The Lyceum: Making the Extraordinary Ordinary

Yesterday The Lyceum celebrated its Ninth Annual Commencement Exercises and as is now traditional the day began with Holy Mass.

I think an alternate motto for The Lyceum should be “making the extraordinary ordinary” because that is what happens just about every day at the school.

Ok, Ok… I know what you are thinking … you have misinterpreted what I meant!

I don’t mean that Lyceum students take extraordinary things – and then turn them into base commonplace and ordinary things though some sort of abuse. They don’t wear out the extraordinary and make it undesirable!

What I mean is that Lyceum students do extraordinary things in an extraordinary manner on an ordinary basis!

They become so habituated to doing extraordinary things that it all seems very normal to them to do them.

Sometimes I look at the students when they are doing something extraordinary- like having a discussion about the “Melian Dialogue” in Thucydides…and of course they have no idea that this is one of the very famous passages in Western literature…and they talk about it as if they were thinking “of course…everyone does this sort of thing all the time.”

Or saying lauds every morning…singing the Canticle of Zechariah (i.e. “Benedictus”) …participating in the millennial traditions of Western Civilization… demonstrating Euclidean propositions… writing theses… not realizing that there is anything unusual about it because young people quickly adapt and take things as they come and quickly rise to the occasion to perform wondrous feats.

Another example. On Friday night the students put on a brilliant performance of “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.

The play was exceptional (even if staged and produced for under $50!) And unlike other schools, where a certain segment of talented students are chosen in a competitive process to act in their usual plays (e.g. The Phantom, “Les Mis” and CATS!), at The Lyceum we eschew the whole idea that acting in a Shakespeare play is something that should only be reserved for the talented. No! Everyone must act in a Shakespeare play at least once in a lifetime! Everyone ultimately gets the big part! (This seems self-evident to me. Besides it’s far more democratic way of doing things.)

And the students demonstrated for the umpteenth time that every student has acting talent. The crowd loved it. Everyone was edified and delighted. We laughed for two hours and enjoyed spectacular lines coming from the mouths of ordinary students turned into extraordinary actors.

Making the extraordinary ordinary!

The following morning the students woke up and sang Palestrina’s “Missa Brevis” almost in toto! The Mass was celebrated in the “Extraordinary Form” of the Roman Rite (which the Church has clearly been promoting and encouraging recently… Think “July 7 2007!”).

Here was the menu:

  • Prelude: “Dixit Archangelis” (a sweet Traditional Austrian variation on the Ave Maria- with descant)
  • Processional Hymn: All Creature of our God and King (always nice to belt out a hymn)
  • Introit” Adeamus (Chant Propers from the Mass in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)
  • Kyrie: Palestrina 1525-1594  Missa Brevis

  • Gloria: Palestrina 1525-1594 Missa Brevis
  • Graduale : “Exultabit cor meum” (Chant Propers from the Mass in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)
  • Alleluia- Magnificat Anima Mea (Chant Propers from the Mass in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)
  •  Offertory: Exultavit spiritus meus (Chant Propers from the Mass in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)
  • Offertory Motet: Cibavit Eos (Chistopher Tye 1505-1572)
  • Sanctus: Palestrina 1525-1594 Missa Brevis
  • Benedictus: Palestrina 1525-1594 Missa Brevis
  • Agnus Dei: Palestrina 1525-1594 Missa Brevis (as well as a section from the Gregorian Mass XVII)
  •  Communio: Dixit Jesus Matri Suo  (Chant Propers from the Mass in honor of the Immaculate Heart of Mary)
  • Communion Motet 1: Ave Verum William Byrd ca. 1540-1623 (The other old chestnut- not the Mozart)

  • Communion Motet 2: Palestrina 1525-1594 Sicut Cervus (everyone loves this one)
  •  Recessional Hymn: Holy God (who doesn’t love this with full organ?)
  • Postlude: Handel 1685-1759 Halleluia Chorus with Organ….Wow!

They were spectacular. They were in tune. They sang in a prayerful way.

It was absolutely beautiful.

But….Lyceum students do this kind of thing all the time….I mean all year long…and rarely with an audience. For them it is no big deal!

Except that it really is a big deal.

Making the extraordinary ordinary.

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About marklangley

Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see theLyceum.org) Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their twelve children.
This entry was posted in classical education, Fine Arts, Music, Shakespeare and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to The Lyceum: Making the Extraordinary Ordinary

  1. an Educated Barbarian with well-formed Children says:

    Truly, truly, I say to you, Mark Langley, founder of The Lyceum, your post in on target! I have found that it is so much so that it is incapable of being replicated (not your post but rather the gift you give, The Lyceum). Those graduates will begin to experience, as those who have gone before them, a deprivation of making the extraordinary ordinary. My prayer for all Lyceum graduates is that they may share the gifts they’ve received as their journey continues.

    Should/could The Lyceum’s mission be expanded throughout its diocese and eventually to all of the U.S. archdiocesen schools?

    • Mark Langley says:

      Dear Educated Barbarian with well formed children,

      I think you are too kind- and am thankful to be working with such a good team under the leadership of a courageous headmaster!

      Yes- I have been waiting for some commission of the USCCB to pick up on The Lyceum model and ask us to make some kind of “Lyceum franchise.” But my phone is not ringing and I have to admit there are still some openings in my speaking/lecture schedule.

  2. Samster says:

    Wow – what amazing program for the mass!

    But this isn’t supposed to be possible.

    Teenagers don’t like “classical” music.

    They won’t tolerate a traditional, contemplative, captivating liturgy – they want something that appeals to them, that speaks “their” language.

    They don’t want to sit through long boring Gregorian chants in a foreign language.

    And they certainly won’t invest the time and attention it takes to sing complex, serious music like Palestrina, Tye, and Byrd.

    No, Mr. Langley, your school simply cannot exist.

    Tell me – what do you really do for a living?

    • andrew erickson says:

      you sir are utterly wrong I ask what do YOU do for a living other than spout unsavory nonsense and yes us real teenagers who prefer to be younge ladies and gentlemen do enjoy the difficulties of learning said chant and investing the time and attention it takes to sing complex, serious music like Palestrina, Tye, and Byrd.

      • Mark Langley says:

        Well said Andrew! Although I think you might have missed the irony in the comment made by “Samster.” But your enthusiastic denunciation of the literal meaning contained in his words are delightful!

  3. andrew erickson says:

    you know mr langley i was so moved by the mass i spent all of today listening to all of our cds (remembere laetare?) but ive noticed that we have never recorded fiat lux i think we should fix that…

    • Margie says:

      Dear Andrew,

      You are a fine young man. Continue to strive for the excellence becoming to a young gentleman. Fiat Lux!

      (Yes, this is from the same “Margie” that gets you McChickens from McDonalds!) 🙂

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