Musical notation – St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC

I got this by e-mail:

Greetings Father,

I always enjoy your blog. 

If you have not heard, our friend Tom Stehle, architect of the musical atrocities of the Papal Mass at National’s Stadium, was hired as Director of Music at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington D.C.

After the former music director got sick of the politics of Archbishop Wuerl and company and decided to take up teaching, the people at the Cathedral decided that a nation-wide search for the Cathedral Music Director in the See of the Capital City of the United States would be unnecessary when you have someone so preeminently qualified as this.  So, the position was never posted, the parish council of the Cathedral was never consulted.  The choir was never consulted.  The former director was never consulted.

Let’s pray for the poor people of the Archdiocese of Washington, and, in particular, the poor people of St. Matthew’s Cathedral.

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40 Responses to Musical notation – St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, DC

  1. Cole M. says:

    Nooooooooo!! I am a regular at the 10:00am Latin Novus Ordo there and was always very impressed by Mr. Culverhouse’s (the former director) Schola. The quality of the singing and the musical selections were always top notch. I was worried about who they might bring in, and now it seems my worst fears were justified in spades. I didn’t know about the lack of consultation, which only adds indignation to my deep disappointment. Let us pray that things don’t go entirely down the toilet.

  2. Patrick Rothwell says:

    I agree, Jonathan.

  3. PubliusIII says:

    The congregation should revolt. I went to the 10:00 am NO Latin Mass in February. It was packed and the music was awesome. I was very surprised because when I had last been there like tenyears earlier, the music was very poor. However, I did detect some tensions when I was there. The lovely introit from the Liber Usualis followed by a chattey hello froom the celebrant, etc.

  4. Cory says:

    And where’s the full, active participation?

  5. They’ve had a “Novus Ordo” in Latin at St Matthew’s since there first WAS a “Novus Ordo.” Makes you wonder…

  6. joe says:

    Oh, great. I’m scheduled to visit Washington, DC next week and I was dearly looking forward to the N.O. Mass in Latin at St. Matthew’s.

    (I hope nobody bothers to translate “Gather us In” to Latin.)

    -J.

  7. Bennett Augustine says:

    All manner of heterodox things happen at Saint Matthew’s.
    To say that this was an inevitable appointment would be an understatement.
    Indeed, it’s a very close match between context and content.
    While a limited number of archdiocesan events take place at the cathedral, the largest and most important events are at the National Shrine, while a number of small events are held at the (extremely ugly but parking-friendly) Pastoral Center.
    So, people tend not to look to Saint Matthew’s as a model or standard of excellence.
    The very limited exception to this has been Bill Culverhouse’s choir, which sang beautifully.

  8. Susan says:

    Stehle is from the Pittsburgh Diocese. Does this have anything to do with his appointment by Wuerl?

  9. EJ says:

    This is the doing of the archbishop, whose admiration of Stehle is no secret, and his low-church rector of the cathedral, whose animosity toward anything traditional is very well-known. I’m not trying to be offensive, I just have a friend on the board of St. Matthew’s – and it’s no secret that this coincides with the “departure” of the director of the Schola Cantorum. Since this is my own cathedral, I’m really hurt by such atrocious news… there are many people who are very attached to the Latin Novus Ordo there – if he makes a mockery of it like with the Papal Mass, people will rightfully raise Cain. I suppose tha us here in Washington can be optimistic and accept that perhaps things must get much worse before they get better. This would be a wonderful occasion for a “stable group” to make a very respectful yet vocal request for the Traditional Latin Mass at the Cathedral.

  10. Kristin says:

    I’d recommend any visitors to D.C. to attend the TLM at Old St. Mary’s in Chinatown (Sundays at 9:00 AM).

  11. mwa says:

    Is Holy Communion still distibuted at the side altar rail at the St. Matthew’s Latin N.O.?

  12. Mark says:

    Well, at least there is still the National Shrine (yes, a N.O. Mass in English, but still beautifully done, IMHO). And Old St. Mary’s in Chinatown.

  13. Pavegs says:

    This is a shame. I had the great privilege of attending a NO Latin Mass at the Cathedral and the music was phenomenal. It was unfortunately one of the last masses with the old music director. The priest that said mass was excellent, his Latin prefect, and it was clear that he truly prayed the mass. It is a shame that the Cathedral is not used more often as it is so beautiful. And no unfortunately communion was not from the altar rail when I was there in May.

  14. zgietl says:

    Don’t you think this kind of stuff might have been the reason Wuerl didn’t get a red hat?

