John Romeri Resigns from Office for Liturgical Music

John Romeri has resigned from his position as the Director of the Office for Liturgical Music in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia citing irreconcilable differences with Archbishop Chaput. John Romeri is a talented musician and his presence will undoubtedly be missed.

Romeri said this about his resignation:

This Holy Week, while some of the most beautiful liturgies I have ever conducted, was not well received by the archbishop. This is the continuation of several years of discontent on his part with the Liturgical Music at the Cathedral and at Archdiocesan liturgies. There are simply irreconcilable differences in our understanding of the role of music in the Liturgy and the role of the choir.

A change like this ahead of the papal visit must be causing a mini-meltdown in the Archdiocese.

The full text of John Romeri’s letter can be found below.



Dear Parish Musicians:

As I now prepare to conclude my fifth year here as Director of the Office for Liturgical Music, I am sad to announce that I have decided to resign from the Office for Liturgical Music, effective June 30, 2015. I will remain at the Cathedral Basilica as Music Director and Organist through the summer to allow Father Gill time to restructure the position and look for a worthy replacement.

This Holy Week, while some of the most beautiful liturgies I have ever conducted, was not well received by the archbishop. This is the continuation of several years of discontent on his part with the Liturgical Music at the Cathedral and at Archdiocesan liturgies. There are simply irreconcilable differences in our understanding of the role of music in the Liturgy and the role of the choir. While at this point, I am not sure just what my next musical adventure looks like, it is absolutely the right thing for me to leave this present situation.

I shall be forever grateful to the members of the Cathedral Basilica Choir, the Cathedral Cantors, the Archdiocesan Choir, and the Archdiocesan Children’s Choirs for their outstanding work. This Sunday they present a beautiful concert dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. On June 10th, the Cathedral Choir and Members of the Archdiocesan Choir are performing in PRAISE at the Kimmel Center. On June 29th our Archdiocesan Children’s Choirs are singing at Carnegie Hall in New York City. In addition to several concerts, these wonderful singers have given untold hours in rehearsals preparing to serve the Sacred Liturgies of the Archdiocese and Cathedral.

To Father Dennis Gill, Cathedral Rector and Director of the Office for Divine Worship, I will be forever grateful. I am also thankful to the ACMP Board and members for their support over these past five years. I will cherish the many colleagues and friends I have made here in Philadelphia. I encourage each of you to continue your support of the Liturgical Music here in the archdiocese, to get involved with the ACMP and the AGO, and to support live music performances at your cathedral and other parishes in the archdiocese. Finally, I encourage you to make music at the highest levels possible in your parishes. Our people deserve it and our God is worthy of the highest forms of praise.

Grateful for five amazing years,


John Romeri





51 responses to “John Romeri Resigns from Office for Liturgical Music”

  1. Pete McClernon Avatar
    Pete McClernon

    Would John be willing to go into more detail about the differences between himself and the archbishop?

  2. Peter Rehwaldt Avatar
    Peter Rehwaldt

    “A change like this ahead of the papal visit must be causing a mini-meltdown in the Archdiocese.”

    Either that, or there was a very specific conversation about the upcoming papal visit, in which the Archbishop made his expectations clear and gave Romeri a choice of either following that path or resigning.

  3. Walter G Sandell Jr Avatar
    Walter G Sandell Jr

    Why have I become prejudiced against bishops?

  4. Fr. Jim Blue Avatar
    Fr. Jim Blue

    It’s rather hard to assess this without knowing what the differences were.

    I’m sure there have been many a music director who favored “performance” over serving the communal prayer of the liturgy and needed to be called to task. On the other hand I am sure there have been many prelates who wanted to impose matters of personal taste over the professional judgement of the musician.

    We don’t know the full story.

    Speaking of which, does this prelate have any special training or competency with respect to liturgical music?

  5. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    Some sources say that the archbishop does not like high-quality choral music and would prefer that the assembly be singing “Sing to the Mountains, Sing to the Sea”. Others point not so much to the choral music but the way in which it has been done. It is clear that, whatever the issues, there has been absolutely no direct communication whatsoever between the archbishop and his cathedral/diocesan director of music. A steady stream of criticisms has been passed down via the cathedral rector/head of the office for worship, it seems, but no dialogue has taken place.

    John’s resignation from the archdiocesan choir is effective in June. He will continue at the cathedral parish until early September. Other sources say that the archdiocese will continue with the help of a number of interim directors of music. The archdiocesan choir, 102 strong, is very unhappy.

