Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chant in Scotland

Wonderful story from the Scottish Catholic Observer about a chant class St Magnus’ Cathedral in Kirkwall. By the way, if you have a schola, be sure to sing the International Registry of Gregorian Scholas.

THE medieval Cathedral of St Magnus, Kirkwall, resounded to the glorious sound of Gregorian chant last weekend as students on a beginners’ plainsong course tried out their new skills.

The course, led by Harray resident Ben Whitworth, was one of several running at Appies Tea Room and Gallery in Sandwick during the winter season.
“I was delighted with the progress everyone made in just six Saturday afternoons, mastering Latin pronunciation as well as the unique Gregorian musical style,” he said.

Mr Whitworth has been singing this timeless and beautiful music since 1998, and was the founder of the Leeds Trinity Schola, a chant choir based in Yorkshire.

New experience

Eighteen people took part in the six-week course. Most of the students had never sung Gregorian chant before, and for some it was the first experience of singing in a choir.

Students enjoyed the opportunity to learn about plainsong in a friendly atmosphere. They said that the course was challenging without being daunting, and that it was a confidence-boosting and uplifting experience.

At the end of the course, the participants sang Compline—a traditional service of evening prayer—in the 12th-century cathedral at Kirkwall, by kind permission of the cathedral’s custodian and minister.


“A lot of the music we were singing would have been known to St Magnus himself, so it was a great privilege to be able to sing it here,’ said Mr Whitworth.

More Gregorian chant events in Orkney are in the pipeline. The beginners’ course will run again, and there will be an intermediate course later in the year. Mr Whitworth also hopes to set up a permanent Gregorian chant choir. He is particularly keen to recruit more men interested in singing this music.

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