  15. Cushman says:

    I was fortunate enough to attend the 10:00 Latin NO with Pavegs, when myself and two of my friends visited him at St. Mary’s Seminary for a few days, and the Mass was without a doubt the most beautiful and well done that I have ever been to. It was moving and it really preserved the sense of mystery that there should be at Mass. When we were there, the priest was not chatty or anti-traditional at all, in fact it seemed to be quite the opposite!

    What if the Schola for the 10:00 Mass just refused to do any terrible pieces and just did the stuff they know?

  16. Locutus says:

    Yes, Susan, Stehle is from Pittsburgh but has been working at a church in Potomac, Md. He gets credit for the Mambo Mass music that had our Holy Father gritting his teeth at Nationals Park in April. Wuerl flat-out said the Mass would be the occasion for the Archdiocese to say to the Pope, “This is us, Holy Father.” Such arrogant disregard for what everyone knows is favored by Herr Prof. Dr. Ratzinger! Stehle also was responsible for what might be called “A Tribute to Barry Manilow” that accompanied Wuerl’s installation as Bishop of Pittsburgh in 1989. EJ is correct to suggest that Msgr. Jameson, Rector of St. Matthew’s, is no friend of good music. When we first attended St. Matthew’s in 1998, John Balka was the Cathedral music director and the Sun. 10 a.m. Novus Ordo mass music was frequently Palestrina or Mozart and First Class. I’ll never forget going up to receive while a soprano/ mezzo duet sang a Mozart Benedictus, and seeing that vision of heaven we think mass should foster. Balka, hired after a national recruiting campaign, passed away near the end of 1999. Another round of nationwide recruiting followed, but in the end the decision was to promote from within. After Card. McCarrick succeeded Card. Hickey, things got wobbly for the St. Matt’s 10 o’clock in Latin; if McCarrick was the celebrant, Latin was dropped. McCarrick’s other liturgical gift soon after his appointment was to cancel the Sun. 1:30 p.m. Novus Ordo Latin mass in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the Nat’l. Shrine*, which was always packed and especially well-attended by Africans. Mass in Spanish was substituted, announced initially as an “experiment,” becoming permanent in about 2 wks. The abruptness of the change recalled sad memories of the Latin going away while I was in college; in came the guitars and the Broadway-derived “sighing in tune” so beloved by the nuns. Now, in the Archdiocese of Washington, restoration of the sacred remain a big challenge. If, as we may expect, the St. Matt’s Sun. N.O. mass in Latin goes away, the vacuum in DC could be filled by St. Stephen Martyr Church on Penna. Ave. over by Geo. Washington Univ., where Latin has been phased in, even at the low N.O. mass at 5:30 p.m. on Sun. (Kyrie in Greek, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin). Music program there is solid. It’s too bad the Crypt Church caper and the appt. of Stehle were accompanied by such unseemly skulking about. *[The Archbishop of Washington is ex officio Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Shrine.]

  17. David O'Rourke says:

    Sgieti says: “Don’t you think this kind of stuff might have been the reason Wuerl didn’t get a red hat?”

    Not necessarily! There are only so many red hats to go around and even prominent archdioceses sometimes have to wait for a vacancy in the ranks of the cardinal electors. More to the point, why did Wuerl get Washington in the first place? He was appointed by the present Pope and presumably recommended by the present Papal Nuncio. I heard grumblings at the time but perhaps his good performance on the sexual abuse scandal got him the job.

  18. Antiquarian says:

    Locutus’ version of the recent history of music at St Matthew’s is very shaky. The practice of reverting to English when the Archbishop/Cardinal celebrated the 10 o’clock mass began with Cardinal Baum, and was followed by Cardinal Hickey, who never celebrated Mass in Latin at St Matthew’s. It’s true that John Balka’s untimely death was a blow, but Bill Culverhouse did an estimable job under both Cardinals Hickey and McCarrick (and recently under Archbishop Wuerl).

    Msgr. Jameson, the rector, has fostered the Latin mass and encouraged his directors of music to provide fine accompaniment to the liturgy, so it’s unjust to say he’s not been a “friend to good music,” especially when examples of good music are offered that happened under his watch. The 10am Mass has been especially beautiful recently, so Culverhouse’s departure is a source of regret. We shall see what the future brings, but the large, dedicated, and vocal congregation will be watching as well.

  19. May I ask: how many Cathedrals in the US have regular (at least once a month)
    mass in Latin — whether EF or OF — or have a musical program that is based
    upon chant and polyphony?

  20. crankycon says:

    As a parishioner of St. Matt\’s and a regular attendee of the 10:00, I am greatly concerned. Bill was an excellent music director, and I was worried that there was a little bit more to his departure. But I would also caution others to not get too overly excited just yet. As it is, the schola does not usually sing during the summer, so it will be some time before we know if the musical direction of the Parish in general and the 10:00 Mass more specifically will change. My hunch – and it may be me just trying to think positively – is that it will not.

