directing the Contemporary Choir in October, 2015. I actually
spent the first 8 years of my life in Edgebrook and was baptized
at Saint Marry of the Woods (SMOW)
and sang with my sisters in the choir all the way through
high-school. My family continued to attend SMOW even after
moving out to the suburbs. However, I eventually went to school
in Boston and was absent from the parish for several years. In
2014, I returned to Chicago in order to attend DePaul
University. Throughout my absence from SMOW, my sister had
continued to sing with the choir. In the late summer of 2015,
the parish was suddenly in search of a new director. My sister
kindly recommended me. After meeting with the pastor and music
director, things seemed like they would work well and I was glad
to accept the position.
term contemporary choir may have a variety of connotations to
some of our readers. In your perspective, what constitutes
contemporary choir music for US Catholic Churches.
To be honest,
there seems to be an inevitable disparity between my ideal
definition and the realistic one. When I was in Boston, I
witnessed some very extraordinary sacred music being produced by
John Harbison at
Emmanuel Episcopal Church..
He is the resident composer there and creates new pieces for the
choir on a regular basis. The music is performed both during
mass and in concert setting after the services. This seems to
capture the real essence of contemporary sacred music.
Unfortunately, this type of production and preparation takes a
considerable amount of time and resource. At SMOW, we merely try
to perform music that is more recent than the traditional tunes
that might be heard from one parish to the next, and try to
prepare new pieces at least a few times throughout the year. Two
or three times a year, we put on special concerts for the
regular congregation Ė primarily with the intention of showing
our most contemporary repertoire.
This being said, I am considering composing some new music for
the choir over the next couple of months during our summer
Is there an
official resource for choosing the Contemporary choir music or
is it generally up to the decision and choice of the choir
music selection is ultimately up to me. However, I frequently
ask the choir for suggestions. They will often recommend either
an old favorite that we havenít sung in a while or a new tune
that he or she heard in a performance elsewhere or in a
recording. I like to follow through with these recommendations a
best as I can. Since the choir members are so generous in
volunteering their time and talent, it seems the least I can do
to share as much authority with them as possible. Also, the
music director at SMOW, Mary Anne Eichhorn, helps me a great
deal with choosing music that most appropriately corresponds
with the liturgy.
A few decades
ago, there appeared to be a more conservative approach to the
choice of music in Churches. The Schubert Ave Maria was once
banned in many churches allegedly by some because Schubert
didn't live an ideal moral life. Some have claimed that Walt
Disney may have had promoted the change when he featured the
Fantasia. Do you have any insights on how the evolution in
music choice has evolved in the Catholic Church?
threshold between sacred and secular music is a perpetual
controversy. Personally, I feel that the issue should be more a
matter of the singer, instrumentalist, or composerís discretion.
If he/she feels genuinely engaged in a spiritual way, it seems
that all of the necessary requisites are met. This being
said, I certainly understand the concerned perspective of many
parishioners who are worried that the music might at some point
become more of a distraction than a vehicle of worship. This has
been a strong opinion, threatening the creative license of
church musicians for several hundred years. However, it is often
the ability to find a more complex or musically satisfying way
appease the deeper desires of those who would like to use music
as prayer that reveals the most capable and devoted musicians.
G.P. Palestrina and J.S. Bach are two prime examples of this
Schubert Ave Maria is a wonderful piece of music. I believe it,
and any other genuine composition, should function as an entity
of its own. In many ways, it is no longer owned by the composer
Ė he has effectively given it to the worldís people to be used
as they see fit.
ago John Lennon's Let it Be
could not be
played at funeral masses in some churches because it wasn't a formal religious
song, even though the lyric could be interpreted as a hymn to Mary (John wrote it for
his mother). In your opinion, would there be some more liberal churches who
might allow the song today?
Absolutely. Many of the points I mentioned in my last response
are applicable here as well. I wouldnít be at all deterred from
performing this song at SMOW if thatís what the family wanted.
Of course I would ask for permission from the presiding priest,
but I would be surprised if there was strong objection
discuss music further, It might be appropriate to mention some
of the professional music organization of which you are or have
been a member Mezzo Polipo String Quartet,
Nebula String Quartet, 2011-2013 Boston
Academy of Irish Music, 2005-present Chicago
ALVO Trio, 2011-2013 Boston
Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra Participant, 2013, 2015
WCMS (Worchester Chamber Music Society) Summer Festival
Fellowship Ensemble, 2012
Equilibrium Chamber players, 2013, 2014
you first realize that music would be an essential component of
It seems that
this was clear from the moment I started playing, because I
havenít stopped since. I began playing violin/viola when I was 4
years old. At that time, after hearing my pre-school teacher
perform for my class, I begged my parents for a violin.
