NPM Convention is on . . .
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Although I haven't been a member of NPM for several years, this year's national convention is being held in nearby Detroit. A good friend and colleague is serving as organist for the opening event, and as we had some other matters to deal with today (namely preparing also for Vespers in the EF for the Latin Liturgy Association conference set for next weekend also in Detroit), he invited me to sit in on the rehearsal for the opening event of the convention.

    I won't go into details, other than to say that I saw absolutely nothing different from the way they've done things for other convention openings going back many years (at least 10); lots of para-liturgical elements, liturgical dance with incense, African drums and other multi-cultural hat-tips, and quasi-choreographed "production numbers" with music that remains, for want of a better description, just as trite and disappointing as previous years when I used to attend these fetes.

    For a number of years now there has been offered a "chant intensive" that parallels other convention events, and anyone attending the convention who chooses to attend the "intensive" attends an exclusive set of lectures, etc., on Gregorian chant that are separate from the rest of the convention. While there are some "breakouts" that are open to other attendees, the "intensive" is only for those who sign up (and I believe pay extra) for it, and "intensive" attendees do not mingle with the rest of the convention, save for convention-wide "plenum" events.

    The last convention I attended was in Indianapolis in 2007, literally the day after the issue of Summorum pontificum, and if memory serves, Gregorian chant in Latin was only marginally featured in any of the liturgical offerings of the convention (morning/evening prayer and the Mass, which was called the "convention Eucharist", thus avoiding the use of the term, "Mass"). When I say marginally, I mean very marginally, as if it were a novelty to be entertained (and its proponents patronized) rather than demonstrated in a legitimate, liturgically correct fashion.

    And so, I must ask a very direct, pointed question: Is the National Pastoral Musicians truly interested in demonstrating by action exactly what was discussed in Sing to the Lord, namely, that chant has "pride of place", or are they clearly showing that chant is only an option among many, and one that resonates with a very distinct and marginal group of "liturgy geeks", musicologists and backward-thinking scholars?

    I've already decided that all of this "both/and" nonsense is just that, and that my scorn and highly-placed suspicion of the NPM, its leadership and its many followers who don't seem to be interested in expanding their horizons in any direction but toward the more and more liberal, is justified.

    If anyone who associates with NPM can refute my perceptions (perhaps by sharing a positive experience of the use of chant within the context of a convention-wide event such as a liturgical celebration), I'm more than willing to be chastened. Otherwise, I'd like to know just what position the NPM truly takes with respect to the re-introduction of chant into the liturgical life of the average parish church.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    I've been hearing about the coming good trends at NPM for years but every time I hear this I run across an issue of their magazine and I'm always left with a sense that nothing is going to change. The last issue I saw featured a celebratory image of a liturgical dancer in a wheelchair. If there were an Onion-style magazine to make fun of goofy Catholic liturgy, this would be it.
  • Dale Fleck
    Posts: 49
    Undoubtedly I will be chastised for my comments but here goes: I find that anything done or promoted by NPM is extremely "low brow" and does nothing to promote excellent quality in liturgical music. I find that somehow the entire organization is in a 80's time-warp. They certainly are not in step with the current flow of the universal church. Unfortunately, they seem to promote exactly what I am trying desperately to change in our little rural diocese!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,377
    I don't know what NPM is doing these days. A few years back, our pastor decided that we had "grown past NPM." That's when the church stopped paying for memberships. I didn't see anything that warranted spending my own money to continue to belong to NPM. That organization will never change. It's like an old Brady Bunch episode that keeps replaying on and on and on. Polyester rules! :-)
  • To gain a deeper understanding of how a choir is viewed by NPM, here's a link to one view that may explain a lot. click here

    There's a lot said here, but the concept that congregational singing is indispensable...something that is non-existent in many parishes is indispensable?...seems as prejudiced as the title of the chapter itself.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    The "we've grown past all that" bromide favored by the "spirit of the Council" crowd can easily be turned against them.

    While watching the rehearsal and also listening to one of the "ambient music ensembles" that they feature out in the lobby areas during the convention (typically overgrown "contemporary" ensembles, replete with individual mics and music stands) I was struck by the image of an adult teen, an adult suffering from arrested development, who has replaced thumb-sucking, a teddy bear and a security blanket with the musical and liturgical equivalent. They claim to be "past all that" (chant, Latin, serious-minded liturgical texts) and yet they've not grown past anything. Their musical and liturgical (and perhaps even their spiritual and theological) sensibilities seem to be stuck in a bizarre, self-indulgent mid-adolescent state where they can't get past soft food, sweets, mashed vegetables and other comfort foods of childhood and move on to grown-up solid foods that are complex in flavors and textures. It's much like dealing with a child who who must always have hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, mac and cheese or canned spaghetti and turns up their nose at steak, smoked salmon, salads and other foods that require a more mature palate and a more sophisticated or learned appreciation of what they're eating.

