Can these guys do the music for the next Papal Mass in Washington?

This is in from CNS:

Chinese orchestra to perform Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ for pope

By Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — China’s Philharmonic Orchestra was set to perform Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s "Requiem" in the Vatican for Pope Benedict XVI, reported Vatican Radio.

Currently on tour throughout Europe, the orchestra was offering the May 7 evening concert in the Paul VI hall "in honor" of the pope, who is an aficionado of Mozart and classical music.

Vatican Radio reported April 29 that the Shanghai Opera House Chorus was also scheduled to perform along with the Beijing-based, state-run orchestra. [Therefore a Communist Party based band is playing Mozart for the Holy Father.]

Vatican Radio said this "important concert in the Vatican" would show that "music is a language and precious means of dialogue between peoples and cultures."

Directed by Long Yu, the orchestra was founded in 2000 and has played numerous concerts around the world.

The orchestra played Mozart’s "Requiem" for the first time in 2006 in a Catholic church in Beijing to mark the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.


Whaddya wanna bet they’re good?

I want them for the music for the next papal Mass in Washington!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. P Verdun says:

    Mozart believed in the Tridentine Mass. He believed the words he set to music. This Communist Party orchestra and chorus do not believe the words they sing. The words are most important and when sung by believers the Catholic soul can almost be forced to contemplate its salvation. This non-Catholic perhaps atheist group will merely perform parrot fashion Mozart’s master work. They will be as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

    A well-deserved WDTPRS Sour Grapes Award

  2. Gunther says:

    Dear Father –

    I found this news very interesting, too. At the liberal Shanghai Scrap blog, there is some interesting background on this concert. Apaprently, it was preceded by a concert in Shanghai by a few weeks ago. The link is here:

    God bless you father.

  3. P Verdun says:

    Mozart believed in the Tridentine Mass. He believed the words he set to music. This Communist Party orchestra and chorus do not believe the words they sing. The words are most important and when sung by believers the Catholic soul can almost be forced to contemplate its salvation. This non-Catholic perhaps atheist group will merely perform parrot fashion Mozart’s master work. They will in fact be only sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

  4. Ken says:

    The point, however, is that Communists can figure out what kind of music the Holy Father prefers, but the Archdiocese of Washington — with the whole world watching and listening — opts for a papal Conga Mass.

  5. Chironomo says:

    All politics aside (if that is possible)… the communist regimes have been perhaps the greates supporters of classical music througout the 20th century. This was particularly true of Soviet Russia who, at any time in the last century, had numerous “full-time” compsers and artists on it’s payroll. It is difficult to disregard the political motivations, but without these regimes, it is possible that classical style music would developed very differently in the 20th century, and very possibly would have stagnated and become a historical object. Truly ironic.

  6. Pedesxpi says:

    I am sure they will play well. and I took your comment about the mass in Washington as humor.

    However, in defense of P. Verdun, I think it very important that singers and instrumentalists at the mass be seen as liturgical ministers who are praying what they sing, not performers. For instance, it really bothers me when paid singers who are not Catholic or even Christian do the music for mass. I am quite happy just to listen to some pieces, but when I listen I would like to know I am praying with those who are singing. And can we not train our own people to sing and perform? You would not have a Buddhist lector or a Jewish altar server. Why then do we allow non-Catholic musicians during the liturgy? And when we pay them are we not perhaps depriving some Catholic musician of a fee? The laborer is worthy of his hire. Music during the liturgy should be treated differently from a concert (even one of music that is sacred in content like the one here mentioned). Otherwise we really are guilty of the accusation of being hollow aesthetes.

  7. prof. basto says:

    My first tought was negative. The expression: “o tempora; o mores” came to mind. And I love Mozart, and his Requiem. But I despise the idea of Communists being allowed to play at the Vatican.

    They, like the Freemasons, etc, are ENEMIES of the Church, and so until they repent we shouldn’t fraternize with them. It gives a wrong idea that we are compromising. In the old days, stuff like that would never happen.

    But then, I started wondering if perhaps this is not one more gesture in the quiet diplomacy that is now going on between the Holy See and China since Pope Benedict’s election and his letter to Chinese Catholics.

