NPM 2012 – Pittsburgh

And we’re off… National Association of Pastoral Musicians 2012 national convention, Pittsburgh. NPM is reeeally big, and it sure is exciting to be with over 2,000 musicians for a week of not just great music in every style under the sun, but seriously reflection on ministry, discipleship, living the Gospel. And that’s the whole point, really.

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So many organizations are bleeding members these days – but not NPM. Membership is over 7,225, and that’s only very slightly lower than what it’s been the last few years. Retired/Senior membership is up, reflecting wider U.S. Catholic demographics, but youth membership is also up.

With almost 1,800 paid registrations, convention 2012 is on track to meet budget projections. We had over 2,500 paid registrations for Louisville in 2011, but I guess there was some forthcoming liturgical book or the other last year that pushed the numbers up.

Webinars are growing for NPM. In 2010, there were 1,100 participants, in 2011 it was up to 1,385. I did a webinar on “chant in parish worship” last year and had 198 online participants.

NPM gives out about $30,000 in academic scholarships every year for undergraduate and graduate study in liturgical music.

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This is not under “the grass is always browner” category, since all of us in every tradition, including Roman Catholicism, are struggling mightily with church divisions and factions. Here in Pittsburgh there is not one, but two dioceses of the Anglican communion. The local bishop led his diocese into schism (he no doubt would word that differently), and then the Episcopal Church national office set up a “continuing diocese” and arranged for election of its bishop. No one can get a hand on the stats but it seems that the two groups are somewhat similar in size. Get this: they both use the same cathedral. Sure wonder how that works.

I have dear friends in the Episcopal Church. I’m praying for them all, as I hope you are.

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Fr. Ronald Raab CSC gave the keynote address on opening days which caused quite a sensation. Everyone here is speaking of his “most moving ever,” “unbelievable,” “life-changing” talk. Fr. Raab is on the staff of Saint Andre Bessette Church in Portland, OR, with a special ministry to the vulnerable and marginalized. He spoke with great conviction of connecting Eucharist to those without enough to eat, connecting God’s free love in the sacraments with those suffering from depression or addiction. I have more to say about the ministry of the St. Andre Bessette. Watch this space.

You know, you can have all the “sacred” Latin chant in the world, all the beautiful polyphony, all the resplendent ritual (all of which I happen to like), but without loving outreach to society’s outcasts – the ones Jesus hung around – it’s all empty idolatry.

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Wish I had exact numbers on youth at NPM, but so many of them come to convention under parish membership rather than individual membership. Many of us have noticed the gradual increase in youth attendance at conventions in recent years. NPM has done a good job of welcoming in the next generation of musicians, and of providing increased “youth only” events and spaces.

Makes me wonder how we could get more Latin chant into the youth events. (You’ve been forewarned, Rachelle.)

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The Organ Section of NPM has really taken off in the last decade or so. Amidst the wondrous diversity, there’s a lot of organ music at NPM. Especially popular are the daily noontime pipe organ recitals.

This year there’s a Walker organ in the convention hall. The technology is getter better and better, and the folks at Walker voiced the speakers to match the space. Those of committed to “real” pipe organs are all admitting that it all sounds pretty darn good. LAUDATE DOMINUM (C. Hubert H. Parry) was quite splendid at the open convocation.

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Cardinal Daniel DiNardo is NPM’s episcopal moderator. (“Episcopal,” you understand, is an adjective meaning “of or having to do with bishops” here, with no reference to The Episcopal Church in any of its diocesan manifestations.) The cardinal is a huge supporter of NPM, and he’s here all week for the convention. We on the NPM board (Chair Jennifer Pascual of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Stephen Petrunak, Tom Stehle, moi, Lynn Trapp, President Mike McMahon) had a very enjoyable dinner with him last night.

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Many of you will be curious what music is sung at this year’s convention Mass, at which Auxiliary Bishop Waltersheid of Pittsburgh is celebrant.

Prelude: Poème Héroïque by Marcel Dupré (organ, brass, percussion); Beach Spring Stomp by Jeffrey Honoré (handbell choir); “Let Us Now Praise Famous Ones” by Vaughn Williams/Jacobson (choir anthem).

Proper introit (in English) chanted, based on Latin melody. Then entrance hymn, text by Edward Plumptre, tune by Fr. James Chepponis.

Dialogues of entire Mass chanted, English from new missal.

Lord’s Prayer: English chant of missal.

From Mass of Renewal, Gokelman/Kauffman (GFTS):
Lord, have mercy / Kyrie, eleison; Agnus Dei

From New Century Mass, Pardini (MorningStar):
Sanctus, Memorial Acclamation, Amen

Responsorial Psalm by Luke Mayernik. Alleluia by Ricky Manalo.

Prayers of the Faithful with sung response in English, French, Spanish, Vietnamese by Glenn LeCompte (WLP)

Preparation of the Offerings: “Eye Has Not Seen” / “Ni Ojo ni oído” by Marty Haugen, assembly in SATB.

Communion: “Sacramentum Caritatis” by Michael Joncas (OCP), assembly Latin refrain, choir English verses; “Grazioso” by Arnold Sherman, handbell choir; “Song of Mary” by Richard Shepphard (Oxford University Press), choir anthem.

Closing Hymn: “For All The Saints” / SINE NOMINE, descant for all sopranos in assembly on final stanza.

Organ postlude: “Finale” from Symphony No. 1, Louise Vierne

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Seems to be a slight increase in Roman collars and habits worn by younger convention attendees this year. Glad those folks come to NPM for guidance in their musical ministry.

