Research in Europe

By Tony Barr, EAI Archivist

The purpose of this trip was to investigate Huijbers’ claims that his reforms of the liturgies of the Amsterdam Dominicuskerk had been inspired by the church of Saint-Séverin in Paris during the 1940s. This led to his praxis of ritual music, outlined in his landmark 1969 volume Door podium en zaal tegelijk – Between the Podium and Room Together, translated in the early 1970s with the unfortunate title of The Performing Audience. My quest was two-fold: to explore the history of the church of Saint-Séverin, and to explore the practices of three 3 European areas (The Netherlands, France, England) to the challenge of Vatican II about building liturgy around ritual music. Ritual Music proved to be the thread which ran through all of my research.

Ritual music is a more precise description of the music of worship than Liturgical Music. Ritual music is focused on integrating the assembly into the actual occasions of worship, whose active and conscious participants shapes the rites being celebrated. Liturgical music is a broader description of the music which often merely accompanies these rites rather than embedding them.

1. The Netherlands


Since 2016, I have used Nijmegen as a base for four reasons. While studying theology in the 1960s during the post-conciliar years in the UK, I visited an Augustinian monastery (which is no longer there) whose experimental Boskapel (wooden chapel in the woods) was a center for experimental patterns of worship. Secondly, it was there that I first met Huijbers in 1968. Thirdly, it is home to the Huijbers archives. And fourthly, Ad de Keyzer, Huijbers’ one- time teaching colleague, lives there.

a)  NKDC Archives
The NKDC (The Dutch National Catholic Documentation Center) is in the library of Radboud University, the Netherlands’ major Catholic university where Schillebeeck was a one-time member of staff. I connected with archivist Vefie Poels in 2016, and have introduced both Tom Löwenthal (Huijbers’ most accomplished students) and Arjan van Baest (current Dominicuskerk director of music) to her and these archives.

I found no significant reference to Saint-Séverin there, but I did find extensive references to Universa Laus, which Huijbers had founded with Joseph Gelineau, and four of France’s leading liturgists and ritual musicians.

b)  Ad de Keyzer
Ad de Keyzer, one-time colleague and member of Huijbers’ teaching staff at the Utrecht School of Church Music, became Professor of Spirituality at Radboud, in the Carmelite Titus Brandus Institute, retiring earlier this year. He has written two seminal studies for my Huijbers’ book, In Assembly Together. He introduces Huijbers by including a quotation from the Patristics about it being impossible to find a Name for the Deity; and he brought a significant closure to Huijbers’ ‘half essay’ about formula technique and vocality.

He emphasizes the importance of ritual music through which the assembly takes ownership of worship. His own place of weekly worship, the Carmelite community with many local parishioners, uses only ritual music (mainly Huijbers and Löwenthal).

We also discussed plans for hosting a Symposium in 2022 at Collegeville and in Baltimore to honor both the centenary of Huijbers’ birth and the inauguration of the Huijbers-Oosterhuis Archives in St John’s Alcuin Library.


a)  The Rode Hoed
Ekklesia Amsterdam is the Oosterhuis community which, in 2002 evolved from the Studentenekklesia, the radical community from the mid 1960s which developed in tandem with its sister church, the Dominicus. I was bearing gifts for Huub Oosterhuis from the Bob Albright’s Maryland house church, and also selections of my own writings about him. But, at age 86, he was indisposed for health reasons, and so delegated Kees Kok, his one-time p.a. to take his place. Huub still continues to write, and he had left me a copy of his most recent publication, Een weg van dagen

– A Path Through The Days, a selection of 365 reflections, one for each day of the year. Finally, we evaluated the early-stage planning of the 2022 Symposium.

b) The Dominicuskerk
The most significant aspect of the week in The Netherlands was time spent with Arjan van Baest, music director of the D’kerk. A new music director was appointed after Easter, Evert van Merode, on the retirement of Thom Jansen. Arjan, with Evert’s support, has begun restoring ritual song to the community, mainly in the music of Tom Löwenthal. His new requirement is that all subsequent composers should follow this model of writing, as a trialogue between leader, choir and assembly.

A second meeting was on Thursday, where we evaluated his chapter for the book about developments in the D’kerk, focusing on his analysis of ritual song. We then compared notes on his planned Huijbers symposium for 2020 or 2021 in the D’kerk and ours for 2022. His intention is to explore integrated music as through-settings for the rites. As our discussion on ritual music was unfolding, I used the analogy from Quantum Physics about entanglement and superimposition to describe how people bonded at the ritual level, reinforced by a recent article in Worship Magazine on Entangled with God, we were joined by other core members of the weekly liturgy planning team meeting, and for over an hour I held the floor. They then began critiquing the previous Sunday’s liturgy, listening to proposals by the upcoming week’s homilist, and agreeing on the music.

