The music at St James, while always spiritual, ranges from the serenely sublime, as in the quiet of the Gregorian chants, to the super spirited, as in a lively cantata, a spritely Bach gigue, or a soul stirring spiritual, and from old favorites like Palestrina’s heavenly Sicut Cervus, to the weird and wonderful sounds of Pentecost’s bird song or whooshing wind. Last Sunday, however, it was spiritual in a different way. The organ started moaning all on its own (a cipher, that’s called.) When Father Ryan mentioned this happening at a huge papal audience he attended years ago, the moan immediately stopped. Fr. Ryan congratulated himself on his mystical powers, and instantly the sound system let out a shriek. What was up? Speculation is that it was the Cathedral’s first music director, Dr Franklin S Sawyer, who moved the Cathedral’s music program into the big leagues. Dr Palmer, who died in 1935, occasionally becomes restive, and tends to make himself felt by fiddling with the organ or music in some way. You may be skeptical about this, but I assure you that these things happen. For years, I played the organ at the church where I was baptized by my Grandmother’s cousin, Monsignor Ryan – the pastor there for more than three decades. Every year during Holy Week, most often at the Easter Vigil, Monsignor Ryan, who died in 1960, would rise up, and play some sort of joke on me. Unlike Dr. Palmer's antics, Msgr. R's jokes never disrupted the service. I was up I the organ loft, and only the soloist and I were aware of what was happening.
But back to Dr Palmer. Apparently, he has gotten restive in the past, and a group of choir musicians have gone to his grave and sung In Paradisum, the exquisite chant which is sung at the conclusion of every Cathedral Funeral. This usually settles him down. Jim, our director, said, “it’s time!”
And so, Dr Palmer,
“May the angels lead you into paradise…. may the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.”
or, if you prefer,
Picture of Dr Palmer from that best selling, fabulousest graphic history ever, of the Archdiocese of Seattle, A Journey of Faith by the adorable Twins, of course! Thanks to Maria for the other pictures as well.