NPM closing, Friday – UPDATED 7-21

NPM conventions tend to be friendly, casual and informal (though you see some dresses and neck ties and Roman collars and sisters in habit), high-voltage loud, extroverted, rather commercialized, and pretty joyful. Not quite the primary comfort zone of monkish types like myself (nor, I suspect, the current holder of the Chair of Peter). But still, it’s great to be a part of the excitement, and to take note of the US Catholic Church’s largest-by-far music organization. (Maybe there should be a new NPM section, “INTP Support  Group.” My monastery actually once had an NT social group. I was a founding member. Beer and cheese & crackers and sharing of ideas, but no sensitivity to feelings permitted.)

Cardinal DiNardo, NPM’s episcopal moderator, was present for much of the convention and met with NPM’s national advisory council on Wednesday. He is very, very supportive of NPM, and he is greatly appreciated and esteemed by NPM. (He claims it’s because he’s about the only bishop who follows Sing to the Lord and sings all the celebrant’s chants!) Of course NPM’s decline in membership and convention attendance was on the meeting agenda. Cardinal DiNardo pointed out that every organization he is a part of, civic or secular or ecclesial, is experiencing numbers decline. Americans aren’t joiners like they used to be. So that was some consolation. It was also pointed out that 2010 was the first year NPM held two national conventions in a row. Now that national conventions will be every year rather than alternate years, attendance will probably not be as high each time. Still, 1,500 is not a small number.

Someone (you’ll never guess who) asked Cardinal DiNardo about the coming missal translation and Vox Clara’s massive changes to the submitted text and how the US bishops will respond. He is under the impression that only a few commas and semicolons are being changed, so it turned out to be a slightly awkward question. The bottom line was, “Let’s wait and see what it really is – and then we’ll all go forward.”

NPM is diverse in every direction – and that includes the classical high art direction. Lots of organ music and choral music (oh, and intensive Gregorian chant study!). Some of the finest conductors and musicians in the country regularly grace NPM conventions. This year, to name just one example from many, Kent Tritle of St. Ignatius church in Manhattan led a choral institute which performed at a very fine concert Thursday evening .

Lots and lots and lots of new Mass settings were set out and presented and sung at this convention. They all started to sound the same after a while. A few somewhat nice things here and there, but no apparent new “Mass of Creation” or “Community Mass” on the horizon. NPM gives each of the major music publishers (GIA, WLP, OCP) 75 minutes for a plenum “Industry Showcase.” (See “rather commercialized,” supra. I expect NPM will deal with publishers’ undue influence the same day US congress eliminates lobbying.)  Tuesday was OCP, Wednesday was WLP – a mix of things for congregation, cantor, choir, etc., in both cases. Yesterday was GIA, and they did nothing but excerpts from new Mass settings. That seemed like an odd marketing strategy, since they can’t sell any of them yet. Maybe they had expected that by now we’d have a recognitio text, an implementation date, and full permission to publicize and sell Mass settings.

Convention attendees picked the new Mass setting Messa Rinnovare: Mass of Renewal by David Kaufman and William Gokelman, San Antonio, TX, as the winner of NPM’s competition. I expect it will soon be for sale at their company, “Good for the Soul Music.” Second place went to J. Christopher Pardini (Pittsburgh, PA), third place to William Glenn Osborne (Orlando, FL), and fourth place to Thomas J. Fielding (Raleigh, NC).

Lots of people came up to tell me how much they enjoy Pray Tell. I kept hearing things like “a much-needed moderate voice on the web” and “a sign of hope in our Church.” Which is to say, some folks are struggling to be hopeful about the Church. I was struck by how many people said things like “Church for me is my local community – I don’t identify with Rome or even the bishops anymore.” One person confided to me that the seminary s/he works in is becoming “sick, repressed, reactionary, completely out of touch,” which seems to represent to that person where the official Church is heading. This makes me wonder. How many lay ministers of music and liturgy have feelings such as these, and to what extent? How much opposition to the new missal is really about more generalized feelings, many years in the making, of disappointment or anger or disgust toward the hierarchy? Maybe somebody should get a Lilly grant and study this – it seems to me to be a very, very important issue for the Catholic Church’s evangelical effectiveness going forward. We can’t afford to be divided from one another and weighed down by negativity. I hope everyone in the hierarchy is keenly aware of these issues and addressing them with sensitivity and wisdom.

Anyway, the NPM convention ended Friday noon with everyone standing to sing a full-throated “Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah. It was very moving. This is NPM at its best – loud and joyful. And then, the sadness of saying goodbye. Next year in Louisville.

awr

21 comments

  1. Well, I am still here.. been stuck in the Detroit airport for over 8 hours trying to get home to St. Paul/Minneapolis…. long story.. very boring for you all.. but I am sitting here getting ready to hopefully get on the 10:00 p.m. flight…

    I was one of the throng who came up to Anthony and thanked him for the blog… it is a nice place to be during these times.

