Friday, July 31, 2009

In All the Wrong Places

This is definitely one of those "Thank God It's Friday" days for me. This has been a busy week here at WLP, filled with meetings of all kinds. In the publishing arena, there never seems to be any slow period. We are always talking about new projects, catching up on deadlines, and trying to think strategically in this economic slowdown. It's an exciting life here in Franklin Park, Illinois. 

I read on the Catholic newswires this morning of a priest who has been arrested in Missouri for trying to arrange, through emails, a sexual encounter with a teenaged girl (who was, in fact, an undercover FBI agent). The particular newswire provided links about the story, one to a newspaper in St. Louis, and one to the web site of the parish where the priest served as pastor. I visited the web site and found the question on the main page that appears on many parish web sites: "Interested in becoming Catholic?" It struck me and I asked my own question: Why would anyone be interested in becoming Catholic, given the fact of the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the scandal of its coverup by bishops and others in church authority, as well as continuing events like the one we hear about in Missouri this morning? (Of course, this priest is innocent of this crime until proven guilty.) 

The fact is that people are still interested in becoming Catholic, despite the obvious sins of the Church, its ordained leaders, and its members. I don't think that people are blind to these realities. Every one of us is a sinner and the Church itself is made up of sinners like you and me. I think about the "rock" upon whom the Church is built.

"I don't even know the man," Peter said. "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you," Peter also said. This sinner—the man who denied he even knew Jesus in the Lord's hour of greatest need—and the man who would confess his love three times around that charcoal fire on the seashore—is the rock upon whom the Church is built. 

It is sad when anyone strays away from their commitment to Gospel values. When Church leaders do so, it is doubly sad. But, as I said in yesterday's post, God is still doing the work of redemption here and now. And that is nothing to be sad about. The other evening at the parish at which I was giving a talk, a woman told me that she has two adult sons (in their 40s) still living in her home. She said that they no longer are connected with the Church. She laments this, as do so many parents. She said that they are—in a word—sad men who are trying to find happiness in all the wrong places. 

There are so many out there trying to find happiness in all the wrong places. It doesn't help that we are all bombarded with advertising and marketing that tell us where happiness can be found. A few years ago, while staying at a hotel for a conference, this came home to me. I opened the hotel room door one morning and found a copy of USA Today on the floor outside my room. I brought it into the room and turned to the "Life" section. I noticed a small advertisement at the top right hand corner of the first page of the section. It said this: "Heaven: Now Available at Best Buy." This summed up so much about our society. Sorry, folks, but you are not going to find heaven at Best Buy. 

I believe that the search for happiness in all the wrong places eventually leads many people to the realization that there is more to life than what you can find at Best Buy. And I think this is what leads people to begin to listen to the many ways that God may be calling them into a relationship with him. And this is what leads people to our doors.

Thanks for listening to a non-liturgical and non-musical post today (or maybe it is). When we pray and sing at Mass this coming Sunday, let's all bring to mind those who are searching in all the wrong places. Let's pray that they will open their eyes, ears, and hearts to the presence of our God, who calls us all. Let's pray that God leads them to our open doors. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

God's Work of Redemption on January 18

Good Thursday everyone. I've been suffering with wrist tendonitis for a few months and it was finally feeling close to 100% healed until yesterday. I welcomed a guest to our offices yesterday and she had an extremely firm and violent way of shaking hands. I actually felt something snap in my wrist - back to the beginning it seems with all of this. I did manage to keep a smile on my face and act as hospitably as possible. As my mother would say, "Offer it up!"

Last night I gave a talk to a great group of Catholics at St. Francis Borgia parish here in Chicago. St. Francis Borgia was the third superior general of the Jesuit religious order. Here's an image of St. Francis Borgia:

The topic was "Living the Sacramental Life." I am thinking about writing a little book on this subject. My focus last evening was on baptism and eucharist. In my talks, I try to get people to realize what an impact their baptism has had on their lives. I tell them that, for me at least, I have come to the realization that at the moment of my own baptism, nothing would ever be the same, and that, at that moment, my life changed forever. One older woman in the room reflected on this and said something like, "tonight I discovered that I have taken for granted perhaps the greatest gift I've been given." 

