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.

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