A Notable Church Musician Passes

Fr Larry Heiman was the first chant musician I ever met. I caught news of his death on PrayTell, a few days after the fact. (Just so little time for surfing when Lent beckons so deliciously.)

I spent two happy summers in the Rensselaer Program before discerning I needed to focus my time (and limited resources) on a theology degree. My recollections include:

– His exuberant welcome when my classmates and I arrived on campus. He was glad we were all there, and frankly, that spirit is catching. I was thrilled to be there too.

– His consummate and prayerful dedication to both liturgy and music. Music is at the service of the liturgy. Liturgy is in service to the spiritual need of the Church. The field is wide for doing it all with the best sense of beauty, quality, and integrity.

– He weathered an influx of guitarists in the summer of 1984, my first there. Where today, if you went to a sacred music program, they might confiscate your stringed instrument at the door, Fr Larry arranged for a very fine guitarist to come for a special workshop. Improve your musicianship, he urged, whatever your instrument might be.

– We also had a number of composers that summer. Fr Larry arranged a composers’ forum for students and faculty both. I still have a cassette tape of that session … somewhere. If only I had a player for it.

– Rensselaer was unable to offer its full slate of liturgy courses my second summer, so Fr Larry was willing to bend over backwards to accommodate my needs. An independent study and private composition lessons were added to my course schedule.

– It seemed entirely natural to sing organ hymnody and contemporary music alongside a Gloria in chant notation. I loved my first encounter with that notation.

What a change from the modern day chant musicians. No belittling. No gossip. Just hospitality, a commitment to excellence, and the quiet confidence of a well-discerned life. Soli Deo gloria.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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