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....