2. France

To understand the importance of the Saint-Séverin, I found it necessary to discover the history of the church and that of the surrounding ancient churches in the 5th and 6th arrondissements. They are all part of the spiritual fabric of the place I’d come to research.


In the 1940s, the new archbishop of Paris, Emmanuel Suhard, to reconnect with those alienated from the Church, mandated that Saint-Séverin should change its ecclesiology to better serve the Sorbonne University for which it was responsible. This resulted in turning the altar to face the people, giving the voice of song to the assembly and not the choir, and adopting the wave of new vernacular open-form songs and chants which had begun appearing in the late 1930s. His successor Maurice Feltin mandated a return to the old order of the Roman (Latin) Rite, and to this day, the clergy are still Roman in their style of celebration, using the French Roman Missal with enthusiastic vigor. The assembly, however, has kept its grasp of rightful ownership of its music and the open- form ritual chants and songs to empower this.

Friday evening began with the Liturgy of the Hours, sung a capella by a seminarian cantor (of whom there are 9) and assembly. All sang the psalms and open-form songs, a gathering of around 60 people, in the spacious Mansart side chapel, the place of weekday Mass. The psalm chants were from the seminary hymnal, while the open-form songs (by Deiss and others), and familiar acclamations came from the parish’s repertoire. Sung Eucharist followed, and singing was whole-hearted.

Saint-Séverin church was founded in the 6th Century by the royal prince-turned hermit Clodoald or Cloud (pronounced ‘Klu’) on the death of his mentor, the abbot Sèverin. Fleeing the murderous intent of his uncle King Childerbert, Cloud hid in the forests of Paris, taking the monastic habit from the hermit Séverin, and after being ordained a priest, founded his own monastic community south west of the city, now the suburb of Saint-Cloud. His Romanesque building was

ransacked by the Vikings in the 11th Century, rebuilt in the Gothic style in the 13th, damaged by fire in the 15th, rebuilt in its present late-Gothic style, turned into a storage shed during the French Revolution in the 18th, and returned to worship in the mid 19th, when it was classified as an historic monument and so eligible for financial maintenance support from the country’s Ministry for Culture, the parish council, and the team of priests.

Saturday vigil and Sunday morning Liturgies were well-attended, characterized by only ritual song. The organ is used in France as an independent liturgical voice. In 1963, the organ was renovated under the direction of resident organist Michel Chapuis, the romantic voice being re-tuned in a neo-classical style to support the singing assembly. This was planned years before the Vatican Council’s Liturgy Constitution. A Lucien Deiss gathering song was followed by all the missal chants, led by a competent animateur (cantor), the psalm being sung from the ambo by a psalmist. Since the assembly claimed its singing role in the 1940s, there is no regular choir, other than for major feasts. But in the French manner, the organ played during many of the occasions when we would have songs, including after the homily (reflecting the quality of the homilist!) The assembly participated through reflective silence during the preparation of the gifts, the communion, and at the final dismissal. Apart from the ritual songs of the missal and lectionary, there is an opening chant and a similar-style song after communion. Sunday evening was different, a more ‘populist’ celebration, with closed-form songs. After liturgy, all gathered in the cloister garden (former cemetery) for coffee and friendship.

The parish has 3 titular organists, official positions protected by the cultural preservation of the old French churches. The 1905 law of the separation of Church and State, protected all churches built before 1905 as the property of the State. Those built after are the property of the diocesan bishop. Two of these organistes titulaires enjoy international fame, and travel great distances to Paris. Francois Espinasse lives 300 miles away in Lyons, where he is professor of organ studies. And Véronique Leguen travels 350 miles from Southwest Brittany, where she is professor at the Academy of Music and sacred Arts at Sainte-Anne-d’Auray. Hi-speed trains (TGVs) are the way to get around. There are no hymnals in the church. The musicians play and lead from the familiar Repertoire de Saint-Séverin 30-year record of music ‘at the service of the assembly’. Incidental music for assembly and cantor is provided via song sheets at the entrance. The planning team selects an entire year’s music in one sitting.

a) Notre Dame
The cathedral is of comparable age to Saint-Séverin, and founded at the same time by Cloud’s uncle, King Childebert. It sits on the site of a Gallo-Roman temple to Juno. Its present Gothic structure was begun in the 12th Century, about the time of Saint-Séverin’s rebuilding following Viking destruction. Reconstruction is now taking place following the fire of April 15, its assembly having dispersed to the neighboring churches of Saint-Germain-Auxerrois, Saint- Sulpice, and to a smaller extent Saint-Séverin. Amazingly, the stonework didn’t crack, so the twin towers and walls are still standing.

b)  Saint-Germain-Des-Près
The 6th Century King Clovis, grandfather of Cloud, unified the Frankish tribes and established Christianity, eradicating Arianism, as the unifying force. On his death, his kingdom was divided between his various sons, and Childebert inherited the lands from Paris to the Dutch border to Brittany and the English channel. Childebert, continuing his father’s work, established the large and extremely wealthy abbey of Saint-Vincent, as a monastery for Saint Germain, bishop of Paris. As a contemporary of Benedict, Germain adopted primitive monasticism for his community. After his death, the monastery was renamed Saint-Germain-Des-Près. A short distance from Saint- Séverin, the monastery expanded in what was once pastureland outside the old city walls. This may well be regarded as the mother church of Paris, as the burial place of the line of Merovingian Kings founded by Clovis.

I spoke at length with a sacristan about the history of the abbey and its influence on the intellectual and spiritual life of the City.

c)  Saint-Sulpice
Originally a 13th Century Romanesque church, the current building dates to the 17th an d 18th Centuries.

Saint-Sulpice is the only church in Paris comparable in size to Notre Dame cathedral. It hosts major musical events, and the choir of Notre Dame with their organist Olivier Latry have turned increasingly to this space since the April fire. The church forms an almost equilateral triangle with Saint-Séverin and Saint-Germain-Des-Près. Famous organists have included Charles-Marie Widor (1870–1933), Marcel Dupré (1934–1971), and currently Daniel Roth (since 1985). Across the street is La Procure, offering the largest collection in Paris of liturgical and religious books, cultural objects, and CDs and DVDs.

d)  Saint-Étienne du-Mont
The hill of the Blvd Saint Jacques, marking the eastern perimeter of Saint-Séverin, leads uphill past the Sorbonne and Institute Catholique to Saint-Étienne du-Mont, a neighbor to the one- time church of the Pantheon.

             This church was home to organist and composer Maurice Duruflé, from 1929 until his death in 1986. I found a complete collection of his organ works played on the same instrument by Olivier Latry of Notre Dame, and also a recording of his Requiem Mass made in this church; I have sung this work, a choral rendition based on the traditional Gregorian chants of the Missa pro Defunctis. I lingered in this building for a long time, absorbing its history, breathing its air, drinking in its acoustic, and hearing the music in my mind.

e) Saint Eustache
Saint Eustache is not an old church from the Latin Quarter, but also enjoys a significant history. In the 1st arrondissement, across the Seine on the right bank and past Notre Dame, it is arguably the most beautiful church in Paris.

The present building took place between 1532 and 1632, a mixture of many architectural styles. Its façade is in the Gothic style, its interior is both Renaissance and Classical. During the Revolution, it was desecrated and used as a barn. It was re-opened in 1795.

Many celebrated Parisians are connected with this church. Louis XIV made his First Communion there in 1649. There Cardinal Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson (Madame de Pompadour), and Molière were baptized, and Molière was also married there. Mozart held his mother’s funeral there. Among all the main Paris churches, this had become a center of liturgical excellence in terms of the music of celebrations and the prominence of the roles of the assembly in this vast and lofty spaces.

3. England

Bill Tamblyn

From the early 1970s, Bill had been a colleague and disciple of Bernard Huijbers, and we continue to work together on translating, promoting and recording Huijbers’ music. Bill is currently assembling his archives for inclusion in the Collegeville Huijbers collection. We are also attempting to assemble a collection of the St Thomas More Centre for Pastoral Liturgy archives, since we were each actively involved there in production and workshops, Bill from the outset, and I in the mid 1970s as parish music director. This collection includes the earliest Huijbers translations but also the music of those from the group who were influenced the most by Huijbers in their own compositions. Bernadette Farrell and James Walsh in particular stand out in this area.

Bill has provided two key articles for my Huijbers book, an evaluation of the impact of Huijbers on the fledgling British scene, and an essay reflecting on the Polycultural Voice of the People. He also is a treasure trove of information on the classical references in Huijbers’ music, ranging from Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in G Minor to Borodin and his subsequent influence on Ravel, from Gregorian chant to Chopin and Scriabin. And Bill, whose dissertation was on Eclecticism and the Beatles, points all to the rich influence they had on Huijbers’ compositions in the mid 1960s to draw the contemporary idiom into the liturgical space.

Bernard had a keen ear for ethnomusicology, from the music of China to that of the Native American Indians of New Mexico. Bill is a constant reminder that Bernard, forever the pioneer, cautioned his followers to never think they had ‘arrived’ because there was always new and different frontiers to be reached. In the few days spent with him, we spoke extensively about John Haught’s theology of an anticpatory universe. We also lamented the regrettable state of liturgical music in the UK, driven by publishers with little interest in or knowledge about ritual music. Bill’s entire life has been to illustrate the power of ritual music through his compositions and praxis in both Anglican and Roman parishes.

