Next Year in Jerusalem, Or is It Gaza? Detente in Action

Damon: I’ve already decided that all of this “both/and” nonsense is just that, and that my scorn and highly-placed suspicion of the Peritus Musical Society of America (PMSA), its leadership and its many followers who don’t seem to be interested in expanding their horizons in any direction but toward the more and more liberal, is justified. If anyone who associates with PMSA can refute my perceptions (perhaps by sharing a positive experience of the use of chant within the context of a convention-wide event such as a liturgical celebration), I’m more than willing to be chastened. Otherwise, I’d like to know just what position the PMSA truly takes with respect to the re-introduction of chant into the liturgical life of the average parish church.

Arthur: Certainly there are many friendships and relationships between PMSA and CMAA folks, perhaps even at leadership levels. Does CMAA even attempt to make an appearance at PMSA conventions? A vendor table? Applying to run workshops or sessions? Volunteering to help plan even a single liturgical event? A large contingent of traditionalist roaming the halls and wreaking havoc? Just a thought for next year.

Garrett: I’d think a booth would be a good idea. We don’t need to evangelize or be jerks or argue or insult. Just say, “here are some free musical resources you may consider,” and, “in addition to the convention, perhaps next year you will consider the Colloquium as a supplemental training in chant and polyphony?”

Kilroy in Athens: I think my problem with PMSA is the lack of musical and theological standards. Yes, there are lots of fine musicians in PMSA, but for every well-trained musician, there are countless others with a real lack of foundations. PMSA entertains those folks, plays on their emotions, feeds them with music cranked out by the publishers who virtually run the show and shores up their positions. Yes, I know there are small entourages of informed folk, but I personally got tired of the lowest common denominator approach.

Jeremiah Turkish: Yes, and one problem with the idea of expanding the Colloquium is that it would change. We need to remember that the Colloq is not a trade show. It is a training camp for experience in sacred music. Everyone is in two choirs that sing in services throughout the week. That limits its size and scope, providing we retain this model, which is so necessary. So the cap at 250 seems reasonable. But at this stage of history and given highly regrettable aspects of the role of commercial suppliers of liturgical music, a trade-like environment is probably something that should be avoided.

Geneva: “Does CMAA even attempt to make an appearance at PMSA conventions? A vendor table?” I think the idea of CMAA as a “vendor,” just another of various commercial presences at a big trade show, neither more nor less than all those commercial endeavors, would be an ENORMOUS mistake.

Madhu Ceil: Why do the leaders of PMSA don’t invite a CMAA staff member as a speaker, if they really want to do the music that the Church desires?

Charles: Well said, Madhu, and I concur. PMSA is akin to a university of colleges, a marketplace of ideas. CMAA? Moreso a conservatory, a union of principles and ideals.

Arthur: But if there is enough specific interest, enough specific people, and enough specific money- it would be great.

Charles: I (quote from the film) BUCKAROO BANZAI, when Dr. Emilio Lizardo exclaims, “Buckaroo, dunna you ree-ah-lice whaddayou saying?!?” Arthur, you’re sounding like a sales manager with your strategy. If CMAA is bequeathed with fortune that still yielded 12 baskets of leftovers from a start of 2 fish and 5 loaves, it would still feed the faithful. To quote Bob Hurd’s song, “If you belong to me….”
We would not trade our surplus to vendors outside the temple for sacrificial doves so that we could legitimize our presence before the “High Priests.” Would we?

Malachi k: I disagree and think there ARE people at PMSA who want to learn more about chant. The popularity of Paul Ford’s classes last year opened my eyes to that. I saw lots of people looking at By Flowing Waters at the Lit Press booth. And if we brought “free” chant – people would take it. Whether or not they’d ever use it, they’d have it at their finger tips.

Charles : Malachi, I presume your response was to Madhu, and no one should theoretically disagree with your sentiments as well. But, I could only support “the booth” concept if PMSA would also commit to a plenum address or major breakout panel seminar that invited the participation of Dr. Marht and/or Rvs. Pasley or Keyes. Who knows if the PMSA board could stomach that notion? But, such an invitation ought to reflect the clear intent of V2 that Gregorian chant be afforded either “primary” place or, at least “pride of place” at the table. We lament that we musicians were set adrift 40 years ago, and “we had no idea!” remains a convenient excuse for perpetuating that ignorance. But, until the gatekeepers at PMSA keep Dom Pothier et al from the main dais and in hotel modular ballroom breakouts, the principled truths CMAA advocates will remain a lone voice in the din of their malls. PMSA, I believe would gain from offering that place of honor to proponents of chant, namely by thus distancing themselves from the apparent compact they have with “for profit” publishers and other commercial interests. Not to mention that 1500 or so folks would have a golden opportunity to re-evaluate their own contributions and musical legacies knowing “the whole truth.” take it or leave it.

Arthur: I think we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Ambrose : That’s exactly what I was going to say. I agree that being able to get up and make it clear that chant is the ideal, and everything else the exception, would be great indeed. However, right now PMSA attendees (which represent the overwhelming makeup of music directors in our country) hear and know nothing about Gregorian Chant. Sure, having a booth might make it seem like we’re just trying to compete in the marketplace of ideas, but right now you’re not in the marketplace, the public square, and certainly not in the temple.

Charles: Arthur and Ambrose, you misjudge my assignation of CMAA; it posits an ideal, and only points us towards perfection. I don’t know of any other way to respond other than “Chant, not unlike redemption, is not a commodity for sale.”

Conor: Here’s a mischievous thought: what would it cost to stand on the sidewalk and give out CDs and leaflets to conventioneers as they pass between buildings?

