Sunday, January 17, 2010


You wouldn't credit it, but as I stepped off the plane at Launceston's airport this afternoon, it was hailing!  When I crossed through to the carpark, the cars had thick deposits of fresh-fallen ice on them.  Talk about winter in January...

Very kindly, David gave me a lift to the airport in Melbourne, after I'd joined him and other friends for lunch at the Balaclava Hotel after Mass at St Aloysius, North Caulfield.  What a pity that the usual choir was on vacation, and the schola absolutely massacred the Propers, singing distinctly out of tune in the most ear-splitting fashion.  I do wish they'd not attempted what was clearly beyond them, and had just humbly psalm-toned the Propers.  To hear Jubilate Deo sung so badly was foul.  I caught myself wishing I'd gone to the Russian Catholics instead.

Earlier in the day, I'd breakfasted with my old friends the Dominicans at East Camberwell, who'd put me up for the night: I had hardly seen them yester-day, since I had arrived at the Priory at eleven, then struggled to ward off jetlag by going into the CBD and back (I found an interesting book I'd once read years before, Aldous Huxley's Grey Eminence), only to fall asleep in my room at four thirty in the afternoon...

One very good thing was that, when I arrived at St Dominic's late on Saturday morning, exhausted from my long return trip, I was met by newly-ordained Fr Vincent, who gave me his blessing.  (There is an old Bavarian proverb that one should journey all day to get to the first blessing of a priest.)

I cannot pretend to have enjoyed my long, three-stage flight back to Australia.  It just isn't nice to spend so long on aircraft, and I didn't rest (though I did watch a lot of movies).


Mark M said...

Eeek! You took the weather with you!

Joshua said...

Hi, Mark - is it getting any warmer in Edinburgh yet?

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Josh. Will have to catch up on the phone soon for a chat.

Rob A

Fr Justin said...

Sorry we missed each other at St Peter's last Wednesday morning...and I thought you were a bit ambitious suggesting we catch up in Melbourne on your way through! Look forward to seeing you in Ascot Vale when you're next in town.

Joshua said...

Yes, it was a pity I missed you; and yes, I was overambitious and heedless of jetlag when I said I'd catch up in Melbourne on Saturday!

I'm thinking of coming over to Melbourne for Easter, by the way - perhaps I can see you then, although I expect that you'll be quite tired, having had all the Easter ceremonies to do...

Let me know the date you officially take up your post as P.P. of Ascot Vale.

Anonymous said...

Your comments about the schola were unfortunately uncharitable and highly disingenuous - what on earth does it achieve by publicly posting comments such as this? Its completely counterproductive Josh. The schola I might tell you were without Nick Dinopoulos, and were filling in at late notice for the month (normally we have low Masses in Melbourne in January) - this was both an act of great generosity from them at an awkward time for everyone with people coming/going. Please show a little more charity and understanding in the future when making your comments.

Joshua said...

I detest people who solely identify themselves as "anonymous".

This is my blog, and I say what I please here. You would hardly expect a restaurant critic to pretend to like a horrible meal?

I was not uncharitable - honestly, the music was awful, really ear-splitting, and the schola should have realized the music they were attempting was beyond them.

And as anyone can tell you, I am not a good singer, being liable to wander off the note, and would not dream of attempting to sing a full chant Proper as anything other than a backup voice to strong confident singers.

So they were without their leader, and were filling in at late notice? Well, then they should have psalm-toned the propers, not massacred them. Have they any idea how much they set people's teeth on edge? I was really disappointed for one, having come specially.

I hope they take heed and try to sing in tune!

Really, it was a shameful balls-up completely unworthy the sacred liturgy.

It is not "charity" to pretend that something bad was good. Charity is telling it like it is, and offering constructive suggestions - as I have done by saying that they should not have attempted what was beyond them, but tried something doable that was simpler.

There is no excuse for singing so terribly off key.

And I remind you again, I detest people named "Anonymous". Have some courage!

Joshua said...

And I have it on the authority of several others who were there that my comments were, alas, quite correct.

Joshua said...

People are so oversensitive these days: "Poor me, I'm a victim" - well, who's the real victim? I get quite enough liturgical abuse at the Novus Ordo, without having Missa cantata ruined...

Joshua said...

If anything, the schola should have apologized for their complete stuff-up at the end of Mass, and promised not to sing so off-key again.

I quite clearly heard the schola singing three and four different notes at times!

Joshua said...


