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Heavenly Music for Your Parish


St. John's Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois
Champaign, Illinois
Diocese of Peoria
United States

More Info

For more information, email Arlene Oost-Zinner.

Annual CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium Renews Parish Music Programs

"The greatest need of liturgy today is the restoration of the sense of the sacred. Music has a principal role, since it expresses that sense of the sacred and sustains it through time." CMAA President William Mahrt of Stanford University

"The information was great, the conducting was amazing and the organization was fabulous. I had tears in my eyes several times during the Masses... I attended the colloquium last year as a volunteer musician at our parish, and this year I attended as music director for our parish. I was hired three months ago and since then we have completely revamped our 11:30 Mass. Our pastor and I did a ton of education through bulletin inserts and preaching. I immediately formed a schola...." Past participant

The need it meets

Through the annual Sacred Music Colloquium, the Church Music Association of America (CMAA) trains church musicians and priests in Gregorian chant and classical polyphony, equipping them to enhance liturgical celebrations in order to draw parishioners back to Mass and foster a more heartfelt liturgical participation.

Where it came from

CMAA was formed in 1964 as an amalgam of the American Society of St. Cecilia (founded 1874) and the St. Gregory Society (founded 1913). The CMAA then affiliated with the Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae established by Pope Paul VI to guide musical development after Vatican II.

The CMAA’s first Colloquium was held in 1990 at Christendom College in Front Royal, VA, where it was hosted for many years. Fr Robert Skeris, a professor and musician at the Catholic University of America, was influential in launching the Colloquium.

How it works

The CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium is geared to Church musicians, directors of parish music programs, and parish priests. Its primary focus is instruction in chant and the Catholic sacred music tradition, participation in chant and polyphonic choirs, nightly lectures and performances, along with daily celebrations of liturgies in both English and Latin.

The daily schedule includes:

  • Extensive training in Gregorian chant and the Renaissance choral tradition under a world-class faculty;
  • Choice from among three chant fundamentals classes, four advanced chant classes, and three large polyphonic choirs;
  • Choral experience with large choir singing sacred music of the masters such as Palestrina, Isaac, Victoria, etc.
  • Daily liturgies with careful attention to officially prescribed musical settings;
  • Training in vocal production and technique;
  • Conducting practicum;
  • Training for the sung Mass;
  • Seminars on parish music management, the role of the cantor, and integrating sung parts of the liturgy;
  • Organ recital and improvisation method classes
  • Composers‚Äô Forum;
  • Comfortable lodgings and all meals provided.
  • All music, including prepared packets of chant and polyphony, as part of registration.

The results

Participation at the Colloquium has jumped from an initial 40 participants to an expected 800 this year.

Pastors whose music directors have attended comment that the music at Mass is "excellent." Several of their choirs now produce a CD of music every year.

Heath Morber, the music director for St. John's Catholic Newman Center on the University of Illinois-Champaign-Urbana campus, attended the Colloquium last year. Morber says that the following elements enhanced the music program for the Newman Center's 5 choirs.

  • Networking with other musicians and pastors
  • New repertoire ideas
  • Rehearsal techniques
  • Insights into chant/polyphony interpretation
  • Purchase of new resources and materials to take home

Key elements

  • Parish music director(s) openness to learn and spend the time for ongoing formation.
  • Support from the pastor. The pastor's participation in the Colloquium is best.

How to implement it

Check out the CMAA website for more information, including dates for the upcoming Colloquium:

The site also has promotional posters and brochures available for downloading.

Fr. Luke Spannagel, Assistant Chaplain is pastor of St. John's Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois.

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