Thursday, January 05, 2006

A music workshop for the new liturgical movement

The Vatican has begun a major push for reform of Church music. "The faithful need to know the standard Gregorian chants," said the Instrumentum Laboris from October's Bishops Synod, "which have been composed to meet the needs of people of all times and places, in virtue of their simplicity, refinement and agility in form and rhythm. As a result, the songs and hymns presently in use need to be reconsidered."


Many at the parish level agree but a major practical problem presents itself. Very few people in modern parish life know how to sing or read chant, or have familiarity with the tradition of Catholic music at all. How many Catholics know how the once-popular Ave Maria chant in Gregorian sounds? The Asperges? The Ubi Caritas? The Ave Regina Caelorum? How many Church musicians are prepared to sight sing the propers from the Graduale or know more than a few notes of any ordinary Mass setting?

Rather than merely bemoaning the situation, the St. Cecilia Schola in Auburn, Alabama, set out do something about it. Three years ago, we began an annual workshop in chant and its stylistic descendent in sacred polyphony. The workshop was originally conceived as a service to the archdiocese but, in the meantime, it has become national and even international in scope.

Its one-day format has been expanded to two. No, this isn't nearly enough time to recapture two millennia of music but it is just long enough to provide a broad exposure to the music and style, and answer such pressing questions as: how does one read square notes anyway?

The director of the workshop is Scott Turkington of the Stamford Schola Gregoriana and editor of The Gregorian Chant Masterclass. He is a remarkable teacher and conductor. Can you imagine the thrill of singing chant or Palestrina or Josquin with 100 other people within a liturgical setting? It is lifechanging event.

The dates are February 24-25, 2006, Auburn, Alabama (fly into Atlanta, Georgia). You can register online. Downloads of the chant packets (1 and 2) and polyphony packet are available. Even if you are not coming, feel free to download them!

In any case, the music workshop format was a major venue for how the music of our heritage was converted, in a few short years between 1968 and 1972, into, well, into the sad state of Catholic music today. But take heart! The push toward a renaissance has begun anew with this new form of workshop. Our effort is small scale compared with what needs to take place in every diocese, but it has done much good. At least a dozen parish scholas have been founded under the influence of this program.

We would certainly welcome your attendance!

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