Starting a Schola - Looking for Advice
  • I am asking for advice from this group. After much prayer and thought, I think I am being called to start a schola. But I have two things going against me; I have no formal musical training and very basis Latin skills. I am member of a adult choir for the last three years, and attended the CMAA colloquium in 2008 alone. Our current choir does some polyphonic music (i.e. Schubert Mass), but most music is from the Choral Praise Hymnal. I think it is time to upgrade to premium Catholic music.

    Since the CMAA colloquium in 2008 I have been speaking with members of the choir outside of our regular practices about doing some chant.

    Our choir has done some chant out of Breaking Bread, (i.e. Victimae paschali laudes, and piano accompanied Mass ordinaries, but always with accompaniment.), with a lot of mumbling from choir members who don’t know the words.

    I have 4-5 men who have expressed interest. I have set-up web blog and provided basic information to them on chant using MusicaSacra resources.

    I would like to have a meeting with these folks to determine what they might be interested in doing. I think our most likely avenue is to become a subset of the choir that sings chant, and provide music in the NO Mass (i.e. meditation pieces and possibly ordinaries for Lent or Advent when the choir does not sing.).

    In my group of 4 or 5, I have one who can help keep us on pitch, and one who has a Latin background to help with diction.

    At the Colloquium, I purchased 5 Parish Book of Chant, and have a Liber Cantualis, and a Graduale Romanum. I also have the Master Class Gregorian Chant Class (Turkington)

    I have made a CD with “12 Chants Ever Catholic Should Know” and the ordinary - Kyrie XVI, Gloria XV, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII.

    Here would be my thoughts:

    1) Buy a pitch pipe (Just kidding)

    2) Meeting one night a week to practice 1-1.5 hours.

    3) Work with current Music Director for group to sing A cappella - Victimae paschali laudes sequence at Easter morning, as part of the choir, and possible Ordinaries during Lent?

    4) Work through the Master Class Program and begin to add repertoire to include, Hymns, CMAA Communio and Psalm tones?

    5) Possibility offer to put on a Vesper service using the Mundelein Psalter, though we would be moving away from the Latin?

    Do you think this might work or do I need to rethink whole idea?

  • Pes
    Posts: 623

    Sounds like you've got the beginnings of something. If your MD gives you the green light to sing Victimae, concentrate on that single chant and get the most out of it that you can. Break it down. Get the words right. Get the pitches right. Breathe together. Sing with the same understanding of the rhythm. As Ted Marier says, sing it legato and try to make it as weightless as you can. Don't worry about grand plans, ordinaries, etc. Just get that one thing right, and you'll lay a solid foundation. Meantime, listen to various versions of chants you want to sing. Get on iTunes or download mp3's from amazon. And yes, buy a pitch pipe. It's handy for listening to recordings and zeroing in on pitches that work best for your group.

    I'm confident others will join me in offering prayers and best wishes!

    Oh, and have a look at this: A Lay Apostolate for Chant
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I agree with Pes. D it looks like you are ready to go. I will keep your group in my prayers.
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 990
    You're where we were at a few years ago, so let me offer my encouragement - you CAN make it work! Absolutely!

    In getting started, you may have a tough time to figure out how much support you'll get from the MD, the Priest, and schola members. But you don't have to make EVERYbody happy - people will start respecting the chant more once they hear it and start to see the simple beauty. Some people will never be interested, but that's OK.

    Start with Victimae, sure, that's fantastic. Try to do it well, also being humble enough to understand that a year later you'll know SO much more.

    If you want to have a more extensive conversation about this, feel free to contact me directly - my details should be available if you click on the name above.

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    thanks for writing me!
  • ddeavy,

    I know that it can be intimidating (heck, I'm intimidated by the Lent III chants we have to learn yikes!) but do start with the simple things. Since you have group members with skills, don't try to "direct" the schola, but sing as a group and you can handle the admin and some agenda decisions. Takes the pressure off and everyone has fun. Probably start with some hymns and psalmody and look in the future to learning the Sunday Vespers chants for the EF even if you don't get a chance to do them soon. Good luck!