Charles Culbreth

Dear Friends of Chant Cafe,

I just learned that one of our bloggers and one of the kindest men I’ve ever known, Charles Culbreth died yesterday. He was a unique musician – with a church career that ran from contemporary folk Christian to chant. It is my understanding that he was also an inspired music educator who taught many children and young people the joy of music. No one who ever met Charles forgot him.

Let us not forget him now. Please remember him in your prayers.

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:

Just a Bit of Straight-Tone Women’s Singing from the Santa Fe Desert Chorale

I’ve been a fan of this style of singing since hearing “Les Voix Mysteres” back in the 1970s. Here’s a link to a rehearsal video from the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, a professional ensemble, preparing for appearances at the ACDA in Salt Lake City earlier this year.  This full-throated style is probably what most vocal music sounded like for centuries.

The world of choral music is so vast. When I explore it, sometimes I feel like St. Brendan paddling across the sea in his coracle and making remarkable discoveries.

(Apologies for not being able to connect to this more elegantly, but sometimes Blogger just confuses me.)

Extension of Regular Registration for the CMAA Summer Colloquium in Pittsburgh, June 29-July 4, 2015

As a special indulgence (not found in the Raccolta), the regular registration period for one of the summer’s best sacred music conferences has been extended. The May 15th deadline has been changed to MAY 31ST!

Join us at Duquesne University for mornings of chant instruction, breakout sessions on a smorgasbord of topics, a New Music workshop, afternoons of polyphony practice from Faure to Palestrina, as well as a class in fundamentals of chant and a beginning choir for those just dipping a toe into the waters of the polyphonic sea. Wait – I forgot about the opportunity for private organ and voice instruction.  Splendid Masses in both the Extraordinary and Ordinary Forms, sung by the workshops and choirs, plenary lectures, world-class faculty, fellowship with old and new friends, an opening banquet, dorm accommodations available, a multitude of food plans.

I hope to see you there.  Follow this link to find out more and register:

 So, if you’re sitting on the fence about the Colloquium, hop off and come along for 5 days of wonderful sacred music-making.

Get On Board with the Colloquium Now!

We’re in the 2-week countdown for the CMAA Summer Colloquium.  Regular registrations end on May 15th and after that it will cost you an extra Benjamin (aka $50) to register.
[Correction, thanks to Richard Chonak: – you can only save a Ulysses Grant!  But remember – this is the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.]

What could you do with that $50?  I can think of lots of musical purposes: a chunk of your meal plan, some of the nifty CDs that you’ll find on the book table at the Colloquium, drinks for the new friends you’ll make during the rehearsals or breakout sessions,etc.

Join us!  There’s no other conference that provides the variety and depth that you’ll find at the Colloquium:  chant, polyphony, practical instruction, and uplifting experience, world-class faculty, and the chance to join forces with peers who cherish the liturgical patrimony of the Latin Rite.  And lest I forget – the daily Masses that are so far from the “I-know-it’s-valid-but-boy,-it’s-painful-musically” world that many of us know.

Come to renew, rejoice, and restore your musicality and your spirit!  And do it now!
I look forward to seeing you there.

Musica Sacra Florida at Ave Maria University

If you’re looking for a short but sweet little conference, this is the one for you!  May 15-16th this year on the lovely campus of Ave Maria University.  Chant for beginners/intermediates, advanced men and women, workshops, a special children’s workshop, a keynote by Fr. James Bradley.  Extraordinary Form on Friday evening, Ordinary Form on Saturday afternoon.  On-campus housing available.  Learn all the details and register over at (where else?).  Please join us!