Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Sacred Music Conference in Scotland

he inaugural one-day Conference of Musica Sacra Scotland has been announced and will take place on November 9, 2013 at Glasgow University. Full details will be announced in due course, however the day will run from 10.00am till 5.00pm followed by Mass in Glasgow University Chapel at 6.00pm, where some of the prepared music will be used. Main speakers and session leaders are James MacMillan CBE, Fr Guy Nicholls (Blessed John Henry Institute of Liturgical Music), Joseph Cullen (conductor, choral trainer and organist) and Rebecca Tavener (Cappella Nova).

James MacMillan, who is convening the Conference, recently wrote in the Catholic Herald that "the new papacy is a welcome opportunity for us to renew and revitalise our our attempts at maintaining and continuing the sacred dimension of our liturgical celebrations." He also wrote about the importance of Gregorian Chant:
Gregorian chant is universal as it is supra national and thus accessible to those of any and every culture equally. It rises above those musics which are either associated only with localized cultural experience on the one hand, and operates separately from those other musics which are associated with high, artistic, classical derivation and aspiration on the other. Therefore it is essentially anti-elitist and simultaneously pure. Gregorian chant is for all.

The Gregorian sound, and the practice of chanting, whether by specialist or non-specialist, gives the most perfect context for the hearing of the words of the sacred scripture. It provides an elevated tone of voice that takes the texts out of the everyday and confirms them as sacred. It provides a goodness of form, which is in itself beautiful, which in turn adds a sense of delight to prayer. It takes our divine praises into the realm of the transcendent and the eternal, and it is the music’s sacred character which enables this. There is a melodic and rhythmic freedom in chant which is hard to find in any other music. Chant not only enhances the text, but it also breaks free from the restraints of metre. It is the antithesis of “rock” and pop with its incessant and insistently mind-numbing beat. It embodies the ethereal and spiritual aspects of the liturgy. It is the free-est form of music.

The Church would stop being the Church without its liturgy. The liturgy is the pinnacle and summit of our entire Christian life. It has to be of our highest and best, whatever the circumstances. Our liturgical music has to be more than mere utility music. Before he was Pope Joseph Ratzinger said; “A Church which only makes use of “utility” music has fallen for what is, in fact, useless. . . . For her mission is a far higher one. As the Old Testament speaks of the Temple, the Church is to be the place of “glory,” and as such, too, the place where mankind’s cry of distress is brought to the ear of God. The Church must not settle down with what is merely comfortable and serviceable at the parish level, she must arouse the voice of the cosmos and, by glorifying the Creator, elicit the glory of the cosmos itself, making it also glorious, beautiful, habitable, and beloved.”

He went on to say; “The other arts, architecture, painting, vestments, and the arts of movement each contribute to and support the beauty of the liturgy, but still the art of music is greater even than that of any other art, because it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy, because it is so intimately bound to the sacred action, defining and differentiating the various parts in character, motion, and importance.”
The full article and details of the conference are available at the Choir of St Columba's website.

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