We have such a richness in our sacramental life. There is so much potential that awaits us when we realize what abundant and amazing grace God pours out through the sacraments. For me, I try very intentionally to see what God has in store for me each week when I am at Mass. Several months ago, in early January in fact, I received some sad and distressing news that one of my sisters had been diagnosed with cancer. This was a difficult blow, particularly because I had lost my younger sister in 2001 to complications brought on by Multiple Sclerosis. On the following Sunday, January 18th, I went to Mass at St. James with a heavy and breaking heart. I prayed that the Lord would speak to me, and offer something to lift my and my family's spirits. The readings were all about listening, yet nothing seemed to touch me. There was a line in the Prayer Over the Gifts that day that caught my attention, but I quickly lost the thought as Father Edward moved into the Eucharistic Prayer. A few days later, here at the office, I was speaking about my sister with one of my colleagues, whose wife is living with cancer, and I remembered that there was something about the prayer that caught my attention. So I grabbed a Sacramentary and found the prayer. Here is the Prayer Over the Gifts for that Sunday—the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:

May we celebrate this eucharist
with reverence and love,
for when we proclaim the death of the Lord
you continue the work of his redemption,
who is Lord for ever and ever.

I know my eucharistic theology and I know that this prayer beautifully embodies our belief that when we celebrate the eucharist—"when we proclaim the death of the Lord"—God's work of redemption does indeed continue. But what is that work of redemption? For me, on that Sunday, the Lord's saving and redeeming work was continuing. I can easily fall into the trap of anger and resentment when something goes wrong. I can forget about God's abiding love. This prayer was a reminder that God continues to work redemption in my own life through the remembrance of the death of his Son, an act that we do as the Church every time we celebrate Mass. Even in the midst of the worst that life has to offer, I know deep in my heart that the cross is not the end of the story. The Lord triumphed over death and we will share in that triumph. This is the hope that holds me.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Becoming Catholic

Hi Everybody. Perhaps it's a mid-life thing (or late mid-life, as the case may be), but I often find myself wondering why I turned into the kind of Catholic I have become. I know it has a lot to do with my upbringing. I remember those Sundays where my parents would load us all into the Ford Country Squire Station Wagon—you know, the one with the fake wood on the sides—and bring us all to St. Charles Church in our home town of Woburn, Massachusetts. We would usually sit in the row by the third pole. My mother sometimes had a problem finding the right pew on the way back from receiving communion, so we would sit in a row with a pole so she could find it!

I also remember a couple of the religious sisters at St. Charles School who had a profound impact on my life. One was Sister Della William, who was my teacher in second and third grade. I've written a story about the day that Sister Della William brought us all on a field trip that changed my life. You can find it in the introduction to my book Apprenticed to Christ. 

I've also been thinking about the sister who taught me in fifth grade. Then she was Sister Leo Marie; now she is Sister Rita Raboin. Sister Rita lives on the Island of Marajó in Brazil, working with the poor. Here's a photo of Sister Rita I recently found:

Sister Rita was a missionary through and through, even when she taught us in a suburban school in Massachusetts. She often spoke about how we must care for the poor; that was at the heart of her life and that spirit was infectious. I remember Sister Rita taking several of us to an elderly housing complex in December one year. We were there to sing and to bring some cheer into the lives of many of the lonely elderly who lived there. Sister Rita taught us a prayer with which I end each decade of the rosary I pray during my morning "spin" classes at the gym. "Be pleased, O God, to deliver them; look down, O God, and help them. Turn back the evil men and make them ashamed for hurting your people. Your people are poor and cry to you. O God, protect them. Amen." Amazing what sticks after so many years. I thank God for people like Sister Della William and Sister Rita Raboin and for all the great Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who taught me.

You've heard me talk about my parish, St. James Church on Chicago's near south side. I don't live anywhere near the church, but somehow I feel that this is the place where God has summoned me to live out my baptismal call. We are small (only about 250 people in all) and our church building has been closed for several months now. The parish struggles to pay our bills. I never thought that I would turn into a tithing Catholic (ten percent of what comes into the house goes into my church envelope and into the basket at St. James). I believe I do this because of the formation I received from family and those wonderful Sisters of Notre Dame.

