Sunday, December 23, 2007


St. John the Baptist, Pawtucket, RI

St. John the Baptist Church, though not the mother church of the city of Pawtucket, nor the most active, but I would say is the most prominent of Pawtucket's twelve Roman Catholic churches.

St. John's was originally built for French Canadians, and for the longest time the church was known by its French name, St. Jean-Baptiste. Many of the cityfolk would simply call it "St. Jean's" (pronouncing "Jean's" in English, like "blue jeans"). With a massive change in demographics in that section of the city, however, the church is known more now by its Spanish name, San Juan el Bautista.

The Romanesque style church is beautiful inside and out. You climb NINE steps to get to the sanctuary. Guest choirs and chori that would perform in concert at the church would use the steps as risers. The Latin inscription down one side of the church and up the other side reads thus (using classical Roman lettering - "V" for "U"):

(Praise the Lord, O children, Praise the name of the Lord, -- Psalm 113(112))
(Praise the Lord from the heavens, Praise Him in the highest. -- Psalm 148)

Another inscription above the high altar, contouring the apse:

ECCE AGNVS DEI (Behold the Lamb of God)

Typical Sunday Mass schedule:
Saturday 5:00 PM (English) / 6:30 PM (Spanish)
Sunday 9:30 AM (English) / 11:30 AM (Spanish)

The music, overall, was quite good. Paul Martin has been organist there for quite some time and is quite good. His music selections are primarily in the traditional style, whether it be hymns that have stood the test of time for centuries or modern day music actually geared for organ accompaniment, despite Today's Missal (with Spanish Insert) and Music Issue being the pew book. Today I attended the 9:30 Mass which was no exception.

Here's the music list:

The Advent of our King..."St. Thomas" (Aaron Williams)
Let the Lord enter, he is king of glory...Alstott
- (not one of the best of the Respond and Acclaim Psalm settings, but definitely not one of the worst either)
Advent/Christmas Alleluia...Haas
- (Probably the first, if not only, GOOD work of Haas' I've ever run into. The refrain, anyways. I would have rather used the verse of the day, however, for the verse.)
Lo! how a rose e'er blooming...Es ist ein' ros entsprungen
Mass of Creation...Haugen - (the only blech of the day)
O Holy Mary...Alstott - (by far his BEST work; very nice!)
O come, O come, Emmanuel..."Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" (vv. 7 and 1)

The only thing I would have done differently is extend the intros on the hymns. One short line just isn't enough, IMO. For the opening hymn, which is only short meter (66 86), I would have used a whole verse for an intro. Give the people a chance to hear the tune and open the book. Otherwise, very good!

The organ is a three-manual, 31-rank instrument built by Compagnie Orgues Canadiennes (you guessed it - Canadian Organ Company). I diddled on this organ once a few years back. It's actually an offshoot of Casavant Freres, so I was once told. Dave Sylvester, a good friend of mine, is a former organist there.

Overall, I was very pleased. Musically, it's probably the best that any Pawtucket Catholic parish has!


PS: After Mass, I introduced myself to the curate and gave him the link to a certain podcast. (Ain't I a snark?! tee hee!)

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