Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Compiled by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register
(From the May 19, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)
Fifty Years Ago: May 15, 1966
Beatnik Mass concert premiere in Rome
ROME – In a setting identified with the flowering of sacred music, electric guitars, drums and beatnik rhythms, played the world premiere of a new “Mass for Youth” concert.
Although the concert was reported with indignant outrage by the Italian press the following day there was little doubt about its popularity with Roman teenagers, long-haired beatniks and a generous sprinkling of the young clergy.
What turned into a minor mob scene began as the world premiere (April 27) of the new Mass in Italian by composer Marcello Giombini, which was sponsored by Oratorians of St. Philip Neri. The setting was the famous Vallicella Hall of the Oratory near Rome’s Chiesa Nuova, a hall long associated with novelties in sacred music and from which the musical form called “oratorio” got its name. The Oratorians were founded by St. Philip Neri with special emphasis on attracting youth in the Church.
Three “beat” singing groups which performed various parts of the Mass were made up of talented youth. They sang and played at top volume, thumping out the potent rhythm popularized by Britain’s Beatles. “Barrittas” dressed in Sardinian native costume, began the performance of the Introit with the sign of the cross.
Other groups were “Angel and the Brains,” who gave the Gradual and Offertory selections reverential and subdued treatment, notwithstanding the rhythm, and the “Bumpers” – responsible for the noisiest rendition of all with their own cheering section stationed in one area of the auditorium.
Although a large party of the Italian press predictably blamed “long-haired” youths for the near mob scene as more than 1,000 people tried to jam into a hall with a capacity of 300, much of the trouble came from middle-aged men and women demanding entrance, some of them abusing policemen and youths alike.
The overflow crowd, among who were scores of priests and seminarians from Rome’s colleges, lead the performance in a courtyard of the rectory over loudspeakers.
A few older priests sat quietly in the auditorium throughout the performance with no sign of emotion on their faces. But the younger set warmed to the music shortly after it began and ended shouting their approval and clapping to the rhythm.
Introducing the concert, Prof. Thomas Federici of the Pontifical Institute of the Liturgy, said:
“The desire, indeed the intention of this music and swinging, is not one of rivalry with any other form of music nor, above all, the more delicate music which is specifically liturgical. This music is not intended for Church nor does it seek to replace any other normal form of music approved by the authorities. It is intended instead to participate on an equal footing with more serious performances of light music.
“In other nations ... – not to mention the U.S. … – similar forms have already received official recognition.
“This music, we repeat, is not destined for the public and official workshop which is the liturgy. Texts have been specially selected for singing with the particular rhythm of the music you will hear. Furthermore, the language is totally modern and accessible so that a greater number of youths many become involved in theology because of the fact that it is sung.”
Italian newspaper critics by and large ignored this and centered their criticism on the composition’s lack of appropriateness for liturgical functions – identifying it with dance halls. The influential Rome daily, Il Messagero, which for several months has been conducting a campaign against vernacular singing at Mass, expressed the hope that the Rome vicariate would censure the Oratorians for sponsoring the performance.
Phonograph records of the Mass will be on the market in May.
In a program note distributed to journalists attending the premiere, the sponsors said they were convinced that “this type of music will be very well understood by the young. Youth today are very demanding and believes completely in what it is doing, without pretense or showiness.
“Young people have found in music their means of maximum communication. They are no longer mere listeners but experience rhythm and melody to the point where they can give vent to their emotions. ... It is no mystery that they have been alienated from traditional music. The work of reestablishing contact must find its expression in a form best understood and appreciated by the young. Traditional means of communication have proved in certain quarters to be inadequate and hardly in harmony with the mentality of youth.”
(Editor’s note: Father – later, Msgr. – John Donnelly was a priest of the Spokane Diocese. He served as editor of the Inland Register prior to and after his assignment as a news correspondent in Rome for the Catholic news agency under the direction of the National Catholic Welfare Council (NCWC), the predecessor of what is now Catholic News Service.)
Twenty-five Years Ago: May 2, 1991
Rockwood Lane celebrates 100 percent occupancy
Residents of Rockwood Lane and representatives of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane attended a champagne reception on April 10, hosted by the Rockwood Lane Board of Directors.
The party was to celebrate 100 percent occupancy of the 89 units in the original four-story building, first opened in spring 1988.
The Rockwood Lane Board of Directors also announced preliminary plans for the retirement community’s expansion into Phase II, Rockwood Lane Court. The Court is to be a cluster of units on the adjacent property, a portion of which was formerly Sacred Heart School and its gymnasium.
While architectural plans have not yet been completed, 16 two- and three-bedroom attached units are expected to be built, for senior citizens who desire a single-family residence.
Residents of all the units will utilize the community services, including the dining room, pool, and exercise facilities.
Bishop Skylstad plans to break ground for the project on June 4.
Rockwood Court also will be sponsored by the Diocese of Spokane, as is Rockwood Lane, and will be open to persons of all faiths over age 60 who are able to live independently.
(Father Caswell is archivist for the Inland Register, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)
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