Help! We're trying to form a new schola in a small parish
  • Our small country parish is going to attempt to start a small schola. We have the full backing of our pastor, but we don't have a great deal of schola experience. We need help in getting started - i.e. what is the appropriate music to be used at each Mass, audio files to help us learn the notes and flow, etc.

    If there was a book "Gregorian Chant For Dummies", that would be a great place to start :-)

    We all have willing hearts - we just need to be pointed in the right direction....

  • Beth
    Posts: 53
    Arlene has on the musicasacra homepage a tutorial called chant for dummies. Go to the side links you'll find a lot of good stuff for chant edu.
    I'd suggest reading the intro of the Liber U.
    and this site from a Brazilian church for MP3 files
    start with a simple mass ordinary setting like the Jubilate Deo mass or Mass X for the feast of the B.V.M
    if you don't have any chant books you can down load the Liber U. from the Musica Sacra site
  • the first things I bought were the Liber Cantualis, the Gregorian Missal, Gregorian Chant Master Class and "How to the Sing the Prayers and Readings at Mass" by Ed Schaefer, along with his master printouts for the congregational singing booklet. After acquiring those supplies I went to a church that already had a sung mass (Gonzaga University Jesuit Chapel) and I took copius notes.

    Check out the Choral Public Domain Library - - for free settings of polyphonic propers. From there is was just a lot of reading, googling samples of the ordinaries and propers I was trying to learn and lots of personal practice so that as the leader of the group I knew the material good enough to make sure the other folks were singing it correctly (as well as I could make that determination, not being an expert myself).

    I hope that is helpful.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Welcome to an exciting world, Dan. It's good to see more folks taking up the practice.

    For getting started, you should try to define first what your schola would like to do. Sing Masses? Liturgy of the Hours? Hymnody? If you'll be singing the Mass, will it be Ordinary or Extraordinary form? (Most people are starting out with incorporating Latin into the Ordinary Form, so I'll work on that assumption for now.)

    Then get a good set of music to start with. I strongly recommend the Jubilate Deo book because it is free and has plenty of music with which to get started. (I'm attaching the version we use in our schola. There are a variety of formats available at the St. Cecelia Schola website as well.) That should give you plenty to get going.

    A recent book, published by the CMAA, is an excellent second step. The Parish Book of Chant will take you to the next level. And trust me -- between Jubilate Deo and the Parish Book of Chant you'll be plenty busy for the first year or so.

    These first two are written in the old standard 4-line, square note notation. Intimidating at first, give it a try and within a few days you'll find it much easier than modern notation. People who start by saying they can't read music will pick it up even faster! For help on that, I'm attaching a short powerpoint presentation I've used with our schola. It was originally created by a frequent poster here (Pes) who graciously let me modify it slightly for our group. I hope it helps get over some initial hurdles. There are also a number of assists on the Musica Sacra home page. And there's even an Ecclesiastical Latin Pronunciation Guide at the EWTN website.

    If you want to try something a little more exciting than pure Chant, you can always try some basic polyphony. Again, the CMAA has a great resource right on this website. The Secunda Anthalogia Vocalis has numerous hymns and motets for 2 to 4 voices, and is presented in modern music format.

    Don't worry too much about all the details yet. There is plenty of that discussion right here and you can follow along until your brain explodes! Just get yourselves singing. Good luck and may God's blessings be on your endeavor.

    [Edited to add PDF files. Won't permit me to add the PPT file.]
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 992
    I would also look around for any chant workshops you can find in the area - well worth the time and effort, even if you have to travel a ways. You could also find a chant director who's doing what you'd like to do, and ask him or her to mentor you along.

    And don't be afraid to ask questions!
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    On the Cecilia Schola site mentioned above, I would especially recommend "An Idiot's Guide to Square Notes," plus any or all of the articles listed under "articles" (on the front page of the site) or, under that, "more articles by the schola."
  • Priorstf, would you mind if I send an email to you to ask some specific questions? We are starting with the Ordinary Form of the Mass, but our hope is that we will be able to work our way up to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in due time. We already have the Parish Book of Chant and I have downloaded a number of the articles in the help section of this website.

    I appreciate everyone's assistance! As Fr. Zuhlsdorf says on his blog, "One brick at a time" - we are in this for the long haul and understand it will take great patience and perseverance - only by the Grace of God!
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Hi Dan - Fire away! Just click on my name for the email address.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    Since everyone else has drowned you in great advice, I'll just offer my congratulations, encouragement, and prayers. Go for it!
  • I have a new schola that just sang its first Mass this past Sunday. The parish is a very small mission parish, mostly Hispanic, with a very high percentage of immigrant families. My schola ended up being seven women who have faithfully come weekly to rehearsals for the past 2-3 months. [I found that, initially, many more people came to check it out, but weren't willing to invest the time required to learn it over time. Don't be discouraged by that. Those who have continued are doing so very well. ]We wanted to be pretty well versed in understanding the chant notation, being very comfortable with all the ordinaries that will be used and having time enough to prepare a very few propers for each liturgical season. None of them had ever been trained in chant prior to this. The ordinaries we are using now are all from the Jubilate Deo booklet. We wanted as many as possible in the pews to be able to sing them right away. Many were singing right along with us this weekend. With the Christmas season, we will be adding the Kyrie/Gloria from Mass setting VIII.

