Conference XXXIII

Hartford, Connecticut, January 2016

The Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians (CRCCM) met in Hartford, Connecticut, from January 4–7, 2016 for its 33rd annual gathering.  Ezequiel Menéndez, Director of Music at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, Hartford; and Ladislaw Pfeifer, Director of Music at the Cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel, Springfield (MA) designed and directed the conference gathering with help from the support staff of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph, as well as the CRCCM steering committee (Michael Batcho, Director of Music at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, WI; Anthony DiCello, Director of Music at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Chains, Cincinnati, OH; Donald Fellows, Director of Music at Saint Paul Cathedral, Pittsburgh, PA; Teri Larson, Director of Music and Arts at the Basilica of Saint Mary, Minneapolis, MN; Ezequiel Menéndez; and Christoph Tietze, Director of Music and Organist at the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption, San Francisco, CA; with Gerald Muller, Leo Nestor, and James Savage, advising).


Monday, January 4

Conference participants arrived in Hartford with accommodations at the Hilton Hartford and proceeded to the Cathedral of Saint Joseph for an evening recital.  The Reverend James Shanley, Rector of the Cathedral, welcomed all participants and gave a brief history of the Cathedral.

The evening recital featured the Cathedral Schola Cantorum, under the direction of Edward Bolkovac; the Archdiocesan Youth Choir and Chorus Angelicus, under the direction of Gabriel Löfvall; and Ezequiel Menéndez, organist.  Repertoire included choral works by Paul Halley (former director and founder of Chorus Angelicus), Tomás Luis de Victoria, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, René Clausen, Eric Whitacre, Francis Poulenc, Healey Willan, and Moses Hogan.  Organ works were by Alberto Ginastera and Felix Mendelssohn.

The Cathedral Schola Cantorum was founded in 1999 by Ezequiel Menéndez, and the choir consists of professional choristers, many of whom are accomplished vocal soloists and music educators.  The choir is directed by Edward Bolkovac, Professor of Music at The Hartt School of the University of Hartford.  Chorus Angelicus is comprised of four choral ensembles, involving more than seventy children throughout southwestern New England.  Gabriel Löfvall serves as Artistic Director, and the choirs are in residence at Trinity Episcopal Church in Torrington, CT (

The Cathedral of Saint Joseph, dedicated in 1962, was designed by the New York-based architectural firm Eggers & Higgins and replaces the previous cathedral church, destroyed by a fire in 1956.  The current church boasts vast stained glass windows crafted in Paris, as well as the largest ceramic tile mosaic in the world, Christ in Glory, located behind the high altar.  The cathedral organ is a four-manual, 137-rank instrument built in 1962 by the Hartford-based Austin Organ Company (Opp. 2332-2333).  In addition to the gallery organ, a smaller two-manual instrument is located in a side chapel.  A third manual on the chapel organ plays stop combinations from the gallery organ.

Following the concert, the participants enjoyed a delicious meal featuring homemade empanadas and paella.  At the reception, the CRCCM Statement of Purpose was read aloud, after which all of the participants introduced themselves.


Tuesday, January 5

Tuesday began with daily Mass (Memorial of St. John Neumann, Bishop) at the Cathedral of Saint Joseph with Archbishop Leonard Blair, celebrant and homilist.  Archbishop Blair preached on the life and ministry of Saint John Neumann, whose care for the immigrant peoples of Philadelphia is at all times and places important an example of love and service of God and neighbor.  Liturgical music was provided by members of the Cathedral Schola Cantorum, Sarah Dilion Gedicks (cantor), Dana Kephart (early music specialist, soloist, and schola member), Louis Hanzlik (trumpet), and Ezequiel Menéndez (organ).  Repertoire included ’Tis Nature’s Voice (Ode for Saint Cecilia’s Day) by Henry Purcell, Ubi caritas by Ola Gjeilo, and Ave verum corpus by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Following the liturgy, conference participants were free to explore the cathedral.  At 10am, the day continued with a recital of music for brass, organ, and bandoneón (Argentinian concertina).  The performers were The American Brass Quintet (Kevin Cobb, trumpet; Louis Hanzlik, trumpet; Eric Reed, horn; Michael Powell, trombone; and John D. Rojak, bass trombone); Daniel Binelli, bandoneón; and Ezequiel Menéndez, organ.  The repertoire was eclectic, and the musicians gave masterful performances, which resulted in a delightful program.  Repertoire for brass quintet included three Venetian canzoni: Canzon 19 by Gioseffo Guami, Ricercar del sesto tuono by Andrea Gabrieli, and Canzon 22 by Bastian Chilese (all edited by Raymond Mase); and Shine, a four-movement suite by Robert Paterson.  A collaborative set for bandoneón and organ consisted of transcriptions of three pieces by the Argentinian tango composer Astor Piazzolla: Ave Maria, Verano Porteno, and Oblivion.  The recital concluded with a brilliant performance of Binelli’s own work Alma Iluminada for bandoneón, organ, brass, and percussion.

