A Few Days at NPM

NPM convention in Lousiville opened Monday with a stellar, switched-on address by Msgr. Ray East, “Give Me Jesus.”
Msgr EastPreach it, brother! At one point Msgr. East led us through all of the “Ave Maria” chant in Latin. I estimate that roughly 1/4 or 1/3 of the convention hall joined in by heart. (I was near the front – tell me if you have another report from farther back.) Msgr. East also led everyone through a stanza of a lovely contemporary strophic hymn (which I admit I didn’t know).

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Just what do they sing at NPM convention liturgies and gatherings?

This doesn’t claim to be scientific, OK? But for what it’s worth, I did a rough tally of how many lines or systems of music appear in the convention booklet in each of the categories below. I already know that the categories aren’t comparable because some are about text, some about music, and so forth. Of course and like always, the categories blur into each other. Some things were hard to assign – much of the “Catholic contemporary in parts” could have been listed, because of traditional influence on the voice-leading, under “Catholic recent in classical style in parts.”

American secular folks song in parts: 9
          (“My Old Kentucky Home” – we’re in Louisville)
Catholic contemporary in parts: 99
English plainsong: 50½
Catholic recent in classical style in parts: 44
Handel “Alleluia Chorus”: 32
Multilingual metered in unison: 16
New ecumenical hymn in classical style in parts: 14
Postconciliar unison antiphon: 12
Multilingual metered in parts: 11
Catholic contemporary in unison: 8
Traditional ecumenical hymn in parts: 6
Anglican chant in parts: 6
Spanish plainsong: 3½
Shaker in unison: 3
Spanish contemporary in parts: 2
New metered in Latin: 2

NPM fully claims that their convention liturgies are not meant to be a model, or statement, or anything else but a way for this particular group in this time and place to pray together. And for that, the musical selections always work admirably.

I’m sure you’ll be disappointed if I don’t have something opinionated to say. Just for your sake, then, I’ll throw this out: Where’s the Latin chant in this? Hello?!? Not even a little line somewhere?

And this: where did the traditional “ecumenical” hymns go?!? Could we please sing LOBET DEN HERREN or WESTMINSTER ABBEY or WONDROUS LOVE in parts?

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The NPM council has about three dozen individuals representing all segments of NPM, including our Episcopal Moderator, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo. The council met Tuesday to elect new members to the NPM board of Directors. The Board of Directors has five members along with NPM President Mike McMahon. Newly elected to the NPM board are:

  • Lynn Trapp, St. Olaf Catholic Church, Minneapolis.
  • Jennifer Pascual, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York.
  • Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville.

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They’re doing a land office business over in the Exhibition Hall. One publishing house which shall remain nameless (they publish the missal and a new prayer resource) told me they’re exceeding all projections and expect to return home with an empty truck and a full wallet. Maybe they’ll have room to haul some of my stuff back to campus.

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Convention registration as of today: 3,148. Wow!



58 responses to “A Few Days at NPM”

  1. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    Fr. Anthony, please forgive me for any presumption in the following reaction, first opined at the cafe. We feel the frustration…

    I’m sure you’ll be disappointed if I don’t have something opinionated to say. Just for your sake, then, I’ll throw this out: Where’s the Latin chant in this? Hello?!? Not even a little line somewhere? AWR

    Mark this quote, it’s huge. This, IMO, marks the inner frustration of a very dedicated and patient team player, hoping, praying, telling anyone of sincere heart that things would play out without prejudice, ulterior objective and righteous justice. No small wonder that NPM lost J.Michael Thompson to his Byzantine heritage twelve years ago, countless others in the intervening years, including a portly “wise guy” from California.

  2. Fr. Jim Blue Avatar
    Fr. Jim Blue

    It would have been good to be there and meet awr in person.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      But I feel like I know CC, from all our commenting back and forth at various website, and our private electronic correspondence!

  3. Bill deHaas Avatar

    Congrats AWR and Lynn….shoot, Lynn, see how far you have come since your days in Perryville.

  4. Victor Wowczuk Avatar
    Victor Wowczuk

    In all these modern Catholic hymnals, I wonder why there are so few hymns from the Eastern Churches. They have splendid hymns to glorify God, ancient and modern. I am speaking even about the Orthodox who are so close to the Catholic Church in theology, while the Protestants so far away. Yet Catholic hymnals generally have so many Protestant hymns, and almost nothing from the East… weird.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Well I’m all for more from the East.

      But I don’t think the Protestants are very far away from RCC in hymn texts – there is a common scriptural foundation. And of course since the Joint Declaration on Justification, Catholics and (most) Lutherans are in agreement, or at least see each other as orthodox Christians, on the central issue of how we are saved by grace.

      Also, Catholics have been singing Protestant hymns for 4 centuries now. There are Catholics hymns from the 16th and 17th and 18th century whose contents are 2/3 or 3/4 of Protestant origin. Yes, that’s really true. And these are huge hymnals with hundreds and hundreds of hymns. I’m speaking of Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Bohemia, other Slavic lands.