    1. Linda Reid Avatar

      @Paul Inwood:
      Paul, you are much more of an “insider” than I am, but I heard just the opposite – that he is an arch conservative. But perhaps, with the impeding visit of Francis, he is trying to appear more “congregational song friendly”

    2. Peter Rehwaldt Avatar
      Peter Rehwaldt

      @Paul Inwood:
      This sounds like a clash over authority.

      Trained liturgical musicians have authority rooted in their gifts and training: “This is how music can be employed well in service of the gospel, and that is how music can be employed poorly.”

      Bishops have authority rooted in their position in the hierarchy of the church: “When decisions affecting the ministry of the diocese and the church at large need to be made, it is the role of the bishop to make these decisions.”

      A musician that refuses to recognize the authority of their bishop is in a difficult spot. The bishop’s institutional authority will trump their musical authority and the musician will be out. On the other hand, for a musician to abdicate musical decisions to people with little-to-no musical training is an abandonment of one’s own legitimate authority.

      Similarly, bishops that refuse to recognize the authority of their liturgical musicians are also in a difficult spot. They are not in immediate danger of losing their episcopal positions, but if they seen as throwing their weight around and ignoring the legitimate gifts — and legitimate authority — of their musicians, they will lose respect in the eyes not only of other musicians, but also the laypeople with gifts in other places on whom the bishops rely. Say these others to one another, “If he pushes out a trained musician like that, what’s to say he won’t push out trained financial people, trained lawyers, trained parochial school teachers, etc.?” Without the respect of the faithful, a bishop’s life is lonely and his ministry is bound to be ineffective at best and destructive at worst.

      Music may have been the presenting issue here, but I suspect the deeper and more substantive issue is this clash over authority.

      1. Charles Culbreth Avatar

        @Peter Rehwaldt:
        Thank you for opening up the larger issues, Peter. Before I continue, perhaps someone from Denver could chime in with anecdotal information.
        I would modify the crux of the issue as not being “authority” but one of dominion and/or provenance. Combine the disparate opinions of both parties involved with the sorrowful and too typical method of using intermediaries as communication proxies, you have a recipe for disaster at hand. I’m having issues of a similar nature with one of our associates currently, but because of prior “conflicts” with an entirely new pastoral team in our 4 parish merge, I was advised to bring concerns to the appropriate clerics personally, rather than through other forms of communications. But the worst tactic for clerics to employ is the “messenger boy” delivery system for policies as it clearly indicates an unwillingness to personally engage the “employee,” an implicit act of disrespect that actually undermines the prelate’s authority later on, not to mention that this tactic negates gospel mandates stipulated by Christ Himself.
        Lastly, I realize it must be ghastly (sorry, couldn’t resist) for the extremes of musical quality that bishops encounter in confirmations and the like, and that often results in an episcopal mandate to lower expectations for all such Masses to a “common denominator, such as “instrumental music only during Confirmation.” I can lobby with the GIRM/74 Missal, but in the end, I will do as HE instructs. Sigh.

  6. Beau Baldwin Avatar
    Beau Baldwin

    Below is the link for the order of worship for the Triduum liturgies at the Philadelphia Cathedral. It looks like a fairly standard Cathedral liturgy to me….

  7. Joseph Villecco Avatar

    This is somewhat mystifying. Romeri was extremely good in this position in St. Louis., under both Rigali and Burke.

    Had this happened under an archbishop who wasn’t a darling of conservatives, certain liturgically focused blogs would be expressing shock and discontent.

  8. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    Is it merely a coincidence this occurred just after Cardinal Rigali turned 80? Might a cardinal elector, even as an ordinary emeritus, be more of a protector than a non-elector?

  9. Dismas Bede Avatar
    Dismas Bede

    One of the very first lessons I remember from the seminary – taught and learned during a meeting of the house Liturgy Committee – was to respect the competencies of others. There is plenty of opportunity for universal application, since no one – priest, seminarian, archbishop, or musician – knows everything. Each knows his/her area of expertise, and each can learn from – and teach – all the others. No one, including the ordained… which includes the entire episcopacy… NO ONE “has it all”, including how to live and work most effectively for the sake of the common/greater good.

  10. Jim Pauwels Avatar
    Jim Pauwels

    Is Archbishop Chaput known for being difficult and capricious in his dealings with staff? And does anyone know what his musical tastes and preferences are?

  11. Knud Rasmussen Avatar
    Knud Rasmussen

    I think Linda Reid’s comment about Chaput being an “arch-conservative” misses an important distinction – yes, Chaput would be considered a theological conservative, but my impression from having lived in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and observed the Archbishop as a liturgical presider is that his liturgical style is more in line with the first tendency Paul Inwood identified, i.e. more interested in congregational singing than in hearing a professional choir. After coming to Philadelphia, Chaput also had a temporary altar put in the sanctuary that is closer to the congregation – under Rigali, most Masses had been celebrated at an altar under the baldacchino, towards the back of the sanctuary. Though he may be “conservative” in theological terms, my impression is that Chaput’s liturgical views are more “liberal” by the lights of some; my key point, though, is that one’s liturgical praxis and views on other theological matters are not always as closely aligned as some might imagine.

