About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark is the Director of Music of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. His compositions have been performed worldwide.
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“As liturgical art, church music is obliged to conform to ecclesiastical law. But to construct artificial polarities here, between legalistic order and a dynamic church music, demanded by the alleged needs of the day, would be to forsake the foundation of a music rooted in liturgical experience. What is in fact the pastoral value of the shoddy, the profane, the third-rate?”
— Dr. Robert Skeris (1996)

Choir Rehearsal Is Prayer
published 13 February 2015 by Richard J. Clark

O I JUST FINISHED directing one of the most enjoyable choir rehearsals in quite some time. That is saying a lot because I usually feel highly energized by choir rehearsals. No matter how early in the morning my five year old and/or eleven month old sons wake me up, by the end of a choir rehearsal, I’m flooded with endorphins and can’t sleep — like right now. Ironically, it is quite possible we won’t get to sing the music we rehearsed — a problem everyone in Boston is facing this Sunday.

Oh, it was not the best sounding rehearsal by far. Many, including some of my best singers were unable to attend in part because of the 72” (182.88cm) of snow on the ground in Boston. It seems we are due for another 10-18” on early Sunday morning—the fourth major storm in three weeks. This annoys me. Why does it have to hit Saturday evening into Sunday morning? Even late Sunday morning works for me. I’ll figure out how to get back later. Oh, I almost forgot, I learned the National Guard was in front of my house during tonight’s rehearsal removing snow. I already got work without them. In fact my choirs have been showing up in surprisingly wonderful numbers despite all the recent snow.

I digress.

HIS WAS ONE OF THE BEST REHEARSALS because my volunteers, including two new singers this week, accomplished a great deal in their own right. They beautifully learned the Introit, Esto mihi in Deum protectorem from the Graduale Romanum, choral anthems for Sunday and Ash Wednesday, a beautiful psalm setting by Jeff Ostrowski (one of his best, Psalm 32), a communion proper, etc., etc. Without some of my best singers and many others missing, they responded thoughtfully and sensitively to correction and direction. New singers weren’t completely freaked out by trying to sing Gregorian notation, despite a lack of experience. They tackled various styles, as always, imbuing reverence and nuance. As such, the more I respect a choir’s ability, the more critical I am in rehearsal. I was very critical, and I was very proud of them.

I think many of us are lucky to experience this in choir rehearsal. While we left knowing Sunday’s weather forecast looked dire, I told them I was grateful for this time together in prayer. Rehearsal is prayer. These great texts of the church are prayer. Hopefully, the music we add is sacred, beautiful, and therefore, universal.

Snow annoys me, because selfishly, I’d like to implement what we so lovingly prepared. It may end up being that the prayer of rehearsal will have to be good enough this week. One of the best rehearsals ever might be followed up by a fizzle.

But it won’t be. I am deeply grateful for the beautiful people around me who also want to serve the Church and each other. This will live on in our hearts with more music to pray.