    And it seems to me that this is why, as I noticed today, that many of these "contemporary" ensembles, and indeed much of the NPM ethos, attract so many teens and young people. They gravitate to those who share their cultural, spiritual and aesthetic sensibilities. I've had conversations with adults and teens involved in NPM, and these conversations tend to lean toward sham philosophy, questionable theology, feeble political awareness and a "warm-n-fuzzy" ethereal transcendence rather than a serious-minded grasp of the Faith, the Christian life and the place of the Catholic Church in the public square. The parallels can be seen in modes of dress, behavior and attitudes between the youth and adults who align themselves with NPM, versus those who are regular attendees to EF Masses and other events and gatherings of more orthodox (or "traditional") Catholic adults and young people.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    Friends,

    A few thoughts:

    If they decide to embrace the spirit of the times, and therefore embrace Gregorian chant, the Church wins.

    If their "fad music" and 1980's-style music is never heard from again, the Church wins.

    If we waste time worrying and complaining that they ignore what the Church teaches about Sacred music, the Church loses.

    Again, just a few thoughts.
  • Maureen
    Posts: 670
    1. Probably there's a lot going on under the surface at the NPM convention (besides the chant intensive, though I'm sure that's a symptom). Not everybody who's there is signed onto all the silliness.

    2. We are increasing having people in the CMAA community who aren't traditionalists, but who just want to worship God with better music. I heard a few such people at the Colloquium who were really offended by certain comments made. Some people have good memories of things like NPM, and NPM's done stuff for them. (Personally, I never even heard of NPM until well after hanging out with CMAA, but I'm not anywhere near their targeted audience.)

    3. While it's not a good idea to be defanging anybody of their right to hold and express opinions and influence decisions, I do think that maybe it's not a great plan to get too openly bitter about this stuff all the time. (I know my own temper and resentments are not attractive.) There's a lot of all-or-nothing attitude, which could make for an impossible demand on newbies and the undecided. I know people don't mean to do this, but it could happen.

    4. It makes the eventual mental takeover and world domination of all other organizations more difficult, if you say too much first. :)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,619
    Never joined because of what it has always promoted.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    I think Maureen is right, and I want to add one other thought.

    Like any large professional organization, what NPM can provide, regardless of one's beliefs, is a network of professional connections. Granted, if you are going to dislike 90% of the people there (personally or professionally), maybe it's not worth going to the convention or joining, but in my experience, finding the other 10% happens very quickly and can lead to fruitful relationships.

    As Maureen suggested, the CMAA almost certainly has its 10 at the Colloquium, too.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,377
    I have no agenda against NPM. It's just that the organization doesn't offer much that is useful in my situation. Generally, when they have a big news item, or a magazine article that's good and useful, it gets copied, summed up, or referenced in another music magazine - AGO, for example. My biggest criticism of the organization is that it is far too cozy with the music publishers. I don't think that always works in the best interests of individual church musicians. An underlying objective of a "professional" organization should not be, "What can we sell them today?"
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    With regard to comments made at the Colloquium, I should point out that given what we do at the Colloq, and given the reality in the parish/NPM mainstream, I would say that the Colloq is remarkably disciplined in this regard. We try extremely hard to present a 100% positive agenda, while keeping all other issues of musical politics out of it. Yes, from time to time, some speaker might have an aside (we aren't into total control of people's thoughts and expressions), one would have to be pretty sensitive to be offended. Yes, we can do better, but know that we are all extremely careful in this regard.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,412
    Certainly there are many friendships and relationships between NPM and CMAA folks, perhaps even at leadership levels. Does CMAA even attempt to make an appearance at NPM conventions? A vendor table? Applying to run workshops or sessions? Volunteering to help plan even a single liturgical event? A large contingent of traditionalist roaming the halls and wreaking havoc?

    Just a thought for next year.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Adam, the CMAA is very poor. We have to use resources (time and money) in the wisest way, and that means education and training. It is not a matter of temperament or whatever; it is just a practical reality. If someone wants to donate time and money, it could happen.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    Oddly, after I placed a "sink" tag on this this discussion last night, it became "unsunk" this morning, with more comments. To whomever removed the "sink" tag, I would politely ask that my wish to sink this thread be respected.

