Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Report on McLean Chant Workshop

Here is a report from the Mclean chant workshop advertised here.


A capacity crowd of about 100 people attended the chant workshop on October 17 - 18, 2008. “Sacred Music: A Workshop in Gregorian Chant” was held for the second consecutive year on the premises of Saint John the Beloved Church in McLean, Virginia, a suburb of metropolitan Washington, DC. A registration fee of $90 covered the chant instruction; all workshop materials, including The Parish Book of Chant; two evening receptions; Saturday lunch; and breaks. A few vendors offered chant-related materials for sale.

The workshop drew many choir and schola directors; many more choir and schola singers- -some in groups with their directors; organists; a priest and some novices; many beginners in chant; a few non-Catholics; and many individuals in various walks of life. One-third of the participants were men. All wanted to learn to read the “square” chant notation or to enhance their existing knowledge of it, and to sing well the ancient, authentic, and beautiful music of the Roman Catholic Church. The Church as repeatedly declared that the sacred chant must always have the principal place in her liturgy.

Participants came from 10 states, the District of Columbia, and Ontario, Canada. They came from thirteen dioceses. Seventy-three percent came from Virginia’s two dioceses, and fifty-three percent came from twenty of the sixty-eight parishes in the Arlington diocese. Twenty-five percent of the participants came for the second time, having attended the 2007 workshop.

And they came to work under the skillful direction and engagin style of Scott Turkington, acclaimed master of singing and teaching the chant, who is organist and director of music at Saint John the Evangelist Church in Stamford, Connecticut, and author- - with the late Dr. Theodore Marier- -of A Gregorian Chant Master Class. Turkington is also sought after for his musical abilities as a fine organist and for directing sacred polyphony. A member of the Board of Directors of the CMAA, he has taught the Gregorian Chant Practicum at The Catholic University of America, and regularly conducts chant at the CMAA’s Annual Colloquium. In June 2008, Turkington taught the CMAA’s new four-day Chant Intensive at Loyola University in Chicago, held prior to the Colloquium at the same place. He will teach the Winder Chant Intensive in San Diego, January 5 - 9, 2009.

Early in the workshop, Turkington gave six reasons for using the chant in the Church’s liturgy: (1) Obedience to the direction of the Church in using the official music of the Roman rite. (2) Chant is uniquely liturgical, unlike music for any other purpose. (3)chant is the appropriate musical setting for the Latin texts of the Mass, both Ordinaries and Propers. (4) The different types of chant suit the action of the parts of the liturgy. (5) Chant is a living tradition of the Church, and not a museum piece. (6) Chant is a fully accessible art that we can create together in an unrepeatable way.

There was a class of short duration for beginners on the rudiments of chant on Friday afternoon. On Friday evening after a reception, workshop participants were treated to a fine concert of organ works based upon chant melodies, played by David Lang and his students.

Workshop participants heard two stimulating lectures. On Friday, Rev. Franklyn M. McAfee, pastor of Saint John the Beloved, spoke on “The Spirituality of Gregorian Chant.” He discussed the physical and mental healing powers of the chant, substantiated by scientific research; and the spiritual power of the chant in conversions, such as that of the French poet and diplomat, Paul Claudel.

On Saturday, an lecture on “Papal Legislation and Church Documents Related to Liturgical Music” was given by Rev. Paul f. deLadurantaye, Secretary for Sacred Liturgy and Religious Education for the Diocese of Arlington. Fr. DeLadurantaye focused on legislation and documents of the 20th and 21st centuries, principally: the Motu Proprio of Pope St. Pius X, Tra le sollecitudini, 1903; the encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Musicae sacrae, 1955; the document from the Sacred Congregation of Rites, De musica sacra et sacra liturgia, 1958; the document of Vatican II, Sacrosanctum concilium, 1962; Musicam sacram, 1967; the Motu Proprio of Pope Benedict XVI, Summorum Pontificum, 2007; and the document issued by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, Sing to the Lord, 2007. Identifying main points in each document, Fr. deLadurantaye emphasized the theological, liturgical, spiritual, and artistic bases for the Church’s insistence upon on the primacy of chant in her liturgies, and in sacred polyphony.

The workshop culminated on Saturday evening with a High Mass in the Extraordinary Form sung by Rev. Paul D. Scalia, parish administrator of Saint John the Beloved. Workshop participants sang the Ordinaries that they had studied under Turkington (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) of Gregorian Mass settings for Pater cuncta (Mass XII) and Credo I. A men’s schola sang the Propers (Introit: Mihi autem nimis; Gradual: In omnem terram; Alleluia antiphon: Ego vos elegi; Offertory: mihi autem nimis; and Communion: Vos qui secuti). In his inspiring sermon, Fr. Scalia spoke of truth, goodness and beauty; how all three must be present in order to have any one of the three; and he related this to the sacred chant and the ongoing apostolate for spreading it.

They came; they saw; they heard; they sang! Enthusiasm, interest, and enjoyment were high and nearly palpable among the participants throughout the workshop. They left with more finely-tuned skills and knowledge of rendering the chant; a better understanding of the Church’s theological and liturgical reasons for using it; enhanced appreciation for its beauty and solemnity; and probably a commitment to follow the Church’s directions in using it in the Mass to strengthen the liturgical and spiritual life in their respective parishes.

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