Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sacred Music Renewal in the Southeast: Musica Sacra Florida Gregorian Chant Conference

Wonderful report from this conference:

On Friday, March 6th and Saturday, March 7th, over 30 participants and 3 faculty members gathered for the inaugural Musica Sacra Florida Gregorian Chant Conference, cosponsored by the Florida Chapter of the Church Music Association of America and the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences at Nova Southeastern University. Singers and directors came from the South Florida metropolitan area, as far north as New Smyrna Beach and Tampa, as well as from the west coast.

Friday evening began with a vespers service chanted by the conference faculty assisted by David Taylor, Maria Adriano, and Gustavo Zayas. At the conclusion of vespers, Dr. Jennifer Donelson, music faculty member at NSU and conference host welcomed the participants to the conference. The evening concluded with a lecture entitled “The Secret History of Gregorian Chant” in which Dr. Michael O’Connor traced major historical events that contributed to the development of chant from the 1st century through the 11th century including the hymn sung after the Last Supper by Christ and His apostles, the Edict of Milan, the fall of Rome, the rise of the Carolingian dynasty, the development of notation, and the contributions to pedagogy by Guido of Arezzo.

Saturday morning began with an 8:30 rehearsal in which participants were divided up into 3 choirs according to their familiarity with Gregorian chant and square-note notation. Dr. Susan Treacy led the advanced women’s schola in learning the Introit antiphon Reminiscere from the Graduale Romanum and the Tract Commovisti from Chants abrégés, Dr. Michael O’Connor directed the advanced men’s schola which sang the Gradual Sciant gentes and the Offertory antiphon Meditabor, both from the Graduale Romanum. Dr. Jennifer Donelson taught the beginning mixed schola, covering the basics of Gregorian chant notation and rhythm and the Communion antiphon Visionem from the Graduale Romanum. All choirs sang the Mass Ordinary: Mass XVII.

Rehearsals on Saturday were punctuated by breaks and two talks. The first, given by Dr. Jennifer Donelson discussed the history and role of the Gregorian repertoire in the Roman Catholic Mass, especially the introit antiphon and gradual. Her discussion emphasized the opportunity to learn about the nature of individual parts of the Mass and the proper interior disposition corresponding to those parts through study of the origin and development of these parts of the Mass, as well as through familiarity with the Gregorian music of the Mass proper. Later in the day, Dr. Susan Treacy presented an overview of papal and conciliar documents from 1903 to the present that deal with sacred music and the modern, practical use of the chant in the context of the liturgy. She emphasized the importance of familiarizing oneself with all of the documents of the past century because the documents of Vatican II and Musicam Sacram themselves quote these sources. She also gave an insightful overview of the idea of progressive solemnity and helpful thoughts for its implementation in the context of parish life.

The day concluded with the Gregorian chant being presented within its proper liturgical context with a final Missa cantata at St. Michael’s church in Miami.

Throughout the day and in comments received after the event, participants remarked that they learned a great deal in each of the lectures and that they enjoyed learning the Gregorian repertoire for the Saturday Vigil Mass. Others remarked that it was rewarding to be able to sing the Gregorian repertoire in the context of the Mass and that it was enjoyable to meet other people singing Gregorian chant from around the state. At the end of the day, many of the participants commented that they would like to participate in a similar event again and hoped that the event would become an annual one.

For more information on the Florida Chapter of The Church Music Association of America, including liturgical and sacred music events in the state of Florida, please visit the Florida chapter website:

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