The 2018 Association of Anglican Musicians Conference
San Antonio, Texas
Stephen G. Leist, Director of Music Ministry,
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Norfolk, Virginia
“I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”
This year’s annual conference of the Association of Anglican Musicians (AAM) gathered in San Antonio for a week of refreshment, rejuvenation, and celebration of the liturgical arts, which is a central focus of what the AAM is about. This year, AAM observed a special anniversary, reflected in the theme quoted from Psalm 122, of the death of composer C. Hubert H. Parry and his contribution to Anglican music, of which some of his anthems were included in the services held during the week of the conference. The conference was also dedicated to the memory of Raymond F. Glover, who died in December, 2017.
As members began gathering in San Antonio, the early arrivals were treated to a concert held at St. David’s Episcopal Church presented by the early music ensemble, Sonnambula. The concert featured music written for the theatre in 17th and 18th century Spain. Instruments included violin, viola da gamba, harpsichord, and baroque guitar, with songs beautifully sung by soprano Camille Zamora. Attendees enjoyed a reception organized by members of the church following the concert as well as the opportunity to engage the performers.
The first full day of the conference began with the Opening Eucharist held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, led by The Treble Choir and Mentors from St. Mark’s, Dr. Joseph Causby (Organist and Choirmaster), Mr. Robert Brewer (Organist and Artist in Residence), with prelude provided by Mr. Kyle Ritter and postlude by Dr. Marilyn Keiser. The service was led by Bishop J. Neil Alexander, who was also the Conference Preacher, and the Rev. Elizabeth Knowlton, Rector of St. Mark’s. It was a wonderful service with an exciting mix of old and new. Bishop Alexander would continue to enliven and delight us throughout the week with his insightful sermons. The highlight of the afternoon was the first of several outstanding lectures by Dr. Jeremy Dibble on the life and work of Parry. The day concluded with another concert at St. Mark’s, which was the center of the conference, presented by New York Polyphony, a male quartet, featuring sacred music from Tallis to the modern day.
Tuesday included more opportunities for different kinds of worship, a choral reading session, and the second of Dr. Dibble’s lectures on Parry, this time focusing on the composition and first performance of I was glad (written for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902) and the Coronation Te Deum, a monumental work composed for the coronoation of King George V in 1911. The conference then moved on to the Parker Chapel at Trinity University for a stunning organ recital featuring music of Parry, Franck, Sowerby and Duruflé presented by Scott Dettra, Director of Music and Organist of the Church of the Incarnation in Dallas. An Order for Worship for the Evening was held at the Chapel of the Incarnate Word, with Bishop Alexander preaching and Shannon Gallier and Elizabeth Smith, organists.
Wednesday began with the third and final installment of Dr. Dibble’s lectures on Parry, this time focusing on the Songs of Farewell and Hear my words, ye people. The afternoon featured the first session presented by the Professional Concerns and Development Committee, led by the Rev. Dr. John G. Lewis, on formation. The day concluded with Choral Evensong at St. Mark’s, led by the St. Mark’s Choir and Dr. Causby and Robert Brewer in what was their final service at St. Mark’s before moving to North Carolina. Once again, we were treated to outstanding music, with the Evening Service in D by George Dyson, and Responses by Kenneth Leighton. The anthem was Parry’s Hear my words, which we learned about earlier in the day. Ben Outen as Opening Voluntary Organist set the tone with Cesar Franck’s Fantasie in A, while Susan Jane Matthews thrilled listeners with the Te Deum, op. 11 of Jeanne Demessieux. The service also featured a hymn commissioned especially for the conference by David Ashley White, a setting of the text “If you have but one song to sing,” by Rae E. Whitney, which was so popular that choir and congregation versions were included in the September issue of the Journal, compliments of Selah.
The conference concluded on Thursday, beginning with a second session from the Professional Concerns and Development Committee, which informed members of motions coming up at General Convention in July. The afternoon featured a demonstration of Jewish organ music played by Charles Tompkins at Temple Beth-El and a lecture by Norbert Meyn on Jewish musicians in exile in Britain in the 1930’s, during World War II, and their contributions. The closing Eucharist was held at the Parker Chapel on the campus of Trinity University, with music provided by the choir of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio and Russell Jackson, Organist and Director of Music, with David Heller, Assistant Organist. Opening and closing voluntaries were beautifully played by Damin Spritzer and Glenn Stroh. Bishop Alexander delivered his final sermon of the conference, and the Eucharist was celebrated by Bishop Keith Whitmore, who also serves as Chaplain to the AAM. The closing banquet was a sumptuous meal at Club Giraud on the famed River Walk.
In addition to the music and worship of the annual conference, the opportunity for fellowship is equally important. At lunch, the dinners and the evening socials, there were many opportunities to connect with old friends that one gets to see once a year, as well as make new friends and acquaintances. We come from different traditions within our denomination and even the wider Christian faith, but have one thing in common, and that is to beautify worship through the gift of music. There is so much to take away from an AAM conference that we can bring back to our parishes to further enrich liturgical life, as well as recharge ourselves.