      We’re further from some of the Protestants on liturgy and ritual – but on the central truths of the faith, the teachings of Our Lord in the parables, the Kingdom of God, etc. etc., we have much in common with Baptists and Methodists and all the rest.


  5. Helen Sigur Avatar
    Helen Sigur

    I stopped going to NPM conventions years ago because they’re so heavily geared towards selling the publishers’ NEW music, not teaching people what the church expects us to use (which would not be profitable for the vendors.) I also couldn’t stomach the rhythmic gymnastics liturgical dancers with their incense bowls at the Convention Eucharist anymore. I’m glad that there are high-quality alternatives to this convention now, and resources such as CMAA’s Parish Book of Chant and Adam Bartlett’s Simple English Propers, which JUST came out. I throughly enjoyed the CMAA Winter Chant Intensive in New Orleans this January, and more and more of these events are cropping up around the country and filling up quickly. PLEASE, people, learn what the CHURCH wants us to sing. Sing the music of our heritage that will last instead of that of the big 3 publishers which is here today, gone tomorrow.

    1. Gerard Flynn Avatar
      Gerard Flynn

      We are the church.

    2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Ms. Sigur,

      Hmmm, this is a bit narrow and harsh.

      You seem overly confident, in my view, of what THE CHURCH wants. It sounds a bit like what YOU want. Read all the documents, not just the parts you like, and you’ll find many, many things. Advocacy of Latin and chant and choirs and pipe organ, yes – but also advocacy of inculturation, pastoral discernment, active participation, liturgy as the act of the entire congregation, and much more. And these aren’t throwaway comments on the side – they’re quite central to the CHURCH’s understanding of worship.

      Your read of the role of publishers and the “real” motives of the planners is too cynical. I don’t share your sense of reading their minds. There are many, many music publishers at NPM, and they have their showcases. The planners of the liturgies are local people who have NO connection to the publishers and receive NO instruction to favor them. This is simply a fact. My sense is that their selections are based on their understanding of what will help this group of people to worship. It reflects the culture and music background of the attendees. I count NINE publishers in the music of the convention booklet. GIA doesn’t even appear until Wednesday.


  6. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    AWR, perhaps I crossed some wires in comprehending your quote about “Where’s the chant?” Did you mean “at the Louisville liturgies?”

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Yes, I meant at NPM liturgies.

      I well understand that they want ‘bigger’ settings with musical elaboration for Sanctus and other Mass acclamations. I wonder if there wouldn’t be a pastoral way to find some Latin chant that could be done every days, such as the opening versicle of daily morning prayer, or something like that. It would take real creative thinking and political savvy to make the first move at putting Latin chant in large liturgies, I think.

      1. Charles Culbreth Avatar

        Well, I think the commentaries in this thread have incisively articulated the dynamics at play with such large conventions. I think the same dynamics inform, for the larger part, the way planners also prepare for the mega-Masses sung during Papal visitations and events like WYD and such.
        Personally, I believe there are many people who attend these huge gatherings who’d very much appreciate a more “humility-based” approach, rather than the bombast and Broadway, pull out all the stops extravaganzas that planners, musicians and even the “congregation/assemblies” seem prone to demand. Kevin Vogt nailed it with his observation about the Omaha 2002 experience.
        How many times can we pat ourselves on the back when we declare the greatest instrument of music in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is THE HUMAN VOICE, and then we turn around and make sure the Celebrant ascends to the chair, surrounded by a phalanx of ribbon-streaming dancers, with a blast of trumpet, tympanum and a SHOUT!

  7. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar


    I understand what you’re saying, and I too attended my last NPM Convention in 2004 and have never looked back. But also, Fr. Ruff is right in at least one respect… I don’t think there is a conspiracy by publishers or anything of that sort to supplant the church’s traditional liturgical music with contemporary fare. That doesn’t make sense when weighed against the facts.

    That being said, there is the unavoidable fact that publishers are a business and do what is good and profitable for their bottom line, and it doesn’t take a Wall Street wunderkind to figure out that promoting music that is constantly new and changing and fostering the tastes of your market to desire such an approach is preferable to a stable, unchanging and dictated body of music that is untethered from copyright. And so the question isn’t whether there is some concerted effort to impose a specific ideology, but whether the liturgical music of the church should be so heavily influenced by commercial and market forces which tend towards populism and mitigate against aspiration “towards the higher things”.

    NPM fully claims that their convention liturgies are not meant to be a model, or statement, or anything else but a way for this particular group in this time and place to pray together

    Does the term “intentional fallacy” come to mind for anyone else here? Given the obvious fact that they are liturgies at a convention which is for the purpose of presenting suggestions for liturgical practice, it rings hollow to suggest that the liturgies are not models simply because a claim is made that they aren’t so.

    Also, if they are truly “a way for this particular group in this time and place to pray together”, why is it that when the convention is held next year (different time) in another city (different place) with a new group (different attendees), the liturgies will be essentially the same.

