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Church Music Association of America


The Church Music Association of America is a non-profit 501(c)(3) association of Catholic musicians, and those who have a special interest in music and liturgy, active in advancing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other forms of sacred music for liturgical use. As the Second Vatican Council drew to a close in 1964, the American Society of St. Cecilia (founded 1874) and the St. Gregory Society (founded 1913) came together to form this new organization. It is affiliated with the Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae (Roma), which is the co-publisher with Abbey Saint-Pierre de Solesmes of the Liber Cantualis book of Gregorian chants for parish use.

The Church Music Association of America, also known as the CMAA, provides support for those interested in participating in a revival of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony in Catholic liturgy. It sponsors scholarship and composition in the tradition of sacred music. It hosts the most-attended colloquium on sacred music in the Anglophonic world, held annually at The Catholic University of America since 2003.

The CMAA embraces the statement made by Pope Benedict XVI on June 25, 2006": "An authentic updating of sacred music can take place only in the lineage of the great tradition of the past, of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony."

It publishes the quarterly journal Sacred Music and serves as a professional and social network for musicians, seminarians, and priests dedicated to the aesthestic and liturgical ideals of the Catholic Church. As of 2006, CMAA's president is William Mahrt, professor at the Stanford University Department of Music and schola director at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Waverly at Homer in Palo Alto, California. Professor Mahrt is also editor of Sacred Music. Its vice president is Horst Buchholz Director of Sacred Music and Principal Organist at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Denver and Professor of Church Music at the St. John Vianney Seminary in the Archdiocese of Denver. The treasurer is William Stoops; its secretary is Rosemary Reninger. Rev. Robert Skeris of the Ward Center of the Benjamin T. Rome School of Music at the Catholic University of America, is the CMAA chaplain.

Founding and History

The CMAA was formed as the American affiliate of the Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae (CIMS), established by Pope Paul VI on November 22, 1963, the Feast of Saint Cecilia, patroness of music. CIMS developed out of a series of conferences on sacred music held in Europe starting in the Holy Year 1950, sponsored by the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music The chirograph, Nobile subsidium Liturgiae, established the Consociatio as an "international institute which would be able to make known [to the Holy See] the needs of sacred music, and which would be able to assist in putting the decisions of the supreme ecclesiastical authority relating to sacred music into practice." Pope Paul VI appointed officers for the CIMS on March 7, 1964.

That summer a group of American church musicians met in 1964 at Boys' Town, Nebraska, to form the CMAA as the American affiliate of the Consociatio. They were members of the Society of Saint Gregory of America, the American Society of Saint Cecilia. The photo taken at the meeting shows 63 participants. Most prominent at the meeting were Monsignor Schmitt, Reverend Richard J. Schuler, Archabbot Rembert Weakland, Father John Selner, and Father Robert A. Skeris. A provisional constitution was drafted and officers were chosen: Weakland was named president, Father Cletus Madsen vice president, Father Schuler secretary, and Frank Szynskie treasurer. At this meeting a resolution put forward by Fr. Skeris was adopted in which the group pledged itself to maintain the highest artistic standards in church music and to preserve the treasury of sacred music, especially Gregorian chant.

Because CMAA was founded in a merger of the Society of Saint Gregory and the Society of St. Cecilia, the CMAA recognizes 1874 as the year of its founding. To recognize the hundredth anniversary of the CMAA, the organization held a Mass at the Church of St. Agnes, Saint Paul, Minnesota, on December 27, 1973. A congratulatory telegram from Pope Paul VI was read at the conclusion of the Mass.

In 1966, the Consociatio sponsored a convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in conjunction with the Fifth International Church Music Congress. At its conclusion, delegates held the first general meeting of the CMAA.

