Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
July 16, 2001
Parish musicians awakened
Edmonton parish sends 16 musicians, singers to U. S. conference
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Music brings a dimension to liturgical prayer that can't be achieved any other way.
That's what 16 musicians and singers from Edmonton's St. Thomas More Catholic Church learned while attending the convention of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians in Washington, earlier this month.
"Musical liturgy truly transforms our prayers - it transforms us," said Edie Murray, one of STM's choir members. "Our mission as music ministers is to motivate the congregation to pray through song. We lead them with our singing."
The group attended the 25th annual convention as a way to celebrate the millennium and rejuvenate their musical spirits, said choir director Leslie Steele.
"I saw 2001 as the beginning of a new millennium," said Steele, who has attended NPM conventions for more than 20 years. "I thought we could all bring back a lot - both spiritually and educationally, in terms of our music ministry."
Choir members and musicians attended a wide variety of sessions - from keyboard improvisation and vocal techniques, to Taiz‚ prayer services and highly emotional African-American revivals. Many sessions involved learning approaches to Church music that the group will be able to apply in their own parish. Other sessions simply aimed to revive the spirit.
More than 4,500 pastoral musicians from across the United States attended the convention held from July 2-6. More than 35 Canadians attended.
The National Association of Pastoral Musicians was formed 25 years ago to help develop the ministerial role of pastoral music, advocate quality music and liturgy, and encourage active participation of all people in musical liturgy. NPM now has more than 9,500 members.
Several STM choir members recall experiencing at the convention an overwhelming sense of communal prayer and spiritual oneness through music.
"What really blew me away was being in a room with 3,000 or 4,000 musicians who sang their hearts out - in four-part harmony," said choir member Janet Johnstone, referring to several occasions throughout the convention in which delegates gathered for liturgical services, concerts or just to sing through new music.
"Church music isn't supposed to be about entertaining the congregation, but about participation and collective prayer. That's what we experienced."
Several conference speakers addressed the idea that music has not always been as integral a part of the liturgy as it now. Liturgical music has evolved within the Church since Vatican II.
"Music is not a part of the liturgy. It is of the liturgy," exclaimed Father Edward Foley to an enthusiastic crowd at the closing address.
In addition to making music, the group was able to hear several well-known Catholic composers such as David Haas, Father Jan Michael Joncas, Marty Haugen, Father John Foley, and Grayson Warren Brown perform their music and lead people in song.
"(The composers) became human to us," said Diane Gagnon. "They are no longer names on a sheet of music, but people we actually saw sing their music for the glory of God."
Several cantors attended sessions aimed to help them lead congregations in song. They learned that hymns must be taught before parishioners can be expected to know the melodies or be comfortable singing out.
"I learned to appreciate my role as a cantor," said Leola Hildebrant. "It's important because it's not only a proclamation that I am making, but a prayer."
Each member of the group came away from the convention with something unique. But the pilgrimage to Washington was more than a recreational trip, said Sister Gabrielle Blais.
"We went looking for a spiritual awakening, and we got it."
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