Posted by: rbbadger | June 10, 2014


Today is a holiday and a Holy Day in Germany.  It is Pfingsmontag, commonly known as Whit Monday or Pentecost Monday.

As far as Catholic liturgy goes, one of the most impressive parts of it, at least for me, is the Entrance Procession.  Here is a video of the entrance procession for the Mass of Pentecost Monday celebrated by the Chapter of Canons (Domkapitel) of Cologne Cathedral in Germany (Kölner Dom).

The procession for Pentecost Sunday is pretty impressive, too.

Posted by: rbbadger | February 11, 2014

Victor Borge

When I was about 12, I was introduced to Victor Borge.  I used to like to watch the Boston Pops broadcasts back in the days when John Williams (the composer and not the guitarist) conducted them.  I’m still amused by his comedy even years later.

Victor Borge studied with some of the greatest pianists of all time.  One of teachers, Frederic Lamond, was a Liszt pupil.  He also studied with Egon Petri, one of the great disciples of one of the most talented men in all of music, the Italian composer, conductor, pianist, writer, editor and teacher Ferruccio Busoni.  Busoni was not merely a pianist.  He was an industry unto himself.

Somewhere along the way, Borge discovered his talent for comedy.  Apparently, he had a devastating impression of Adolf Hitler which earned him the Führer’s ire.  After a narrow escape from Finland, he came to America not knowing a word of English.

Borge retained strong ties with his native Denmark.  He was knighted by the monarchs of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.  Additionally, he was made a member of the Order of the White Rose of the Republic of Finland in gratitude for his work in setting up a foundation which aids students from Scandinavian countries who wish to study in America.  His Thanks to Scandinavia Foundation continues to fund scholarships and fellowships which enable Scandinavian and Bulgarian students to study in the USA.  He left after the Nazi occupation of his country.  He was Jewish.  After the War, he returned to Denmark often.  He celebrated his 80th birthday with a concert at Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens.

While my first instrument was the piano, I later came to learn a couple of wind instruments.  When you are a woodwind player, as I was, the last thing you want to happen is for something funny to happen.  This clip with Victor Borge and the Danish recorder virtuosa Michala Petri shows how difficult this can be.  If you click on CC, you can get English subtitles.  Unless, of course, you are lucky enough to speak Danish already.

Posted by: rbbadger | February 9, 2014

Ervin Nyiregyhazi

A couple of months before I was born, a Hungarian-born pianist named Ervin Nyiregyházi came back in from the cold.  Born in Hungary in 1903, he was an amazing prodigy.  The Hungarian psychologist Géza Révész studied him and wrote a profile of the young Nyiregyházi in a classic study of prodigies which is still in print and still referred to in the psychological literature.

He was praised by musicians on the level of Giacomo Puccini and Arnold Schoenberg.  Schoenberg once got the great conductor Otto Klemperer to hear him.  In a letter to Klemperer, Schoenberg praises Nyiregyházi as a new Franz Liszt, “assuming that Franz Liszt was even this good”.  Klemperer did hear Nyiregyházi, but did not give him an opportunity to perform with his orchestra, as he deplored his frequent derivations from the musical text.  Nyiregyházi was more like his idol Franz Liszt than anything.  For him, a score was not Holy Writ.  Rather, it was a beginning point of his own creativity, which was considerable.

The young Nyiregyházi received acclaim wherever he went.  As a child, he played in Buckingham Palace for the Royal Family.  Like the young Chopin, he grew up performing in the homes of the wealthy and titled families of Europe.  It gave him something of a taste for a life of luxury.  Unfortunately, Nyiregyházi had a mother who in addition to being something of the classic horrible stage mother also pampered him to an extent to where he was nearly incapable of caring for himself.  Well into his teenage years, she refused to allow him to dress himself or to cut his own food.  Nyiregyházi would try to break free of her smothering embrace.  However, he remained deeply scarred for life.  (His mother would perish in one of the German concentration camps as the Nyiregyházi family was Jewish.  Nyiregyházi had come to America by this point.  Once, when he was drunk he praised Adolf Hitler as a “good man” for having killed his mother.)

Like many musicians, Nyiregyházi wanted to be a composer.  He wrote many, many works in a sort of Lisztian Romantic idiom which was by them deeply unfashionable.  I am curious what some of them sound like, such as “It’s Good to Be Soused”, “The Installation of the Telephone”, and “The Refusal of the Dutch Consulate to Grant Me a Visa”.