I read in this past Sunday's bulletin that 1,431 families were served in our food pantry in June; 3,411 bags of groceries were distributed; 20,000 canned goods were given out; the total value of distributed groceries was $46, 621. These are staggering numbers, given the fact that we are such a small community. We could never do this alone. We have several parishes that support our work in the Archdiocese of Chicago. As a matter of fact, the Chicago White Sox organization gave us a grant of $15,000 this year for our work with the poor. Here's a dated photo, taken a few years ago, showing our food pantry.

Many people ask me why I don't go to one of the bigger parishes that is closer to my home. There are places with beautiful buildings, wonderful liturgies, terrific preaching, and no financial woes. I guess I look at the work that St. James is doing and I realize that this is the place that is home for me. 

Not sure why I brought all of this to you today. Perhaps we need to take some time in our busy lives and recall where we've been and remember the people who have shaped us into who we have become. I am especially grateful for my parents today and for those religious women. God is good. Ah! qu'il est bon le bon Dieu. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Music and Context

Yesterday was a festive day at my parish, St. James on Chicago's near south side. We celebrated St. James day, our patronal feast. The church hall where Mass is held was packed. I was privileged to be asked to play the piano for the responsorial psalm. In addition to our parish choir, a guest musical group was in attendance as well: Tecora Rogers and the Chicago Spirituals, pictured here.

This gospel group really "brought the house down." I always enjoy gospel music. I was paying extra attention yesterday as they performed. I was moved to tears as the music soared. I wondered why I was so moved. I can listen to gospel music on my mp3 player and not be so moved. I can listen to gospel music at a gospel brunch and not be so moved. What was it about gospel music at St. James that reached out and grabbed my heart? I pondered this for quite a while and realized that context has a lot to do with it. There I was, with a community that is dear to my heart, listening to music that clearly spoke to every person in the room. Before Mass, one of my favorite ladies in the choir made her way across the room in order to give me a big hug and a kiss. People in this parish know how to be hospitable in so many ways. People look into each others eyes in this parish. I guess the reason why the music was so moving was because I was hearing it with people that I cherish; people gathered to give God praise and thanks; people committed to help the poor and needy; people who love to sing. 

I know that I have visited parishes where the music was not done well; where the music just seemed kind of lifeless to me. And yet, in conversations with the regular parishioners, it would surprise me when they told me how wonderful and moving the music at that same Mass was. Perhaps they were experiencing what I experienced at St. James yesterday. They were singing and praying with members of their own community. This was the context in which the music touched their hearts. Not sure if I am on track with all of this. Thoughts?

Hope you have a good Monday. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Commitment to the Church's Vision of Liturgical Music

OK, folks, here I go, back into the discussion about "appropriate" music for the liturgy. I do enjoy these conversations and my skin seems to have thickened a bit since starting this blog. Last week, I talked about the commitment that a music publisher makes to the singing and praying Church. One of the faithful followers of this blog made this comment: "Many of us would feel more comfortable if there was a serious and professed commitment to the Church's vision of liturgical music by Catholic publishers, and in the absence of such a commitment there is going to be some uneasiness among those who are working to see that vision finally realized." I need to be blunt here at first. I believe that the time between now and the moment when, either Jesus comes again, or we pass from this life to the next, will be marked with uneasiness around this issue. This is a brutal fact. 

You might recall that, in the past, I have said that I am not interested in playing the "ping-pong" game of volleying proof texts back and forth in order to prove divergent points of view. Even as I write this, I know that there are some of you who follow this blog who will simply say, "There are no divergences of points of view. There is but one point of view, and that is the Church's point of view. Period. Here are the texts that prove my point." Those of you who share that viewpoint need not read any further, because you will probably not find what I am about to say consistent with your understanding. For those of you open to entering the "stew," read on.

How does a publisher make "a serious and professed commitment to the Church's vision of liturgical music?" As a publisher of music for the liturgy that is to be sung primarily in the United States, we must find our guidance from a number of sources, chiefly the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' newest document on music for the liturgy, Sing to the Lord. I would like to add my comments on a few sections of this work.

