Thursday, June 26, 2008

My Response to Jeffrey Tucker's "Four Masters of Catholic Music"

Jeffrey Tucker, who is an actuary, family man (he told me he has four children!), Sacred Music managing editor, CMAA organizer, and very active contributor to multiple blogs about sacred music, who must simply never sleep, wrote a tribute to Wilko Browers, Horst Bucholtz, William Mahrt, and Scott Turkington at The New Liturgical Movement blog. The four musicians and teachers he lauds were just a few of the many talented individuals who contributed to the glorious week of learning and singing to the Lord last week at the CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium. See my photos of the event.

Below, Jeffrey Tucker, Horst Buckholz, MeeAn Cecilia Nam, and Wilko Browers at the opening reception.

I wrote the following comment in reply to Jeffrey's tribute to Browers, Bucholtz, Mahrt, and Turkington:

Where do you find the time to create pieces like this tribute, Jeffrey? Do you have a twin who keeps working while you sleep? Or do you sleep at all?

We ARE fortunate to have such musicians and teachers among us. And let us not forget how much we owe to organizers and promoters like you and Arlene [Oost-Zinner].

Wilko Browers

I never encountered Wilko Browers before this colloquium, and I was amazed at the sound of the chant sung by his group. I told him it didn't sound like work, but it sounded ethereal, light, angelic. He said that it was work! (I know that but it didn't sound labored at all to me.) He also told me they were not completely happy because they had not reached their ideal. [It was close enough to perfection for me.]

Part of his method -- as I recall his explanation to me -- is that he aims to make the high voices fuller and richer in sound and the low voices lighter.

The Ineffable Light-ness of Being is somehow communicated, by whatever means Wilko used, rhythmic or otherwise.

And I agree with what Wilko said to Jeffrey about the lake. Without a doubt, it changes every day.

Below, Lake Michigan near sunset.

Above, Lake Michigan during showers.

Horst Buckholz

Horst Bucholtz is a phenomenal musician and leader. It's a great pleasure to sing under his direction. His talent is immense and so is his humor. I too got the sense that Horst has a talent for knowing where the music is going from the beginning, and so he can deftly keep the singers moving forward along the expressive musical line while the momentum keeps them from sodden slogging through the individual notes. It also helps that his quips keep the singers practically rolling in the aisles during rehearsals. [Try that at home, rolling in the aisles and gliding along an expressive musical line, at the same time. :-)]

Below, Horst Buckholz floats above the notes.

Scott Turkington

Scott Turkington's personality and talent are also huge. His facial expressions and gestures are uniquely his, and they convey volumes. Evem when he is passionately expressing a point about sacred music, I think he purposefully softens his tone. When I first took a workshop from him in Alabama, I was delighted by the energy of his teaching style and the beauty of the results. For the next year, I listened to and sang along with a CD of the Gregorian Chant Master Class Scott created. which was based on the lessons of his own master, Theodor Maurier, during my daily commute in my car. After you hear Scott speak, it is striking how rich and deep his singing is.

Above: Scott Turkington teaches a chironomy (chant direction) workshop at the colloquium.

William Mahrt

William Mahrt's achievement in keeping this quality of sacred music alive in performance in a parish for the past 40 years is astounding. If you wonder how did he do that, you have to realize that a lot of it was the fact that he persisted. He kept showing up and drew others to show up and sing with him, week after week, no matter what the current liturgical fad was and no matter the size of the congregation. And he kept adding to the choir's repertoire.

The impressive Vespers service Bill conducted at the Colloquium was not much different from the typical Vespers service with polyphony that he still conducts Sunday evenings at St. Ann Chapel in Palo Alto.

Every week, he brings new polyphony along with the ordinary chant for Sunday Vespers to the chapel. After a 1/2 hour rehearsal (often using the thrilling technique of faux bordon), the small group of singers processes into the almost empty chapel and fills the space with sung prayer.

Below: CMAA president,William Mahrt, at the farewell brunch on the last day of the CMAA colloquium, told attendees to remember what they experienced in Chicago when they got back to their parishes, and then to "Go and do likewise."
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