The Church Music Institute (CMI) was held from July 17, through July 29, at Shenandoah Conservatory under the leadership of Director and Associate Professor of Organ and Church Music and Director of the Church Music Institute J. Thomas Mitts, D.M.A. The two-week event is a time for church musicians to come together to develop and refine the many aspects of their work in an atmosphere that encourages creativity and exploration, based on a solid foundation of technique. CMI’s philosophy is rooted in historical practice adapted to today’s worshiping congregations of all denominations, employing a variety of musical styles and repertoire.
The study of liturgy and liturgical music is made practical as the participants design worship services of all types. Masterclasses provide instant feedback to the performer under the clinician’s guidance, hymn-playing and improvisation skills are honed as the group sings with the organist, and conducting and rehearsal skills are sharpened as the singers and accompanist respond to the conductor. All these skills are synthesized as the participants plan and present a variety of public worship services.
This summer’s events included a Choral Evensong in the Anglican tradition, an Organ Mass by François Couperin with motets by Jean-Baptiste Lully, hymn festivals for Advent, Lent, and the Easter season, and vespers for Pentecost Day. The culminating event was the presentation at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C., of the “Vespers for Our Lady” by Marcel Dupré. A video of this service is posted on the Monastery’s website at ustream.tv/recorded/115856677.
Lunch, dinner and “after-hours” gatherings allowed time for personal interaction in forging or renewing friendships, as well as providing the opportunity to learn about the work of colleagues in other churches. One of the most notable aspects of CMI is that musicians of all levels and backgrounds come together and are met where they are—from this they all learn with one another and from one another.