In the section "Music in Catholic Schools," the bishops have this to say: "Catholic educational institutions have a special obligation toward music and the Sacred Liturgy. Catholic schools are called to foster the joy of singing and making music, to cultivate the repertoire of sacred music inherited from the past, to engage the creative efforts of contemporary composers and the diverse repertoires of various cultures, and to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy worthily." When I first read this particular section, I thought to myself, "This is what our mission is as a Catholic music publisher: "to cultivate the repertoire of sacred music inherited from the past, to engage the creative efforts of contemporary composers and the diverse repertoires of various cultures, and to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy worthily." When I look at the various pieces of music we have published here over the years, I see our strengths in all three areas. We engage the creative efforts of many contemporary composers, and these are not composers who write music in just one style. Richard Proulx is a contemporary composer. Chrysogonus Waddell (God rest him) was a contemporary composer. John Angotti and Ed Bolduc are contemporary composers. Kathleen Basi is a contemporary composer. Kathleen Demny is a contemporary composer. Steven Warner is a contemporary composer. We represent and publish the diverse repertoires of various cultures. We publish music for the Latino community. Our "In Spirit and Truth" series is written by composers steeped in the African-American musical tradition. We also are committed to cultivating the sacred music inherited from the past. Just in my brief ten years here, I have seen us become much more focused in this area. We have responded to requests from priests and music directors to include the chants for the ordinary parts of the Mass in Latin, as called for by Sing to the Lord #75. We make these available in the vast majority of our worship resources now. We encourage our composers to use the great treasury of music as inspiration for new compositions. Some of our composers have mined the rich depths of the Graduale Romanum and the Graduale Simplex to create musical settings for the entrance and communion rites. 

Paragraph 60 of Sing to the Lord says this: "Liturgical music today must reflect the multicultural diversity and intercultural relationships of the members of the gathered liturgical assembly. The varied use of musical forms such as ostinato refrains, call and response, song translations, and bilingual or multilingual repertoire can assist in weaving the diverse language and ethnicities of the liturgical assembly into a tapestry of sung praise." Again, when I read this section, I thought that this is really at the heart of our mission as a music publisher. We publish music in a variety of styles and in a variety of forms to help in the weaving of that "tapestry of sung praise."

When I think about our process for the reception, review, and publication of new music pieces, I think about the careful attention paid to texts by the theologians on our editorial staff. Paragraph 83 of Sing to the Lord says this: "Moreover, 'to be suitable for use in the liturgy, a sung text must not only be doctrinally correct, but must in itself be an expression of the Catholic faith' Therefore, 'liturgical songs must never be permitted to make statements about faith which are untrue.'" After we have done a thorough theological review of texts "in-house," we have submitted every piece of music that appears in our worship resources to the censor here in the Archdiocese of Chicago and no doctrinal errors have been reported. We take this mandate seriously because of our commitment to nurturing the faith of the Church through the music and texts we publish.

Finally, Paragraph 83 continues: "No matter what the genre of music, liturgical beauty emanates directly from that mystery and is passed through the talents of composers to emerge in music of the assembled People of God." We publish many genres of music and we assess the needs and wishes of the "assembled People of God" regularly. We must do this as a sound business practice and as a publisher committed to serving the needs of the Church.

Please feel free to comment. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Publishing: A Joy

Hi Everyone. It's been a long day of meetings here at WLP. It began with our WLP monthly meeting. Once each month—on a Thursday—the entire staff meets for breakfast and we talk about our new products, report on our travels and conferences, and share general information. Have I told you recently what a great group of people I work with and have the privilege of leading here at WLP?

Publishing music, prayer, and initiation resources for the Church is an exciting and challenging endeavor. Many people on our staff are parish musicians as well. We bring a breadth of hands-on pastoral experience to our work here at WLP. 

As for me, because of my travel schedule, I am not able to make a regular commitment to a parish as a musician. I must admit that I do miss making music on a regular basis. However, at this point in my own life and spiritual journey, I need simply to be in the pew. After having ministered full-time as a director of liturgy and music for many years, a time came when I realized that I needed to be the one to be ministered to, at least for awhile. My heart is filled with gratitude that my parish's music director, Jeff, is a sensitive and talented musician who feeds my soul every week.

