Review: 25th Anniversary National Conference (part 2)

By Walter Saul

October 17-19, 2019

On Friday, October 18, at 8:00 am we gathered for our first prayer session that moved smoothly into the opening convocation at 9:00. President David Davies highlighted our Mission Statement, now on our website:

CFAMC seeks to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and help build His kingdom by encouraging the work and witness of Christian composers of symphonic and chamber music, opera, and other concert works. We pray that believers will embrace our musical integrity because of our Christian witness, and that our commitment to musical excellence will allow us to bring our Christian witness to the wider art music world.

Davies then reminded us that we are principally a fellowship of composers, or, as member Bill Vollinger has tagged us, C-FAM-C, a family of Christ-centered composers who encourage one another in our callings to create art music, as opposed to a professional society or secular composers’ forum. He went on to describe our tasks and callings as quite different from a church musician, which is a robust point about CFAMC often misunderstood. (It reminded me of a master class I participated in at Duke University 45 years ago where Leslie Bassett wondered out loud why my Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews, a highly dissonant, serialistic triptych for viola and piano commemorating the Lord’s crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, wasn’t simply a Sonata da Chiesa.) No, the daunting task before us is to bring our testimony about the Lord to art music circles in the public square or, as Davies put it, to show the world what it is (the mirror) and what it could be. That mirror can be quite ugly and aggressive, but prepares the world for the beauty of salvation and right relationship in the Lord.

To quote again from the website: “Located throughout the United States and abroad, CFAMC members are professional and academic composers (faculty and students), avocational composers, church musicians interested in art music, and other individuals who support the CFAMC mission and want to be involved in our activities.” I have long been fascinated and delighted to be in the fellowship of composers with very different positions than my university appointment (from which I retire in May) and with varying systems of patronage and support which reflects the historical dynamism of patronage of composers, even as the university, once the bulwark of patronage and support for composers, wanes in that role. CFAMC may well speak into a new system of support for composers as we journey through the 21st century.