Study Chant at Solesmes
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    7th Annual Advanced Gregorian Chant Week
    at Abbaye Saint-Pierre in Solesmes, France
    July 19-23, 2010

    The 7th Annual Advanced Gregorian Chant Study Week in Solesmes, France will begin the morning of July 19 and finish Friday evening, July 23. This chance to study in a small group with Dom Daniel Saulnier, O.S.B. and to hear the monks singing is the opportunity of a lifetime. The course has become an international event, with students from all over the world. As the monastery was founded in the year 1010, this year will be the "course of the millennium."

    Instructor Dom Daniel Saulnier, O.S.B. is the Director of Paleography at St. Pierre Abbey, and is a Professor of Gregorian Chant at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome.

    The course, taught in English, is for advanced students only. Candidates should have a familiarity with Roman Catholic liturgy, liturgical Latin and be able to sight sing Gregorian chant notation. Text for the course is the Graduale Triplex.

    Prospective students should apply by emailing Fr. Saulnier.

    Tuition for the course is 200 Euros (100 Euros for students). Those who are accepted must make their own travel and accommodation arrangements. The guest master of Solesmes will be happy to assist. Contact the guestmaster

    More information about St. Pierre Abbey is available here
  • Has anyone here on MusicSacra attended this study week in the past? It would be very useful to hear about the high points and any details about accomodations, etc.
  • Here is a nice review of one of Saulnier's seminars from the New Liturgical Movement.
  • AngelaRAngelaR
    Posts: 309

    I attended a couple years ago, however the organizer has changed since the time I went, so things may be a bit different. The guesthouse for ladies was pleasant, except that I developed terrible mold allergies while there -- I don't think the blankets had been washed for quite some time. (I have now forgotten the name of the guesthouse, but it's at the bottom of the hill). Those who stayed at the guesthouse had to buy our own food and cook it, which entailed getting a car (which our then-organizer Diana graciously provided us with).

    As far as classes are concerned, Dom Saulnier teaches the new Solesmes Method, and spent a lot of time reminding us that the text comes first, and not to get completely bogged down in the sheet music; he encouraged memorization. Dom Saulnier spent a lot of time answering fine-tuned questions from participants who already had a vast understanding of music theory and history. Many of us American budding or experienced schola directors were not so engaged in these questions. Dom Saulnier did give us some conducting advice as well, but this was not according to the chironomy that we are accustomed to in the U.S.

    Overall, I enjoyed it immensely, learned a great deal, and the comaraderie was wonderful, but I found my experiences at the Colloquium much more helpful in the practical aspects of directing a schola.
  • Very well said, Angela; I think we were in the same class (2008, right?). I agree with your comments about the class--a great experience, and a very knowledgeable teacher, but not so practically oriented, and not following the methods of Mocquereau or Gajard. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful experience. An important part of the week was assisting daily at Mass and Office in the Abbey, which made the week like a retreat for me. Also, there's an Abbey of nuns within a short walk that also sings beautiful chant.

    I didn't realize about the mold problem. Because of the cloister, accomodations are easier for men, who can lodge in the monastic guest house and have meals with the monks. We met the Abbot one afternoon after lunch. I wonder if the sisters' Abbey Ste Cecile has a guest house for women? There's also a rather expensive hotel across from the Abbey.
  • This sounds great. I didn't catch from the information available that male participants could stay in the monastic guest house, which is great to hear.
  • Well, I am thrilled to say that I will probably be attending the class this year! My pastor wants to send me. Yeah!

    For those of you who have been before, three questions-
    1. I had heard that during one year there was not a whole lot of singing and more Dom Saulnier reading through his book. Is that the usual form of instruction, or do you remember a lot of singing and actual application of semiological ideas?