This past weekend—at the Preparation of the Gifts at Mass—Jeff began playing a meditative piece and it deeply touched my heart. I closed my eyes and, through that piano music, I felt very close to the Lord. I am glad that the liturgy affords us opportunities to listen and be formed by good instrumental music. I guess this is what makes being a music publisher so gratifying. I don't want to make this sound like a marketing ploy (so I won't even name the collection), but when I asked Jeff about the piece he played during that moment at Mass, it happened to be from a collection that was recently published by WLP. I like to let our staff know that the work they do here—reviewing, editing, music engraving, layout, design, artwork, marketing, customer care—really does make a difference in the faith lives of those who hear our music in their parishes. This happened to me this past Sunday. And I think this is what makes music publishing for the Church such a joy. I hope that our music touches your heart. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Believe, Celebrate, Live the Eucharist - A Tool for Liturgical Catechesis

Hello everybody. It's a partly sunny morning here in Chicago. After a very brisk morning workout (a 50-minute "Spin" class — tough work for this 51 year-old!) here I am at the desk at WLP. I haven't tried to use this blog as a marketing tool for WLP (although I have posted sample octavo pages and mp3 files to help with issues I have raised), but this morning I'd like to alert you to a valuable resource we have recently published.

Please allow me to bring Believe, Celebrate, Live the Eucharist: A Program for Reflection and Study to your attention because of many comments and questions I received during the recent NPM convention, as well as at conferences around the country in the past few months. As we prepare to receive the new English translation of the Missale Romanum, many are asking what they can do now to help prepare their communities for the changes. As I have said in the past—as have many others—the reception of the new translation will stir waters that have remained relatively calm for the past decades. People will be wondering about the changes and, hopefully, will be asking core questions about the Mass. I think that liturgical, pastoral, and musical leaders can do two things. First, we can seize the opportunity now to focus on doing some solid liturgical catechesis with our people. Secondly, we can take the opportunity during the inevitable tide of questions during the transition to do a second wave of liturgical catechesis. 

Believe, Celebrate, Live the Eucharist is a tested liturgical formation program that has been used at Seattle's Saint James Cathedral. It consists of five sections, each focusing on the various movements of the Mass (Gathering, Liturgy of the Word, Giving Thanks, Communion, and Sending). Reproducible materials are included on the included CD-ROM. These can be used in parish bulletins. There are also more extended user-friendly materials to further catechize on the various parts of the Mass. Introductions, designed to be proclaimed at Mass, invite the assembly to ponder the meaning of the particular movement of the Mass. The program also includes "table tents" with reflection questions that can be used by small groups at a larger gathering. Carrying an Imprimatur by the Most Reverend Alexander J. Brunnett, Archbishop of Seattle, this program is a very simple and straightforward way to help parishioners grow in their understanding and love for the Mass. 

Thanks for allowing me to present this commercial this morning. As you know, I am so proud of the work we do here at WLP in service to the singing, praying, and initiating Church. This resource will help parishioners pray and sing more deeply and fully at the celebration of Mass. And, as you know, we gotta sing and we gotta pray.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

An NPM Moment: Festival Alleluias

A Blessed Tuesday to you all.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the J. S. Paluch Company / World Library Publications was a significant underwriter for the final major event of the NPM convention two weeks ago. That event was a concert at Orchestra Hall here in Chicago. Fr. John Moulder and his jazz ensemble performed John's Trinity. Then the William Ferris Chorale, under the direction of Paul French, performed stunning choral works. The evening concluded with the 2300 musicians in attendance standing and singing Festival Alleluias, Ferris' choral arrangement of Charles Marie Widor's organ work from Symphony No. 5, Toccata. Two short sections from from the NPM event have appeared on YouTube. You can view and listen here and here

Let me know what you think. Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

Monday, July 20, 2009

SummerSong at Notre Dame

Good Monday morning to everyone. I hope you had a great weekend.

I'd like to offer some reflections on the SummerSong program at the University of Notre Dame. I was privileged to offer two workshops last week as part of the program. I spoke about the role of music in the various rites of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. There are approximately 25 students enrolled in this year's SummerSong program. The J. S. Paluch Company/ World Library Publications generously underwrites up to half the cost of the first year's enrollment in the program. The students are all talented parish musicians and take advantage of workshops, clinics, and coursework while at Notre Dame for two weeks. On Friday evening, it was a delight to be able to attend the concert of sacred American music they led at the chapel of Moreau Seminary, pictured here. 

