Monday, June 30, 2008

The ever expanding Chabanel Project

The Chabanel Project is designed to address one of the most vexing problems facing Catholic musicians week to week: what to do with the Responsorial Psalm. We all feel an ominous responsibility in dealing with this portion of the Mass because the Psalms are the entire basis of Christian song, from the early Church and onwards to the full development of the Christian liturgy.

And yet, the advent of the "ordinary form" of Mass presented an unprecedented challenge: the introduction of a new and shorter Psalm text as a replacement for the Gradual of old. The idea was to provide an opportunity for congregational singing, but the result is too often liturgically unstable for a variety of reasons. We've been through decades of attempts to deal with the problem, and parishes have spent untold amounts of money on resources.

What Chabanel represents is new in many respects. The Psalm settings are simple but dignified, and they share in the modal quality of chant. They are often beautiful and they are always reliable. Then there is the method of distribution which partakes in the evangelical spirit of the original Psalm singers: they are distributed for free. That goes for the vocal parts, the congregational melodies, and the accompaniments. More recently, the site has added MP3s of all the original work. My own informal sense, based on conversations with parish music directors, is that these are used more and more in parishes around the English-speaking world.

Have a look. Maybe you should send the link to your pastor or director of music.

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