    After all, it is a state-run orchestra. If it is going to give a concert “in honour” of the Pope, it surely is with the approval of the authorities in Beijing.

    Thus, I believe we must hope for a positive outcome, for the benefit of the freedom of the Church in China.

  8. Anton says:

    I think it both sad and revealing that most of the people commenting on this interesting news are just flat-out assuming that the musicians involved in the orchestra and chorus are Communists. On what basis? Even the Communist Party itself has acknowledged that religious belief is growing like wildfire in China. Christian missionaries of all stripes return from China with glowing reports about the growth of faith over there, especially among the educated classes. Not only is it possible that there are Christians (I won’t single out Catholics at the moment) among those musicians, but it is flat-out LIKELY.

    Those who look down upon this performance as a Communist stunt – has it occurred to any of you that the mere act of performing the Requiem can awaken spirituality within a performer? Did you consider whether Motzart’s sacred music might be a source of evangelization within the performers themselves. As someone who has actually played the Requiem (clarinet, thank you very much), I can tell you – personally – that the music is transformative.

    So really, please open your hearts to the possibilities here instead of moralizing about members of an orchestra whom none of you know in the first place.

  9. Antiquarian says:

    The sad thing, for us poor benighted Washingtonians, is that there are plenty of musicians/choirs in DC capable of this or similar, who sing at Masses every Sunday. But they were not featured in the stadium.

  10. Gavin says:

    I think Anton makes a really good point. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of Catholic liturgy and (good!) music to transform non-believers. After all, if we can’t believe in the power of liturgy and music to do that, then what do we believe in at all? Along those lines, I’d like to see MORE non-believers singing the Requiem, not less. Our tradition is powerful enough to transform – so let’s not just keep it to ourselves! No need to be so tribal here.

  11. Lirioroja says:

    I want to add to the chorus (no pun intended) of those pointing out the power
    of good liturgical music to change the hearts of non-believers. When I was in
    college we did a concert of the Berlioz Requiem. A number of my devout
    Protestant friends came and they loved it. They couldn’t help being excited
    not just by the music but also by the text (which was translated in the program).
    They especially loved all the Dies irae texts. Only God knows if any seeds where
    planted in their hearts, but I can’t help but think that it may have moved them
    to consider the claims of the Church more seriously.

    As to the comment re: paid musicians for Mass, it’s kind of a “dammed if you do,
    dammed if you don’t” situation for churches. I am a Catholic and a classically
    trained singer. I do work as a church cantor for a Novus Ordo Mass. I know of
    pastors who will not hire singers, either as cantors or for the choir, for the
    very reasons Pedesxpi states. It’s a legit reason. The quality of the singing is,
    well, ahem. It’s reverent alright, but it’s also mediocre. The phrase “You get
    what you pay for” comes to mind. However, hiring singers means that you must
    abide by secular, non-discrimination laws (this is a job and someone, usually
    the singer, has to pay income taxes). Singers, especially those just starting out,
    depend on church gigs for a steady part of their income. So you have non-believers
    singing at Mass. That does bring a hint of irreverence to the Mass but one can
    hope and pray that perhaps some grace can filter into them by their mere presence
    at Mass.

    As for training “our own” for the job, that will never happen unless we’re
    willing to shell out the money for it. I hate to be so base about it, but
    it’s true. It’s not a secret among musicians that the Catholic churches are,
    in general, the worst paying of all the religious gigs out there. They
    consistently pay under market rates. I could be making at least twice what I’m
    making now at a Protestant church or a Reformed Jewish synagogue. I know many
    Catholic singers who do. I stay at a Catholic church because I want to give my
    talents to God in the One True Church. I don’t see a contradiction in my desire
    to sing for God and getting paid to sing for Mass. I worked very hard to train
    my voice and a worker is worth his wages. It’s wonderful if talented people,
    who don’t depend on singing for their bread and butter, want to volunter to sing
    for Mass. I’m not against that. I don’t even mind doing some pro bono work
    every so often. Be aware though that I am a rare species: the devout Catholic
    (with traditional leanings) classical singer. And even I have to obey market
    forces when the wallet starts looking thin.

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