    1. Linda Reid Avatar
      Linda Reid

      @Knud Rasmussen:
      Point taken!

  12. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    Remember, Abp Chaput and Cdl Sean were Capuchin classmates….

  13. scott walters Avatar
    scott walters

    My observations…

    Dr. Romeri has shown proven competence from his work in Pittsburgh and St. Louis before coming to Philadelphia. His leadership in the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM) and his work in building music programs in three major dioceses cannot be overlooked.

    From a personal standpoint, I have worked with Dr. Romeri and his teaching style is particularly suited to amateur singers, capable of building them into professional sounding ensembles. I call his style to be almost like the ‘Mr. Rogers’ of choral conducting and teaching.

    If the archbishop has issues with someone of the proven record of excellence that Dr. Romeri processes, then Chaput is kaput!

  14. Mark Smith Avatar
    Mark Smith

    I know John Romeri and am a musician in Philadelphia. While John’s music is high musical quality, I wouldn’t consider it all that pastoral. Yes, Chaput wants congregational singing, even in the Cathedral. Saying its “Sing to the Mountainish” it a bit extreme. Old known hymns sung with energy would be fine. Granted, Chaput had “Mass of Christ the Savior” as his house mass setting in Denver. It’s not that difficult musically and easy for a congregation to sing. I don’t think the two of them were ever together on the approach.

    I think it comes with the territory – pastors and music directors don’t always match. Romeri was Rigali’s guy. Someone will hire Romeri and his right his guy and be happy.

  15. Lisa Pawelski Avatar
    Lisa Pawelski

    Having known John since his Pittsburgh days, on through St. Louis to Philly: he has a well-deserved reputation as an enthusiastic and pastoral community-builder; pretty much up the middle with repertoire; yes, loves the concerts, but thoroughly respectful of the roles of Assembly, choir, cantor, presider….if Chaput is unable to work with centrist John, Philly is in trouble.

    1. Kevin Vogt Avatar
      Kevin Vogt

      @Lisa Pawelski:
      Spot on!

      From the other angle, if someone with the range of gifts John Romeri brings to the table finds such a situation untenable, most others with adequate capacities won’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.

      1. Helen Jauregui Avatar
        Helen Jauregui

        @Kevin Vogt and Lisa Pawelski, as a member of John’s Archdiocesan Choir and of our NPM chapter Board of Directors, this is our fear.

      2. Kevin Vogt Avatar
        Kevin Vogt

        @Helen Jauregui:
        …and I hope we’re wrong, Helen. You’ve got a great thing going there. Sometimes situations like this resolve themselves over time. For instance, there may well be some talented person who will be right for the reconfigured job and who, coming in as a choice of the current administration rather than being inherited from a previous episcopacy, may find the situation workable. Sometimes things even end up going the same direction as before–because it was the right thing all along. Those of us who know John simply can’t imagine how things could fall-apart as they have. Even as we pray in confidence that John will land on his feet, so too I pray for whatever good may be in store for the local Church of Philadelphia.

  16. Beau Baldwin Avatar
    Beau Baldwin

    Mark, why do you not think his music is “not all that pastoral”? Looking at the Triduum bulletin, it seems very approachable: lots of congregational singing with a few choral motets thrown in. Would you please elaborate. Thanks!

  17. Karen Banos Avatar
    Karen Banos

    As an instrumentalist that has been part of the music at the Cathedral fairly regularly for the past 5 years I have been part of many of the services that have not pleased Archbishop Chaput. John Romeri came to Philadelphia a highly-regarded expert in his field, and created a flame from the embers of music at the Basilica. He created a uniformity to music throughout the Archdiocese, putting an end to “Phantom of the Opera” as processionals (yes, that was happening) as well as creating a community of church musicians (instrumental and vocal). I have never been part of such strong comradery, particularly rooted in the foundation of overwhelming respect and admiration for one person. As the incredible fellowship was blossoming, the new Archbishop arrived and began criticisms of the music. Too much brass. Too loud. Too dissonant. Too complicated. I appreciate that the Archbishop is entitled to his taste and he is the “boss”. But Dr Romeri was bringing music that was created for cathedrals, to enhance the liturgy. When the Archbishop gave feedback, Dr Romeri tried to compromise, and shared the feedback he received. As time went on it was quite clear that the compromise only came from one side of this equation. The feedback became the seeming-attempt to erode what had been created and nurtured prior to his arrival. The only “compromise” possible was to completely dismantle Dr Romeri’s vision, and require him to abandon his own personal integrity/commitment to the musical liturgy. The ultimate affront I felt was ignoring Dr Romeri’s experience with papal visits in the planning for Sept. Expecting him to watch on the sidelines without a voice? This lack of respect for Dr Romeri’s knowledge and expertise was appalling to this observer. The entire series of events sadden me profoundly, but I applaud Dr Romeri for taking the high road, and giving us a brief glimpse into what is possible…

