Monday, February 16, 2009

Sugar Land, TX Sacred Music Workshop

This was a busy and exciting weekend! I and a few of my schola members traveled down to the Houston area to the CMAA-sponsored Sacred Music Workshop that was held at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Sugar Land, Texas. The director for the workshop was Scott Turkington, who directs a wonderful schola up in Connecticutt and who is an instrumental member of the leadership of the Church Music Association of America. We left Ft. Worth at about 6:45 a.m. Friday morning. Prior to driving to the parish here I stopped to fill up the gas tank and decided to take a closer look at my 'mapquest' map that I had so efficiently printed out in anticipation of the trip. To my dismay, I discovered that the mapquest program had saved me a few miles by sending us onto a 2 lane blacktop road for about 134 miles through the middle of Texas (parallel to I-45). That didn't look good.

So, I had to devise a re-routing using the map of Texas I had in my car that didn't have much detail available. Thankfully, our pastor, who was at the church already for his daily recitation of the office (he was there before 5:30 a.m.), was able to help me plan the trip.

Only a few adventures away (we inadvertently ended up on the HOV lane heading in to Houston and were very afraid we wouldn't be able to exit until we were in the downtown area), we arrived safely in Sugar Land in time for a bite to eat before beginning.

I and those in my schola who attended enjoyed this workshop so very much! It was, in many ways, different than other weekend workshops I've attended (and heard about). The emphasis was on the teaching of chant theory, it seemed to me. It was a sort of condensed Chant Intensive. We got into much more detail about solfege, rhythmic markings, modes, and understanding of neumes than I have seen in the past. The attendees seemed to be generally more advanced in their musical background than you sometimes see at these workshops... so the questions asked by the students ranged from simple questions about why we need ictus markings to comments on Pelagian heresies (that comment came from a home-schooled high school student who was attending the workshop).

It was a most congenial group, a beautiful church, welcoming pastor... several seminarians and priests were involved in the workshop and Mass. The Mass was absolutely packed... The pastor's homily was outstanding... I am attempting to transcribe it... once I get it done, I'll send it to him for approval and then, perhaps, post it. It had many quotable things in it!

Another difference... normally it seems that women usually outnumber the men in attendance -- not even close this time. If you listen to the chant recordings I have posted, you can probably tell what a wonderfully strong section of men we had singing at the workshop... I also had a general sense that the women had less experience and understanding of chant than the men.

The concert provided by the local St. Theresa Schola, directed by Dr. Gregory Hamilton, was very wonderful on Friday evening. They did a selection of William Byrd pieces. As well as the Mass for Four Voices, there were also some harpsichord and organ pieces and a solo ( lament for Thomas Tallis) performed by a schola member with harpsichord accompaniment also... but I only posted the Mass pieces...While I was recording my simple recording using my handheld digital recorder, they were also making a professional recording, which will include all the music. Check out their parish website later on to see if they have it available on CD.

Scott (Turkington) was overheard to say: "Are we still in Texas???"

Some discussion [on the Musicasacra forum (] about this more advanced type of weekend workshop brought forward the question about how beginners (to chant) will be able to learn the basics in a bit less intense format. In response, I have modified my personal information on this blog to indicate that I would be willing to help local groups that want to learn the basics in a less intense setting. I envision offering short seminars to teach the basics of square-note notation, learning a few simple chants that every Catholic should know in a 1 1/2 to 2 hours time period. I have done one such seminar with a church choir here locally since moving here. This could be done for a small or large group very simply if there were demand for it.

I think any of us who direct scholae and who have received the training from CMAA should and could share this information with Catholics living around us who are interested.


tenor1 said...

Janet. I want to thank you and your schola members for joining our workshop this past weekend. My name is Paul and I was the blondish tenor with a grayish beard, who helped with the workshop and sang the Byrd. I was intending on speaking with you, but the time never came. Sorry.

I was quite impressed by how you soldiered through the verses of the Communio. You remained strong and observed all the proper expressives. Well done. It was obvious that you were a cut above the average attendee.

I have spoken to Father Reynolds and he has given his full permission to disseminate his wonderful homily from Saturady night. He has also agree to edit a transcription, so please pass it along. If you let me know when it is done I will followup with Father on this.

I believe that we created some real momentum this weekend, with several people becoming reenergized to go out and teach others.

Once again, please thank your dedicated schola members for their attendance and I look forward to futher communication.

God bless you.


lvschant said...

Paul, thank you so much for your kind words... we enjoyed the entire workshop so very much and got so much from it.

Thanks for speaking to Fr. Reynolds... I am still working on the transcription... once I get it as well as I can discern, I'll send it over. I don't have an email address for you, but I think I can find out how to get it to Fr. Reynolds via the parish website.

I do have your director's email, so I could send it that way also, or you can get my email from him (I'd happily give it to you, but I don't post it on this public site).

You weren't the one who gave us directions to dinner on Friday night, were you (La Madeleine)?

In any case, thanks for everything!

tenor1 said...

Oh yes. I was the Le Madeleine direction guy. I hope that worked out.

I will get your information from gregory and send you mine. That homily was well crafted and communicated in a way that should not rankle too many folks.

We are working on doing another workshop next year and striving for diocesean sponorship. Our wonderful Cardinal DiNardo is a lover of chant, but you know how hard it can be to get something like this through the bureacracy.

Keep us in your prayers.