    It is true that Msgr. Jameson is not a \”smells and bells\” type Priest, but he does respect that there are parishioners who have different feelings than him, so that gives me cause for optimism.

    Finally, the priest who normally celebrates the 10:00 is Fr. John Caulfield, who also happened to preside over my wedding. He is truly a blessing to the people of St. Matthews, and I also think he might have a say if the music situation deteriorates.

  21. Patrick Rothwell says:

    In partial defense of Msgr. Jameson, John Balka was hired under his watch. Although I feared under Jameson that the Cathedral’s music would go down the tubes, given his liturgical preferences, the very opposite occured – the music significantly improved.

    I find this news quite worrisome, but I prefer to hope that Stehle proves us all wrong.

    I agree with crankycon that the 10:00 Latin mass is not likely to be abolished. Antiquarian is also right that Hickey did not celebrate mass in Latin at 10:00, at least when I was there. And, in response to Carlos’ question, the modern Latin Mass is also regularly said, (I think) at the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore (a co-Cathedral) and the Cathedral in Philadelphia.

  22. Andrew says:

    This makes me glad that I only go to the cathedral for Daily Mass during the week…a cantor singing a cappella is hard to mess up.

  23. Ian says:

    I sang in the 10am choir for a summer back in ’96 and loved being able to attend a beautiful NO Mass regularly. Too bad.

  24. Ken says:

    To Joe, preparing to visit Washington, D.C., if you are in town this weekend there is a Missa Solemnis at 6 p.m. in the crypt of the basilica shrine on Saturday, and a Missa Solemnis at 5 p.m. at Saint Mary’s at 5th and H streets, NW. All Gregorian chant; the 1st Mass being a votive Mass of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the 2nd being for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost.

  25. sparty says:

    As a parishioner at the Cathedral I served on the Liturgy Committee for a couple of years. One thing I learned was half of the weekly collection goes to the music program. Some of the costs include purchasing music copyrights and the maintenance of the organ etc. Yet much of the money goes to pay the singers. In addition to the music director, the members of the Schola Cantorum are professional singers and get paid to sing at the Cathedral. I was told that if they did not pay them they would likely leave and sing somewhere else.

    I wonder if the selection of the new music director was due to a desire to cut costs?

  26. Patrick says:

    sparty,

    I believe that is relatively standard at most cathedrals. That is how they retain good singers for the choir.

  27. Locutus says:

    Antiquarian: Point taken; “no friend of good music” was too harsh. “Not really enthusiastic but tolerant” would be fairer. For sure, Msgr. Jameson is a very nice man. Is Stehle to replace both Music Director Jennifer Goltz and choral conductor Bill Culverhouse?

  28. Anon says:

    Jennifer Goltz will continue to do the 5:30 pm contemporary service, but will no longer be music director, nor will she be cantoring for the morning masses, as she is going to another parish. The story is that the music budget keeps getting trimmed, so this might be just the time for some big cuts. As for the choir, they are in it for the music, and chances are that most of them won’t stick around next year. There are plenty of other choral opportunities in Washington (both paid and volunteer).

  29. Locutus says:

    Zgietl wonders about Donald Wuerl’s red hat. Will it come anytime soon — given the Archbishop’s impudent disregard for all that the Pope has said and written about tasteful and appropriate music for mass, his dismantling a worthy music program at the archdiocesan cathedral and passing the buck on confronting pro-choice Catholic members of the House and Senate who sow confusion about Church teaching? [Why must he defer to their home-state bishops? After all, an awful project of Catholics cooperating with and defending “choice” is directed and emanates from within his own see. Yet by
    cooly citing technicalities about diocesan boundaries, he risks that Catholic pro-choicers looking for a green light will perceive one.] Well, at least when ECUSA finally breaks up, there won’t be many Protestants left poking fun at bad music in the Catholic Church.

  30. Monica says:

    How sad. When I visited St. Matthew’s Cathedral in DC one day last year for a weekday mass, I was so disappointed after the entrance song was announced and I heard the piano. What is wrong with the people in charge of music and liturgy???!!! Do they hate beauty??? or do they just think Catholics are too dumb to appreciate anything more complex than a nursery rhyme on a piano or a guitar???!!!

