The Lyceum Schola Cantorum On The March!

The Lyceum just returned from its annual pilgrimage to Washington D.C. to join with more than 500,000 other zealous people braving single digits to peacefully protest the Nation’s continued tolerance of abortion.

Tuesday January 21, 4:30 AM students and faculty board the Precious Cargo Luxury Motor Coach waiting for us at The Lyceum. Through the skillful and professional handling of John (our driver) the whole school, students, faculty and parent chaperones arrive in Washington DC around 2:30 PM. No small feat as many other buses from across the country had to cancel their trips due to the arctic temperature and sleety, snowy, icy road conditions.

Rolling up to the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Washington DC was exciting enough just because of the promise of the warm comfortable hospitality which it promised for weary travelers, but even more so for patriotic hearts who saw the illuminated capitol dome two blocks away gleaming through the snow!

After checking in and grabbing a quick bite, we again boarded the bus for a short drive to meet Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D in the chapel at his Archdiocesan Headquarters which are adjacent to the catholic University of America. The Lyceum has a special connection to the Archbishop because he was born and raised in Cleveland Heights and a good friend of our excellent ‘chaplain,’ (through whose intercession we gained this special audience).

Archbishop Broglio gave us an informal yet very informative talk about the role that his Archdiocese fulfills in serving all the branches of the military over whose Catholic members he is the shepherd. As a token of our thanks and appreciation the schola filled his chapel with the beautiful strains of Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus- which of course is everyone’s favorite motet- never grows old for some reason!

Thankfully John was waiting for us in the warm motor coach when we skated down the archdiocesan driveway, even though our next stop, The Basilica of the National Shrine of The Immaculate Conception, was only a hop skip and a jump away.

As anyone knows who has attended the  National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica, it is hopeless to find a seat in an actual pew, even though it is the largest Catholic Church in the US as well as one of the ten largest churches in the world.

Nonetheless, we arrived far too close to the 6:30 pm Mass starting time to even hope for even standing space behind a pillar, much less a seat. Even though the standing capacity is about 6000 people there are only enough seats for 3500 – but my personal opinion is that there were more in the building than that! My advice to the boys with whom I had the pleasure of chaperoning was “do not make eye contact with the ushers” who were doing their best to sweep us out of the side aisles into some closet-like exit staircase. After making several attempts to sneak in and hug the walls or hide behind the pillars, we were ultimately no match for the basilica staff who were intent on making sufficient room in the aisles for the procession.

None of us had traveled the close to 400 miles to stand in a closet for three hours-and that is about how long Mass was. It took at least 40 minutes for the hundreds of clergy to simply process (through the aisles) to the sanctuary!

What a sight of clergy of every rank size and shape we beheld there, processing first down the aisle and then slowly up though the central nave of the basilica. Starting with the lowly acolytes, whom I suppose were composed of  box-loads of seminarians, then came buckets of deacons and then priests and abbots in all dimensions, then ascending there came bishops and archbishops both of the Eastern and Western stripe, then cardinals, although I don’t know how many, and even an Apostolic Nuncio to the Unites States of America. Finally came Cardinal O’Malley bringing up the tail end of the procession.

Now for those of us stuck in the exit halls we were only able to guess who was who by the procession of heads and various kinds of Berettas, miters and zucchettos. Occasionally by jumping and standing on tip-toes one was able to see a face or two.

The Basilica Choir of course was excellent. They began with a version of Laudate Dominum by Hans Leo Hassler. And then we sang nine verses of Crown Him with Many Crowns with a fairly lengthy interlude between each verse!

And then we sang an antiphon:

Lauda Jerusalem Dominum, lauda Deum tuum Sion: Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna Filio David.

alternating with the choir which sang at least five verses of Psalm 147 in chant and polyphony. And then the procession came to an end. The Mass then began!

After communion The Lyceum Schola Cantorum proceed directly to the Crypt church beneath which was also crowded with the subterranean worshipers who apparently had been watching the whole Mass on various screens. We needed to assemble there in order to get ready for our singing contribution to the National Rosary for Life which was to start at 10:00 pm. I think we collected ourselves in the Crypt at around 9:30.

The Crypt church of the Basilica is Shangri-La for any choir member.

Altar of Crypt church at Basilica in Washington stock photo, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC showing interior of Crypt church built in 1920 by Steven Heap

It is incomparably better than singing in any large-tiled shower in which I have had the pleasure to sing. The Crypt Church is designed to transform the voices of ordinary human beings into those of immortals.

We sang Rachmaninoff’s Rejoice O Virgin Theotokos at the beginning and the Arcadelt Ave Maria at the end. Stunning! Beautiful!

Unfortunately, we did not record – but here is a pretty good rendition of the Rachmaninoff for those of you who are wondering,


Needless to say, we were all quite tired at the end of this first day of our pilgrimage and so when we returned to the Hyatt, I think most students resisted the urge to stay awake talking, knowing that they were to listen to speeches and march for Life in the cold AND sing at a solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form the very next day.

No rest, however, for the Gregorian chanters among us who had some work to do to put a little more finesse into the chant propers for the feast of Saints Vincent and Anastatius. Nothing beats having a Gregorian Chant party at the Hyatt Regency under the very dome of the capitol of our great nation. I think we practiced until midnight and no doubt our soothing tones crept through the walls of the entire hotel and lulled even the most fidgety of lodgers into a deeper and more peaceful sleep.