    I too heard the many comments about people being fed up with the “wider” church… I have been hearing this for the last year or so in my many workshops and travels.. more and more Catholics are becoming “Congregationalists.” They love their local parish and the causes that they are passionate about; they still love being Catholic – but they have had it with the diocesan and global church.. very sad indeed… but I can understand their angst.

  2. “I was struck by how many people said things like “Church for me is my local community – I don’t identify with Rome or even the bishops anymore.”

    This may explain, in part, why the new texts are necessary. This shows how little of V2 has been received by attendees at the conference, LG #25 comes to mind.

    It also may show why many Catholics are dissatisfied with trends in the music published by many composers. They seem to be singing to a different tune.

  3. “It also may show why many Catholics are dissatisfied with trends in the music published by many composers.”

    More likely, it shows the dissatisfaction with episcopal leadership. Many of us see clearly to the Hermeneutic of Entitlement. We’d prefer bishops to be Christians and pastors.

  4. As a parish musician, it seems to me to be a daily evaluation of my pro/con list. I guess as long as the joys of my ministry outweigh the sadness and angst, I’ll stay. I feel somewhat guilty for that attitude, but I can’t see myself being served by and serving a Church that is seemingly headed in a direction I can’t understand.

  5. “Yesterday was GIA, and they did nothing but excerpts from new Mass settings. That seemed like an odd marketing strategy…”

    You hit the nail right on the head, Anthony. GIA’s marketing strategy is headed in a new direction.

  6. Brian said “I can’t see myself being served by and serving a Church that is seemingly headed in a direction I can’t understand”

    I can imagine that this was a question that many musicians asked in 1969. This conversation is mostly about liturgy and liturgical music. It is important to understand that we are to be transformed, that is changed, by the liturgy. We will see our attitudes and even some preconceptions challenged by the same prayers now translated more accurately. Another way to look at this is to see it as an exciting opportunity for musicians.

  7. ‘I was struck by how many people said things like “Church for me is my local community – I don’t identify with Rome or even the bishops anymore.”’

    I suppose if one doesn’t believe the Catholic teaching that the Church was founded by Christ upon the rock of Peter and the Apostles and their successors, if one dissents from the teachings of the Church generally and the magisterium on faith and morals, if one loathes the Catholic liturgical tradition, and if one believes that Vatican II created an entirely new religion (which new religion has nothing to do with what the Vatican II documents actually said) and that anything prior to that should be thrown out the window, then I guess Pretestant congregationalism would be attractive. And I agree that a lot of the animus against the new translation here and elsewhere has nothing to do with the merits thereof but rather has to do with a hatred of any Catholicism that is not entirely transformed to suit the modern Zeitgeist.

    1. ” … if one dissents from the teachings of the Church generally and the magisterium on faith and morals …”

      The Magisterium does not define faith and morals–these preceded the development of the curia, and date back to the apostles, as far as Christ is concerned, and to Judaism where morals are concerned.

      I think some Catholics are alarmed at the dissent we’ve seen in the clergy and among the bishops, especially where sex abuse and its cover-up is concerned. The testimony of Jesus at the end of the ninth chapter of John’s gospel comes to mind: some religious leaders insist they see, yet their blindness remains.

      There is much cause for Catholics to be disheartened these days. We may well be sinful and wandering in our pilgrimage, but we’ve seen very little of our leaders for years.

    2. I have never in my life encountered anyone in Catholic ministry who believes anything like your portrayal. Charles, you’re really not helping the discussion by your inability to engage those you disagree with charitably and with accuracy.

      I also think you’re pretty much missing the issue. The ill will of some Catholics toward the magisterium isn’t simply an issue of orthodoxy, as you would like to frame it. It is largely an issue of poor leadership skills: poor communication, inability to listen, inability to elicit trust, inneffective organization, unfair and hurtful procedures, serious misgauging of public perception – plus lots of outright immorality and scandal and coverup and inability to apologize or hold church officials acocuntable. Please note that most all these problems are of the hierarchy’s own making. If you think they can be solved by asserting authority more strongly and demanding orthodoxy and obedience, you have a quite different view of human nature than I do.
      Fr. Anthony

  8. Thank you, Father Anthony, for your daily updates for those of us who could not afford the hotel bill this year. I’ve attended a few NPM conventions, and agree with you that it is an great chance for full-time church musicians to catch up with each other. I also agree that the marketplace is all too evident at these meetings, as if the publishers and their stable of approved composers had all the answers to our liturgy needs. But many people look forward to their freebies as at other conventions, and I was once that way. Before my current creative phase, I was eager to put a face and voice behind the names of composers whose work we sang.
    What you say about the disheartened is important. NPM has worked so hard to help along the implementation of the latest reform, as it always has done since the days of the National Liturgy Week. So we can be sure that this discontent is brewing from below, across many parishes (not mine, though). Of course we have NPM colleagues who are eager for the latest reform to be implemented. And yet, if what you report “is happening in the green wood, etc.”

