Christ Cathedral


By Patrick Mott, Editor, Orange County Catholic     12/10/2014

GARDEN GROVE — While the meticulous work goes on to transform the cavernous interior of Christ Cathedral into a unique Catholic worship space, Father Christopher Smith and several others are turning their attention to an intangible element that will eventually fill the cathedral more completely than any other: music.

“The liturgical life of any parish requires a lot of coordination, a lot of planning and a lot of thought if it’s going to effectively met the needs of the people and lift their hearts to God,” says Father Christopher, the Rector of Christ Cathedral Parish. “And a big part of the life of Christ Cathedral will be the music program. So last spring we formed a task force to outline what the music program at the cathedral will look like.”

The program can be thought of as similar to the makeup of fine music itself: simple in its basic elements and structure, but agile and able to accommodate a wide range of expressiveness.

“The program,” says Father Christopher, “will have two parts: liturgical music, which is all the music that’s used in our worship services, and then the non-liturgical music—things like organ concerts and orchestra concerts that would not necessarily be sacred music. It would be music of all forms and all styles and of high artistic quality, because a cathedral is supposed to celebrate the arts and the capacity of the human person to attend to that which is beautiful.

“We’re primarily working on the liturgical part right now, trying to figure out what the music program will look like for Masses here at the cathedral, especially since we have such a diverse community of people of so many cultures and languages.”

The task force, headed by Father Christopher and chaired by Dr. Patricia Lamb, the Director of Music Ministries at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Newport Beach, is currently casting its net in order to fill two crucial jobs: the Director of Music Ministry and the Liturgical Director for the cathedral. Ideally, says Father Christopher, both positions will be filled a year before the cathedral is expected to be dedicated in 2017.

Currently there are several choirs that perform at 11 Sunday liturgies at the cathedral parish, which celebrates its liturgies in the Arboretum on the cathedral campus. “We want to develop those choirs and add some new dimensions to how we do the music at the cathedral parish,” says Father Christopher. “We want to build on what we have and continue to move toward liturgical excellence as a cathedral.”

That means performances in several languages and styles of music, including instrumental ensembles. “We hope to have quartets and ensembles of all kinds, and every once in a while I’m sure we’ll have a full orchestra,” he says. “And the music will be all the way from sacred and classical to contemporary.”

And, says Father Christopher, letters of interest have already started arriving from professional musicians interested in filling the position of cathedral organist and sitting at the console of a newly renovated Hazel Wright Memorial Organ—the fourth largest church pipe organ in the world.

“It’ll be a whole new ballgame once we get into that building,” says Father Christopher.