In the 1920s, Nyiregyházi eventually broke free of his mother’s smothering embrace and came to America.  Unfortunately, he had terrible managers who cheated him.  He was also not helped later on by his propensity to fool around with anybody who would fool around with him.  He married ten times.  Three of his wives died before him.  The rest of his marriages ended in divorce.  He was a terrible womanizer and often did not fully understand how his actions hurt other people.

Tragically, he developed a crippling stage fright and became an alcoholic.  Quite how he maintained mostly robust health throughout his life is something of a mystery, given that he was such a severe alcoholic.  He once gave a concert wearing a mask so that nobody could see him.  For a while, the great Hungarian actor Béla Lugosi, famed for his portrayal of Dracula took Nyiregyházi under his wings.

Eventually, though, Nyiregyházi would end up on skid row, living in cheap hotels in really terrible neighbourhoods.  He stopped performing, except when he needed the money.  His various wives supported him as best they could.  His frequent philandering took a toll on his marriages and he ended up marrying ten times.

It was to raise funds for his ninth wife that Nyiregyházi came out of retirement.  She needed funds for a doctor.  Nyiregyházi gave a recital in the old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco on a battered old Baldwin.  To those who heard him, it was like going back in time to the Romantic era.  Nyiregyházi took many liberties, it is true.  He was no longer in his prime technically and he left multitudes of wrong notes scattered.  However, the sounds which he managed to get from the piano were truly amazing, ranging from that of a whisper to a mighty roar.

The International Piano Archives made recordings and Nyiregyházi gave some more concerts.  He even recorded on the Columbia label.  Some Japanese music professors and piano aficionados managed to coax him over to Japan where he gave a few successful concerts.  In the end, though, Nyiregyházi returned to the obscurity from whence he had briefly arisen.  The recordings he made are not those of a great pianist at his prime.  By the time he returned to the spotlight, his technique had suffered greatly.  However, he does give us something of an idea how the great pianists of the 19th century might have played.  Franz Liszt’s technical achievements earned the awe of just about everybody around him, even his critics.  The French composer Camille Saint-Saëns stated that remembering that sound of Liszt playing was a great comfort to him old age.  However, Liszt often tended to take liberties with just about any piece of music he played, something which other great musicians, such as Clara Schumann, did not appreciate.  Nyiregyházi, then, seems to belong to the Liszt school.

We also have the testimony of Arnold Schoenberg.  Arnold Schoenberg was not a man to suffer fools greatly.  Nevertheless, the letter in which he wrote to Klemperer, Schoenberg lavishes praise on this pianist just about unlike any musician he had before encountered.  Schoenberg’s own students were sometimes victims of their master’s caustic comments.  He did not bestow praise lightly on anyone.  However, he seems to be absolutely captivated by Nyiregyházi and his playing.

You can read more about Ervin Nyiregyházi in a book entitled Lost Genius: The Curious and Tragic Story of an Extraordinary Musical Prodigy in a biography by the Canadian musicologist and critic Kevin Bazzana.  It is well worth reading.  Bazzana is also an authority on Glenn Gould.  His Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould is well worth reading, too.

Here is some video from around the time of the rediscovery of Ervin Nyiregyházi.

Posted by: rbbadger | November 17, 2013

Domenico Cardinal Bartolucci (+RIP)

Earlier this week, the Church laid to rest one of her great defenders of the Church’s tradition of sacred music, Domenico Cardinal Bartolucci.  Cardinal Bartolucci, who was born in 1917, was appointed permanent director of the Sistine Choir in 1956 by Pope Pius XII.

Cardinal Bartolucci would live through the experiences of the post-conciliar reforms.  In interviews, he recounts having had clashes with Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, C.M., the liturgist who as secretary of the Concilium oversaw much of the post-Conciliar liturgical reform.  He was a defender both of Gregorian Chant (though he hated the old Solesmes method, which I love) and of the Roman School of polyphony, a school which includes Palestrina, Victoria, and others.

