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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward a doctorate in liturgical theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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“We know that originally the offertories of the repertoire included a series of verses, just like the introit and the communion, but generally more ornate. Many of these are musical compositions of great beauty. They quickly fell into disuse, and we find them only in the most ancient manuscripts. The only remaining trace of this older arrangement in our present-day liturgy is that of the offertory of the Requiem Mass.”
— Dom Joseph Gajard (1956)

Mozart’s Sacred Music
published 1 November 2012 by Fr. David Friel

AM BLESSED to live in Philadelphia, a bountiful land of history, culture, and the arts. In season, there are multiple choices every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to enrich the weekend with fine music or other performances. My last post was about a concert I attended, and this post will be about another. This time, it was a concert by Vox Ama Deus, a distinguished group of vocal and instrumental performers who specialize in the Baroque & Classical music of the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. More than a quarter-century since its founding, the Renaissance ensemble continues under the direction of its vivacious founder, Romanian-born Maestro Valentin Radu.

This concert featured four works by Mozart:

1. Vesperae solennes de confessore (K. 339)
2. Piano Concerto No. 21 in C (K. 467)
3. Overture to The Magic Flute (K. 620)
4. Mass in C (“Coronation”) (K. 317)

By all accounts, it was a splendid concert. The performance was also as thought provoking as it was delightful. The thought that was provoked in my mind was this: why do I have to go to the Kimmel Center to hear sacred music?

I was struck by the irony of the situation: a Catholic priest (accompanied by two other priest friends) going to hear Vespers and the Ordinary of the Mass sung in a concert hall. These two masterworks are among the most famous and beloved of Mozart’s sacred compositions. So why is it that they must live only in concert settings? These marvelous compositions have a native habitat, and it is not the Kimmel Center.

The list of donors in the program shows that the group is patronized heavily by businesses, doctors, and lawyers, along with quite a number of Jewish lovers of the arts (judging by last names). If there is such support for sacred music extra ecclesiam, why must so many Catholics languish with rotten music in their parishes?

I am grateful for Renaissance groups like Vox Ama Deus. Would that they might inspire a new Renaissance in Catholic parochial life!