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Friday, 3 July 2009

EXCELLENT Wrap-up of the Chant Intensive

David Deavey of the has a terrific summation of the whys, whats, wheres and whos of the CMAA's work:

What happened in Chicago?

Many people have asked me how the trip to Chicago went, so here is a report.

I spent 5 days in Chicago at the Church Music Association of America “CMAA” - Summer Chant Intensive at Loyola University – on the Lakeshore Campus.

So what is a chant intensive?

It is a week long event where approximately 50 like minded musician, professional and amateurs, get together and learn about and sing Gregorian chant. The instructor Scott Turkington is one of the premier educators of chant in the Catholic Liturgy in the United States today.

“Scott Turkington director (Stamford Schola Gregoriana) is the living heir to the classical chant method, the author of The Gregorian Chant Masterclass, and a marvelous teacher. Turkington is a student of Theodore Marier, who was, in turn, a protege of Dom Gajard, the successor to Dom Mocquereau, the great chant scholar who, with Dom Pothier, fathered the Liber Usualis and the early scholarly publishing efforts of Monks of Solesmes for the restoration of Gregorian chant at the request of the Vatican. Thus Turkington is a direct intellectual descendant of this tradition, along with his vast experience in chant studies and pedagogy he is a famed leader of the chant revival in the United States.”

We spent time learning the chant basics – chant notation (i.e. podatus, virga, bistropha), Modes, chant rhythm, Solfege, Chironomy (chant conducting), and psalm tone pointing. We used two primary books, “The Parish Book of Chant” which the “Maria Regina Caeli Schola” uses, and the Gregorian Missal which has all the ordinary and proper chants for the Sundays and Solemnities of the Church year for the Mass of 1970 or the Novus Ordo. The Liturgy we prepared for was the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus “Sacratissimi Cordis Jesu”, June 19th. Using the basis knowledge we worked through the following music:

Ordinary – Mass IV (Cunctipotens genitor Deus)

• Credo I
Agnus Dei
• Ita Missa est

Propers for Soleminity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

Introit: Cogitationes Cordis eius
Gradual: Dulcis et rectus Dominus
Alleluia: Tollite iugum meum
Offertory: Improperium exspectavit
Communion: Unus militum


Christus vincit! Christus regnat! Christus imperat!

While our rendition of the chant, I am sure was less than technical perfection, as we learned this week, no chant is ever sang in the same way, each offering adds to the quality and understanding of the underlying text and rhythm. I have recordings of some of the chants I made with my MP3 player, I will post later. The experience was well worth the trip, I learned a lot about the history, interpretation, and pedagogy of chant for a group of singers, which should help us to become better offers of the chant in the future. These learning’s I will be trying to gradually incorporate as we begin the new season but more about that in a later post.

The intensive as the name implies was intense, we had class/rehearsals from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM, most days, with an hour for lunch, and 2 hours at dinner, which left little time to do anything else, but to collapse in bed at night. Meal time allowed for discussion about chant, and what works and doesn’t work for singers and leaders of chant groups and little else. I saw no TV or read no newspaper the entire time it was all music all the time. It is wonderful to spend time with people who are as crazy about chant as I am, I met some interesting people from all walks of life, there were religious from monasteries and abbeys, graduate students from Notre Dame's recently established Sacred Music program, and regular folks like me who want to learn more about chant. Most interesting and hopeful to me, was that this was a young crowd, while I was not the oldest in attendance, more than half of this crowd was in there late 20’s and 30’s which is a good sign for the ongoing health of any group.