He was also a skillful composer of choral music.  The Sistine Choir continues to sing some wonderful settings of his today.  Despite all of his many accomplishments, I have to admit not being a fan of the Sistine Choir.  They’ve gotten a lot better, especially during the years of Pope Benedict XVI.  Too many of the men, especially during Cardinal Bartolucci’s tenure, want to sound like opera singers.  You have all of these competing vibrati all over the place.  There wasn’t the tight, disciplined sound you’d expect from British choirs, let alone German ones.  (I am all in favour of making an Englishman the next director of the Sistine Choir.  Or at least someone trained in England.)

In 2010, Monsignor Bartolucci ended up receiving an honour very few liturgical musicians have received, that of being named a cardinal.  He was never ordained a bishop.  This was at his request, given that he was, by then, too old to participate in the papal conclave.  He remained as sharp as ever.  He was a great defender of the chant and the polyphony.  If you look at the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, you will see two styles of liturgical music singled out above the rest, namely chant and polyphony.  It was to this music that Cardinal Bartolucci devoted his life.  May he rest in peace!


Posted by: rbbadger | November 15, 2013

Alan Rusbridger

A few months ago, a book review in BBC Music caught my eye.  It was the story of Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian.  Mr Rusbridger had, as I had, played the piano as a child.  Around age sixteen, he gave up the piano entirely.  Many people do regret giving up the piano.  He decided not live with his regrets, but to actually take it up again.

He decided to learn one of the most fiendishly difficult works in the piano repertoire, Chopin’s Ballade No. 1, Op. 23.  The famous pianist Emmanuel Ax has said that he has only heard one perfect performance of this work and that was one by the Italian Maurizio Pollini.  Murray Perahia, himself a noted Chopin specialist, has remarked before about the extreme difficulties this work poses.  The difficulties that this work poses are not primarily technical ones, though this piece does pose many severe technical difficulties.  It also poses many difficult questions of interpretation.  Chopin requires a pianist of great artistry, but also a pianist with great virtuosity.  However, virtuosity in Chopin is never meant to show off technical skill.  There is always a profound musical reason for the reason Chopin writes in the way he does.  It is never for empty display.  For a good performance of the Ballade, No.1, Op. 23 click on this link here. The link will take you to the website of the National Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw.  In case you haven’t visited this site, it is one well worth your time.  They have recorded the entire works of Chopin on authentic Pleyel and Erard pianos from the 1840s.  Some of these performances have been prize winners in the world classical recording.

So, now you can appreciate the nature of the beast Alan Rusbridger was up against.  Did he give a perfect performance?  By his own admission, he did not, but considering the fact that it is one of the most difficult pieces in the repertoire and was being played a pianist who had quit the piano at age sixteen and only resumed it after his forties, I think he did quite well.

Not everyone who studies music is going to become a professional musician, but I do believe studying music can give you joy for a lifetime.

Posted by: rbbadger | October 27, 2013

Archbishop Piero Marini



One of the most visible Catholic bishops in the world was Archbishop Piero Marini.  From 1987 until 2007, he served as Master of the Office of Pontifical Liturgical Ceremonies.  In this role, he was responsible for organizing all of the various papal liturgies.  He was most often seen, as he is the photo here, standing to the right of the Pope.  His job, as well as that of the other Masters of Ceremonies who assisted him, was to assist the Pope in the celebration of Mass and to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

One of the most challenging things he and his staff had to cope with was the health of Blessed John Paul II and his continual decline.  It soon became impossible for the Pope to even walk.  Archbishop Marini and other members of the Vatican’s staff had to come up with ways of helping an increasingly frail and infirm Pontiff continue to travel and continue to celebrate Mass.

Canada’s Salt + Light Television has an interesting series of interviews with various important people in the Church.  One of them was with Archbishop Piero Marini.  Father Thomas Rosica, CSB interviews him in Italian here.  There are subtitles.  In this interview, Archbishop Marini speaks about his fascinating and long career in the Vatican.  He began by working for the late Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, C.M..  Archbishop Bugnini is a still a very controversial prelate.  As secretary of the Consilium which oversaw the liturgical reforms following Vatican II, Archbishop Bugnini wielded immense power.  Some have accused him of being a Freemason.  (Being a Freemason then carried an automatic excommunication.  It is still not recommended today, as Masons can be denied the sacraments and a church burial.)  It was Bugnini who oversaw much of the process of revising the Church’s liturgy.  There is much disagreement with how it was done.  There have been some reforms to the liturgical books following Vatican II, however these have largely been minor, except in English-speaking countries where an entirely new translation was implemented.  Archbishop Marini is seen as a more progressive liturgist than his successor, Monsignor Guido Marini (no relation).