According to an account by Richard Schuler , a split emerged very quickly, with President Weakland taking sharp exception to the "reactionary attitudes in liturgical thinking" that he said were present at the Consociato meeting. He gave interviews to the press in which he regretted the failure of the meetings to include modern music and dancing in its liturgical agenda. His views did not prevail within the CMAA, and so his presidency was not to last. At this meeting, an election of new officers was held. All officers were retained except Weakland. He was replaced by Theodore Marier.

In 1968, Marier was reelected, along with Noel Goemanne as vice-president, and Father Skeris as secretary. In 1970, Roger Wagner became president with all other officers retained. In 1973, Gerhard Track was named president, Fr. Skeris vice president, and Monsignor Schuler secretary. At the meeting of 1973, Solemn Mass was celebrated in the Church of Saint Agnes by Monsignor Overrather with a congregation of one thousand, including Archbishop Leo Binz of Saint Paul and Bishop Alphonse Schladweiler of New Ulm, Minnesota. In 1974, its meetings were held in Salzburg, Austria (1974). Fr. Skeris held the position of president following Msgr. Schuler.

In the 1990s, CMAA meetings, and its affiliated colloquia on sacred music, were held at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia, with music professor Kurt Poterack, then editor of Sacred Music, serving as director. Since 2003, the location has been Catholic University. The CMAA was also a participant in the October 9, 2006, public comment session of the Bishops Liturgy Committee, Subcommittee on Music, in preparation for a revision of the 1983 document Music in Catholic Worship.

The CMAA also makes available new editions of traditional chant propers, for free download from its website. Its website has posted Communion antiphons with their Psalm verses fully notated in neumes, for the ease of singers. Such a presentation of these antiphons and Psalms is otherwise unavailable in the Graduale. In addition, the CMAA has posted the full Graduale of 1961 for free download.

The CMAA has been criticized for holding to ideals that are outmoded given present realities, and for advancing music that has a Eurocentric focus; though in fact, its aims are only those proposed and in some cases mandated by authoritative documents of the Catholic Church, such as the General Instruction,and [ Musican Sacram. Indeed, CMAA writers and scholars readily if not proudly admit that they seek to change present realities by appealing to the universal qualities of chant and its stylistic descendants.

Sacred Music

The CMAA's journal Sacred Music is the oldest continuously published journal of music in North America. Its contributors have included Peter Phillips, founder and director of the Tallis Scholars, as well as Peter A. Kwasniewski, Michael Lawrence, Shawn Tribe, William Mahrt, and Robert Skeris. It publishes feature articles on music, commentaries on chant and polyphony, documents and reviews, news and editorials. It is published quarterly and distributed to Members.

Sacred Music is the successor to The Catholic Choirmaster and Caecilia. Archabbot Rembert Weakland was its editor at the time of the merging. In 1966, Father March was chosen as editor. In 1975, Monsignor Schuler became editor, who described the journal as "the life-blood of our society. It is the activity that can most securely bind together the members spread across the nation. It is a means of education, encouragement, and communication. In it the pledges of the society can be fulfilled. ... It can be a record of the work of those who wish to fulfill the decrees of the Church carefully and conscientiously. It will be a record for history that a sincere effort was made in this country to implement the sixth chapter of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and the instructions that followed it."

The CMAA has put the archives of Sacred Music online, dating back to 1975, and has announced its intention to post archives as far back as issues can be found.

Summer Colloquium

The CMAA, in conjunction with the Ward Center of the Rome School of Music at Catholic University of America, has sponsored an annual Sacred Music Colloquium since 1990. The six-day colloquium offers practical instruction in the liturgical practice of chant and polyphony. Colloquium choirs sing at liturgy at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. In recent colloquia, participants have sung Mass daily at the National Shrine. Faculty has included both CMAA leaders Mahrt, Buchholz, Skeris, Wilko Brouwers , and Gisbert Brandt. Guest conductors and lecturers have included Scott Turkington, editor of The Gregorian Chant Masterclass, and Amy Zuberbueler, a Ward-certified teacher in San Antonio, Texas.


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