At 11:15am, the conference participants gathered in the choir loft of the Cathedral to read the winning composition of the CRCCM Proper Antiphon Competition Contest.  The entrance and communion antiphons from Chrism Mass were the selected texts for the competition.  Twenty-five entries were judged anonymously, with the winning settings written by Normand Gouin.  Gouin, who was present for the reading session, currently serves as Associate Chaplain and Director of Liturgy and Music at College of the Holy Cross.

Conference participants were bussed to the Mark Twain House for lunch, followed by the first of two CRCCM business meetings and private tours.  Michael Batcho, chair of the CRCCM steering committee, lead the business meeting and described the election process and responsibilities of the steering committee.  Donald Fellows, Treasurer of the CRCCM, presented the financial status of the organization.

The Mark Twain House and Museum was made available for private tours for the conference participants.  Designed by the New York architect Edward Tuckerman Potter, construction of the home began in August of 1873; Sam Clemens and his family moved in on September 19, 1874.

The afternoon continued with two lectures given at Saint Patrick–Saint Anthony Church in Hartford.  First, Gustavo Sánchez presented “A Survey of the Repertoire of Sacred Music of Spain.”  The depth and breadth of this presentation were extremely helpful, as all time periods of recorded music, as well as lesser-known composers were included.  Sánchez is head of the Escolanía (Boys’ Choir) del Monasterio del Escorial in Madrid and serves as Associate Professor of Music at the Universidad Autonóma de Madrid.

The second lecture was given by Robin Williams, who presented “The Msgr. John Edward Ronan Catalogue and Contextual Examination of Choral Music Manuscripts.”  Msgr. Ronan was the founding director of the Saint Michael’s Choir School at Saint Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto.  Williams catalogued Ronan’s complete works and described his work in the historical context of Pope Pius X’s 1903 motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini.  Williams is a graduate of the Memorial University of Newfoundland, The Catholic University of America, and the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music.

Tuesday evening, conference participants enjoyed an elegant banquet at The Hartford Club (46 Prospect Street, Hartford).


Wednesday, January 6

Conference participants spent Wednesday in Springfield, MA, where Ladislaw Pfeifer welcomed everyone to the Cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel for Morning Prayer.  The Most Reverend Mitchell T. Rozanski, bishop of Springfield, served as celebrant and homilist.  Bishop Rozanski articulated the message of Epiphany, in which God is revealed to all through creation.  Just as the wise men from the East discovered God through their study of the universe, so can church musicians lead God’s people to encounter the Lord through excellence in liturgical music and art.  Music was provided by Ladislaw Pfeifer (organ), Courtney Sylvain and Sarah Armstrong (cantors).

The Cathedral of Saint Michael the Archangel features a 1987 Theodore Gilbert & Associates organ, originally built by Casavant.  The four-manual, 91 rank instrument retains the case from a previous organ built by E. G. G. Hook, Op. 309.

Morning Prayer was followed by the Composers Reading Session, during which conference participants read through various new compositions from their colleagues.

The second of two business meetings included the nomination of new members of the steering committee and the discussion of future conference locations.  Marc Cerisier, Organist of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Memphis, TN, demonstrated updates to the CRCCM website and encouraged everyone to upload service leaflets, compositions, and other resources for sharing among CRCCM members.

Following the business meeting, conference participants enjoyed free time in Springfield and toured Springfield’s renowned Museums of Art, History, Science, and the Dr. Seuss Sculpture Garden.