Now I will say that the March for Life was a thrill to join. For many long time marchers I am not certain that there was anything extraordinary about March for Life 2014 except that it was colder than any other in recent memory. For me it was as thrilling as the first March I had joined in the late 1980s. The sheer size of the crowd and the well-ordered ranks of marchers, the wholesome faces and spectacle of 1/2 million people peacefully protesting the greatest injustice of our time was fairly dramatic to say the least. Our new blue Lyceum hats and yellow scarves accentuated our own presence and I have no doubt were the reason that we returned to Cleveland with every student. I myself would have been lost had it not been for our ingenious color scheme. Perhaps most memorable to me was the sight of a dozen or fifteen strategically placed well-armed security forces placed at intervals on the steps of the supreme court building. Given that the March was largely composed of extraordinarily civil well-behaved Catholic and Christian students from The Lyceum, and Aquinas Academy and Holy Family Academy and Benedictine College and Christendom College and Franciscan University and Saint John’s Seminary and Mundelein Seminary and…. every Catholic and every Christian parish within a two day’s bus trip…the sight of these grim policemen guarding the supreme Court Building seemed disproportionately out-of-place.

The March for Life over, we then turned our attention to a quick late lunch before setting off on fairly short walk to Old Saint Mary’s Church on Fifth street. We arrived at 5:00 pm in plenty of time to rehearse for the 6:00pm evening Mass – the second annual mass in honor of the memory of Nellie Gray, sponsored by the Paulist Institute.

Now our illustrious choir director really had very little work to do given the fact that he had prudently and assiduously been preparing the choir for this occasion for several months in advance. Other than warming up, we were ready! And this was the program:

  • Procession- Ave Maria (J. Arcadelt)
  • Introit- Intret in conspéctu tuo sung beautifully by some of the Lyceum Female students and faculty (Mass of Several Martyrs)
  • Kyrie – Missa Brevis Palestrina
  • Gloria Missa Brevis Palestrina
  • Graduale Gloriósus Deus (Mass of Several Martyrs)
  • Alleluia Déxtera tua, Dómine (Mass of Several Martyrs)
  • Offertory Mirábilis Deus (Mass of Several Martyrs) and Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium (for those of you wondering how we dared sing this- we argued that this was still appropriate liturgically anytime before February 2!)
  • Sanctus and Benedictus – Missa Brevis Palestrina
  • Agnus Dei  Missa Brevis  Palestrina
  • Communion – Et si coram homínibus (Mass of Several Martyrs) and Palestrina’s Sicut Cervus and the Victoria version of Iesu Dulcis Memoria!
  • Recessional – Cibavit Eos by Dr. Christopher Tye

For a full review and photos about the details of this Mass take a look over there at Rorate Coeli!  The Mass was beautiful and aside from the spiritual benefits that we received from singing and participating in Holy Mass, we were also just a little tickled by the notable priests who were in the sanctuary, like the executive director of ICEL, Monseigneur Andrew Wadsworth.

and the abbot of Clear Creek Abbey in Oklahoma!

Nonetheless, it was God to whom we directing our voices and we hope that those in the pew and assisting in the celebration of the Mass were uplifted through the glorious sound of the youthful voices of our choir.

On January 23, with our main work of marching and singing done, the school treated itself to a day’s worth of touring at the United States Capitol and Mount Vernon. No one can visit the Capitol without being struck with a sense of awe and pride at our nation’s founding vision and principles. A two-hour tour of the building itself is worth at least three weeks of classes in civics. Staring at the two wings of the Capitol gives rise to comments like “Oh…. so that’s what we mean when we say a bicameral legislature.”

The school received a flag that flew over the capitol from Ohio congressman Dave Joyce’s office. Congressman Joyce represents the county in which many of our families live and we were especially pleased to meet the congressman’s staff assistant Ken Callahan who is an old friend of one of our families.

Mount Vernon was impressive especially for the humility that it manifested in our first president. Although an extremely beautiful property, we were struck by the fairly simple brick mausoleum in which George Washington is buried.

Living as close as I do to the President Garfield Memorial, I was expecting something along the same lines:

George Washington apparently insisted that he be buried at Mount Vernon and not in the Capitol underneath the Dome, underneath the painting of his apotheosis on the ceiling of the Dome itself!

On the way back from Mount Vernon our Luxury Motor Coach stopped at the Lincoln Memorial and I couldn’t help but to think of how Mr. Smith felt when he visited.

I made a point to read the Second Inaugural address and especially the last paragraph where he says “With malice towards none…”

Truly remarkable place. Then we walked briskly through the Vietnam War memorial and touched some of the engraved names on the wall. This place is beautiful especially at night in the snow.

On the morning of January 24th, we spent about an hour and a half touring the National Gallery of Art. Now, as anyone knows the National Gallery is absolutely stunning and it would take at least two hours a day for an entire week to really just gain a cursory familiarity with its treasures. I made certain to see the Da Vinci!

And on the back of this painting is another beautiful painting

You can see the words “Virtutem Forma Decorat” which makes one wonder indeed about the what sort of woman the lady on the front really was.

Returning to the hotel one last time to collect our luggage, imagine my surprise when I saw a bottle of brut champagne in a bucket of ice along with a dish of fresh fruit and chocolates on my desk! Someone had remembered my birthday! It looked something like this:

Unfortunately we were already boarding the bus and so the best I could do was stuff the bubbly and the chocolates in my bag- and quickly consume the fruit. But from whom the mystery gift came I will always wonder.

We set off for our trip home making one final stop at Quantico Museum- the museum of the U. S. Marine Corps!

Apparently the museum has the same shape as the famous statue of the marines planting the flag at Iwo Jima.

Here it is- does that look the same?

About marklangley

Presently, the founding Headmaster of Our Lady of Walsingham Academy in Colorado Springs (see www., former headmaster and Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their children.
This entry was posted in ad libitum, beauty, Music, Sacred Music, The Mass and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s