On this calendarepetitive (yes, I can make up words) date (on which I published this blog entry at 12:12 a.m. instead of my usual 12:15), I want to give a shout-out to all the fabulous musical offerings in Kansas City by telling you about a group I'd never heard until this past Friday evening, Musica Sacra.
Not only had I not heard these Rockhurst University-related performers of sacred music but I heard them in a church building I'd never been inside in my more than 42 years in Kansas City, even though I live fairly close to it -- St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, adjacent to the Rockhurst campus.
Friends had tickets for Friday evening's performance but couldn't use them, so at great personal sacrifice my wife and I stepped in. (We owe you, M & D.)
Musica Sacra has been around since 1991, I was surprised to learn. It now performs four concerts each year at St. Francis Xavier, a beautiful facility with excellent acoustics. It also does some other events at such places as Powell Gardens and the Jewish Community Center.
The Musica Sacra website to which I've linked you above will give you links to upcoming events and other information.
With 14 instrumentalists and a 28-voice choir, Musica Sacra offered a variety of Christmas-themed music, including Francesco Manfredini's (1684-1762) "Christmas Concerto," Marc-Antoine Charpentier's (1634-1704) "Messe de Minuit pour Noel" and and a couple of John Rutter pieces.
The sounds were gentle and lovely, and the sanctuary was at least two-thirds full of appreciative listeners.
That's the thing about a city like Kansas City -- it offers way more in top quality music than one person can absorb -- including by groups of which I'm sometimes just barely aware.
* * *
SOLDIERS IN GOD'S ARMY?
Is there constitutionally inappropriate religion in our military academies and, indeed, in the military itself? Author Jeff Sharlet thought so when he wrote a 2009 cover piece for Harper's magazine called "The Crusade for a Christian Military." And New York Times columnist Frank Bruni thinks so in wake of a suit filed by a fourth-year cadet at West Point, who left, as Bruni notes, less than six months shy of graduation. The commander-in-chief should have something to say about this and should come down hard on military leaders who are preaching a particular religion.
* * *
THE BOOK CORNER
Imam al-Ghazali: A Concise Life, by Edoardo Albert. The great Islamic theologian al-Ghazali has been dead for more than 900 years, but he's still influential and worth knowing about. It's hard to imagine ourselves back in the world before, during and right after the First Crusade in the 11th Century, but this lovely little book takes us back there in a believable way, giving us insight not only into the life of this insightful man and his religious journey within Islamic traditions (including Sufism) but also into what life itself was like then. A timeline and a glossary give extra help to non-Muslims interested in this subject. At less than 90 pages and nicely illustrated, it won't take long to read, but good things, as they say, come in small packages. The book won't be officially published for a few weeks but you can pre-order now at the Amazon site to which I've linked you.
* * *
P.S.: My latest National Catholic Reporter column now is online. To read it, click here.