The twenty-fourth gathering of the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians took place January 8 – 11, 2007 in Milwaukee at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist. Michael Batcho, conference host and Cathedral Music Director welcomed us along with his dedicated staff, Scott Eakins and Rachel E Garczynski. The cathedral served as the center for our daily liturgies, business meetings, presentations, and concerts. Conference participants were housed in the beautiful Pfister Hotel, a historical downtown Milwaukee landmark, graced with the largest hotel collection of Victorian art in the world.

Following registration, Fr. Carl A. Last, Cathedral Rector and Pastor, greeted the gathered participants, gave a tour and brief history of the renovated cathedral and answered our various questions. After the tour of the cathedral we were treated to a marvelous opening wine and buffet reception in the cathedral atrium, a beautiful space created during the cathedral renovation hosted by the cathedral. Anthony DiCello, CRCCM chairperson conducted the traditional welcoming rituals and outlined the week’s main focus, the formation of liturgical musicians, asking the participants to reflect upon what role cathedral musicians and a cathedral music program might offer to this endeavor.

Each morning a full breakfast buffet was provided at the Pfister Hotel compliments of various sponsors (Nichols & Simpson Organ builders, Liturgical Press, World Library Publications and Scott Reidel & Associates  Sung Morning Prayer followed each day at the cathedral. On Tuesday, the Most Reverend Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of Milwaukee presided and preached at the late afternoon Eucharist. He warmly welcomed us to Milwaukee and expressed his gratitude for our work in the Church. The Mass was preceded by an extended choral prelude sung by the Cathedral Choir, conducted by Michael Batcho.

Tuesday and Wednesday were full days of presentations, dialogue and performances. Fr. Jordan Kelly, OP, presented True, Good and Beautiful: Shaping our Culture and the Role of the Cathedral Church. In his presentation, Fr. Kelly presented the key fundamental properties of the liturgy, i.e. liturgy as salvific, liturgy as an event of re-presentation (Paschal Mystery) and Liturgy as encounter with Christ, and how the culture in which the liturgy is celebrated presents various challenges or obstacles for us, offering us suggestions and directions of hope for cathedral music today. Prior to his ordination, Fr. Kelly was a church musician, including having served in a cathedral setting. A natural born teacher, his outstanding and clear organization of this material coupled with his sense of humor made his presentation and his presence among us quite special. The second presentation was made by one of our founding members, Dr. Leo Nestor. The presentation entitled The Musician in the Church: Reflections on Vocation and Formation in the Christian Community and in the Catholic Church was an inspiring account of Leo’s own personal journey of his formative years in the Church and formal study of music, to practitioner of Church music in a cathedral setting (Basilica-Shrine), to Professor of Choral and Church Music in the university setting (CUA). His presentation provided us with great insight into his passion for the formation of outstanding Church musicians today and provided us with a necessary focus for our discussions on the topic of formation. Dr. Lynn Trapp (St. Olaf Church, Minneapolis) presented a demonstration of organ repertoire for the liturgical year, focusing mainly on newer works. Msgr. James Moroney, Executive Director of the Secretariat for the Liturgy of the USCCB, provided us with an update on the work of his office. In particular he reported on the recent Directory on Music and the Liturgy approved by the USCCB, the consultation conducted by the music sub-committee toward the revisions of Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today and brought us up-to-date with progress on the translation of the Roman Missal into English, providing us with excerpts from the Order of Mass. In the time remaining he allowed for a question and answer period.

Two major public musical performances were presented on Wednesday as part of the conference schedule. Sr. Mary Jane Wagner, OSF, former Cathedral Organist and CRCCM member presented a noon time organ recital playing Marcel Dupré’s Variations sur un Noël, Toccata in F by J. S. Bach, and the Rhapsody of Praise by Theophane Hytrek, OSF. In the evening, a performance by the Milwaukee Choral Artists, a female ensemble conducted by Dr. Sharon Hansen with Jeffrey Peterson, organist, presented Exultate: The Music of Milwaukee’s School Sisters of St. Francis. The concert featured choral and organ music written by and for the School Sisters (founded in 1874), a community distinguished by their work as artists, composers, music educators and parish musicians. It included several works by Sr. Theophane Hytrek, Sr. Marion VerHaalen, and Sr. Cherubim Schaefer. Also included were works by Johann Singenberger, a German associated with the Cecilian Movement who came to the United States in 1871 to direct music at Milwaukee’s Saint Francis Seminary. In 1879 Singenberger was hired by the School Sisters to train the convent organists and the convent choir.

Business sessions were conducted each day by Anthony DiCello. The major focus of these sessions was the crafting of a statement on the formation of the liturgical musicians. Moderated by Paul Monachino, the group engaged in lively and thoughtful dialogue using a draft statement created by the CRCCM Steering Committee. By the end of the week the conference had produced its latest statement, the Formation of Liturgical Musicians. Two major projects were discussed at the business sessions: A Primer for Cathedral Musicians and a Profile of Cathedral Music Programs. The Steering Committee was given charge to pursue these two projects. A preview of the 2008 conference in the New York / New Jersey was made and nominations for Steering Committee members were accepted.

On Thursday, the conference engaged in a tour of various significant churches in the greater Milwaukee area. Led by Fr. Ken Augustine, the attendees visited Sacred Heart School of Theology (seminary) in Hales Corners, the Basilica of St. Josaphat,  the Chapel of the School Sister of St. Francis, where the annual CRCCM members new music reading session was conducted and finally, St. Anthony Catholic Church.
Thursday evening’s annual CRCCM Banquet was held in the cathedral atrium setting. The space was beautifully transformed with candles, flowers and a very large twenty-foot Christmas tree decorated by Scott Eakins. A marvelous catered meal and choice wines provided the perfect setting and ambience for this annual CRCCM tradition. And finally, the hospitality suite at the Pfister Hotel was available each evening for our nightly gatherings. As often is noted, this is where some of the more important conversations are often conducted!

Report prepared by Anthony DiCello


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