I’m posting this interview with Archbishop Marini, mostly because he was someone who worked with the late Blessed John Paul II on an almost daily basis for nearly 20 years.  He was one of the people who was closest to him.  Blessed John Paul II had lost his entire family by the time he became a young man.  In some sense, his staff were his family.  His successor in Krakow, Cardinal Dziwisz, was his secretary when he was the cardinal archbishop there.  Both Archbishop Marini and Cardinal Dziwisz were ordained bishops together in 1998 by Blessed John Paul II.  In 2003, Bishop Marini was raised to the rank of an archbishop.  Rumours are flying wildly through Rome that Archbishop Marini will become the next Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Dignity of the Sacraments.

Posted by: rbbadger | October 5, 2013

Father Cormac Antram, OFM

A few days ago, one of my favourite Franciscan friars working in the Diocese of Gallup passed away.  I never spent as much time around him as I did with other Franciscan friars, alas.  However, I respected him as a very accomplished man.  He was one in a large number of Franciscans who came to the Reservation to work.  He was a New Mexico native.  He was from the town of Roswell, NM.  He was ordained in 1954.

Father Cormac spent his priesthood working among the Navajo people.  He arrived shortly after his ordination and served in St. Michael’s, Chinle, Houck, and some other places.  He hosted a radio program, all in Navajo, for nearly 60 years.  The radio program, known as The Padre’s Hour, is still broadcast.  A Navajo brother of the Franciscan order hosts it today.  Additionally, he played a crucial role in translating the Mass from Latin into Navajo, first in 1966.  Around 1964, limited use of the vernacular languages was permitted.  Around 1968, permission for the entire Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular was given.  However, with the publication of the revised Missale Romanum of Paul VI in 1969, new translations had to be completed.  In 1982, a committee of five Franciscans and five Navajo elders were commissioned by the Most Rev. Jerome J. Hastrich, then Bishop of Gallup, to complete the translation.  It was approved by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in 1986.

Navajo is a very difficult language for non-native speakers.  Like Korean, the word order is completely different.  Navajo verbs behave in a similar manner to Korean verbs.  Also, like Chinese, it is a tonal language.  It’s possible for a non-Navajo to learn the language, but it takes years and years of dedicated hard work.

According to this article, Father Cormac is the last priest working in the Diocese of Gallup who could say Mass fluently in Navajo and preach in the language.  All of the others have died or been transferred.  He had such a knowledge of the people and their language.  After all, he spent nearly 60 years working among them.  Anything you wanted to know about the language or people, he knew it.

Here’s a video of him saying the Prayer of St. Francis.

Posted by: rbbadger | September 27, 2013

Letter of Benedict XVI to Professor Odofreddi

Earlier this week, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI emerged from the silence of his retirement to dialogue with an atheist mathematician, Pierogiorgi Odifreddi.  While Odifreddi is an atheist, he did make a serious attempt to engage with Benedict XVI’s theological writings, despite his belief that theology is not a science, but at best science fiction.

I have not been able to find an English translation of the excerpts from the letter which were published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.  I thought it would be a good exercise for me to try to translate it.  I’m not a fluent speaker of Italian by any means.  I am a fluent speaker of Spanish and, given enough time in Portugual, fairly confident, though by no means perfect, in Portuguese.  I also have a background in French, as well as in the Mother Tongue from which all these wonderful Romance languages ultimately sprang, namely Latin.

So, here goes.  You can read the Italian original by clicking here.  Any comments about my bad Italian or ways in which I could have translated it better are welcome.  After all, I don’t speak the language fluently.  I’m relying on my background with other Romance languages to try and arrive at a good enough translation of what was published in La Repubblica.

Illustrious Professor Odofreddi,

I would like to thank you trying to deal with every last detail of my book and also with my faith, just as I also meant to do in my address to the Roman Curia in December 2009.  I have to thank you for the loyal way in which you treated my text, seeking earnestly to do it justice.

