For several weeks the choir has been working on two pieces for Pentecost by Peter Maxwell Davies: “Dum complerentur” and “Veni sancte spiritus.” His music reminds me of Pentecosts past at LCH when the lesson was read in several foreign languages. In the early years one heard the lessons read one after the other. But for several years in a row, the lessons were read simultaneously, and my initial reaction was, “What on earth is going on here?” with each person almost trying to outshout the other. I think that at one point there were at least half a dozen people reading the Acts lesson in different languages, all at the same time. It was a little grating and cacophonous.
Carl totally disagrees with my take on this music. “I absolutely love Peter Maxwell Davies! This music goes to the heart of Pentecost. It sounds so strong, so massive, like jagged rocks.” Peter Quantrill, a music journalist, says Davies’ music is actually “the dialectic between serialism and plainsong, influenced by modal melody.” What we all can agree on is that his music cannot be ignored. You can read a very interesting interview with the composer here, where he says he wants his audience to think, not to “wallow in music like a warm bath.” He says that once when he wrote a symphonic piece for the BBC (in 1969), about a third of the audience walked out and the rest of them booed. All I can say is, keep an open mind when you listen to the offertory and communion pieces.
I promised you more Messiaen this week, so I’ll be playing “Apparition de l’Eglise éternelle” (Apparition of the eternal church) for the prelude and “Dieu Parmi Nous” (God among us) for the postlude. You can see a YouTube video by Naji Hakim play it on the organ of La Trinité, Messiaen’s church. It’s one of my favorite pieces, but it took me twenty years to learn it! I started reading through the music in graduate school, then only picked at it for years. Finally about 20 years later, I made myself finish it —and I’m so glad I did! The last time I played this (three years ago), Pastor Jeff Lilley called the music “truly frightening, like music for ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers!'”