This sanctuary of my soul

Great_Mass_in_C_minor_(Mozart)_p1We were in Hugh’s truck on the way from San Antonio to Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. A day out. Muzak was oozing from the speakers. Quite without warning Mozart’s C minor Mass Kyrie began. I can’t quite find words for the effect it had on me at that time in that place, but it was something like being jolted by an electric shock in an instant into the fullest sort of life imaginable.

‘This is the best thing he ever wrote.’

‘They used it in A Very British Coup, with Ray McAnally.’

‘There’s a bit in the Sanctus that quite bowls me over.’

‘Doesn’t it all?’

University Methodist Church, San Antonio

University Methodist Church, San Antonio

The following Sunday we were at the local church. Plush, wealthy, comfortable, striking modern stained glass, acolytes in albs, candles to gladden my heart (yes, Methodist candles!), a lovely two-manual mechanical action organ by Rosales of Los Angeles—and they let me play it. The church orchestra featured. I must say, though, it was rather like a diet of honey both musically and theologically. Not soporific exactly, but certainly tending to make me wonder if I was in Stepford.

The contrast between the two musical experiences was remarkable. Mozart electrifies, muzak stupefies. Mozart—that Mozart in particular—exposes in an instant that central vacuum in my being that longs to be embraced. It tears apart the layers of ‘show’ that collect like dental plaque. It brings home to me, yet again, that all ‘this’ is vanity. It explains, yet again, why my best sermons are written under the influence of music, for it’s not long before whatever comes through the headphones bypasses conscious hearing and unlatches the sanctuary of my soul. The sad thing is that it is so expensive of emotion and self that I don’t do it often enough. My kingdom is an inner kingdom.

I was 13 when I first heard Patrick Hadley’s I sing of a maiden. ‘However long I live’, I thought then—as now—’I shall never be able to produce anything quite so concentratedly beautiful.’ I wonder what it felt like to be Patrick Hadley—actually, quite fun by all accounts, for there are lots of stories about him. I wonder what it felt like to be Mozart.

4 thoughts on “This sanctuary of my soul

  1. Stanley -I wish you were my Parish Priest! I am currently battling on behalf of our 32 year established classical 4-part choir to get equal status with “happy clappies”! “Music hath charms to sooth the savage soul” -I wish it had the same effect on Phillestines!


  2. I quite agree Rev Fr Stanley. I felt similar when, as a student, I first heard both Bach’s ‘Aus tiefer Not’ & ‘Triple Fugue BWV 552’ concluding his German Organ Mass.

    In a most appropriate setting, (at dusk, in Rouen Cathedral), Cesar Franck’s exquisite ‘Andante’ – from his ‘Grande Piece Symphonique’, spoke silent volumes in its tender, prayerful beauty. As an organist, you will particularly appreciate this spiritual legacy..

    • Yes, yes! I play the 6 part Aus tiefer over and over again. I notice something new each time. I think that the omnipresent musak might be a deliberate plot by governments to anaesthetize the proles into submission. Should I add that last sentence to my blog ….

      • (..don’t worry too much about adding the sentence “anaesthetizing the proles” – Saturday night reality TV has already accomplished the task…)

        Now, may I suggest you buy ‘Bach’s Organ works’ CD box on the “Berlin Classics” label? This collection originates from the former east-German state ‘Peoples Recording Company’, VEB. It also shows how solidly the DDR musical schools in Dresden & Leipzig trained their illustrious students, (Karl Richter being one such product.) Approx 10 excellent DDR organists, all using several DDR Silbermann organs, perform most of Bach’s organ works. The Silbermann sound they highly articulate! Good mid-1960s ADD recordings…

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