The afternoon continued with two lectures given in the cathedral hall.  The first was given by James Savage, Emeritus Director of Music at Saint James Cathedral (Seattle), discussing the development of the Cathedral’s annual Guadalupe service.  As the Archdiocese received more and more requests for the archbishop’s presence at special liturgies for various ethnic groups, the Cathedral welcomed each group to particular liturgies at the Cathedral.  As then-Director of Music, Savage recognized the need to explore the nature of liturgical music in cathedrals in the immigrants' native countries.  He described the process of surveying the music programs of multiple cathedrals located throughout Pacific Rim countries.  The data he collected from responding cathedral musicians revealed similar commitments to musical excellence, incorporating Latin polyphony and Gregorian chant amid a broad spectrum of repertoire: “The nature of music programs in the Pacific Rim Cathedrals demonstrated more commonalities with Saint James Cathedral, than with the music programs one might find in a parish church from that area.”  Two Hispanic  musicians—composer Rodolfo López and vocal coach Estela Garcia-López—were recruited to organize three workshops each year leading up to the Guadalupe liturgy.  In each workshop, singers and instrumentalists formed a choir and orchestra, preparing music honoring the traditions of the Latin American population, and striving to maintain the Cathedral’s commitment to musical excellence.  This has been an ongoing tradition at Saint James Cathedral for 6 years.

The second lecture featured a survey of the music program at the Cathedral of Mexico City, by Jesús López Moreno, who is organist there.  López Moreno described a Renaissance of the Escolanía at the Cathedral, training boys to sing in the Cathedral Choir.

            The musical life of the Cathedral of Mexico is a spring of various activities.  Namely, as in all cathedrals, this depends directly on the Cabildo Metropolitano, or Metropolitan Chapter, which appoints one of its members as Precentor.  The Precentor, in turn, appoints a Director of Music, who is finally charged with the supervision of all music in the daily activities of the Cathedral.  It is vital that the chapter continues this work even today, which—over [nearly five] centuries—has cultivated countless artistic works of the highest importance.”

            With regard to music, the Cathedral Chapter currently maintains custody and supervision of the historical music archive, the organs, the operation of the Escolanía, appoints a choirmaster, organists, as well as psalmists or cantors.”  He also described recruitment challenges, since the cathedral is situated in a very busy urban setting.  Although the cathedral liturgies are very well attended, the vast majority of people attending Mass are tourists.

Following the lectures, participants found dinner on their own in Hartford.

Wednesday evening, conference participants gathered at Saint Patrick–Saint Anthony Church for a concert given by organist Jesús López Moreno and the Chorus Angelicus & Gaudeamus Choirs, directed by Gabriel Löfvall and accompanied by Don Fellows.  López Moreno gave a masterful performance of two original compositions, as well as works by Miguel Bernal Jiménez, Delfino Madrigal Gil, and J. Jesús Carreño Godínez.  Choral repertoire included works by Elizabeth Poston, Nicholas White, James Whitbourn, John Tavener, David Willcocks, Philip Ledger, and Tomás Luis de Victoria.  One of the highlights of the program was the unrehearsed addition of the boys from El Escorial, who joined the choirs for Victoria’s iconic setting of O magnum mysterium.  With the boys having just arrived to the church from the airport, as well as a last minute change to the program order, there was the right amount of adrenaline to produce a positively outstanding performance.


Thursday, January 7

The final day of the conference consisted of a day trip to New Haven, beginning with Morning Prayer at Yale Divinity School’s Marquand Chapel.  Marie Rubis Bauer performed a prelude of early music on the chapel’s Taylor & Boody organ.  Repertoire included an anonymous Reduentes from the Buxheimer Orgelbuch, as well as works by Correa de Arauxo, J. S. Bach, Frescobaldi, Böhm, and Scheidemann.  Michael Emmerich, Associate Organist at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Houston, Texas, performed an original improvisation in the style of Maurice Duruflé on the chapel’s E. M. Skinner organ.

The 1931 E. M. Skinner organ is a three-manual, 22 rank instrument.  During its 1986 restoration, there were no technological or musical alterations made to the instrument, so that the organ sounds today exactly how the builder originally intended.  The 2007 Taylor & Boody organ is a three-manual, 48-rank instrument inspired by North German Baroque building practices.  It is tuned in meantone temperament and features subsemitones in all manuals.

Conference participants enjoyed a private tour of Yale’s Collection of Musical Instruments, hearing historic keyboards demonstrated by Marie Rubis Bauer and Wm. Nicholas Renouf, one of the Collection’s Curators.  The Collection acquires, preserves, and exhibits musical instruments from all cultures and periods, certain examples of which are featured in live performance.