  31. Mike Williams says:

    Somewhat amusing that people are now criticizing a priest who has provided beautiful, dignified, liturgical music for over a decade because he’s not perceived as being enthusiastic enough about it personally. That the rector may himself prefer more contemporary music and a less formal liturgy doesn’t alter the fact that St Matthew’s has long offered its parishioners and visitors a some of the best sacred music written in a well-attended Latin Mass. But I guess that’s not enough, we need to criticize Msgr. Jameson, who celebrates the Latin Mass himself occasionally, for his lack of “enthusiasm” for the music he’s struggled to pay for for over a decade.

    I worry about Stehle’s appointment, but am not sure why that has inspired such remarkls about St Matthew’s in the past.

  32. Mike Williams says:

    Somewhat amusing that people are now criticizing a priest who has provided beautiful, dignified, liturgical music for over a decade because he’s not perceived as being enthusiastic enough about it personally. That the rector may himself prefer more contemporary music and a less formal liturgy doesn’t alter the fact that St Matthew’s has long offered its parishioners and visitors a some of the best sacred music written in a well-attended Latin Mass. But I guess that\’s not enough, we need to criticize Msgr. Jameson, who celebrates the Latin Mass himself occasionally, for his lack of “enthusiasm” for the music he’s struggled to pay for for over a decade.

    I worry about Stehle’s appointment, but am not sure why that has inspired such remarkls about St Matthew’s in the past.

  33. EJ says:

    Mike Williams does have some valid points, though I chuckled when I read the rector’s name and “informal liturgy” (I don’t quite know what that’s supposed to mean, that’s a new one for me)in the same sentence – that’s about as much of an understatement as can be made. Let’s look at some facts, the professionals in the schola also sing for other Masses in English – so Monsignor has struggled to pay for a wide variety of music during that decade, not just the traditional…but yes, some gratitude is owed for his tolerance of it nonetheless. What is true is that the appointment of Stehle has more to do directly with the archbishop than with the cathedral’s rector. Alot of what the rector has done and approved both liturgically and non-liturgically during his tenure would trouble many Catholics, but in fairness to him, this issue isn’t entirely his doing.

  34. Vincent Uher says:

    I rather think any priest who feels affection for “informal liturgy” simply should not be any where near a Catholic cathedral or basilica.

    There are other locations under the title of “church” that vary from the barn-like to the air hanger style that would be grand for a priest who loves “informal liturgy”.

    Gospodi pomiluj.

  35. John says:

    Wuerl destroyed sacred music and liturgy in Pittsburgh about 10 years ago when he fired the previous organist/choirmaster–who maintained a dignified program of sacred music based on chant and polyphony. Now’s he’s repeating his actions in DC. O Fortuna!

  36. John says:

    Wuerl destroyed sacred music and liturgy in Pittsburgh about 10 years ago when he fired the previous organist/choirmaster–who maintained a dignified program of sacred music based on chant and polyphony. Now\’s he\’s repeating his actions in DC. O Fortuna!

  37. jp says:

    When prominent posts are filled without a fair search, that is a recipe for disaster. I fear that Stehle will have more enemies starting out than friends. Hopefully he can learn the ropes quickly and let’s pray that the music program only gets better.

  38. Antiquarian says:

    Mike Williams did not mention “informal liturgy,” he said that Msgr. Jameson’s personal preference was for a “less formal” liturgy. A low TLM is less formal than a missa cantata which is less formal than a Solemn High TLM. None of them are informal, and none of the many masses I’ve attended at St Matthew’s has ever been “informal.” I daresay many Catholics in the US would be favorably struck by the beauty and dignity of the contemporary choir mass there, for example, although it is less grand, less “formal,” than the 10am Latin NO.

    Again, Stehle’s sub rosa appointment is worrisome, not least because of the excellence of the music and liturgy that Msgr. Jameson– whatever his personal preference– has provided those under his pastoral care.

  39. Sic et Non says:

    It seems there’s a LOT of oversimplification going on about this situation. From what I understand from talking to some of the choir members, Culverhouse decided to look elsewhere because of the increasing difficulty in getting funding for the Schola (despite the significant generosity of certain parishioners), which had been dying a death of a thousand cuts budgetarily. Apparently attempts were made to educate the congregation about the expense of the music program in hopes of motivating greater financial support, but some of these attempts were apparently actually blocked by the administration. Also, the Schola had been accustomed to doing polyphonic Kyries and Glorias, and this ended in the fall. All this happened before it was announced that Stehle would be directing the music for the Papal Mass. Given the musical and liturgical leanings of Wuerl and Jameson, the choice of Stehle is hardly surprising. Appointing him without a search, while controversial, is still Jameson’s prerogative. Some of the Schola members will probably leave; some may stay. It remains to be seen whether the Latin Mass at St. Matthew’s will continue to be a satisfying worship experience in the future.