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Liturgical Music from...Pittsburgh?

Weekend Music

[Mac's much-abused conscience: Yes, Pittsburgh, and what right does someone from Alabama have to snicker at the juxtaposition of Pittsburgh and first-class liturgical music?]

[Mac's excuse-making faculty, not as far as I know specifically identified by theologians: I know, it's just...you know, the image is all...like, industrial and stuff...]

My daughter Clare is an excellent singer (a trait apparently in genes that are recessive in her parents). Last month she spent a week at Sacred Music Colloquium XX, held in Pittsburgh on the campus of Duquesne University (which Clare says is quite beautiful, by the way). I think she is in the choir singing this Ave Maria (you're supposed to be able to click on this button and play it):

Offertory from Saturday June 26 Mass

This may be by William Byrd, but it isn't clear from the listing; actually I think it's not.

Here's a piece by Tallis, which seems to be recorded a little better:

Tallis: O Nata Lux, from Thursday June 24

Go here for recordings of the entire Colloquium. (Too bad about the colors on that page, but the music is great, although the recordings vary in quality.)

(This is the first time I've used TypePad's audio upload/play feature; perhaps I'll read you a poem or something one day. [Mac's embarrassment-avoiding faculty: No you won't.])


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I think you should tell your embarrassment-avoiding faculty to shut up.


He's a good bit stronger than my conscience, which usually can't do anything but complain.

You managed to pick the single proper that was sung as a plainchant setting that day, instead of the Byrd polyphonic settings that we sang for Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, and Communion :)

But it's OK, because I also sing in both the pieces you posted. Good ear!

Oh, and I should note that the Colloquium is a roving function, and so not always held in Pittsburgh. I think they were at Duquesne this year on the invitation of one of the music faculty there.

Yes, though I don't know much about this music, I decided the Ave Maria wasn't Byrd when I realized it wasn't polyphonic. (That probably rates a "duh.")

I'm obliged to confess that my ear is not so great--I didn't recognize your voice. I had asked you which liturgies you sang in and you mentioned Byrd. It does seem to me that I hear you, but I wouldn't have felt confident saying you were in those if you hadn't pointed me in that direction.

That was intended to be tongue-in-cheek; there were probably close to 80 people in that choir :) But I'm impressed anyway.

Mac, Pittsburgh ceased to be industrial about 20 years ago, although our old image still remains in the national consciousness as "hell with the lid off." Nowadays its big "industries" are health care and finance, and we've consistently been voted in the upper ranks of America's most livable cities by various publications, including The Economist, which voted us no. 1 last year. So there. ;-)

In addition Pittsburgh still has a large and visible Catholic population -- lots of Poles, Slavs, Irish, Italians, etc.

Sorry, Rob--I was just goofing around. I actually knew that about Pittsburgh, but as you say those old images die hard. We have a scenario just like it here: Birmingham. Which has an even worse reputation thanks to the segregationist resistance of the '60s. As you may or may not know, Birmingham used to be called "the Pittsburgh of the South." I remember in the '60s and early '70s how terrible the pollution was. But, just as with Pittsburgh, steel left and health care etc. arrived. If Birmingham's past didn't obscure its present, the city would be known for its advanced medical research.

Far more unlikely-sounding than Pittsburgh with regard to liturgical music is...Auburn, Alabama. There is a group there, which I can't remember the name of, which is pretty well-known and influential. It's especially unlikely if you know Auburn was originally Alabama A&M, the state's land-grant ag-and-engineering school.

Yeah, Mac, I realized you were joking. And I definitely remember from my elementary school days about Birmingham being the 'Pittsburgh of the South.'

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