Little Rock Cathedral Hosts Catholic Music Conference – Arkansas Catholic

U.S. and Canadian Cathedral music directors meet for first time in Arkansas

Posted: January 13, 2022

Chris Price

Beau Baldwin, organist and director of music at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, conducts St. Andrew’s Choir while Colin MacKnight, director of music at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock, plays the organ during Vespers for open the 39th annual conference of the Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians in Little Rock on January 3.

More than 35 professional musicians who serve cathedrals in the United States and Canada gathered in Arkansas for the first time to exchange ideas and grow in their ministry.

The 39th Annual Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians was held January 3-6 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Little Rock. The four-day event allowed cathedral musicians to dialogue, reflect and participate in the professional development of the Church’s liturgical ministry.

Beau Baldwin, organist and director of music at St. Andrew’s Cathedral and host of this year’s event, said he was delighted to organize the conference as it was the first time it had been held in Arkansas and the first in the South for many years.

The lecture marked the 30th anniversary of the installation of the cathedral’s 66-row Nichols and Simpson organ, which dates from 1932.

“There is great joy in this because we can celebrate the beauty of Church music and its ability to draw others to Christ,” Fr. de Orbegozo said. “If you have a good music director, he evangelizes, promotes the beauty of faith, and helps train members of the Church.”

“It was great to get people to come here and see the city, the cathedral and our music program,” Baldwin said. “We made an offer to have him in Little Rock before the pandemic hit. The conference moves every year, and we usually go to remote locations. He hasn’t been in the South since the mid-90s, when it was in Atlanta.

Father Joseph de Orbegozo, administrator of the cathedral, said the conference is important because it benefits music ministers and the Church as a whole.

“There is great joy in this because we can celebrate the beauty of Church music and its ability to draw others to Christ,” Fr. de Orbegozo said. “If you have a good music director, he evangelizes, promotes the beauty of faith, and helps train members of the Church.”

The conference originated after Peter LaManna, Gerald Muller, and Richard Proulx collaborated on the search for a new musical director for the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., in 1983. The first event involved 17 musicians of the cathedral who met at the cathedral-basilica. from St. Peter and St. Paul to Philadelphia in November 1984.

This year’s conference was highlighted with an opening Vespers service featuring the St. Andrew’s Cathedral Choir and dinner; business meetings and discussions; a keynote address by Father Anthony Ruff, OSB, monk at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota; an organ recital by Colin MacKnight, director of music at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Little Rock, and organ tours and performances at Subiaco Abbey and St. Mary’s Church in Altus.

David Summers, director of music and organist at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said he attended the CRCCM to network with other cathedral musicians and gather ideas to take home. .

“I really like to find out what other cathedrals are doing; maybe confirm my decisions to schedule certain types of music; discuss emerging trends, such as the reintroduction of Renaissance music and song; and hear about new compositions and how other directors conduct their choirs,” Summers said. “Being able to call someone I met at conference and say, ‘Hey, do you have an idea for this’ or ‘Our bishop is asking us to have this kind of Mass’ and be able to ask for help, it’s really cool .”

Ernest R. Neal, music director and choir director at Holy Family Cathedral in Tulsa, Okla., said it was his first CRCCM to attend.

“I’ve been a member of the organization for many years, but conferences have always been a long way off,” Neal said. “This year it was so close – driving distance – so I decided to come.”

Along with meeting other music directors and getting ideas, he said he enjoyed being able to listen to how others did things and worship without the responsibility of providing music.

“It kind of helps you break out of your own box,” he said. “If you hear something different, it inspires you to try different things – different styles, music and so on.”


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