.- The Catholic Church is blessed to have a Pope who shows such a deep appreciation of classical music, says composer James MacMillan.
âWe are lucky that we have a pontiff who values the true pinnacles of human civilization and creative achievement,â MacMillan remarked to CNA, Aug. 10.
His comments followed a gala concert in honor of Pope Benedictâs 60th anniversary of being ordained a priest. It was held on the evening of Aug. 9 at his summer residence of Castel Gandolfo.
Performing before the pope and his brother Georg - who is also marking his 60th year as a priest â were the German oboist, Albrecht Mayer, and Arabella Steinbacher, a young German-Japanese violinist. They were joined by an ensemble composed of six musicians from different international orchestras.
The eveningâs repertoire was drawn exclusively from the 18th century, with works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi being performed. In his words of thanks, the Pope highlighted the Christian faith permeating both composersâ work.
He said the works of Vivaldi, an Italian priest, were âan example of brightness and beauty that conveys serenity and joy,â revealing âhis deeply religious spirit.â
The Pope also recalled how the Bach would always sign his compositions âSDG,â meaning âSoli Deo Gloriaâ in Latin, or âthe Glory to God Aloneâ in English. This, said the Pope, reflected the composerâs âreligious conception of artâ and âstrong faithâ which âsustained and illuminated his entire lifeâ and produced sacred music that âalmost groped to reproduce the perfect harmony that God has imprinted in creation.â
âIt is marvelous that Benedict can delight in the secular outpouring of the western canon of âclassicalâ music as well as the sacred,â said MacMillan, reflecting upon last nightâs concert.
âThe great composers were like angels who fell to earth to give the rest of us a glimpse of heaven. The fact that many of them were faithful servants of the Church, too, creating the finest music for our sacred liturgies is a double bonus which should excite and exult all Catholics.â
MacMillanâs own work hasnât escaped the cultured ear of Pope Benedict in recent years. The Scottish composer created much of the music that accompanied the Popeâs visit to the United Kingdom last year. This included the âThe Mass of Blessed John Henry Newmanâ which was sung at the papal liturgies in Glasgow and Birmingham as well as the grand processional âTu es Petrusâ which heralded the Popeâs entrance into Westminster Cathedral in London.
More recently, MacMillan was one of only 60 artists from around the world asked to create works to mark the Popeâs 60th priestly anniversary. He feels Pope Benedictâs promotion of a classical Western culture has a much deeper significance beyond mere artistic appreciation.
âThere is much talk within certain quarters of the Church about âinculturation.â Some use this as a pretext for attacking the Western, Hellenistic, European, classical and Gregorian roots of Catholic culture. This subterfuge is wrong-headed,â he warned.
âWhat the Church should fear most is the de-culturization of society. Results of this are playing themselves out on the streets of the U.K. as I write.â