    I was very proud of the schola. The pastor was pleased and even asked us to expand our role and begin singing more parts of the Mass. What helped me get this going was the training I received from CMAA events. If you could possibly attend Scott Turkington's chant intensive course, it would be an amazing help to you. The Colloquium and weekend workshops are also very helpful.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623

    1. It can be bewildering at first, so get yourself an OF Mass booklet that shows how everything fits together. Here's one from Ignatius Press. This is the OF Mass in Latin with a facing English translation.

    2. You now have to come to grips with two bodies of work: the Mass Ordinary, and the Mass Propers. Start with the Ordinary, which is composed of the chanted dialogues (responses between priest and congregation) and the following:

    Agnus Dei

    For these, the booklet above chooses from among different Mass settings in the Kyriale. It uses Kyrie 16, Gloria 8, Sanctus 18, and Agnus 18. Settings come in bundled packages, but you can mix and match. There are suggestions, of course.

    Note that "Credo III" and "Pater Noster A" are very common choices for Creed and Lord's Prayer (they're printed in that booklet, above). An LP in English that is more faithful to the original melody is here.

    3. After you master the dialogues and have an Ordinary under your belt, start learning some chants you can use over and over again. Look in the Parish Book of Chant, the Liber Cantualis, and other sources. "Adoro te," "Tantum ergo," "Veni Creator Spiritus," and "Pange lingua" are classics for good reason.

    4. You know the dialogues, a few Ordinaries, and some of the chant classics? Time to start learning the Mass Propers:

    Alleluia or Tract (during Lent)

    Start with Communios and Introits. They're shorter, easier, and beautiful. These vary by day (are "proper" to the day), so you need the Graduale Romanum. The GR won't contain psalm verses that accompany these Propers, though. Start with the Communion propers and verses, all found here.

    5. Then, when you feel confident in your reading, and you all sing beautifully together, and everyone wants you to pull out all the stops, start learning Alleluias and their verses from the GR. They're magnificent.

    6. Then you can tackle the Graduals and Offertories, which are virtuosic. Maybe start with Advent, or Holy Week.

    7. Holy Week is its own thing and incredibly beautiful. Tackle it however you want. It's a mixture of easy and difficult. It's all beautiful.

    Remember that chant is a product of the accumulated devotion of centuries. You are entering deep waters. Enjoy it.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    Congratulations to Janet and her schola!

    And I too have found that "many are interested; few will stay." Learn not to take schola comings and goings personally, a lesson I've learned in the course of several free-standing vocal ensembles. Your schola is a priority to you, not necessarily everyone else who thinks chant is interesting/good/nice/better than "Soon and Very Soon."

    However, if you build it and keep it going, they'll come.
  • I agree with Mary Jane (how often do I not?). I've had about 10 people come and go in my group, but only 1 was a singer that I really miss (she is now at Notre Dame, so the commute to S Florida was kind of a challenge). I even had one person come in who liked chant but was "against" the TLM, so she left when she found out that we would be singing for them occasionally. Oh well...

    My biggest challenge now is finding someone to take the women's schola and give them the attention they deserve so that I can work with the men. With both of them at the same rehearsal, each gets about half a rehearsal (although I usually send the guys off to work on their own for about half an hour).
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Michael, would you mind telling me who the person at ND is? pespodatus at gmail dot com. I'm looking for good upper voices for chant and ren poly music.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    Michael, are you having the men and the women sing different propers? Sounds like that is what you are doing. Or maybe you have an EF form and just the men are singing? Anyway, doesn't matter that I understand all of that. And I know I don't know how much rehearsal time you have, either. My sense, though, is that it doesn't hurt to have the group who won't be singing that particular proper learn it. They learn so much along the way. And if you are making it riveting, they wouldn't want to miss it. Just see that in the end both groups are given something to sing. Maybe the women could sing the Psalm verses on the Introit or Communio while the men do the antiphons, etc?
  • Arlene,

    Yes, we alternate lines in the Ordinary since most of the congregations are not singing ones. We divvy up the propers (men get the harder ones, women get the easier ones out of necessity). We sing together on the responses. I have had the men sing along on the women's chants for moral support and to keep them occupied. We are doing two Lenten Masses this year, so I AM having the men work out one them on their own. The women are just not strong enough to carry a whole service. They are, however, loving singing chant.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,703
    Welcome! You have arrived at singing the most beautiful music this side of heaven... and probably both sides, come to think of it! Our new schola debuts on Dec. 8. We are just singing a couple of Marian antiphons, but the sound they have attained in a few weeks is just amazing.
  • dad29
    Posts: 2,219
    There's plenty of good advice above. I'll just tell you what Roger Wagner (KCSG) told me: "Sing it as though it were MUSIC!!!"

    Often, the technicalities interfere with the essence...don't let that happen to you.