Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Folk Choir Day 9: When a Workshop Leaves You Speechless

I'm back at Notre Dame now, but there's still plenty to ponder and write about regarding our trip to Florida this past week. At the end of our pilgrimage, we were hosted at St. Jude's Cathedral – and not only were we there to offer a Concert of Sacred Music (see the previous post), but the following morning, the word was out about a workshop of sacred music for the Diocese of St. Petersburg.

We are fortunate in our work, because we have the superb backing of the staff of World Library Publications – in this case, Raquel Hernandez (who watches over all our music orders), Deb Johnston (who makes sure all our concert programs are printed and delivered on time) and Jerry Galipeau (who just gives me grief!).

So when we opened up the boxes from WLP, the goodies poured forth – sample scores of the Mass for Our Lady and the Mass of Charity and Love, and, for this batch of workshops, a veritable walk-through of Folk Choir repertoire, from Advent ("Take Comfort, My People") through Lent (the "Coventry Litany of Reconciliation") to Pentecost (our Psalm 104 setting, "Send Forth Your Spirit, O Lord").

We talked for more than an hour about mass settings. And this was important, because it gave people the chance to articulate just exactly what has worked, what they're looking for when it comes to mature and lasting settings for the Eucharist. Time after time, I find that workshop participants know precisely what criteria is to be considered when it comes to a fine setting for the Eucharist. The problem is, we're often rehearsing so much that we don't take the time to actually put these norms into spoken word.

But after all was said and done, on that Saturday morning at St. Jude's, it was one song that had the effect of undoing everyone, young and old alike: Fr. Chrysogonus Waddell's simple but overwhelming Easter anthem, "Jesus Lives."

We were singing it in the new choir area of the cathedral, a gem of an area with ample room, a "choir-shell" configuration that sent the words of the singers straight down the nave and into the sanctuary. And when those one hundred voices – the combined choir of area workshop attendees and the Folk Choir – hit the last words: "... rest and reign with Him in heaven! Alleluia!" .... there were people whose octavos were shaking like leaves in the wind, and tears streaming down faces.

Over the years, I have often been deeply grateful for the gift of that elderly, Trappist monk in my life. He was a friend, a colleague, a co-composer, and a mentor to me. I never stop getting caught up in the genius of his own creativity, especially when we bring pieces like that marvelous Easter anthem to choirs around the country.

A friend of mine from County Wexford, Ireland, just wrote to me today and left a piece of wisdom on my doorstep. "Tears," she said, "are the words our hearts cannot say."

She is right. This marvelous music, music that has brought many to tears, will blossom forth with words.

Words that are straight from the heart.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:St. Jude's Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Florida

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