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Sunday, 13 June 2010

The Axiom Brass, and In Praise of Palstrina

Wonderful concert of sacred music at This Institute of Christ the King, courtesy of the Axiom Brass, perfectly wonderful.
Beautifully programmed, beautifully played ,(and prayerfully played, or at least heard,) but you know what I was most impressed with? (Other than my momentary, gee, it's lucky it's summertime, or that trombonist would probably have too much homework to be hanging out on a Sunday afternoon ... and a split second later, O Lord, I'm oooooooooooold ..... Forgive me, Mr. Johnson.)

The perfection of their "patter."

A lot of performers, just as priests, ( qv, the recent "in these or similar words" threads here and there about blogdom,) aren't very good at it, and not only cannot make their interspersed monologizing sound organic much less interesting, they just don't know when to shut up and play the ink, (or, in the priest's case, say the black, do the...)

The Axiom Brass's audible program notes were pitched and calibrated ideally -- this is not to denigrate their playing in the slightest, yeah, yeah, yeah, crystalline beauty and fullness of tone, but this other achievement... well, it may be even rarer -- kudos to them!

Oh, and Palestrina?
Probably old news to genuine church musicians, but I'm not that familiar with many of his quazillion Masses, and I have a vague impression of polyphony of that era being not all that in tune with the specific words rather than the all-over moment that any given section of the Ordinary constitutes, (and sometimes not even that.)

So in this type of concert, when the lines are taken by instruments, I had a sudden flashback to my second-grade concert-going self, Oh no! at classical music concerts you don't applaud in between movements, suppose I miscount and there's still one to go and I start clapping?
Or worse, suppose the whole audience miscounts and there's no more to go and nobody knows to start clapping?
And how will I know whether that's a Benedictus or the 2nd or 3rd iteration of Agnus, and I don't even know if the 2 Hosannas will be the same, and what if the Credo feels like several separate movements, how'm I ever gonna count.... what a disaster if I let my attention drift for even a moment?

Well Lord Above.

Palestrina the genius does not need a singer articulating the words for the listener to know with utter confidence, "that's 'Deum de Deo, Lumen de Lumine...'" or "Ah...'Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto'."

Dona nobis pacem.

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