  9. Todd said: “The Magisterium does not define faith and morals–…”

    I’d refer you to Lumen gentium #25 which describes the bishops (magisterium) as both teachers and judges of faith & morals. Good teachers always define their terms-suggesting that the Magisterium does indeed define faith & morals. LG 25 goes on to discuss the Magisterium as “endowed in defining doctrine of faith and morals. (The Pope’s) “definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable…”. It seems to me that the Vatican II Church clearly sees the Magisterium as defining faith & morals for today’s Catholic.

    1. Robert, let’s parse words. First, your quote is from Lumen Gentium’s treatment of infallibility. Doesn’t apply here. Well, check out LG 25’s first few sentences. They apply.

      The Magisterium passes on what was entrusted to it from the apostles. In the case of morals, it goes back to the Pentateuch. Bishops and curia do not define or invent morals. They cannot suddenly say that covering up sex crimes or financial mismanagement is suddenly moral.

      We have reached our crisis precisely bishops have given an ill witness to faith and morals in their life’s examples. That is the source of disillusionment and scandal.

  10. “Convention attendees picked the new Mass setting by David Kaufman and Bill Goekelman as the winner of NPM’s competition. I expect it will soon be for sale at their company, Good for the Soul Music.”

    First I should state that I have the highest regard for David Kaufman and likewise I hold NPM in high esteem. Also, I must point out that I did not attend the convention last week and I did not hear any of the entries for the new mass competition. All that said; I am a bit puzzled.

    As I recall, the rules for this particular contest clearly stated that masses that were under consideration for publication by a publisher would not qualify for entry in the competition.

    How could a mass written by David Kaufman, the owner of Good for the Soul Music, not be under consideration for publication? Am I missing something here?

    1. Michael – it is only my guess that they might now want to publish it at Good for the Soul Music, AFTER it has won the NPM competition. I suppose technically they could say that they had not submitted it to themselves yet for publication at their own publishing house. In conversation Friday, Michael McMahon mentioned to me that he expected (it’s only a guess) that Good for the Soul Music might publish it.
      awr

  11. Paul Schlachter said I also agree that the marketplace is all too evident at these meetings, as if the publishers and their stable of approved composers had all the answers to our liturgy needs.

    It’s a sad fact that, without the large sums of money that the publishers pour into these gatherings by way of subsidy, they would simply not happen at all. I therefore don’t criticise the publishers for trying to get some return on their investment. In the case of NPM 2010, the Big Three publishers all sustained a big loss overall.

    As far as the four mass settings that were the subject of the referendum are concerned (and is voting the best way of discerning lasting value and quality?), the comments of many participants were eloquent:— if those four were the best of the 150+ that were submitted, what on earth can the rest of them have been like?! Let’s have pity on the committee that had the unenviable task of ploughing through hundreds of pages of what must have been mostly dross. However, I do know of two submitted settings (neither by me, I hasten to add: I did not submit a setting at all) that did not make it to the final cut but which were streets ahead of those presented. We do not know the criteria that guided the shortlisting. But of the four that were presented, it was undoubtedly the best of a pretty poor bunch that won.

  12. As far as the Magisterium is concerned, there is certainly a difference between the Church Institutional and the Church Pastoral. While I have little respect for the former, corrupt as it is, it is the latter, the people, which keeps me going.

    I have absolutely no problem in criticizing the Magisterium, except when it speaks infallibly, which is almost never. I believe Newman had something to say about this. When criticism is deserved, then it must be made. A blind adherence to pronouncements is not a mature but a childish faith, it seems to me. We have to know why, what lies behind what is said. In many cases the answer comes back “Because we say so”, which is no justification at all.

    Respect has to be earned, otherwise you have a body with power but no real authority. That is the situation that we find ourselves in, unfortunately, and it is getting worse.

  13. How can one contemplate leaving the Church over a bad translation but not over the Inquisition?

  14. First of all, its the HALLELUJAH chorus. Second, what paragraph 25 of Lumen Gentium says that the Magisterium is charge of all matters of faith and morals for the Vatican, but the bishop is in charge of all matters of faith and morals for the dioceses, but it is up to us as the faithful to assent with a religious assent.

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