Thursday, January 08, 2009

Report on Parish Mission

We tried a new venue for chant teaching yesterday. St. Bede's of Montgomery hosted a parish mission in which we talk about Catholic music and sang chant for an hour and a half. It seemed short to me, but that's probably inevitable.

My sense was that it was a success. I had made 50 handouts with chant hymns, of the popular variety. But as I was driving there, I received a call that there would be far more. It turned out to be more than 100 people, so far as I could tell. All ages were present.

I was a bit amazed that there were some people there who seemed to already know many of the chants we were singing. It turned out that there was a group from St. Stephen Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida. Fr. Héctor R.G. Pérez offers the extraordinary form at this parish, and there were already people who were getting going on the chants of the Mass, and they knew some of these hymns.

Lacking enough handouts, I was happy to have brought a box of The Parish Book of Chant. Again, it is so wonderful to have all you need in one book: ordinary chants and hymns with English. The people attached to the old use are happy to see the Extrordinary Form ordo, and for the others who know only the Ordinary Form, they can use the book to be enticed by the integration between the two forms.

We began by singing the meal blessing, and we had fun talking about what it is like to pray before meals with non-Catholics around. I suggested that the sung blessing in Latin is especially useful, not only because it is beautiful and teaches Latin chant, but also because it draws non-Catholics into a Catholic way of praying.

We moved forward with some basic chant hymns, hymns for Christmas, and other chants of many moods and approach. We talked about Church history, about the interventions of popes throughout the ages, and the current way forward in Catholic music.

All told, it was a great way to give an introduction to this approach—not enough to teach people how to sing it on their own but enough to inspire interest in the future.

Afterward, many people had questions and we visited for nearly an hour. All the Parish Books of Chant were gone by the end, which means that people were able to take home this lovely resource.

I'm grateful to Fr. Carucci for sponsoring this. I had a great time, and it brought me a enormous happiness to see people introduced to this for the first time—especially the many teenagers who came. There are future chant jocks among them, no question.

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