Archbishop Eamon Martin, Archbishop of Armagh and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Dromore, has paid tribute to the Irish Church Music Association as its members gather in Maynooth from 1 – 5 July for a conference and their 50th annual summer school.

In his homily for the opening Mass of the summer school on Tuesday 2 July, Archbishop Eamon thanked the members of the ICMA for their important ministry of music and for ensuring that the “sacred music of beauty and quality continues to be composed, taught, learned, shared and performed to the praise of God.”

Archbishop Eamon went on to reflect on the importance and significance of silence as part of the liturgy.  He said, “If music is carefully selected and beautifully offered, it can open up a space of silence which God can fill.

“Silence does indeed open us up to the presence of what might otherwise go unnoticed or hidden. It is in the silence in particular that God speaks. In the quiet we can find him whom our heart seeks.”

The archbishop acknowledged the difficulty for all nowadays in finding any opportunity for deep silence and listening, saying, “Even when we do shut out much of the external noise and clamour that tends to fill every second of life nowadays, we often find there is an interior din – our minds and hearts and passions racing, distracted, restless.”

He said that we have become uncomfortable with silence and wondered if we have in a way lost our ability to sit still and to be at peace.

Archbishop Eamon said that without silence, we are missing out on so many opportunities to notice the ‘still small voice’ of God, gently whispering in our hearts.

The Archbishop acknowledged that it might seem strange for him to be talking so much about silence at the golden jubilee of the Irish Church Music Association!

“Here you are, learning new and beautiful music to enhance our liturgies for the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful, and I’m rattling on about silence!”

But, he continued, good musicians know all about the “sound of silence” and how it can be used to add colour and beauty: the pauses that create expectation, how a note lingering in the heights of a church building can evoke the sacred and draw listeners into contemplation.

“Was it Mozart who said something about music not being so much in the notes, as in the spaces in between? In many ways good sacred music creates sacred interior spaces for silence, reflection and of course, prayer and meditation.”

Recalling the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the liturgy, Archbishop Eamon said it recognised the importance of observing “a reverent silence” at what it called “the proper times” in the liturgy.

“It went so far as to state that this was to help ‘promote active participation’. In other words, a congregation might participate in the silence as much as in the prayers, readings and spoken responses of the Mass.”

The archbishop concluded his homily by congratulating the ICMA on its 50th anniversary and wished them well with this year’s summer school.

The Irish Church Music Association was founded in November 1969 to support the work of musicians working in the field of liturgical music in Ireland. 120 singers and musicians from around the country are attending the 50th Annual Irish Church Music Association’s summer school in Maynooth between Wednesday 3 and Friday 5 July on the theme ‘Rejoice and Sing’.

The guest director of this year’s summer school is Fr Michael Joncas, liturgical theologian and composer of contemporary Catholic music, best known for his hymn, ‘On Eagle’s Wings’. Several key Irish composers will present workshops during this year’s summer school including Ephrem Feeley, Bernard Sexton, Orla Barry, Ciaran Coll, Sr Marie Dunne CHF and Dr John O’Keeffe.

This year’s summer school was preceded by a two-day jubilee conference, which was held in partnership with the National Centre for Liturgy.

See www.irishchurchmusicassociation.com for information on membership of the association and for a complete timetable for this year’s summer school.

ENDS