Tuesday, October 08, 2019

A Report on the UGCC’s Recent Church Music Conference

We are grateful to the organizers of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s annual Singing Conference, and to the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission, for this report on the event, and the videos which accompany it.

From Thursday, September 26, to Sunday, September 29, cantors, singers, choir directors, clergy, and all those interested in church singing gathered for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s second annual Singing Conference, or “SingCon,” a weekend of prayer, learning, and fellowship, at St Basil’s Seminary in Stamford, Connecticut. Under the leadership of Deacon Daniel Galadza, and with the support of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission, the gathering was organized by a group of American and Canadian cantors, church musicians, and other clergy and laypeople, and hosted by the Eparch of Stamford, Bishop Paul (Chomnycky), and Fr Bohdan Tymchyshyn, rector of St Basil’s Seminary. Over seventy participants came from parishes in every part of Canada and the United States, as well as the UK and Germany, included many college students, young adults, professionals and married couples, along with several Roman Catholic and Orthodox participants, whose presence demonstrated the value of sacred music in strengthening ties between sister Churches and in ecumenical dialogue.

This year’s gathering continued the previous year’s initial efforts to advance both the availability and the quality of Church music in the English-speaking world by bringing together cantors and choir directors to meet one another, network, share resources, discuss various issues, and—most importantly—to pray together.

Four practical workshops were offered over the weekend, on 1) the Divine Liturgy (using The Divine Liturgy: An Anthology for Worship published by the Sheptytsky Institute), 2) introducing Vespers into parishes, 3) services from the Trebnyk, or Book of Needs (Baptism, Marriage, Funerals; the equivalent of the Rituale Romanum), and 4) the sources of the Kyivan and Galician liturgical music tradition. Networking sessions during meals led by Linda Dudar covered topics such as how to develop a choir, and how to trouble-shoot mistakes and misunderstandings that inevitably arise for leaders of church singing.
Part of Matins on Friday morning
The participants divided the remainder of their time between rehearsals, tours of the Stamford Seminary Museum and Library, and the celebration of liturgical services (Vespers, Matins, the Hours, and the Divine Liturgy) with homilies by Frs Martin Canavan and Joseph Matlak, culminating in a Saturday evening Vigil and Sunday morning Divine Liturgy. Bishop Bohdan (Danylo) of St Josaphat Eparchy in Parma, Ohio, the English-language coordinator of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission, presided and preached at the Vigil on Saturday evening and at the concluding Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the chapel of St Basil Seminary. Roman Hurko’s new composition The Jesus Prayer had its world premiere, sung by the choir during the Communion.
On Thursday evening, after Vespers, dinner, and a word of welcome from Bishop Paul participants continued with a rehearsal and Town Hall/Armchair session moderated by Larisa Cronin, entitled “High Place, Altar, Krylos, Pew: Tell us, what’s your point of view?”, a forum for various perspectives on church singing in the UGCC, from bishops and priests to cantors and lay people. Metropolitan Borys (Gudziak), this year’s representative from the bishops, encouraged those present to continue their ministry of church singing and invited them to Philadelphia in 2020.

On Friday evening, cantor Joseph Roll gave a keynote address on the history of liturgical music at the Stamford Seminary. Professor Roll, who had organized similar church singing conferences in the 1980s and 1990s, provided an overview of the numerous liturgical translations and musical arrangements that were prepared in the seminary’s halls by its professors, clergy, and students, among them Fr (later Patriarch) Lubomyr Husar, Mother Andrea of the Missionary Sisters of the Mother of God, and Prof. Ivan Zadorozhnyj. The lecture received a standing ovation.

A key result of the conference is that the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission will have a better sense of the support, resources, and training that cantors, choir directors, and singers in the UGCC in North America need to fulfill their vocation. Participants expressed the urgent need for official translations and publication of liturgical books in both English and Ukrainian, as well as resources that will help them sing the services in those books.

SingCon’s focus on English-language liturgy and singing in the UGCC stems from the 2017 decision of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC to create local linguistic groups within the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission. At the encouragement of Bishop Benedict (Aleksiychuk) of Chicago, a committee was formed at this year’s SingCon to prepare statutes for the formation of the Church Music Association of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in North America. This meeting was attended by, among others, Bishop Basil (Losten), Bishop Bohdan (Danylo), and representatives of the Church Music Association of America (NLM’s parent organization).

Information on the schedule and the music, as well as photos and videos from the weekend, can be found on the conference website (www.ugccmusic.com) and on the Facebook page of the Patriarchal Liturgical Commission (https://www.facebook.com/plc.ugcc/) with the hashtag #SingCon2019.

The next SingCon is scheduled for October 1-4, 2020, in Philadelphia, and will be hosted by the Philadelphia Archeparchy. For updates, subscribe to the mailing list on www.ugccmusic.com or write to hello@ugccmusic.com.

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