Summer 2020 Virtual
Beauty, Simplicity, Practicality:
Developing Quality Sacred Music
in Every Parish
July 19-22, 2020
*Student Rate available
2020 Conference Sessions
Keynote Address: What is Sacred Music?
The word sacred means set aside, in this case reserved for the particular purpose of Divine Worship. Pope St. Pius X defined three characteristics of liturgical music, sacred, beautiful, and universal. Music is sacred which sets the texts prescribed by the liturgy, such as processional texts, scripture lessons, meditation chants, hymns of praise and petition and expression of belief. Their musical style conveys the sense of the action which they accompany. Music is sacred which unites a diverse congregation in a unity joining their voices and lifting their hearts to a common purpose.
Sacred music must be beautiful, because it addresses almighty God, who is the ultimate Beauty. The beauty of sacred music creates an experience of the holiness of God, a foretaste of the Beatific Vision of God, which is the end of each human life. Sacred music thus has a transcendent purpose, which is expressed in transcendent styles. Sacred music is universal when it is received and understood by the body of worshippers as expressing the order and purpose in the liturgy, when it is experienced as being our own, when we sing it by heart, from our very own being.
Kinds of sacred music include Gregorian chant, which arises out of the liturgy itself and has pride of place. Sacred polyphony arises out of chant, in which chant-like melodies combine in a paradigm of order and purpose, expressing the order of creation and leading to the creator. Music for the organ derives from sacred polyphony, being principally in the contrapuntal style of fugue and choral prelude, both of which derive from chant. Hymnody has its origins in the chant as well, and the best of hymnody can be the basis of uniting the minds and hearts of worshippers. Concerted sacred music, which includes beautiful instrumental music interacting with sacred choral singing, whose styles include choral declamation, fugue, and accompanied solo singing, all oriented to the expression of the texts the liturgy prescribes. Other kinds of music can enrich human life: dramatic music, dancing music, music for entertainment, and many more, but sacred music is distinct from these, the highest kind of music because it serves the highest goals.
The Psalms in the Liturgy
The Book of Psalms contains the whole range of human religious expression—the worship of the most high God, the exaltation of the human spirit in the face of God, the confidence of mercy and forgiveness, and even the plea for protection against enemies. The Psalms are the bread and butter of the liturgy. Their deployment throughout the liturgical days and years provides a differentiation of the feasts and seasons, and roots the liturgy in the scripture’s own book of songs. The recurrence of psalm texts throughout the various parts of the liturgy by reference and repetition unites the elements of the liturgy and elevates their purposes in transcendent worship.
Introduction to Gregorian Chant
This lecture/demonstration will teach the basics of reading, singing, and conducting Gregorian chant. Dr. Fitzgerald will delve into the basic neumes and their interpretation, the use of rhythm in chant, and the various Church modes. A sample of Latin and English chant resources will be provided.
Organ Improvisation From Scratch
Improvisation is sometimes seen as a mysterious gift given to the very few - this is a misconception that discourages many from just having a go. It is a skill like any other that can be taught, practiced and assimilated, even given no experience at all. This presentation outlines simple techniques aimed at anyone who may never have tried improvising at the organ, or for whom it is quite new. The approach begins with the conceptual step forward of getting the fingers moving autonomously with no music up on the rack, then progresses to generating some quite sophisticated harmonies through surprisingly simple procedures. You’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish in quite a short time!
The Importance of Hymnody
For centuries, hymns have been recognized as having great significance and value to Christian worship. This brief talk will explore how hymnody contributes to the spiritual life of the Christians.
Lorenzo Perosi, Forgotten Cecilian
Italian priest and composer Lorenzo Perosi was one of the pivotal figures in Catholic sacred music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and directed the Sistine Chapel choir from 1898 until his death in 1956. However, he has since been almost completely forgotten, a result of changing tastes in liturgical music, extra-musical controversies, and efforts to negate his legacy. While the institution of the Church formed and fostered Perosi, Perosi also reformed the institution through his advocacy of the restoration of Gregorian chant as exemplified by his influence on the pivotal papal moto proprio “Tra le sollecitudini.” This presentation discusses Perosi’s legacy both historically and practically, including recommendations of approachable repertoire from his extensive body of work.
Intermediate Organ Improvisation
This presentation is aimed at those who have some experience improvising, though all levels are welcome, and is intended to take service playing to its next level. It includes techniques for generating sophisticated harmony at the keyboard by touch alone (a different approach from harmony by Roman numerals), a straight-forward approach to fugal exposition, and exploration of two of Messiaen’s Modes of Limited Transposition. Finally, David Baskeyfield will outline a particular procedure for improvising in sonata form utilized by Vierne and Dupré in the organ class at the Paris Conservatoire.
Guided Learning: Manuals-Only Repertoire
David Baskeyfield will provide resources and links for a self-guided study of manuals-only organ repertoire that can be practiced on the piano or any keyboard. The highlighted repertoire is perfect for all levels of skill and experience whether you’d like to expand your repertoire and technique or gain some new perspectives on service playing.
Anthem Accompaniment and Organ Management
in the British Cathedral Tradition
This presentation is aimed at both organists and choir directors. Anthem accompaniment is the bread and butter of most of our Sunday mornings and is one of the foremost skills of the church organist. David Baskeyfield will outline techniques for getting the very most out of a given anthem as the organ relates to the choir, providing variously support and decoration. Additionally, he will give an account of the rather free approach to the accompaniment of psalms sung to Anglican chant in this idiom. The approach taken is linked to a particular manner of organ management which both allows flexibility in the moment and saves a lot of time in accompaniment preparation; we will examine organ management as practiced by organists in the cathedrals and collegiate churches, for whom anthem accompaniment is part of the daily routine. Worked examples will be largely drawn from the Anglican tradition.
Conducting Renaissance Polyphony
This presentation will offer a practical approach to the study and performance of fifteenth and sixteenth century polyphonic choral repertoire. Attendees will learn to discover the structure of a polyphonic motet and to amplify the expressive nature of this music through score study and use of the imagination. In addition, conducting strategies, rehearsal techniques, and basic repertoire will be explored.
Panel Discussion: Lessons Learned in the Era of COVID-19
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many churches faced sudden and dramatic changes to worship as they knew it. Join a panel of leading music directors as they discuss a variety of technological solutions they adopted when services moved online, including a fascinating approach to socially-distant choral singing, their efforts to maintain quality music with reduced forces, and their plans for the future. Reflect upon the lessons learned and the long-term effects of this experience.
Plenary Session: Implementing Sacred Music in the Parish
This presentation will explore the characteristics of sacred music from a Catholic perspective with consideration of other faith traditions. Dr. Fitzgerald will discuss Roman Catholic Church documents pertaining to sacred music, the distinction between sacred and secular music, and the trans-temporal nature of the liturgy and why it requires music of a particular sort. This lecture and demonstration will provide practical advice to further develop and enhance a church’s sacred music program and increase appreciation for the liturgy and for sacred music in general, thereby enriching the spiritual life of the participant.