Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Chant Instruction

The more time I've spent in the wide world of music, the more I appreciate the mystical properties of Gregorian chant--and not only because it is the music of the Roman Rite, but also because, on its own terms, it is phenomenal composition in every way. It is beautifully balanced and expressive, its seeming simplicity masking an awe-inspiring integration of music and text.

The more you experience it, the more you understand about the principle articulated by Pius X and reiterated by every pope since: namely, the closer music shares the sensibility of chant, the closer it is to perfect liturgical expression.

Sometimes it is tempting to broaden the point to music in general: the closer music is to chant, the more pure and artistically meaningful it is. One reason we might think of Bach, Brahms, Byrd, Bruckner and others as having composed eternal music is that they all knew and understood the chant.

Just knowing the chant and learning from it helps bury the ego and inspires that longing for transcendent meaning in art. We might contrast this with any number of modern composers who seek immortality on their own efforts but never quite find that universal voice, and their music dies with them. I know that it is not enough just assert that claim without detailed argument, and I also know that I'm contradicting all received wisdom in every composition department in universities and that I don't have either the authority or the credentials to make such a claim. So take it for what it is worth. Maybe you have noted the same thing.

Well, enough of that. I'm getting to the real point, which is to post notice of another chant instruction conference, this one sponsored by the Institute for Christ the King Sovereign Priest, Chicago, Illinois, January 9-11, 2009. The price is $85.00. You can see the page on the conference here. This is a very encouraging expansion of their mission. I've been thrilled to hear the Institute's chant recording and been pleased by their approach, which is classic Solesmes.

Running January 5-9 is a full-scale chant intensive, designed to take you to the stage where you can begin directing your own schola, in San Diego (University of San Diego actually), taught by Scott Turkington. There is a limit of 50 places. 30 spots have already been filled, which leaves 20 places remaining.

This much I think I can say for certain: there can be no progress in Catholic music absent a thorough exposure to and understanding of Gregorian chant. I know that those are fighting words to many people, even those who captive of the Catholic music publishing industry. So be it. Without the chant as a reference point, we will be forever floundering around and searching for something we will not find.

If you are a Catholic musician, you must attend one of these.

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