LLOW ME TO USE an analogy. Imagine if you will Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens’ beloved character from his novel of the same name. Oliver’s prospects for enjoying a happy and healthy adult life were less than ideal. Between the orphanage and the workhouse, and Fagin and Monks, the circumstances of his childhood spelled foreboding for his later years. Had Twist lived in more recent times, he might have been sent to a couple of workshops on family life, with the expectation of his rehabilitation. Fortunately for him, however, the kindly Mr. Brownlow takes Oliver into his home and cares for him, providing a loving home which proves to be Oliver’s salvation. It is a beautiful story, but how does it relate to sacred music?
Just as a child’s family generally provide him with the healthiest environment possible, the Church needs institutions where musicians can go to be thoroughly immersed in the art of sacred music, rather than weekend events that can never give full justice 1 to the demands of sacred music. Fortunately for us, that institution exists and we call it a choir school.
But what is a choir school?
“I posit that a choir school consists of an institution where children are given a well-rounded musical education as well as liturgical formation in the ars celebrandi, and where they put these skills at the service of the sacred liturgy on a regular basis within a specific community (often that of a cathedral or collegiate chapel). In return, these children are given an outstanding elementary and religious education.”
(from my DMA document on the Madeleine Choir School).
Just as Oliver needed to live in a family to learn what family is about, so too, do our children, our future musicians, need to live and breath in an environment that promotes that greatest of all arts, music.
More on the choir school next week. 2
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Please don’t misunderstand; I think these weekend events do much good for musicians who are already stretched in a million directions, but more is ultimately required.
2 Regarding the notion of “Institutions rather than events,” Mr. Gregory Glenn—founder and director of the Madeleine Choir School in Salt Lake City, UT—introduced this idea to me.