Sunday, November 4, 2012

Dr. Hunt and the Heavenly Harpsichord



An attentive listener
Dr. Janet Hunt, Lecturer and Music Director of Saint John's Seminary, presented a wonderful concert on the Harpsichord this afternoon.  Here were my introductory remarks:

In the entire history of music, the harpsichord is unique, for it serves as a sort of time machine in the way no other instrument is able.   If you want to know how chant sounded in the ninth century, it’s virtually impossible.  For we have neither recording technologies nor even accurate transcriptions of notation to rely on.

But if you want to know what the royalties of Europe truly heard when Bach and Mozart and the greatest composers of the sixteenth and seventeen centuries sat in their audience chambers and music halls, you’re in luck.  For the harpsichord, strangely enough, suddenly and without warning disappeared in the late Baroque era and so, unlike any other musical instrument, it did not change.  And with its twentieth century revival, at the hands of extraordinary musicians like our own Dr. Hunt, it begin to speak with the same voice, the same well tempered timber with which it sang a couple hundred years or more ago.

Which means that at the hands of a master, we are transported to the same sound the composers on today’s program would have intended.  A lovely soothing harmonic which brings peace to the heart and joy to the soul.

To be honest, Dr. Hunt, this concert is the whole reason I wanted to sponsor this series.   To hear you play the instrument you speak of with such love, and which makes other musicians speak of you with such admiration.

And it makes it all the more wonderful that the musician today is one of us, who leads us in prayer, literally, from sun rise to sun set.  We are deeply grateful to you every day, but overjoyed at the opportunity you give us this afternoon.

One last thought, stolen, as so often it is, from our Holy Father, who once wrote of the sort of music you will hear today: ‘It is not the case that it is a music which a composer imagined and then played; instead, this music comes from the angels, and we have to lift up our hearts so that they may be in tune with the music we hear.’

Thank you, Dr. Hunt, for working with the angels at lifting our hearts to the Lord!

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