    1. Charles Culbreth Avatar

      @Karen Banos:
      Thank you, Karen, for the incisive report. If one, like me, appreciates and can manage an inclusive but worthy approach to repertoire despite the clamoring for either/or, and yet has to yield and resign to blatant clericalism, then those traddie chums of mine better take notice. Chaput’s neo-con rep is just as illusory as HHFrancis’ progressive cred.
      I’m going to patent this type of clericalism as the “Sweet Charity Effect” (how ironic.) Whatever (Father/Bishop/Papa) wants, _____ gets.

    2. Gerard Flynn Avatar
      Gerard Flynn

      @Karen Banos:
      Whatever happened to Pope Benedict’s comments about the aspirational indissolubility of the bond between bishop and diocese? If taken seriously, Fr Chaput would still be in Rapid City.

    3. Pat Gallo-Terrenzio Avatar
      Pat Gallo-Terrenzio

      @Karen Banos:
      Thanks, Karen, for your honesty. I appreciate that you shared your observations and feelings with all of us. It is sad, indeed.

  18. Joe Sullivan Avatar
    Joe Sullivan

    I’m reminded of a quote by Franklin Lloyd Wright. It goes something like this. There is no group of people with worse artistic taste than professional religionists of every stripe.
    Having to endure endless liturgies turned into sing songy singing marathons, I think I might agree.
    Lowest common denominator indeed. Look at the chant setting in the sacramentary. Taking Latin chant and putting in English words violates the whole genius of chant. That was the bishops’ decision.

  19. Tom Edwards Avatar
    Tom Edwards

    I have not for years understood Archbishop Chaput’s reputation as a supposedly staunch conservative/traditionalist, at least in regard to liturgy.

    I would think that one’s attitude toward the TLM is at least somewhat indicative of one’s conservative/traditionalist “credentials”.

    In lieu of that opinion, I offer the following from a First Things interview with Archbishop Chaput:

    Archbishop Chaput, June 30, 2010:

    “In this regard, the Novus Ordo, the new order of the Mass promulgated after the council, has been a great blessing to the Church.

    “Our liturgy gives us the zeal for the evangelization and sanctification of our world.

    “The vernacular has opened up the liturgy’s content in new ways.

    “It has encouraged active, creative participation by all the faithful — not only in the liturgy but in every aspect of the Church’s mission.

    “By the way, for the record, I’m also very grateful that the Holy Father has allowed wider use of the older Tridentine form — not because I personally prefer it, in fact I find the Novus Ordo, properly celebrated, a much richer expression of worship…”

    Not many supposedly staunch traditionalists would favor the Novus Ordo over the Tridentine form.

    Tom Edwards

  20. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    Whatever happened to the principal by which music is to be the servant of the liturgy? The liturgy is not the private province of experts, but the work of God’s priestly people. Sadly, in my view, the liturgical rites were long ago fashioned by and for clergy. In latter days, a new variety of clergy arrived in the form of professional musicians. Not content to place their considerable gifts and talents in the service of God’s people at worship, many began to articulate their understanding of a more pefect liturgy replete with compensated choristers and cantors to aid the Directors of Liturgy and the professional accompanists/performers. Alas, there is more than one version of more perfect liturgies and their advocates. In Philadelphia we learn of a conflict between “guilds”–Doctor Romeri’s vs. Archbishop Chaput’s. (It reminds me of an earlier but related conflict between Cardinal George and Gabe Huck.) I happen to not be a fan of Cathedral liturgy even when the music is executed so very well. One wonders if the liturgical masters even wonder about what music the people assembled are likely to know. But then the strings, brass, pipe organ, and perfecto cantors are impressive. I can’t fault the Arch for desiring something at least a bit simpler. John is an enormously gifted musician, too bad he wasn’t up for being more accommodative to the chief liturgist. Perhaps Archbishop Sal or the young fellow in Portland are in need of a great musician?