The space was very "live" and the student choir was directed by Nancy Menk, who holds the Mary Lou Morris and Judd Leighton Chair in Music at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana. Nancy was one of the teachers in the SummerSong program. The concert was terrific and showcased the talents of these fine musicians. What a wonderful opportunity for the students in attendance. For you pastoral musicians out there looking for an opportunity to build your skills and increase your knowledge in liturgy, music, and theology, contact the SummerSong program at Notre Dame. 

I am still basking in the glow of the NPM convention. Mrs. Margaret Paluch, the gracious woman who led the J. S. Paluch Company for so many years, was able to attend the WLP choral showcase at NPM. It was wonderful to have her in attendance. Here's a photo I will always treasure, showing Mrs. Paluch and yours truly after the showcase was concluded.

It makes such a difference to work at a family-owned Catholic company, whose leaders (Bill Rafferty and Mary Lou Paluch Rafferty) are so dedicated to service to the Church. Their generous support of the SummerSong program, and many other educational programs, is a testament to their commitment to the singing and praying Church. And for this I gotta sing, and I gotta pray. I hope your week is a good one.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A "Self Portrait" and Off to Notre Dame

Good day to you all. I took a personal day yesterday - dishwasher repairman needed to come by and fix the appliance in the morning. 

Just a little whimsy today after yesterday's "heavy" post.

In the early part of the afternoon, my doorbell rang several times. When I arrived at the door, there were three young children from the neighborhood standing on the front porch. They announced that they were doing "self portraits" and asked if I would like to have them do my "self portrait." Just an irresistible request. When young Nicholas began his sketch, he let me know that this was going to cost one dollar, but that I shouldn't worry because he is very good at doing "self portraits." Here is his sketch. What do you think? 

I think I look like a cross between Charlie Brown 

and Mister Potato Head.

Shortly, I am headed to the University of Notre Dame to present two workshops on music and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. The audience is comprised of the students in the Notre Dame Summer Song program. J. S. Paluch and World Library Publications offer partial scholarships to first-time attendees. This is one of those things that the owners of J. S. Paluch do through their generosity and in service to the church (read yesterday's post). 

I will try to post from Notre Dame. If not, I will definitely give you my impressions of the program and the students' concert—which will be held tomorrow night—when I return to Chicago. It is a glorious day here today. Hope you enjoy the balance of the week. Gotta sing, gotta pray.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In Service to the Church

Happy Tuesday to one and all. Here at WLP, we are still in that period of lull following the NPM convention . Memories linger and I can still hear the wonderful voices of the children's choir of the American Federation Pueri Cantores, as well as the sounds of the William Ferris Chorale at Orchestra Hall.
Every once in a while, I do a search out there in virtual land, simply using the words "gotta sing gotta pray." I did the same today. It seems that many of the issues I bring up on this blog stir up quite a but of discussion out there. I'd like to address just one strain of those discussions. 

This has to do with the clustering of all the Catholic music publishers in this country together and referring to us in various terms: "Mega-Music Complex" and "Liturgical Industrial Complex." Some people use phrases such as "they want to rake it in" when referring to the new Mass settings that publishers are preparing for that moment when the new translation of the Missale Romanum is implemented. I thank God that I am a tough-skinned man (most of the time). I find these comments to be uncharitable and way off the mark. I am not saying that this publishing company does not want to be profitable. There are thirty people working diligently in this publishing house. The vast majority are here because they want to bring the best of their God-given talents and abilities to a noble purpose. They are committed to providing musical, liturgical, and prayer resources to the Church, with the ultimate hope that what we produce brings people into closer conformity to Jesus Christ. And they have children who need shoes on their feet. They have mortgages to pay. They have spouses who are unemployed. They have charitable works that they perform. WLP is the music and liturgy division of the J. S. Paluch Company, the owners of which are among the most generous Catholics I have ever encountered. Remember that the publishing companies haven't been lobbying the bishops or the Vatican to re-translate the Latin text. We are faced with an enormous challenge. And we are dedicated to the continuance of our service to the Church by providing—simply—the best and most affordable resources to make this transition as smooth as possible. 

