The State of the Institute
Any moment in which we live holds in tension the past, present, and future, and we at the Institute have been mindful of these intersections, particularly in the transitions of the last few months.
First, we remember the passing of four leaders in church music who died within the year. While they are not graduates of Union or Yale, their lives are an inspiration to our students and faculty alike. They are “household names” in Christian worship and music.
Horace Clarence Boyer (July 28, 1935 – July 21, 2009) was one of the foremost scholars in African-American gospel music. Author of more than 40 articles on gospel music, he taught at several universities, including the University of Massachusetts, and directed many choirs and gospel workshops throughout the world. He edited the Episcopal Hymnal, Lift Every Voice and Sing, and was instrumental in introducing African-American gospel music to many communities beyond the African-American church. With the Boyer Brothers he performed widely, often with such greats Mahalia Jackson, Clara Ward, Alex Bradford, Dorothy Love Coates, and James Cleveland.
Paul O. Manz (May 10, 1919 – October 28, 2009) was an influential American organist and composer whose works have been published and played all over the world. His most popular choral work, “E’en so, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come” is considered a classic of the repertoire, and has been featured on Christmas radio broadcasts from St. John’s and Kings’ College, Cambridge. Paul Manz was the recipient of several honorary doctorates and was twice named among the top ten most influential Lutherans and, by the American Guild of Organists, one of the top 101 most notable organists of the 20th century.
Richard Hillert (March 14, 1923 – February 18, 2010) was a cherished composer and teacher. He wrote for various media: organ, choir, orchestra, chamber music and voice. He is the noted composer of one of the major Eucharistic settings of the Lutheran Church that includes the hymn of praise, “This is the Feast.” He collaborated with numerous hymn-writers such as Don Saliers, Susan Cherwien, Herbert Stuempfle, Jr., Jaroslav Vajda, and Fred Pratt Green.
Richard Proulx (April 3, 1937 -- February 18, 2010) passed away on the same day as Richard Hillert. From 1980-1994, he was Organist/Music Director at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. Prior to assuming this post, he was musician and several Episcopal and Roman Catholic parishes in the Seattle/Tacoma area. He was advisor to two hymnal projects: Hymnal 1982 and the United Methodist Hymnal. His 300 compositions were written for an array of performing forces, and his liturgical settings are in nearly every modern hymnal. He directed and recorded with the “Cathedral Singers,” a Chicago-based professional vocal ensemble devoted to the performance of sacred music.
At the Institute, we stand on the shoulders of these and many other giants in our fields, and particularly when their passing occurs in such close proximity, we cannot help but remember them and all those others who have paved the way for us: Robert Glasgow, Aidan Kavanagh, Richard French, Robert Baker, John Dixon, Clarence and Helen Dickinson, Robert Tangeman, and so many others. We honor them by remembering them to our students, by continuing their work, by bringing them into our lessons and classrooms and rehearsals.
We also honor them by honoring those who further their work, for the present is empty unless we hold hands with our various pasts.
Our beloved Margot Fassler left our shores this semester for those of another great University. At Notre Dame, she and her husband, Peter Jeffery, are working to re-engage Catholic Church music with its rich historical heritage. Through the best of scholarship and practice, they hope to reignite the Catholic imagination to uncover the richness of its past and connect it with living, breathing congregations of today. In December we honored her sixteen years of work at Yale without really bidding farewell because, in fact, we were already envisioning other ways of working with her and Peter in the future.
Even more recently, we were pleased to fête our own Bryan Spinks in a reception on March 2. His former students, Melanie Ross (soon to receive her Ph.D. in Liturgical Studies from Notre Dame) and Dr. Simon Jones (chaplain at Merton College, Oxford) edited a festschrift for Bryan that was presented on this occasion. The Serious Business of Worship is being published by Continuum Press and will be available soon.
Several dear friends and guests attended the reception and made congratulatory remarks to Bryan: Siobhán Garrigan, Joseph Britton, Robin Leaver, among others.
Melanie Ross closed her comments by noting:
“Bryan, tonight I speak for all of us by giving thanks for your reverence for the Trinitarian God who is the source of all worship, your love for the Church, your concern for theologically-informed liturgical practice, your commitment to excellence in historical scholarship, and your concern for shaping ecclesial leaders of the next generation. Your life and work embody these words from Robert Frost: “Only where love and need are one/ And the work is play for mortal stakes/Is the deed ever really done/For Heaven and the future’s sake.”
To which Bryan responded:
“[Liturgy] remains the Cinderella subject in many seminaries and universities, and even today in England there is no full time position in liturgy in a university, other than Birmingham. . . I am sure my teachers – Arthur Couratin, Geoffrey Cuming, and Ronald Jasper often wondered about the future of their subject. I can say that with Melanie and Simon, I know at least two of my former students who are making magnificent contributions to the subject. This celebration honors the study of liturgy as a serious subject.”
With remembrances and tributes to those past and present fresh on our lips, we look to a future full of hope and opportunity. I marvel at the ingenuity and insight of our students as they collaborate with one another to produce new knowledge and creative work, using the model for student colloquium presentations introduced four years ago. In this model, students in their last year form themselves into pairs (one Music/one Divinity) in order to work on a project to which they can both contribute equally. Some topics have amazed me this year: “Music in the aftermath of 9/11”, “Expressions of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola in the Music, Art, and Architecture of the Late Renaissance and Early Baroque”, “Pasyon: Filipino Voices Sing the Christian Faith” to name but a few. As these students graduate and seek career positions or places in doctoral programs, we are also happy to report that this year’s pool of applicants to the Institute was the the strongest and largest ever, thanks to our resourceful faculty and admissions office.
We look forward to more new faces in the fall as we are very close to announcing our first class of Fellows in Sacred Music, Worship, and the Arts. This interdisciplinary initiative will expand the portfolio of the ISM as we attract to the Institute scholars and practitioners whose work resonates with our mission and broadens our current faculty profile. We will build bridges with other units of Yale as well as engage more of the world through this ambitious program. 120 applications were received in this first year alone.
Finally, very soon we will announce a new initiative for congregations who seek to extend their own work in music, worship, and the arts beyond their parish walls. Stay tuned for details.
Beginning my second term as director offers me a chance to recommit myself to the mission of the Institute and the vision of our founders. For five years, it has been my privilege to have a front-row seat to all that my colleagues and our students do. The dream of an academic department that draws together the study and practice of sacred music, worship, and the arts has been nurtured for over 35 years by directors Baker, Bailey, Cook, and Fassler. The momentum created by these powerhouses continues to inspire and challenge us to re-imagine the past for the sake of the future. It will be the sacred task of the current caretakers of the ISM to continue the impetus of this energy into the future through education, creative work, and outreach to the academy and religious communities.
As we train leaders to “foster, explore, and study engagement with the sacred through music, worship and the arts” we do so, not for the sake of an academic exercise, but for people who live in a world fraught with racial, economic, and religious strife. By praying, teaching, and learning together, we hope to model a new way of being that is alive with imagination and beauty, and that re-creates a world that will be the “Peaceable Kingdom” God intended.
Please hold us in your prayers and thoughts as we remember our past, celebrate our present, and work toward our future.
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