The 2014 Sacred Music Colloquium

From June 30 to July 6, I had the good fortune of attending the Sacred Music Colloquium, this year held in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana.

From June 30 to July 6, I had the good fortune of attending the Sacred Music Colloquium, this year held in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. A good friend of mine who lives in Indiana had been telling me for several years that I needed to attend this event. This year was the right time and we attended together. I have been active in Catholic liturgy, particularly liturgical music, most of my life.  I started singing in a children’s choir when I was nine.  I hold a certificate in Pastoral Liturgy.  I was not prepared for what I was about to experience.The colloquium is staffed by world-class organists, conductors, composers and vocalists.  I don’t think I was surrounded by so many doctors when I was in hospital! What was more surprising, perhaps, was the relative youth of those attending.  Of the approximately 240 people there, I think the vast majority were 40 or under.  Some were still in high-school.

There was a strong familial component…parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, parents and adult children…and many had been attending for years. 

There were a number of options for those attending.  The focus of the daily sessions was to prepare pieces for the Masses celebrated daily.  There were beginner through advanced classes in both chant and polyphony.  My choice was to attend Refresher Chant, instructed by Charles Cole and Beginner Polyphony, instructed by David Hughes.  There were also key note addresses on three of the days, and break-out sessions on various church or liturgy-related topics.  There was a great deal of support provided for organists, as well. 

There was attention given to good vocal formation, and there was a teacher available for private vocal lessons.  There was even an organ concert at nearby Christ Church Cathedral.

It was a busy, busy week.

The people who coordinate the colloquium are dedicated to the best in Roman Liturgy.  The Masses in which we actively participated where exquisite.  During the course of the week, both Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Mass were celebrated.  

Anyone who thinks the Ordinary Form is not valid should attend the colloquium to see what it can look like.  It wouldn’t surprise me at all if someone unfamiliar with the Mass would have trouble telling the Mass forms apart as they were celebrated here. The Mass settings were in Latin for either EF or OF Masses. Birettas and mantillas were the order of the day in either form.

It was wonderful to be part of a group that could sing Ave Verum Corpus in four parts, without practice, and do it very well.

The involvement of Christ Church Cathedral was interesting and new.  This is an Episcopal cathedral.  The Monday evening vespers service was held there, and the choral room was kindly provided for the use of the refresher chant class.  They also made coffee available to colloquium attendees during the day.  Its proximity to the hotel where most of the session happened made this all quite convenient.

Masses were held at St. John the Evangelist Church.  This historic and inspiring church is currently undergoing extensive renovations, but was still lovely.

I don’t have the experience of having attended other colloquia, so I have nothing to compare to, but I do think it would have been an improvement if there had been more opportunity to share meals.  That could have been a good time for people to get to know each other better.  As it was, I came home knowing very little about the people I had been working so hard with!

Next year, the colloquium will be at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.  I strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in liturgical music, or even just in liturgy, attend.

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