February 1-2, 2008, St. Cecilia Schola Workshop
  • The press release for our upcoming Sacred Music Workshop, this year with Wilko Brouwers, the 5th of an annual event, appears on the cover of the Catholic Week for the Mobile Archdiocese, and several other regional papers. It is striking to consider the placement we have received. Our work is now treated like a normal part of Catholic life, in contrast to five years ago, when we couldn't get any space at all. I can recall an early discussion with the editor of one Catholic paper who suspected that because we are talking about "chant" that we might be followers of Lefevbre or sedevecantists or something. This is the environment that has been fostered by the ubiquity of pop music in Church! Well, that was then, and this is now.

    One point we did differently this year: we said in the press release that this workshop is designed for people who can read music. Now, this might seem like a normal thing to say but people read these things very carefully and can easily be put off by indications that the skill level will be too high. In the past, we've emphasized that anyone can sing and everyone can come. This has led to a mix of people at the event that has not always been ideal. Of course you will always attract people who can't match a pitch (and don't know it!) but this year we made the deliberate decision to raise the bar a bit. We know that this might thin the crowds a bit (we've had 80 in the past) but the level of learning and the quality of singing will be higher. Also, after 5 years, we are no longer doing an introduction to chant of the sort that will always be required. After all this time, though we hope to move further down the path toward excellence -- toward taking Catholic music very seriously.

    Of course we are curious about what this will mean in terms of participation. Part of the problem is that people are not very good at evaluating their own abilities. Sometimes the worst singers have no idea, while the best singers are overly critical of themselves. So we have to hope that our little note about needing to read music will not intimate good singers.

    In any case, we are very excited about this event, and hope that it makes some contribution to continued progress toward sacred music.