    1. Jeffrey Herbert Avatar

      Also, it’s not really fair to compare the NPM Convention to an event like the CMAA Colloquium. Truly a case of Apples-n-Oranges. The CMAA Colloquium is a training event, primarily educational/instructional with liturgies that offer an opportunity to put the music into practice in actual liturgical settings. Aside from a table in the corner that offers a few books for sale, there are no vendors. And I would suggest that the average NPM Convention attendee would be dismayed at the early morning to late night schedule of the Colloquium…it’s exhausting, but in a good way.

      The NPM is a classic industry convention, not unlike the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas or any one of dozens of professional conventions held around the country by their corresponding professional associations. In other words, it is what it is…an opportunity for professionals of a specific field to get together and discuss the latest developments with the key players in the industry while providing a place for vendors to have their wares displayed to their target consumers and make sales. It’s not the CMAA Colloquium, but then again, it’s not supposed to be.

    2. Jack Feehily Avatar
      Jack Feehily

      The singing– in four part harmony–at NPM liturgies and gatherings is nothing less than exquisite and inspiring. I am leaving this year’s convention with lots of food for thought, including taking another look at the use of the propers instead of hymns.

  8. jeffrey tucker Avatar

    We’ve seen the development of two separate traditions that are worlds apart, and each side has contributed to this. However, to some extent, what we see is illusory and does not reveal the whole truth. The huge gab that separates what is visible at NPM and what goes on at the Colloquium won’t be as large in the future.

  9. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    I happened to watch an HDNet showcase hour on the New York Intn’l Auto Exhibition last night. Such conventions dazzle and sizzle with jaw dropping variety and excitement, innovation and inspiration and so forth. There is NOTHING wrong about that. To the contrary, these types of gatherings are a tonic for attendees who want to balance a week of networking, shopping, auditioning, critiquing, sharing, and getting a modicum of wisdom and forecasting from sage voices such as Paul Ford and this site’s host. Maybe there are significant members who go specifically for the liturgies, but that was never a primary concern for me. And towards the end of my interest, they actually became a liability. No blame assessment is to be assumed in that. I needed more focus, content and concentration. And this eventually befell my interest in regional/nat’l ACDA events as well; too much competition and commerce, and I must have Piaget-Curved my way towards another direction. That is no reflection of value to be found at NPM orACDA Mega events.
    A CMAA Colloquium is more like a week of exploring the nature and aspects of just one or two premium automakers, such as one might find at a BMW/AUDI Enthusiasts showcase. One invests time and resources delving deeper into the history, the technical and philosophical aspects and the skills necessary that enable one to take to the “track” daily with more confidence than the prior day. That track at CMAA is the daily Mass (and morning and compline LOH’s.)
    A CMAA chant intensive? You’re in the room with the engineers, inventors and the finest drivers BMW/AUDI employs, totally immersed in their entire Gestalt, so to speak and pardon the Hun pun.
    All of these sorts of experiences are in both parcel and in toto essential to the economy of worship/music. Each practicioner must decide what and how much personal involvement s/he can afford to invest in order to best benefit. (Don’t.

    1. Linda Reid Avatar
      Linda Reid

      “and getting a modicum of wisdom and forecasting from sage voices such as Paul Ford and this site’s host. ”
      And many others who give their best, intellectually, creatively and spiritually! I have enjoyed these conventions immensely since the 1st one in Scranton, PA (I was a but a child!! Lol!) But lately, I have been pursuing a bit more depth. My summers have been spent in programs like Notre Dame, St. John’s and Boston College. But I miss the convention excitement. There is NEED for both.
      Those of us who have been ministering for many years need that “shot in the arm” provided by NPM!

  10. Kevin Vogt Avatar
    Kevin Vogt

    Re: NPM liturgies, model vs. authentic prayer

    I was involved in hosting an NPM Regional convention in Omaha back in 2002. Being part of the collaborative planning process involving a regional planning group dismantled some of the assumptions I previously held about such gatherings. In spite of that process, I was successful in “railroading” several of my own agendas into the Conference Liturgies:

    1. A consistent, simple, “model” celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, using ONLY the Mundelein Psalter.

    2. Closing Eucharist in the Cathedral rather than a hotel ballroom.

    3. A model “Missa Cantata” with all presidential texts and dialogues chanted (in English)

    4. Chant Te Deum in English sung by the whole assembly during the Entrance procession.

    5. Polyphonic choral propers (authentic Renaissance pieces in Latin), at least for Introit (after the procession) and Communio (motet sung at the beginning and the end of communion)

    6. A commissioned Mass (shared with the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia) for Richard Proulx with significant choral parts – sort of a modern version of the “Missa cum populo” idea form the 1960’s.

    7. “Diversity” limited to two Lutheran chorales (the “King” – Wachet auf – and the “Queen” – Wie schoen leuchtet), two African pieces and a bilingual (English/Spanish) psalm.