My opinion about your book, on the whole, is rather mixed.  Some parts, I read with enjoyment and profit.  In other parts, however, I marvelled at a certain agressiveness and recklessness in the argumentation. (…)

Several times, it was pointed out to me that theology would be science fiction.  In this respect, I’m surprised that you, however, feel my book to be worthy of discussion in that detail.  Let me suggest four points on this question:

1. It is correct to say that “science” in the strictest sense of the word is only mathematics, while I learned from you that even here, distinction should be made between arithmetic and geometry.  In all the specific scientific subjects, each has its own proper form, according to the particularity of its object.  It is essential that you apply a verifiable method, one which excludes arbitrary and ensures rationality respective of their different modalities.

2. One should at least recognise that, in philosophy and history, theology has produced lasting results.

3. An important task of theology is to keep religion linked with reason and reason to religion.  Both functions are of essential importance to humanity.  In my dialogue with Habermas, I have shown that there are pathologies of religion and – no less dangerous – pathologies of reason.  They both need each other, and to keep them constantly connected is an important task of theology.

4. Science fiction, moreover, exists in the context of many sciences.  What you show in the theories of Heisenberg and Schrödinger, etc., these are designated science fiction in the best sense: they are visions and anticipations to arrive at a true knowledge, but are, in fact, only imaginations by which we get closer to reality.  There is, moreover, science fiction in a grand style within the theory of evolution.  The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins, is a classic example of science fiction.  The great Jacques Monod has written the sentences that he has inserted in his work certainly just as science fiction.  I quote: “The emergence of tetrapod vertebrates…draws its origin from the fact that a primitive fish decided to walk and explore the land, on which, he was unable move except by jumping clumsily and thus creating, as a modification of behaviour, the selective pressure due to which it would have developed the sturdy limbs of tetrapods.  Among the descendants of this bold explorer, this Magellan of evolution, some of which can run at speeds at 70 miles an hour (cited in the Italian Edition of Il caso di necessità, Milan, 2001).”

In the issues discussed so far it is a serious dialogue, for which I – as I have said repeatedly – I am grateful.  The situation is different on the chapters on the priesthood and Catholic morality, and by still another on the chapters on Jesus.  As for what you say regarding the moral abuse of minors by priests, I can – as you know – just take note with deep concern.  I have never tried to hide these things.  That the power of evil to penetrate to such an extent the inner world of faith is for us, a suffering which, on the one hand, we have to endure, while, on the other, we must do everything possible to ensure that such cases are not repeated.  Nor is it reassuring to know that, according the research of sociologists, the percentage of priests guilty of these crimes is not higher than that found in other professions.  In any case, you should not present this deviation ostentatiously as if it were a specific filth of Catholicism.

If it is not permitted to remain silent about evil in the Church, we must not, however, remain silent about the great shining path of goodness and purity that the Christian faith has traced through the centuries.  You have to remember the great and pure figures which the faith has produced – Benedict and his sister Scholastica, Francis and Clare of Assisi, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, also the great saints of charity such as Vincent de Paul and Camillus de Lellis to Mother Teresa and the great and noble figures of Turin of the 1800s.  It is also true today that faith leads many people to selfless love, in service to others in sincerity and justice. (…)

What you say about Jesus is not within your range of science.  If your question arises as to whether Jesus is, after all, someone we don’t know anything about as a historical figure and about whom nothing is ascertainable, then I can only invite you to become more competent from a historical point of view.  I reccommend especially for this the four volumes that exegete Martin Hengel (exegete on the Protestant Theological Faculty of the University of Tübingen) published together with Mary Schwemer.   It is an excellent example of historical accuracy and provides very ample historical information.  In the face of this, what you have said about Jesus is reckless talking that should not be repeated.  There is in exegesis that which has written too many things with a lack of seriousness, and this is, unfortuanately, an indisputable fact.  The American Jesus Seminar you have cited on page 105 and following only confirms again what Albert Schweitzer had noticed about the Leben-jesus-Forschung  (Research Into the Life of Jesus) and that which is called “the Historical Jesus” mostly reflects the ideas of the authors.  These forms of botched historical work, however, have no influence on the importance of serious historical research, which has lead us to true and secure knowledge about the announcement and the figure of Jesus.

