National Catholic Reporter

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Secular Impoverishment

The Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center is a lovely room but it was entirely unsuitable as a venue for last night's service marking the anniversary of 9/11. The event was originally scheduled for the Washington National Cathedral, but that building was damaged first by the earthquake and then, during a thunderstorm, when a crane repairing the original damage collapsed.

The change of venue affected the entire proceeding. In a cathedral, the singers would have appeared to be offering their music in prayer. On a concert hall stage, they appeared to be performers, and performance is not appropriate at such a time. The President would have delivered his words, which were very fine, from a pulpit, not from a podium that might have been used at the Oscars. The only redeeming moment was when one of the speakers quoted Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete!

There are times when the secular world simply is no match for the sacred. This is especially true of 9/11 commemorations, not least because the attacks were committed in the name of God. The ceremony last night should have been moved to the National Shrine or to St. Matthew's or to the Washington Hebrew Congregation, which is where the worship community at National cathedral has been celebrating its services.

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It is also time that the good people at the Kennedy Center repair or replace the organ in the concert hall which has been reduced to the status of an architectural ornament. There are great organs in virtually every other concert hall in America: Seattle and Dallas have Fisk organs, Walt Disney Hall in LA has a Rosales-Glatter Goltz, San Francisco has a Ruffati, Philadelphia has Dobson, and New York has a Kuhn, to name just a few. Why should our nation's capital have an organ that has become unplayable?

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