Hamilton Smith provided a warm southern welcome to CRCCM. The program/agenda was presented; Richard Proulx presented a statement on his resignation as Holy Name Cathedral music director.
Sessions II-III featured James O’Donnell, Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral in London, as our honored guest. He offered a wide-ranging history of Catholic emancipation in Britain, the re-establishment of the hierarchy, the foundation of Westminster Cathedral and its choir school, and its first quarter-century as headed by Sir Richard Terry. O’Donnell recounted the astounding amount of English and Roman polyphony sung by the Westminster choristers, and he included tales of Terry’s research at the British Museum in order to re-construct most of what we now recognize as the canon of early English music. Other builders of the Westminster tradition have included George Malcolm, Colin Mawby, Stephen Cleobury, David and James O’Donnell. He answered questions about the training of the choristers and their role in the future of church music in Britain.
Session IV was a class demonstration in chant presented by Columba Kelly, OSB. He spoke of interpretation as informed by recent scholarship and discussed examples from the Graduale Triplex. He also provided examples of chant in English and new chant. Session V concerned conference business: difficulties in new psalter translations being proposed and questions about Steering Committee nominations and procedures, the Treasurer’s report, discussion of the roster, the status of emeritus members, dues, the newsletter, and approval of the CRCCM Statement on Acoustics.
Session VI was a major presentation on worship and the arts given by the legendary Robert Shaw. Shaw’s presentation was typically rich in philosophy and dense in literary and musical illustration. He pointed out the weakness in taking easy approaches to beauty, which results in compositions debased by habit, flabby language, and the use of platitudes for refuge. In a discussion of the nature of art, the nature of worship, the responsibility of art to worship and the responsibility of the Church to the arts, Shaw spoke of worship as an art-form itself – or a confluence of the arts, that appreciation for true art requires modesty and vulnerability, and a preference for the small truth over the big lie: Saturday night derivatives do not belong at the Sunday morning altar. Valid choices must be based on common sense, good manners, humility, and industry, as well as motivation, craftsmanship, historical perspective, and revelation. In extensive answers to members’ questions, Shaw observed that one cannot have spiritual performances in bad acoustics. He also pointed out that in smooth musical performance, there is no separation between technical perfection and the spiritual.
Session VII was given by Don Saliers at Emory University – a personal perspective on the philosophy of the Milwaukee Document. Sessions VIII-IX were continuations of Columba Kelly’s chant presentations, with emphasis on questions of notation. Christ the King Cathedral staged a production of the medieval Play of Herod – a stylish performance with original instruments. Sessions X-XI concerned the training of children’s voices, using the approaches of Lee Gwozdz from Corpus Christi. Handouts and demonstrations were given as he worked with the Cathedral Children’s Choir. Session XII was a business meting which continued discussion of membership issues, the newsletter, and the Grail Psalter. A CRCCM composers’ reading session followed. The final session was a reflection by Robert Twynham on his philosophy of liturgy/music in which he asked the question: How do we help make the praying, singing, and listening church once again a witness for Christ in a skeptical world?
A festive concluding banquet honored Hal Tompkins, who was shortly to retire from Cincinnati Cathedral. The hosts were Hamilton Smith, Kevin Culver and Timothy Wissler.