House of Brigid 2009-10

House of Brigid 2009-10

02 November 2009

Opera Festivus for the Restivus

Let me add a hearty "ditto" to everything Martha and Chris have said recently about the incredible generosity of our Wexford hosts, and the wonderful opportunity we've had recently to pay that generosity forward, playing hosts ourselves to our American guests. The week that was was truly the "Best Week Ever." The food, the friends, the festival, the craic, and especially the prayer--everything that we experienced in that incredible week was literally underscored by music of every imaginable style. Even when it's not festival time, Wexford is an incredibly musical town. At the center of this, of course, is the opera house, but there are also several other places in town where music lovers flock to hear wonderful talent, and we've gotten to experience several of these "Fringe" events over the past couple of weeks.
The Monday after our first wave of visitors arrived, we wandered in to Green Acres while giving the first of many great tours of downtown. Green Acres is one of my favorite places--a wine store and bistro, which also has an attached two-floor art gallery. We wandered up to the second floor gallery, and there was a group of instrumentalists rehearsing Mozart's Clarinet Quintet, one of the greatest Classical pieces ever. It was so random to stumble into such a beautiful performance, but it was also another example of our randomly beautiful Wexford experience--we've found ourselves (often inexplicably) in the midst of some pretty amazing things since moving here, and every time it happens again, all I can do is revel in it and be grateful for the chance to be here.
Probably the best example of this random, beautiful, inexplicable Wexford experience happened last Sunday, when we attended the Festival Mass at Rowe Street Church of the Assumption. It's rare that we have a Sunday morning off, but since we had just had our Commissioning/Folk Group Anniversary/Stained Glass Window Mass the night before, we had the morning free. We hadn't even known about the Festival Mass until dinner at Fr. Denis's on Friday, when Fr. Martin and several other priests insisted that we had to make attending the Festival Mass a priority. Fr. Martin even promised to reserve seats for us, since this liturgy is always standing-room only.
By reserved seats, he meant pretty much the best civilian seats in the house.
We arrived with the Calcutts on Sunday morning, met up with Fr. Martin, who ushered us to the fourth row, right next to the chamber orchestra, with a perfect view of the 30-voice choir and 4 soloists. In the three rows ahead of us sat: the Lord Mayor of Wexford herself (wearing her formal mayoral garb), an Italian dignitary (who didn't say much, but looked practically regal wearing a sash bearing his nation's colors), members of the Irish Parliament (also decked out in their official garb), and people we surmised to be the producers of the festival's featured operas.
Mayor of Wexford, foreign dignitary, Parliament members, opera producers, and us.
Like I said, stumbling backwards into an experience so incredible it was almost laughable for the sheer good fortune and good people that brought us there. More than once Martha, Chris, and I found ourselves looking at each other with that joyfully bewildered "what are we doing here?" expression on our faces.
Not only were we more than a little humbled by being seated in such a place of honor, but I think all of us were overwhelmed to varying degrees by the sheer beauty of the liturgy itself. Once again, Bishop Brennan presided and delivered yet another eloquent homily, capturing the occasion perfectly. The soloists, choir, and orchestra provided the music for the elements of the Mass Ordinary: the director had chosen Franz Joseph Haydn's Theresienmesse, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the composer's death. "All Creatures of Our God and King" was the processional hymn, and "Thine is the Glory" was the recessional--the beautiful tune from Handel's Judas Maccabeus. Tucked in amidst all the fanfare was Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus as the Communion hymn, which never ceases to bring me to the verge of tears.
All in all, it was one of the most incredible culminations of music and worship it has ever been my privilege to witness. It would have been impossible for anyone to remain apathetic in the midst of such a Mass. The music lifted the hearts and souls of all present, inspiring the congregation to offer more heartfelt worship to the One God whose beauty was reflected in every note and present in every prayer.

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