By Patrick O'Donovan ,
WESTMINSTER Cathedral is quietly taking its proper place among the monuments of London. When the President of France M. Giscard d'Estaing, came recently to London, every stop was pulled out on our ceremonial harmonium.
A Royal Marines band played in its own precise and lusty manner on the piazza in front of the Cathedral which open space belongs to the City of Westminster.
It was noticed that the Queen. in the first carriage, pointed out the suddenly visible cathedral as they prowled along Victoria Street in those open carriages whose sway ing, I am told, can upset a common stomach on their roundabout way to the Palace. And when the Duke of Edinburgh drove past with Madame d'Estaing, he did precisely the same.
There is absolutely no connection between the two items, but I am told that an uncommon number of Catholic priests have been asked to take tea and strawberries at the Royal Garden Parties this year.
You might think that your average actual parish priest might harbour, if not republican, then at least indifferentist tendencies. After all, the fact that they are not in the old rectory or saying Mass in the 14th century church is due,
basically, to the whims of English monarchs. Then again they obey, or some of them do. another earthly monarch as well whom according to their taste in theology they may regard as constitutional or as all but absolute on earth. But they tend to be royalists of a most charming and romantic and sensible sort.
It has always been the protestation of English Catholics that the monarch has no more loyal subjects. (ThOugh it is years since I have heard the Donrine Salve Foe sung anywhere.) There are Irish priests here, of course, who carry their hatreds with their cedebrets. And if anyone is sur• prised at that, then he knows little of Irish history, the delights of nationalism or the reassurance of almost any sort of grievance.
Nice line in cassocks
Anyway the invitation to mingle with the mayors
and distinguished professionals. with the life peers and the senior civil servants, with esti mable ladies who look after other people's impossible chil dren, and with senior policemen and possibly a presentable intellectual or two, presents certain problems. What should they wear?
A few will possess massive frock-coatS which will make them look like something splendid out of the Pallisers, and, if the sun is still out, like broilers on the first leg of their journey to the table. However, the word has gone out to wear cassocks and the two obvious outfitters. Van Heems and Whipples, are doing a nice line in cassocks at just over £50. Well. a lot of them are due for a new one. It is now legal, by British and Canon Law to wear religious habits in the street. I hope their parishes or orders will help with these sartorial gestures that the more excruciatingly scrupulous will take out of their holiday money.
And while on the subject of gear, I am told that though still shattering, it costs about one-fifth of what it used to cosi to equip a modcrn ('ardi nal. A cardinal's equipment, with fur, and train and silver buckles, and watered silk and outfits both red and purple. cost a bomb.
I hear that some of the more comfortably off cardinals have bought a lot of the old anti beautiful splendour to wear hack home away from the austere eye of the Sovereign Pontiff. And I hope they get away with it.
Superb English church music,
THE English Catholics were once known i all over Europe for the excellence of their singing. Right up to the Reformation and beyond. the English Catholics continued to produce superb church music.
There -was the mysterious John Tavernor, whom Cardinal Wolsey put in as choirmaster at Cardinal's College in Oxford. (That is now Christ Church, where future Prime Ministers. Archbishops of Can terbury and writers of the C'harterhouse column pass
through an enchanting exft.:r once called -it you \N
He. however, sulfured con.ersion. He had been briefly imprisoned for heresy. He had ;Au written eight Masses. but lic pat Led it all in and devoted the rest of his Ii le to the suppression of monasteries.
But there were others like Byrd and 'fa Ills who lived nrosperotedy through the Reformation. Elif.abeth loved music, and so did Henry. But did Byrd ever hear his Masses. sung? You can't sing with safety in times of persecution, even in the recesses of Stonor Park, a five-part Mass.
it would be an act as provocative as throwing a leg of mutton at the Aileen in her carriage -as once happened lo Queen Victoria. It hit her
bonnet and goodness. by all accounts, she looked vexed. And much more dangerous.
Then during the long: quiet and deadly years of recusancy. English Catholic music flagged. I 'Iglu was a technical Catholic
and I don't know if you include "The Dream of Geron• this" in the corpus of Catholic music.
But as the liturgy grows sterner, the interest in music seems to grow richer and wider and I am trailing my coat a little when I say that the standard of parish singing has improved since the liturgical reforms. But that is not to say very much.
Our C athedrals and great churches have again become public places. Westminster Cathedral has already become a setting for music to rival St Mark's and to beat St Peter's which is inferior,
Westminster has a long series of concerts on Wednesday evenings at 8. Liverpool has started to display its dazzling and unvulgar organ. The spanking and striking new Cathedral of Clifton has also got a musical festival during July.
You must make your own inquiries, otherwise this column will begin to look like an entertainment column more suitable to ' one of Sir Harold's new impresario peers.
Finally, if you want to learn or brush up your plainsong. they run a Gregorian Chant school at Cambridge. A Dr Mary Berry of Newnham College founded these weekend tutorials. She is an Augustinian Canoness. She charges £18 for
an all in weekend and says that you can be singing a Mass after one day's tuition.
There is also, of course, the Gregorian Association, Christ• ian but non-denominational. dedicated to the same marvellous music; they have been at it a long time. They can be found at 38 Tenterdown, Mus well Hill, London N 10. fhere has ben an unexpected turning back to this old but living movement. It is more satisfying than pop, and almost any one can perform it after a time.
A home of happiness
I HAVE been reading a remarkable booklet by Lavinia Watson about St David's, which is a home for disabled ex-Servicemen in Ealing. It is built on the site of a house belonging to that Duke of Kent who was the almost forgotten father of Queen Victoria and the brother of George IV. .
In the English manner, St David's is a mixture of State and private effort, with the private sector predominating. It is not for Catholic alone, but it is run by Sisters of Charity.
if, like me, you get confused by the multiplicity of different sorts of nuns, they are the ones who used to wear what appeared to be large white wing-spreading seagulls on their heads. Mrs Watson has a good story to tell. and tellg it uncommonly well. Some of The men are old, some almost totally incapa
citated by wounds and concorninant disease. It must he
the hardest sort of nursing there is, and yet they manage
to turn their institution into a real home for "the boys".
Anyway. the overwhelming impression is on,-; of happiness. St David's survives in the usual inexplicable way. Unexpected legacies, sudden gifts, the generosity of com mercial firms, the business acumen of their advisors. They try to turn no one away.
It is, alas, painfully hard for a modern young family to look after its old and physically broken members. So there have to be places like this where an old Lieutenant-Colonel or an Able Seaman can rest in dignity and reasonable content until his time comes. St David's must he at least as good of its sort as any in the country. And its inmates more
deserving of the care of a sinful nation than any other class of .person in society.