Sunday, October 05, 2014

Extraordinary Community News: Impossible Beauty: Catholic Music Programs in London, England Part 2 of 2

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (October 5, 2014):
We continue our list of the world-class Latin Mass music programs on offer in London. Today we’ll cover the “Big Three”, the churches with the best-of-the-best sacred music.

8. St. James Spanish Place [schedule above]: The vocally powerful choir for this church in the embassy district sings for weekly Ordinary Form Latin Masses and occasional Extraordinary Form Masses. It’s a 10 out of 10, absolutely mastering the five points mentioned in last week’s column. Perfect chant, perfect polyphony, marvelous acoustics, competent organ of the most skilled choirs anywhere in the world.

9 & 10. Westminster Cathedral [schedule above]: The seat of the Archdiocese of Westminster, which covers London north of the Thames River, Westminster Cathedral has an adult choir along with a children’s Choir School which sings for daily Ordinary Form Masses and occasional Extraordinary Form Masses. On Sundays they also sing Vespers. Note that the adjacent music schedule lists what is going on in only one week, the most ambitious music program this author has ever seen.

11, 12, & 13. The London Oratory [schedule above]: This model church for Traditional Catholic Liturgy on Brompton Road has a number of choirs. Most notable are the professional adult choir, which sings the Sunday 11:00 AM Ordinary Form Latin Mass as well as the bewilderingly solemn Extraordinary Form Vespers every Sunday at 3:30 PM. Also present is the approximately 25-voice Junior Choir, which sings the Sunday 10:00 AM Mass and the ethereal Tuesday 6:30 PM Benediction. The Benediction service consists of a polyphonic O Salutáris, a motet, a polyphonic Tantum Ergo, and a Marian antiphon. This children’s choir is occasionally called upon to perform in movies, including the Harry Potter series. The third choir is the London Oratory School’s Schola Cantorum, which sings the Saturday 6:00 PM Mass.

The one deficiency you may have noticed in this list is that sung Masses in the Extraordinary Form are a relative rarity in London. Most of the musical effort goes into supporting Ordinary Form Latin Masses. Strictly speaking on the Extraordinary Form front, we here in Windsor and metro Detroit enjoy better musical support for our Tridentine Masses, albeit not at the ultra-professional level of the London choirs.

While this column may seem to have been gushing with hard-to-believe superlatives, we invite our readers visiting London to take in the 10:30 AM Sunday Ordinary Form Latin Mass at St. James Spanish Place, the 3:30 PM Sunday Vespers at the London Oratory, and the 6:30 PM Tuesday Benediction at the Oratory, and judge for yourself. Hearing sacred music sung at this level of professionalism is a spiritually transcendent experience.

Tip 1: When visiting the London Oratory for Tuesday Benediction, sit behind the halfway-point break in the pews, and you will catch sight of the adorable children choristers processing to the choir loft in their cassocks and surplices.

Tip 2: Consult the listing of Latin Masses in London maintained by the Association for Latin Liturgy, which grades the Ordinary Form Latin Masses A, B, or C, depending on the amount of Latin they contain.

Upcoming episodes of Extraordinary Faith will cover the thriving London Catholic musical scene.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 10/06 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (St. Bruno, Confessor)
  • Tue. 10/07 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (Our Lady of the Rosary)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for October 5, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

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