Sep 15, 2010

Sacred Music Colloquium XX

Online Edition:
September 2010
Vol. XVI, No. 6

Sacred Music
Colloquium XX

by Jeffrey Tucker

The twentieth Sacred Music Colloquium, sponsored by the Church Music Association of America (CMAA), lived up to its reputation as the finest training program in Catholic music in the United States. It was held June 22-27 at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — with cooperation from the Mary Pappert School of Music.

Colloquium XX was attended by 250 musicians, the largest attendance in its twenty-year history. It also had the largest faculty of any previous year, with conductors for chant and polyphonic choirs, lecturers on history and theology, teachers on liturgical issues, instructors for vocal technique, and professors tutoring organists, singers, and priests in the techniques required of Catholic musicians.

The purpose of the program is to train musicians for leadership roles in their parishes, so that they can provide music as part of the Roman Rite. The high-spirited attendees of all ages and from all parts of the country agreed that the program was a spectacular success. The participants sang in both chant and polyphonic choirs in liturgical services during the week. Duquesne University also offered graduate credit for attending this program and the related program on chant a week earlier.

Distinguished Music Faculty

The primary conductors for the week were CMAA president William Mahrt (Stanford University), Wilko Brouwers (The Netherlands), Horst Buchholz (Cleveland, Ohio), Scott Turkington (Charleston, South Carolina), Kurt Poterack (Christendom College), Arlene Oost-Zinner (Auburn, Alabama), David Hughes (Norwalk, Connecticut), Ann Labounsky (Duquesne University), Father Robert Pasley (Mater Ecclesia, New Jersey), Jeffrey Ostrowski (Corpus Christi Watershed), MeeAe Cecilia Nam (Ann Arbor, Michigan), Father Mark David Kirby (Tulsa, Oklahoma), and Father Frank Phillips, CR (St. John Cantius, Chicago). They were joined by representatives from Catholic music programs at Ave Maria University (Susan Treacy), Notre Dame University (Peter Jeffery), and the Franciscan University at Steubenville (Paul Weber).

Each day featured chant rehearsals, polyphony rehearsals, break-out sessions with specialized training in a variety of areas — from conducting to organ to priest training, lectures, as well as morning prayer and night prayer in both English and Latin. The highlight of each day was the Mass that featured music being worked on in rehearsals. The Masses were both in the ordinary form (English and Latin) and the extraordinary form. The Masses took place at the Church of the Epiphany, just down the street from the main Duquesne campus, which once served as the cathedral for the diocese.

Choral Liturgies

The Mass schedule began with an English-language ordinary-form Mass, which featured all the Propers of the Mass sung in a variety of settings, rather than hymns replacing the Propers, as has become the usual practice in most parishes. Father Samuel Weber, of the St. Louis Archdiocesan Institute of Sacred Music, adapted the Introit. Liturgical composers Richard Rice and Bruce Ford prepared other music: Rice composed the Offertory and Communion Propers, as well as the sung Ordinary of the Mass, while Ford added English to the Gregorian chant melodies for the Gradual Psalm and the Alleluia. The Mass ended with a polyphonic motet in English sung by all.

As the week progressed, the Mass took on more elaborate forms. Wednesday’s Mass was a Requiem Mass in the ordinary form sung entirely in Gregorian chant with the Dies Irae Sequence sung by all. Thursday’s Mass was the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, celebrated in the extraordinary form, featuring the Palestrina Missa Brevis along with motets by Tallis and Guerrero, with Propers sung according to the Church’s chant books.

Friday offered the Mass for the 12th Sunday of the Year, sung with Gregorian Propers and Ordinary, along with a motet by Orlando di Lasso. Saturday’s Mass in the extraordinary form was for the Blessed Virgin Mary and featured polyphonic Propers by William Byrd, which were written for the Catholic Church in hiding during the reign of Elizabeth I. They remain among the most beautiful compositions for the Roman Rite. The final Mass of the colloquium was a Viennese-style orchestral Mass featuring the music of Franz Schubert, along with motets by Bruckner.

An elaborate celebration of Vespers in the Roman polyphonic style, as reconstructed by William Mahrt, was the longest liturgy of the week, but was also universally regarded as one of the most spiritually moving services of the entire colloquium.

Famed organist Isabelle Demers, of Montreal, Quebec, presented a recital of music from many ages, which ended in an enthusiastic standing ovation. Many other organists played throughout the week, including Brother Jonathan Ryan of St. John Cantius, Chicago. An academic panel explored the current state of music on Catholic campuses and gave encouraging signs of change in the air, away from the pop music of the past toward a more serious interest in sacred music.

William Mahrt wrapped up the event with an inspiring call to take what we had learned and apply it in our parishes, always with an awareness that Gregorian chant represents the ideal in all forms of the Roman Rite.

The Church Music Association of America is an association of Catholic musicians, and those who have a special interest in music and liturgy, active in advancing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other forms of sacred music, including new composition, for liturgical use, according to the norms established by competent ecclesiastical authority. The CMAA was organized in 1964 as a continuation of the Society of St. Cecelia, founded in 1874, and the St. Gregory Society, founded in 1912.

CMAA publishes the quarterly journal Sacred Music and frequently sponsors teaching conferences around the country. To subscribe to Sacred Music, and for more information, visit the CMAA web site:

Videos of Colloquium XX are available from Corpus Christi Watershed:

Jeffrey Tucker is editor of CMAA’s quarterly journal, Sacred Music, and of Chant Café:



Jeffrey Tucker