    1. Doug O'Neill Avatar
      Doug O’Neill

      @Fr. Jack Feehily:
      Fr. Feehily, your dismissive comments toward professional musicians are stunning. We do need to make a living to support our families, you know, and we have devoted our skills in service of the Church. I’m also not sure what you mean that “in latter days…arrived in the form of professional musicians.” Professional musicians have been serving the Church for centuries, or else the skilled musicians were members of orders, in which case they didn’t have to worry about putting bread on the table for their families. The same goes for professional choristers and cantors – why should we not compensate poor struggling college students for providing a valuable service? Wouldn’t we do the same for someone fixing the air conditioning? Mr. Romeri has proved over time to be devoted to a beautiful ars celebrandi of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, as articulated and supported in the teaching of the Church. In my mind, he made the right move by resigning, knowing that he could not reconcile his views with the chief liturgist’s.

    2. Jared Ostermann Avatar
      Jared Ostermann

      @Fr. Jack Feehily:
      Fr. Feehily,

      If I had one thing drilled into me by all of my liturgy professors at Notre Dame, is was this: “Liturgy is NOT “the work of the people!” In fact, that mantra comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the etymology and application of the term liturgy. The Liturgy is Christ’s public work of salvation, in which the faithful participate by virtue of their baptism. Given that in the liturgy the work of our salvation is accomplished, we would be in bad shape if it was, indeed our work! Pelagianism, anyone?
      Also, if we are talking about the Ordinary Form, it was fashioned not too long ago, by liturgical scholars as well as clergy, and with the congregational ethos of 20th-century liturgical reform as its motive force. Are you saying the Ordinary Form is inherently clericalist and unsuitable for congregational use? Is this a new wing of Reform of the Reform I have not seen before?
      Finally, am I to understand that you are not a fan of ANY Cathedral liturgy? Or is there a missing word in your comment?
      Your dismissive generalizations regarding liturgical musicians seem to me to be grounded entirely on your own misunderstandings and extreme prejudices.

  21. Doug O'Neill Avatar
    Doug O’Neill

    If the concept of the liturgy as the work of the people meant that liturgical experts should not have input, I would think that nearly everybody on this blog would be excluded. Come to think of it, it often requires a liturgical expert to explain to everybody the definition of liturgy as the work of the people.

  22. George Lester Avatar
    George Lester

    @ Fr. Jack Feehily:

    How does a musician “…place his talents at the service of the liturgy”? By performing liturgical music well? Isn’t that what liturgical musicians do? The meaning of your comment is not clear—can you expound?

  23. Frankie Cosgrave Avatar
    Frankie Cosgrave

    I wonder if those who are horrified at John Romeri’s departure are misunderstanding the situation.

    Dr Romeri has in a short time established a choral tradition of excellence in repertoire, but repertoire alone is not the only criterion. The best US choral directors know that a clean, straight tone is the way to achieve good choral blend and a beautiful sound. Dr. Romeri’s archdiocesan choir appears to contain about 100 voices all singing with vibrato. The result is an absence of blend which is displeasing and fatiguing to listen to and which can also give the unfortunate impression of performance rather than prayer. I suppose that the cathedral choir produces a similar tone.

    I hold no brief for Archbishop Chaput, who has always come across to me as a rather divisive prelate, but I wonder if he sensed this unpleasant choral sound and simply could not find a way of talking about it to someone who is a renowned cathedral musician. That might explain the non-stop criticism that was apparently handed down at third hand.

    1. Dr. Jennifer Budziak Avatar

      @Frankie Cosgrave:
      Mr. Cosgrave, I beg to differ, and submit that the “best US choral directors” know nothing of the sort–in fact, the “best” US choral directors with whom I am acquainted are those who understand that a supported and well-negotiated vibrato is an integral part of any solid and healthy vocal technique and can be incredibly effective especially in a large ensemble for warming and enriching the sound without sacrificing intonation or clarity. (I do not know your geographical location; in the Midwest, this understanding of vibrato as essential to healthy choral sound is more mainstream perhaps than other locales.) Perhaps one likes the choral sound of Dr. Romeri’s choirs, and perhaps one does not–but the embrace of a richer choral sound does not of itself indicate deficiency as your post seems to imply.

      I apologize, and do not mean to hijack this thread with an irrelevant line of commentary, but aside from being complete conjecture with regard to the departure of Dr. Romeri, I do not feel I can let an assumption like this go by un-remarked-upon. (Or is there other information regarding Dr. Romeri’s resignation that we do not yet know about?)

      I will now quietly slip back into lurkdom. I wish John all the best; he is an amazing musician with great gifts to offer the next community wise enough to embrace him and all he can bring to them.