1. The Propers were indeed ruined: if you can't keep to the notes, you have ipso facto sung incorrectly.

2. The schola was out of tune, and it was ear-splitting (I was wincing as they sang); they weren't even singing the same notes as each other.

3. Clearly they attempted what was beyond them, and should have tried a simpler setting.

4. Jubilate Deo is a favourite chant of mine, which -from practising and singing it at Mass - I know to be very difficult (it spans a fourteenth, after all), and it was upsetting to hear what should be so nice made, well, pretty rotten.

Anonymous said...

"And I remind you again, I detest people named "Anonymous"."

Except, of course, where those named "Anonymous" consistently sign their names :-)

Fr Hart (a priest whose views I don't much like) over at The Contimuum, refers to his Anonymous critics as "Anonymous hit-and-runs". I like that term.

Rob A

Mark M said...

As someone who regularly sings in a Schola, including singing old rite Vespers, I agree with what Josh says: if you cannot sing something, then do not! Stick to Psalm tone.

Poorly executed chant is not only an insult to all present, but furter, to the Almighty. (Yes, I may sound preachy, but 'tis true.)

Anonymous: grow some guts. (Not you, Rob)

Oberon said...

“It is not "charity" to pretend that something bad was good.”

Indeed. The charitable thing to do is to say nothing. After all, unless you imagine that the schola went away thinking that everything had gone well, what possible benefit could there be in pillorying them in this way?

euphrasie said...

Here is my comment again, slightly edited and un-anonymised.

I repeat my contention - Your comments achieve nothing. other than amplifying your own ire. As for "anonymous" - you reserve the right to say what you want on your blog, and I reserve the right to say what I want and how I want. If you don't like it, you don't have to print it - its entirely your choice.

Many of these men were not singing 12 months ago, and are just starting out. They've made huge progress in the last 12 months, and you simply caught them on a "bad day". They re quite capable of making a good fist of the Propers and did extremely well at the Dawn Christmas Mass. The mixed choir have been singing chant for over 15 years, some more than 20. They too were once in a similar situation and just starting out. They too also have "bad days" in singing the Propers in unison, or attempting overly-ambitious motets.

It is NOT charity to slap people down like this - if you believe that, then you have little understanding of human psychology. You will never win hearts and minds attacking others like this Josh. You talk of courage Josh - well, did you go up and have a word with them afterwards, or did you simply criticize them behind their back?

Mark M said...

I think we can make an objective distinction here between fair, constructive criticism, and so-called 'backbiting'. This is not an instance of the latter.

Even in experienced scholae, due consideration ought to be given to the relative complexity of a piece, and the available rehearsal time. The same goes for younger groups.

For example, I am a member of a Schola which rings Vespers monthly in the Cathedral here, as well as other Missae Cantata. That said, we have only been going for a year, and until now there have been many things we have chosen not to attempt. Even now, if rehearsal time is an issue, we may, on occasion, revert to Psalm-tones for things.

It's an important consideration, and one I would expect mature groups to take. Equally, younger groups ought to take such criticism in a spirit of charity. After all, it's all part of a greater thing, Divine Service.

God bless you all!

Joshua said...

To the above comments:

1.. Rob, you're always welcome;

2. Mark, you're quite right;

3. Oberon - I didn't pillory the schola, I just said quite honestly how upset I was at Mass because of the bad singing, which was, honestly, their fault, not mine - ever heard of fraternal correction? The whole congregation had to endure disharmonies...

4. I'm delighted to learn that the schola has been improving by leaps and bounds: and my annoyance was not about the schola at all, it was expressing my own feelings of disappointment and aural agony; if you must know, I did make some suggestions via a person at St Aloysius, but then, upon coming home, I recorded here on my blog my experiences, which I am not in the habit of censoring (and there was absolutely no intention to be nasty, but, well, it was true what I wrote - I was disappointed by the chant);

5. Nilamon (is that really a name?), I think you could learn some manners - I would love to come to St Aloysius more often, but I live elsewhere, and can't: as it is, for our once-a-month Latin Mass in Hobart, I sing in the schola, and at our fortnightly Compline-and-Benediction here in Launceston, I sing also; here I have only the OF Mass to attend, and very little scope to do anything traditional; alas for the days when, in Perth, I had the Latin Mass every day, and could sing and serve at Mass as often as possible; and really, I didn't whine, or backstab, I JUST SAID THEY SANG BADLY - WHICH IS A FACT!!!

