Thursday, April 10, 2008

William F. Buckley, Jr. Memorial Service, Part II

Every seat (all 2200 of them) in St. Patrick's Cathedral was filled for William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Memorial Service last Friday, according to the New York Times article. We're still waiting for the video to be available on C-Span's website, but it hopefully won't be long.

We noted in our last piece commemorating the day of the service that the past few weeks seemed like a good time to re-read Overdrive and to read Cruising Speed for the first time.

For those who aren't familiar with those two books, they were experiments in a new type of autobiography -- Buckley preferred to call them "documentaries." For each book he chose a week in his life, and basically told everything he did, reported on every conversation, recounted his correspondence, and occasionally indulged in a reminiscence that an event brought to mind.

Each week, of course, included a Sunday and Buckley's attendance at Mass. And each book at that point (the first written in 1970 and the second in 1983) contains an understated but poignant lament by Buckley about all that had been lost in Catholic worship services since the changes of Vatican II. It is good that Buckley lived long enough to see the beginnings of a revival of the Latin Mass that he had loved and lost, and it sounds as though this memorial mass would have been to his taste:

(His son, Christopher Buckley) noted that the elaborate Mass — with incense, choir, organ and a dozen or so priests — might be thought of as a dress rehearsal for the visit of Pope Benedict XVI later this month.

And there was, of course, Buckley's beloved Bach -- one of the things that he had always said would have to be present at his funeral. Appropriately, it was that magnificent piece of music that Buckley chose as the theme for his long-running television program, "Firing Line."

As the Mass ended, and the congregants swept out of the cathedral, the familiar music echoed among the pillars: a recording of that third movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, played very joyful and fast.

For anyone who hasn't had the pleasure lately, here is that movement, with the trumpet played by the incomparable Maurice Andre:

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