Saturday, August 9, 2008

My Chant Project

Following the CMAA Chant Intensive and the Colloquium this past June, a call went out to return home and start a chant schola. A number of the participants have started an e-mail group to share stories and ideas and keep everybody posted about the progress in our respective homelands. It seems that people are taking this seriously. I know I am. Here's my project as it stands right now.

I began by casting a wide net. I sent out e-mails to place the following ad in every parish bulletin in the Diocese.

Cantate Domino! Come join us in the Church’s sung prayer, Gregorian Chant! We are now forming a group to learn about and sing Gregorian Chant using the Solesmes Method. No prior knowledge or experience is necessary, just an interest in beautiful music and prayerful singing. Interested? Contact (my name) by phone at (my number)or by e-mail at (my e-mail).

OK... sorry I had to leave out my info there... the internet can be a scary place. No time and/or place was mentioned in the ad.... I wanted to see what the interest was, and where the interest (or resistance) was going to be. The results were interesting. Of the 18 parishes I sent the ad to, 3 parishes ran the ad "as is". Another three contacted me and asked for more specific info about time and place before they would run the ad. Fair enough.

I recieved 4 responses from one of the parishes (including a husband-wife response), 3 responses from another parish and one from the same parish who said he would be interested if the group were to meet at or near that parish. There were two responses from the third parish so far... the ad is running again this week at all three parishes. I am ecstatic! So it's not huge numbers... why am I ecstatic? NONE of the respondents are members of the choir at their parish or involved in the music program, although most of them have musical experience and some prior interest.

One is a former Benedictine with past experience in Chant and in Latin. Another was a Music Director at a Lutheran church for 20 years and is a recent convert to Catholicism. One is a 57 year old man who was an altar server as a young boy and who spoke about his devastation as a 13 year old when they stopped singing chant and using Latin at Mass. Another is a current RCIA candidate who is excited about learning more about her new faith. Only one of the respondents was aware that there is any kind of movement towards this in the church. The word needs to get out folks!

I have decided to make this (for now) a six-week "course" in basic chant skills, followed by the formation of a permanent schola by those who are interested. When I firm up a place and time for the first of these groups, I will send out a second bulletin ad to the 7 or so parishes within a reasonable distance (this is a huge Diocese... about 3 hours across North to South) with the hope of adding another few people to the initial group of respondents. with the addition of me and my wife, that would make about 8 or 9 persons. Not too bad to start.

I am thinking modestly... maybe taking on an easy Mass setting, a Gloria, the Pater Noster, Ave Maria and maybe an easier chant hymn or two (adoro te devote, Jesu dulcis memoria). After that, who knows.... I haven't planned that far ahead yet! But we're getting started, and I have become convinced that is the most important step.

One other thing. I did not run this ad in my home parish bulletin. For now, I'm keeping this project separate from my job. I think Jesus was wise in saying that no prophet is recognized in his home land. Maybe by round three or so....

11 comments:

Adrienne said...

How exciting!

Steve Cavanaugh said...

Great to hear that you're beginning this!

If I might make a suggestion, rather than beginning with Mass ordinaries, you might begin with texts for Vespers or Compline...when you're group gets ready to sing, they might not find a place "ready" for the chant Mass parts, but it ought to be fairly easy to host a Vespers service, or to do Compline after an evening Benediction service (or at the end of Holy Thursday adoration).

My first full-bore intro to chant was via Tenebrae on Spy Wednesday...and despite the length of that particular service, it was easy to get into, because the psalm tones are pretty simple. Doing the more complex responsories was not that big a leap after doing the psalm and lectionary tones. It might prove the same for your nascent group using the chant for the Divine Office

Chironomo said...

An excellent suggestion. Such a group would be ready (hopefully) by Holy Week, and it would be fairly simple to suggest to do this on Holy Thursday.

Our Bishop (Bp. Dewane) seems poised to introduce using Latin Ordinaries at the Cathedral, and rumor has it that this may be recommended for all parishes as well. We now have Tim McDonnel(Director of Music at Ave Maria University) on our liturgy committee and things are moving in a decidedly more conservative direction. We'll see....

Dad29 said...

...unless you do Mass XVII/XVIII, which is not too demanding and also works for Lent...

Annunciation said...

Best wishes & prayers on your initiative! I hope that you are much more successful in your efforts than I have been...thus far.

But I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at this line:

When I firm up a place and time for the first of these groups, I will send out a second bulletin ad to the 7 or so parishes within a reasonable distance (this is a huge Diocese... about 3 hours across North to South) with the hope of adding another few people to the initial group of respondents.

Only three hours? Ours requires more than ten. And it's not the largest in the USA. :-)

+Fr Arsenius

Annunciation said...

Some of the least complex Mass ordinaries in Latin and in Gregorian chant seem to be in the Vatican's Graduale Simplex.

Chironomo said...

10 hours? That's a big diocese.... I know there are some big ones out there.... we have this problem with scheduling music committee meetings and have to meet at different locations in the diocese so that no one member has to drive a long way all the time. Annunciation, what Diocese are you in?

Scelata said...

Fantastic!
Very sensible way to go about things.
I wonder if the former Benedictine plays clarinet.
"One other thing. I did not run this ad in my home parish bulletin. For now, I'm keeping this project separate from my job."
Hmm... sad, isn't that.
I can't imagine circumstances under which I could do something similar at present, because any initiative would seem to TPTB a form of poaching or drawing effort away from the "official" choir.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Mary Jane said...

Keep it up, Chironomo! My schola's doing their first Vespers on August 14th. The day will come when people don't snicker when you say "Florida" and "liturgical music" in the same sentence. We'll show 'em.

So keep us posted.

Annunciation said...

What diocese am I in? Baker (all of central & eastern Oregon, from Idaho in the east to the Cascade mountains in the west; from the Washington border in the north to the California and Nevada borders in the south - sixty-six thousand square miles...and only about thirty five priests. Mission territory, to be sure!

Chironomo said...

Annunciation;

I suspected you were "out west".. big to be sure! Our Diocese is about 1/5th of the land in Florida, and includes most of the Southwest Coast, and so is quite heavily populated. Lots of swampland, orange groves, tomato fields and sugar cane too!