      1. Charles Culbreth Avatar

        @Dr. Jennifer Budziak:
        Amen. Exemplars of Dr. Budziak’s contention, IMO, would include the Dale Warland Singers, The BYU choral singers under Dr. Staheli, San Francisco Symphony Chorus under Vance George and the San Jose Choral Project under Dan Hughes.
        Repertoire does require the application of a “well-negotiated vibrato” and in certain cases, a healthily supported straight tone ala Anonymous Four.

  24. Aaron Sanders Avatar
    Aaron Sanders

    Tom Edwards : I have not for years understood Archbishop Chaput’s reputation as a supposedly staunch conservative/traditionalist, at least in regard to liturgy.

    Labels such as liberal/conservative express meaning relative to one another within their given context, such that the same word identifies different groups in different contexts. What was liberal in 1950s-’60s America is now conservative in our modern political climate; we even have a term for people whose convictions remained largely the same but around whom the political spectrum shifted: neo-conservatives. A similar shift happened within the Church. Now that various forms of dissent/disobedience are considered viable “catholic” options, the old school of progressive thought lies much further “right” along the “catholic” spectrum, shifting those individuals from liberal to conservative without them necessarily changing their positions; the most obvious examples are the Vatican II progressives Woytyla and Ratzinger, considered by many moderns to be “arch-conservative.” Such Catholic “neo-cons” (no, that’s not meant to be derogatory, just convenient) will be labeled from a traditionalist perspective as at the liberal end of orthodoxy, while a secular (or dissenting”catholic”) perspective will brand them traditionalists.

  25. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    I apologize to professional musicians for implying a lack of respect for the legitimate and valuable role they play in service to the liturgy. These laborers are certainly worth their wages. I had in mind a subset of musicians who seek to impose their rather “high church” understanding of liturgical music on the more ordinary folk, including those who feel no shame in praising God with the tunes of Haugen, Haas, Cooney, Joncas and their many contemporaries. I have been an enthusiastic participant at dozens of NPM convocations and appreciate uplifting music of various genres. It is in that context that I know John Romeri as an exceptionally gifted pastoral musician. But we all know how dioceses are actually governed. As to Jared’s observation, I am certainly aware the Liturgy is preminently the work of Christ our savior–acting in and with Christ’s faithful and those ordained to be their servant leaders. I have no problem with letting experts have their say. We are indebted for their many contributions to our experience of worship since the reforms prompted by SC.

    1. Doug O'Neill Avatar
      Doug O’Neill

      @Fr. Jack Feehily:
      Fr. Feehily,

      While the apology is appreciated, you compound the insult with the remark about the “subset of musicians who seek to impose their rather ‘high church’ understanding of liturgical music on the more ordinary folk…”

      First of all, most of the high church musicians I know want to implement it with great pastoral care and sensitivity, without imposing anything. Secondly, that “high church” understanding is very much supported in Church teaching, not just a subset’s interpretation. Thirdly, we are ALL “ordinary folk”; because somebody has certain knowledge and skills does not make that person elitist, better than anybody else. If your opinions have been formed from experience with people who do see themselves that way, I’m sorry. To suggest that there are elitists and “ordinary folks” insults everybody’s intelligence and God-given potential.

      Honestly, I am in a situation where we are slowly implementing some change in liturgical music. As tempting as it is to hire a choir and start doing great stuff next week, that’s not going to change people’s hearts and minds (well, maybe a few). Rather, we are focusing on developing a healthy children’s choir program, and forming them to appreciate the church’s rich treasury of beauty that deepens their faith, helps them to realize their potential, and lets them glimpse the divine.

  26. Doug O'Neill Avatar
    Doug O’Neill

    I just filed in our choral library our copies of Normand Gouin’s “Communion Antiphons for the Easter Season,” published by MorningStar as part of the Cathedral Series instigated by John Romeri and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I appreciate all that Dr. Romeri has done for quality liturgical music, and may his work continue to be fruitful in another situation.

  27. Kevin Vogt Avatar
    Kevin Vogt

    My friend Doug, et al.,

    I’m trying to understand what “high church” means in this context. Incense? Processions? Eucharist? High Christology? Catholic ecclesiology? I don’t think so.

    I think it means a rehearsed, well-formed (more-or-less) choir within the larger “ad hoc” choral assembly of the baptized (and guests) that sings some parts of the liturgy on behalf of the whole assembly (like a reader proclaims the Word or the priest celebrant offers prayers on behalf of the whole assembly.) I think it is a modality of liturgical celebration in which the vocal prayer of the whole congregation is ideally “choral,” in which everyone “find” their voice and “loses” it in the communal voice of the People of God which manifests the presence of Christ himself, not merely a sing-a-long with music leaders on a separate, electronically-mediated sonic plane.

