Colloquium week in Philadelphia

Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia

The Sacred Music Colloquium is underway at the cathedral in Philadelphia, and today had the most splendid event of the week, a sung Mass with a performance of the Requiem,  the Missa pro defuncto archiepiscopo Sigismundo by Michael Haydn (1737-1806), the younger brother of F.J. Haydn.

The various portions of the Mass were performed by three choirs under the direction of Charles Cole, David Hughes, and Timothy McDonnell. For the occasion, a generous donor made it possible for CMAA to include an orchestra with numerous performers from the Baltimore Symphony.

Charles Cole, choir, and orchestra rehearsing for the Requiem

Charles Cole, choir, and orchestra rehearsing for the Requiem



Here is one portion of the Mass, the Tract Absolve, Domine, performed by the women’s schola composed of colloquium participants under the direction of Mary Ann Carr Wilson:

How Can We Prepare?

Many of us have learned of Wednesday night’s attack on two FSSP priests serving in Phoenix, AZ.  Area police continue to hunt for a gunman who murdered Fr. Kenneth Walker, and critically injured Fr. Joseph Terra.  The crime has been reported as a burglary.  No motive has been determined.

Fr. Walker visited our parish in San Diego as a deacon, three years ago.  He struck me as a singularly gentle, innocent, and humble young man.  When I saw his picture in the news today, I had a hard time imagining the level of cowardice and malice needed to take his life.

When members of the Body of Christ are brutalized, it can be difficult to resist an overwhelming sense of sadness and helplessness.  As more details of his murder come to light, we may well discover Fr. Walker was martyred.  How can we honor his life?  How can we prepare a response in our own lives?

It is my honor to direct a few groups of incredibly dedicated and delightful people.  At a rehearsal tonight, after discussing Fr. Walker’s murder, I stood at the podium and saw a mix of faces filled with sadness, uncertainty, fear, and resolve.  I encouraged them to respond to this tragic attack by renewing their resolve to live a life for Jesus.  To choose now, and to prepare now.  May God give us the strength to remain faithful, to fight, to resist, to pray, to console, and to offer all to Him.

Our Sung Prayers Help Prepare Us
We who work in the field of sacred music as choir directors, organists, and singers possess a great treasure in the sung prayers of the Church.  To the extent that we give our talent and training to glorify God and to edify the faithful, we contribute to spreading joy, hope, and peace.  In our chants, we embrace a full range of human experience- joy, wonder, contrition, sorrow- and we trust that God will bring good out of evil.  

One thing I love about Gregorian chant is how it serves to unite believers across time and borders.  To develop a common chant repertoire that strengthens Christian bonds of charity is part of the genius of the sacred liturgy.  For the singers under my direction, I suggest an “emergency chant pack” of sorts that contains memorized, internalized pieces.  Some prayers we memorize together, and more are chosen by the individual.  These time-tested prayers are doctrinally rich, melodically beautiful, and can serve as sources of strength and consolation during the toughest of times.
What chants would be on your list?