One comment about the music publishers that was made on one of the many blogs that I read caught my attention most notably, and I thank this person for the sentiments expressed.

"You may project cash-register noises on them if you must, but I find Dr. Galipeau's comments rather restrained and surprisingly apropos to what portends to be a major dilemma for average parishes, once these new translations are implemented. Nothing like this has been seen in thirty years. I keep waiting for somebody to add an authoritative caveat along the lines of, "But of course, musical settings of long standing custom may continue to be used in parishes for X amount of time," X being about forever. Considering the odd English translations of the Ordinary I continue to encounter here and there (including the Anglican stuff sung at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception), I can't imagine this go-around will be any different. If it isn't, and bishops start issuing cut-off dates and mandating missalettes/music issue-burning sessions, I think we are in real trouble. This would be worse than the upending we experienced in the late 60s-early 70s. Like them or not, the standard Ordinary settings heard in the vast majority of parishes nationwide are ingrained, if not actively loved. That to me represents a legitimate attachment, which denied or ignored is bound to cause serious spiritual harm. If Dr. Galipeau's publishing company can make that transition any easier (and he clearly thinks it can), then he deserves whatever cashing-in he can manage in the process."

As I said, we exist to serve the needs of the Church and we will serve those needs in the best possible manner. I have never been prouder of the dedicated staff here at WLP. These professionals make every day a joy for me. And for this, I gotta sing and I gotta pray.

Monday, July 13, 2009

NPM- Singing and Praising God's Eternal Song

Hello everyone. My apologies to you for not posting at all last week. And thanks for the kind inquiries about my health. I am fine. I suffered a back strain while doing some roof work at home on Sunday, July 5, then the NPM convention began on the 6th. Physically, I was fairly miserable all week. The schedule was extremely busy. Each evening we were present at the convention until well after midnight. I only opened my computer once the entire week. And what a week it was!

There were approximately 2300 musicians in attendance at the Rosemont Convention Center. WLP's own Alan Hommerding co-chaired the convention with Annabelle O'Shea of the worship office of the Archdiocese of Chicago. Their tireless efforts made for a great convention. Kudos to them both, as well as the hundreds of Chicago-area volunteers who extended such great Midwestern hospitality to our guests.  

I'd like to share some highlights of the week, and some photos (special thanks to Keith Kalemba of our staff for providing the photos). 

We were fortunate to be able to set up our booth on Thursday, July 2. This meant that the entire staff had the three-day holiday weekend free. Here is a photo of our almost-completed booth on set-up day.

And here is a photo of our completed booth:

Evening Prayer on Monday night was led by a cluster of youth choirs affiliated with American Federation of Pueri Cantores. Their voices were wonderfully clear. Their diction was superb. This was a real eye-opener for many NPMers: children really can sing challenging music! They were directed by Paul French, the director of the William Ferris Chorale. 

Our WLP Choral Music Showcase took place on Wednesday afternoon, capably led by WLP's director of publications, Mary Beth Kunde-Anderson. I was so proud of Mary Beth, our staff, our composers, and musicians. The music represented a wide range of styles and levels of difficulty. A few of the highlights of the showcase were the solo sung by Clifford Petty on the piece Only Love and the moment when John Angotti led us in his piece, This Is the Day. We decided this year to add a few WLP Family Classics to the repertoire, including one of our most popular pieces, The Holly She Bears a Berry. Here's a photo of our showcase.

NPM conventions are like grand family reunions. My first national NPM convention was when I was a seminarian and several of us traveled to Detroit from Boston in 1981. Here are two of the people with whom I traveled, all of us now 28 years older! From the Archdiocese of Boston, Mrs. Pat Romeo, and Monsignor Frank Strahan:

WLP, along with OCP and GIA, sponsored "Rockin' the Runway," an evening event featuring some of the contemporary composers and artists from our three companies. Those in attendance lifted heart and voice and thoroughly enjoyed the event. Here's a photo:

The presider for the convention's Eucharist was Cardinal DiNardo of Houston, a long-time friend and supporter of the work of NPM. We at WLP were quite proud that several of our pieces were part of the Mass, including the acclamations during the Liturgy of the Eucharist from Peter Kolar's Misa Luna, as well as Alan Hommerding's arrangement of I Believe This Is Jesus.

On the final day of the convention, all of the conventioneers were brought by bus to downtown Chicago for several events. I attended a GIA-WLP co-sponsored event, The Fire in the Lamp, held at St. James Episcopal Cathedral. We were led through a wonderful journey of discipleship by Rory Cooney, Terry Donohoo, Paul Tate, Deanna Light, Gary Daigle, and a great group of musicians.

For me, the highlight of the week occurred that last night when we all gathered at Orchestra Hall at Chicago's Symphony Center. WLP and the J.S. Paluch Company (our parent), sponsored this event almost in its entirety. Before the concert in the hall, we sponsored a cabaret-style pre-concert experience in the center's rotunda, featuring Meredith Augustin and Edward Ginter. Here's a photo. You can just imagine what the sing-a-longs sounded like with all those musicians in attendance!

In an ornate room on the second floor of Orchestra Hall, another pre-concert program we sponsored was performed by the Marimba Ensemble from Holy Cross/ Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish here in Chicago. This group of young Latino men and women is—in a word—fantastic! Their music is an eclectic mix, from J.S. Bach to traditional Latino folk songs.

The evening's concert in Orchestra Hall still leaves me feeling breathless. The first part of the concert featured Fr. John Moulder (a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago who is a world-renowned jazz guitarist) and a group of jazz musicians from around the country. They performed John's sacred jazz work, entitled Trinity. The audience reaction to each movement of this work was astounding. I was seated in the gallery to the rear of the stage, so I was able to watch the performance from this "bird's eye" view. Here's a photo of Fr. Moulder and friends:

The second part of the evening concert featured the William Ferris Chorale, under the direction of Paul French. Paul coordinates and directs the recordings for WLP's choral subscription service's CD's. I hadn't heard the Ferris Chorale live for a number of years. Their performance—without a doubt—was the finest choral performance I have ever heard in my life. The colors that the group painted were lush and rich. There were moments when I couldn't quite believe that human voices could create such beauty. 

The concert concluded with the 23oo musicians in attendance joining their voices with the Ferris Chorale, singing Festival Alleluias, a choral setting for Charles-Marie Widor's Toccata. The Hall's mighty Casavant Organ was in full voice as we raised the roof! Here are a few photos taken during this glorious musical moment. 

Just recalling these few (of the many) events during the NPM convention reminds me of the goodness of God. God's eternal song, his only Son, was praised, honored, and sung for an entire week in Illinois during this month of July, 2009. All I can do as I look back on this great week is offer my own humble thanks to God, who has given us the great gift of music. And this is certainly one of the great reasons that we gotta sing and we gotta pray. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

At the Threshold of the NPM Convention

This coming Monday, the annual convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians begins here in Rosemont/Chicago. As you can imagine, as one of the leading publishers of liturgical music here in the United States, the staff here at WLP has been in full gear. We've been preparing program booklets for various events. We have been getting together to prepare music showcase packets. The skids with our wonderful products are packed and ready to be delivered to the Donald P. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont.

We have been preparing music samples for the various speakers who will be presenting workshops at the convention. I've been busy preparing for my two workshops. One will focus on music for the liturgy of the hours. The other will be focused on the opportunities and challenges faced by parishes when we begin to implement the new English translation of the Missale Romanum.

I plan to do a daily post to this blog. I'll have my camera with me and I hope to share photos of the various events with you as the convention progresses. This is a great opportunity for parish musicians to come together, to make music, to renew old friendships, to listen to some terrific speakers, and to learn new skills and new music. This is a time when we gotta sing, and we gotta pray.

Stay tuned. Tomorrow will be super busy for all of us here at WLP, so you will probably not hear from me until after the holiday weekend. In the mean time, I hope you all have a safe and happy Fourth of July! Here's a great shot of the Fourth of July Fireworks seen over Buckingham Fountain in Chicago, one of the world's great cities.