    Let’s face it: The charge of being “High Church” has as little to do with your intentions as it does with strains of 19th-Century Anglicanism. It is your healthy children’s choir program and your traditional way of musically enacting the liturgy that is an affront to everyone who has either abandoned or never discovered the value of radical mutuality in the choral modality of Catholic Christian worship, and who don’t see anything wrong with things not sounding as the look, or with ritual relationships being utterly dependent on the “factitious intimacy” of the microphone. However, your way of doing things is so rare these days that I can’t imagine how anyone could feel threatened by it. In big, reverberant Mother Churches, however, this modality is required by the space, and the whole thing gets labeled “Cathedral liturgy,” perpetuating the myth that liturgical-musical practice in cathedrals can’t possibly relate to what goes on in parishes filled with “ordinary folks.”

    There! I just painted a bull’s-eye on my back…and I’m going to vote for Bernie Sanders.

    1. Doug O'Neill Avatar
      Doug O’Neill

      @Kevin Vogt:
      Well said, Kevin. I would vote for Sanders too, but I doubt he will get nominated. I voted for Nader twice, and the Green Party candidate Jill Stein in the last presidential election, because of Obama’s escalation of drone strikes.

      Just to further dispel the common conservative/liberal perception…

    2. Bob Knight Avatar
      Bob Knight

      @Kevin Vogt:
      I’m also confused with Fr. Fehilly’s unfavorable comments regarding “high church” music. If the Cathedral of an Archdiocese is not the appropriate place for high church music (and liturgy), pray tell, where is? When did “music that the most musically illiterate parishioner can sing” become an acceptable standard for music in the liturgy of the Eucharist? I thought we were to be offering our best in God’s praise. I must have missed that verse in the Bible – “No Mary, don’t put the fine ointment on Jesus’ feet, the average person doesn’t have it, go over to CVS and buy a bottle of Pond’s, it’s good enough”.
      We’ll be very glad to have John in California!

  28. Paul Inwood Avatar
    Paul Inwood

    I, too, do not wish to hijack the thread, but I have to disagree with Jennifer Budziak (#33). It is precisely this misunderstanding about the role of vibrato in vocal technique which has bedevilled many American choirs — and cantors, come to that — for generations.

    People think that there is a universal technique for vocal production which applies to all forms of singing. Many singers who have been formed in Bel Canto will tell you that this is the best and only way to sing, and that it wouldn’t be right for them not to give their best in the service of God. But this assertion is completely untrue. It all depends on what the singing is for. The “best” singing will vary according to the purpose of the music. Solo singing in an operatic or lieder context is very different from being a cantor at Mass or from singing in a choral ensemble. The technical demands are, or should be, correspondingly different, too. It is perfectly possible to put your technique at the service of a completely different vocal style in order to produce a still-beautiful sound that is appropriate to its context, but many singers have never been shown how to do this. Yes, support the tone; but yes also, straighten out the tone.

    A choir with a large number of competing vibratos is one of the ugliest sounds on the planet, IMO. There are choral directors who permit this to happen, and there are those who realize that there is something better out there and who seek to emulate the clarity of good English choral tone. I have encountered the latter on the West Coast, in the Southwest and even in the Midwest, so I don’t think we’re discussing a regional phenomenon. And I certainly do not subscribe to the notion of having to negotiate a vibrato: it should not be necessary to do so. Vibrato is the enemy of good choral blend and tuning.

    We’re talking about the difference between a good, cohesive choral ensemble and an ensemble of solo singers who just happen to be doing synchronized singing. There is much, much more that could be said on this topic, but there is no space here to do so.

  29. Richard Chonak Avatar
    Richard Chonak

    This case gives us a lot to consider: how differences of opinion regarding liturgical music arise, based on temperament, formation, and philosophy.

    It would be good to see conflicts resolved in a more constructive way than by resignations or dismissals. Perhaps more church musicians and more clergy could set aside their personal likes and personal opinions, and try to seek out the Church’s ideals for liturgical music.

    Already in some corners the discussion of this case has opened the door to gossip. Anonymous commenters have made claims and counter-claims about the behavior and attitudes of the individuals involved, which is an injustice against their right to their good name.

    Maybe that is enough reason for some liturgy blogs to refrain from commenting.

  30. Jackson Schoos Avatar
    Jackson Schoos

    To my collegial acquaintance and sharer of Southern California connections, Paul Inwood: you wound me by your omission of the entire Southeastern U.S.. With a strong Episcopal tradition in the region, we have many very fine church choirs that utilize the tonal concepts you describe, and I’m proud to number my (R.C.) Cathedral choir among them. Come visit Nashville and I’ll treat you to some excellent church music indeed (granted, very little of it in Catholic churches, more is the pity).