(…)  I have also forcefully rejected with force your claim (p. 126) that I have presented the historical-critical exegesis as a tool of the anti-Christ.  Treating the story of Jesus’ temptations, I have only taken Soloviev’s thesis, according to which historical-critical exegesis can also be used by the anti-Christ – which is an indisputable fact.  At the same time, however, always – and in particular in the preface to the first volume of my book on Jesus of Nazareth – I explained clearly that the historical-critical exegesis is necessary for a faith that does not propose myths with historical images, but calls for a genuine historicity and therefore must present his claims in a scientific manner.  Therefore, it is not even correct that you tell me I would only be interested in the meta-history.  Quite the contrary, all my efforts have the ojbective to show that the Jesus described in the Gospels is also the historical Jesus, that it is how the history really happened.

By the 19th chapter, you look back on the positive aspects of your dialogue with my thought.  Even if your interpetation of John 1:1 is far from what the Evangelist intended to say, there is, however, a convergence that it is important.  If you, however, would substitute God with “Nature”, the question remains, who or what is Nature?  In no place do you define it and it appears as a deity and is irrational which explains nothing.  But i want, especially to note further that in your religion of mathematics, three basic themes of human existence are not considered: freedom, love, and evil.  I’m surprised that you with just a single nod state that liberty was and is the core value of modern times.  Love, in your book, is not compared with evil and there is also no information about it.  Whatever things neurobiology says or does not say about freedom in the real drama of our history as it is at present is actually crucial and must be taken into account.  But your mathematical religion does not know any information about evil.   A religion which ignores these fundamental questions is empty.

Illustrious Professor, my criticism of your book in part is tough.  But dialogue is a part of frankness; it is only then that one can increase in knowledge.  You were very frank and I accept that as it is.  In any case, however, I value the fact the you, throughout your engagement with my Introduction to Christianity , you sought a dialogue to learn about the faith of the Catholic Church, notwithstanding all the contrasts within the central part, not altogether missing all the convergences.

Posted by: rbbadger | September 13, 2013

Jocelyn Clark

The Korea Times had a story today which greatly interested me.  It featured Jocelyn Clark, an East Asian studies professor in Daejeon who is also an accomplished performer on the gayageum.  Korean traditional music is one of my many interests.  I’ve tried the instruments once or twice, but when it comes to the old music of Korea, I’m definitely an admirer of it rather than a performer.  Professor Clark, on the other hand, has mastered one of the traditional Korean instruments well enough to actually perform in public on it.

The gayageum is related to the Chinese zheng and the Japanese koto.  It is made out of paulownia wood and in its traditional form has twelve silk strings stretched over movable bridges.  There is now a modernized 25-string variety, which is often used in performances of neo-traditional Korean music.  The neo-traditional Korean music is often written for symphony orchestra-sized ensembles made up of traditional and adapted traditional instruments.  Also, the famous Sookmyung Women’s University Gayageum Orchestra performs on 25-string instruments.  The 12-string instrument is used for performances of traditional music.  However, thanks to composers such as the Korean composer and gayageum master Hwang Byung-ki, there is a growing repertory for the 12-string gayageum as well.

I found the article interesting because her first impressions of Korean traditional music were very similar to mine.  It seemed like random noises going nowhere.  It took repeated listenings on my part to get used to it.  (But that is the way it is with any great music!)

You can read more about Jocelyn Clark and her experiences with the gayageum by clicking here.

One of the most important genres of Korean music is that of the sanjo.  The sanjo is performed by a soloist on the gayageum and a lone drummer, who plays a drum known as the janggu.  There are many different varieties of the sanjo.  In the old days, the music was learned by ear.  Nowadays, there are scores, but no performer of the traditional music would ever appear in public without the music memorized.  There are different versions of the sanjo for different instruments, such as the haegeum sanjo, the ajaeng sanjo, and so forth.  Also, it used to involve a fair amount of improvisation.  A full performance of the sanjo can last an hour or more, as it is often preceded by a few sort pieces before the performer turns his or her attention to the sanjo itself.  The term sangjo means “scattered melodies”.  It is very much an abstract work of music.  It is made up of many separate movements.  However, unlike in western classical music, there is no pause between movements.  The drummer executes different rhythmic patterns in each movement.  The tempo does vary between quite slow to quite fast.  However, the tempo shifts are meant to be very gradual.  It starts slowly and eventually moves along quite quickly.  I’m posting a video of Hwang Byung-ki performing the sanjo.  This is not a complete performance, but it should give you an idea of what Korean traditional music is like.

Posted by: rbbadger | September 5, 2013

More on China, Bishop Jin Luxian, and Shanghai’s Catholics

China has long been a country of interest to me.  Since childhood, I’ve had an interest in language, so it isn’t surprising that I’d take an interest in Chinese and its unique writing system.  For a time, I had an interest in Russia and the countries which made up the Eastern Bloc.  While I could never be a Communist, thanks to my Catholicism, the way in which the Chinese government is also fascinating to me as well.

There was a time in China when the Chinese government was trying hard to get rid of religion altogether.  Many great Buddhist and Daoist temples suffered damage, their priests and monks imprisoned.  In addition, many great Protestant and Catholic leaders were imprisoned.  One of the greatest of these was Ignatius Cardinal Kung Pin-mei.  Cardinal Kung was a native of Shanghai and became the first Chinese-born bishop of that diocese.  Like Pope Francis, he was a Jesuit.  He is remembered as a very good and faithful bishop, loyal to the Pope in Rome.  The decisions that bishops had to make under Communism were difficult ones.  In Poland, the bishops did have a greater deal of freedom than they did in nearby Czechoslovakia or in Hungary.  Some bishops sought conciliation with their governments.  Others refused cooperation.  The prudential choices that Bishop Kung had to make couldn’t have been easy, but he was firm.  He refused to cooperate with the state-founded Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and forbade those who belonged to it to receive Communion.  He ended up being sentenced a very lengthy prison sentence.  When he was finally paroled, his family was able to get him to come to the United State to receive medical care.  Soon after, Blessed John Paul II revealed that he had secretly named him a cardinal.  The Chinese government was by no means happy by this turn of events.

At the same time in Shanghai, there still were a number of bishops.  One of them, Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, was secretly ordained a bishop in 1985 for the underground church in Shanghai.  Bishop Fan was recognized as Cardinal Kung’s legitimate successor by the Vatican, though he was never recognized as such by the State.  After Bishop Kung was imprisoned, as in other in places in China, the state sanctioned church took over all of the properties.  Bishops were ordained without papal permission.  Ordaining a bishop without papal permission is a huge matter.  It is punishable by automatic excommunication, both for those who receive the illicit ordination and for those bishops who perform it.  Bishop Aloysius Zhang Jiashu was the state appointed bishop for Shanghai.  By means of faculties given by the Vatican, the underground church was free to ordain bishops without obtaining a papal mandate.  However, the canonical penalties still applied to those in the state sanctioned church.

One of the bishops who received illicit episcopal ordination was another Jesuit named Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian.  Bishop Jin, like Cardinal Kung, was a native of Shanghai.  His life story is a fascinating one.  He died earlier this year at age 96.  Before his death, he got around to writing his memoirs.  The first volume, which has been translated by William Hanbury-Tenison, was published by Hong Kong University Press in English.  The Memoirs of Jin Luxian: Learning and Relearing 1916-1982 can be obtained through Amazon.  It is a valuable memoir, in that we are able to hear Bishop Jin’s side in the various controversies which surrounded him.  Bishop Jin is still a controversial figure.  In China, the underground church still exists.  It is made up of very loyal Catholics who view joining the Patriotic Association as imcompatible with the Catholic Faith.  All Chinese Catholics, at least those who belong to the state-sanctioned church, must join the CCPA.  There are similar assocations for Protestants, for Buddhists, for Daoists, and for Muslims.  This is all a part of the Chinese Communist Party’s approach to religion.  They now recognize that religion can play an important role in their efforts to build a harmonious society.  At the same time, though, they are suspicious of it and wary of anything which could threaten their own power.  Perhaps they fear another Taiping Rebellion.  The Taiping Rebellion took place in the mid-19th century.  It was lead Hong Xiuquan, who viewed himself as the younger brother of Jesus.  Hong sought to establish his own kingdom in Nanking.  It lead to a very bloody Civil War which only finally ended in 1871 with the defeat of the last Taiping army.  There are some who view Bishop Jin as a traitor.  For those who revere Cardinal Kung, Jin’s harsh words about him don’t help matters much.  M.A. Thiessen wrote a piece on Bishop Fan and Bishop Jin.  He highlights some of the biting criticism which Bishop Jin had for members of the underground church.  You can read it all here

