EMINARIES and cathedrals are supposed to be models of liturgical practice for parishes throughout the diocese. This is true, especially, in the domain of sacred music. The music programs at such institutions ought to be exemplary and truly worthy of emulation.
Sacrosanctum Concilium is very clear on these points. Regarding seminaries, the constitution says:
Great importance is to be attached to the teaching and practice of music in seminaries, in the novitiates and houses of study of religious of both sexes, and also in other Catholic institutions and schools. To impart this instruction, teachers are to be carefully trained and put in charge of the teaching of sacred music. (SC, no. 115)
With respect to cathedrals, Sacrosanctum Concilium has this to say:
All should hold in great esteem the liturgical life of the diocese centered around the bishop, especially in his cathedral church; they must be convinced that the pre-eminent manifestation of the Church consists in the full active participation of all God’s holy people in these liturgical celebrations, especially in the same Eucharist, in a single prayer, at one altar, at which there presides the bishop surrounded by his college of priests and by his ministers. (SC, no. 41)
The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. Choirs must be diligently promoted, especially in cathedral churches. (SC, no. 114)
Numerous other church documents make the same points (e.g., Tra le sollecitudini, nos. 4, 25-26, and 29; Musicam sacram, nos. 19 & 49; and Sing to the Lord, no. 16).
It is no secret, however, that seminaries and cathedrals are not always home to that musical excellence which should be part of their mission. This is not a new problem.
In a 1903 letter accompanying Tra le sollecitudini, written by Pope St. Pius X to Cardinal Respighi, then-Vicar General of Rome, the pontiff observes:
We desire that sacred music be cultivated with special care and in the proper way in all the seminaries and ecclesiastical colleges of Rome. . . . We know, and We are greatly comforted by the knowledge, that in some institutions sacred music is in such a flourishing condition that it may serve as a model for others. But there are some seminaries and colleges which leave much to be desired owing to the carelessness of the superiors, or the want of capacity and the imperfect taste of the persons to whom the teaching of chant and the direction of sacred music is entrusted. You, Lord Cardinal, will be good enough to provide a remedy for this also with solicitude.
The growing number of seminaries today that are taking seriously the need for the musical formation of their students is, therefore, quite encouraging.
NE US SEMINARY recently demonstrated a praiseworthy commitment to robust musical formation through the foundation of a new chair of sacred music. Named in honor of a long-time benefactor, the establishment of the Lucille M. Francesco Chair in Sacred Music was announced by St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia at its annual open house & Christmas concert (video here) earlier this month.
The first holder of this chair will be Dr. Nathan Knutson, D.S.M., M.M., Obl.S.B., the current Director of Sacred Music at the seminary. Formerly music director at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, Knutson holds a doctorate in sacred music from the Graduate Theological Foundation and a masters in music from the Cleveland Institute of Music.