Thursday, September 01, 2016

Lincoln Diocese Sacred Music Clinic: Beginnings and Small Steps (Guest Article by Amy Flamminio)

Our thanks to Amy Flamminio for sharing with us this report of the Sacred Music Clinic recently held by the Diocese of Lincoln Nebraska. Photos from the Southern Nebraska Register by Cathy Blankenau-Bender, reproduced by permission.

On Saturday, August 27th, the Diocese of Lincoln hosted its first ever Sacred Music Clinic at the beautiful Newman Center on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It was a day to encourage and educate the musicians of the Diocese, which extends along the length of Nebraska, south of the Platte River from the border with Iowa to the border with Colorado; musicians were in attendance from as far away as Grant, a town of just over a thousand people.

Early in 2016, the Bishop sent each musician and parish a letter personally inviting them to come, and they responded generously, with over 230 in attendance in a venue that was soon bursting at the seams! Featured guests were Adam Bartlett, Matthew Meloche, and David Clayton, while local clinicians included Fr. Michael Zimmer, Diocesan Master of Ceremonies, Jessica Ligon, Cathedral Music Teacher, Nicholas Lemme, Music Director at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary (FSSP), and Amy Flamminio, Cathedral Choir Director.

For close to 12 hours, attendees sang, listened, and learned. The day was packed with a lot of information to take in and felt a little overwhelming to all. But as Bishop Conley said in his address to the attendees in the morning:
Singing the Mass is not easy. But we come together in gatherings like this to learn to make the mystery of the Mass as beautiful as possible. To make a gift of ourselves, by giving God our best efforts, and our best music, and our trust…I know that what we learn here will be a lot. And I know that some of it might be unfamiliar. I know it might seem like the chants, and propers, and polyphonies of the Church’s tradition might not fit in ordinary parish worship. Do not be overwhelmed. Everything starts with small steps. I encourage you to take what you learn here today, and pray about how you might incorporate what you have learned in the worship at your parish. To begin at the beginning, with small steps, and to trust the Lord, as he leads us all to worship Him with beauty, making sacred worship all about God, who loves us, and gives himself to us, who is the source of all beauty, and who is a mystery.
One attendee said, it was a day that awakened her to the Church’s vision of Beauty. While much of what was done at the clinic’s liturgies, such as the opening Morning Prayer and closing Mass, cannot be put into practice at her small town parish, it led her to desire an awareness of the beauty of the Propers of the Mass, of singing the Mass, and not just singing at the Mass. As another attendee described it, they left excited about finding ways to “implement some new and beautiful things in our liturgies over time!”

Due to the wide variety in the sizes of parishes, musical experience, and the abilities of musicians throughout the diocese, almost all of them volunteers, the clinic’s goal clinic was to provide the tools that will enable musicians to begin a liturgical renewal in their parish, at whatever level they are capable. Fr. Daniel Rayer, chairman of the Diocese’s Liturgical Commission, said in his homily at the closing Mass, “just as in the parable of the talents, some of us have been given one talent, some five, and some ten talents, we must give the best that we can, even if for some of us that is only one talent.”

For most attendees, the most useful part of the day was a session on hymn selection. Most parishes are not at a point in which they can switch to singing the Mass antiphons, so participants were encouraged to find ways to use the antiphons when they pick a “suitable hymn” for different parts of the Mass. They were also encouraged to consider introducing antiphons at Communion before singing a hymn, whether in a simple psalm tone or through some of the wonderful resources in English available through Illuminare Publications, CMAA, CCWatershed, and others. For others, the clinic will lead to a focus on singing the Ordinary, the responsorial psalms, and dialogues of the Mass.

Responses to the day, while varied, were overwhelmingly positive, as people were moved by beauty and by the knowledge that they can use “small steps” in their move to better “singing the Mass and not just at the Mass.”

The “small steps” in this renewal of the liturgy will include making the Sacred Music Clinic an annual event, with breakout sessions and varying focus each year. In an effort to reach all parts of the diocese, smaller clinics may eventually be offered in different towns and cities along Nebraska. This beginning is one of communication, education, beauty, and God’s grace.

The author conducting one of the sessions.
— Talks and topics included:
• Singing the Mass: The Musical Structure of the Liturgy, by Adam Bartlett
• Introducing Sacred Music to a Parish Community, by Matthew Meloche

• Breakout Sessions
            • Responsorial Psalm 101 and Selecting Hymns for Mass, by Jessica Ligon and Amy Flamminio.
            • The “Spirit” of Vatican II: How we got to where we are and what the Council Teaches, by Rev. Michael Zimmer
            • Accompanying hymns and chant on the organ , by Matthew Meloche
            • Chant—A Deeper Look, by Adam Bartlett

• Chant Breakout Sessions
            • Chant I with Adam Bartlett focused on the Responsorial Psalm and Alleluia as well as the Ordinary for the Clinic’s Ordinary Form Mass.
            • Chant II for Women, led by Amy Flamminio, had a quick introduction in how to read the 4-line staff to equip them for learning chant at home and were in responsible for the Introit, from Illuminare Publications, for the evening liturgy.
            • The men’s session, led by Matthew Meloche, prepared the Offertory Antiphon, also from Illuminare Publications, for the day. • Chant III, led by Nicholas Lemme, prepared and sang the Gregorian Communion Antiphon for Mass, alternating verses and antiphon between men and women.

Amy Flamminio is an organist, choir director, piano teacher, and writer, who has served as music director at St. Mary’s in Ashland, Nebraska, and is currently serving as a choir director at St. Peter’s in Lincoln and the Cathedral of the Risen Christ, while also sitting on the Diocese’s Liturgical Commission since 2014. She graduated from UNL where she majored in Music (piano performance); while there, she was awarded a UCARE grant to study and write her senior thesis on the study and practice of Gregorian Chant, which she later published (as Amy Danielle Waddle) in the Sacred Music journal of the Church Music Association of America. While attending UNL, Amy directed a Schola that sang for Latin Novus Ordo Masses at the Newman Center and hosted an annual ecumenical concert with Orthodox and Catholic choirs. She also writes for and has been published at Catholic Exchange, Nebraska Music Teachers Association, and others.

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