Over at the increasingly-valuable Crisis there is a great piece about the composer Igor Stravinsky and his sacred music. Yes, Stravinsky wrote truly sacred music, and I find it quite compelling. Stravinsky was a deeply religious soul and at times he considered conversion to the Catholic Church. He wrote a Mass, by the way. From the piece:
Around the same time as Babel, Stravinsky had begun work on his one and only Mass. Completed in 1948, the Mass for choir and wind instruments was written “from spiritual necessity” (as Stravinsky’s assistant Robert Craft claimed) rather than from a commission. Stravinsky intended the Mass for actual liturgical performance—the score contains intonations for “the priest”—but the premiere performance was at an opera house and it has, regrettably, seldom been performed as part of an actual Mass. [AH HAH!] In this work, Stravinsky created a haunting amalgam of the ancient and the modern. At times the vocal incantations suggest Orthodox chant or medieval polyphony. The wind instruments form a glowing background to the choir, like the gold of a Byzantine icon. Stravinsky explained that the Credo is the longest movement because “there is much to believe.”
I am happy to report that I have been celebrant for Holy Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite with the very Mass mentioned above. It was almost exactly 6 years ago, this time of year. I was in Detroit at the wonderful Assumption Grotto parish, where the esteemed church-musician Fr. Ed Perrone is pastor. I had mentioned to him once that I would like to be able to have the Stravinsky Mass and he put it together. They had it in their repertoire. It isn’t the favorite, I think, of some of the choir members, but it is a moving experience. The contrast of the music with the ancient lines and movements, the chants (and some Bach!) and language of the Roman Mass, East meets West, is striking and evocative. My post on that Mass HERE.
Here is a sample of Stravinsky’s Mass.