After the Colloquium, Now What?

This year’s annual CMAA Summer Colloquium was a wonderful range of experiences:  chant courses ranging for total beginners through advanced sessions on semiology, polyphonic choirs with offerings ranging from Lassus through Elgar, six splendid Masses in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, up to and including a Solemn High Mass for the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul celebrated by Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, Secretary of ICEL.  Not to mention some excellent homilies in the course of those liturgies. Along the way, there were other events – an organ crawl around Temple Square, a concert by the spectacular choir of trebles and men of the Cathedral of Madeleine, a Solemn Vespers in the Extraordinary Form,  lectures, dinners, and enough time to talk with old friends and meet new.  And the breathtakingly beautiful Cathedral of Madeleine was another star!

The resulting effect is a retreat cum conservatory workshop cum family reunion – with the charming exception that the “family” in question keeps growing.  Definitely a wonderful week – a week of promise, spiritual and musical exaltation, and singularly lacking in the rancor that can poison the sacred music world.

But then there’s always “coming home.”  Anyone who’s ever arrived back from a retreat filled with a zeal for sainthood, resolutions of charity and kindness, daily Mass attendance, etc. knows how easy it is to find yourself right back where you started.  A colloquium can engender the same discouragement – so many things to do, so much music to be revived and presented to generations that have never heard it, so many ways in which one’s own choir could shine brighter.  But then you bump into the old reality. Whether it’s a new coffee stain on the carpet or a lackluster liturgy, the effect can be quite discouraging.  The temptation to shrug my shoulders, sigh, and do nothing new is overwhelming.  My visions seem no more accessible than the angels on the vault of the Cathedral.

After all, many of us live surrounded by indifference.  Indifference is pernicious and ennervating. It is harder to resist than active hostility because there’s nothing to push back against.  Whether the indifference is to our faith, our vision of music and liturgy, our zeal to show beauty as a path to truth – it doesn’t matter.  Most people have nothing against your pursuing whatever crackpot scheme (in their view) you have in mind.  Just do it quietly, please.

Well, maybe not this year.  Sifting over the past week’s experiences, I think I shall isolate one single thing – one project, one piece, one arena, one “whatever” – and follow through.  Stay tuned.  And if you were there in Salt Lake City, I encourage you to join me in this endeavor.

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About Mary Jane Ballou

Mary Jane Ballou’s life in sacred music began in a children’s choir at the age of three. Instrumental music waited until her piano lessons started in primary school. And her music life remains a joyous pairing of sacred vocal music and the instrumental repertoire of Spain, Ireland, and Scotland.

3 thoughts on “After the Colloquium, Now What?

  1. Jenny

    Hi Mary Jane! That’s quite a challenge for me, the perpetual pessimist. The post-Colloquium period can be quite a valley after having been to the mountain top. Being at the Colloquium always makes me want to do a thousand things-fix all the things that I know aren’t good. But one thing? Can I do one thing? OK- I’ll take you up on it. I think I even know what I need to do.

  2. Chris

    My husband has been unemployed for over a year so there was no way we could attend the Colloquium although it was a deep desire. So I stayed home and kept my little fire burning.

    I have been using the Communion Propers for over a year now and Chabenal Psalms. We have many Spanish Masses and they don’t sing the Psalms at Mass. BUT our persistent (small group of 5) and consistent use of the Communion Proper and singing the Psalm produced this curious effect. One night as I was leaving after my English Mass there was a Quincenera being celebrated. Usually these are all out affairs with Mariachis. I was quietly leaving the Church when I heard some singing that wasn’t part of the Mariachis. It was a capella. I waited to see what was going on. They had pressed the sacristan into staying and functioning as the lector for the Mass and he had decided to chant the Psalm! He made up his own music and chanted away. While it was not particularly beautiful in the classical music sense, it was indicative the he “gets” it. We have never had a discussion about it, but he has served at many Masses I have done over the years and he thinks that this should be the norm.

    So, for those of you who were blessed to find yourself in heaven for a week in Salt Lake, take one small thing and just do it. And persist quietly. One way to guarantee that there is no harvest is to plant nothing.

    Buona Fortuna.

  3. Pingback: "Coming Home" | Catholic Canada

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