7. I second Mark's last comment above.

Could people please learn to avoid the modern trap of becoming victims? So I said (as did others after Mass) that the schola sung badly, which was true, and I suggested they psalm-tone the propers to make it easier for them. This is not me being evil!

From some comments. you'd think I'd walked up to Fr and slapped his face!

Realize that the congregation don't enjoy putting up with badly executed music, and that they have a perfect right - which they freely exercised afterwards - to complain. If I wrote about this, how many others do you think have been telling each other that they'll think twice about coming to St Aloysius (as was actually happening after Mass)?

I am put in mind of what once happened at the Ukrainian seminary in Rome: after finishing Vespers or an Akathist in honour of St Josaphat, the rector told off all the students for singing so badly, and then he gave each of them three Miserere's as penance.

Finally, I'm sure the schola members are good fellows, who understand that I attack not them personally, but merely recorded here my great disappointment when the chant was not sung so well. No personal attack was ever intended.

Joshua said...

To settle this matter: if any of the schola members feel affronted, I do publicly apologize, and hope they can construe my original comments as expressing the firm hope they continue to improve and sing well, to the glory of God and the edification of His people.

I would like very much to thank all commenters for their comments.

There was never any personal animosity intended.

nilammon said...

Nilammon is a saint, and one of the 140 colonnade statues in St Peter's Square.

Thank you for your retraction but I doubt anyone on the planet could construe the phrases "shameful balls-up", "ear-splitting" "massacre", "ruined" "stuff-up" as some effort by you to hope the schola "improve and sing well, to the glory of God and the edification of His people."

There is constructive criticism and then there's needless, harmful and emotive invective. A massacre is something that occured in Haiti, it is not a description of bad singing at Mass, regardless of how sensitive you may be to the quality of the chant.

Yes, lets hope all choirs continue to improve and sing well during the liturgy.

Yes, this matter should be closed now.

Joshua said...

I didn't retract my description of events: I apologized for any offence caused. It would be admitting I had lied and told untruths to retract what I wrote.

The music was badly sung, and the rather luridly descriptive words I used reflected my emotional reaction to thus.

I did not mean to say the choristers sang badly deliberately or that they were wicked!

nilammon said...

I wasn't suggesting that you were suggesting the choristers were bad or wicked - I'm not sure why you would even make that comment.

Look, your description is your description and no-one can refute that. The question is - is that description balanced and reasonable or hyperbolic and overly-sensitive? Several people have asked the question what value it is to make such public comments, and why you feel your personal enotional reaction to this music is of any public value whatsoever? Its your blog and you certainly post whatever you like - but there is an implicit assumption here that you feel it IS of public value, otherwise why not just e-mail your comments privately to your friends, rather than let the whole world see what you wish to say.

The comments you made could've potentially detered people from attending liturgies at St. Aloysius in Melbourne - it would definitely be a great shame if people were unwilling to experience a Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form because of your private emotional reaction to the music in just one particular liturgy.

AS for your spending HW in Melbourne and blogging about the liturgies - I have to tell you, I've gone to sleep with better thoughts....

Joshua said...

I think I'm losing my temper again...

"Several people" have no need to read my blog if they don't like it!

I decided to blog some years ago, and resolved to say whatsoever I pleased, without regard to human respect, but trying to respect the Lord.

My "personal emotional reaction" is of interest to me, and I mentioned it, in context to my blogging of my recent overseas holiday. Those not interested ought not visit Psallite Sapienter.

My "private emotional reaction" was, I can assure you, shared by several parishioners of St Aloysius, several of them musically talented, seeing as we all discussed this matter after Mass together that Sunday.

I really dislike the way this is being made out to be my wretched fault - I went along expecting to find the usual high standard of sacred music as a proper part of the holy liturgy, and got a surprise... strange how even Traditionalists seem to jump on the "I'm a victim" bandwagon these days, boo hoo!

Just as in the past when I sang badly at Mass, I would have accepted the adverse remarks of others and endeavoured to do better, I really think it is not just for me to abase myself in ashes. Indeed, who are you, pseudonymous person?

You know, I'm a friend of the Traditional Mass, indeed I prefer it, and if I lived in Melbourne I would be a parishioner at St Aloysius, being a friend of the two priests there since the days I lived in Melbourne some years ago; I would like nothing better than to help out with serving and/or singing, just as I did when a member of the Perth Latin Mass community.