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I’m doing four presentations on Latin chant this year – a three-hour Chant Intensive, Chant for Choirs and Cantors, Chant 101, and Chant 201. Lots of chant offerings also by Charlie Thatcher and Rob Strusinski.

Now if only more Latin chant were sung by the whole convention at its daily Morning Prayer or its convention Mass.

Who knows, maybe NPM official policy someday will ensure more Latin chant at convention liturgies? Stay tuned.



14 responses to “NPM 2012 – Pittsburgh”

  1. Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh Avatar

    Say “Hello” to my seminary classmate, Fr. James “Chip” Chepponis!

    1. Les Selage Avatar
      Les Selage

      @Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh – comment #1:
      Only if you accept a greeting from me, half of your favorite couple. (I now work with Deacon Mike Mintern, BTW.)

  2. Bill deHaas Avatar
    Bill deHaas

    Fr. Ruff – say hello to Lynn Trapp. Tell him we just had the 25th anniversary gathering of the 1984 and 1985 Perryville classes in St. Louis and Perryville. Good music by his students – Kevin and Dennis Wells, Michael Crotty, Jack Mumma. And that the liturgies were very focused on Vincentian outreach in St. Louis and with a CM rep from Rome on the works of the 30 worldwide provinces. Unfortunately, Rev. Lou Brusatti couldn’t make it at the last minute.
    Paul Ford – Rev. Miles Heinen, CM was the Rome rep and sent his greetings to you.

    If Rory Cooney, classmate, or Bill Fraher, Old St. Pat’s Chicago, is there, say hi from me. thanks.

  3. Father Allan J. McDonald Avatar
    Father Allan J. McDonald

    Say hello to Nelda Chapman, St. Joseph music director/organist, hope she goes to your chant workshop.

  4. Diana Silva Avatar
    Diana Silva

    Cuts both ways: “You know, you can have all the “sacred” Latin chant in the world, all the beautiful polyphony, all the resplendent ritual (all of which I happen to like), but without loving outreach to society’s outcasts – the ones Jesus hung around – it’s all empty idolatry.”

    You know, you can also have all the “sacred” guitars, drums, praise and worship, rock, “hip” music, raised hands, swaying singers and “relevant” liturgy….but without loving outreach…

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB


      Yes, of course!

      I was naming my own tastes and the styles I most use in my ministry, and thus my own personal tendencies to idolatry. I gather from the tone of your comment that you probably aren’t drawn to guitar and drums and “hip music” etc. – so you’re scoring points against ‘the other side.’


      1. Diana Silva Avatar
        Diana Silva

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #5:
        Of course, it’s easy to idolize the music, ritual and tradition. I agree with you there. It’s easy to idolize the music, ritual and even musicians of any style. I’m not trying to score points against “the other side.” My personal tendencies aside, my point is that we should ALL be charitable first, and not take for granted that one side is more in need of a charitable attitude than “the other side.” Neither musical style is necessarily exclusive of charity, and maybe that’s a good place to start the discussion.

      2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        @Diana Silva – comment #8:
        Dear Diana,

        Yes. Well said.


      3. Ann Riggs Avatar
        Ann Riggs

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #5:
        At the Milwaukee convention some years ago, Michael Joncas (returning to his active schedule after being ill for some months) gave a memorable plenary, finding in St Augustine all the same attitudes toward and arguments about music in the liturgy that we find now — “the more things change” and all that. He quotes Augustine as worrying whether his love for music contributed to, or possibly detracted from, his focus on the Lord.
        As a basically Thomistic sacramental theologian, I was silently reassuring poor Augustine (he DID tie himself into such scrupulous knots sometimes!) that he need not see the matter quite so dialectically. Still, one does hope that we ALL move in, with, through and perhaps beyond the music that we love, to the Lord who renders all our music mere silence in the embrace of overwhelming love– and move likewise to embrace those neighbors of ours that God loves so generously, even as we struggle to love them even a little bit.
        There is a line in Zephaniah where the prophet promises that the Lord “will sing joyfully because of you/ as one sings at festivals.” I remember a homilist (30 years ago!) who asked, “What kind of songs would God sing?” His opinion was that such songs would probably not be what most of us would consider proper “sacred” music. Game, set, and match to the Lord on this one.

      4. Linda reid Avatar
        Linda reid

        @Ann Riggs – comment #11:

        Fr. Michael gave an equally brilliantt plenum address this year!

  5. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn Avatar

    When I read Fr. Ruff’s words, I am reminded of how being without love makes for a clanging gong and little else, no matter what the instrument or the song.

    Thanks for the good words – prayers for a great NPM!

  6. Jeanne M arie Miles Avatar
    Jeanne M arie Miles

    Wish I was there! Have a good time!

  7. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    Of course the Salvation Army seems to set an example to the rest of the world in their care of the poor and downtrodden. Their music and bands have quite a bit of renown throughout the world too. Our outdoor ecumenical sunrise Service for Easter in Augusta always appreciated the Salvation Army Band to lead our Easter music too. Good works seem to be impressed upon the human soul as though we are created in the image and likeness of God and even atheists can be quite generous to the needy. It’s a soul thing, not a music thing.

  8. Jill Maria Murdy Avatar

    I really though all the plenums were very thought provoking this year. There was a lot of good substance.

    And as Father Ruff pointed out, he did four presentations on his area of expertise. But over the course of the week, one could surely experience a broad scope of workshops encompassing every aspect of liturgical music, from organ, to bells, to choirs, to contemporary. The width and the breadth of the workshop is part of the joy. Stretches us all 🙂

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