St Meinrad National Winter Pastoral Chant Conference
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    Come to the Tenth Annual National Winter Pastoral Chant Conference at St. Meinrad Archabbey, The Cradle of English Chant
    for the Novus Ordo Parish Liturgy
    A Pastoral Conference of Learning, Singing, Praying Chant

    For the Parish Choirmaster, Cantor, Parish Singer

    February 4-8, 2019

    Come and experience chant as “Full, conscious, and active participation” in the sacred liturgy, and learn how to integrate it into your parish’s liturgical life!

    Sponsored by St. Basil School of Gregorian Chant
    University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas

    Discover how singing chant can provide full participation in the Church’s eternal liturgy.

    Experience chant as conscious participation in the Church’s eternal Liturgy

    Learn how to lead your congregation into active participation in the Church’s eternal Liturgy

    All the information is here!
  • Part conference, part retreat. All heavenly.
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 690
    So I went to this conference in February 2019. Reminded by Stimson's recent write up of his conference experiences, I'll add mine here, though with the caveat that I went to this conference in the following condition:
    -never having attended a sacred music conference of any kind
    -coming off of two years of depression and ill-health
    -coming off of eight years in Brazil, where the state of the liturgy and music (and of general living conditions and financial conditions) is very, very different from the US, and had been very hard for me to adapt to.
    -having converted in Brazil; attending the OF during the week and EF on weekends (or more often if available, such as when traveling)
    -a female member of a of a long-standing small schola cantorum (mixed men and women) that only sings the propers at the EF...USING THE SEMIOLOGICAL INTERPRETATION!!!!

    So because the St. Meinrad conference was specifically focused on the semiological intepretation of chant, which is what I sing, and I have never seen this at any other conference, I thought it would be really interesting to check out.

    Several people made mumbling noises when I said I was going there, though in hindsight I think this was largely to do with the very 'post-Conciliar' style of the monastery, rather than the chant part.

    In the interests of brevity I'll leave aside my many observations about cultural and architectural things (such an ease being around my own people! spectacular campus!!) and just focus on the conference part:

    There were perhaps 40 attendees, if I recall. The attendees a) all sang well and b) were mostly music directors or schola directors of their parishes. Singing with them was delightful.

    We spent the week in classes, with daily rehearsals for singing in an evaluative concert, a vespers in a local parish, and part of the final Mass. For the sake of efficiency we self-divided into three groups (women only, mixed beginners, and mixed advanced) and presented in those groups for the evaluation, then sang as a single schola for the other events.

    The women's group rocked. As I anticipated, we talked less and sang more, under the direction of a brilliant and delightful young Benedictine nun (she will be abbess one day, and renew her abbey). We won the evaluation, much to our smug delight.

    The Abbey is attached to a seminary, and we used the facilities of both. The Office was chanted (in English - a specialty of this monastery, who worked hard for decades to translate all their chant from Latin into English and offer this as a resource for others), and we were scheduled to attend that (optionally) several times a day. I mostly skipped that, not because I don't love the Office, but because I was so thrilled to be able to walk around freely outside in a cold climate without danger to life and limb that I used all of the Office time to walk laps around the beautiful wooded campus, talking to God and weeping with joy. I was staying in a room (the rooms are very comfortable! and everything is handicapped accessible, by the way) right under the bell tower, which rings for 15 solid minutes every morning to call the monks to Laudes. So I would get up and go out walking and watch the dawn arrive.

    The lectures on semiology were only moderately interesting to me, as I'd already heard most of these details from our schola director. The additional lectures on the history of the psalms, on translation, and other general subjects around chant were very interesting. There were several hours of classroom time daily, and mealtimes were not rushed, and used as good social time.

    I did have an absolutely hilarious conversation with the very ancient chaplain who I discovered one day up at the retreat center (where a few people were staying in rooms, and some meals and classes were taken). He asked me what I was there for. I said the music conference. He said "Ah! Ward method this! Semiology that! Ha ha!" I looked at him in astonishment, as I do find this tedious in any subject, the idea that one must promote ones method by denigrating the idiots who do it otherwise. I said "But how can they...?" and he cut me off with a gentle "The sun will come up tomorrow." I thought it was a spectacular answer.

    Will I go back: probably not, as I imagine it might be a bit repetitive. If I went back it would be to be with a great group of people in a really quiet and delightful location. I really do like the semiological interpretation. It seems so natural to me to follow the rhythm of the text. Though I find that well-sung chant in any method tends to sound great and I wish people would quit forming little insular groups that aren't on speaking terms with other groups, as I think this is very un-Christian. It's a tougher call when the problem is theological or liturgical (which is theological), but even so one can address these things with kindness, wisdom, good example, and cheerful patience rather than disdain, I think. Hard sometimes, but worth the effort. Anyway, generally the 'politics' of chant were not prominent, outside of a couple of lectures, and the attendees seemed principally excited to learn chant (in English) that they could take home to their parishes, to help improve the possibilities there.

    On the note of cheerful patience, I will say I always attend Mass in a chapel veil and long skirt, and only take communion on the tongue (though I cannot kneel without a communion rail, as my knees are bad). And this was not a problem. The liturgy at the monastery is a mix of very solemn, spare and traditional with some quirks of modernity. But I will look forward to exploring the retreat/conference options around the EF in the future, if time allows for more retreats.

    I'd scheduled to go to Besalu, Spain, for a medieval music conference in July, but work has gotten very complicated and I decided to cancel and do that some other year when I'm not dealing with running a small business in a foreign country...
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 2,722
    Catherine, thank you for sharing your experiences. I'd missed the original posting so I'm glad to be aware of this conference now and I'll consider it for next year. Very helpful.
  • I have not attended the conference, but the physical setting would be a perfect place for such an event.

    I spent a (brief) time as a college seminarian at St. Meinrad. Musically speaking, it was an excellent experience, especially learning from Fr. Columba Kelly. The college chapel, like most of the buildings was made of Indiana Sandstone, quarried locally. With over one hundred of us chanting, the chapel acoustics were electrifying. While the priesthood was not my vocation, my experience there greatly influenced who I am today.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 675
    St. Meinrad was the home of Bl. Solanus Casey for many years! And he was a musician and a healer, too! So I am sure you were blessed to be there.

    One of the university chapel priests who has since passed away spent some time at St. Meinrad's to see if he had a vocation. He said he wasn't much good at the other work; so they assigned him to work with the beekeeper, and that guy was really cranky to him. Years after he passed away, I read a book about Bl. Solanus... and it talked about how he got assigned to the beekeeper, who was really mean to him, too! Eventually the guy toned it down, though, because it's no fun being cranky to an old living saint who is nothing but patient. (Apparently he had no problem continuing it with other people.... Ah, well, maybe he had reason. Bees can be finicky.)
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,916
    Thank you, Catherine; I am flattered to have been a good influence for once! It's a shame I never managed to make it when Fr. Columba Kelly was still teaching it. By all accounts he was a sharp cookie. And it IS a beautiful campus, and you made the right decision by skipping the Office, if you ask me . . . while the acoustics are impeccable, the quality of chant as led by the brothers when I was there (mid-summer, mind you) was below average.
    Thanked by 1CatherineS