Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A trip home

Well, I visited Vancouver for the first time in nearly a year, and what can I say? The weather was pretty miserable. We had maybe five sunny days out of twelve, enough to start pining for sweltering Toronto.
And sweltering it is...

But rather than living in the present, why not dwell in the past? Highlights of my trip included smoking cigars on the beach with the Vancouver Rosary Group, (at least the men), and dinner with some of my former fellow seminarians at St Ann's church and her pastor, the good Rev. James Hughes. I also went to the first communions of my two Godchildren (one in Surrey and one in Edmonton, where I also spent five days before returning to Toronto)

Cheers. I'm heading to halifax tomorrow, and I PROMISE to write something about it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

One last word on Piotr Rubik

One last word on Piotr Rubik: if the man doesn't become the next Chopin, then there is no justice in the world.

Since my last post on the subject, I have also heard his follow-up Oratorio to Tu Es Petrus, Psalterz Wrzesniowy, "September Book of Psalms." The oratorio takes on the themes of Faith, Hope and Love, with a few songs about the Angels thrown in for good measure. Each song follows the theme of one of the Psalms, weaving it into a cohesive musical experience. It's hard to describe, but imagine if you took any number of pop songs, set them to an orchestra and tweaked them just so, so as to make them into quasi-classical, religiously-themed semi-pop songs. Add an overarching thread to link them all together and you have Piotr Rubik's Psalterz Wrzesniowy. (This is not so true for the first four songs as for the rest; you'll see what I mean once you hit Psalm z Krakowem.)

Enjoy! My favourites are marked with asterisks, and most of the titles are translated with a small comment by me.

Psalterz Wrzesniowy (September Psalter)

· Prolog

o Psalm Apokaliptyczny (Psalm of the Apocalypse: imagine Rome burning while Nero fiddles)

· Część I - Psalmy Wiary (Psalms of Faith)

o Psalm apostolski (Psalm of the Apostles)

o Psalm Adama i Ewy (Psalm of Adam and Eve)

o Psalm Abrahama (Psalm of Abraham: wonderfully Jewish)

o Psalm Mojżeszowy * (Psalm of Moses: beautiful.)


· Część II - Psalmy Aniołów (Psalms of the Angels)

o Psalm z Krakowem * (Psalm from Krakow: about the Resurrection; it's fun and joyous)

o Psalm zapatrzenia * (about the Annunciation)

o Psalm braci aniołów(Psalm of the Brother Angels)

o Psalm z aniołem stróżem (slow, brooding)


· Część III - Psalmy nadziei (Psalms of Hope)

o Psalm moich łez * (Psalm of My Tears: heart-wrenching)

o Psalm z krzakami czarnych jeżyn (Psalm in the Midst of Darkness)

o Psalm mojej nadziei * (Psalm of My Hope: beautiful.)

o Psalm wbrew rozpaczy * (Psalm Against Despair: cheerful & light: sorry for the crummy quality.)


· Część IV - Psalmy Pragnienia (Psalms of Desire)

o Psalm z bukietem konwalii *(Psalm with a Bouquet of Lilies: a fun song. Alternative versions here and here.)

o Psalm z tańcowaniem (Psalm with Dancing)

o Psalm kochania * (Psalm of Lovers : see the music video here)

o Psalm dla Ciebie * (Psalm for You: music video here.)

· Epilog

o Psalm Apokaliptyczny

An influx of visitors...

...has induced me to write something. According to my sitemeter, I've had a significant increase in viewers, for reasons that I cannot explain, since I haven't blogged in a good while.

Thank you to all. Enjoy.

Actually, that's asking too much. Continue reading, please. That's the most I can ask.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Links to music for Tu Es Petrus

If anyone is interested in hearing the music to Tu Es Petrus, simply click on the hyperlinks below.

My favourites are marked with stars. Enjoy! (The two best are Tak bowiem Bog and Psalm z Krakowem.)

