Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ceremonial Music 101: So, the Pope resigned...

February has come to an end, and there are several very exciting moments on the horizon.  As many of you know, I have an obsession with ceremonial music and one of the biggest world events of the year will occur next month in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI has resigned, but we can look forward to some awesome ceremonial music within the election of his successor.  Benedict is the first Pope since 1415 to resign, and interestingly of the 265 Popes in history, only 9 have resigned and 3 of them have been named Benedict.  One of these, Benedict IX (1012-1056) has an incredible history.  He was elected Pope as a teenager - he was from a powerful family that produced 7 popes!  Famously, he was the first actively homosexual pope, and even more amazing, he was pope 3 times.  He was eventually removed by force twice and but initially was convinced to resign by selling the papacy to his godfather, becoming the only Pope to sell the papacy.

Believe it or not, this is Pope Benedict XVI with the last pope to resign voluntarily, Pope Celestine V in 1294!
Nevertheless, this rare event brings with it some exciting and ancient traditions that display some of the greatest musical gems in history.

So here is what to expect

Interregnum - this is the time between popes.  Obviously, since Benedict XVI hasn't died, then there will not be the normal funeral that has preceded most papal elections, so for that matter I won't bother you with the music details of that.  Instead this period will be highlighted by the soon-to-begin Conclave, which must begin within 21 days of the vacancy.  They will begin the Conclave with a morning Votive Mass for the Election of the Pope.  The music for the mass will be performed by the Schola cantorum or the papal choir using the old Gregorian chant originating from the 8th Century A.D.

Unfortunately for many music history professors (and the Catholic Encyclopedia) who teach this incorrectly, Gregorian chant was not created by Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), but actually was a melding of several different chant traditions commissioned by the Carolingian Family in the 8th Century.  Charlemagne was a member of this family and once he became Holy Roman Emperor, this Gregorian chant spread throughout the Christian world and is still the basis for the most solemn masses of the Catholic Church.

For Catholics out there, because it is Lent (the period that leads up to Easter), you will not sing the "Gloria" in the mass, because it is banned if the priests wear purple vestments.  The Votive Mass for the Election of the Pope is one of the only times that the Catholic Church performs the Gloria during Lent as the vestments are red.  Here is the version performed at the papal conclave:

After the votive mass in St. Peter's Basilica, they will process to the Sistine Chapel to the chant Veni Creator Spiritus or Come Creator Spirit.  This 1,100-year-old hymn always begins the Papal Conclave:

The Vote - The College of Cardinals then vote by secret ballot and whoever receives a super-majority (more than 2/3rds of the vote) is elected Pope.  The ballots are then burned and white smoke billows out of the chimney for the public to see.  If no pope has been elected after a vote, a chemical is added to the ballots and the smoke appears black.
Sistine Chapel 
The Inauguration - At the Inauguration Mass of the Pope, he will receive his ring and pallium (a band of cloth around his neck).  All the Cardinals enter from the tomb of the first pope, the Apostle Peter, in St. Peter's Basilica and then parade out to the crowd of thousands in St. Peter's Square, while chanting the Litany of Saints - a short repetitive chant asking an enormous list of saints for their help and guidance.
St. Peter's Basilica
Altar in St. Peter's Basilica
The mass is chanted and special anthems and ancient hymns are performed   One exception to this great collection Roman Catholic music history is the recessional which in Benedict XVI's case was the unfortunate choice of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor!  The oddest part isn't that he programmed a Lutheran's music for a Papal Inauguration, and I don't mean to give any disrespect, because it is a beautiful musical decision.  But, amid the American media clamoring and showing pictures when he was in the Hitler Youth and serving in the Nazi Air Force Reserve, perhaps a less angry Bach selection would have been sufficient?


The Enthronement - The Enthronement is a mass celebrated at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, where the actual throne, or cathedra, of the Pope rests.  The Basilica of St. Peter is not the most important church in Catholicism, rather it is the nearby Archbasilica that holds the title of the highest ranking church.  Musically, there is one very interesting part of the Enthronement that has left a rather embarrassing mark. The original throne was called stercoraria and made of red marble. It was named that after the anthem that is performed during the Enthronement called "De stercore erigens pauperem" meaning "lifting up the poor out of the dunghill."

The Papal Cathdra (throne) at St. John Lateran
The Coronation - I will be very interested and excited to see if this happens, because no pope has had a Coronation since Pope Paul VI in 1963.  It was a tradition held for nearly 800 years and it involves some very interesting traditions and music.  The Coronation would begin at St. Peter's with a blast of specifically silver trumpets playing Gounod's Himno Pontificio as hundreds of priests, bishops, and cardinals enter down the center aisle and following them the new pope is carried down the center aisle wearing no less than 8 robes on a platform chair surrounded by the Swiss Guard and large fans of feathers!  Meanwhile a long chant of various psalms called the terce is sung.  As the pope is carried on his chair, he is stopped 3 times and a bundle of weeds is burned before his feet, and the procession continues.  The long chant is still sung while all the pope's robes are taken off at the altar so he can wash his hands.  Then 8 other robes are placed on him along with gloves, ring, and hat (Mitre).  Keep in mind the chant is still continuing while all 120 Cardinals individually kneel and kiss the pope's ring one at a time, and finally the procession and the chant is finished.  Poor musicians!
The Pope carried during the Coronation
For musicians, the Coronation is very exciting because it has featured the same mass setting since the 16th Century, and one of the most famous pieces of Renaissance music, Palestrina's Pope Marcellus Mass.  Here is an excerpt of the Sanctus.

