A miracle at our monastery! Several of us musicians, accompanied by Ed Turley of the CSB/SJU Music Department, traveled to Minneapolis several weeks ago to look at and, with luck, to select a Steinway upright piano for our chapel, replacing the one in use. Our space and our budget, made possible through a few very generous donors, limited us to an upright. What we didn’t know was that there was a 5’4” Steinway grand for resale that was just waiting for us to select it for Sacred Heart Chapel! How did we recognize it—by sound and sight. The sound is mellow and resonant and beautiful; the wood is walnut. Our chapel has a classic simplicity and the wood is light.
The piano was built in the mid-1980s but had been played only rarely over the years. We think it is no coincidence that our chapel was renovated in the early 80s, and that our Noack organ was built and installed in the mid-80s. Together these kindred instruments will surround and enhance our liturgical celebrations with beautiful sound.
Someone who is certainly celebrating with us in eternity is Mother Willibalda Scherbauer, our first prioress, an accomplished pianist and organist. She is remembered as hoping that the Sisters’ liturgy in the new Minnesota foundation would become as beautiful as what she had known in the monastery in Eichstätt, Bavaria.
There is no doubt that music is an integral part of our community worship—Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharist. At almost any time of day as you pass by the rehearsal room, Sacred Heart Chapel, or the oratory you are almost certain to hear someone practicing—cantors, organists, pianists, schola; or the entire community learning a new hymn or antiphon.
Benedict tells us in the Rule that “nothing is to be preferred to the Work of God” (43). He was one who understood the value of practice; none were to perform who could not “edify their hearers” (38). It does make one stand up straight when recalling the psalm quotation in the chapter on psalmody (19): “In the presence of the angels I will sing to you.”
We take comfort, however, that Benedict said his rule is for beginners (73). No matter how many years we have been praying together, we can always begin anew. And now we have a piano with a beautiful tone to assist us in our prayer. Mother Willibalda, we wish you could have accompanied and performed on a piano such as we now enjoy in Sacred Heart Chapel.
photos: Above, S. Dolores Super plays the piano during the Eucharist on Sunday, June 20, 2010. She is accompanied by Elisa Ugarte on guitar and the monastery schola. Below, movers bring the piano into Sacred Heart Chapel.