I’ve been longing for in-person classical performances for over a year now, and the three venues I always mention are the Walt Disney Concert Hall (LA Phil), Hollywood Bowl (LA Phil), and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (LA Opera). However, today I’d like to mention a fourth that I tend to forget about: the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angles. They used to have free organ recitals every Wednesday. I couldn’t go very often due to scheduling conflicts, but the times I would go it was glorious! Listening to such a powerful instrument fill the vast space of the Cathedral was as if God had entered the room. I am sure this was the effect they were going for when they started adding organs to churches.
As beautiful as those Wednesday recitals were, I would argue that the organ was beautiful when played during mass. For years I went to mass at this Cathedral every week. Having the organ accompany rituals and pageantry developed over millennia is spectacular. I used to half-jokingly say that I regarded mass as a very elaborate performance. I say this with the utmost respect. While mass at smaller churches may be more intimate and community-oriented, mass at the Cathedral is steeped in formality–especially when the archbishop or cardinal would officiate mass. From the beginning procession to the altar to the burning incense, it all tied in so well that you’d almost forget that the music was its own component. Were all the rituals happening because of the music, or was the music happening because of the rituals. This all may be because of my Catholic upbringing, and to someone else, it may not all tie in so well. Regardless, I miss listening to the Cathedral organ, whether it be during Wednesday organ recitals or Sunday mass.