The 26th Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians was held January 5-8, 2009 in Pittsburgh, PA. St. Paul Cathedral Music Director Donald Fellows was the Conference host. The focus of the conference was the recent restoration of the landmark 1962 Rudolph von Beckerath organ at St. Paul Cathedral.
The Conference opened on Monday evening with a cathedral tour and organ demonstration. A dinner and introduction of participants was followed by Compline in the cathedral. Tuesday began with Morning Prayer in magnificent Heinz Chapel on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. The morning was spent visiting several churches with recently renovated pipe organs and presentations by the respective musicians. After a marvelous Spanish lunch the group headed to Dusquense University where Ann Labounsky spoke about the several music collections housed there. Ample time was then provided to peruse the collections of Jean Langlais, Richard Proulx, Paul Manz, David Craighead, Joseph Willcox Jenkins and the Boys Town choir. In the evening all returned to the cathedral to hear the re-inaugural recital presented by James David Christie.
Wednesday Morning Prayer was sung in the cathedral followed by a presentation by Kevin Vogt on the state of organ building in Roman Catholic cathedrals since Vatican II. Part of Vogt’s research included a listing of organs in all U.S. Catholic cathedrals and a survey of those installed since 1962 with special emphasis on those that can be seen as influenced by the St. Paul von Beckerath organ. In the afternoon George Taylor of Taylor & Boody Organ Builders presented a biographical sketch of Rudolph von Beckerath, with whom he apprenticed, and spoke about the challenges of restoring the St. Paul organ. John Goldsmith, director of the University of Pittsburgh Chapel Choir, presented his ideas of “calibrating the ear” in the training of choirs. This concept leads to improved intonation and intervallic awareness. A business session concluded the afternoon activities. The evening featured a concert by the Cathedral Choir performing the Vierne Mass for choir and 2 organs among several other works for choir, organ and other instruments.
Thursday began with a business session followed by the CRCCM composer’s reading session. At noon members participated in the Mass celebrated by Archbishop David Zubik. The afternoon was devoted to a panel presentation and discussion by members of the committee that prepared “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship.” Leo Nestor, Robert Batastini, Michael McMahon, and Rev. Anthony Ruff shared thoughts about particular areas of the documents and a brief discussion time followed. Two choral concerts, first by the University of Pittsburgh Chapel Choir (John Goldsmith) and then the Pitt Men’s Glee Club (Richard Teaster) rounded out the afternoon.
The Conference concluded with an elegant banquet at the Pittsburg Athletic Association.