Tu Es Petrus

Part 1: Pater Noster
Ludzie to Adam i Ewa (people are Adam and Eve)*
Zdumienie (Wonder)*
Tak bowiem Bog (For so did God…)*
Strumien (Stream)

Part 2
Litania z czterema porami roku (Four Seasons Litany)

Part 3: Ecce Homo
Ten ktory zdradzil (The one who betrayed)
Ten ktory sie zaparł (The one who repudiated)
Ten ktory nie uwierzyl (The one who disbelieved)
Ten ktory nie poznal (The one who did not recognize)

Part 4: Litany for those who bring death
Litania za niosacych smierc

Part 5: No one but God can give them such love
Milosc to wiernosc wyborowi (Love is fidelity to choice)*
Jedenaste (The Eleventh)
Niech mowia, ze to nie jest milosc (Let them say it isn’t love)*
Bedziesz milowal (You shall love)

Part 6: Litany to Everyone on Earth
Litania do kazdziutkiego na ziemi

Epilogue: Tu Es Petrus


Psalm dla Ciebie (Psalm for you)*
Psalm z Krakowem (Psalm from Krakow) *
Psalm Braci Aniolow (Psalm of Brother Angels)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My review of TU ES PETRUS

You can see this review of the Polish Oratorio Tu Es Petrus fairly soon on www.saltandlighttv.org/blog/.

Oratorio Tribute to John Paul the Great a Resounding Success

Many of our regular viewers have seen playing on our station a short advertisement for an Oratorio called Tu Es Petrus. Salt and Light Television was a Media Partner with Catholic Youth Studio for the sensational event which took place last Sunday, October 14th.

Three of us from Salt + Light had the privilege of seeing Tu Es Petrus live at the Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. The oratorio, written in Polish, was intended as a birthday present for the Pope’s 87th birthday, “but instead it became an epitaph” says composer and conductor Piotr Rubik. Rubik is a Michael Buble-caliber star in his native Poland but is relatively unknown outside of Europe. Indeed, I had never heard of him before last week. Yet the appeal of his music is clear to anyone who bothers to set aside the language difference and simply experience the music. My own experience was dependant on this, as I speak not a word of Polish. The challenge to the music was to evoke the moods and emotions it intended without the aid of linguistic comprehension.

In the end, the only way to describe the oratorio is as an experience of beauty and art. It features well over one hundred artists, including six main vocalists, a Polish choir of 32, a 65-member orchestra, and a choir of 25 Toronto voices. At the center of it all is Rubik, bouncing around like a little child, his distinctive shoulder-length bleached hair tying to keep up with the movements of his conductor’s baton…

Yet for all its grandiosity, the music rises above its creators and by the fifth piece we’ve all but forgotten about Rubik. It becomes more than a work of art and becomes a vehicle for transcendence, for transporting the listener through salvation history, and bringing us all a little closer to God… in a sense, it becomes sacramental, in the same sense that John Paul the Great called the Sistine Chapel “sacramental” – in presenting us with the Divine.

The oratorio begins with a prologue, titled simply Tu Es Petrus, which bears the full weight of Petrine authority on its strong Polish shoulders. It tells the story of John Paul II, his humble beginnings as a “pilgrim from Wadowice” and quotes Horace, saying “Non omnis moriar” (Not all of me will die.) Its booming opening is quickly replaced with a frantic yet solemn refrain, balanced with a lighter melody sung by the six main vocalists. The theme will be revisited in many of the subsequent pieces – in a way the whole of the oratorio is summed up in this prologue: a frenetic beginning, a hopeful strain in the midst of darkness, ultimate triumph, ending with a bang – one of Rubik’s signatures.

The oratorio is divided into three main parts, each separated by a “Litany” and an intermediary piece. All of the pieces are narrated by bible passages and texts from the writings of John Paul II.

The first part, called “Pater Noster,” speaks of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the fall from grace and the promise of redemption. It is separated into four songs. Ludzie to Adam i Ewa (People are Adam and Eve) is the explosive story of creation. Zdumienie (Wonder) takes its lyrics from the poetry of John Paul II and has as its refrain the simple words “Ma sens,” “It has meaning.” The slow, thoughtful piece asks about the mystery of life and its conclusion is “ma sens”, it has a reason, a meaning. Tak bowiem Bog (For so did God…) and Strumien (Stream) evoke the awesome presence of God and leave us uplifted and hopeful. You really have to listen to these two with your eyes closed.

The second part is called “Ecce Homo” and is the weakest of the three. It presents four very different songs about four different apostles – Judas, Peter, Thomas and the disciples on the road to Emmaus. For the most part, these pieces are lyric-driven (a problem for anyone who does not understand Polish.) Yet the emotions are there: the song of Judas is angry and frantic; the song for Peter somber; Thomas a mix of emotions, driven by a pounding theme reminiscent of the Prologue; and the song of Emmaus evokes the mystery of this strange man who knows nothing of the events of the past days.

The third part is called “No one but God can give them such love” and is a series of love songs, drawing on texts from Corinthians in explaining how love is eternal. Milosc to wiernosc wyborowi (Love is fidelity to choice) is a breathtaking love song that would do very well were it released as a single. It received the longest applause. Jedenaste (The Eleventh) is ponderous and driven by its words. Niech mowia, ze to nie jest milosc (Let them say this isn’t love) is probably the best-known of the pieces in the oratorio. (Regular Salt and Light viewers can periodically see the entirety of this piece aired as filler in between programs.) It asks whether love can really last, with the resolute lovers saying “let them say this isn’t love.” Bedziesz milowal (You shall love) is the oddest of this set – it’s a bubbly, light, fun piece that doesn’t seem to fit within the oratorio at all.

The end piece is called Litania do kazdziutkiego na ziemi, (Litany for everyone on earth) which blends themes from several of the songs into a melody all its own. It has a similar energy to Ludzie to Adam and is a fitting end to the oratorio. Finally comes the epilogue: a reprisal of Tu Es Petrus.

Then came the ovation, the thanks, and the encore. Then a second ovation, and the main vocalists and Rubik walked off stage, only to return five minutes later for a second encore, and then a third and fourth. In all there were five standing ovations, four encores, a rose thrown into the crowd. When Rubik came out afterward to sign posters and CDs, he was mobbed by a crowd of screaming middle-aged Polish women.

* * *
“Someone told me when I was seven that my greatest success would be writing music for the Church. And it came true,” says Rubik with a smile. Tu Es Petrus is only one part of his “Holy Cross Triptych” that includes Swietokrzyska Golgotha (Holy Cross of Golgotha) and Psałterz Wrześniowy (September Psalms). The entire set amounts to a four-hour extravaganza that has been touring around Poland and parts of Europe since its completion in late 2005. Much has been made of the individual songs from Psalterz, as many have been made into music videos and aired on public radio and television. An Irish poet was commissioned to translate the monumental work into English, but he has deemed the task nearly impossible.

Whether we will ever be able to hear it in anything other than its native language remains to be seen – though individual songs of Psalterz have already been translated (and music videos made of them, too) – but then again is it better to listen to St Matthew’s Passion in stilted English or in its florid German? “Music is a universal language,” comments Rubik. “It just has to give a good energy, good feelings to people - to give them hope and give them joy. To have a spiritual approach to music is always good for your art.” Given the perennial nature of religious music, I’d say that Rubik is quite on track. Says Joanna Switakowski, one of the twenty-five local singers who joined the Warsaw choir for the performance, “the spiritual level [of the oratorio] is incredible…it’s hard to sing the lyrics and not be swept away by it.” Of Rubik she comments, “He’s very demanding…[and] he’s very good at what he does.” “I have to thank God for my gift, and so I give it back to Him (through this music)” says Rubik, who also composes film scores and pop music. “Religious music moves me higher.”

In the end, one has to reflect on the fact that religious art, or at least art produced from a religious mindset, consistently appeals to humanity’s inner need for God. Our hearts are restless, said Augustine, until they rest in Him, and art brings us just a little bit closer. Or, in the words of John Paul, echoed in Petrus: “Ma sens, ma sens, ma sens.” It has meaning, and one to which we all relate.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Wedding

I completely forgot to give you a re-cap of the wedding! Here goes:

I arrived on the Thursday evening to find my ride had not shown up. So I waited three hours in the tiny Charlottetown airport until finally Peter's brother John could drive the hour-twenty-minute drive to pick me up. Needless to say I was late for the pre-wedding bash which was excellent none the less.

