(SNR) – As parish choirs across the Diocese of Lincoln return to regular practices and singing at liturgies after a summer break, many are experiencing fruits of the diocese’s second annual Sacred Music Clinic. Related: slideshow of photos
More than 120 musicians attended the clinic at the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center in Lincoln Aug. 26, including some from both the Grand Island Diocese and the Archdiocese of Omaha.
Talks and music were aimed at giving tools to musicians to “sing the Mass” rather than “sing at Mass,” to the best of their abilities and the abilities of each parish.
Father Daniel Rayer, chairman of the Liturgical Commission, gave the opening address focusing on the Church’s Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, the Vatican II document on music that celebrates 50 years this year. Father Rayer’s talk illustrated the Church’s vision for music, as well as practical ways to apply it in small Nebraskan parishes.
This year, all presenters and directors were from within the diocese. The talks and the music for the closing Mass featured various ways to apply the Church’s teaching on music in any situation. Musicians making these efforts help add to the solemnity of the Mass, and join in the prayers and treasures of the Church’s tradition.
Small implementations include more frequent or regular singing of Mass parts such as the Glory to God, Lamb of God, Our Father, possibly even the Creed, the Responsorial Psalm, or occasional singing of Antiphons at entrance or Communion.
At the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln, for example, where Gregorian chant and the antiphons are often used, particularly when the bishop celebrates important feasts at the church, special attention is being given to use of the entrance antiphons for particular Masses. The text of these antiphons were chosen by the Church to help participants enter more deeply into the message, prayers, and readings of that day. The Antiphon chants have been the same text for the universal Church for more than 1,000 years.
In a notice instructing parishioners of the use of entrance and Communion antiphons, it explained, “the chants, readings, and prayers you hear and say today allow you to pray with the Church, past, present, and future... and with our fellow Catholics around the world today.”
These moves are not just for large parishes like the Cathedral, which includes more than 1,400 families. Choirs in Davey – with 164 families, Giltner – with 48 families, and Cedar Hill, with 32 families – are implementing the use of chant and/or antiphons. Cristo Rey, Lincoln’s Spanish-speaking parish, uses sung Spanish entrance and Communion antiphons from time to time.
Among the presenters Aug. 26 were Bishop James Conley, Msgr. Joseph Nemec, Father Brendan Kelly, Father Michael Zimmer, and musicians from the Cathedral, St. Teresa, St. Peter, and North American Martyrs parishes in Lincoln, and St. Francis Oratory.
David Schmidt, organist at Cathedral, gave several talks and private lessons about beginning to play the organ for Masses. Simple choir motets participants learned that day gave another example of sacred music that can be sung even with very small choirs.
Attendees were encouraged to take “small steps” and were empowered to understand the importance of singing the prayers and texts of the Mass. As one talk emphasized, “chant is always, most importantly a prayer—the text raised to a higher level in song.”