I have many places to which I call home: My Grandparent’s house in which I lived in before my family moved into the house that which I live in now, My house, and Fairfield University.
But one of the most blessed places I call home is the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
I call it a miniature “St. Peter’s”. There are so many sights and sounds with this church: the beautiful stained glass windows, the chandeliers, the paintings, the altars, and the marble floors and pillars. The Basilica houses an Austin Organ, complete with a three manual console, 37 ranks, and over 1,200 pipes. It’s console consists of string and flute stops, colorful diapasons, and a selection of reed stops: Trumpet 8′, Oboe 8′ Clarinet 8′, Tuba 8′, and Tuba Profunda 16′. To those who are not familiar with the organ, these “stops” are the different sounds an organ makes. Here’s a picture of the Console that I play at the Basilica:
It is with this monster that I fill the basilica with sound. It looks like a mess of confusing buttons to push, knobs to pull, pedals to press, keys to play, pistons to register…ugh! But it’s a fun nightmare and I’m still trying to get it all under control. It’s completely worth it.
It is here in this church that, when home, every Thursday night, I get together with my fellow choir members and sing along while the house organist, Claudette, accompanies us. She has taught me many things when it comes to playing the organ. I must also acknowledge my other mentor, my primary mentor, Mary Gabriele, who has taught me music since the first grade. She and I have remained very close right up through today. There is no woman like her, with a voice that can match no other, and the humble personality to match. She always taught me that if you have a gift, use it to praise God. That’s how I pray, through music. Mary taught me Schubert’s “Ave Maria”, the song that I hold closest to my heart, and I will forevermore. She has truly brought out the musician in me, taught me how to be a professional liturgical planner, and has taught me the skills that I am still working on to be a great organist. It’s not only knowing how to play the organ, but developing a style in which you play it. That makes it a personal prayer when one plays. This is something that I never will forget.
It is very interesting when the organ is lofted high above the main of the Church; you get to see so many things! You get to see the artwork of the stained glass windows up close, the craftsmanship of the chandeliers, the ornate ceiling, who has the screaming baby during prayers, and those in the lower congregation are picking their noses throughout mass. I have to laugh.
The nice thing about this Basilica is the placement of the organ. It is high above everyone, and you can move about getting music, and you do not distract everyone. Also, I get to hide behind the organ when I play. I hate having people stare at me when I play. I love playing “Phantom Organist”…I can slip in, play a mass with lively, grand music, and slip out unnoticed. I hate the saying “if you’ve got it, flaunt it.” I’d rather flaunt it and remain unnoticed. It’s like a double-life that I have. I’ve seen virtuosos who long for the bravado that comes after a performance, and they glory in it. A MASS IS NOT A SHOW OR PERFORMANCE!!!. When you do so, you are taking away from the sanctity of the Mass, and forget whom you are there for in the first place. If the Almighty gave you a gift, it is expected that you use it as best as you can to praise him with it. I’m not saying listen to music off of the Jesus CD’s that you see on those infomercials, but for me, I have a profound spiritual, not religious, connection with God.
That’s my thought for this evening.