We spent the weekend holidaying in Northern France. It was not predominantly a musical weekend, but the in-car CD player meant that we had ample chance to catch up on CD's which we had not listened to for ages (Wallace's Maritana, various Purcell Odes and Welcome Songs, Arvo Part's Passio, Rossini's Armida, Stanford's Piano Concerto) plus a new set, John Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer in the original recording.
We were familiar with the film of the opera, but have never listened to this recording before. What struck me was its toughness. At other times, the choruses have seemed the dominant element, but on first listening in the car (admittedly not ideal circumstances), it was the toughness of the more operatic bits which made an impact.
On Sunday we attended Mass at the Roman Catholic Church opposite our hotel. It was, of course, in the vernacular and the congregational singing was led and conducted from the chancel steps by an animateur. What struck me was how different the service was from the sort of service you might get in a provincial English town.
In England the major prayers are usually said, in fact it is perfectly possible for the entire service to be said, but the service is then punctuated by hymns. The standard English hymnals provide a wide variety of hymns suitable for all times of the church's year, paraphrases of psalms, office hymns etc.
The French model seems to have discounted hymns per se and instead set large chunks of the service itself to music, with the relevant Psalms replaced by responsorial psalms (in fact much of the music was responsorial). The result is a fascinating study in how singing was incorporated into a vernacular service in a tradition which did not include the strong hymn singing common in English services