Association of Anglican Musicians
While I was unable to take in the opening Eucharist and choral compline (thunderstorms delayed my flight), all reports were that these liturgies were nothing short of sublime. Conference attendees were welcomed to the magnificent and recently renovated Boston Park Plaza Hotel, which served as the conference base and the site for exhibits. The location made many of the conference event sites walkable, as well as many restaurants and attractions, such as Boston Common. Other sites were accessible by Boston’s famous “T” subway, for which conference attendants were provided several single-trip tickets.
At an AAM conference, one would only expect numerous awesome and music-filled liturgies, and this conference did not disappoint. The churches in which we gathered were some of the most storied in Boston, including Trinity, Advent, King’s Chapel, Christ Church Cambridge, All Saints Ashmont, and Redeemer Chestnut Hill. We experienced fine examples of morning prayer, noonday prayer, choral evensong, and Eucharist. Each of the liturgies with choir showcased some fine ensembles. All venues have fabulous organs in varying styles, many of which are relatively new or recent rebuilds, all remarkable in a different way (including some unique successes despite daunting challenges historic buildings can present).
Presentations included matters of local interest, such as recent local organ projects, and a lively session on shape note singing (which became the basis for morning prayer at Old North Church). There were other sessions on more challenging topics, including a call to find, commission, and perform works by women composers. Most sobering was a presentation on sexual abuse in the academy and workplace, which included some disturbing accounts of such from a number of brave survivors. Here the message was clear. There is a serious problem all around us, and we must confront it. “I had no idea” is not good enough.
Concert performances during the week included a organ recital at Harvard’s Memorial Church, performed superbly by current and recent recipients of AAM’s Hancock Fellowship. We were also treated to some top-notch concert performances from ensembles based in our host city. The Boston Camerata, which has been delighting listeners by recording and live performance for decades, presented a delightful program featuring music by, among others, early American composers. The Lorelei Ensemble, a more recently-formed vocal group of women’s voices, wowed attendees with a stunning performance of music from the middle ages and contemporary works. This was an afternoon performance, and, despite the warmness in the not-air-conditioned
St. Paul’s Cathedral, the ensemble seemed in peak form.
Following the Lorelei Ensemble’s performance, there was a women-only reception with the performers. The men of the conference were politely reminded that during this reception they would be welcomed at the exhibits back at the convention hotel! Reportedly, this was a first for an AAM conference; it probably comes as little surprise that AAM, like many other similar organizations, has a history of being male-dominated. A women-only reception highlighted the fact that times have changed, and the decision for the conference to include such a reception was widely lauded.
Among the many brilliant strokes of the planning committee was the inclusion of a free evening on Wednesday. Several nearby options for spending the evening were at hand, including an organ-accompanied silent movie at Old South Church. Also, being the Independence Day eve, the Boston Symphony held an open rehearsal for its July Fourth concert at the Hatch Shell.
For the closing banquet on Thursday evening, we were bussed across the river to the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, where we were treated to a banquet and, from a high balcony, watched fireworks across the river—truly one of the most spectacular views of a fireworks show imaginable!
As a first-time AAM conference attendee, I was impressed with the work of the planning committee and of the many musicians whose work enriched the experience. The resources available in a great city such as Boston were brilliantly utilized. I found this gathering of Episcopal musicians to be welcoming, vibrant, committed, and of course, abundant in talent. The community I witnessed there was varied and represented talented individuals from aspiring students to seasoned veterans and everything in between. I came home with a renewed optimism for the church, its music, and all its music makers