Following the tour, Peter Latona (Director of Music at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.) gave a brief demonstration of the 1871 E. & G. G. Hook organ of nearby Saint Mary’s Church.  The three-manual, 55-rank organ was originally built for and located in St. Alphonsus Church in New York City.  Upon demolition of the church, the organ was relocated through the Organ Clearing House and rebuilt for Saint Mary’s Church through the generosity of the Knights of Columbus.  The project was supervised by Lawrence Trupiano and then OCH president Alan Laufman, with the cooperation of many builders, including Richard Hamar, Rodney Myrvaagnes, Brunner & Heller, Philip A. Beaudry Co., William Betts & Co., and the Stuart Organ Co.  One highlight of the rebuilding project was the decision to return the instrument to mechanical key action with a new keydesk, inspired by historic Hook organs and built by Brunner & Heller.

Saint Mary’s Church was founded in 1832 by the rapidly growing Irish immigrant community as the first Catholic church in New Haven.  The Reverend Michael McGivney, founder of the international Catholic service organization Knights of Columbus, served as assistant pastor from 1877 to 1884 and convened the very first meeting of the Knights in the church’s basement.

The day continued with a demonstration of the 1928 Newberry Organ in Woolsey Hall by Thomas Murray, Senior Professor of Organ and University Organist since 1990.  The renowned Romantic four-manual, 197-rank organ was built by E. M. Skinner.  Murray demonstrated many of the exquisite orchestral stops of the organ, fielded questions from conference participants, and described and demonstrated the console technique to achieve an impressively seamless crescendo.

Conference participants found lunch on their own prior to a tour of the St. Thomas More Catholic Center.  At the center, the final lecture of the conference, “The Hispanic Music Ministry: its presence, challenges and accomplishments,” was given by Olfary Gutiérrez, Director of Hispanic Music Ministry at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, New Jersey.  Gutiérrez described her work at the Cathedral Basilica over the last nineteen years, where she has developed a mixed choir of Spanish speaking singers, which now prepares two choral anthems or motets on a weekly basis.  She made a point to describe the regular use of the renowned Schantz organ at Spanish-language liturgies, of which the Hispanic Music Ministry takes great pride.  Gutiérrez described the educational goals of her ministry, which includes exposing singers to high quality choral music originating from various Latin American countries.

Immediately following the lecture, a panel discussion with Gustavo Sánchez, Olfary Gutiérrez, Jesus López Moreno, and the Reverend Pedro Alberto Sánchez offered conference participants an open forum to ask questions pertaining to Spanish music ministry.  Fr. Sanchez, director of music at El Escorial in Madrid, described the declining quality of church music in Spain following the Second Vatican Council.  He mentioned efforts, not only at El Escorial, but also in a few cathedrals throughout the country to reclaim the tradition of high quality sacred music.  Gutiérrez made repertoire suggestions for those inquiring about choral programming in Newark.  She indicated that her musical planning is published online at the Cathedral Basilica’s music page (  Ezequiel Menéndez, who served as translator for several panelists, offered a reflection about the overarching discussions that inspired his conference programming.  He mentioned that several years ago, it was still considered politically incorrect to discuss the quality of Spanish-language church music; however, the current conference revealed interest and openness to discussing liturgical music for Spanish speaking communities.  All of the panelists agreed that there should not be differing standards of musical quality when liturgy is in Spanish or any other language.

Conference participants found dinner on their own in New Haven, later returning to Saint Mary’s Church for the final concert.

Michael Batcho welcomed all of the audience members to Saint Mary’s Church and briefly described the mission of the CRCCM and programming for the week.  He extended sincere gratitude and appreciation to Ezequiel Menéndez, Ladislaw Pfeifer, and all of the support staff who worked diligently to prepare such a successful conference.

The final concert was given by El Escolanía del Monasterio del Escorial, under the direction of Gustavo Sánchez and accompanied on the Hook organ by Fr. Pedro Alberto Sánchez.  Repertoire included works by Victoria, Francisco Soto de Langa, Francisco Guerrero, Antoni Martorell, Luis Iruarrízaga, Victor Zubizarreta, Ignacio Prieto, Gustavo Sánchez, Federico Olmeda, Eduardo Torres, Agapita Insausti, Ignacio Busca de Sagastizábal, Martín Gorostidi, Valentino Miserachs, as well as traditional villancicos.  The concert was made possible by the generosity of the Knights of Columbus.

Conference participants enjoyed a tasteful reception at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven.

The 2017 meeting of the CRCCM will take place in Detroit, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio.  It will be hosted by the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament (Detroit) and the Cathedral of Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary (Toledo).


submitted by

Brian F. Gurley
Director of Music and Organist
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Albany, New York



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