Eventually they got me a rental instrument and a teacher too. I
donít remember ever considering the possibility of leaving music
behind. Ever since then, it has been a top priority in my daily
That being said, it probably wasnít until my junior year of high
school Ė when I was deciding what to study in college Ė that I
decided that I wanted music to be my profession. Despite my
strong feelings for music, this was a very difficult decision.
This decision required me to leave some other things behind,
things that I enjoyed very much. I was also considering
continuing my education in physics or English, and I loved
playing tennis and distance running, but at the time I needed
every hour I could get for practicing and preparing auditions.
Eventually, I found a way to work some of these other things
back into my life, but even if I hadnít I donít think I would
ever have regretted my decision to focus on music.
seems to be a major focus in some of your work. Could you share
with us some of the reasons why Irish music is such a powerful
came into my life at just the right moment. I was probably
feeling especially bogged down with more formal practicing and
technical playing, when a friend of a friend of my momís (etc.)
mentioned The Academy of Irish Music, a group that meets
at the Irish American Heritage Center. I donít have any Irish
heritage, but from the moment I stepped in the door something
drew me in and has yet to let me go. There is a wonderful social
quality to Irish music. Meeting for a rehearsal or even
performing is as much a recreational event as a functional one.
The people I was playing with then, and have continued to play
with ever since (going on ten years now), are open-minded,
ever-welcoming, and incredibly talented. However, the best part
about their admirable attributes is that they never seem worked
at Ė everything is completely organic and spontaneous. This
style of music making was more than a welcome relief from my
classical training; it was also highly educational and has
functioned to develop an entirely new dimension in my playing.
You are also a
violist, Who is your favorite viola composer and could you share
with our readers you favorite viola performance?
I prefer music that was composed during my lifetime. I feel
somewhat more attached to it on an emotional level, and I feel
responsible for performing it on a technical level. Some of my
favorite composers include Gyorgy Kurtag, Bernard Rands, and
Wolfgang Rihm. However, the best is to be able to play the music
of a composer I know personally. Some of my friends are very
talented composers and I am fortunate enough to have had the
experience of playing many of their pieces.
Here is a recording of a world premiere performance of some
music by Wolfgang Rihm that I was incredibly fortunate to be a
addition to your music career, you also have a Masters degree
from DePaul University in Writing and Publishing. What were
some of your favorite courses in writing?
literary genre is poetry. Most of my favorite courses were
various poetry workshops. However, towards the end of my degree
I took a course in creative non-fiction forms. This was a new
style for me, and presented significant challenges, but I
completed the course feeling very inspired. I think this is
likely to be a genre that I will explore further in the future.
you provide us with an overview on some of the issues that were
discussed when you were invited to the Clinton
Conference for The UB Project, 2014, 2015?
was presenting the UB Project [an initiative to bring violin
lessons to impoverished orphans in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia] at
CGIU, there was much discussion about core curriculum in public
schools. We spent a lot of time discussing STEMA and many other,
much more radical suggestions. This was very stimulating to
discuss, and actually seemed quite pertinent to the UB project.
It is important to consider the imperfections of a more
developed system while trying to help along a fledgling.
is your favorite writer and what is your favorite book and
explain both reasons?
quite certain that my response to this question would change
every day. But right now, the first writer who comes to mind is
Samuel Beckett. His novel, Molloy is a particular
favorite, but his short stories are very intriguing as well.
Itís difficult to identify precisely what it is about Beckett
that makes me like his writing so much. Probably his very
interesting marriage of early-20th century philosophy
with liberal interpretations of creative literary forms Ė both
things that I am interested in myself.
seems that young people are often hypnotized by their cell
phones and digital communications. What are your favorite
digital resources and, in your opinion. could some of these be
used by churches to communicate with young adults?
we have a mobile app. Everything that appears on the parish
website or in the weekly bulletin can be accessed via the app.
It seems to be fairly effective. However, when it comes to
communicating effectively with young adults, I personally feel
that is best to attempt face-to-face communication. Although
young people are very savvy users of electronic communication
and might be reached easily through this medium, I wouldnít
invest much confidence in their taking the communication very
seriously. The more abundant the output of digital resources
becomes, the less significant itís delivered material seems and
inversely, the more impactful traditional communication becomes.
Maybe we should try sending letters to young people if we really
want them to listen