    2. Is there any private study, or is it all group?

    3. Do you recall a ballpark figure for meal expenditures? (Its been seven years since I was in Europe.)

    Angela, I'm glad you said something about the mold, which affects me greatly.
  • How lucky you are Mary Ann! I cannot even get my FFSP employers to give me the time off to go to the CMAA Colloquium let alone pay for it! Congratulations!!
  • Thanks, Jeffrey. The only thing I can possibly imagine is that your employers don't think you need any further training, while I still do.

    I will certainly relay to my FSSP employer how much more valuable the Solesmes experience could be for me if you were able to attend, my sincere feelings.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    I think I may do this - and not just to hang out with the Singing Mum.
  • AngelaRAngelaR
    Posts: 309
    MA - unfortunately, I can't give you an estimate for food; even if I had the figure, it would have changed by now because of the exchange rate fluctuation. There were no individual tutorials, and we did a lot of singing together. I don't recall him reading out of his book at all. He went through a little bit of semiology because there were questions about it, but he admitted that a lot of it was guesswork, and emphasized that understanding it doesn't help much with the practical singing. I hope this helps. It seems to me that each session has its own unique flavor, depending on the participants and what he wants to do.
  • MJ- Yes- GO! Consider the wine in the Loire Valley, the abbey, the pastries. And chant weaving throughout it all.
    I will email you presently.
  • Singing Mum,

    When I went, there was no text book reading, yet a good bit of the material was covered. A fair portion of the class time was driven by questions from participants, which got lengthy answers and further discussion. Each participant was asked to prepare and conduct a chant, and Dom Saulnier provided comment and guidance. In preparing these pieces, participants spent time outside class forming scholas and preparing to conduct...and just enjoyed singing together on the banks of the Sarthe river.

    Dom Saulnier's a wealth of knowledge about chant manuscripts, history, and medieval musicology was fascinating. One tidbit I recall was a 9th century manuscript that listed the singers' fees for different chants (the soloist for the Gradual received the most!).
  • Mary Ann, it looks like I'll be sending a few of my students to Solesmes for this workshop so California should be well represented! One of my students is about to make application for the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, and I know that Dom Saulnier is on the teaching staff there. Certainly Mary Berry thought highly of him and her last work just before she died was translating his book. Reading the comments however, I fear that semiology isn't really covered in depth in this workshop at Solesmes, as these students know it quite well. Nevertheless, it will be good for them to breath the Gregorian air there at Solesmes and at Sainte Cecile.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    The prospect of singing with MA, Singing Mum and seeing a place I've heard about all my life were irresistable. I signed up. Now all I have to do is figure out where the heck it is...
  • I will be going (95% sure) and arriving in Paris on Thursday July 16 in the morning (most likely). 3 days in Paris, driving (I suppose) to Solesmes on Monday morning. Anyone else up for the 3 days in Paris?
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Any idea if there are still spots available for this? or how to find out? I tried sending an e-mail to the address listed for Fr. Saulnier, but I have not heard anything back. :(
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    I have no clue. Singing Mum, where are you? We have a question...
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    While I'm no Singing Mum, I'm surprised that incantu hasn't heard back from Dom Saulnier. He was pretty prompt, communicating at

    I'm still waiting to hear from the nuns at the guest house, who carefully telephoned for my email address (in response to my fax) while I was out of town two weeks ago.

    Monastic time may not be the same as mine.

    I'll be arriving in Paris on the16th of July. And since I was last there shortly after the fall of the Bastille, I'm quite excited.
  • Incantu, Dom Saulnier may be busy finishing up the academic year in Rome or somesuch. MJ's comment about monastic time is true.

    The email for him above is functioning, to my knowledge. Best I can say is email him again in a few days, and keep trying. Humble begging usually works, especially with the French. hee hee

    Though the official word is that the course is full, chances are decent that someone is unable to come. I would love to meet you there, and will pray that it works out for you.

