The Musical Shape of the Liturgy:

Celebrating the Life and Work of William P. Mahrt

Call for Participation

November 7–9, 2023
St. Patrick’s Seminary, Menlo Park, California

Sponsored by:
The Catholic Institute of Sacred Music at St. Patrick’s Seminary
The Church Music Association of America
The Music Department of Stanford University
The St. Ann Choir

Having devoted his life and scholarly activity to the study and praxis of the Roman rite and its music, the work of Dr. William Mahrt has become a touchstone for countless scholars and active church musicians. Professor Mahrt’s insights into the characteristics of the various forms of Gregorian chant have elucidated the nature of the chant as integral to the sacred liturgy, and even explicated the nature of the sacred liturgy itself. Too, his exposition of the nature of beauty and its embodiment in Catholic sacred music, liturgical gestures and symbols, and architecture has served as an important guide in the Church’s understanding of the purpose of artistic beauty in Divine worship. His work with the polyphonic masters of the Renaissance has illuminated the performances and scholarship of many choirs and students, and his devoted direction of the St. Ann Choir and Stanford Early Music Singers remains a pillar in the practice of sacred music in the United States.

On the occasion of the 150th volume of Sacred Music, which Dr. Mahrt has edited since 2006, upon the establishment of a new chair in sacred music at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park in his name, and on the occasion of the 125thanniversary of the founding of St. Patrick’s Seminary, the organizing committee announces a conference entitled “The Musical Shape of the Liturgy: Celebrating the Life and Work of William P. Mahrt.”

This two-and-a-half-day conference will feature:

  • Keynote addresses (William Mahrt, Joseph Dyer, Kerry McCarthy, Sr. Maria Kiely, O.S.B.)
  • Papers, lecture recitals, and panel discussions on topics related to the conference theme
  • Masses and the sung Divine Office led by the St. Ann Choir and the Schola Cantorum of St. Patrick’s Seminary
  • Opportunities for informal discussions over included receptions and lunches on November 7, 8, and 9
  • Banquet on the evening of November 8

The conference committee welcomes proposals for papers, lecture recitals, and panel discussions related to the conference topic. Lecture recitals may be 20 minutes in length, while all other sessions will be either half-length (20 minutes paper plus 10 minutes for discussion for a total of 30 minutes) or full-length (45 minutes paper plus 15 minutes for discussion for a total of 60 minutes). Please specify in your paper proposal whether a half- or full-length session is intended. Panel discussions should have a minimum of three participants and will be 60 minutes in length, inclusive of questions.

Topics arising from the theme include, but are not limited to:

  • The structure and forms of Gregorian chant
  • The relationship between Gregorian chant and the sacred liturgy
  • The relationship between text and music in Gregorian chant
  • Philosophical or theological presentations about the nature of beauty
  • Theological presentations about the nature of the sung sacred liturgy
  • Chant-based polyphonic and instrumental works
  • Sacred architecture and its relationship to sacred music
  • The relationships between Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony
  • Renaissance-era polyphony and its composers, especially William Byrd, Heinrich Isaac, and Josquin des Prez
  • The history of the Roman rite
  • The relationship of the Gregorian repertory to other chant repertories and their liturgies
  • Gregorian orthography and transmission, especially in relationship to the development of the Roman rite
  • Historical pedagogies of Gregorian chant and polyphonic practice

The deadline for proposals is April 24, 2023.

Proposals are to be submitted via email to Dr. Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka at

No online presentations are possible; submissions for in-person presentations only. 

For paper proposals, please send an e-mail including:

  1. Title and abstract (250 words maximum)
  2. Your name and affiliation
  3. Your phone number and email address
  4. Your bio (250 words maximum)
  5. Whether the proposal is for a half- or full-length paper (30 and 60 minutes respectively, inclusive of questions)

For panel discussion proposals, please send an e-mail including:

  1. Title and abstract (500 words maximum, including an abstract for each contribution to the panel)
  2. The names and affiliations of each panel member
  3. The phone numbers and email addresses of each panel member
  4. A bio (250 words maximum) for each panel member

For lecture recital proposals (20 minutes in length), please send an e-mail including:

  1. Title and abstract (250 words maximum)
  2. Selections to be included on the program (including title, composer, and length of each piece)
  3. Your name and affiliation, as well as the name and affiliation of each performer/ensemble
  4. Your phone number and email address
  5. Your bio (250 words maximum)
  6. A brief bio of each performer/ensemble included in the recital program (100 words maximum)
  7. One or two recordings on YouTube or in mp3 format which demonstrate a recent performance. The selections need not necessarily be recordings of the pieces proposed for the conference recital program. Attachment size limit: 25 MB.)
  8. Performance space requirements (instrumentation, configuration, need for music stands and chairs, etc.)

Performances will take place in the chapel of St. Patrick’s Seminary. If submitting a lecture recital program for compositions other than those for organ, recitalists must provide all performing personnel (e.g., choir, string ensemble, etc.); no financial assistance or remuneration will be provided for accepted proposals. No piano, musical instruments (other than organ), or sound amplification will be provided for the recitals, except for a microphone for the presenter speaking during the recital if requested. The organ at St. Joseph’s Seminary is a 2-manual, 21-rank 1955 Austin (Op. 2199, relocated to St. Patrick’s and renovated by Schoenstein after the 1989 earthquake), the specifications of which may be found here:

The conference language is English.

Presenters must register for the conference ($225, including the banquet) and will be responsible for their own expenses.

Questions regarding the conference may be directed to Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka via email: