Multum in Parvo

Thank you, Fr Jonathan on ACC Diocesan Synod 2015: Impressions of smallness and A mast full of colours. Indeed, I hoped to do a little more at our Synod Mass in Bolton – music-wise, but I had not yet sung with Fr Jonathan and his lovely wife Katherine. We had but little time for a rehearsal, so it was a question of finding a simple piece for three voices. I have a little collection, and quite a lot can be found from the RSCM.

We sung Palestrina’s Jesu Rex admirabilis. This is the full choral version, but we sung it for soprano, alto and tenor, transposing it down a tone. It worked well. I accompanied the rest of the Mass on a battery-powered keyboard with a “church organ” tone, which was better than I feared. It was on a table with a music desk I had brought with me to hold the hymn book and the various scores.

Indeed, we are a little Church and we make do with little, but we make the most of it. I admire my fellow clergy. Fr Jonathan talks of being a southerner when mentioning our northern clergy. I am from even further up north, but having lived all over the place has brought me to get on with everyone – north and south alike. I was born further north from the north (without being Scottish!) and live further south than the south (south of the English Channel).

We English can be a funny lot with religion and trying to get things right, even perfect. I do believe we should do the liturgy properly and as best as possible, but we have constantly to compromise because we don’t have everything. We do seem, in the Anglican Catholic Church, to have more of a “medieval” spirit than purist Roman Catholic traditionalists and conservatives.

I do think that Fr Jonathans blog O cuniculi! Ubi lexicon Latinum posui? needs to be better known and read. I appreciate his attitude, rather like my own. We are not here to combat the world’s “heresies” or differences in theology or simple opinion. We are here to worship God and live our lives in accordance with the Gospel ideals.

We don’t have to justify ourselves. Fr Jonathan often uses the nautical term of nailing one’s colours to the mast. Nailing the colours to the mast is a traditional sign of defiance, indicating that the colours will never be struck, that the ship will never surrender. It is not something I need to do on my little boat – and in peacetime.

We live in a time when Christians is some countries are persecuted and martyred, especially in Egypt, Irak and Syria – but we in other places all live in an increasing spiritual vacuum and a world that favours materialism and atheism. We are in the catacombs and it is no longer the moment to be triumphalistic. We must be humble and above all spiritual in our discipleship with Christ.

Fr Jonathan’s articles are so full of good sense, and we need to encourage him. He and I have become good friends and brethren in the same college of priests.

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2 Responses to Multum in Parvo

  1. Stephen K says:

    Yes, Father, multum in parvo indeed! How lovely a piece this is! I have often sung, as a tenor, the melody (S) part. There are quite a few lovely 3 part motets and it is amazing how with only three voices one achieves a sparsely beautiful sound. Byrd’s “Memento Salutis Auctor” and “Ego Flos Campi” by Clemens (non Papa) are sublime examples. Indeed, I have heard it said that Byrd’s 3 part motets and Mass are well presented with only a single voice (or two) for each part considering that he composed with one eye on the privations of Catholics in England at the time when small ensembles would have been the limit in the houses of recusant nobility. How I wish I could have been there to hear your singing all!

    • This gives me the idea of writing some three-voice music, each piece in two versions: soprano, alto and tenor or alto, tenor and bass. Three is an interesting number in music. Among Bach’s finest works are the six Trio Sonatas for organ or pedal harpsichord.

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