Peter Latona

The 30th gathering of the Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians was held January 7-14, 2013 in the city of Rome. The members of the CRCCM Steering committee (Peter Latona, Chair, James Savage, Marie Rubis Bauer, Anthony DiCello, Donald Fellows, Michael Batcho along with Leo Nestor and Gerald Muller) organized the trip with he experienced assistance of Peter Bahou of Peter’s Way Tours and his colleague Hans Courtial of Courtial International and the Foundation for Sacred Music and Art.

Prior to the trip, participants were given numerous musicological articles to provide background information to enhance their experience. Topics on performance practice and the papal chapel during the 16th and 17th century, the origins of the roman colossal baroque, the mystique of the Sistine choir in the romantic era, the Roman Frescobaldi tradition, and the performance of Palestrina were among the topics covered in the articles given to participants to read.

After a day’s worth of travel participants arrived at the hotel Palazzo Cardinal Cesi where they were greeted by the serenity of a breathtaking inner courtyard which during the course of the week served as an ideal location for members to relax and have conversation and refreshment. The first evening was marked by the traditional welcome and reading of the Statement of Purpose, followed by an elegant dinner at the Palazzo Cardinal Cesi. The dinner was sponsored by Courtial International. Dr. Courtial took the opportunity to welcome the members to Rome and present information on the work of the Foundation for Sacred Music and the Arts.

The next day began with Morning Prayer in the chapel of the Salvatorian Order located at the Cesi. The morning provided free time for members to attend the papal audience and to visit the Vatican museums. Following an independent lunch members traveled to the Institute of Sacred Music where they were given a brief presentation on the academic curriculum of the Institute. The Institute, founded by Piux X in 1920 has as its aim: to teach the disciplines of liturgical music in terms of practical, theoretical and historical knowledge and to promote the dissemination of the traditional sacred music and encourage artistic expressions appropriate to today's culture; to render, on behalf of the mother Church of Rome, a service to the local Churches throughout the world, as regards
the training of church musicians and teachers of sacred music of tomorrow. The presentation was followed by a tour of the campus which included the opportunity to play the pipe organs housed there, including the three-manual Klais organ in the chapel.

The following day focused on the exploration of Rome’s important instruments, which included the historic 1598 Luca Biagi organ at the Papal Basilica of Saint John Lateran and the monumental Formentelli organ at Santa Maria Degli Angeli, as well as the new Mascioni four-manual organ at San Antonio dei Portoghesi which was designed in part by Jean Guillou with who the resident organist, Giampaolo DiRosa studied.  At each location, CRCCM members were greeted by the resident organist who presented and demonstrated the instruments. Members were also provided ample opportunity to play the instruments in each location.

A visit was made to the Palazzo di Sant’Appolinare, the building which housed the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music until it was moved to its present location in 1983. The auditorium housed a five-manual concert organ from the early part of the century. After a brief audition of the instrument, attendees were treated to an impassioned lecture on the performance style of chant and renaissance polyphony presented by one of the faculty members of the institute. It was asserted that the less than comfortable living conditions and manual labor endured by many living in religious communities during 16th century Rome would not have translated into an overly refined and lifeless performance of the music that was to be sung.

Subsequent presentations over the course of the week included a presentation by Monsignor Massimo Palombella, Maestro di Capella Sistina. Maestro Palombella explained the various changes in the Capella Sistina and his vision for the choir. He expressed his desire to drastically improve the level of performance and the sound quality of the choir as well as altering its rehearsal and performance schedule and even changes to the sound reinforcement system at St. Peter’s Basilica. He also reflected on the challenges faced while trying to implement some of these changes.

Members were provided access to the Vatican archives and were treated to rare musical manuscripts including Palestrina’s Sicut cervus and Gregoria Allegri’s eight-part Easter motet Christus resurgens ex mortuis. An informal choral reading session was organized back at the hotel using parts that were printed to mirror the size and layout design of the partiture which were examine at the Vatican Archives.

Monsignor Walter Rossi, Rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC led morning prayer most days and was the celebrant at a private Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica at the altar of Saint Joseph during which the necrology of CRCCM was read. Special prayers were offer for Joseph Smith who passed away just months before the Conference.

Saturday morning prayer was presided over by Monsignor William Milea, former Master of Ceremonies to Pope Benedict XVI. Following Morning Prayer, Monsignor Milea spoke to the those present about his experience as Master of Ceremonies for Pontifical Liturgies. Later that day, Fr. Thomas Carroll, S.J. offered a mini-retreat which include spiritual reading and quiet time for prayer and
reflection. On Sunday, members walked to the Basilica of St. Peter’s to attend morning prayer with the Chapter of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Capella del Coro and then Mass at the Chair of Peter in the main Basilica. Following noon Mass all proceeded to the rooftop terrace at the Paul VI residence for the Sunday Angelus during which the CRCCM was mentioned by name in the opening remarks.

The concluding banquet was held at Due Fontanelle just off of Piazza Cavour.



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