I resent severely your implication that somehow it would be my fault - as opposed to, oh, I don't know, the bad singing - that would drive away the hordes of would-be attendees from St Aloysius.

BTW, have you ever noticed how sparse an attendance there is at St A's, despite being the one and only sung Latin Mass in Melbourne? I can tell you candidly, it hasn't grown over the years... we get as many at our monthly Missa cantata in Hobart (which is a far smaller place).

St Aloysius has been promoted on such august blogs as that of the New Liturgical Movement, so I doubt my comments will have any deleterious effect.

So I'm not welcome at Holy Week, am I? I wonder what Fr Tattersall and Fr McDaniels, or again my friends in the congregation, will say about this rude suggestion of yours!

So much for bloody charity: I've had quite enough.

I think I shall delete any further comments of yours along these lines, as my right as the author of this blog.

Josue locutus est, causa finita est.

Joshua said...

P.S. I should point out that for Holy Week in the past I have sang at St Aloysius at Tenebræ, including chanting a lesson - so I know whereof I speak.

Joshua said...

Rob reminded me of this pertinent quotation, which I wholeheartedly endorse:

"There is something un-gentlemanly about sending an anonymous comment, and I always attach my name and link to my web site. Otherwise I don’t say anything." - Fr Chadwick of the T.A.C., from a post of his of the 29th of December (see Reflections for December 2009).

Joshua said...

A stupid comment (which has been deleted) betrayed its stupidity by failing to note that loquor is a deponent verb (passive in form, active in meaning), so that the well-known phrase beginning Roma locuta means "Rome has spoken..." (note that this part of speech matches the noun's gender).

Any readers of this blog will know that I love detailing the many good liturgies I attend, as a cursory examination of my accounts of my recent holiday will prove.

Can the folks at St Aloyius realize that I am not their enemy, and that they've been a bit oversensitive? You'd think I'd put the whole choir into counselling. Oh well, my mate Justin can always play the organ during Low Mass instead... ;-)

For the record, I've been told that a friend of mine was surprised a few weeks ago to find the Russian Liturgy a bit out of tune, as their choirmaster was late...

Anthony Bidgood said...

Dear Joshua,

I have attended Mass at Saint Aloysius regularly since 2003 and I can assure that the congregation is growing but not everyone attends every week. Today, and yes I do on occasions count the congregation numbers, there were about ninety members in the congregation, far more than last week when you attended Mass.

In Christo,

Anonymous said...


if comments are obviously stupid, why respond to them at all? Deleting the comment and then responding in a shrill manner loses the context and really weakens the argument.

Reading through the comments it would appear that you have deleted a number of comments and felt compelled to publicly respond. I can not think of a logically valid reason for this, only affective ones.

Ukkonen (yes, this is a real name!)

Melbourne Trad said...


I concur with what Anthony says. You simply cannot turn up once in a blue moon and then interpolate from that on the current state of numbers - you who have scientific training should surely realize that. Secondly, there has never been a correlation between the size of a TLM community and the size of the Diocese in which it exists - its very simplistic thinking to think they're directly proportional. There are many complex geographic and other reasons which determine the size of a community.

Melbourne Trad

Concerned Trad said...

Any discussion of the size of the Melbourne Traditional mass community needs to take into account that, in addition to the Sung mass at St Aloyius, there is also a Low Mass celebrated in Kew early on Sunday mornings that attracts a sizable congregation.

That said, I think its fair to say that after going through steady growth between 2004 and 2007, the size of the Melbourne Traditional Mass community has largely stagnated in recent years. Various factors probably contribute to this recent lack of growth - the actions of one member of the clergy probably are a major factor.

Joshua said...

I've had enough.

No more anonymous comments! I will change the necessary settings on this blog accordingly.

Give your real name if you want to say something.

And I am sick and tired of being lectured about prudence and charity.

Joshua said...

My throwaway comments about the numbers at Mass were not intended to be anything offensive - it just somewhat surprises and saddens me that in the Glorious See of Melbourne, the largest diocese in Oceania, with more than a million Catholics, so few come to a Missa cantata.

Joshua said...


Yes, I have been upset by some comments. Friends and acquaintances of mine who were there at the Mass in question have assured me that they entirely concur with what I said, and in fact were seriously considering complaining to the priests about the substandard performance of the choir, as derogating from what is fit for divine service - and yet anonymous persons have blasted me for daring to tell the truth.

It particularly riles me that I would have expected such moaning protests from Novus Ordo types, not from Traddies.

I am very upset and cross.