The man that hath not music in himself,
Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
-William Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice (V.1)
Thus does the Christendom College website introduce its music program to prospective students. The quote intimidates, attracting the right sort and repelling the wrong sort right out of the gate.
I’m writing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the conclusion of a glorious week at the CMAA’s Sacred Music Colloquium held at Duquesne University. I’m not musical myself, but am here with my musical son, age fifteen, for whom the sacred music of the Christian West has become a fiery passion.
If you have children interested in sacred music, don’t miss the opportunity to get them to the Colloquium. The academic instruction is first rate and the cost is shockingly affordable. There are classes and workshops for all levels of competence. Attendees are immersed in the liturgical life of the Church – Lauds, Compline, and Holy Mass are sung daily, in both English and Latin, giving one a taste of the discipline of religious life. Some exposure to the Latin language and the ability to read music is recommended prior to attending.
Perhaps the best part about this experience for young people is simply being surrounded by a community of civilized, courteous, and cultured Christian adults. Here they will observe not individuals in isolation, or families on their best behavior at an afternoon church function, but a large group living together 24/7. The lessons are invaluable: fortitude and discipline (it's a rigorous and challenging week), innumerable courtesies and kindnesses, unaffected prayer and piety, females modestly dressed, wholesome good humor, a gentle and humane social hierarchy, humility in conversation, friendliness in disagreement, the art of neither taking nor giving offense, tolerance of eccentricities, in short, the thousand little habits of civility that are vanishing all around us as our society rejects its spiritual, cultural and religious patrimony.
It seems unlikely, at this point, that cultural restoration is going to come about through politics. On the contrary, the social order is helped the most by the “private” decisions of individuals, families and communities to embrace and pursue not political or economic success, but Truth and Beauty and Goodness in every sphere of life. If the contemplation and worship of God is the highest activity of man, then nothing else is going to be rightly ordered until the cult of western culture is set aright. To that end, the restoration of sacred music in our churches is a high priority indeed, and we who are fighting to defend “what remains of Christendom” owe the musicians and scholars of the CMAA our profound gratitude.