Monday, October 15, 2007

The Patron of Culture

On Saturday, the Mozart-loving, piano-playing prelate you know as B16 paid a visit to the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music to mark the 75th anniversary of its elevation to the status of a papal faculty, and the recent renovation of its home-base. (And on Friday -- as shown at left -- he blessed and reopened the famed Bronze Doors of the Apostolic Palace after a two-year renovation.)

Saying that he came to it "with joy," at the Vatican's music school the Pope highlighted the richness of "the biblical and patristic traditions in underscoring the effectiveness of song, of music, in moving hearts and lifting them up to be penetrated by the intimacy of the life of God."

The "treasure" of sacred music, Benedict XVI said, isn't something to be "frozen" by ecclesiastical authority, but must "seek to insert into the patrimony of the past the valid novelties of this time, to join them in a worthy synthesis of this high mission, reserved to the divine service." The musical institute "must not be lacking its contribution toward an 'aggiornamento' of precise traditions adapted to our times, among which sacred music is rich," the Pope urged, telling its professors that their work is one of "great relevance for the life of the church."

In church-music news closer to home, one of its great exponents on this side of the Pond will mark a milestone tonight as a gala concert in Toronto celebrates the 70th anniversary of its St Michael's Choir School.

One of a handful of musical academies around the world to be formally affiliated with Rome's Pontifical Institute and attached to TO's cathedral of the same name, the voices of St Michael's choirboys add no small beauty to archdiocesan and parish events at the seat of Canada's largest local church. But a handful of the school's contributions to the larger scene form the bill for tonight's concert, to be headlined by one of the GTA's great bequests to the cultural heritage of mankind: Barenaked Ladies (the legendary band's keyboardist, Kevin Hearn, is an alum).

(All together: "When I was born, they looked at me and said..." One of my all-time favorites, that....)

Even closer to home, just off-Broadway, some might remember the Storm Theatre's Karol Wojtyla Festival -- the May marathon of the pontiff-to-be's plays that ended up sparking a good bit of coverage and stellar reviews.

Well, as good buzz led to sell-out houses for the Storm's springtime productions of John Paul II's Jeweler's Shop and Our God's Brother, just in time for the 29th anniversary of the Polish Pope's election tomorrow, the Pope-fest is back with another monthlong rollout of two more pre-papal JP works: Job and Jeremiah.

And just in case that wasn't enough, Peter Dobbins & Co. are bringing no less than Chesterton to the Big Time for Christmas.

Some of you GK-heads might be very happy at that. But, remember, it's still New York: his work might be onstage, but the "incense" will have to stay outside.

Sure, you can't get everything... but it comes quite close, no?

PHOTO: Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi