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So, yeah, we made it to the first ever Irish festival in Knoxville – it was okay, but let’s hope future years expands the Irish-related vendors and booths. There just wasn’t a lot to it. Which is too bad, considering the history of the Irish in the area, briefly outlined here – something that speaks to me as I remember all the Clancy’s and O’Connor’s with whom I went to school and who were all related to each other, it seemed.
There were, be assured, wooden swords, crossbows and shields, which intrigued several of our party. I’ll let you guess who.
After that, it was back to the zoo for a bit for a dip in the cleverly named “Kid’s Cove”  (a la Cades Cove – get it?), which is the very neat little children’s play area that features a bit of a faux mountain stream, a cabin-like play structure and a sand area plopped down amid the farm animals – and a pretty interesting beaver exhibit.
On the way out of town on Sunday, I did what several hereabouts (“here” being “Blog Land”) have been nagging me to do for several years now – Go to St. John Neumann. It’s amazing what they’re doing.
Please understand that St. John Neumann would not be on my regular route while visiting Knoxville, it being on the far west side of town and my family manse being on the far east. But since we were leaving, it made sense to arrange our Mass-going at St. John’s en route.
I’ve linked to news about their new church construction before, but seeing it all in person leaves quite an impression.
Here you go:
Yes, that is a newly-constructed church and yes, it was taken in 2008. Promise.
They’re moving in later this fall, and from what I see from the bulletin, they wouldn’t mind donations from anyone with the means who’d like to support this bit of Romanesque in East Tennessee.
Since the church isn’t open yet, Mass is being celebrated in the school gym. So once again, as I have so many times in Knoxville, I went to Mass in the gym. But this one was different. There was no James Taylor or Simon and Garfunkel. And not even any Weston Priory monk-sounds, God bless them.
First, they’ve constructed a sanctuary that sort of juts back from the gymn wall – the walls of the area are brick, and it is clearly set apart (perhaps there is a portable divider that closes it off when Mass isn’t going on. I don’t know.) That helps.
Secondly, and most importantly, was the music. Undaunted by the environment, there was a choir of about 25 persons, an organist (portable electronic with a good sound) and 2 violinists.
I’m not going to give you a list of what they sang, because I don’t remember titles, but here was what was so impressive to me:
1) The music was complex, multi-faceted, but did not overwhelm or call attention to itself. It was rich but subdued and served God through the liturgy.
2) Latin and chant were in evidence. Sanctus and Agnus Dei. A beautiful piece  sung by two women, at Communion. (I know I have blog readers who were there, and if you can provide a list, feel free! Please also tell me what the second Communion piece was – centered on Jesus’ words about going to Galilee – I’d like to post it.)  
(Update: Thanks to  Mary Weaver who posts in the comments: 
The chant at Communion was the Communio, the proper antiphon from the Graduale Romanum. It changes each Sunday and feast day, and the Latin text of the antiphon is typically a quotation from the Gospel reading. Gail-Marie Walter and I chant the Communio each Sunday.
The second song, chanted by Karen Balo, was plainsong from By Flowing Waters, an excellent English version of the Graduale Simplex by Paul Ford. )
3) The propers flowed seemlessly in and out of the spoken words. No gaudy, prolonged introductions.
4) The Responsorial was done in a way that I’d not heard, but that Michael tells me is an option that more are becoming aware of, particularly since it evokes some elements of the Liturgy of the Hours: the response was chanted twice at the beginning, the soloist chanted the entire Psalm through, and then the response was chanted again. I thought it was very conducive to prayer.
Mad, mad props to Mr. Noel Jones, who is the music director at St. John’s – they have a good website for their music ministry here, and if you are in East Tennesse wanting to sing some good music – I’m sure they’d love to have you.
After Mass, I spoke a bit to Mr. Jones, as well as long-time blog reader and correspondent Toni Pacitti, who is now blogging at Living Al Dente: Food for Thought on Faith, Family, Friends, Food and Fitness. It was great to meet her, even though when she approached me, I really did think she was someone I went to high school with…and said as much, idiotically. But no! It was great to finally meet Toni. I was also glad to finally meet the pastor, Fr. John Dowling.
Unfortunately, just a few minutes later, as we were eating lunch, darkness descended as news broke of the shooting at the Unitarian church back in town. Horrific and heartbreaking and, like all such evil, impossible to understand.

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