Bishop Auckland and the Diocesan Clergy of (Partnership E)
Leaving Colchester, I was guest of classmate Dennis Tindall, now pastor of St Mary’s and adjacent parishes of Bishop Auckland.

Dennis had arranged a Friday evening gathering of the pastors of his Partnership. All remembered me from my days of working in the diocese from 1970-1974, and were still singing my compositions from a variety of hymnals still in use around the diocese. The general lament was that the songs from the 1970s and 1980s no longer served the liturgy. People enjoyed singing their favorite songs, but none of these touched on the drama of Liturgy, serving merely as wallpaper, and as useful as elevator music. Little else was available.

Saturday evening Liturgy was reasonably well-attended, with enthusiastic singing of well- worn hymns and songs from tired old songbooks, led by Dennis the presider. He has done a good job everywhere he’s been in getting an assembly to sing. The singing was a capella, but the Liturgy the next morning was led by an organist in the choir loft, out of sight from the assembly.

On Saturday, there was an inter-church gathering of Clergy, and I was seated next to Paul Butler, the Anglican Bishop of Durham and potentially in line for Canterbury. I discussed my involvement in the Cathedral during my years studying theology, that at the invention of the then bishop, Ian Ramsey, I had led a form of Evening Prayer modeled on the form developed by Joseph Gelineau. One person of note at this gathering was the millionaire Jonathan Ruffer, an investment banker from London who had underwritten the renovation of Bishop Auckland Castle, installed art galleries in the town, had instigated a major festival detailing the entire history of the Northeast of England in a massive internationally-acclaimed annual 3-month outdoor pageant called Kinrin (Saxon for family), and had just agreed to underwrite a Passion drama tableau for the town market square on Good Friday.

Sunday evening saw an innovative Advent Liturgy, a Lucernarium which I had devised in the mid 1970 for the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy.

Later that night, we were joined by Jim O’Keefe, pastor of St Bede Church in Washington Township, Sunderland, the ancestral hearth of the de Wessington family which came across with William the Conqueror. George Washington was descended from this line, as John emigrated to Virginia in 1656, settling on farmland above the Potomac that one day would be called Mt. Vernon. His great-grandson was George. After ordination, Jim refused the parish the bishop had for him and embarked on a journey of immersion in the Churches of Latin America and the same liberation theology which was the background of Pope Francis. Since returning to the diocese, Jim has been national advisor to CAFOD (the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development), rector of the seminary and most lately the coordinator of the radical reorganization of the diocese into partnership zones.

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral, the first to be completed after the 11th Century Norman Conquest, is a Benedictine shrine for Saints Cuthbert of Lindisfarne, and Bede of Wearmouth and Jarrow. To know about Durham Cathedral, Cuthbert and especially Bede is to get a glimpse into my soul. The history and spirituality which are alive in this part of the world, their vibrancy and the solidity are at the basis of my quest for preserving and handing on the story of Bernard Huijbers and Huub Oosterhuis.

Newcastle and Sean Hall
Sean Hall, a priest of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, is responsible for Clergy in- service formation. But he remarked on the lack of liturgical education available to them, and as a result the importance of singing the rites of worship was a foreign subject to them. Not many had relinquished their role as controllers of worship, even choosing the hymns for the Mass. This was an accurate statement of the situation nationwide. As in the States, the UK had fallen victim to the commercial interests of the publishers. The Society of Saint Gregory, once highly-active in the diocese while I was still there, had become moribund and completely disassociated from the needs of the diocese. In recent correspondence with the Editor, I was informed that Music & Liturgy was not an academic journal but simply a newsletter (what news, I wondered), and in my opinion was doing little if anything to foster liturgical education. I’ve had articles on Huijbers and Oosterhuis published by them over the years, but a recent article on the international significance of the Collegeville Archives has been questioned as being of little interest.

The diocese is in an exciting  phase of transition, the only one in the country to abandon the traditional parochial structure in favor of a network of partnerships. This area of reformation needs ritual music, because if Liturgy is not at the heart of renewal, it would be merely administrative and not supporting the vision of Vatican II.

In Conclusion
Ritual song joins us in step with the drama of those ancient pilgrims singing their way into God’s presence, while simultaneously drawing God into the heart of the assembly. They are the call to Covenant and the response by the people to that call, the invitation and the challenge to live out the mandate of Genesis 1:28-31, that we should become co-creators in anticipating a Universe in the birth pangs of its journey to perfection. This is the call we hear, which awaits our response.