    Thank you.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    It is sunk. What that means is that new comments are not supposed to bring it back to the top. I see no changes to your wishes taking place.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I found the comments here to be a well-measured and even necessary discussion of NPM's role in the Church. Especially on a topic so prone to vitriol, I think the comments here have shied away from attacks of NPM's membership, but rather focus, again necessarily, upon their goals and methods. David makes an excellent point that NPM seems to exclude the possibility that there are other ways of doing things than (let's admit it) the 80s cheapo show method. While the CMAA does not endorse the status quo, or even a "4 good hymns" model, it does offer many liturgical and musical visions which demonstrate excellence, holiness, continuity, and even diversity. And as Maureen said, even a non-traditionalist can aspire to those goals. Our friend Adam is a good example of that. The CMAA does not marginalize chant advocates, or orchestral Mass people, or polyphony fans, or traditionalists, or reform2, or just plain English OF people.
  • David, not sure why you wanted to sink this thread. Anyway, I completely reject the idea of having a CMAA presence at NPM. This intentionally places CMAA as a "vendor" or someone who just has something to sell. I prefer to think of CMAA as the replacement for NPM eventually. We won't get there until we start thinking of ourselves as such.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,619
    I unsunk it because I want my comments to appear at top. David... why sink?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,619
    ...and btw, isn't it the perrogative of anyone to unsink a comment? Just wondering JT... is there a protocol on sinking and unsinking a thread?
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    OK, I give. It's "unsunk".

    I just lost a really great response I'd written up, and don't have time to reconstruct it now, but I'll do so later.
  • don roy
    Posts: 306
    the first npm convention i went to was way back in 94 in cincinnati. i remember that they had a balanced "conventiom Eucharist" with some nice motets. also there were enough opportunities for organ recitals etc (Paul Sulumanovitch gave an incredable choir workshop that year)
    interestingly, the convention planners got slammed for doing too much "high church, triumphalistic" music. Chanticleer was giving a spectacular concert yet i heard complaints that there was too much claSSICAL music.
    the next convention was in indianapolis and they made sure said criticism never happened again.
    im wondering if its time to rejoin npm. perhaps if some of us did so maby a grass roots movement could get started. id be happy to volunteer to man a booth or whatever.
    just some disjointed thoughts.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I'd think a booth would be a good idea. If it weren't for my trip, I'd do it right now at the Detroit convention. We don't need to evangelize or be jerks or argue or insult. Just say, "here are some free musical resources you may consider," and, "in addition to the convention, perhaps next year you will consider the Colloquium as a supplemental training in chant and polyphony?"

    In fact, I'm tempted to run down to the cathedral right now and just throw CDs with the Gregorian Missal PDF at attendees...
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,131
    I am glad the comments are still open. I left NPM in 1999 after several conventions of being told by various parties that "good" Catholic music was not played on the organ. I echo the response don roy made about the two conventions even though I played a recital at the Indianapolis convention.

    I think my problem with NPM is the lack of musical and theological standards. Yes, there are lots of fine musicians in NPM, but for every well-trained musician, there are countless others with a real lack of foundations. NPM entertains those folks, plays on their emotions, feeds them with music cranked out by the publishers who virtually run the show and shores up their positions. Yes, I know there are small entourages of informed folk, but I personally got tired of the lowest common denominator approach. I have since canceled my membership, dont read the magazine anymore and find my money better spent on other things. And I would have been at the colloquium this summer were it not for research on a particular composer that I have expressed admiration for in other posts. I openly encourage diocesan musicians in my diocese to look at other approaches.

    My .02
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,669
    This is the first time in 4 years that I haven't been to the NPM Convention... I do miss some things (the socialization, which I didn't get as much of at the CMAA Colloquium as I typically find at NPM --- the huge book sale, which I do enjoy at the NPM convention --- the huge convention-wide sing-alongs.. there's just something about singing in a huge room full of 1000+ people that is special, even if the music lacks quality --- skipping out on lots of sessions to go drinking with a random group of other people who don't want to be in a room clapping to "Lead me, guide me."), but I thought the Colloquium was a much better way of spending my time.
  • Yeah, it's tough to skip out on Colloquium sessions! I think the major publishers would send reps to Colloquium but I'm not sure they are keen to compete against all the free stuff! I do wish, however, that there was a bit more free time outside of meals to network and enjoy a few cold ones.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,669
    Yes, I think the difference between an NPM Convention and the Colloquium can be understood thusly:

    NPM is more like a vacation to Mexico, while the Colloquium is like a trip to France/Italy. You're likely to take in more aesthetically beautiful things and learn more in France/Italy, while you're likely to get more rest, relaxation and party time in Mexico.