My Reflections:

These are my thoughts about the experience and reflect my opinion only. From my discussion with the fellow participants the primary reason driving people here is the love of the chant, with the young age of the participants these people are new to singing and studying chant, there is no sense of trying to recover something from their past. A secondary theme that comes to the surface is the recovery or reestablishment of sacredness in the Mass. Today these young people are looking for the legitimate expression of what it means to be a “Catholic” in the Liturgy, and for them chant is part of the answer. “Save the Liturgy, Save the World” and the expression “Lex orandi, lex credendi” are their motto's, the latter which is Latin, loosely translatable as - (the law of prayer is the law of belief) refers to the relationship between worship and belief, and is an ancient Christian principle which provided a measure for developing the ancient Christian creeds, the canon of scripture and other doctrinal matters based on the prayer texts of the Church, that is, the Church's liturgy.

Chant has always been a subject of academic study, and use in some religious houses over the last 1,200 years, but to the ordinary Roman Catholic over these centuries the use of chant has ebbed and flowed like the waves of the ocean. Chant has almost been lost to the non-consecrated Catholic several times over the centuries, but it seems like now we might be at the beginning of the next wave of interest in the chant. A chant renaissance is brewing among U.S. Catholics. Nearly 200 Schola’s -- choirs that sing chant -- have popped up across the country, many in the past five years, according to the Church Music Association of America.

Sacred music seminars like the CMAA's - Sacred Music Colloquium that once drew 40 to 50 people now lure hundreds of Catholic musical directors, organists and singers, priests-in-training in seminaries across the country are increasingly asking to be educated in the intricacies of Gregorian chant, said CMAA president and sacred-song expert William Mahrt. Meanwhile, religious publishers are stocking -- and selling -- large collections of chant or plainsong books and music. One such publisher, Paraclete Press of Brewster, Mass., has sold more copies of its "Gregorian Melodies" CD in the first five months of 2008 -- 5,000 -- than it did all of last year. "There is such an exciting resurgence around Gregorian chant," said Jim Jordan, a musicologist and Paraclete consultant. "We have the great privilege of watching it be reborn."

But wait, I thought Vatican II did away with Gregorian chant, and that pesky Latin language?

Well maybe not, Pope Benedict's recent apostolic letter Summorum pontificum (July 7, 2007), which allows for a wider celebration of the traditional Latin Mass, now sets the stage for a wider use of Gregorian chant, given its important role in that form of the rite. His apostolic exhortation of March 2007, Sacramentum caritatis, encourages teaching Latin chant in seminaries and singing it in liturgies, with particular emphasis on international gatherings.

This renewal is a Vatican-wide initiative, with an emphasis on the English-speaking world, where the neglect of the treasury of sacred music is widespread and well-known. Cardinal Frances Arinze, head of the Vatican congregation that oversees the sacred liturgy, spoke in Saint Louis in 2007 and urged a remedy. He said that in the average parish, Gregorian chant should be constantly present.

These statements echo authoritative documents of the Church: Gregorian chant, says the General Instruction on the Roman Missal [GIRM], holds "pride of place because it is proper to the Roman liturgy."

This in turn restates the message of the Second Vatican Council, whose Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum concilium (1963), teaches that chant represents the ideal liturgical music, the standard against which all else should be measured (see Nos. 116-117).

Clearly, then, the council fathers never intended for chant to vanish after Vatican II. Quite the opposite. Pope Paul VI, in 1974, issued a book of chants entitled Jubilate Deo along with the pastoral letter Voluntati obsequens. Which states: "Those who are trying to improve the quality of congregational singing cannot refuse to give Gregorian chant the place which is due to it."

Will I see the ordinaries and full Mass propers chanted in all parishes in the near future or in my lifetime, I seriously doubt it. But I believe chant will be moving into the forefront of the Catholic Liturgy. Why do I think this will happen? It goes back to “Lex orandi, lex credendi”theme - if the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Catholic faith, then should not the music used in our worship be just as timeless as the Mass itself? If Catholic's believe the Mass is a representation of the Sacrifice of Christ on Calvary” or in other words the intersection of Heaven and Earth, on the Altar, every time the Mass is offered? What sounds more heavenly on this earth than Gregorian chant, I think that is something to think about?

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