Note: this is a purely personal perspective on the event, hence the 'I did this and that' tone - it is *not* at all meant as an objective (much less offical) report.
So a few weeks ago, news reached Singapore that Fr Duncan Wong, FSSP, was passing through town and wanted to say mass at a local church. Never mind that he didn't need permission from the local bishop to say mass, it was sought out of courtesy and surprisingly, approval obtained.
Then came the fiasco of trying to find a church in which to have this mass - most priests and parishes were distinctly unfriendly. Then unexpectedly, a church was found. A private sung mass with people invited by word of mouth.
I got called in to lend some assistance exactly a week before the event - to loan them my russian cassock (they were THAT short of cassocks and weren't about to ask the SSPX). I discovered at the last minute that I didn't have it with me in Singapore, having left it in London - so I turned up at the rehearsal to let them know. I was promptly roped in to stand in for the priest at the rehearsal for the servers. I was handed a missal to read/sing the priest's parts from, and the look on the MC's face when I said I didn't need it and began to recite and sing from memory the priest's bits at the beginning of mass.
Most of the servers had never seen an old-rite mass, never mind served at it. There were only two rehearsals, of which only one had someone singing and playing the part of the priest. By the way, that was me. *BLUSH*) While many Catholic/Orthodox boys have play-acted priest and saying/singing Mass/Liturgy in their childhood, I suspect very few ever got the chance to do it in a real church, in the Sung Mass form, with 8 altarboys assisting, and a live choir to sing the responses. It was great fun, I have to say.
After this rehearsal of servers, I was informed that the schola hadn't yet been formed, so I turned up at the choir rehearsal on Monday evening to see what I could do. The choir consisted of some 20 folk who sing the Missa de Angelis (mass VIII) once a month at a new-rite mess. When the rehearsal ended and all they'd done were the responses, Salve Regina, Asperges and two hymns, I rightly surmised that these guys weren't going to be learning the propers.
'Oh, since you can read neums, how about we pick a few guys and you can teach them to read neums and the chant for the two masses?' Somehow, I saw this coming. Historical sources mention how in the fifth and sixth centuries, Rome often imported chanters from Constantinople and the East - looks like it was happening all over again! Out of the 4 members of the schola- only two read neums (Gregorian notation) with any fluency prior to this. Two had never sung or seen the old rite and only one had more than a passing familiarity with it. Two practices of less than 2 hours each had to suffice to teach them neums and the music.
A church that'd never had the old rite celebrated in it before.
A mad rush to finda suitable thurible (censer), incense (I brought some lovely Greek rose incense from Mt Athos), cassocks (they would've borrowed my russian cassock had it been in Singapore) and cottas, candlesticks (IKEA turned out the source of our big six)...
I spent nearly two days polishing up the base of an antique 19th C altar crucifix thrown out from King's College London a few years ago - it was so heavily tarnished that it required a few hours of soaking in lemon juice to even begin to get the brown oxide. Norman
helped repair the shaft of the crucifix (it was thrown out after having been declared unrepairable). Mike
polished the crucifix with lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda and various other tasty things (he confessed he got the recipe off the web). It shone like gold. I've never seen it look so good - the 4 Evangelists on the arms of the cross on the front, and the 4 Latin doctors on the rear. Didn't get used in the end - not tall enough, I was informed. Oh well. Kenny
, of course, was Thurifer and spent all his time fretting that he might trip and burn down the church or forget a rubric or make a mistake.
Much mad rushing about like the proverbial headless chickens, worrying whether the schola could learn the music in time, whether the servers would mess up the service, whether anything else could go wrong. We didn't even know how many people would come - if any at all.
The event got announced in a blog
the day before the first mass.
Amazingly enough, from this chaos emerged order.
The servers were perfect- they knew what they were doing, and were reverent and dignified. Kenny and Mike were as professional as could be - they looked as if they'd been serving the old rite for years. Norman too, was excellent - pity as a Torchbearer he didn't have as much to do. Next time he'll be singing, I hope. Norman has just informed me that it was his first time serving any rite. He believes this makes him the only RC altar server who has only ever served the Tridentine Mass (outside of the SSPX that is).
The schola didn't do too badly, I thought. One or another of us would occasionally misread an interval in the Gregorian notation and throw the rest off, but we started and ended all together.
A few people who attend the SSPX chapel said our schola was far better than the group that sing at the SSPX chapel. I believe it, as I sang with them for 3 years!
Norman insists I did a great job with the schola and that he was moved to tears
when we began the Introit at both masses. He says 'Given such limited rehearsal time, the singers did a great job with the difficult chants - I was moved to tears at times. Not only was it beautiful, it was sublime.'
I think he's overreacting, but I'm flattered nonetheless - we did put in a lot of work for this.
Norman blogged about the event here
, and Kenny
did likewise with pictures! Here's one of them:from left: Kenny of the Holy Right Big Toe of St Peter, Edward of some particular Eastern Rite, Norman of the Holy Footstool of Christ, Fr Duncan Wong F.S.S.P., Jenson the soon-to-be-novice and Michael of the Sacred Strand of Hair from Moses' Beard. We joked about nicknaming Jenson 'Of the Holy Foreskin of Christ' but thought better of it afterwards.
More from Kenny here
, as well as from Mike
A pious lady of some age, who'd been suffering under the new religious climate, from the RC parish I was baptised and confirmed at (St Ignatius') was in tears beneath her dainty lace veil - she came over to hug every member of the schola. She was so affected that she couldn't speak coherently, except to purse her lips and nod her head, muttering 'so beautiful... oh it's so beautiful'. That, for me, was better than any eloquent praise or thanks. Norman mentioned something similar in his post.
We got blogged about at In Illo Tempore
and New Liturgical Movement
- let's see where else we get mentioned in the days to come!