    8. EVERYTHING was sung unaccompanied! We weren’t sure if the old Cathedral organ would have been removed or not so I advocated for “voices-only” – just imagine those planning meetings: me, an organist, advocating for no organ, and John Foley (a St. Louis Jesuit) objecting that we couldn’t have a convention liturgy without the organ!

    To make a long story shorter, the liturgy was beautiful, unified, dignified – by my estimation at least, and some of you would have rejoiced in it. The reaction from many (if not most) of those attending: bewilderment. It was like they had landed on Mars. And while this was very much like…

  11. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    Last word above should have read “continued.”

    But it seems to me that if chant is minimal at NPM or otherwise relegated to the category of anachronism, that would be tantamount to Mercedes Benz just showing its 19th century horse less-carriage at the NY Auto Show in 2011! It has never left “the scene.” And those who choose it as a vehicle often find its power enables them to move, live and have their being as if flying.

  12. Myron Patterson Avatar

    Congratulations to Fr. Anthony , Drs. Trapp and Pascual on your positions on the NPM board. Hopefully, this will help to bring a better sense of focus to the organization.

    “Where’s the Latin chant in this? Hello?!? Not even a little line somewhere? AWR” Fr. Anthony asks.

    Obviously missing and probably intentionally so. I don’t attend these conferences and have relinquished my membership some time ago since, in my opinion, the organization is too much interested in pushing the latest fad or retaining “the seventies” and the latest products of the money making Catholic publishers. It’s sad! But voices and opinions like mine are perceived as reactionary not not with it. But then the question becomes, “with what?” Let us pray for a new and improved future. With the new board members there is much hope.

  13. Kevin Vogt Avatar
    Kevin Vogt

    what often happened at the Cathedral, it was pretty clear even to me that this was not authentic prayer for the core of those who had gathered there.

    My thought was that it was important for people to experience something so that they could reflect on it. But I’m afraid I subjected the liturgy to a secondary end: education and catechesis. Was God glorified and people sanctified? Certainly, but not necessarily because of what we had “programmed” for the occasion.

    I’m not saying that there are not agendas underlying the planning of such conventions, but it seems to me that the administration and planning leaders of NPM have been pretty intentional about seeing that convention liturgies are as close to the authentic worship of the gathered community as possible. For an organization that values the work of “pastoral liturgy,” this seems appropriate and reasonable to me. Worship at other conventions will and ought to take other paths.

    Still, I would like to think that the Omaha Convention had some positive impact on NPM and the advance of conversations that were nascent at the time but now have come to the fore with the completion of the MR3 English translation. Regardless of what convention worship looks like, it is HUGE that the plenary addresses at this weeks convention deal with chanting the ritual texts of the Mass (pre-figured at the 2002 NPM regional in Omaha), the pre-eminence of the psalms in the liturgy (“propers” advocates, are you listening?), as well as the pastoral dimensions of shepherding the people of God through change.

    It’s OK to be ahead of the curve sometimes, and even to temporarily hunker down with like-minded folks for mutual support (and comiseration), but the Kingdom of God is here and now and among folks who are “other” as well as like. Just as the Other becomes known to us by taking on our flesh and blood, so too Ecclesia – the community of God’s people – is made known through the exercise of hospitality and…

  14. Kevin Vogt Avatar
    Kevin Vogt

    inclusion, values high on the NPM agenda.

  15. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    Excellent observation and points, Kevin.
    I have to quibble, obviously in light of my caricature of CMAA events, that the chant or RotR proponents “hunker down.” Au contraire, virtually every member I’ve encountered after 7 events are rarin’ to go full on Missio to the larger liturgical world. Some would prefer to believe we have bunker or catacomb mentality, that simply is not the case with CMAA.

  16. Victor Wowczuk Avatar
    Victor Wowczuk

    Thanks for you comment about Eastern hymns Fr Ruff:
    I am glad you agree that more Eastern hymns would be good. You mention how close in some areas Catholics are with Protestants; but the East is closer. You also mention liturgical differences, but hymns are used mainly in the liturgy and that is where any differences are going to be displayed, as with the real presence. Because some Catholics have been using Protestant hymns for a long time does not make it right either.
    I think in the West rationality has become limited to the brain, whereas the heart has its reasons, as Pascal one remarked. Its liturgy has become too functional and practical.

    The East has much to offer the West. Agreement over justification is really irrelevant because it is divinization that is important, how we are to become God. The Divine Liturgy is a focus of this. The East has cultivated that sense the mystical in its liturgy that reveals God’s transcendence. Its hymns reflect that, and often speak about God’s heavenly realm. How many Western Catholic hymns composed in the past 50 years speak about the awesome beauty of the heavenly realm?
    I think in the West the liturgy has become too functional and pragmatic because the rational has been limited to the brain, whereas the heart has its reasons as Pascal once remarked. The East can counterbalance that.

  17. Ken Macek Avatar
    Ken Macek

    Let’s play fair about presentation of options at NPM…Paul Ford’s Sing the Mass plenum address emphasized text and the Propers in particular; he provided shout-outs (including, ahem…one very unexpected and very welcome!) to new resources for singing Propers.

