Friday, February 23, 2018

CMAA 2018 Colloquium in Chicago, June 25-30

The Church Music Association of America is returning to Chicago in 2018! Our last Chicago Colloquium was in 2009; since then, the Sacred Music Colloquium has been held in Pittsburgh (2010, 2011, 2015), Salt Lake City (2012, 2013), Indianapolis (2014), St. Louis (2016), and Saint Paul (2017). For further information about date and venue, highligths of the Colloquium, and registration registration information, see the CMAA website.

For those of us who have been part of the organization since the days of relatively small gatherings of faithful members at Catholic University, the massive increase in interest in Sacred Music has been an exciting and amazing thing. I was fortunate to discover the CMAA when it was just in the process of huge growth, and to experience my first Extraordinary Form liturgy and the wonderful music of the Ordinary Form at the last Colloquium at Catholic University in 2007, just before Pope Benedict issued the motu proprio.

Truthfully, as anyone who knows me has probably heard, I was a bit annoyed when, in my forties, I discovered all the lovely Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony that had been abandoned by most places after Vatican II. An enthusiastic student, I attended at least one of the programs every summer thereafter. In addition, I was constantly trying to convert others by inviting them to weekend workshops whenever possible. As my family moved around at the whim of the military following my husband’s career, I tried to start a new schola at each new location, or at least to do what I could to share this beautiful treasury wherever we were.

Since many of us were struggling to learn to read the chant notation and basic chironomy (just barely a step ahead of our schola members), it was not that easy to find resources to help us along the way. I can remember finding a few online chant recordings of relatively poor quality, and straining to hear the melodies over the sounds of crying babies and loud HVAC systems.

We have come such a long way in such a short time! Now you can find almost any chant you want to learn on a variety of YouTube videos. The entire Liber Usualis and Gregorian Missal are available for free download from the CMAA website, along with many other resources. Corpus Christi Watershed has been a leader in making settings of Responsorial Psalms freely available, and has continued to expand each year the resources offered. Beautiful settings of sacred polyphony are freely available on and other sites. The CMAA Forum offers connection with musicians around the world who share their knowledge (and the occasional snarky comment) very generously with each other. NONE of this was available when I was first trying to learn these things. Books on chironomy, the Solesmes Method, Ward method, and more are all now freely available to anyone with an internet connection.

While the CMAA was the leader in providing training in Gregorian chant then (and still is), there is now a wealth of opportunities for learning and improving your knowledge all around the country. Small groups have formed in various regions and are  hosting their own annual workshops and symposia. Other organizations also have sessions on Gregorian Chant at their conventions, and the big publishers are beginning to offer more resources for both English and Latin chant.

In addition to the resources offered by the CMAA, Ignatius Press, Illuminare and others are now offering wonderful resources in English that are making the sound of plainchant more and more common in parishes around the country. No longer is it an unusual occurrence to find music directors who know the difference between a Mass Ordinary and a Mass Proper.

So… what’s the point of all this? We are living in a wonderful time. Thanks to the visionary leadership of the CMAA board, our organization has continued to thrive. Thanks to the huge work done by Jeffrey Tucker in promoting Sacred Music, and promoting the idea of freely shared resources at our website, we now have a huge online treasury available for the entire world to use. Thanks to Arlene Oost-Zinner, who transformed our programs and developed the model we still use for the planning, we now have a solid history of successful Colloquia and Chant courses. Thanks to the generous faculty who give their time and talent to make the courses successful, traveling from all around the country and Europe, we can offer amazing training in an intense week of study each year. Thanks to generous donors, we can offer scholarships and student/seminarian rates at our Colloquia, and continue to expand our resources with new projects. We have so much to be thankful for as musicians, directors, and faithful Catholics who want beautiful liturgy in the worship of God.

From an article published on the New Liturgical Movement in 2009, just before the beginning of the Colloquium in Chicago for the second year, Jeffrey Tucker wrote:
And let us be clear on what is happening here. This is not a trade show. It is not a series of lectures. Every single person coming here, and there are some 250 people, will be actively participating in a chant choir and a polyphonic choir under a world-class conductor, and they will have to choose among several available options for polyphony - an impossible choice really. I know of no other event that compares in terms of training Catholic musicians of the future, training to be producers on the local level, to establish scholas to sing the Mass, to conduct and sing with the purpose of upgrading the liturgical experience in the Catholic framework… We are living amidst a new renaissance of liturgical music… 
Help us continue forward by joining us at one of our programs this summer. The Colloquium (June 25-30, 2018) is a great thing because of the collaboration of expert teachers and directors AND those attendees who lend their enthusiasm and voices to make the six days a wonderful experience. Come to Chicago and re-charge your batteries along with us so that you can continue the work you are doing in the trenches of your home parish, school, seminary or diocese.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: