Saturday, April 28, 2007

Making Bagpipes in Charleston

Now, for something completely different!

Yes, different from building pipe organs, and even more different from organ playing and bell ringing in church. I have been working part-time with Roddy MacLellan in Summerville, SC. We recently finished two sets of bagpipes in African Blackwood, sometimes called Grenadilla. One set had polished aluminum fittings:

The blackwood is oiled with bore oil throughout on the inside (similar to the bore oil that other woodwind instrumentalists use). The external finish is with Teak Oil and polished with multiple waxings.

The other set had engraved Sterling Silver fittings, and looks really "high class". Roddy has a number of different designs for the engraving, and can custom design anything the piper wants!

We're working on a number of Cocobolo sets right now, each with a slightly different set of fittings.

To see more, come to the MacLellan Bagpipe website:

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Annunciation - modern iconography?

Here is a contemporary depiction of The Annunciation by John Collier:

(from )

"This Annunciation is set in suburbia, but the symbolism is quite traditional. Mary is reading from Isaiah about the Virgin who conceives and bears a son. The lily represents her purity, and she is welcoming St. Gabriel."

While the potted lily is quite obvious (and very medieval), also note the dove perched on the triangular corner of the neighbor's roof!

Is this good use of symbols for modern iconography? Or does use of the third dimension rule this out?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Eastertide in Charleston

A blessed Eastertide to everyone!

This Easter Week is very special. The “Victimæ Paschali Laudes” Sequence is either recited of chanted every day. It is a wonderful piece of music, especially with the organ accompaniment from “Nova Organi Harmonia” which I have put into Finale with both the English and Latin texts.

My involvement in the Triduum this year was limited to helping ring the bells (change ringing) at the Gloria for both Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday at the Great Vigil, and leading the verses of the “Stabat Mater” a capella at the Stations of the Cross Good Friday evening.

Then came Easter Sunday – a long, wonderful day of church music! The following has been my schedule for three years now.

It began downtown at St. Michael’s Church (Episcopal – the oldest church building in Charleston) helping ring for the pre-dawn Vigil Service.

Then I stopped at a 24-hour restaurant for some breakfast – bacon, eggs & grits – sitting in a booth where I could see the sunrise.

I arrived early for the 8:00 a.m. Mass. There were people already finding a seat at 7:30, and a fairly full room by the time Mass began. Many of the 9:30 regulars were at this Mass. I had a Cantor for both this Mass and the next.

We rang the bells over in the church between the first two Masses, stopping at 10 minutes till so I could get back across the street. That was a feat in itself, as the crowd was very thick!

The 9:30 Mass started just a few minutes late so that all could be seated. The Cantor and I picked a second Communion Hymn just after the Offertory hymn was finished – the room was SRO! Everything went very well musically. I found out from the ushers after Mass that we had over 800 people!

The 11:30 Mass was SRO again, but much more reasonable. I repositioned the microphone so that I could both sing and play the organ. Again, everything went very well. The music for these English Masses was a combination of English and Latin, including the Gloria from Missa VIII – de Angelis.

At 10 minutes before the 5:30 Traditional Latin Mass, I rang down the change ringing bells which had been left in the ‘up’ position since the Vigil on Saturday. Then I played 5 minutes of organ preludes followed by chanting the Easter Introit, again with organ accompaniment from “Nova Organi Harmonia”. Today’s Mass was a Low Mass with the congregation joining in on the hymns. The Offertory hymn was the Sequence we had just heard recited. I also chanted the Communion Antiphon before introducing the hymn. I have been chanting the Introits as prelude music and the Communion Antiphons every Sunday since Septuagesima.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Palm Sunday meditation

Our Pastor's sermon this Palm Sunday was very short. He mentioned so many of the key figures in the Scriptures leading up to the Crucifixion and Resurrection: St. Peter, Judas, the Blessed Virgin, the "good thief", etc., that each of us might in some way identify with.

But he also mentioned the smaller players: the people who welcomed Jesus with a triumphal procession, the owner of the donkey who allowed the disciples to take his beast of burden, and even that poor beast, who was remembered in the following poem:

by G.K. Chesterton

When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born;

With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings,
The devil's walking parody
On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me:
I am dumb, I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.

So begins Holy Week.
Have a blessed one, and a glorious Easter!