  18. Ken Macek Avatar
    Ken Macek

    Well, I’ll see your 3x yeas and double them, JT, but I very strongly suspect we are cheering on 2 different resources . My key words: “very” unexpected! Thank you, Dr. Ford!!

  19. Charles Culbreth Avatar

    Ken, AWR and I will have a surprise for you cooked up pretty soon! Enter In….
    As Arte Johnson used to ham up on “Laugh-In”…
    “Verwee Intuhwesting!”
    I think we all agree it’s a wonderful era to live in as a liturgical musician.

  20. David Haas Avatar
    David Haas

    Hi Anthony – Amen.. Fr. Ray East was inspired.. the hymn that you are speaking of Anthony, I believe is “Servant Song” (“Will you let me be your servant” – it is in the new GATHER)….

  21. Jeff Rexhausen Avatar
    Jeff Rexhausen

    When we speak of the publishing of new music, we ought to consider that much, if not most, of this occurs because we have many talented and dedicated composers and lyricists who are producing a body of work that helps many people engage in liturgical worship. Publishers are a vehicle for the distribution of that music to a wider audience than could be reached through self-publishing, even in this Internet age.

    1. Lynn Thomas Avatar
      Lynn Thomas

      And they make money at it because composers, lyricists, and publishers have to eat, too. Not unreasonable, although a few commenters occasionally seem to think so.

  22. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    Tablet malfunction ( human error) see below post…

  23. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    AWR’s quite demanding of empirical proof when one advances their perception of “fact.” Ergo, your contention that much of the music worship benefits by the coalescense of the artist/publisher symbiosis is actually a simple acknowledgement of a status quo. For every single piece an editorial board chooses to make an expenditure investment towards, there are demonstrably hundreds of others rejected, regardless of artistic merit. That’s fact, and David Haas, Ken Macek and AWR would have great trouble disputing that reality. And here’s some news for you – that status quo won’t last much longer, tho’ I have no doubt publishers of all art forms are already “re-tooling and gearing up” for a new status quo. And as I’m typing this comment on a tablet, consider a church full of people all using tablets instead of missals and hymnals. Heck, consider the number of RCC parishes who’ve already transitioned to audio-visual worship aides, now dependant upon the copyright status quo. Well, I can name the future tune in two notes for you: “Creative Commons.” The finest sacred and liturgical music I’ve encountered in the last half decade has been freely accessible online. There will likely always remain a substantial need for hard copy publishing. But, OTOH, I can name another song in one note: “Borders.”

  24. David Haas Avatar
    David Haas

    A couple of things.. number one, it is always interesting for people to criticize an event that they are not present at.. and secondly, I really get tired of the ongoing demonization of publishers. I know MANY of the people personally who work at GIA (David Anderson, Alec Harris, Kelly Dobbs Mickus), and WLP (Jerry Galipeau, Alan Hommerding).. and while yes, they have business concerns as to what they publish – these are fine people, deeply pastorally centered, most of whom minister as pastoral musicians and liturgists themselves – they care about the sung prayer of their communities, and their mission as publishers are deeply grounded in providing good pastoral resources that help assist the praying church, NOT only interested in what “sells.” It is too simple, and in my opinion, cowardly to attack them just because some people do not like what they publish.

    1. Charles Culbreth Avatar

      Dear David (note I’m addressing you directly.)
      Lately it seems, again-seems, that you’ve a penchant for either reading too much into commentary here and elsewhere that wasn’t “there” in the first place, or not reading commentary carefully enough, and then claiming foul and injury with your inferences.
      As I don’t know whom you’re addressing above, I’d like to just generally point out where your indictments are incorrect.
      *I don’t recall anyone (myself, J. Herbert, AWR) criticizing the Nat’l NPM conference in the slightest. Some of us have said “Been there, done that,” but that hardly constitutes criticism. AWR expressed a desire for more chant. So, that was a brief riff that was discussed. NPM was actually praised for providing Paul Ford with a platform to mention the SEP collection of propers among others! In my commentary, I made an analogy between the different platforms of convention events, comparing the NPM Nat’l. to an international automobile exhibit. That’s, if anything, a great and friendly comparison! If you examine the end of that post, you’ll notice I endorse all the NPM/CMAA platform models as being valuable to the economy of improving worship music. I also made it clear, for myself, that where each of us invests our income to attend these events (as I’ve never asked a pastor for funding in forty one years) is not a reflection upon the value or viability of events we don’t attend. (Continued next)