  31. Carolyn Vokoun Avatar
    Carolyn Vokoun

    I am very sad to learn of John Romeri’s resignation. I knew John in St. Louis and feel blessed to have caught his enthusiasm for beautifully prepared music, to have learned from his expertise, and to have experienced inspiring Cathedral liturgies during his tenure. I never felt that his musical selection and presentation was inaccessible to the people in the pews. Indeed, his uplifting arrangements complete with brass and expertly crafted organ registration moved me to full participation and inspired me to improve my own work as a pastoral musician. The faithful of Philadelphia have lost a fine musician and a great leader.

  32. Pat Gallo-Terrenzio Avatar
    Pat Gallo-Terrenzio

    John Romeri has both enriched and challenged all liturgical musicians in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. He has not only enriched us with the Concert Series at the Cathedral and the stellar liturgies at the Cathedral, but also with his presence and input with our local NPM Chapter, the Association of Church Musicians in Philadelphia. We have collaborated on many endeavors, including the initiation of local chew and chats. Many had the opportunity to meet their neighbors and share their stories. John was present at all of them, establishing a rapport with parish musicians and encouraging and challenging all of us to be the best that we can be, to continually improve our skills. He offered excellent cantor training sessions and organ skills sessions, continually building a community of musicians throughout the Archdiocese. We were introduced to new composers and outstanding choral music of the 20th century. We appreciated his leadership, energy, talents, and passion for sacred music and execution of it. Many were looking forward to singing at the papal liturgies under his direction, giving the world the best of Philadelphia with much to be proud of. It generated a high level of excitement among parish musicians around the Archdiocese. His departure is a huge loss on many levels for all the musicians of the Archdiocese. We can debate high church and low church, traditional vs. contemporary, good vs. poor, etc., but we cannot debate John’s passion for sacred music, his commitment to the highest standards, his stellar musicianship, his unwavering allegiance to the role of music in the liturgy, his love for his vocation. He will be deeply missed, and I thank him for so freely sharing his gifts with all of us. We are better music ministers because of his presence here the last 5 years. Many seeds have been sown; the fruits of his labor will not be in vain. GRAZIE.

    Pat Gallo-Terrenzio
    Vice-President/Association of Church Musicians in Philadelphia

  33. Rosalind Mohnsen Avatar
    Rosalind Mohnsen

    Liturgical music and musical disputes should not be reduced to a matter of taste or different tastes. A distribution of ministries, as outlined in “Musicam Sacram”, allows for both congregational and choral singing in the same Liturgy. It is often the clergy who should acquaint themselves with what the Church has said.

  34. Joseph Terence Avatar
    Joseph Terence

    Hello from Ontario Canada. I have just learned of Mr Romeri’s situation, and have read ALL of the comments here. Very interesting, to say the least. I pretty well understand all sides here. About 5 years ago I couldn’t stand the sound coming from the choir loft of both the ‘Contemporary’ and ‘Gregorian’ choirs. I offered my services, having sung in, and directed choirs in both the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches for over 40 years now.
    I prayed much and decided that the most important aspect of our ‘singing leadership’ was to 1) sing the most beautiful, yet prayer-enticing music, and 2) don’t make it beyond the musical understanding and reach of EVERYONE present.
    The last thing I wanted to hear from a parishioner (or clergy) was “how great” we sung. And thanks be to God we have succeeded. There isn’t a Mass we sing at where I don’t hear: “The music lifted me up in prayer” -generally paraphrasing most people’s comments. And believe it or not, I hear from liberal AND conservative congregants. One of the keys to our success (hate to use that term), is simple: create music that is as rich and harmonious as possible (for spiritual reasons), while keeping the melody (and text -biblical of course) present so that ALL can sing. We sing both Polyphony and Gregorian chant.
    I am reading Cardinal Ratzinger’s “The Spirit of the Liturgy” for the umpteenth time, -there’s so much to digest in it. One chapter -devoted to the history, and current challenges, of music in the Liturgy. I strongly recommend it. My other passions include Psychology and Sociology, both of which must be taken into ‘some’ account when dealing with the large diversity of both clergy and parishioners present at the celebration of the Liturgy. It serves no purpose nor benefit to isolate where bipolar matters of opinion (qualified or not), exist; and they ‘DO’, and always ‘WILL’.
    I don’t want the congregants ‘listening and enjoying us’, but rather, sing with us, if at times, only in their hearts. And thanks to our pastor for openness of dialogue.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *