be…missed. The sung reading was stark against the chant that followed and then from the left man answered with the Alleluia.

    It was obvious that we were in church.

    The prayers of the faithful using the sung Kyrie that was used should be adopted at every parish.

    Buckaroo Banzai [disguised as Jeff Ostrowski] conducted the Offertory chant with passion and then Kurt Poterack conducted Bruckner's Vexilla Regis. During both of these I got the feeling that the priest, with his back towards us, was our appointed representative to stand and pray as we all prepared for what was coming. And, of all things the organist, who may or may not have been Benjamin Cornelius-Bates OR Dr. Jean Raevens (sorry for not knowing which….they both played and improvised incredibly during the week along with other organists) took the challenge and upon the basis of chant, the romantic fullness of Bruckner then improvised up to a grand chord which ended as the priest turned and said, "Orate Fratres". Astounding! What a moment!

    Inclina Domine by Dutch composer Johannes Verhulst was given over to the care and nurturing of Wilko Brouwers. The singing of it under Brouwers can only be said to bring to mind Phil Spector's Wall Of Sound. The "dense, layered, and reverberant sound" [thanks for the quote, Wikipedia] ws to me definitely one of the most dramatic moments of the week.

    The final measures could be described as moving back and forth from two chords with a simple bass line that moves do, la ti do, la ti do. But here's why that description may be technically accurate, but totally misses the point.

    The final few measures come after a brief Bass section line that emphasis a low B natural, then some chords and suddenly a fast rising melody that crowns a first inversion open chord above the B natural crowned with octave G's, a melody that crescendos to the top and just as quickly drops over two measures in pitch and volume as a C minor chord...a sudden huge swelling of sound that rolls through the building yet then sounding as if it has been grabbed and all the sound wrung of it, leaving but a pianissimo empty husk of sound emanating from the choir.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Thank you for this great post. I'm thrilled to recall every moment you mention.