Friday, February 12, 2010

Organ Concert by Olivier Latry, Notre Dame Cathedral

One day when I knew I would not easily make it from BART to my apartment in Oakland, I stopped in at the new “Christ the Light” cathedral to go to the bathroom (I feel I have that right as an ex-Catholic – they owe me for all the psychic torture and the time in therapy, but my body needed no such rationale); I noticed that they were installing an organ, in two separate parts, on either side of the altar. The mystery of the two wooden awnings there was finally resolved. As a notice of five recitals introducing the new organ stated that the fee was a “free-will donation,” I arrived at the official inauguration on 11 February 2010 only to find that you needed to have reserved tickets. We non-ticket holders were treated in a cold-blooded manner, left to wonder if we would be admitted after every possible ticket holder had been to Will Call, so I went searching for a way to sneak in, but all doors were locked. So I stood at the back of the cathedral, thinking I might just stand there, but soon the other non-ticket holders began to gather there so that I could not remain inconspicuous. Should I believe that it was “God” who intervened at that point? Right by the baptistery I saw Silvino Guzman, a Filipino with whom I had forged a good friendship when we both worked at California Pacific Medical Center Foundation. I truly only wanted to say hello, and persuaded an usher to let me by to say hello, but, of course, Silvino immediately sent me along the side to the front, which gave me the confidence that convinced other interfering ushers that I was permitted. Soon the other non-ticket holders were sitting beside me. It was a good place to sit, to the right of the organist, so that one was fully conscious of the “stereophonic” effect of the divided organ.

Of course, as this was the official inauguration of the organ, a priest had to speak, who then introduced the red-capped main guy, the so-called “Most Reverend” Bishop of Oakland, Salvatore J. Cordileone, the chief force behind the anti-gay No on 8 proposition*, talking about how the cathedral was “for the entire Bay Area community. Why didn’t I leave at that point, or shout my protest – well, for various reasons – but mostly because I know that there is never any way to reach Beauty except by passing through a pool of slime. Be it a Prince of the Church or a Captain of Industry, when have artists (or anyone) ever been free of sadistic control freaks, speaking with pious hypocrisy.

The Bishop hoped that “this organ will excite and inspire.” Lastly, the boyish Music Director of the cathedral spoke; his accent was sort of Dutchy, and the people beside me explained that he was South African. Of course, it made sense to compliment the builders of the cathedral, Skidmore, Billings and Owings [my friend Martha Hubert has since provided me a correction: "SOM is the architect, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. http://www.som.com/content.cfm/into_the_light ], and to thank Daniel Whalen and his wife Katharine Conroy Whalen whose gift paid for the organ. Later the guest organist pointed to the people who had created ”the Letoureau 92 ranks, four-manual, pedal organ with 5298 pipes.”

The organist for this special concert was “Olivier Latry, titular organist of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris…one of the world’s most distinguished organists.”
http://www.cathedraledeparis.com/Olivier-LATRY,405
(He has recorded all the organ music of Messiaen.) It was hard for me to belive that Mr. Latry was not a sweetly gay man, in his bowtie and silvery grey jacket, and that would be a perfect "miracle," considering Bishop Cordileone's hatred of gay people, but I cannot label Mr. Latry. After a Toccata by Leon Boellmann, Latry talked with the audience about the introduction of this organ as being like “the birth of a baby,” and scanning the organ, added “—a BIG baby.” He devoted a good amount of time to demonstrating what the new organ could do. While the visible organ is large enough, he indicated other places where there hidden pipes. He sounded the low, low sound of one of those hidden pipes that is 16-feet high. Once he had filled the cathedral with the most immense sounds of the organ, all the distasteful Catholicism became irrelevant and a miniscule distraction. Now the building made sense – its chief reason for existing was to house that organ, for what other space could be big enough for it? At great length, Latry demonstrated the wide range of possible sounds, and clearly loved the chance to play it. “The building – we – are part of the sound,” he said.

I was making these notes, and did not want to be writing during the performance of any piece, but was going to look for some brief description for each piece, and one of the people nearby thought I was reviewing the concert, saying “Why isn’t this concert being reviewed? Why was no announcement? So you’re reviewing this concert?” The woman beside me said, “He’s been making notes.” I explained that any review I was writing would be brief, inadequate, intended for friends, but ended up agreeing to put it on my blog. The San Francisco man disturbed by the lack of news about the concert said to the pleasant San Francisco woman beside me, “Would you ever have believed we would come to Oakland to see something?”

Here, for the programme, not for my thumbnail descriptions…

Passacaglia & Fugue in C Minor, BWV 582 (Johan Sebastian Bach) – Except for a brief quiet visit with an angel, torrents of music.

