The 20th anniversary meeting of the Liturgical Composers’ Forum was held January 22-24, 2018 at the Mercy Center in St. Louis. Membership in the Liturgical Composers’ Forum is for “composers of liturgical music and texts whose mission is the development of liturgical song.” Its members “have composed a representative body of ritual vocal music which is published by a recognized publisher, regardless of musical style, and is intended primarily for the Roman Catholic liturgy, and rooted in participation by the assembly.” New at this meeting was an Associates’ category. Associates are invited by a current member, and are either self-published, or hold a position that is related to the work of the Forum.
The Forum meeting began on Monday evening with some structured and unstructured social and prayer time for attendees to connect (or re-connect) with each other.
Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday were the main focus days of the meeting. Each day began with morning prayer, each of which had a particular focus: earth/environment, justice/contemporary events, immigrant/refugee issues. Mealtimes were preceded by a sung grace, offered by different composer-members; these varied from rounds or canons, ostinatos and other refrains, and all were creatively presented and enthusiastically sung by those in attendance.
On Tuesday evening there was a prayer service celebrating the creative wisdom of women. There has been a notable increase in the number of female composers joining the Forum and attending the annual gatherings. In particular, two members of the Forum who passed away in 2017-Marcy Weckler-Barr and M. D. Ridge-were remembered Tuesday evening in prayer and song. Wednesday evening was the celebratory banquet along with the presentation of the Founder’s Award to John Foley S.J. The presentation was preceded by the singing of a number of Fr. Foley’s best-known songs, including “One Bread, One Body,” “Earthen Vessels,” “Cry of the Poor,” and “For You Are My God” along with others.
Thursday evening was the Forum concert, which benefits the Sisters of Mercy who run the conference center; proceeds from ticket sales and sales of CDs all go to this worthy cause. Though the concert usually features music by composers in attendance, this anniversary concert also included some pieces that have come to be well-known in numerous parishes throughout the U.S. The audience was invited to join in-and they clearly enjoyed doing so.
Customarily the Forum invites one speaker to focus on a particular topic, but in observance of the 20th anniversary, four speakers were present:
oFr. Michael Joncas offered an overview of post-conciliar liturgical composition. He identified a number of “streams” of composition (such as classical or folk-pop) as exemplified by the work of composers during the past 50 years.
oFr. John Foley, S.J. spoke about the founding of the Forum twenty years ago in connection with the Center for Liturgy at St. Louis University, its subsequent separation when the Center closed, and its ongoing work and mission.
oTom Booth advocated a closer look at the potential of current popular musical styles (rap, hip-hop) for liturgical renewal, much in the way that then-popular musical styles of the 1970s were incorporated into the repertoire.
oDamaris Thillet presented statistics and cultural perspectives on the continuing growth of Hispanic and other ethnic groups within the Roman Catholic church in the U.S., along with implications for liturgical composition in the future.
A significant part of the Forum’s meeting time is spent in music review sessions. Attendees are invited to submit new (not published) pieces ahead of time, which are then anonymously reviewed by the group. After each, an opportunity is given for comment and/or critique by the whole group. At the end, the composer may reveal him/herself to the group. Many composers say they find this one of the most helpful and encouraging sessions at the Forum gatherings.
Composers in attendance: Tom Andino, Tony Barr, Kathleen Basi, Remi Fonseca Bauer, Maureen Briare, Carol Browning, Ken Canedo, Louis Canter, Craig Colson, Rory Cooney, Jaime Cortez, Christian Cosas, Scot Crandal, Gary Daigle, Kathleen Demny, Ed Eicker, David Haas, Larry Harris, Lorraine Hess, Paul Hillebrand, Alan Hommerding, James Hughes, Paul Inwood, Philip Jakob, ValLimar Jansen, Orin Johnson, Kevin Keil, Tom Kendzia, John Kyler, Diana Macalintal, Casey McKinley, Mark Mellis, Rick Modlin, Bob Moore, Roc O’Connor, S. J., Luke Rosen, Karen Schneider-Kirner, Dan Schutte, Scott Soper, Zack Stachowski, Marc Stockert, Marie-Jo Thum, Lori True, Tony Ward, Steve Warner, Janèt Sullivan Whitaker, Teresa Cobarrubia Yoder