NPM in Detroit, “Hope and Harmony,” is very much up and running. My chant institute began this morning and runs throughout the confention. NPM is such a wonderful place to study and sing and teach Latin chant – first of all, the level of singing and musical ability is so high. Second, the attitude is so positive and joyful. These are people who love the reformed Vatican II liturgy in vernacular, and also love the heritage of Latin chant. They’re on my wavelength.
This national convention is a huge gathering of musicians – over 1,500. You can feel the excitement in the air. But in fact, 1,500 is a bit low for an NPM national convention – just three years ago we had 2,850 in Indianapolis – and it’s a few hundred below the 2010 budget projection. That hurts. The economy? Probably. The ongoing demographic decline of the US Catholic Church? Probably. The growth of other groups’ conventions? It’s true that CMAA (for those who need labels, they’re “conservative”) is growing rapidly, and they had some 250 at their recent colloquium, but that’s still pretty small compared to NPM. NPM has over 7,500 members. But in just two years, from 2007 to 2009, total NPM membership has gone from 8,463 to 7,752, which is a drop of over 8.5 %.
Sr. Kathleen Hughes, RSCJ, is now giving the opening keynote address, “Hope and Harmony.” She’s reviewing all the great things which happened at Vatican II and in the heady years of the reform, and admonishing us to remain hopeful even in this time of retrenchment and reversal. She’s drawing us to a place of spiritual depth: it’s not about superficial participation, it’s not about superficial externals, it’s about entering more deeply into the Paschal mystery, into Christ who lives in all of us and unites all of us to each other.
New mass settings for the revised missal text (we’re still thinking it will be happening…) are being sung at each plenum gathering. The participants are given a reaction form. They are to rate, on a scale of 1-10, how well the setting meets three standareds – liturgical, pastoral, and musical – based on Sing to the Lord, the 2007 document of the US bishops which gives us these three categories of evaluation.
Tonight there many musical events – song from the Black Catholic community, music of call and conversion led by Francis Patrick O’Brien, a piano concert of classical (and popular) music by Thomas W. Jefferson, and music from the Asian/Pacific Rim. There are industry lab sessions at 10:30 pm, and the huge expo hall is open until midnight. I know of one monk who will have long since gone to bed.