The entire ceremony is completely filled with music and the grandest ancient gems in music history - even the readings from the Bible were sung and all the prayers were sung.  During the preparation for communion, the Silveri Symphony was performed by a choir of trumpets.  The highlight of the Coronation was the crowning of the Papal Tiara to the words: "Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art father of princes and kings, the ruler of the world on earth, the vicar of our Savior Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory through all ages"

Obviously, being crowned Ruler of the World has its problems in this modern era and the Coronation hasn't been performed in 50 years, but as a musician, it would be great to see a massive event like this only so we can have a better record of its tradition in this modern era.  Only 3 have ever been filmed.

The gigantic papal tiara
If you want to learn more about Ceremonial Music, browse my past projects on the Olympics and other ceremonies right here on my blog!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dusti and Bryan Experience the GRAMMY's (video episode!)

Experience the GRAMMY's with us in this new blog Episode, which includes broadcast and audience-view video of the GRAMMY wins by Charles Bruffy and the Kansas City Chorale!  The video is in High Definition so click the full screen box at the bottom right of the player for extra excitement!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

GRAMMY Videos coming soon!

Be sure to check back in the following days for two episodes of my blog coverage of the GRAMMY's including video of us going crazy after our victories, video of the red carpet, and video from the after parties.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


See below for a Photo Plot of "How the Camel Got Its Hump"
I am ultimately excited for this week for a couple of reasons - I will be attending the Grammy's and hoping the Chorale can take back some hardware, but mainly for the chance at an actual vacation!  I have had to travel quite often in the past, but it is always stressful and "business" related.  This time, I will be able to enjoy life!  Thank you to everyone who have helped us out so we can attend and dress like belong; we are so thankful for you!

I will be providing a lot of updates (hopefully) via facebook mostly through pictures.  If you are interested in following, my profile is

Of the several events planned for the weekend, I will be attending a rooftop cocktail at sunset in downtown LA on Saturday with a record company.  Then on Sunday, I will attend the GRAMMY Pre-telecast Awards Ceremony and Reception, the Red Carpet, the Primetime GRAMMY Awards Ceremony, and Wolfgang Puck's GRAMMY Celebration Afterparty.  You can follow all of these events live at this Sunday starting at Noon O'clock Pacific Time.


As for other news this week, our neighbors had a kitchen fire, burning-up their microwave oven, and filling our place with the most vile and bitter smoke.  Unfortunately, this directly led to my sinuses becoming unbearably packed with gunk.  I normally would not mind, but I had a voice competition the following day.  I nearly cancelled, but I have never cancelled in the past and I didn't want to break that record even though I had a tough, up-hill battle.  So what were my strategies to overcome my smoke damaged voice?

1. I warmed up two pots of hot water with my coffee maker and drank it all - this is a trick I learned after traveling often and having to sing on the same day as your flight arrives.  Many times plane flights can dry out your vocal chords due to the environment in the plane cabin, so lots of warm water is a great remedy for many voice ailments.

2. Don't over-practice.  It's tough to keep yourself from warming-up if you're in bad voice, but if your voice is swollen, using it too forcefully can cause more friction and damage your voice even further.  Warm-up soft and very slow, while drinking all that warm water!

3. Blow your nose! This goes for everyone who sniffles at all.  If you are a singer and sniff up your snot every time it drains, you are just packing gunk in your sinuses where you need air to vibrate when you sing, plus you can inflame your throat if you swallow and cough up all that mucous.  Sniffling may be an habitual problem for some people, but blowing your nose will help you breathe easier, give you an easier and more resonant production of sound, and make it more enjoyable to sing.

As for the result of the competition, well, I was pleased that I was physically and vocally able to complete the audition.  It went better than I expected - I didn't win, but I tried as best as I could given the circumstances.


And now for your amusement, here is a Photo Plot from the opera for children that I was in "How the Camel Got Its Hump" by Leah Pulatie

The lovely "orchestra" begins the Overture
Prologue - Royce wants us to act out his favorite story, "How the Camel Got Its Hump"
The Ox, Horse, and Dog have to work hard at the beginning of the world and the Camel isn't helping!
The Animals plead with the Camel to help out
"It isn't fair, Camel, that you aren't helping us out and we're doing all the work"
The Horse has an idea - to ask the Camel nicely
The Horse pleads with the Camel to help - but the Camel ignores everyone saying only, "Humph"
The Horse has an idea - to go to the Man for help
The Animals bring a formal complaint to the Man about the Camel
The Animals plead with the Man to help
The Animals make a formal complaint to the Man that it isn't fair for the Camel to be lazy
The Animals pout because the Man won't bother helping
The Camel, who only says "Humph," protests any work - he even finds going on strike to be too much work!! - but he sure feels lonely and would like some friends
The Ox hears a strange might be a genie!
The Animals summon the genie
The Animals summon the magical Djinn of the desert to help
The Animals summon the magical Djinn
The Djinn, a genie, has appeared!!
The Djinn performs magic tricks
The Animals plead their case to the Djinn
The Djinn will help out the Animals!!!
The Animals find and capture the Camel in the audience
The Camel is captured by the Animals and the Djinn
The Djinn of the Desert helps the Animals and gives the Camel a giant hump
The Camel gets his hump!
Ox teaches Camel how to work
The Camel decides to help out his new friends with his new hump

Lesson - You'll get the Cameelious Hump if you don't lend a hand!
Curtain Call    

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