Saturday, July 18, 2015

"The musical adventure of the Reductions" and sacred music today.

A week ago, I took note of a recent address by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on the origins of music and on the particular value of the Western European musical tradition. Today, I would like to call your attention to a piece by the great vaticanista Sandro Magister linking the Pope Emeritus' words with a particular aspect of his successor's recent apostolic journey to South America:
At his arrival [on Friday, July 10] in Paraguay, the third and final stage of his South American journey after Ecuador and Bolivia, Pope Francis will listen to music composed four centuries ago in the "Reducciones," the indigenous communities created by the Jesuits to civilize and evangelize the populations of those lands.

The musical adventure of the Reductions borders upon the incredible, because it was able to integrate the best of European Baroque music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with the innate musical talent of the indigenous Guaraní, all in the context of the liturgical celebration. A masterpiece of "inculturation" of Christianity not in a dumbing down, but at the highest levels of missionary intelligence, of comprehension of the spirit of the liturgy and of creation of true liturgical music as is rarely found today.

Domenico Zipoli, a Jesuit who was not a priest, was the best-known and most brilliant creator of this musical genre, in the Reductions of present-day Paraguay and of the neighboring countries.

Well then, by an eloquent coincidence the questions implicit in the musical genius of the Reductions - all questions of urgent relevance - were the object of an unanticipated address given by pope emeritus Benedict XVI right on the eve of his successor’s departure for the Americas.
To get a sense of Zipoli's work, listen to his Misa de San Ignacio, written for use in the Guaraní mission and performed above by the Ensemble Elyma, a group specializing in Latin American Baroque music and led by Argentinian conductor Gabriel Garrido. A student of Alessandro Scarlatti and Bernardo Pasquini, Zipoli entered the Society of Jesus with the desire to work in the Jesuit missions in Paraguay; written in the same period as the great works of Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi, the Masses and oratorios which Zipoli produced in South America remind us that Baroque music was a trans-Atlantic and transcultural phenomenon. As Magister sees it, Zipoli's music offers an important lesson for today, serving to illustrate a point made recently by the Pope Emeritus:
[According to Pope Emertius Benedict, the Western tradition of sacred music] "is a demonstration of the truth of Christianity. Wherever a response like this is developed, there has taken place an encounter with the truth, with the true Creator of the world. This is why great sacred music is a reality of theological stature and of permanent significance for the faith of the whole of Christianity, even if it is by no means necessary that it be performed always and everywhere. On the other hand, it is also clear that it cannot disappear from the liturgy and that its presence can be an entirely special form of participation in the sacred celebration, in the mystery of the faith."

And again:

"We do not know the future of our culture and of sacred music. But one thing seems clear to me: where the encounter with the living God who comes to us in Christ really takes place, there is born and grows anew also the response whose beauty comes from the truth itself."

The Jesuits of the "Reducciones" of Paraguay or Bolivia, like the great Domenico Zipoli but not only him, were brilliant witnesses of precisely this, albeit without thinking it out the way Ratzinger has been able to do.

But today the Catholic liturgy, apart from rare exceptions, is dramatically distant from that miraculous balance between great sacred music and the "participatio actuosa" of the faithful for which Vatican II called and of which John Paul II sought to give an example on the five continents he visited, as his successor took care to recall.

An intelligent re-listening to the liturgical music of the South American "sacred experiment" of the seventeenth and eighteenth-century Jesuits has everything to teach the Church of today, in every region of the world.
To read the rest, click here. AMDG.


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