    Mary Ann
  • MJ, I still haven't gotten my ticket, waiting on a few variables. We still can talk about housing, so email/ call me if you want. I am thrilled to experience this with the incredibly fun and savvy MJ Ballou. :)

    I am still going, just to be clear.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    Okay, here's a question for women who have done this course at Solesmes. What's the dress code? Other than the usual shoulders covered, no shorts or super short skirts rules. Or should I simply wrap myself in a blanket from the guest house? All guidance appreciated.
  • G
    Posts: 1,397
    You wanna borrow my kurta?

    (Save the Liturgy, save the World)
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    If you are a person of the female persuasion, you can stay at the guest house of Abbaye Ste. Cecile. Sr. Martina advised me by fax that the cost per day is 35 euro. I don't know much more, but if you want the contact information, send me an email.

    A single room at the Grand Hotel in Solesmes runs 83-100 euro/night. I think I'll kip in the guest house and splurge on dinner at the hotel.
  • fp
    Posts: 63
    Solesmes is very sweet village. It has a bakery....and that's about it. The closest grocery store is in Sable (3 to 4 miles where the train station is). The guest house used to have a fully equipped kitchen...double check with the sisters, but it's great as long as you have food to cook!
    The dress code is "normal"!!!! You may even bring your bathing suit to swim in the river Sarthe if the temps go to high! There is an access right next to the "Marbrerie".
    There is very little traffic and it takes less than 5 min walk to go from St Peter(monks) to St Cecile (sisters).
    If you need to stretch your legs, you might consider walking to Notre Dame du Chene, beautiful place of Pilgrimage with very nice church...less than an hour!
    Enjoy your trip!
  • Has anyone made reservations for this program? I have emailed several times and not gotten any response.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Pedro, I'm beginning to fear we missed the boat by not having registered months ago. :(
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    If you're one of the females going to Solesmes in July, I'm happy to report that Ste-Cecile has a website. here And appears that you can eat in a dining room in the monastery reserved for the guests. Maybe we don't have to pack all those cans of tuna fish after all? Of course, I might have read this wrong.

    I found the site thanks to the Schola Saint Maur, who are themselves worthy of your attention.
  • I attended Dom Saulnier's instruction at Solesmes in August 2008. It was a wonderful week. Students are supposed to take a Graduale Triplex. We spent most of the week singing just three chants. He explained the semiology, which was very interesting, and we copied some of the markings. When asked, some of the American students volunteered to conduct a piece- - using, of course, the arsis/thesis we have learned from the classical Solesmes method. They were "encouraged" to forget about arsis/thesis. It would be helpful if you could read a couple of his books before you go: GREGORIAN CHANT: A GUIDE; and perhaps THE GREGORIAN MODES.

    As for accommodations, we women had the choice of living in the quarters near the Marberie or staying in the hotel across the street. Since it has been a few decades since I had slept in a dormer, I opted for the hotel for the entire week. It was pricey- - about $700- 800 for room and board for the week. The food was outstanding, of course, and the room was pleasant (and I didn't have to shop and cook!) Our reservations for the class were arranged through Diane (last name escapes me) but I understand that she is no longer doing that. There was no mention of the guest accommodations at the nuns' residence, which sounds like a pleasant alternative. Neither was there any mention of being able to take meals at the monastery guest quarters.

    Susan Treacy was there the year before. If you are attending the Colloquium, you might want to chat with her.

    All of you who are going, have a wonderful time!

    Elizabeth Poel
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    The nuns' website is apparently quite new and isn't even linked on the main Solesmes' site (which like many French websites is lovely and difficult to navigate).

    I considered the hotel, but after the air fare and the decision to spend a couple of days before and after in Paris, I threw my lot in with the nuns.
  • I am getting so excited about this!!!
    Anyone else?

    And btw, the abbey was founded 1,000 years ago this year! It has not been continuously occupied, war and all that... but how delightful to be entering in to a 1,000 year old enterprise.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 993
    While I'm still sorting out what didn't get done while I was enjoying the Colloquium, I'm beginning to think about Solesmes. And yes, I'm getting excited. All that history, a place of beauty, and music, music, music.

    (Not to mention the opportunity to visit the Camac showroom in Paris.)