Reasons for Peace and Contentment at the Colloquium

After many years of attending the Colloquium, I’ve noticed what many people have noticed about the special environment this year: there is a blessed peace and contentment at this year’s event, one that is supportive of learning, productivity, good singing, social happiness – all preconditions to the most generous occasion of  grace. I’ve been trying to think of the particular sources of this special environment this year, and I have a few theories.

  • The organization of this year’s event, led by program director Arlene Oost-Zinner (who is also leading the intermediate women’s schola), is truly a marvel. The hugely complex machinery of scheduling, events, rooms, music, along with a thousand details at each time slot, from morning to night, is humming as never before. The assistance of many volunteers has been inspiring. 
  • The Duquesne University staff has been pleased to have us on campus and has been extremely helpful at every turn. The same is true of the Church of the Epiphany, which has welcomed us, even to the point of making special physical accommodations for the extraordinary form in the sanctuary.
  • Issues that usually split liturgical musicians and Catholics have settled down to a civil coexistence, most especially the old struggle between partisans of the new vs. the old liturgy. The new consensus was nicely framed by Ed Schaefer: the preconciliar structure of Mass and the Divine Office is the elder brother from which the structure of 1969/70 can learn. 
  • Remember the rhythm debates that dominated the chant scene during a huge part of the 20th century? There was a time when ever singer had to take a side in the great debate and defend it and organize one’s musical colleagues around it. At this event, I suspect that most people just aren’t that interested in some kind of battle or taking a side. Each conductor is different. Each singer has a special appreciation for one or another way of singing. We are all glad to learn from various perspectives and approaches. Even at individual Masses, the chant propers come across as musically unique events. Seeing how this works, one wonders what all the fuss what about. 
  • Even on issues of contemporary vs. traditional music, there is a sense of peace. Everyone now knows what the Second Vatican Council meant by giving chant first place. And yet most of the musicians here are working within parish reality, which is to say, they are all transitioning from one place to another, but with direction and purpose. I’ve heard very little in the way of put downs toward the problem music in the Catholic world today (even I’ve controlled my tongue!); rather, energies are all focused toward doing more to achieve the ideal.
  • One final area of peace concerns the old cultural split between academic musicologists and parish-based practitioners. There are many of both types here but they aren’t arguing. They are talking to each other and learning from each other, working to build bridges between the world of scholarship and the world of relentless parish schedules.

8 Replies to “Reasons for Peace and Contentment at the Colloquium”

  1. So wishing I could be there, but alas…. both financial issues and scheduling (our Pastor's Installation is this weekend…) mitigated against it. Keeping an eye on all that is being posted though!

  2. the preconciliar structure of Mass and the Divine Office is the elder brother from which the structure of 1969/70 can learn.

    Also it's good to remember that "the two Forms of the usage of the Roman Rite can be mutually enriching" (Holy Father's intro letter to the moto proprio). The younger brother has a few things it can share with the elder too.

  3. I am just a Catholic pewsitter who knows nothing about liturgical music so take this for what its worth: I thought maybe that it was just our local parish that was the oddity bc no one (I'm not exaggerating) sings & our hardworking choir & director are stuck in the GLory & Praise Era. Then, I traveled around the country this month & stopped at several different midwest parishes for Masses. Turns out, my home parish is not the exception. Sad to say.
    You say in this post that people who lead parish music are in transition. With all due respect: How LONG does transition take?
    This isn't just a rant. In "Spirit of the Liturgy", Ratzinger makes the point that music isn't an addendum to worship but organically part of worship. No one in the parishes I was a part of this month seems to know that.
    We obviously need help & need it quick. I have no idea what kind of help…i.e., to chant or not to chant etc….but we're dying out here.

  4. "In "Spirit of the Liturgy", Ratzinger makes the point that music isn't an addendum to worship but organically part of worship."

    Ratzinger was referencing Sacrosanctum Concilium, which says this clearly. Sacred music is an "integral part" of the liturgy, not a mere decoration, and worse yet not a place for subjective self expression. There are some ideologies that have been held for the past 40 years or so that do not really understand this. Unfortunately there's no quick fix. I think that it will take decades of catechesis, education, prayer and conversion to iron out some of these things.

    You can do much, actually, "from the pews"… please pray for the conversion of hearts and for the right celebration of the liturgy!

  5. Isn't it astounding that all the things that the false spirit of Vatican II was supposed to usher in – active participation, enthusiasm for the liturgy, community spirit, understanding and tolerance – are sadly lacking in so many parishes, while among those who embrace the Church's musical heritage, these things are overwhelmingly present?! The colloquium is fabulous (wish I were there!) but I've experienced something of this same peace and joy with our own little choir.

  6. To G – come to colloquium 2011 and see…share the CMMA vision with your pastor and music director. There is NO pew person…each is called to act! You may be the voice placed in your community to call for a new light in your liturgy…join all of us in CMMA and walk forward to claim the beauty of our liturgy…we need you!

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