Last Sunday found me at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, South Carolina for the 11:15 am Mass. Admittedly, I know Scott Turkington, the choirmaster and principal organist – and yes, I already knew he’s fantastic. However, I hadn’t been there for a “principal Mass” for some time and wondered how things were going.
Well, let’s just say that the choir and the organ “rocked”! The music covered several centuries and did it gracefully. I’m giving you the “playlist” because it represents such a felicitous marriage of styles. Everything hung together and that’s an exercise of liturgical judgment that demonstrates the wonderful dimension that music brings to the Mass.
There were Gregorian propers for the Introit, Offertory, and Communion. The motet at the Offertory was “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place” from Brahms’ German Requiem.
The processional hymn was “Alleluia, Song of Sweetness” to Lauda Anima. The recessional hymn was “All Creatures of our God and King” to Vigiles et Sancti.
The Ordinary of the Mass was the Missa de angelis, with the exception of the Agnus Dei from the Mass of Blessed John Henry Newman by James MacMillan. The Responsorial Psalm was a setting by Richard Rice and the Alleluia by Theodore Marier. The level of congregational participation was above average from where I sat. Marier was also the composer for an English setting of Ubi caritas at Communion. That was followed by a lively motet by Palestrina, Exsultate Deo.
Since I’m not an organist (and it wasn’t in the worship pamphlet), I can’t tell you the prelude and postlude. The only “disconnect” was the celebrant who didn’t sing, chant, or intone a single syllable – and yes, he could have completed the “liturgical loop,” so to speak – but I was still thrilled to hear a great schola and choir, ripping hymn accompaniments, and super motets.
If I were an unbeliever who had wandered in the door, I’d want to know more about a religion with this much beauty. Now that’s Cathedral Music!