By Barb Arland-Fye
IOWA CITY — Musicians from throughout the Davenport Diocese recently participated in a workshop aimed at helping them ensure that music for Mass supports the readings, guides parishioners closer to Christ and is artistically sound.
Patti McTaggart, who coordinates music and youth ministry for St. Mary Parish in Iowa City, and David Pitt, associate professor of liturgical and sacramental theology at Loras College in Dubuque, led the Nov. 3 workshop at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. About 70 musicians participated.
“I was approached by a few priests from our diocese to plan a workshop for musicians on choosing appropriate music for liturgies and other aspects of music ministry,” said McTaggart, a member of the Diocesan Liturgical Commission. She collaborated with Deacon Frank Agnoli, the diocese’s director of liturgy, and Pitt.
“The goal was to give everyone a better understanding of the important role that music and musicians play in the liturgy and why the Church asks for certain musical directives to be followed,” explained McTaggart. “My hope is that the musicians felt affirmed in their efforts and that they learned something that they didn’t know before but could begin implementing when they returned to their local parish! I also hope that everyone realized more fully that our only ‘audience member’ each Sunday is God. The rest of us are participants and we need to strive to offer to God our very best.”
During the first hour of the workshop, she and Pitt discussed the U.S. bishops’ document on music in the liturgy entitled: “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship.” The musicians participated in an exercise selecting music for a given Sunday and then shared their selections and rationale, based on liturgical, musical and pastoral criteria. Afterward, McTaggart met with cantors and music coordinators and Pitt met with accompanists.
“I think the big takeaway from a workshop such as this is the need to pay attention to multiple voices when it comes to liturgy,” said Christopher Clow, director of music and liturgy for campus ministry at St. Ambrose University in Davenport. “Musically speaking, it is important to pay heed to the three judgments of music for a Mass — the liturgical, pastoral and musical — and to try to keep these parameters in mind when it comes to music for a liturgy. We also need to always be willing to listen to others’ thoughts about liturgy, even when they differ from our own.
“But from the role of a music director, I think it is especially important to consider the needs of the congregation, and that we always have to keep them in the forefront of our minds in order to promote ‘fully active, conscious participation’ of everyone. Liturgy is at its best when it is the work of all who are present, and it is important as music ministers that we facilitate an environment where everyone is invited to participate and to sing,” Clow added.
“The workshop provided helpful tools for making good liturgical decisions when selecting music for Masses throughout the year, to include those where Bishop Martin Amos is present. It also provided good guidance for cantors and accompanists so that uniform procedures might be used throughout the diocese,” said Terry Ratcliff. She is a cantor and choir member at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport and member of the Diocesan Choir.
Marcia Kearney, a substitute accompanist at Sacred Heart Parish in Newton, said the workshop provided guidelines to follow if she needed to select music to be used during Mass. “It also made me aware of the wishes of Bishop Amos.”
Karen Schumaker of Holy Family Parish in Fort Madison “enjoyed the opportunity to meet and share with musicians from other parishes in the diocese. It is always interesting to hear about how music is handled in other parishes. I found the workshop to be a practical day where I gleaned some new ideas in how to lead and sustain the music during the liturgy, suggestions on how to select appropriate music and how music can make the liturgy more meaningful.” Schumaker is a cantor/song leader and choir member for her parish and a religion teacher for grades kindergarten through six at Holy Trinity Catholic Elementary in West Point.
Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire sent eight of its 10 choir members to the workshop. It was a good investment of time and resources, said Cheryl Brogla Krupke, the parish’s music director. “Not only was the information important, but the workshop gave us affirmation about the things we are doing right,” she said. “And it’s always good to build a sense of community; it makes us a stronger group.”