Charles: Interesting proposition. I’ll up the ante: if we’re there in Lexington and Concord, why give out CD’s when we could be a living schola? In the entryways of their hall/malls, on the steps of the churches appropriated, in the hotel lobbies, in the lounges after their final events. WWJD?
You know my verbiage is meant to be as inspirational as it appears reckless and revolutionary. And you know I’ve done more than my share of nat’l. and regional PMSA ‘s. I’m not saying the good fight is not allowed to be waged at PMSA ‘s. I am saying that a public, national dialogue has yet to be heard, ala Milwaukee or Snowbird, both of which seem dusty and antiquated to my ears/eyes. A plenum such as Pittsburgh ’99 on the “future” with a panel that included my aforementioned champions, Frs. Ruff, Joncas, Manalo, and a couple of bishops of various stripes (Wuerl v. Vigneron would be a strong draw!) would compel me to spend $ in this economy to witness and regard. Other than that, PMSA has all the attraction, to me, of the LAREC. YMMV.

Maurice O’Coughlin: Charles, mon ami, how I hate the word “progress“. I don’t allow the word to be used in my music history classes since it always suggests a teleological mindset in which Gregorian chant is the most “primitive” of musical utterances. In political discourse, “progress” inevitably means progression towards a goal that a group believes is worthy. I always ask “Progressives” what will they call themselves after they have arrived? In reading comments on Point n Shoot and other places, I can see a digging in of the mainstream against a perceived threat from us. We are smaller in number and I think we should follow Sun Tsu’s advice about not taking on a larger force head on, but attacking the opponent’s weak points. I think we might be missing a great opportunity to outflank the Sacropop industrial complex. ISTM that most Catholics don’t really care one iota about music. If we could attract them to the “idea” (in the parlance of our times, the “sizzle”) of beauty and Catholic identity of chant, we might cut off the support for the status quo. Just thinking out loud.

Charles : Maurice, thank you for addressing my frustration so reasonably. If this four year old “gets The Art of War” does that make me “The Karate Kid?” Perhaps I should have just stopped at “advance.”
Take another read of my fantasies. My strategy includes guerilla tactics aimed at the foot soldiers who deliver their ideas, notions and prejudices to “most Catholics” via marching orders provided them by generals and politicians (please, this is figurative opinion-speech here) who seem only to agree upon one objective-sustaining their industrial complex- after two generations of debate and contradiction that simultaneously appropriates the will of conciliar legislation and selectively ignores its very content that would “end the war.”
I reiterate my other fantasy by pondering the active “advice” of another historical figure. Jesus of Nazareth dined with Pharisees in their homes, took on the marginalized and misfit as followers, faced the confused and apathetic crowds with exhortations that likely didn’t edify their expectations of a messiah, fed them in the bargain, met them one by one when possible and offered forgiveness and hope, and took on the larger forces of an empire, its lackey local king and clerical storm troopers, the mob held captive by their sway, and still never wavered from uttering unadulterated truth. Forgive the zeal and naïveté of the sermonizing. I do not want ANYONE to mistake the above example as (mis)characterizations of our beloved siblings at PMSA. I would like, simply, to live long enough to witness a profound meeting of the minds of our most gifted prophets, and to know movement towards real unity might result.

Froderick: Here’s my outlook. We (CMAA) or any other liturgical guild of sorts, is not “at war” with the likes of PMSA. I never joined any of the usual guilds because most of them do not align themselves with Catholic theology or liturgical ideals that the Church upholds.

Maurice O’Coughlin: Froderick, we may not be at war, but the folks who have the influence in “music ministries” and their support systems attack us at the mention of chant. “We’ve come too far to turn back now!” and “Chant and serious music are not uplifting!” and “Chant will drive people away from the Church!” are the battle cries. Actually for them, I agree with the first call. THEY have come too far to admit they were wrong. Let’s say that every church in the country started using chant (in all forms) and a more dignified music in general–this way no one can simply shift parishes. How many would leave the Church over it? How many would return in a few weeks after their tantrums have subsided? Is their theology so tied up in the “joyful noise” syndrome that they would look for the nearest megachurch? If so, it wasn’t the music that that sent them there. The music was just the last thread holding them to Catholicism.

Durwood: So much for my suggestion in another thread that the Colloquium be held in Massachusetts next year (before I knew PMSA had decided to have its meeting there)…! I think I am finally starting to understand Froderick’s side, but I just don’t consider the whole issue to be so dramatic. Touching just one music director means that an entire parish will begin to experience better liturgy.

Charles: Durwood, as the source of some of the recent drama, I state that my response to the “let’s just set up a booth” proposal indicated my assessment of its viability and worth in the larger scheme. As Dr. Mahrt has stated of late, if chant is invited to the banquet table, but is knowingly regarded by all others present as the odd uncle whose mutterings are to be ignored, then the morality and manners of the host are dubious at best. So, it’s either a question of brick by brick (where we are) or true recognition (how apt is that?) and reconciliation among these “guilds.”

Madhu Ceil: Hmmm, I’m thinking young people might actually pull this together. I usually like the spirit of ‘let’s try and find out.’ (I came to America by myself with that spirit when I was young.) I don’t know how many volunteers you will get (if you actually organize this), but you might also have to do some fund raising and start saving money to cover all the expenses, or some portions at least, including the cost of the trip for each person. And then they might have to miss coming to Colloquium, (It’s very hard for many musicians to afford both events for time and expenses.) If you cannot afford to do both, I don’t know which one you will choose? I think people who go there need to be well trained and knowledgeable to deliver the message effectively, maybe you are. (As you can see, I’m a tad on the older side and cautious.) Everyone has a different talent, and if you think this is your call, why not?

Charles: You’re right, Madhu, indeed: Why not?”