Friday, April 27, 2007

Are you workshop savvy?

You are fed up with the status quo - you want chant and polyphony - truly sacred music - to take hold in your parish or in your diocese once again. You realize that it will take not only a change of heart, but a lot of education to make this happen.

Weekend workshops are a wonderfully viable place to begin, and you’ve got the drive to stage one of your own. You’ve even been given the thumbs up by your pastor or bishop. What is the next step?

I offer here an incomplete and shockingly practical list of considerations:

• Most people coming will be novices when it comes to real sacred music. You need to meet them at their level. Even if you end up with a group of skilled musicians and music directors, chant will likely be brand new to them. And although most will be enthusiastic, you’ll have a few skeptics. Things need to be kept light and fun and not overly academic or you’ll lose your audience

• You need to build in plenty of time for chant – learning from the ground up. This is the main reason people will be coming.

• Start singing right away – people need to be involved – especially the skeptics.

• Keep lectures at a minimum. One guest lecturer is probably enough for a short workshop like this.

• Have all materials prepared and published ahead of time. Don’t try to save money by making copies of music at the parish office- homespun efforts usually look like just that. Save yourself the headache and go with a professional service – a few dollars more, but less headache and the presentation is so much better.

• Don’t spend lots of time brainstorming with committees about repertory and logistics. That usually amounts to nothing but a lot of pie-in-the-sky ideas and wasted time. Have two people make decisions, make up the schedule, stick to it, and things will fall into place.

• Think of all costs for inviting faculty – travel, accommodations, wining and dining, honoraria. Probably a lot more than you think.

• Consider starting the workshop on Thursday evening or early on Friday and then doing the vigil Mass on Saturday instead of the coveted Sunday morning Mass. Lots of singers and music directors will have trouble staying over because they need to return to their own parishes for their own Sunday Masses.

• Make sure all music and liturgy plans are laid out clearly for celebrants and local MC’s ahead of time.

• Centralize practical efforts (two or three people is enough), and don’t count on additional volunteers to make decisions or do more than act as gophers on d-day. Whoever handles registrations needs to be on top of the all the details and be an excellent communicator. Everyone will be writing or calling with a special situation or need. The persons fielding these calls or taking registrations need to be thinking of only one thing – customer service.

• Success on d-day has everything to do with careful and decisive planning ahead of time. It should all appear effortless – no one wants to see the sausage being made.

And here is probably the single most important piece of advice I can offer. The success of your workshop, and of the sacred music movement in general, is more dependent on this than you may realize:

• Make sure your local parish community is prepared for and feels itself a part of the event taking place – the workshop Mass will be their Mass, too.

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