Musica Sacra Florida Conference May 20-21 in Tampa

Join Musica Sacra Florida for our 7th Chant Conference!  

We’ll be meeting at St. Mark the Evangelist Church in Tampa, Florida this year.  Over on the west coast of the state and easily accessible to one and all.  You can find all the details – and register – over at There are four different workshops, two Masses – one Extraordinary Form and one Ordinary Form.  Chant choirs at both beginning and advanced levels. Fellowship with other singers. A fantastic faculty (of which I am a modest member) and propers for the Friday evening Mass sung by the Florida Pro Musica Schola, directed by Larry Kent.

Beginner or advanced or somewhere in-between – all are invited to join us. It promises to be a wonderful little conference. So come on down, up, or across!

Ward Method at Catholic University of America

This just came to my attention.

Ward Method Certification and Gregorian Chant Practicum
The online registration for the Summer 2016 Ward Method courses and Gregorian Chant Practicum is now available to interested persons at Complete instructions are posted following the course descriptions. For scholarship requests, please email Fr. Robert Skeris at

Check it out if you’re interested.  

St. Rita Conference, May 19th to May 21st, 2016

I’m very, very jealous of folks in Texas right now because of this upcoming conference.  (And it takes a lot to make people in Florida envious of Texans.)

Why?  The St. Rita Conference in May which will feature a new cantata by one of my favs, Frank La Rocca.  I’ve already played most of his debut CD, “In This Place,” on my weekly radio show.

Learn more about the conference, the cantata, and the composer.  And gosh, I wish I could get to Texas.

FIUV Position Papers for Edification and Enjoyment!

I always like finding things that if they are not precisely “new,” they are new to me.  There was an interview today on La Lettre de Paix Liturgique with the new president of the International Federation of Una Voce.  The new president, Felipe Alanis Suarez called attention to these interesting position papers on the Extraordinary Form.  They are interesting in both their texts and their footnotes – attention footnote groupies!

You can also enjoy scrolling down the sidebar and seeing past presidents and “movers and shakers” of the movement, including Dr. Borghild Krane, a Norwegian psychologist and, gasp! a woman.

From the website of the FIUV

Here’s the link – certainly worth a glance. And if you don’t have time for the Internet rabbit hole right now, bookmark it for future enjoyment!

Dreaming of June and Making It Happen! Colloquium 2016

Yes, it’s cold and miserable in many parts of the country.  Wherever you look, it’s Shrove Tuesday and everyone is making lists of what to give up and take up. Choir directors are girding their loins for the rehearsals and performances that won’t end until the other side of Easter. 

But wait!

Why not lift your eyes and think of June 2016.  Yes, the 2016 CMAA Summer Colloquium will be upon us “before you can say Scat with your mouth open.” (Don’t ask me what that means!)

From June 20th to June 25th, we’ll be gathering in St. Louis, Missouri.  Easy to reach from north, south, east, west, and middle.  Home of beautiful churches. Splendid Masses, great faculty, uplifting plenaries, a concert at the renovated Main Library, a convenient hotel for our housing and sessions. Everything a music-loving Catholic could want.

And – Early Bird (like the one that catches the worm) registration ends March 1st. Why not go for it? Save some money for a good dinner or put it towards your transportation.  You can learn everything you want to know over at Musica Sacra. And it’s also a wonderful way to make new friends, see old ones, and reinvigorate your musico-spiritual life.

Winter Sacred Music 2016

Join us for the first Winter Sacred Music in Houston, Texas!
January 4th through January 8th, 2016 (Monday through Friday)

Whether you’re an expert singer who just can’t get enough chant and polyphony, or a beginner at one or both repertoires, you’ll have the opportunity to study with two stellar conductors, Wilko Brouwers and Scott Turkington.

There will be morning and evening prayer, meals for meeting and connecting, breakout sessions with Dr. William Mahrt on the liturgy, and liturgies in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms. Early arrivals will also have a chance to hear Solemn Vespers on Sunday evening, performed by the professional choir, Sola Stella, in residence at Annunciation Church.

Register now and you’ll avoid late fees.  You can check out the music book that has already been uploaded and pick your ensemble. All the details and registration can be found at the event website.

This can be the “light at the end of the tunnel” for those tasked with Advent and Christmas music. I look forward to seeing you, meeting you, and singing with you in Houston!

The State of Church Singing – Interesting (and Lengthy) Interview with Benedict Sheehan

I’m posting this link to the Orthodox Arts Journal, so that some of us can see what’s right and wrong in another “musical house.” Benedict Sheehan teaches at St. Tikhon’s Seminary in Pennsylvian and is a composer and director with impeccable credentials. A new recording of his original works, “Till Morn Eternal Breaks” has just been released. You’ll also find some interesting discussion about the use of practicing Orthodox and non-Orthodox singers on the CD – all were professional and it sounds wonderful. You can hear three tracks for free on Sound Cloud.

He also has forthcoming a new edition of the standard chants needed for Orthodox services that is mostly in two parts (remember it has to be a cappella) with additional parts easily added, but he recognizes the diminished singer resources of many parishes. Especially in light of the collapse of music literacy teaching in the schools, all struggle to find singers who can actually read music. That has been my experience with the average Roman Catholic parish choir as well.

One point that struck me is his observation that poor quality music has become “the new norm.” And I would say that this is the case is the majority of American Roman Catholic churches.  Here’s the link:

The State of Church Singing

While this might seem like things are bad all around, it might also be consoling to know that everyone has similar problems.

For further consolation (and pure enjoyment), a YouTube of Sheehan’s setting of the Cherubic Hymn:

Keeping on keeping on!

In puzzling times such as these, I often wonder “why bother?”  Composing, arranging, and teaching sacred music is a load of work and there seem to be so many issues that are so much greater. Ecclesial unity, moral dilemmas, and the daily struggles that seem almost overwhelming in the lives of so many.

Then I remember.

I remember how I felt the first time I heard truly beautiful music in a liturgical environment and it changed my life’s focus.

I remember the happiness of my singers when something we’ve worked on long and hard finally comes together.

I remember the couples at whose weddings we’ve sung and how they continue to thank me every time I see them.

And most of all, I remember that it’s not all about me.

This past Saturday I sang for 8 hours in a small Primitive Baptist Church outside of Hoboken, Georgia. It was the annual Tri-State Sacred Harp (Cooper Book) Singing from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a singing from Lloyd’s Hymnbook from 7 to 9 p.m.  What do I have in common with strict Calvinists and the random collection of music lovers that appear for this event? Love and hope- love of God, love of Jesus as Savior, and hope in the gift of eternal life. It sure helps to remember, doesn’t it?

Sounds Like Chicken, Tastes Like Mozart: The Peril of Easy Comparisons

When I read National Geographic magazine as a child, explorers eating exotic foods, such as alligator, always seemed to characterize it as “tasting like chicken.”  Well, if you’ve ever eaten anything described that way, you know the characterization is two things:  wrong and unfair.  Nothing tastes like chicken except chicken and gator really tastes just like gator.

Previewing a recording of the Missa Alma Redemptoris Mater by Anselm Viola, an 18th-century priest composer at Montserrat, my first thought was “sounds like Mozart.”  And then as I listened more deeply, I realized “No, it sounds like this composer writing in this place for those singers at that time.”  (Incidentally, this is one of the few works of Viola that survived the destruction of the monastery’s library and musical archives by the Napoleonic forces in 1811-1812.)

The easy comparisons of meats and compositional styles can be helpful.  People will eat the exotic food or listen to an unfamiliar composer since they like the one they know.  But it still puts the less-known into an all too convenient box and can blind us to the unique qualities of things in themselves.

In short, use those easy comparisons when they are useful, but try to get “out of the box.”  Even better, of course, no boxes when we listen.

Francisco Carbonell Wins!

Francisco Carbonell is the Director of Music at St. John the Evangelist in Indianapolis, where last year’s Summer Colloquium celebrated its Masses.  And he’s a rising star as a young composer.  Carbonell just won the Chorus Austin Young Composers competition. Here’s a YouTube of one of his compositions for your listening enjoyment: