||The Madison Diocesan Choir will perform their spring concert on Saturday, May 8, 7:30 p.m., at the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center. (Contributed photo)
MADISON -- Dr. Patrick Gorman and the Madison Diocesan Choir invite the public to sing joyfully with them at their free spring concert, “A Sacrifice of Praise,” Saturday, May 8, at the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center.
The Mother’s Day weekend concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the chapel, and by the conclusion, all are sure to leave with a song in their hearts if not on their lips to inspire and sustain them over time.
With Glenn Schuster as organist, Gorman will direct the choir in performing European Sacred Music in the first part of the concert. Following a brief intermission, Gorman will lead the choir in performing American folk and spiritual selections.
As with the choir’s Lessons and Carols concerts at Christmas and the spring concert a year ago, Gorman will invite the audience to sing a number of hymns and songs with the choir at the beginning and ending of each half.
One that all can join in singing is “O God, beyond all praising,” by Gustav Holst. Gorman chose the concert title from the concluding line as well as his reflections on the meaning of sacrifice at the beginning of the Lenten season.
“On Ash Wednesday, we hear that the Lord doesn’t want us to sacrifice animals,” Gorman said. “What he wants is our praise and a contrite heart. I think that’s something that the choir does very well, because they give of themselves, not just to the music, but to each other and to the diocese.”
Chrism Mass March 30 at St. Maria Goretti Church during Holy Week was such example. In a note to the choir the following day, Gorman talked about the gift of music, how much it defines us as human beings, and how central it is in everyday life.
“We make music more than we know,” he wrote. “Children sing songs to themselves. We sing at birthday parties and sporting events. Music expresses our sorrow when tragedy strikes as well as our joy in good times. As wonderful as that is, what we do when we sing at Mass transcends that, because we make this offering, this sacrifice of praise, to God. And we have the privilege of helping others pray to God.”
Bringing people together
During an interview, Gorman expanded on the importance of music, both in the secular world and spiritual life.
“There’s something about music that seems to bring people together, whether they’re actually making the music or not, but more so I think when they’re making it,” Gorman said. “Music has been with us since the beginning, since there was language.”
In austere times, music often is among the first items seen as expendable in budgeting, he said.
“Sometimes we consider it in our schools and other places as kind of an add on, an extra; if we can’t afford it, we’ll cut funding for it,” he said. “And yet, it’s so much at the essence of who we are, it seems to me we should do just the opposite.”
In his 18 years with the diocese, Gorman has directed the choir at countless liturgical services. What made Chrism Mass so notable?
“There was just something about the way the whole thing unfolded,” Gorman said. “We had a congregation that sings really well, instruments that we normally don’t have, a choir that’s been well rehearsed. Everyone was focused, and not just on singing the right notes, but focused on what the words meant, listening to each other, all of the things that we work on so much. It just seemed to come together in a very special way that really touched me.”
Added Gorman, “You spend hours and hours preparing these things, and every now and then, I like to kind of step back and just think, wow, this is really a privilege to be able to prepare music that helps people to pray so deeply.”
With more than 70 active members, the choir represents parishes throughout the diocese. Gorman said the music at Chrism Mass offered a preview of the spring concert, although the program will not include harp, flute, brass, and timpani.
“We’ve been working on a lot of the music all year,” Gorman said. “The choir has hit a level where they are really beyond the notes and rhythms and into communicating what the music is all about and sharing this art with the listener.”
Besides the Holst piece “O, God, beyond all praising,” the first half of the concert, the European Sacred Music portion, will include, “O sing joyfully,” by Adrian Batten; “Sicut cervus,” by Palestrina, and “Panis Angelicus,” by Cesar Franck.
The program’s second part, Music of America, includes an Alice Parker arrangement of a traditional southern hymn, “Hark, I hear the harps eternal,” and “Amazing grace,” as well as several African-American spirituals: “Daniel,” arranged by James Miller; “Witness,” arranged by Jack Halloran; and “A Balm in Gilead,” by William Dawson.
“While people will probably leave whistling tunes in the last part, I think for some, especially for the choir, the music from the first part may penetrate most deeply,” Gorman said. “Things like ‘Sicut cervus,’ and ‘O God, beyond all praising,’ a text that is constantly working in my brain. Even just the beautiful elegance of ‘Jesu, joy of our desiring’.”
Said Gorman, “While I think everything is beautiful, people will particularly like the second half, the music of America. The songs express the joy I think that sometimes is hard to relate to in the more serious art music. And so I think it’s a good companion. And there’s an exuberance and a simplicity that I think a lot of people connect with.”
Final performance before tour
The concert will be the choir’s final performance before touring Canada. Gorman, Schuster, and more than 20 members, plus family and friends, will visit Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec in June, returning in time for ordination at St. Moria Goretti June 25.
While the Saturday evening concert is free, the choir appreciates a free-will offering to support its music ministry. The Bishop O’Connor Center, located at 702 S. High Point Rd., is wheelchair accessible. Following the concert, a reception will be held in the cafeteria.
Gorman said he has begun plans for next year. If parishes would like the choir to sing for a Saturday Vigil Mass, or if individuals are interested in joining the choir, they can contact him by phone at 608-821-3081, or by e-mail at