• A Distant Echo of God’s Word

Yesterday I finished writing the programme notes for a forthcoming visit of the Polish Radio Choir from Kraków.  Between 5 and 8 November, the choir is giving concerts at Durham Cathedral, King’s Place in London, St George’s in Bristol and in St George’s Hall Concert Room in Liverpool.  The programmes, under the title ‘Polish Spirituals’, commemorate Henryk Mikolaj Górecki, who died on 12 November last year.  For more details and an introductory essay by Ed McKeon, please follow the link to the tour web site, set up by the UK organisers, Third Ear.

Late in the day, I remembered a particular passage from a homily by Pope John-Paul II that Górecki admired.  The Pope was speaking at a Mass for Artists in Brussels on 20 May 1985.  So here it is, with Górecki’s little postscript, as a tribute to both men and their vision of what it means to be an artist.

Each authentic work of art interprets the reality beyond sensory perception.  It is born of silence, admiration, or the protest of an honest heart.  It tries to bring closer the mystery of reality.  So what constitutes the essence of art is found deep within each person.  It is there where the aspiration to give meaning to one’s life is accompanied by the fleeting sense of beauty and the mysterious unison of things.  Authentic and humble artists are perfectly well aware, no matter what kind of beauty characterises their handiwork, that their paintings, sculptures or creations are nothing else but the reflection of God’s Beauty.  No matter how strong the charm of their music and words, they know that their works are only a distant echo of God’s Word.

Górecki quoted these words at the Catholic University of America, in Washington D.C., on 28 February 1995, adding:

Those words are perfect: you can neither add to them nor take anything away.  Just think deeply about the sense of those words.

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