Reflections on the 2007 CMAA Colloquium
The 2007 Colloquium of the Church Music Association of America was held June 19-24 on the campus of The Catholic Univeristy of America, in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and at Mary, Mother of God Church, in downtown Washington DC.
Some of my thoughts and impressions, from a first-time participant, follow, along with a few pictures.
Dr. William Mahrt, president of the CMAA, in addressing the Colloquium, spoke of a paradigm, an "ideal," regarding music at Mass.
We know that the documents give Gregorian chant "pride of place" at Mass.
They further state that the musical treasures of sacred polyphony are to be preserved.
Musicam sacram (1967) refers to several "degrees" of musical participation, first of which includes dialogue music for the priest and people.
What would Mass be like if this paradigm were actually realized?
We, the fortunate attendees of the 2007 Colloquium, soon found out.
The five daily and Sunday Masses were celebrated in a variety of forms:
- Novus Ordo Mas (1969) in English
- Novus Ordo Mass (1969) in Latin
- Tridentine Mass (1962) in Latin
Each Mass included the same musical format:
- Organ prelude, often improvised on a chant theme from the Mass of the day
- Proper Introit (sung in Gregorian chant) by the women's or men's schola
- Dialogues (e.g. "The Lord be with you..." or "Dominus vobiscum...") sung by priest and people
- Kyrie (sung in chant) or Asperges (sung in chant & polyphony)
- Gloria (sung in polyphony) by the full conference choir
- Readings & Gospel (chanted to lection tones) by Dr. Kurt Poterak or the celebrant
- Gradual and Alleluia (sung in chant)
- Intercessions (response sung to Byzantine formula or recto tono "Kyrie eleison")
- Proper Offertory (sung in Gregorian chant) by the women's or men's schola
- Offertory motet — a polyphonic choral piece sung by the full conference choir
- Sanctus/Benedictus (sung in polyphony) by the full conference choir
- Memorial Acclamation (sung in chant)
- Amen (simple three-note pattern)
- Lord's Prayer & Doxology (sung in chant)
- Agnus Dei (sung in polyphony) by the full conference choir
- Communion Proper (sung in Gregorian chant) by the women's or men's schola or the beginner's schola
- Communion motet — a polyphonic choral piece sung by the conference chamber choir
- Blessing & Dismissal (sung by priest and people)
- Organ Recessional or Hymn (metrical or chant)
The only exception to this format were the lack of any solo organ music during the Mass in Remembrance of the Deceased Members and the changes from the above format necessitated by the Tridentine Rite.
Other than during the Requiem, the organ was skillfully played by a master, David Hughes, from New York City, whose youthful exuberance was also evident in the choral accompaniment he played in rehearsals.
Dr.Mahrt was quick to point out that this paradigm is a goal toward which we all should work, but that a certain "gradualism" must be employed in a well-paced and gradual introduction of the elements in a parish setting.
A fully-sung Mass with propers, in Latin or in English, thrust all-at-once on a congregation would be as emotionally shocking as was the First Sunday of Advent in 1964, when everyone first witnessed the Mass in English.
The chant propers were taken from the Graduale Romanum when sung in Latin, and from a newly-commissioned set of propers by The Rev. Samuel Weber, OSB, when sung in English.
Scott Turkington, Director of the Stamford Schola Gregoriana in Connecticut, and on the Board of Directors of CMAA, conducted the Men's Advanced Schola.
"Superbly refined" are words that come to mind to describe his exquisite directing.
A gentle flick of one finger was sufficient cue for cut-offs and ritardandi – after much-repeated admonishments, though, to watch the conductor.
"You'll want to draw a little pair of eyeglasses in your music there."
Equally competent and effective were Dr. William Mahrt, who directed the Women's Advanced Schola, and Amy Zuberbueler, who conducted the Beginner's Schola.
Chants sung included both the new and the familiar:
- English propers (by Fr. Samuel Weber)
- English Mass ordinary (by Dr. Kurt Poterak)
- Requiem æternam – Introit from Mass for the Dead
- Requiem æternam – Gradual from Mass for the Dead
- Dies iræ – Sequence from Mass for the Dead
- Domine Iesu Christe – Offertory from Mass for the Dead
- Lux æterna – Communion from Mass for the Dead
- Multæ tribulationes – Introit for the Memorial of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
- Venite filii – Gradual for the Memorial of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
- Alleluia. Sancti tui – Alleluia for the Memorial of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
Mirabilis Deus – Offertory for the Memorial of Saints John Fisher and Thomas More
- Iustorum animæ – Communion for the Common of Martyrs
- De ventre matris – Introit for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
- Prisquam te formarem – Gradual for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
- Alleluia. Tu puer propheta – Alleluia for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
- Iustus ut palma – Offertory for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
- Tu puer propheta – Communion for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
- Ut queant laxis – Vesper Hymn for the Solemnity of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
- Simple chant Mass
- Credo III
- Credo V
The polyphony, sung by the full conference attendees (forming a choir of 140 well-trained voices) was magnificent.
At the helm was Dr. Horst Buchholz, Director of Sacred Music and Principal Organist at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, Colorado.
With his mellifluous voice and German accent, even the slightest request – "Would you kindly not breathe there" – oozed authority.
How could you not comply with so firm a request?
His insistence on high palates, open mouths and unified vowels produced amazing results.
The choral tone was blended, rich and ever-clean.
Yet the firm nature of his rehearsing was lightened by a beautifully dry and sharp sense of humor — think Victor Borge.
"Sopranos, what kind of entrance was that?
Did we wake you?"
"Basses, with such scooping you could work at Baskin Robbins!"
Choral music included:
- Ave verum (Edward Elgar)
- Burial Sentences (William Croft)
- Missa O quam gloriosum (Tomás Luis da Victoria)
- Agnus Dei
- Os justi (Anton Bruckner)
- O nata lux (Thomas Talis)
- Missa prima sexti toni (Giovanni Croce)
- Agnus Dei
- Cantate Domino (Claudio Monteverdi)
- Ego sum panis vivus (Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina)
Attendance for this year's colloquium was double last year's, thanks in no small part to the energetic and dedicated work of Colloquium Coordinator Arlene Oost-Zimmer and
Saced Music magazine Editor Jeffrey Tucker.
Registration closed two months prior to the event – numbers could have been substantial higher, had space permitted.
Perhaps next year will see a new venue for the CMAA Colloquium, which has now indisputably claimed a place among prestigious and well-run music conferences.
You will certainly want to attend next year's event – this was my first time, and the experience was overwhelmingly positive!
Check the Church Music Association of America website often for the first hint of Colloquium 2008 ... and by all means register early!!