The next day, Friday, I was able to finally take in my lodging, which was a little cottage-by-the-red-sanded-sea.

We helped to set up the decorations in the reception hall and then we participated in a holy hour with Peter and Angie. Around five we had dinner - fried fish a la Roskelley - in the cottage. ( I forgot to mention who else I was staying with - fellow ex-seminarians Pablo, John and Mike, along with Fr. Nicholas, aka Tumba, with whom I was in school for three years.) The evening ended with another party hosted at our place. Four people showed up, a good number considering we weren't expecting any at all. (Word travels fast around the Island - Mike and John were mini-celebrities for the week, due to their good-natured slightly-enebriated-extrovert personalities.) I counted about 26 empty beer bottles the next morning during clean-up. A good time.

The time of the wedding came quickly, and Peter and Angie looked the perfect couple. It was very well attended - about half the island showed up. Vancouver was well represented, as were Peter's Japanese relatives. After the wedding there were photos back at Angie's parents' house. Everything was perfect except the weather - it had been raining since early morning, and didn't let up until the next day.

Then the long-expected wedding reception. Such functions always bring out the best of the Maritimes. There was a live band (Outstanding live band - playing everything from ACDC to Spirit of the West ( they played Home For a Rest twice, the second time being the opportunity for the bride and groom to slip away. Everyone formed a circle around them, and when someone else took center stage they took off.) Other than that, the speeches were funny, especially John (above) as one of the MCs. Copious amounts of Joe's punch (basically orange slices in moonshine) were consumed and a good time was had by all.

Peter and Angie are now off to Rome (actually, since this post is a month late, I think they're already back) for their honeymoon, and will then settle in Halifax, which is already home to both.

Good luck and God Bless with your life together.

Bernini's Corpus & a new Dominican

The other day I had the opportunity to see Bernini's Corpus which is on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

The Corpus is a bronze-cast life-size crucified Jesus, minus the cross. I went with my friend and soon-to-be-Dominican Jason who is a art-history expert, having taught it in high school for three years now. The exhibit is on until October 7th.

What I was told to look for in this piece is the focus on humanity and the hope for resurrection. Whereas German and Spanish artists would focus on the suffering of Jesus, Italian renaissance artists such as Bernini focused on his humanity.

Also on display were busts that Bernini made of two of his Papal commissioners. It was all part of an exhibit of Medieval and Renaissance treasures.


Anyway, Jason is now Brother Jason of the Order of Preachers, having joined yesterday. He told me that it was a long journey to this decision, having first considered the Fraternity of St. Peter. I think I'm using too many ablative absolutes, but that's just my grammar style. (Thank you Fr Alban!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Off to PEI

Hey everyone. I'm off to PEI (that's Prince Edward Island for all you non-Canadians) for the wedding of my friend and former-fellow-Media-Committee member Peter.

We were in seminary together from 2004-2006.

I was supposed to put together a surprise video presentation featuring embarassing baby pictures and such things, but I didn't give myself enough time. So instead I'm going to surprise him and his lovely bride Angie by posting embarassing baby pictures of them on the web. Thanks to both their parents and her brother-in-law Brad.

Congratulations Peter and Angie. We'll be praying for you on July 21st.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Back from the grave

So, after a long hiatus I finally have something to report.

The past two months have marked a major shift in my life. I graduated from seminary with a degree in philosophy (and a pretty good final report card), took a month off from work to spend at home, and then pulled up my roots and moved to Toronto.

I moved on June 6th with a full-time job opportunity at a small Catholic television station in a field I love – camerawork. I’m currently assisting Wally, our senior camera operator.

The job is for a year, during which I’m hoping to decide what route I will take with my life. The rapidly closing door that is the priesthood is on one side; on the other is a career in film/television. Added to this mix is what I’m doing right now: the opportunity to evangelize via various media.

Happy St. Benedict’s day, everyone.