Last night after ice skating, Debbie and I stopped into Stephansdom (St. Stephan’s cathedral, in the middle of the inner city) on our walk home. (Debbie lives just a block away from me.) It’s a beautiful building – anytime of day. But it has a majestic peacefulness at night. The organist was practicing his music for upcoming services and there was just a small smattering of people milling about.
We happened to notice a sign announcing the music that was scheduled for the next two Sundays at the 10:15 Mass. I was very pleased to see that the music for the next day was by Palestrina and Bach. I freakin’ LOVE Palestrina! I’ve sung quite a bit of his music over the years – especially when I was performing a lot of early music regularly. And well, I just love Renaissance music in general. I told Debbie that I’d be up for going if she was!
So we agreed to meet at 9:30am the next morning (today) outside my apartment building.
It was rough getting up early (my regular readers know that I am NOT a morning person), but I got it done and was downstairs by 9:32 – not too shabby! We made good time walking to the cathedral (Debbie walks really fast!) and got there before the previous mass was even over. It was quite an experience getting seats. You’d think, Hey, it’s a giant cathedral, there must be plenty of seating! Not exactly. It’s set up in an awkward way with all those pillars so that the seating area is a bit more narrow. So if you want to be down there in front by the action, you gotta get your butt up there right as the previous mass is letting up. I have to admit I was a bit eager to attend mass in this amazing space. I was raised Catholic, but our family is not very strict in any way when it comes to religion. Plus, as a liberal democrat, let’s just say that I have some fundamental differences with the church as a whole. Big time. BUT, it’s always been the music that has pulled me in. It was the music that had me attending mass as a high schooler and college student. And as a result of that earlier regular attendance, part of me did grow to take comfort in the routine of it all. It was familiar – you always knew what was coming next. Sort of like a comfort food for the soul – like mac & cheese.
We did get some decent seats, but I was dismayed to see that there were no hymnals behind the pews. How would we know what to sing??? Then I saw it. One piece of paper with words printed on it. They were the hymn words, but no written music. NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!! I’m going to go off on a mini rant here… I CANNOT STAND WHEN CHURCHES DO THIS!!! Not everyone is a complete idiot when it comes to reading music and not everyone is that little old lady who knows every hymn ever written. Especially since we were in a foreign country. I did not know these hymns – they were not the regular ones I grew up with. I was quite disappointed. Heck, if space is limited, don’t print the four part arrangement if you don’t want to – just at least give us a melody line! I can only speak for myself, but if I’m going to go to mass, I need to be pulled in by something, and that something is music – I need to SING. My belief is that God can hear me from anywhere I happen to be. There is no need for me to go to a special building for me to talk to God. If I go to church, it’s gottta be for some musical transcendence. If I want to pray, I’ll do it in my room at home. (These are my own personal beliefs and views; everyone else is completely welcome to have their own beliefs and views with NO judgement from me.)
On the other hand, I will give you this – the choir performed beautifully. The Palestrina setting of the Mass was just gorgeous. The voices resonated through the cathedral like something truly from another world. Not only was the blend and tone of the sound exquisite, but the complex musical phrasing and shaping helped me remember why I love music to begin with. That in itself was worth coming for. That was heavenly.
And it was a cool learning experience to hear the mass in German. I even understood about two thirds of the Homily. The priest spoke very clear hoch Deutsch (not an Austrian dialect) and he spoke slow enough for me to process the word order of the grammar. The lesson for the day was learning where we all fit into the big picture of things.
When Mass was over, I snapped some pics on my way out….
Afterwards, Debbie and I went out for a relaxing drink. She got some hot chocolate, and I got some green tea and a piece of apple strudel. We had a nice conversation and eventually were on our way. She joined me as I walked to the TI (Tourist Info) station so I could gather some info for my next mini adventure – but THAT’S for another post!