Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chant news from Australia

As part of world youth day, David Molloy and Scott Turkington have been teaching chant in Australia, perhaps the biggest push for the foundational music of the Roman Rite since Mary Berry visited and had a huge impact on the young chanters there.

I enjoyed this live blog of the event, explaining some chant tips and tricks.

+Chant is “soft singing” but support the breath with the diaphram.
+Strongest sound is the first line. Full sound at the beginning.
+Whenever you sing the word “Christe”, soften the “e” – don’t make it into a big operatic moment.
+Arsis and thesis. Beginning of a phrase is an arsis. Thesis = a gradual softening, fading away.
+U can have three arses in a row, then three theses. (It’s the only time u can say arses in church without getting into trouble.)
+An ictus is like a bar line.
+A liquescent is a reminder to clearly pronounce a Latin consonant. There’s never a liquescent in a melisma because melismas are always sung on a vowel.
+It’s important to pronounce consonants clearly so u can understand the text.
+There are formulas for lots of notes together – you get to recognise the set formulas. Many chants use long sections of established tunes and just change them a little bit, up or down.

Molloy had another point I found very gratifying: "“If you just get one book, get the Parish Book of Chant by the Church Music Association of America." Of course I entirely agree. I still haven't adjusted to the strange reality that this book, which has all the critical material any parish or schola will need to wade very deep into the ocean of chant, even exists.

I spoke to the nice people at Aquinas and More about how things are going with the Parish Book of Chant. The stock has moved very fast in the first month of release, and people are very pleased. I asked what kind of negative feedback they get if any, and they said there are only two types: some EF people resent that the book includes the OF sung ordo, and there are OF people who wince that it includes the EF sung ordo. You see, this is more than a hymnal of chant; it is a missal too.

It struck me again what a bold move that Benedict made in issuing Summorum. The OF and EF communities have been starkly divided since the promulgation of the new Missal. They have each become firmly entrenched in their ways, and dedicated to not doing anything like the other is doing. For the most part, of course, official Catholic culture pretended like the EF people didn't exist or treated them like the last holdouts in changing times. Pope Benedict dared to notice that they are real and large and growing and having something important to say. But then he went further and said that these parallel tracks need to exist side by side toward the goal of mutual influence. The Parish Book of Chant takes up the same challenge, so it hardly surprising that it has met with some resistance, but over time, this will fade and there will be more mutual understanding, with the music serving to "soothe the savage breast."

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