Episode 60 —Princeton Hosts Event Dedicated To St. Cecilia

By Thomas V. Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 09, 2020 | In The Catholic Culture Podcast

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Princeton University recently hosted and paid for a very Catholic event as part of its annual Being Human Festival. It was a several-hour program dedicated to representations of St. Cecilia in poetry, painting and music, exploring how a conversation between these art forms can stir us to wonder and the contemplation of the Divine. The day’s events included singing the Salve Regina and a dinner in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast it was. (Scroll down to see photos and video from the event.)

In the first part of this episode, Thomas and co-host James Majewski lead a roundtable discussion in which event organizer Joe Perez-Benzo, painter Andrew de Sa, and singer Emily de Sa look back at the event and its humanizing/evangelizing effects on participants. Joe explains how he was able to have an explicitly Catholic event funded by an Ivy League university, and offers suggestions as to how other Catholics can replicate this success wherever God has placed them.

In part two, Andrew de Sa and poet James Matthew Wilson have fun reflecting on an unexpected occurrence in which one of Andrew’s paintings inspired a poem by James, which in turn inspired Andrew’s painting of St. Cecilia (unveiled at the Princeton event). The artists only became aware of this mutual inspiration after the fact.

Part I

  • Overview of the festival and the event’s concept [4:32]
  • The religious demographics of the event [12:33]
  • The combination of poems and paintings holding audience attention [15:32]
  • Singing in a secular space filled with sacred art and the dynamic of the visual elements in conjunction with song [18:15]
  • Andrew’s feelings around unveiling his new painting for the event [20:04]
  • Joe’s experience reading Latin classics at the places they describe or sites of their composition—ways of overcoming the modern isolation of works of art in a museum context [22:33]
  • Singing the Salve Regina in “mixed company” [27:25]
  • Getting the Princeton Humanities Council on board with the event, overcoming slight resistance [28:50]
  • Advice for hosting similar events in public spaces or at home [36:38]
  • The involvement of the Carl Schmitt Foundation [40:12]
  • Emily de Sa and Ruth Swope perform ‘Jesu Sweet’ by Gustav Holst [46:00]

Part II

  • The providential influence between Andrew’s paintings and James Matthew Wilson’s poem [48:31]
  • Holding oneself open to inspiration and associations which can make an artwork more dense with meaning [54:46]
  • Theories of literary critics on the relevance of the artist’s intention to the viewer’s interpretation [57:17]
  • Distinguishing art forms in order to unite them [1:01:40]
  • Liturgy as the complete art from which the various art forms flow [1:05:44]

Photos and video:

Time lapse of Andrew de Sa painting his Flight into Egypt mural:

That painting inspired these lines in James Matthew Wilson’s “Hasten To Aid Thy Fallen People”:

But every rising strain must strain indeed

To lend the form to what in truth is light,

And manifest peace as if it’s a deed

And give transcendence some arc of a flight.

The purity of every saint

Will be daubed on with sloppy paint,

And what no thought may comprehend or say

Must be taught in the staging of a play.

Those lines inspired Andrew de Sa’s painting of St. Cecelia, unveiled at the Princeton event:

Joe Perez-Benzo helps tourgoers enter into the mystery of the Incarnation while James Majewski gazes at a medieval depiction:

Emily de Sa and Ruth Swope perform Holst’s Four Songs for Voice and Violin in the beautiful Princeton University Art Museum:

Final panel with Joe Perez-Benzo, Emily de Sa and Andrew de Sa:

Links

Poetry which inspired Andrew de Sa’s St. Cecilia painting: http://studiodesa.com/book

Andrew and Emily de Sa’s website: http://studiodesa.com/

Andrew de Sa on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajdesa/

James Matthew Wilson’s website: https://www.jamesmatthewwilson.com/

Being Human Festival: https://beinghumanfestival.org/

John Dryden, Alexander’s Feast, or The Power of Music (ode to St. Cecilia): http://jacklynch.net/Texts/alexander.html

Carl Schmitt Foundation: https://carlschmitt.org/

James Matthew Wilson, The River of the Immaculate Conception: https://www.wisebloodbooks.com/store/p96/The_River_of_the_Immaculate_Conception.html

Theme music: “Franciscan Eyes”, written and performed by Thomas Mirus.

Thomas V. Mirus is a pianist living in New York City. He is the director of audio media for CatholicCulture.org and hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast. See full bio.

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