OW DID I, OF ALL PEOPLE, end up at the Sacred Music Symposium? A year ago I knew very little about ‘traditional’ Catholicism, let alone Sacred Music. I was raised in the Novus Ordo, and although I met plenty of devout people and priests, the music—at times—felt “off.” Although I’m sure their intentions were good, much of the music seemed repetitive, modern, over-done, and even dull at times. I could not articulate it, but I knew deep within my heart that the Holy Church had traditional music and that it could be found even in the modern world. But I knew not where.
Things Start To Change • It wasn’t really until I discovered Palestrina that I became aware of the ‘treasury’ of sacred music which Vatican II spoke about so forcefully in Sacrosanctum Concilium. I had the subconscious knowledge that music was likely different “back then,” but I had little to no frame of reference as to what it would sound or feel like. Well, after listening to Palestrina’s MISSA PAPAE MARCELLI, it became clear that authentic Catholic music sounds like Heaven and feels like Heaven. When I discovered Saint Vitus Parish in Los Angeles—a parish run by three FSSP priests—I immediately noticed some of Palestrina’s music being sung at one of the Masses. I decided at that moment to make Saint Vitus my home.
I Never Sang Before! • Was I ever a singer? No, not at all. Did I ever study music? Somewhat. I had been a drummer in high school, but with percussion the focus is primarily on rhythm and various techniques associated with percussion. I knew practically nothing about pitch. Despite all of this, however, when I spoke with Jeff Ostrowski back in February, he assured me (after my vocal audition) that he could teach me how to sing. I am known by many to possess a fairly deep voice, and funny enough I’ve had a few people tell me I should be a singer. I would laugh off such comments … so when Mr. Ostrowski made such an offer I was perplexed. “Me? Singing? I don’t know much about music theory,” I thought to myself. A quote popped into my head, however. It was from Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal: “There are singers in the world with voices as good as Frank Sinatra’s, but they’re singing in their garages because no one has ever heard of them.” To be honest, the quote is a little silly—but it stuck with me. Obviously I have no interest in fame, fortune, recognition, and so forth. But to me, that quote expresses the disappointment there is in regard to untapped potential. If I had any ability to sing, I would want to use it to worship God. And so I took up Mr. Ostrowski on his offer, and subsequently begged the Holy Ghost to help me learn how to sing.
A Truly Great Decision • So far, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. This decision led me to participating in the SACRED MUSIC SYMPOSIUM, an event demonstrating the ongoing ‘renaissance’ the Catholic Church—at least in certain localities—is experiencing vis-à-vis Sacred Music. I was very happy to meet Mæstro Kevin Allen, who composed many of the pieces we sing at our parish. It was also intriguing to see people from other parishes be star-struck by Mr. Ostrowski, someone I know in my day-to-day life. That observation however made me realize how fortunate and blessed I am to be working with him.
A Small ‘Miracle’ • The Symposium featured many interesting lectures, some of which involved music theory that was too complex for me—yet somehow those giving the lecture made each one sound like the most interesting thing on the planet, especially Mr. Ostrowski. Although the participants may have had a long day, they will certainly not be bored during one of these lectures … even if they barely grasp what’s happening! It takes a great amount of talent with speech-craft to make such complex topics interesting and valuable to the average choir layman. The Symposium was very successful in that regard.
Chills Down My Spine • The height of the Symposium was no doubt the Mass itself, in which we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart with new FSSP priest, Fr. Mundattuchundayil. There were about one hundred of us in that choir loft, and some of us even feared that the Church could not carry our collective weight! Yet, we sang for one of the most beautiful Masses I have ever witnessed. Something that struck me in particular was the voice of Fr. Mundattuchundayil. When he began to chant the GLORIA, I felt chills go down my spine. His voice was so powerful, and I hope to hear it again some day. Likewise, I look forward to going to the Symposium again next year and hopefully singing with many of the same people, as well as many new ones!
Have No Fear • If you plan on going next year, don’t fret about your skill level. I am still learning a lot about music, yet got a whole lot out of it! Whether you are a full-time conductor or new to singing, you will get so much out of a mere five days. If I had one regret, it would be that I failed to use more of my time to get to know others at the event. With so many interesting people in one place, you are bound to have very fun conversations, whether they are intellectually stimulating or involve a bit of tomfoolery. I got to know many good people … but if only there was more time! I suppose “there’s always next year”—but if you only plan on going once, definitely invest time into the social aspect.
Deepest Gratitude • I’m known to be a bit of a talker so I should probably conclude here before this becomes twenty pages long. My deepest thanks to Mr. Jeff Ostrowski, Mr. Charles Weaver, Mr. Kevin Allen, Mrs. Andrea Leal, the priests of the FSSP, and to all others who presented and organized the event!