    NPM is more like going to university straight out of high school, while Colloquium is like going back to university in your 30s. When you're in your 30s you're more likely to attend classes, learn more and keep focused, while if you're in university straight out of high school you're bound to skip many classes, stay up to ungodly hours doing who knows what, and probably not get as much out of your courses than you would if you weren't so darn hung over.

    I did get an email from a choir tour company representative that I spoke to at last year's NPM Convention asking me if I was going to Detroit this year. I replied that I wasn't, and had instead gone to the CMAA Colloquium. I then gave him the contact information for CMAA and told him to consider looking into setting up a booth at the Colloquium next year, or at least send along some materials.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Fr. Ruff is live blogging the event. Attendance is down nearly by half from three years ago.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,377
    I don't agree with him about that "conservative" label. I am neither left, nor right, but view myself as solidly in the middle between two extremes. That's the position I work from in seeking out well-written modern sacred music, and the best of the Church's sacred musical heritage. I think it's a good place to be. And what's all that garbage from Sister Mary Once-Relevant about "retrenchment and reversal?"
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,412
    Attendance is down nearly by half from three years ago.

    My brother, who usually goes, isn't. He has no hangups (that I know of) with the Contemporary fare, but he told me that last year was really disappointing.
    Also- I imagine a lot of budgets have been cut.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    When I think of NPM, I remember the American Library Association from my former life (one of many) as a library administrator. ALA has a huge profile, name recognition, and a monster convention. It is terminally politically correct and usually out of touch with reality. It also does virtually nothing for its member librarians in terms of helping them secure better wages, improving professional training, etc. The smaller specialty library associations (Music Library Association, Association of College & Research Libraries, Special Libraries Association) are the ones that matter to those who do the work. Some of these are "related to ALA;" some are independent. CMAA falls in that classification for church musicians.

    I do wish there were more time for partying (oops, I meant networking) at the CMAA colloquium.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Well, I felt there was enough time for socializing this year at the Colloquium, especially during the walks between classes and the church, in addtion to the meal time(and also in the long waiting line ;-). (Mary Jane, I enjoyed talking with you, while we are walking to the church.) And I believe there were more free time between the classes this year.
    This is once a year I really get to learn and take classes, and people are free to skip classes if they want to. Instructors are not checking on attendances. So I truly appreciate all the classes and talks CMAA offers at the Colloquium. (I need to bring them here as much as I can.) And it was hard to choose breakout sessions, because I wanted to hear them all. They were all outstanding. With the tight budget, like many people here, I have to be very selective. I don't think I can afford to go to NPM. (Things they do at the NPM, are pretty much done here, nothing really need to learn more there in regard to sacred music.)
  • BachLover2BachLover2
    Posts: 330
    npm is singing the new translation in public Masses before permission has been given.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    I don’t know whether a relative lack of social time is a good or bad thing. At Spode Music Week we solve it using the night hours. Bottles are opened once Compline is over (and frequently before), and semi-organised music making goes on into the small hours. The downside is the increasing difficulty of making the next morning’s vocal warm-ups as the week goes by …
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    npm is singing the new translation in public Masses before permission has been given.


    My own view is: good for them!
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 989
    I always enjoy chatting with Mia, especially on the way to church. I'm only complaining because I couldn't talk to EVERYONE.
  • Erik P
    Posts: 152
    .
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Actually it seems many young people at the Colloquium got together after the Compline almost every evening, and manage to get up for the morning prayer next day. But someone like my age needs to make a hard choice between sleep or social.

    "...CMAA ever consider expanding the Colloquium?"

