23 December 2013

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

Noëls Made New Again*
     Illuminating the world through music is a familiar aspect of the Christmas season.  As a child I could barely contain the excitement and anticipation that came with carol singing: early morning choir practices at school, preparations for the Sunday School Pageant, and playing favourite Christmas records on the HiFi at home all conspired to impress joyfulness on my childish heart.  A notable favourite was a recording of French carols and what I could not understand linguistically was communicated to me through the irrepressible exuberance of the melodies and voices.
     These dance-like themes are wonderfully displayed in this year's Christmas Eve Mass setting by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704).  As a young man, Charpentier left Paris to study music in Rome and returned three years later, inspired by the relatively new forms of opera and oratorio and able to synthesize the Italian and French styles effortlessly.  He was highly competent in all the musical genres of the day, but was destined to struggle for recognition at the court of Louis XIV and in the popular theatre due to the monopoly held by the more famous and powerful Jean-Baptiste Lully.  After the death of his patroness, Mlle de Guise, he dedicated his attention to sacred music -- for which he is still best remembered -- at a time when most serious composers had stopped composing new masses.  His method was to approach the Mass in the musical language of the secular and vernacular motet, and this ability to combine popular and liturgical forms was timely and effective.
     The Messe de Minuit pour Noël was composed circa 1690 for the Jesuit Church of St. Louis in Paris where he was mâitre de musique.  It is entirely based on a group of traditional French noëls (carols) cleverly arranged together with some newly-composed material and crafted into the text of the Mass.  The focus on the Christ-child is enhanced by the address to the newborn Jesus throughout the setting; the contrasting of upper and lower voices along with the additional voices of the orchestra (flutes, strings and organ) also contribute to the liturgical structure. 
     The integration of various carols into a sacred context was common in the day.  But then individual carols might be sung separately, or else used as a springboard for ornamentation and parody.  In a display of originality, Charpentier based the entire Mass on these beloved melodies while maintaining their integrity and developing the connective harmonizations out of the carols themselves.  With their themes of simple country life and child-like trust and joy incorporated into the liturgy of a deeply spiritual feast day, the noëls were made new again.
     Although very little of his music was published in his lifetime, it has since seen a significant revival in the late twentieth century -- a renewal.  He remains accessible to modern musicians and audiences alike and is currently the most recorded French composer of the Baroque period.
     Charpentier's work is being performed this year at St. James' Midnight Mass of Christmas. 

* PAX: No. 21, Christmas 2013

30 September 2013

Selected Articles From PAX Quarterly Magazine

No. 3468 - 14 Aug 2013 - 06:35:45

250 Powell Street*

     Reconciliation is a weighty word.  It implies action and outcome, and requires courage, vision, rectification, commitment and cooperation.  The act of making things work better and establishing friendly relations is its foundation, achieved principally through listening.
     In the spirit of the times, Vancouver City Council is involved in the reconciling of its architectural and planning past, with a $2 million grant awarded to a project on St. James' very doorstep in which a former jail will be transformed into real homes.
     Anyone who has looked out the windows of the Bishops' Room on Gore Avenue may have noted the brick and concrete edifice across the way.  Richard Henriquez designed this striking and unique building in 1972 for use as the Remand Centre.  The former jail has been empty for over a decade; and for just as long, it has been the vision and goal of his son (and lead designer of the Woodward's redevelopment), Gregory Henriquez, to re-purpose this building into quality mixed-income housing.
     After years of discussion and negotiation with collaborators, a plan was formed so that a provincial asset could be recycled into a community asset, and new social housing built at a fraction of the cost of a new building.  The project is slated to begin early in 2014, with BC Housing providing the major funding and the Bloom Group (former St. James' Community Service Society) overseeing management: anticipated completion by mid-2015.
     250 Powell Street will have seven floors of housing with 81 studio units and 14 one-bedroom units, for a mix of people on income-assistance, working individuals, and couples with low to moderate incomes.  An additional 37 units will be run by ACCESS BladeRunners who assist mostly aboriginal, homeless youth aged 15-30 with life-skills and work-ready training for the construction industry.  Their participation in this community project deepens the level of social commitment and increases the likelihood of success for those at greatest risk in the Downtown Eastside.
     The on-going competition for available rental space and real estate is heating up, as the downtown core continues to redefine and revitalize itself while at the same time putting pressure on issues of accessibility, inclusivity and affordability.  Although the area is in the grip of a transformation, it remains to be seen if those in power are motivated to embrace the disparate and incompatible elements and reconcile a balance that benefits all. 
     This creative rapprochement of city, province, designers and social service societies is poised to benefit the community at large, and provides a timely contribution to the momentum of this Year of Reconciliations.

*  Previously published in PAX: Michaelmas 2013

03 September 2013

How To Rebrand The Remand

 No. 0215 - 10 Jul 2012 - 08:40:10

No. 0271 - 18 Jul 2012 - 21:34:09


Over the next year we will be witnessing the transformation of this former jail on Gore and Cordova  into "housing that makes caring homes" under the watchful eye of The Bloom Group (formerly known as The St. James Community Service Society).

01 January 2013

Untitled New Year

No. 6781 - 01 Jan 2013 - 07:42