By JAMES MONTI
In June of 1920 an international congress of Gregorian Chant was convened in New York, distinguished by the presence of the illustrious chant expert and founder of the Paleographie Musicale, Dom André Mocquereau. On day one of the 1920 conference, 3,500 Catholic school children sang in unison the chants of the Common for a votive solemn Mass celebrated by Archbishop Patrick Joseph Hayes.
Nearly a century after this historic event, a national conference on sacred music, “Gregorian Chant in Pastoral Ministry and Religious Education,” will be held at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, N.Y., on March 10-11, 2017.
The stated goals of the conference are to discern the role of the Church’s rich patrimony of sacred music in addressing the current needs of the Church in pastoral ministry and religious education, and to identify the means of developing at the parish level “a sacred music program of excellence which serves as an integral part of the sacred liturgy and is also effective both in drawing souls to Christ and forming people in the Catholic faith.”
It is also hoped that this gathering of clergy, seminarians, scholars, musicians, teachers, and Catholic school administrators from across the U.S. will foster a national conversation about the contributions that Gregorian Chant and other forms of truly sacred music can make to the New Evangelization by considering “the vitality and necessity of beauty and sacred music in the catechesis and formation of Catholics, as well as in the evangelization of non-Catholics and non-practicing Catholics.”
The keynote speakers include Msgr. Robert Skeris, adjunct professor and director of the Centre for Ward Method Studies in the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at the Catholic University of America. An international lecturer and the author of two books and innumerable scholarly articles in the fields of liturgical theology, sacred music, hymnology, and Gregorian Chant, Msgr. Skeris served in Rome from 1978 to 1990 as prefect of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music.
A founding member of the Church Music Association of America, he served as president of the CMAA from 1996 to 2004.
Msgr. Skeris will deliver the address, “The Theology of Worship and Its Music,” on the first day of the conference.
The second of the three keynote speakers, Fr. Christopher Smith, a convert to the Catholic faith and a graduate of Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., earned a licentiate in dogmatic theology at the Gregorian University in Rome and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., in 2005.
Fr. Smith holds a doctorate in sacred theology from the University of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain, and now serves as pastor of Prince of Peace Church in Taylors, S.C. A member of the Church Music Association of America, the Society for Catholic Liturgy, and the Catholic Theological Society of America, Fr. Smith has given talks on sacred music, liturgy, theology, and catechesis, including a talk at the Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 conference in New York.
On day one of the March conference he will be delivering the address, “Liturgical Formation in Catholic Schools.”
A graduate of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., keynote speaker Mark Langley is academic dean of the Lyceum in Euclid, Ohio. Previously he served as dean of faculty and academics at Holy Family Academy in New Hampshire. He has also served as curriculum development manager for Advantage Schools, Inc., a charter school management company.
The father of 11 children and a devoted advocate of the sacred polyphonic music of the Renaissance, Langley has founded and directed adult, youth, and children’s choirs across New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Ohio. On the second day of the conference he will deliver the address, “Building a School of Singers: The Schola Cantorum as an Integral Part of the Catholic School.”
The conference will be moderated by Dr. Jennifer Donelson, associate professor and director of sacred music at St. Joseph’s Seminary, head of the St. Cecilia Academy for Pastoral Musicians, managing editor of the CMAA journal Sacred Music, and vice-president of the Society for Catholic Liturgy.
The author of numerous scholarly articles, Dr. Donelson was co-organizer of the Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 Conference in New York, a speaker at the 2016 Sacra Liturgia UK conference in London, and has presented conference papers on the work of Msgr. Richard Schuler and Charles Tournemire, having co-edited a recently published book on the latter (Mystic Modern: The Music, Thought, and Legacy of Charles Tournemire, CMAA: 2014).
On day one of the conference she will deliver the address, “Sacred Music Renewal Fifty Years After Musicam Sacram.”
A Beautiful Chapel
In addition to the speakers mentioned above, 34 others will make presentations, and there will be two recitals. Among the other speakers will be Fr. Richard Cipolla, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Norwalk, Conn., and co-organizer of the Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 conference in New York. On both days of the conference, Solemn Lauds, Solemn Mass, and Solemn Vespers will be celebrated in the seminary’s beautiful chapel.
The cost of registration for attending the entire two-day conference (meals excluded) is $75.00; the cost to attend one day of the conference is $50.00. A complete schedule of the conference as well as further registration information, registration for meals, and hotel accommodations can be found at the website for the conference: www.dunwoodiemusic.org/conference.
Inquiries can also be made by calling St. Joseph’s Seminary at 914-968-6200.