While the Chinese government doesn’t want to eradicate religion these days, it wants to control it.  We’ve seen it in Tibet.  The Panchen Lama is a very important figure in Tibetan Buddhism, as he is the one who is supposed to be able to recognize the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama.  The whole system of Living Buddhas is one unique to Tibetan Buddhism.  The lamas had indentified a boy as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, but the Chinese government refused to recognize it.  They got other Tibetan monks to recognize another boy as the Panchen Lama.  The first boy and his family have never been seen again.  The government approved Panchen Lama shows up at various Buddhist events in China from time to time.  China has even passed a law making it illegal for such Tibetan lamas to reincarnate outside of China, something which seems like high comedy for a political party which espouses atheism.  After the current Dalai Lama passes, perhaps there will be a Dalai Lama in exile and a state-approved Dalai Lama.  Most of the bishops of the state approved church have been legitimized by Rome, though there still are some that aren’t.  For a time, the Holy See and China would mutually agree on candidates for episcopal ordination.  However, there have been a few ordained recently which were excommunicated by Pope Benedict XVI for having received illicit episcopal ordination.

Despite Bishop Jin’s eventual cooperation with the government authorities after his arrest, it didn’t save him from a lengthy prison sentence.  He experienced the insanity of the Cultural Revolution while in prison.  After finishing his prison sentence, he spent some more years in state custody where he worked as a translator.  As a seminarian, he proved to be a brilliant student.  After his ordination, the Jesuits sent him to Europe, where he mastered Italian, English, and German.  By this point, he already spoke Chinese (Shanghaiese and Manadrin dialects) and French fluently, not to mention being able to handle Latin well.  In the days when Bishop Jin was a seminarian, all theological courses were taught in Latin, even if they happened to be in China.  He received a doctorate and returned to China after the Civil War.  While in prison, he continued to work on his languages, eventually mastering Russian.

As I get older, I realise more and more how precious are the memories of our elderly.  I am thankful for the time I spent with my late grandparents and great-grandparents.  My great-grandmother on my dad’s side was born in 1904 and died in 1999.  My great-grandfather on my mom’s side was born in 1900 and died in 1983.  My great-grandmother was a wealth of knowledge about all of our ancestors and was more than willing to talk about them.  Bishop Jin, who was born in 1916, grew up in Republican China, saw World War II, lived through the various turmoils of the People’s Republic of China, and at the time of his death saw his native city as one of the most populous and prosperous in China.  He entered prison in his late 30s.  By the time he was released, he was in his fifties and nearly into his sixties.  He was an eighth generation Catholic.  His family was prosperous, but beset by misfortune.  Both parents died when he was young.  His older sister died while he was in the seminary and his younger brother disappeared, never to be seen again.   

In 1985, he was illicitly ordained a bishop in the state sanctioned church without a papal mandate.  For this, he was criticised by his Jesuit confreres and by the Vatican.  He was not recognized as a Catholic bishop at the time.  However, in the year 2000, his situation was finally regularized.  He was named the coadjutor bishop to Bishop Fan.  A coadjutor takes over the governance of the diocese in the event of the death or resignation of the ruling bishop.  As Bishop Fan was not recognised by the government, Bishop Jin continued on as the de facto governing bishop.  His accomplishments were impressive.  Not only was a parish for foreigners created, but 100 churches were recovered and a thriving seminary was opened.  Bishop Jin went to other areas of China recruiting seminarians and sisters.  At the time of his death, the Shanghai diocese had 150,000 Catholics, 100 priests, 6 deacons, and 140 churches.   He died as a bishop in good standing in full communion with the Pope and as a Jesuit.  Archbishop Savio Hon, a Hong Kong-born bishop who works in the Vatican wrote a tribute in honour of Bishop Jin which you may read here

Bishop Jin was a complex man.  I don’t agree with all his opinions or the way in which he did some things.  Thankfully, though, he was able to end his days in full communion with the Pope and the Catholic Church.   I hope and pray that he may rest in peace.  I would very much loved to have met him.  Thankfully, he left us a memoir.

For those who don’t, Rome Reports comments of his passing.

Bishop Jin’s memoirs can be obtained here.  I’ve found them fascinating, especially because of the wealth of recent Chinese history Bishop Jin himself experienced.  Thankfully, he wrote them.  Volume one is complete and volume two is currently in translation.

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