The Cathedral of St. John Berchmans in Shreveport, Louisiana, held a Sacred Music Workshop on November 30 – December 1, 2007. Attended by 40-45 singers, it was a great success for our schola. The first such workshop offered at the Cathedral, it focused mainly on Gregorian chant and included some simple polyphony. Saturday afternoon, at the end of the workshop, participants sang for the 4:00 pm Novus Ordo Latin Mass at our beautiful cathedral.
Organized and sponsored by the Schola Cantorum of St. John Berchmans, a CMAA parish member, it was directed by Dr. Kurt Poterack of Christendom College in Front Royal, VA. Dr. Poterack also lectured on “Recent (1903—present) Papal Documents On Liturgical Music” and “Pope Benedict XVI on Sacred Music”.
At this first of what we hope will be many workshops, we had many attendees not familiar with reading chant notation or the singing techniques unique to chant. Dr. Poterack helped all the attendees get a sense of the unique Gregorian chant sound we try to achieve. His teaching was of great benefit to the schola, who had only been singing together approximately ten months.
During the workshop, the group was split into more- and less-experienced chant singers at certain times. One of Dr. Poterack’s former students, Matthew Dittert, who is a music director at a parish in Houston, TX, assisted with the chant ordinaries with one group, which allowed Dr. Poterack to work with a smaller group learning the Introit, Alleluia and Communio proper to the 1st Sunday in Advent. The entire group sang the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Mass setting XVII, as well as the Credo III, Pater Noster and all Mass responses in Latin.
In addition to chant pieces, the group sang a Seasonal Psalm setting by Dr. Poterack, Palestrina’s Alma Redemptoris Mater, and a setting of Veni Emmanuel by Father Robert Skeris.
Our attendees hailed from Louisiana, primarily from the Shreveport diocese, with several parishes represented. We were also very pleased to have visitors from the Lafayette, LA area, including schola members from Our Lady of Fatima (a CMAA parish member) visiting. Father Jason Vidrine, from Our Lady of Wisdom in Lafayette, attended and concelebrated the Mass with our rector, Father Peter Mangum.
One of our schola members was able to record the workshop, including lectures and the Mass. We expect to edit the recordings and distribute CD’s to attendees who wish to have copies.
According to feedback received from attendees, they benefited enormously from Dr. Poterack’s skillful directing and teaching. We are so happy that he agreed to come and work with us. We can probably expect many repeat attendees at our next workshop, many of whom expressed a wish that we could have had more time. We also greatly appreciate the assistance given by Matthew Dittert, which allowed us to split the group and use our time more effectively.
We learned a great deal from this first Sacred Music Workshop. It gave a renewed sense of energy and enthusiasm to our schola and a desire to continue to improve. We have a great feeling of gratitude toward Father Peter Mangum for providing the impetus and encouragement for the formation and continuation of the schola. Without his support, it is doubtful that our schola would even be in existence, much less having the opportunity to host such a workshop.