Monthly Archives: July 2014

What have we learned? CMAA colloquium edition

I recently attended the Church Music Association of America’s annual colloquium, as I’ve noted over multiple prior posts detailing smaller pieces of it. I’m not overstating things, I suspect, when I say it was a life-changing experience, one that has me considering a career change and doing sacred music full-time.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I subscribe to everything they espouse. But I went to the colloquium (and would like to go again), because I specifically wanted to challenge myself and understand better opinions that I may not necessary subscribe to. One day, I may work for a pastor who subscribes to this stuff, and as a professional, I want to be able to carry out what he would like to do, even if I don’t necessarily subscribe to it. As such, here are my reflections on the week and what I learned:

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My first Extraordinary Form experiences

I blew it the first time.

At the CMAA colloquium, we had virtually everything we needed to follow along at the two Latin Masses during the week. The problem is that it was spread out throughout the 250-page book.

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Their heartbreak crushes my petty irritations

I got to the organ loft before the funeral to find a mystery singer. This isn’t unheard of, but it’s kind of annoying, as Super Funeral Organist, to not have heard about this until, say, I get to church. Now, I do not mind mystery singers, as long as I know about them ahead of time.

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I do mind them when they’re just announcing their presence half an hour before the funeral, however. But as a pro, I realize these things happen, and it’s probably not the fault of the mystery singer. Still, grumble. But wait! There’s more. A mystery organist would be showing up, just to play the last song.  Continue reading

The thrill is the total opposite of gone

Last night was my first choir practice at my main parish. And as we kicked things off, I felt an energy I haven’t felt during a practice in months.

I spent time talking about the CMAA colloquium, which was a big factor in my new feeling of energy. I told them I learned a ton and would do my best to impart what I learned to them.

And we had a fantastic practice. They quickly learned some new stuff, and I was able to use some techniques I learned to help them find their notes. It went very well. I was happy, and so were they.

I guess, before the colloquium, I had been in a bit of a rut. I had a lot of work, but I wasn’t feeling it as much. The love for church music is really expressing itself now.

I hope this lasts a long, long time.

Be nice to seminarians

One of the things that I think important, but rarely get to carry out, is encouraging seminarians in their vocations, even if they don’t end up becoming priests. We all should, of course; the problem is that I actually don’t know any seminarians. The fiance of the younger of my two sisters was in the seminary for four years, but that doesn’t count. (Note: he met my sister after he left the seminary.)

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Floating a trial balloon

As many of you know, church music isn’t my full-time job. I’m normally a weekend warrior, and I have a day job in Chicago. So, in effect, I work pretty much every day.

Which is leading me to consider: What if church music became my full-time work and I shifted to editing and writing part-time or freelance or even not at all? I’m thinking about it, very seriously, especially after my week at the CMAA colloquium (about which there will be a couple more posts when I have a chance).

There would be a lot to work out. The benefits wouldn’t be as great. I have a mortgage, so a pay cut is a bad idea. Job security for music directors isn’t the best. I would lose the social benefits from the day job. I need some more training to help me do directing properly (luckily, I have people lined up to help).

But there would be plenty of pluses. I would spend more time with sacred music. I could bring more people beautiful music, and train more to sing it. I could take a job closer to home, hopefully. I wouldn’t have to work seven days a week like I do now. I might have more time for a social life.

It’s a lot to think about. Please pray for me as I try to figure this all out.

Considering Communion on the tongue

The CMAA Colloquium is encouraging everyone attending to receive Communion on the tongue (at the Extraordinary Form, of course, it’s the norm), and at least at the first OF Mass they did, they made it very difficult to receive in any other fashion. (I’m not sure that’s OK, but I’m not a liturgical expert. If anyone out there can enlighten me, that would be appreciated.)

So, OK, I’m here this week to learn new things and try new things, and I don’t think I had ever received Communion on the tongue.

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So I knelt at a gap in the communion rail (because of course there was a gap). A couple things I noticed from the experience:

Communion went pretty quick. Makes sense. It’s faster to have one person moving and a bunch of people waiting in position.

Receiving the Eucharist did seem more intimate at the Communion rail. That much I liked.

And really, I actually kind of liked the experience. Considering that and the practical consideration of speed, I wouldn’t object to the reinstitution of Communion on the tongue, nor to the use of the Communion rail, in a parish I work at.