• Interviews

    St. Polycarp’s suffering,
    in poetry and music

    In 2004, a large-scale musical work based on the martyrdom of St. Polycarp was premiered in South Carolina. The composer was J.A.C. Redford (who has visited our parish and even sung with our choir), and the libretto was written by poet Scott Cairns. I had the privilege of talking with both of them before the work was first performed for the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. An edited feature from that  interview is presented here.

  • Interviews,  Repertoire

    St. Cecilia’s Day 2020

    As she is the patron saint of music and musicians, St. Cecilia has not surprisingly been the subject of many musical compositions. In this feature I produced this weekend for Mars Hill Audio, I introduce several of the pieces. Also included is part of an interview with Brian Dean Sousa, who has been gracing us with his work at our organ console in recent months. Brian talks about recording a piece inspired by St. Cecilia with his ensemble, Musica Sacra Virginia. Make sure to listen on YouTube to the recording he and his singers have made for this special day.

  • Interviews,  Reading

    Recommended reading: Melodious order

    In his 1986 book Foolishness to the Greeks, Lesslie Newbigin argued that the central fact of modern culture is “the elimination of teleology.” If one had need of reducing the complex systemic confusions of modernity to a single phrase, he could do a lot worse. Modern culture — submitting abjectly and irrationally to the idol of Choice — cannot acknowledge the existence of purposes or ends in the cosmos that would direct or constrict our choosing. The genealogy of this idolatry is variously explained, but there is a rough consensus among scholars from various disciplines and diverse belief systems (including some who celebrate modernity) that the Enlightenment of the eighteenth…

  • Composers,  Interviews

    Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

    In 2003, renowned Mendelssohn scholar R. Larry Todd wrote an important biography of the composer, Mendelssohn: A Life in Music (Oxford University Press). When the book was published, conductor Christopher Hogwood praised it highly: “Here not only the music but the pressures of life that created it, the constant travel, the correspondence with friends and family, the witty asides, and even a synoptic and sympathetic view of critical opinion on his main works from his own time until the present day are digested within this much-needed survey, and presented with accuracy, intelligence and insight.” Todd is also the editor of the anthology Mendelssohn and His World (Princeton University Press, 1991).…

  • Composers,  Interviews

    William Byrd (1543-1623)

    In 2008, the Church Music Association of America published A Byrd Celebration, compiling lectures given over the years at the annual William Byrd Celebration in Portland, Oregon. One of the lecturers was Duke University musicologist Kerry McCarthy, author of Liturgy and Contemplation in Byrd’s Gradualia (Routledge, 2007). In a brief biographical sketch in A Byrd Celebration, McCarthy wrote: William Byrd was the most famous and best-loved of early English composers. His entire life was marked by contradictions; as a true Renaissance man, he did not fit easily into other people’s categories. He was renowned for his light-hearted madrigals and dances, but he also published a vast, rather archaic cycle of…