Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge's Winter Weekend

From 9 - 11 January 2009, the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge held its annual Associates' Winter Weekend in a conference centre in Ditchingham, Suffolk. 

The Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge was founded in 1975 by the late Dr Mary Berry CBE, and it continues her lifelong work and passion: to promote the teaching and the singing of Gregorian chant within its liturgical context and, whenever possible, to foster its study and research. The Winter Weekend reflected this perfectly, with daily solemn sung liturgy (Mass and the Divine Office) and a fascinating lecture on the development of chant, vernacular chant, and the rhythm of plainsong by Peter Wilton, who is Director of the Gregorian Chant Association as well as a Cantor of the Schola who has recorded CDs with Mary Berry.

The Winter Weekend, which was open to all lovers of Gregorian chant, drew 50+ people from all over the country, many who have long been associated with the Schola and whose lives were touched by Mary Berry and the beauty of the Church's music. Together, we gathered for what the programme dubbed "a liturgical valediction for Mary Berry" and to celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Rehearsals for the liturgy were led by Philip Duffy (photos above) who is the Associate Director of Music for the Schola. Many hours were spent between each liturgy and meal-time in music rehearsals, and although it was tiring to have such intensive practices, this was the example left behind by Mary Berry. The singers gladly laboured in this way to honour her memory, and also to revel in the beauty of the music and to gradually grow accustomed to the chants through assiduous practice and study. As many of the singers came from parishes in which Gregorian chant is no longer sung, it was wonderful to have this weekend immersed in the music of the Church. 

The weekend began with the Schola's annual Requiem Mass in the old rite, celebrated by fra' Thomas Crean OP, with music from the Dominican chant books. The day closed with the old form of monastic Compline. On Saturday, there were two low Masses (Latin, Ordinary form, shown below), and then we sang Matins and Lauds of the Dead according to the old Roman rite, and many Schola members commented that it was a joy to sing the psalms according to the Church's ancient chant modes.

We then proceeded to learn chant for the reformed Roman rite and in the evening, we gathered for first Vespers of the Baptism of the Lord, using the new antiphons from the Solesmes antiphonal and the responsory, 'Hodie in Iordane'. The second day closed with the new rite of monastic Compline (shown above). 

On Sunday morning there was a low Mass in the Extraordinary form as well as an Anglican Eucharist. However, the main liturgy, of course, was a Solemn Mass in the Ordinary form, celebrated by Fr Guy Nicholls (from the Birmingham Oratory). The Schola sang the Propers for the feast, with Kyrie 'clemens rector', and the rest of the Ordinary from Mass VI.  

I thoroughly enjoyed my weekend with the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge and was pleased and encouraged to meet people from all walks of life who were able to come together and be united by a love for Gregorian chant. Mary Berry's legacy to the Church and the world is the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge. Although it is called this, it is by no means restricted to people from Cambridge (even Oxfordians are members!), and I hope that more people - young and old - will discover the beauty of Gregorian chant and the Church's musical treasury through it, and participate in its workshops and chant weekends. Do visit the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge's website to find out more.

The Schola plans to hold a Summer Weekend in Ushaw College (the northern seminary of England & Wales) from 26-28 June 2009. This will proceed if there is sufficient interest, so if you can travel and are interested, do contact the Schola and leave a message for the organizers. All chant lovers - Catholics and non-Catholics - are warmly welcomed.

You can also contact the Schola if you wish to find out more about its aims and activities, or join the Associates of the Schola and be included on the mailing list. There's also a Facebook group to join, if you're so inclined! The Schola is currently looking to recruit more members, especially among the youth! 

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