I recently attended a wedding at the chapel of Thomas More College. The bride was stunningly beautiful, the music was sublime, the art was gorgeous.
I probably should declare at this point that my opinion on this matter is not wholly impartial: the art was my own; the programe for the music was devised by my good friend Dr Tom Larson (who teaches the choir at TMC), who also lead the singing. The Ordinaries for the Mass were composed by another great friend Paul Jernberg, who was also singing in the choir. The propers were the simple English propers for a Nuptial Mass composed by someone called Adam Bartlett (who I don’t know and who wasn’t at the wedding). I had not listened to these before, but they are in my inexpert opinion excellent. The psalm tones for the accompanying meditations were composed by myself and were chosen so that the mode matched that of each proper and these were harmonised into 4-part harmonies by Paul Jernberg (see examples here).We had an additional meditation for the incensing of the bride and groom. The celebrant was my friend Fr Roger Boucher who as ever said Mass with great dignity and reverence. (His name may be familiar to some of you: I have written a couple of articles about his farm in rural New Hampshire and more recently our working together in bringing the liturgy of the hours to the US veterans’ hospital in Manchester, New Hampshire.) In addition we closed with the St Michael Prayer (a traditional Byzantine tone arranged by Paul with a little contribution from myself) and then the Te Deum sung in four-part harmonies, which is traditional Anglican chant. (The Jernberg Mass Ordinaries can be found at this website, here.)
Here was a novus ordo Mass in English with most of music composed within the last couple of years. The language now, with the new translation, is dignified and elegant and befitting of high quality music. Because all had the timeless qualities of chant there was integration that gave it a sense of a unified whole. Even the insertion of one much older piece in Latin – 16th century polyphonic version of the Ave Maria written by Victoria for when flowers were taken to the statue of Our Lady added a heightened comtemplative element but it did not seem out of place with the general tenor.
Even the beautiful flowers were arranged by another friend, Nancy Feeman, who has written gardening articles for this blog in the past.
Oh and one further detail, the lucky groom was …me. Yes, it was my own wedding. No one was more surprised that me to find myself walking up the aisle at my advanced age, but here we are. I met Edna about four years ago on a return trip to England at the London Oratory summer fete. I handed my number to her and said, ‘If you are ever in the US please do look me up.’ Three years later, she did.
For those who like this sort of thing I have included some photos. In the first one below you can see Fr Boucher, Edna and I, Bess the maid of hour holding flowers and the choir is beyond, all crammed into the tiny chapel.
and later at the reception…
As a friend said on seeing this photo: happiness is having a bride on one arm and a banjo on the other. Unless your an old style mormon in which case it’s having a bride on each arm…or an Appalachian, in which case its having a banjo on each arm! (h/t Simon Ramage)