The ISM at 40
Remarks offered at the ISM community and founders’ reception at the Quinnipiack Club, April 5, 2014
Director’s Remarks: Martin D. Jean
It is an awe-inspiring thing to be associated with this multi-dimensional, multi-disciplinary, multi-traditioned Institute. And…. it is an awe-inspiring responsibility for us faculty, along with the administration, to be its custodians. We are not owners, but caretakers, interpreting donor intent to the best of our ability and passing this blessing on to future generations of faculty and students.
We are stewards of, and contributors to, the great storehouse of sacred arts, past and present – those vast repertories of sound, verse, image, color, story, gesture, and ritual that knit communities together (and – let’s face it – sometimes tear them apart), by which humans since the dawn of time have attempted to make sense of the world and their place in it.
We believe the blessing of this Institute was bestowed on Yale forty years ago not merely to solve more scholarly puzzles or to create pretty, admire-able things, but rather to do transformative work for the sake of the world, so that eyes may be opened, tongues loosed, ears unstopped – to help move the world from brokenness to healing, from sin to redemption, from death to life.
This, it seems to me, is our real mission, and to the Miller and Tangeman families present here, let me add that we take on this mission with utter seriousness and devotion. We ask for your prayers and for the prayers of all those gathered here tonight for continued inspiration, strength, and guidance for the decades to come.
Founding Faculty Remarks: Jeffery Rowthorn
You’ll be relieved to know that I do not plan to deliver the hour-long sermon that in Bach’s day would have been preached between the two parts of the St. John Passion!
Some time ago Martin invited me to the first Colloquium of the new academic year. We sat in a great circle, the faculty, staff and students of the Institute. I listened in growing wonderment as the students spoke about their countries of origin, their degree programs and, in the case of seniors, the project that they would be working on, often in collaboration with an Institute student from the other School, Music or Divinity.
When my turn came to speak, all I could add was that I had been present at the Creation when God said, “Let there be a Colloquium,” and there was a Colloquium. On that very first occasion our circle consisted of Robert Baker, Richard French, Robert Fountain, MinaBelle Packer and myself – and ten students, each wondering, I imagine, why they had enrolled in a fledgling institution with no history or reputation behind it.
And now, almost a thousand colloquia later, here we are tonight. The mustard seed, which Irwin Sweeney Miller and Clementine Tangeman planted with the help of Robert Baker, Dean Philip Nelson and Dean Colin Williams, has grown into a great tree of blessing – blessing for all who care deeply about music and worship and the related arts.
This tree is rooted in the superb Letter of Intent which Clemmie Tangeman wrote to President Kingman Brewster. It merits reading in full, but if I were to attempt that, Martin would rise up to restrain me! Let these few extracts suffice:
(I quote)…”We perceive men and women becoming steadily (though unequally) richer in things, and still baffled as to how they may cure the poverty of their spirits, and how they ought to behave toward each other”;
(and again)…”a generation busily plundering and despoiling the planet”;
(and again)…”The do-it-yourself society is in danger of developing a contempt for the minority of poor, and disadvantaged, and helpless. In recalling us to such concern…..the compassionate artist has often been the best preacher among us”;
(and lastly)…“We hope that, in this new institute, the function of music and the arts in Christianity will receive new strength through the preparation and training of individual musicians, artists, and teachers who understand their calling in broad Christian terms, and not exclusively within the limits of their disciplines.”
“Not exclusively within the limits of their disciplines”… this has been the foremost challenge from the first days of the Institute. The degree to which this challenge is gladly and imaginatively met in the years ahead will be the measure to which the Institute continues, in its own unique way, to be a blessing to Yale, to the various communities of faith, and to our society at large.
To conclude: Anne (Rowthorn) and I, and MinaBelle (Packer Wichmann) also, had the great privilege of taking part in the launching of something distinctively new. Now we have the even greater privilege of living long enough to see the founding vision realized beyond our fondest hopes and dreams. I thank all of you for investing yourselves and your gifts and talents in the life and work and witness of the Institute of Sacred Music. And I thank God for the miracle of this very special mustard seed. The season of Lent notwithstanding, “Alleluia! Alleluia!”
Jeffery Rowthorn was the chaplain at Union Theological Seminary, who, together with fellow faculty members Robert Baker and Richard French and administrator MinaBelle Packer, migrated to Yale in 1973 at the Institute’s founding. He remained on the ISM and YDS faculty until 1987.
Current Faculty Remarks: Teresa Berger
It is truly a privilege to speak tonight as a member of the current faculty of the ISM.
From this particular vantage point, I see us as claiming a unique position, not only here at Yale but also in relation to other research institutions around the world.
Here is why: We at the ISM have at once a seemingly limitless, almost “cosmic” vision, as well as a very specific mission.
Yes, as we have heard, ours is a truly interdisciplinary mission at the intersection of sacred music, worship, and the arts (and we take pride in this); but it is also so much more: while contemporary research universities incline in particular toward the sciences and new technologies, at the Institute we are privileged to keep questions of transcendence and of beauty, of human faith and Divine presence in the foreground of our inquiry – questions that not only have been asked for millennia but also are vibrantly alive in our world today.
The seeming permafrost of secularism has, after all, thawed all around us, even if major research institutions seem slow to acknowledge it. Most people around the globe probably do in fact desire more than a disenchanted understanding of the universe. At the ISM, we boldly own, embrace, and respond to this fundamental desire, in our scholarship and through our artistic work.
I know that my own scholarly work has been transformed through joining the faculty of the ISM. And for that, I will be forever grateful. I hope and believe that the greater scholarly community – here at Yale and around the world – as well as communities of faith and of creativity, can take the same delight in our existence that we express here tonight.
Teresa Berger is professor of liturgical studies and Thomas E. Golden Professor of Catholic Theology at the ISM and YDS.
All photos by Robert Lisak