Workshop, Auburn, Alabama
  • Here is some notes on the sacred music workshop. First is the sort of official notice, reprinted below.

    And here are some of my own thoughts about the Bonum est confiteri by Palestrina. The text was the one given by the Church for the offertory of the day. We picked this motet as an act of faith, not having ever sung it or heard it. I'm still in a state of disbelief that the choir, made up of registrants in the workshop, learned it and sang it in one day.


    The fifth year of the sacred music workshop of the St. Cecilia Schola, attached to St. Michaels Catholic Church in Auburn, Alabama, was a tremendous success. Seventy singers from all across the region, under the direction of Maestro Wilko Brouwers of the Netherlands, gathered to sing Gregorian chant and music of the Renaissance. The workshop began on Friday morning February 1, and culminated in a vigil Mass the next evening at which the workshop choir sang the music they had learned and practiced.

    The workshop began with a tutorial on the basics of Gregorian chant: reading and singing chant notation, style and text, and the place of chant in the Roman Rite. The following day focused on the music that grew out of chant: polyphony. But types of music were specifically named by the Second Vatican Council as appropriate for Catholic liturgy. Chant in particular was cited as holding pride of place.

    Maestro Brouwers, director of the Monteverdi Kamerkoor Utrecht and the Ward Center in Holland, led the sessions with his legendary mastery and charisma. A notable feature of this year was the enhanced level of expertise of the singers themselves. Probably as many as half of the attendees had experience in chant. Many others were starting chant scholas in their parish and were looking to broaden their abilities to read, sing, and conduct, and, most of all, to understand the way in which chant and polyphony can be integrated into the structure of the Mass.

    The repertoire was more ambitious than in previous years. Three propers of the Mass were sung in accordance with Roman Rite liturgical books: the introit Laetetor cor quaeretium, the offertory Bonum est confiteri, and the communion Beati mundo corde (which was unusually long and difficult). For offertory, the chant, sung with Psalm verses from the Nova Vulgata, was followed by a spectacular, 5-part setting of the same proper text by G.A. Palestrina. His Bonum est confiteri was the most challenging task that the workshop undertook in two days. The result of singing both the chant and the polyphony setting of this text was a rare instance in which the music achieved something close to the ideal model as presented in the musical rubrics of the Roman Rite.

    Following communion, the choir sang a Magnificat setting by Orlando di Lasso. Though this piece is also from the Renaissance tradition, it had a different sound and feel from the Palestrina piece. In addition, two English hymns were sung as a meditation and a recessional.

    The ordinary of the Mass was taken from several parts of the Kyriale, the Church’s book of chant for the people. The Kyrie was from Mass XII (Pater Cuncta). The Gloria was the Ambrosian melody, sung with alternating high and low voices. The Sanctus was from Mass XIII (Stelliferi Conditor orbis). The Agnus was also from Mass XIII. The Psalm was sung according to Psalm tone written by a member of the St. Cecilia Schola and the verses were adapted from an 18th century choral setting. The Alleluia was from the Graduale Simplex. The Pater Noster was sung in English with a setting that reflected the original Gregorian melody.

    A casual session over lunch covered many issues in sacred music today, such as what liturgical books choir members need, the widespread confusion over language in understanding parts of the Mass, and the practical difficulties and solutions that come with the goal of starting a parish schola.

    The celebrant of the liturgy was Monsignor William Skoneki, who thanked both the director and the workshop choir for their hard work and contribution to preserving and enlivening the liturgical tradition of the Church.

    The St. Cecilia Schola hopes to continue its educational work in the future with additional programs and workshops. For more information, write
  • I would love to hear a recording of your Gloria (Ambrosian) especially. I've been trying to find out just how the end part with all the long episemas (in the Solesmes editions I have seen) should be sung to no avail. It would also be really great to hear the Palestrina Bonum est confiteri... and the Magnificat... and the ordinaries... heck, I'd like to hear all of it!
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    I second that motion!!!
  • I agree! Like all of us, I have two tendencies on recordings. One is to put it all out there no matter how imperfect. The other is to desire perfection. I fear that in this case, it is the conductor who decides. And he has decided that the weekend is best left inaudible except for those who experienced the glory first hand. So sorry!