    2. Charles Culbreth Avatar

      The discussion about liturgy planning at huge events also was not mean-spirited: there seemed to be consensus, until your comment, that the planning of event liturgies was local and not beholden to outside (publisher) interests. And there was consensus that sometimes such large events’ liturgies work for some there, and not for others. Where’s the insult in that observation, please? There was consensus that large liturgies often result in very fulfilling experiences for attendees “where they’re at” in their spiritual journey and growth. No one spat at that. I own up to wishing that some mega liturgies could afford to be couched in more humility. What was I thinking about as I wrote that? Not the papal Mass at the D.C. stadium, but the Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in NYC, something one might presume I’d be more attuned to.
      If Jame’s Moore’s “Taste and See” is done at WYD for Communion, great! But try doing it with a simple piano, bass and guitar accompaniment and vocal leadership that doesn’t draw attention to itself, rather than a choir of thousands, a huge gospel/rock band and a cantor singing like Aretha Franklin. I’m not condemning, I’m suggesting. There’s a difference.
      (Continued next)

      1. Charles Culbreth Avatar

        Regarding presumed “demonization” of publishers and/or their intent and agendae. I didn’t find any going over my and other commentary. No one called into question the integrity of any individual or company.
        Speaking of Dr. Jerry, both J. Herbert and myself have carried on some very positive correspondence. This week I wrote him over at GSGP:
        “Yes, Jerry, keep cool and hydrated!
        Steve Warner’s new Mass setting is quite compelling, and very much on my short list for September, along with SIMPLEX and ST. ANN (who’da thunk that from a CMAA’er like me?)
        Congratulations to you (and your WLP conferes) for keeping your eye on the ball, and an open mind as this whole process continues to play out!
        Have some fun, Louisville’s made for that!
        Is that demonization, or even antagonistic? I’ve been on the phone with Randy DeBruyn, Bari Columbari and others within the last few months discussing their Mass settings. I’ve ordered settings for demonstrations from “The Big Three” with high ratings from me noted in this blog. Others have likewise done that. But you only see demonization?
        In my response to Jeff Rexhausen I used the term “artist/publisher symbiosis.” Did you take that as negative? If yes, you took it wrong. It is and always has been the nature of publishing since Gutenberg. But pointing out that the paradigm of publishing is, in point of fact, changing, was not me looking into some evil crystal ball gleefully predicting the downfall of publishers with the advent of Creative Commons and electronic publishing access. It’s just not there, David. There’s no prejudice against the publishers in this NPM thread, period.
        (Contined, last)

    3. Tom Poelker Avatar

      I do not think this is a demonization of publishers, but simple truth. “That being said, there is the unavoidable fact that publishers are a business and do what is good and profitable for their bottom line, and it doesn’t take a Wall Street wunderkind to figure out that promoting music that is constantly new and changing and fostering the tastes of your market to desire such an approach is preferable to a stable, unchanging and dictated body of music that is untethered from copyright.” JH

      It does not deny good will or good intentions of music professionals and their publishers, but it identifies the model within which they work.

      I have high regard for many of the individuals David mentioned, but the competitive, capitalist system within which they work impels them to constantly push for change in order to get more sales. The liturgy needs a certain amount of musical stability for the average PIP who is not musically literate or fascinated with musicianship.

      It seems that we have a high percentage here, as is usual for liturgy blogs/lists, of people who are, by training and perhaps by personal inclination, musicians first and liturgical musicians in application. Many such people need to work at raising their consciousness of the interests and rather limited present abilities [versus potential, given enough work] of Catholics at Sunday Mass out of obligation.

      These people called to FCAP are not interested in the large repertoire and musical variety which the trained musician desires. They need music which works ritually, through familiarity and repetition, no matter how boring the instrumentalists find it. Three Mass settings, four psalm tones, fifty songs, and no more than four new songs a year. This is not the way publishers prosper.

  25. Linda Reid Avatar
    Linda Reid

    Amen, David! I, too, have heard friends who work for publishing houses tell of their pastoral concerns and problems – NOT just the bottom line. I have also heard many folks hurl insults (like the ones above) at the publishers. It is way too easy to blame only them for whatever one thinks the problem is with liturgical music!

  26. Charles Culbreth Avatar

    Personally, I’m quite used to people misunderstanding and mischaracterizing me and my motives. My good comrades Todd Flowerday and Ken Macek I regard as caring so much as to inquire directly when they don’t get what I’m saying, or my online “persona.” They don’t cry “foul” in general, they simply ask me to clarify. And if I’m wrong, I apologize and repent of that behavior.
    So, now I am asking you, David, to clarify your thoughts as articulated in your post above. To whom were you speaking? Did you really think that the NPM Nat’l. was attacked and criticized in the thread? Do you really think that anything said heretofore in this thread was laced with invisible poison and doom?

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      Charles, I didn’t see you demonizing NPM or the publishers. But the comment at 1:31 am on July 21, 2011, not from you, does so.

      Please limit your comments to one commbox in the future – the editorial committee set a word limit for a reason.

      Thanks for your comments – I appreciate the dialogue from many perspectives.


  27. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    Point taken, Fr. A. Will do.
    But I think that specficity is important when accusations are thrown out into the ether.

  28. Gerard Flynn Avatar
    Gerard Flynn

    Reading these continuous boxes is tedious. If you can’t make your point succinctly, better to work on it until you can, instead of pouring forth at length.