    To me, CMAA expanded greatly over the years with a small number of volunteers. I think there are more and more people volunteering to put the event together. CMAA staffs are all volunteers, and I believe they are doing more than what they can. And if anyone have ideas of expanidng the Colloquium, I think they have to volunteer to put them in action, and this foum is a good place to organize and get support. ( 'CMAA choir to Rome' is a good example. Michael O'Connor is putting things together. We are very thankful for that.)
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Yes, and one problem with the idea of expanding the Colloquium is that it would change. We need to remember that the Colloq is not a trade show. It is a training camp for experience in sacred music. Everyone is in two choirs that sing in services throughout the week. That limits its size and scope, providing we retain this model, which is so necessary. So the cap at 250 seems reasonable. There might be a role for some other event down the line, something that accommodates more people. But at this stage of history and given highly regrettable aspects of the role of commercial suppliers of liturgical music, a trade-like environment is probably something that should be avoided.
  • BachLover2BachLover2
    Posts: 330
    there is absolutely no comparison between the dedication and sacrifices the people at the colloq make and the folks at npm. apples and oranges.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    Don Roy- I well remember the Pittsburgh NPM- Chanticleer sang there also. and the opening Ceremony had some traditional stuff. What I remember is the following NPM mag where there was MUCH criticism of the 'highbrow' music. I went to the one in Indy the last time it was held there, but only b/c my daughter lives there! LOL The best thing about NPM was the reading sessions with Oxford, Augsburg, Concordia and chatting with Cliff Hill.
    Ian- remember Beverly Sills always said 'Why waste your voice on the warm-up?' when someone asked her how she warms up! HAHAHAH!
    Not sure why I'm still reading this site- force of habit, and I like you all.
    As soon as I 'left' the organist I had hired to sub this summer was called and told his services were not needed, altho' I had been told not to do it myself in enough time for him to possibly find another gig.
    Donna
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,740
    The Colloquium has indeed grown: from 175 participants at Catholic U in 2007 to 250 participants in the years since then. In '07 there were, if I remember right, three chant choirs and one polyphonic choir consisting of everyone. With most of the sessions held in a single building, there was a more relaxed atmosphere.
  • Erik P
    Posts: 152
    .
  • So the NPM is down and Colloquium and Chant Intensive were full.
  • G
    Posts: 1,391
    "Does CMAA even attempt to make an appearance at NPM conventions? A vendor table?"

    I think the idea of CMAA as a "vendor," just another of various commercial presences at a big trade show, neither more nor less than all those commerical endeavors, would be an ENORMOUS mistake.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the world)
  • I agree with G, CMAA would not be a place for NPM to have a table and vice versa.

    The objectives of the two organizations are widely divergent.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    We have something to sell, don't we? (the colloquium and membership/Sacred Music, namely)
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,619
    No Gavin. We aren't a vendor for the liturgical stew. That will just add confusion to those that don't know better and provide ammunition to those that do.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,669
    I disagree and think a CMAA table at the NPM Convention would be an amazingly good idea. Even if we just got a few people interested, I think it would be a wonderful thing! "Trickle down" liturgics.

    Say CMAA had a table with one or two well balanced volunteers to run it and sold volumes of Sacred Music, Tucker's book, the Parish Book of Chant [Lit Press seems to do well selling their chant books at NPM], and perhaps a few other academic books on liturgical music. Also they could sign people up who were interested in becoming members of CMAA, answer questions on chant and polyphony, etc... Perhaps CMAA could partner with CC Watershed and sell Kevin Allen's music and advertise the Chabanel Psalms.

    Just passively hoping that people come to know chant is not the way to do things. Would we just be one element in a big liturgical stew? Yep. But perhaps some people will find that we're the tastiest piece of lamb in that stew. Perhaps we'll sway some people away from the stew and encourage them just to order the lamb.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    As a reminder, there is absolutely nothing to prevent anyone from doing this. There is no central headquarters telling anyone what to do or what not to do.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    I agree with Matthew; having a presence at NPM really has nothing to do with being a vendor.

    To offer a similar scenario, the Society for American Music regularly has a booth alongside the academic presses in the display room at the annual conferences of the American Musicological Society. The table's primary function is to renew old memberships, gather new ones, and release information about its own annual conference (which usually occurs about 4 months after the AMS). The executive director of SAM, along with members of both societies, staff it on a volunteer basis (notice I didn't say "man" it!). I don't think being there ipso facto makes one a commercial vendor.

    In the CMAA's case, a space at NPM could be used to offer similar services of providing information and signing up members. If you bring free stuff (fliers, DVDs, old copies of Sacred Music, etc.), people will take it. There could be a form for membership renewals and first-time memberships; the form could have a space for "extra donations." Since NPM usually happens after the Colloquium, the winter intensive or other upcoming activities could be a central focus. This is not commercialism.

    Having never been to NPM, I don't know what the room looks like, but assuming it's aisles of booths like the academic conferences, I think the potential for getting the word out about the Association is very high. One can't assume that most people who would be interested in it already know about it via the internet.

    To address Jeffrey's point: although anyone could be at the table at any given time, I'd say that it would be helpful if someone who regularly deals with the Association's cash managed or oversaw the process. There is someone who takes money, right?