Chances are that you’ve never heard of the saint, Charles Borromeo. Well, I hadn’t either, except that I knew that the legendary choral conductor, Paul Salamunovich, was the chief musician at this church for a record sixty years. So I was quite happy when my new daughter-in-law, Jessica Crosier, told us that we were going to the Christmas service at St. Charles Borromeo because her niece was singing in the children’s choir.
According to Wikipedia, Charles Borromeo was the Archbishop of Milan, 1564 to 1584, and who was a considered a great reformer. “Among the great reformers of the troubled sixteenth century, Borromeo, with St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Philip Neri, and others, led the movement to combat the inroads of the Protestant Reformation. He was a leading figure during the Counter-Reformation and was responsible for significant reforms in the Catholic Church, including the founding of seminaries for the education of priests. He is honoured as a saint in the Catholic Church and his feast day is 4 November.
You may remember that I wrote a post about Paul Salamunovich, “A choral giant” when he died earlier this year which I just went back and re-read. He was well-known for conducting the Los Angeles Master Chorale, but of all his groups he conducted, he was the most proud of his church choir at St. Charles Borromeo, which performed for the Pope in Rome. They also came to Hawaii in 1997 and performed for the American Guild of Organists Region IX convention. I remember the beautiful blend of the 60-member choir, and how Salamunovich made them sound like a chamber group.
I think it is always fascinating to visit the actual church buildings in which choral conductors work, and I was pleased to learn that St. Charles Borromeo recently underwent a major restoration. It is a beautiful large and spacious church and there is a pipe organ in the rear gallery where the choir was also positioned. Unfortunately we came a little late to the service and when we walked in, it was at the time of the Gloria which I instantly recognized as Marty Haugen’s Mass of Creation. (We never picked up a service bulletin, so I was glad I recognized the music.) The fine children’s choir sang at least four anthems (one of them a cappella, in parts) in addition to a number of Christmas carols and the ordinary parts of the mass. As a postlude, the organist played Wilbur Held’s “God rest ye merry gentlemen,” a piece I myself as well as my students have played many times.
I have to say, though, that my most memorable Christmas 2014 moment was on Christmas Eve, when I played duets of Christmas music for two pianos with my sister Margo. Although I consider myself truly a washed-up pianist, it was fun to sightread these fine arrangements, with the melody trading back and forth between the two pianos!
I played Christmas duets with my sister, Margo.