Training reluctant priests how to chant
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    I face a challenge as DM - we have two priests who are very, very intimidated by the prospect of chanting, even the simplest recto tono formulas for the dialogues.

    I have approached them both, very charitably, and offered time to give them some training, recommending 20 minutes a week, working on the basics for chanting the dialogues.

    I appealed to them on several levels, not the least of which is that the most important "full, active and conscious participation" the congregation can engage in is the dialogues, referring to the section in Musicam sacram that details this aspect. I also appealed to a more philosophical but practical consideration: if the people see that the priests don't wish to sing, their desire to sing will be diminished.

    It seemed to work with the parochial vicar. He's already been here a year and has been willing to work with me on developing this skill. It's the new Pastor who very clearly has had some kind of really unpleasant experience chanting at the altar.

    My question is, given that our previous Pastor was a singing celebrant, how do I convince the new Pastor that this isn't about having the voice of Luciano Pavarotti, or having highly developed musical skill, but rather about entering into the prayer of the church in the form the liturgy and the dignity of his office call for?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Tell him the congregation wants it and they'll revolt if they don't get it. I'm not really joking that much about it, I suspect that would work.

    Perhaps start simple. Recto tono, by which I mean literally one tone. Really drill him on tone quality. We all know the priests who sing like broadway stars, kill that if he does it. Ask him to work on, say, the collect for Christ the King. Work with him on it weekly and give him lots of encouragement. I know it shouldn't take weeks to get recto tono down, but this will make him feel secure. And then go on in this manner, getting him chanting more and more often until he's recto tono-ing his way through every collect. THEN introduce a new tone. And so on.

    Build his confidence. Do EVERYTHING to build his confidence. Lie. Gratuitously. I would sucker him in with a wager - "I think that if I work with you over a month for a collect that you can sing the collect and feel good about it! Do it this once and then I'll let you decide when the next one will be!" Or you have my old method - "I don't feel comfortable telling a priest how to say Mass. But I DO feel comfortable beating you with a hymnal if you don't do what I say."
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    Well, the congregation has revolted, in a way.

    When our singing parochial vicar left and the new one arrived, people began to express concern that congregational participation was down. Since our new Pastor has arrived, he's expressed concern, and asked my associate director (but not me, I'll point out) if she thought participation was down. I can't directly attribute the change in sacerdotal leadership to the diminished participation, but I think it's interesting to note.

    I do think that because we now have two priest-celebrants who don't regularly sing, beyond the mysterium fidei and doxology it naturally follows that participation would be down. Neither intone any other dialogue, nor the collect or preface. I think an interesting "experiment" would be to eliminate the singing of all non-essential hymns and songs (the typical 4-hymn paradigm) and not reintroduce them until all the dialogues, etc., are being sung.
  • AH David -

    If the participation is down, you know what comes next - your program is about to be attacked and GARBAGE music is about to be suggested in order to improve participation. On guard!
  • A monthly all-must-attend all-priests session with a case of fine wine and lots of cold beer....make this diocesan wide. Serve RED MEAT. Then get them all to sing together.

    Progress will be slow but profitable. If nothing else you will gain a tremendous knowledge and insight into the thinking and machinations of clergy. And they might learn to sing.

    Take two aspirin and give us a call in the morning.
  • No, don't. It's Saturday. If things have not improved in the morning find a walk-in clinic.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,204
    P G A-

    Not to worry, I'm on top of things.

    Thank you for the warning.


    I like the idea! A "chant-along" followed by pots of chili, crusty bread, hearty sharp cheddar cheese, and LOTS of beer! Once a month, at least!
  • Watch for a Spring seminar in Connecticut--Fr. Scott Haynes and Scott Turkington--for priest to sing the EF.
  • But will they have beer? I'm sure they will have alreadt thought of that....
  • soli
    Posts: 95
    Does anyone know if there is an "official" version of the chant dialogues in the Mass? I checked our Sacramentary here in Canada and there is not any complete music/chant indications for the dialogues (sometimes the priest's part is there for some of it and the prefaces are there, but some of the other parts are missing. I know there are some in the Adoremus as well as other settings floating around. Could anyone suggest a setting that would be the best if we want to start incorporating these more (and hopefully encourage our Pastor too?) I realize that the new translation is due out, but from what I have read in another strain of this excellent forum... we had better not hold our breath... it may be a few years until implementation! I appreciate any leads or information. Thank you everyone:)
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    Ancilla, in Canada the melodies in the Sacramentary and the CBWIII have something of an "official" status. Where melodies are not provided I would say that we have freedom.

    I have put together a booklet that contains the melodies for the priest/people dialogues from the Canadian Sacramentary & CBWIII in chant notation, and fills in the blanks from other sources. I'd be happy to send it to you by email if you let me know an email address; I don't want to get into trouble over copyright by posting it to the internet.
  • soli
    Posts: 95
    Dear Robert,

    Thank you very much! It seems we're neighbours! We are in Port Hood, Cape Breton (on the west side). Our scholas will have to get together to learn from one another. I don't know of many groups in our general area (province) focusing on sacred music. It's nice to know about you!

    I would be very grateful for your publication. We don't use CBW III here, but I realize that is the "official" recent hymnal. We are still with CBW II.

    My email address is:
    Thank you once again. May God bless you!
    Sr. Bernadette
  • David Andrew, you could point your pastor to the example of our Holy Father, whose voice will never be confused for Pavarotti, but whose song will never be confused for opera.

    On a practical note: Last January I started my pastor with recto tono, and to both our surprise and delight, he took to it rather easily. What is most gratifying for me is the realization on his part that recto tono doesn't imply a stilted, rhythmically rigid delivery. As a result, he chants the prayers and readings with a natural cadence and unaffected delivery that is easy to absorb.

    We moved to the incipits for the Asperges me, Gloria VIII and Credo III, and the Pater Noster, the latter three perhaps too quickly in retrospect. Still, even though he doesn't completely grasp these melodies, he's been able to remain on key and is able to grab the starting pitches from the organ.
  • AngelaRAngelaR
    Posts: 309
    On a similar "note" (ha ha, that pun has probably been used a lot), our diocesan liturgist is seeking ways to start teaching our priests how to chant. He is particularly interested in getting them to learn the Passion for Good Friday (we do it entirely sung a capella, in English, every year at the cathedral in Peoria, IL).

    A friend approached me today and asked if I could use his abilities to record the parts which the priest sings, so the priest can listen to them in the car while he drives. This seems like a fine way to encourage priests who actually *do* have some inclination toward singing, but don't know the melodies. Does anyone know if any work has already been done in this field, both for the Mass, and for Passion Friday?
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    I did a recording like this for our Deacon, but nothing worth spreading around. But he found it valuable. It's the same as all the practice recordings I do for our schola - everything we do has a recording. Not expert, but good enough to be useful.
  • AngelaRAngelaR
    Posts: 309
    Thanks, Carl. I'll keep it in mind. At the moment I'm more interested in resources for priests; however, if you would like to send me a copy of what you've done, I'd be happy to have it. :)
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    Well, um, *cough*, it appears that the recording was lost when my PC croaked last week. Normally all my recordings are backed up because I have another copy of them on my schola's website, but that was a special one-off thing and it appears that I didn't have it backed up.

    Mea culpa. Mea maxima harebrained culpa.