NPM in Detroit, Monday

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.


  1. I am an NPM member and I had the opportunity to attend the regional convention in my hometown,Cleveland Ohio in 2008. It was very much worth my time.

  2. I have never been able to attend an NMP convention even though I am a member. The gathering will be in my prayers this week and I look forward to other updates.

  3. Thank you for your very interesting session at NPM’s Hope and Harmony this morning, and for your initiative and creation of this blog. We are in need of people that we can learn from and trust; many thanks.

  4. Thank you for the mention of our recent CMAA Colloquium. You’re absolutely correct that these events are vastly dissiimilar in many ways, yet we serve the same purpose. I would like to clearly state that was CMAA an organization with a professional staff, we could have easily doubled registrants at Dusquesne. But accommodations are first rate at bargain basement costs. Expansion of colloquium attendance will be a happy and perplexing dilemma next year and into the future, I project.
    I’m happy for the account of your opening sessions, Fr. Ruff, very much so.

  5. And thanks for reminding me-
    Prayers go out to all who are attending the NPM Convention. May the musicians(cantors, instrumentalists, choir directors,etc) have a prayerful and enriching experience. And prayers also go out to the presenters!

  6. Thank you for the report, Fr.! Just one point about the CMAA: we had a cap of 250 and it closed many months before the deadline. This was necessary because of the particular kind of training it is. Everyone sings in two choirs, chant and polyphony and every choir sings at liturgy during the week. So this is not an event like NPM at all so it should not be seen as competing. It is for training of a particular sort. It goes without saying that no one at the CMAA would accept the conservative label, but you know that. My own preference is for “progressive.”

  7. The Colloquium seems close to the NPM school experience, three to five days of intense focus for participants. I do think your approach to plainsong is progressive. But your use of the TLM and allowing musicians to override important rubrics, seemingly on a whim–I wouldn’t exactly characterize CMAA as “progressive.”

  8. Todd, as Pres. Reagan was fond of quipping, “there you go again!”
    You self-admit you choose not to attend either organization’s signature event, but you feel qualified to typify each’s content AND INEXPLICABLY its intent!
    Please speak for yourself, particularly when you’re a guest elsewhere than your own blog. Or, if you must bust someone’s chops, at least qualify your remarks with an IMO.
    This thread was congenial prior to your contention.

    1. Charles, come now. I’ve attended NPM schools and I endorse them more highly than the convention circuit. I’ve listened to the podcasts on the Colloquium and watched your video. From the resources CMAA has provided, at your final Mass, your music ministry replaced the memorial acclamation with the second half of the Sanctus. In the larger picture of things, not a big deal, but not in keeping with the Missal either. And a whole lot of defensiveness when a member raised the issue.

      The public voice of CMAA can get pretty strident. And while it is no doubt a minority of members, it does paint the whole group as somewhat conservative. The use of the TLM certainly isn’t a progressive value.

      In contrast, NPM message boards aren’t nearly as uncongenial when talking about chant and polyphony.

      That said, I would have few worries recommending one of my students to attend Colloquium or an NPM school. A person can learn a lot, make new friends, and have fantastic experiences in liturgy and sacred music. Except for the TLM part. And, admittedly, the clowns and dancing bears.

  9. Will the results from the voting on the new Mass settings be published anywhere?? I would like to see the same voting by the people in the pew…and then a comparison & commentary on both sets of results.

  10. Todd, this all has been worked out at the CMAA forums. There were no violations of the rubrics of the Ordinary Form. Were things done differently than in the average parish? Yes, indeed, and I think that was the point. When I saw my first Colloquium Ordinary Form Mass, I wondered why they all couldn’t be done like this. Finally, Fr Ruff mentions the “time of retrenchment and reversal.” If one means retrenchment against those who would hijack the Vatican II reforms, then I agree. “Reversal” is a loaded term, but if it means looking back to see if we REALLY did what the Council Fathers requested, then it’s fine with me and shouldn’t cause the good sister any worries. The CMAA was there to help institute the reforms, but they were sidelined by the Music Advisory Committee of the USCCB, who I am convinced wanted more than the Council decreed.

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