Sacred Music Colloquium 2009

By Cunningham, W. Pat; Cunningham, Carolyn | Sacred Music, Fall 2009 | Go to article overview

Sacred Music Colloquium 2009

Cunningham, W. Pat, Cunningham, Carolyn, Sacred Music

The 2009 Colloquium of the Church Music Association of America, held at Loyola University of Chicago in late June, was from any point of view an awe-inspiring event. Attendance at the week-long forum, sponsored by CMAA, has increased from a handful of participants a decade ago to two hundred fifty. Chicago hosted the industry-financed National Association of Pastoral Musicians to a much larger attendance in July, but with the church's liturgical and doctrinal attention focused on two popes' message of a "hermeneutic of continuity," and the resurgence across the United States of the extraordinary form of the Mass, the CMAA's consistent promotion of Gregorian chant and the treasury of sacred music over three centuries begins to look both more prophetic and more coherent with the decrees of the Second Vatican Council.

Colloquium participants came from all over the United States and Canada, and even flew in from Australia. Most were born since the council, young, energetic, and eager to learn. Among the eight highly qualified conductors teaching beginners to advanced students the art of chant and polyphony, were Denver and Cleveland's Dr. Horst Buchholz, CMAA president Professor William Mahrt of Stanford, Scott Turkington, and Arlene Oost-Zinner, who was also a major organizer of the event. The vast majority of the music sung at the conference was from the traditional Latin repertoire. A new music forum, featuring liturgical music composed by attendees, showcased over a dozen compositions in both English and Latin. Much of the new choir music had a twenty-first-century look and feel. Julianna Horton's six-voice "first composition since college," a setting of Anima Christi, absolutely electrified the attendee-chorus.

There were five different chant choirs for attendees to choose from: beginners, intermediate men, intermediate women, advanced men, and advanced women. Catholics not familiar with Gregorian chant often assume that it can only be mastered or managed by professional singers. Historically, of course, hundreds of generations of barely literate monks and nuns learned to sing it through the centuries, and many of these prayed the chant either by heart or with only a text to sing from. As a modern witness to the ease and beauty of the chant, the beginner choir sang both an introit and a full communion, with verses, after only a few hours of training and rehearsal. The intermediate and advanced choirs handled some highly melismatic graduals, tracts, and Alleluias during each of the six sung Masses of the colloquium.

Only one of the colloquium Masses, the first one, was predominantly in English, using the ordinary form. The introit, offertory, and communion antiphons prescribed for the twelfth Sunday of the year were sung in English, using the chant setting of Fr. Samuel Weber and a non-ICEL translation of the text. The Ordinary of the Mass was from Dr. Theodore Marier's setting in Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles. Ms. Oost-Zinner's Responsorial Psalm, He Who Does Justice, available at the Chabanel Psalm website, was also prayed. Although the Mass was celebrated versus populum, the primacy of Christ, rather than the celebrant, was symbolically assured by the positioning of a crucifix and six Mass candles between celebrant and congregation. This method of versus populum celebration has been rightly championed by the pope and many bishops.

A high point of the colloquium was the celebration of Mass for the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, entirely in Latin. The Ordinary Form was prayed under the leadership of Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I., Archbishop of Chicago. Several priests of the CMAA, most of them young, concelebrated with him. Wilko Brouwers, of the Monteverdi Kamerkoor, Utrecht, directed Ecce Sacerdos Magnus--the traditional fanfare for a bishop--by Tomas Luis de Victoria. The entire congregation sang the Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) from the CMAA's popular book The Parish Book of Chant: the lovely Mass IV was used. …

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