    If that’s the type of apologetics which takes place at the Chant Cafe, here’s one blogger who will be postponing his first visit there – indefinitely.

  29. Charles Culbreth Avatar

    Thank you, Gerard. Point taken.

  30. Tom Poelker Avatar

    Not ever having attended an NPM or any other specifically music conference, I am not competent to comment on such events. However, I am reminded of being with the Director of our Office of Worship at an FDLC conference and having him say to me something like, “Why are they doing the Psalm as a concert piece? We have hundreds of people here who believe in congregational participation in liturgy. We should not be given a concert.”

    I think that there is a tendency, at annual or special events, for musicians to see an opportunity to show their skills to best advantage, to offer something new and different.

    At musician conferences, I would guess, one could offer a pre-service music run through, and get musical FCAP in the service. That is not true for regional or national events not attended primarily by trained musicians.

    For the next such event you prepare, set some video cameras on the assembly and later read their body language during the choral or instrumental presentations.

    Introducing new music or doing choral pieces instead of antiphon and verse music at those events works against FCAP and harms liturgy by turning the assembly into an audience for the enthusiastic musicians.

    At my distance, what I want to know about any of these musician meetings is whether there are practical workshops in fitting parish repertoire to parishioners instead of to some musical ideal or other. I want to be able to cheer high attendance at presentations on how to select and introduce repertoire so that there is more congregational participation in song each year. I long to hear that there are seminars on how parishes in which most people at most Masses sing enthusiastically can migrate to more mature and challenging music.

    From this distance and my experience with other sorts of liturgy meetings, it sounds like there is more interest in serving the needs of the musicians than of getting the musicians to serve the needs of their congregations

  31. Tom Poelker Avatar

    Before reading any content on this thread, my reaction to the picture was to ask what was the point of the chasuble.

    It is striking to the point of vaudevillian, gaudy, drawing attention to itself, far from having noble simplicity.

    It looks more like an artist making a statement than something appropriate for liturgy, a counterbalance at another extreme to stiff, wire-embroidered fiddlebacks.

  32. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    You know, Tom, I find more in common with quite a few of your insights than some might expect. What I don’t quite understand is how your viewpoints don’t cause apoplexy and recrimination from some of the progressive quarter that respite here frequently, while other voices of reason and moderation are scolded like children with impunity. Perhaps you can school me on that.
    Is there a double standard at play, or am I just being my usual naive self?
    After all, I still actually think we’re playing for the same Team. Could be wrong.
    And succinct.

  33. Jeff Rexhausen Avatar
    Jeff Rexhausen

    Jeffrey Herbert’s earlier comment, quoted by Charles Culbreth in response to my last post is a useful observation because it recognizes competing interests, neither of which is inherently opposed to good liturgy. In his post, Jeffrey goes on to question “whether the liturgical music of the church should be so heavily influenced by commercial and market forces which tend towards populism and mitigate against aspiration ‘towards the higher things’.”

    Jeffrey, for me, this goes too far. Drawing on Charles’ reference to AWR’s encouragement of providing evidence, I would question where the evidence is for this claim. I know it is possible to cite examples, but that is not the same as a broader body of proof demonstrating that “commercial and market forces” have the twin effects of fostering populism and providing a disincentive for spiritual aspirations (if I’m reading your right).

    Indeed, markets are simply mechanisms for exchange, and the forces in them tend to reflect the values of the participants. While your statement may be true of markets in general, it does not seem to me that it is an accurate characterization of this specific market. Thus, if the buyers (and sellers, at least to some degree) of liturgical music have spiritual aspirations and are motivated by those aspirations, the forces in the liturgical music market are better described as supportive of spiritual values (or at least neutral).

    Jeffrey, you have written much here and elsewhere that enriches my understanding and appreciation of good liturgy, and for that, I thank you.

  34. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    When I was reading some of the local church bulletins for this week, I noticed one music minister was away at NPM, and especially noted how convenient it was that all the liturgical publications were in one place.

    I guess I am not concerned that things have become too commercial because liturgy publications have catalogs, the internet and conventions. However if some day the parish offices become clogged with their representatives, I think we need to draw the line.

    In one of my doctor’s offices is a sign. “No drug company representatives on Fridays”

  35. John Sittard Avatar
    John Sittard

    I was in attendance at NPM and very much missed singing a strong, metrical, and well-known hymn tune at the liturgies, particularly the convention Mass. I was also a bit bummed out that we ended up speaking the Lord’s Prayer at Mass last evening instead of chanting it as indicated!

    What was wonderful, IMHO, was the great effort put forth by Archbishop Kurtz and the Deacon in chanting the Mass. And the singing by the assembly was truly uplifting.

    The sessions and addresses by Fr. Ruff, Dr. Ford, Msgr. Irwin, and Fr. Kelly were all very inspiring.

    The hymn festival sponsored by Morning Star and presented by Jim and Marilyn Biery was first-rate. And the Voces Novae concert was out of this world. It was also good to visit the lovely Assumption Cathedral once again after many years.

