Monday evenings with Johann, Felix and Heinz

As much as I love being Augustinian friar and a Catholic priest, there is something else that gives me great joy as well.  Nearly every Monday evening since 1997 I have spent two hours singing with a group of 40 to 60 men and women, attempting to master selections from the standard classical choral repertoire.  We take off for the summer months, and depending upon the group, have our winter concert in either December or January and our spring concert usually in May. 

From January of 1997 until May of 2008, that group was the Andover Choral Society of Andover, Massachusetts.  Memorable performances were: Rossini's Petite Messe Solenelle, Verdi's Requiem, Mozart's Requiem, Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem, Orff's Carmina Burana, Mendelssohn's Elijah, and many more.

In May of 2008 I moved to Maggie Valley N.C., where I sang with that Haywood Community Chorus for two concerts (and also snuck back to Andover for a second Elijah in January of ’09).  Last year I spent another full year with ACS when I lived from August 2009 to August 2010 in Massachusetts again. 

Liam. in tux. with hair.
Now, since September the Richmond Choral Society of Staten Island, NY is my Monday night haven.  Less than 2 weeks to go until our concert, there is concern about whether we will completely master the material before Dec. 5th, but I’m not too worried.  On the contrary, there were so many times last evening when I found myself smiling inwardly (and probably outwardly too) as I could hear the (usually) 4 parts (but often 5 or 6 parts) coming together to form such beautiful music.  I walked out of there fully relaxed and light-hearted last night.  These pieces are technically challenging.  Not only are some of the harmonies difficult, but the fugues and contrapuntal juxtapositionings can be extremely complex.  This is especially true of the only piece we are doing by a contemporary composer, the German Heinz Werner Zimmermann.  At ACS we only sang the works of old dead guys. 

I love the feeling of satisfaction I get from working out difficult passages with the men in my own (bass) section and in harmony and counterpoint with the other sections.  The sense of accomplishment when you know that your own hard work and that of the others in the group are coming together to form a thing of beauty is extremely exhilarating!  I wonder has anyone done research about endorphins and the like that are released into the bloodstream and/or flood the brain when this sort of thing happens? 

Besides the Zimmermann, we are also doing J.S. Bach’s Missa Brevis (BWV 234), Felix Mendelssohn’s Jubilate Op. 9 No. 2 and a number of familiar Christmas carols. 

I have tickets if you are interested.  The concert is at St. Peter’s Church (where Msgr. Jim Dorney is pastor – the priest who installed me last week) on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 5 at 5 PM.  
Click HERE for an article about the concert in the Staten Island Advance

[By the way, I love wearing my tux!] 


Installation Included

The following is a letter I wrote for next week's parish bulletin
Dear parishioners,
Last Sunday was the very first time I ever attended an installation ceremony.  To the best of my knowledge, the practice of installing pastors in Catholic Churches became widespread sometime between 1977 and 1995, during the time that I was working in Japan. Over there we had no ceremonies for new pastors. The only things that I was familiar with that needed installation, were major household appliances, like a washer or dryer or air conditioner. So I have to admit, that up until very recently, my mental image of an installation ceremony always included the image of the bishop or his representative holding a wrench as he somehow affixed the new pastor someplace on the inside wall of the sanctuary, somewhere between the altar and the ambo.  Admittedly, very silly image!
Receiving keys of the church
from Msgr. Dorney
I found the ceremony to be very meaningful. I was so glad that Msgr. Dorney acted as the Archbishop’s representative in the ceremony. I did not know until a few days before the ceremony, that Msgr. Dorney would begin the Mass as the presider, and that I would take his place as presider of the liturgy after the rite of installation took place. Many of you know Msgr. Dorney. He is a fine pastor and a wonderful man. In the short time I have been here, I have been with him many times at various meetings and celebrations, both Catholic and interfaith. As I mentioned at the end of Mass, he has been extremely helpful in a number of instances where, as someone new to the Archdiocese, I needed advice.
Not only was this the first time I ever attended an installation ceremony; it was also the very first time I presided at a bilingual Mass and the first time I preached a bilingual homily. The homily was longer than I wanted it to be. You can be sure that in the future, such homilies will be shorter.  Aside from that, the liturgy went very smoothly. My thanks to Father Jim Cassidy and to Father Luis Vera for planning the liturgy, and to the choir, the altar servers and all the liturgical ministers who took part. Also a very big thanks to Laura, Katie, Allen, Vilma, Father Jorge and Nelly, plus the rest of the staff and volunteers who worked so hard to prepare for both the Mass and the reception afterwards.
I also want to thank all of you who participated in the Mass, and for all of your kindnesses extended to my family. My mother, Kathleen, very much enjoyed the four days she spent here at OLGC.
Life is full of new beginnings even though many things stay the same. The installation of a new pastor is a new beginning not only for the pastor himself, but is in a sense a new beginning for the whole parish community. Father Jim and I both arrived at the end of the summer, and Father Jorge Luis has been here for over two years, now. Father Jim, as you know, was assigned to this parish a number of years ago. But both of us are still in the process of getting to know the parish. While giving thanks for all that has gone before, gradually a clearer vision of what we need to do to follow Christ more closely will emerge. As I said at the end of Mass last Sunday, we all need to roll up our sleeves and get to the work we have ahead of us. Relying upon the strength that comes from God, let us support each other in that task.
                       Fr. Liam