Matthew Walsh and Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago hosted the 19th Gathering of the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians.  The gathering began on Sunday, January 6, with a pre-conference reception at the home of founding member Richard Proulx.

The conference officially began Monday night, January 7,  with a reception at the John Hancock Center, where attendees were treated to dessert while overlooking downtown Chicago from the forty-fourth  floor.  After a brief business meeting to outline the conference agenda, members heard founding members Gerald Muller, Richard Proulx, and Leo Nestor expound on the origins and history of CRCCM.

Each day of the gathering began with breakfast and Morning Prayer at Holy Name Cathedral.  The first session, on Tuesday, was presented by Msgr. Francis Mannion, who discussed five essential qualities of liturgical music.  According to Msgr. Mannion, truly sacred music should be sacramental, eschatological (heavenly), cosmic, doxological (glorious), and catholic. Later that morning, members visited St. James Episcopal Cathedral and heard Dr. William Crosbie speak about the Cathedral organ, a 45-rank Skinner “inherited” from the Lyric Opera of Chicago.  The organ also incorporates 8 ranks from the Austin & Skinner installed there in 1961, as well as a rank of 16’ pipes from an earlier Johnson organ.  Dr. Crosbie also briefly discussed the work of Leo Sowerby, who instituted a professional 30-voice choir at St. James early in his 36-year tenure.  Tuesday afternoon began with the first of three presentations on the history and practice of Gregorian chant by CRCCM member Lawrence Harris.  Mr. Harris gave a highly informative overview (despite the near-total destruction of his PowerPoint presentation by a customs official), touching on the personalities behind the resurgence of chant in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and giving practical suggestions for resource materials and for improving performance technique.  Tuesday’s sessions concluded inside Holy Name Cathedral, with presentations by Bishop Timothy Lyne on the history and symbolism of the church.  HNC Associate Music Director Samuel Soria demonstrated the technique of complex registration changes on the Flentrop mechanical action organ without combination action. His evening performance of the Reubke Sonata on the 94th Psalm was a further demonstration of his techniques.  After dinner, CRCCM members enjoyed an excellent concert presented by Matt Walsh, Sal Soria, and the HNC choirs. Part of the program demonstrated the use of the two organs in liturgical practice and concluded with Durufle’s Requiem.

Wednesday began with another chant session presented by Mr. Harris, followed by a business meeting, when nominations for future Steering Committee members and Gathering sites were accepted.  After lunch, the group toured three Chicago churches.  At Second Presbyterian Church, CRCCM members viewed beautiful stained glass and painted windows by Tiffany and other significant makers.  Mary Gifford demonstrated the historic Lyon & Healey organ at Our Lady of Sorrows Basilica. At Our Lady Of Mount Carmel Church, Paul French directed an octet of singers in a demonstration of highly expressive Psalm settings and other works by William Ferris.  Mr. Ferris was director of the William Ferris Chorale and the choirs at Mount Carmel until his unexpected death in 2001.  After dinner at Ann Sather’s restaurant, CRCCM attended Solemn Vespers at St. Clement church.

On Thursday morning, Dr. Anne Heider, director of Bella Voce, lectured on “Preparing A Masterpiece”, concentrating on the Messe of Frank Martin and the Stabat Mater of Frank Ferko.  Both works are extremely challenging for choir and conductor alike, and Dr. Heider gave practical suggestions for overcoming some of the many difficulties.  Later, CRCCM members read through the works of CRCCM composers Mark Thomas, Richard Kidd, Peter Latona, Brian Luckner, James Barrett, and Robert Schaefer.  After the final chant session presented by Mr. Harris, the group met with Francis Cardinal George and discussed how musicians can work with bishops to meet the liturgical challenges of the present and future.  Fr. Daniel Mayhall, the new Pastor, celebrated Evening Mass at the Cathedral, with music provided by the HNC Chamber Singers.  Later that night Conference attendees enjoyed a fabulous Italian banquet at Bice restaurant.

The Gathering concluded on Friday with two final sessions.  Brother Peter Funk, O.S.B., gave examples of how to determine the literal and spiritual meaning of the Psalms within their historical context, and encouraged members to express the Psalms clearly in the liturgy.  Then, Kevin Vogt shared with fellow CRCCM members an account of the trials and blessings he experienced while establishing the Saint Cecilia Schola Cantorum, a choir school for the Archdiocese of Omaha.  The conference concluded at noon on Friday after the Departure Ritual.

The minutes of the business meetings held during the Conference as well as the annual financial report are included in this newsletter.

submitted by Paul Hanebuth


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