    What a great week to renew friendships, to learn, and to “recharge the batteries.”

  36. David Haas Avatar
    David Haas

    Charles – I really was not responding to you at all.. I was reacting to some other posts (as AWR points out), and what is also present at the MusicaSacra site as well as Chant Cafe from time to time. There have been many times here on different threads at PT, as well as other places, the kinds of comments that I was responding to, and the issue around publishers is one that is frequent… Perhaps I should have been more clear… but there certainly are some comments around these blogs that criticize either NPM or other events (including ones that you, Jeffrey Tucker and others trumpet) by people who have not actually attended them.

    I do have a tendency to vent a bit about “defending” as you will, the publishers, because I know many of the folks who work at these place well.. and I have to tell you, I would totally disagree with those here and elsewhere who say that “sales” is always the bottom line. Take GIA for instance – they have released publications over the years, such as “Praise God In Song” (Morning and Eve Prayer resource); “Hymns for the Gospels,” and the big red “Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ” – all which do not sell well AT ALL.. but they published them, because they as a publisher (and most who work there are pastoral musicians in parishes) believe in these resources. My friend Tony Alonso tells me that the bi-lingual psalm project that he did with Mike Mahler (which I think is a tremendous collection), does not sell well at all… but GIA stands behind it, and many other resources. And I know that OCP, and WLP have similar stories….

    But regardless of this – Charles, I think you are great, and I was not going after you. I am not sure how you got that impression. But regardless, I apologize.

  37. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    David, thank you for the perspective and taking the time to clarify the POV that demanded you to respond so passionately. I think the reason we spar now and then is because we regard passion as an integral element to our commitment to the Lord and serving His people. Passion is, indeed, a difficult thing to assess in people, from King David to the Baptist through to St. Francis Assisi and Mother Theresa. But compassion is something we should be disciplined to extend to each other without reserve.
    So perhaps forums like PTB/MSF/CC are not places to display passion; I’ve certainly learned that scholastic protocols, apologetics, intellectual credentials and prowess and ideology appear to be more treasured commodities in blogdom than passion, and compassion is only politely acknowledged now and then.
    I’d like to be a part of anything that could lessen tensions and polarization.
    But when so many souls are entrenched so willfully in division and dominance, it does wear one’s Christian resolve down.
    I’ve exceeded my Strunk and White verbosity index, so thanks again for reaching out. I hope to share a flagon of claret with you and, hopefully some other former adversaries to have a good laugh at ourselves.

  38. David Haas Avatar
    David Haas

    I never really thought that you and I have been sparring… I would love to meet and chat with you some time in person – I think the discussion would be a riot!

  39. Charles Culbreth Avatar
    Charles Culbreth

    Next year in Jerusalem…
    Or Des Moines, I’m easy

  40. beth svendsen Avatar
    beth svendsen

    Am so relieved to hear that publishers represented at the NPM convention are not so concerned about the bottom line. Thus…they will give my parish permission to save the missalettes to use for another year, rather than assigning them to the garbage dump. This is really good news.

  41. Gordon E. Truitt Avatar
    Gordon E. Truitt

    On the use of chant, especially chant with Latin texts at NPM conventions, I just want to point out that NPM has been working for several years to offer instruction in chant, laying the groundwork for a wider reacquisition of this music and the related texts. In addition to occasional summer institutes on chant (one offered during the NPM convention last year in Detroit), NPM in recent years has consistently offered workshop sessions on chant at it conventions–including a pre-convention chant intensive and a later workshop with Charles Thatcher and sessions with Anthony Ruff (chants of the Roman Missal) and Columba Kelly (reading and conducting chant and chant resources). There was also a workshop (by yours truly) on the 1962 Missale Romanum, its use, and the place of chant in celebrating Masses in the extraordinary form.

  42. Tim English Avatar
    Tim English

    I attended a conference in 2008 when the NPM Regional Convention was in Cleveland- I live there so it only cost me money for transportation and lunch, that in addition to the conference tuition. I did not attend other events other than the excellent sessions for cantors and I was there early enough one morning to attend morning prayer and the keynote address, and a publisher showcase for WLP. To suggest that the only thing NPM Conventions do is sell publisher’s music(although there were 3 showcases, WLP,OCP and GIA) shows an ignorance of what an NPM Convention is all about. NPM conventions are really about coming together united as pastoral musicians to strengthen and enhance our ministries, and to network with music ministers from all around the United States. Even though I didn’t attend the convention liturgy at St. John The Evangelist Cathedral, I have had the privilege to sing for and attend masses there quite abit. It is always an uplifting experience to celebrate Mass in my diocese’s Mother church. There are other prayer opportunities also. The new opportunity to test for the BCC certification is a bonus that didn’t exist in Cleveland. That is one thing that I would have done this year had I attended the Louisville Convention(financial and transportation circumstances limit me to only attend NPM events in my area, if I can) I am proud to be an NPM member.

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