Intermezzo from Suite pour orgue (Augustin Barie) – Sweet and gentle

Carillon de Westminster (Louis Vierne): Knocks your sox off

Choral variations on the theme of ‘Veni Creator’ (Maurice Durufle) – As one would expect of this composer, gentleness…beauty and magic without fear…and, as it is an organ, after all, a final triumph

Berceuse (Lullaby) in memory of Louis Vierne (Pierre Cochereau) – ethereal scintillation – then a lonely rocket wandering aimlessly

Dieu parmi nous (God Among Us) from La Nativite du Seigneur (Olivier Messiaen) – meditation as extreme drama, benefiting from the precedence of someone like Ives

Improvisation on submitted themes: Latry opened a sealed envelope in which the Bishop had suggested a religious theme. Latry played the theme, paused, then played his variations – colors sliding through water building to a wave that was like being inside an airplane engine – an exploration of the organ’s possibilities, probably, that may have gone too far.

The audience applauded him for so long that he returned with a wonderful encore I cannot identify. (Charles L., who was at the concert, emailed me later that it was the Toccata in F from Charles-Marie Widor's 5th Symphony, Widor also having been an organist at Notre Dame.)

For anyone who wants to visit my past slide surveys of the cathedral, one can be viewed by clicking on the title, above, for this section: Organ Concert by Olivier Latry, Notre Dame Cathedral

Another slide show is available somewhere earlier on this blog.

If you want more information on the malevolent Bishop Cordileone (“Shortly after his side’s victory in the Proposition 8 campaign, Salvatore Cordileone was installed as the new Catholic bishop in Oakland”), this from Chris Tompson’s article in East Bay Express, August 2009:

“All across the state, gay men, lesbians, and their friends picketed hostile churches and boycotted businesses that backed the amendment. And as they contemplated their fate, they asked themselves: Who did this to us? Was it the Mormons? The National Organization for Marriage? Black voters? White evangelical megachurches? Now, eight months after the election that broke so many hearts, the truth has come out. It was the new Catholic bishop of Oakland. …. What almost no one knows is that without Bishop Sal, gay men and lesbians would almost surely still be able to get married today. As an auxiliary bishop in San Diego, Cordileone played an indispensable role in conceiving, funding, organizing, and ultimately winning the campaign to pass Proposition 8. It was Bishop Sal and a small group of Catholic leaders who decided that they had to amend the state constitution. It was Bishop Sal who found the first major donor and flushed the fledgling campaign with cash. It was Bishop Sal who personally brought in the organization that took the lead on the petition drive. And it was Bishop Sal who coordinated the Catholic effort with evangelical churches around the state. Bishop Sal even helped craft the campaign's rhetorical strategy, sitting in on focus groups to hone the message of Proposition 8. …. Cordileone gloated about his work in an interview with an obscure Catholic radio network. He bragged about how gay men and lesbians never saw him coming and called gay marriage a Satanic plot by ‘the Evil One’ to destroy morality in the modern world.
“Now, Cordileone's work has been rewarded, and the Vatican has made him the most important religious figure in the East Bay. Alameda County is one of the most liberal and gay-friendly parts of the world; it arguably has the most lesbian residents in the United States, and voters here rejected Proposition 8 by almost 62 percent. And the man who leads some 400,000 Catholics from his new Lake Merritt cathedral, who articulates the loudest moral and religious voice in the region and has the power of the Vatican at his disposal, just got done taking the right to marry from every gay man and woman in the East Bay.
“When you first speak to Bishop Salvatore Cordileone, you're immediately struck by his sincerity and compassion. Throughout the Proposition 8 campaign, he took great pains to emphasize the humanity of gay men and lesbians, citing the catechism and a pastoral letter that denounces anti-gay prejudice....But along with a crackerjack mind and an intense identification with the poor, Cordileone has cultivated one of the most theologically conservative worldviews imaginable. Especially when it comes to sexual matters, Bishop Sal is conservative and uncompromising. In 2006, the US Conference of Bishops was drafting a pastoral letter that listed examples of sins so great that Catholics could not in good conscience receive the sacrament of Communion unless they repented of them through the sacrament of penance. Cordileone led an effort to include the use of contraception among them. The effort failed, but if Cordileone had his way, women on the Pill would be banned from receiving the body of Christ.
“…. Cordileone had been strategizing with ecumenical opponents of gay marriage for years, and a shadow network known as ‘Protect Marriage’ was already in place. The National Organization for Marriage, a New Jersey nonprofit dedicated to fighting same-sex marriage around the country, had what Cordileone called both the intellectual arguments and the ‘practical know-how’ to run the campaign. On December 23, 2007, Cordileone called organization president Maggie Gallagher and asked her group to come to California and get to work. Within weeks, the organization was helping to collect signatures. ….
“Eventually, millions of dollars would flood into the campaign, much of it from powerful Catholics, and especially from Catholic businessmen in San Diego, Cordileone's home turf. The Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, gave $1 million. Doug Manchester, a San Diego hotelier who sat with Cordileone on the University of San Diego board of trustees, gave $125,000. Terry Caster, who operates San Diego's A-1 Self Storage, donated almost $700,000. Throughout it all, Cordileone continued to speak at fund-raisers around Southern California. ….
“Cordileone even had a hand in crafting the message of the campaign. As professional campaign organizers shopped different angles around to focus groups, they decided to shift their pitch as far from the question of gay rights as possible. Instead, the campaign would be all about judicial activism, religious liberty, sex education in public schools, and the idea that children need both a mother and a father. Bishop Sal sat in on two of those focus groups as campaign leaders passed around a ‘proposed’ sex-education textbook called ‘My Daddy's Wedding,’ watching as people blanched at the gay-friendly subject matter.
“And as the campaign grew and grew, Cordileone was astonished at how complacent ‘the other side’ was. He quietly watched as gay men and lesbians took their victory for granted, never imagining that their foes were assembling a powerful and disciplined coalition. He would later gloat over them in his radio interview.
“ ‘What's interesting is what happened on the other side,’ Cordileone said. ‘They didn't realize until after we had collected a couple hundred thousand signatures that we were up to this. ...’
“ ‘Oho!’ chuckled the radio show's host, Father Thomas Loya. ‘That's a big switch, Bishop Sal. The other side — we caught them sleeping!’ ….
“On November 1, on the eve of the election, Cordileone found himself at another ecstatic religious festival. Pentecostal pastor Lou Engle organized ‘The Call,’ a massive pro-Proposition 8 rally at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium, the home of football's San Diego Chargers. Tens of thousands of rhapsodic souls streamed into the stadium along with a Catholic procession from Mission San Diego. For twelve hours, they swooned and spasmed to fundamentalist hip-hop and frenzied testimony from young witnesses for Christ. Beneath the scoreboard, Focus on the Family leader James Dobson and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council exhorted everyone to save marriage. ‘Ex-gay’ men and women told their stories of deliverance from the ‘lifestyle.’ Cordileone watched as pastors called on the masses to repent of their sins of complacency and negligence, and he thrilled to what he called the ‘sacramental worldview’ on display.
“Three days later, gay men and lesbians lost their right to marry in California.
“Now, Salvatore Cordileone is leading the faithful in Oakland. Almost immediately after being named the new bishop, Cordileone sent a message that he has every intention of continuing the work he pursued so vigorously in San Diego. In March, Walter Hoye, a local minister and anti-abortion activist, was jailed for violating Oakland's law keeping protesters from coming within eight feet of the entrance to an abortion clinic. Bishop Sal visited Hoye in jail, where the two shouted encouragement to one another through the glass. ….
“Rebecca Kaplan, a lesbian member of the Oakland City Council, agrees that she, too, will try to work with the new bishop. ‘The scripture makes quite clear that hatred or prejudice toward the stranger is the worst sin. But the fact that he has committed that sin will not prevent me from working with him, because I believe in working with everybody.’
“But then Kaplan learned what Bishop Cordileone had to say at the end of his interview on the A Body of Truth show. As the show was winding down, Bishop Sal mused upon gay marriage one last time. ‘The ultimate attack of the Evil One is the attack on marriage,’ he said. ‘If you take marriage apart, everything comes unraveled. It's been frayed at the edges, and now moving more and more toward the center. But you take marriage out, it all comes unraveled. It all comes tumbling down. And again, the evangelicals, they understand that. They understand this is an attack of the Evil One at the core institution.’
“When Kaplan heard that, she hissed, ‘My great-grandparents were rounded up and put in Nazi prison camps by people who used that sort of language.’
“Recently, Cordileone clarified those remarks. ‘I do believe that evil exists outside of people's minds,’ he said. ‘What I was saying, there is, we have to be spiritually aware that society is decaying. I know that people on the other side are people of good faith. ... I don't think they're consciously working for evil.’
“And so, when gay men and lesbians and their friends and families lay down their heads at night, they can rest easy. Because somewhere in the grand new cathedral on the shores of Lake Merritt, the new bishop of Oakland doesn't think they're consciously working for evil.
…. (“The Father of Proposition 8,” East Bay Express, 12 August 2009

1 comment:

Daniel Edd Bland III said...

Recently I wrote an "Open Letter" to Dr. James Dobson asking the question, "Does Christ's Church truly stand for TRUTH & JUSTICE?'

http://blandyland.com/?p=459

Here is the "official" response I received in return.

http://blandyland.com/?p=513

Please help spread the word!!!

Daniel Edd Bland III