Need advice regarding starting a chant study group
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    I would like to start up a chant study group for my parish, and would welcome advice regarding content and how to proceed through it.

    My plan is to use the "Idiot's Guide to Square Note Notation" by JT and AOZ, and the ubiquitous PBC.

    Any words of wisdom?
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    I used Gregorain Chant Practicum prepared by Dr. Marier. It is based on Justine Ward method book. This book is like Ward method book for Adults. (very comprehensive)
    I started, but couldn't finish, because the study group became a choir, by our priest's request. I wish we have more time to study further. Maybe summere time.
  • "...and the ubiquitous PBC."

    We're ubiquitous already? Crikey!

    Theory is never absorbed independent of actual practice. Absorb the repertoire, rather than a list of rules. The best way to learn chant is to sing it under the guidance of a curmudgeonly but lovable choirmaster who can fix all problems instantly, creatively, and firmly. Lacking that, you will have to assume the role yourself, hoping (as all teachers hope) to stay at least one step ahead of your students. Trust me... you'll be curmudgeonly, lovable, and competent before you know it.
  • yes, but don't neglect some of the most beautiful chants ever written just because they are too hard to sing or they are not in the Liber Usualis. I kind of see a chant "study group" as folks who want to learn about rich history of chant. There are some fabulous chants from the Sarum use and the Ambrosian Rite that will wow your folks.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    Richard, I agree with you. The only way to really start bending your mind and voice and mouth around the chant is through actual practice. There are plenty of tutorials out there. You may pick one or two up and read them through to get started, but once you've absorbed their basic lessons (the basic neume, how to read the cleffs, do re mi, etc) they'll serve you best on your bookshelf, but not far from reach in case you need to look something up. In time you'll start developing a feel for the chant, and it is a mental and physical thing. Lots of focus. Your brain will hurt - but in a glorious way. You'll eventually find the music. You may indeed find a curmudgeonly (lets hope lovable) choirmaster to guide you. Richard, do you know of any?

    Or you will become one yourself, in time.

    Be sure you know what you are getting into: chant is addictive. You will want to know more and more, and sing and read, and go through the Solesmes thing and then the semiology thing and then back again and then back to your bookshelf, and then to the Colloquium and then to a Chant intensive and then to a chant seminar offered in some far off land (although you won't be able to afford it on your DM salary but you will give up everything to make the trip) and then you will find that all of your friends are people who are willing and able to discuss the chant at length. over wine, over coffee, over the phone, on the forum. And on and on. It has a force of its own.

    Curmudgeonly? Good try, Richard. A ruse by any other name...
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Here's another one, "A Plain and Easy Introduction to Gregorian Chant" By Susan Treacy. Very easy to follow.
    Of course 'study' must go together with 'practice'. And the 'study' should make you beg for singing. (and singing begs for more learning) Then there's no way turning around.

    "Reflections on the Sprituality of Gregorian Chant." by DJ Hourlier . I share some of the points from the book with the schola. It can be a good discussion book.(It's a very short book, but very beautiful.) The spirituality is a very beautiful aspect that we understand and feel in our singing chant. (also listening to good CDs helps to appreciate the beauty and learn to sing beautifully. Later on, you can start to focus on details, like how they do legato, end the phrases, how they sing podatus, dotted punctum and so on...may start with a simple hymn with the music.(They are well illustrated in "A Gregorian Chant: Master class by T Marier and Turkington., with aCD to go with the book) After some basics, it's fun to listen to different groups sing the same chant. Discuss what you like and what you don't like, how you want to do it in your group. Your style can be changed as you progress. The benefists of study group I think is it has more time to study than the choir which has deadlines to meet for their performances (doing their duty). (You can also study historical aspects of the chant too.)
    Also, the 'study group' attracts people who are reluctant to sing, but later they will find themselves actually sing.)

    I'm in early stage of chant addition. I'll buy as many books as I can, especially those are referred in this forum. Want to learn more and want to sing more. My life is in a different level now. (My long time friend, who helped me becoming a catholic, and who is also my spiritual director says it's like my second conversion). My church job was stressful until last year.(tried to please people more.) Now it's just joyful, even with difficuties and struggles, because I love music and found the higher meaning of the music, and it's truly beautiful.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    I'd be curious to see someone's "syllabus" or outline for where to start and how to proceed, as well as a basic outline for a session.

    One instinct I have is to get them going then start working on singing the chants and psalms of a ferial office (vespers) or something like it just to get them into understanding the connection between chant as a musical formula as well as a prayer formula.

    I've also decided, having just thumbed through the NPM convention offerings for this summer (the same tired subjects, discussed by the same usual suspects!), and then filing it in its proper place (that is, the big blue bin under my desk!), that I'm going to attend the Colloquium this summer, if there are still spaces available.

    I've called the contact number on the info page for it, but if anyone knows right now if there are spaces, I'd appreciate a heads-up.
  • Join us!....
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    David,

    I just posted on a related topic here. It may be of some use to you.

    I do think that chant is one of those things that people have to wrap more than their minds around. Listening is one thing. Reading and discussing the chant is another. But actually getting people singing - this is where real devotion to the chant gets its start.

    And yes, there are spots available at the Colloquium. I hope you will join us.
  • We live in an age in which everyone is looking for the easiest path from A to B. Ok, that's probably every age, but nowadays we are inclined to think that all things can be acquired instantly through youtube or some flash tutorial. I believe in technology but there is really only one way to learn chant: time and concentration.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Worth everything and every bit of effort.

    Chant singing = Heavenly experience!
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    Jeffrey,

    I agree 100%, and I believe that the desire to return to a more deliberate approach to disciplined learning is part and parcel of chant's attraction. There's indeed no other way to learn it other than time and concentration.

    I hope I haven't given the impression that I was looking for the easiest path from A to B. On the contrary, I'm simply looking for the most effective ways to lead the study group without re-inventing the wheel.
  • a1437053a1437053
    Posts: 198
    AOZ: Great post at NLM. I printed it, so that my 1.5 days of Chant Camp may continue!