DC area chapter meeting
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    Real-time: Elizabeth Poel gave an excellent explanation and demonstration on the Ward Method, ably assisted by her grandson Christian.

    David Lang is our gracious host, and Mia Coyne has organized a dozen of us together.

    Now David Sullivan is presenting Dom Jacques Hourlier's Reflections on the Spirituality of Gregorian chant. We're on chapter 2--to which I now return.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    4 of us drove tegether to the meeting in pouring rain. We had a nice discussion on the way back. One of my schola member said Ward method demo was an eye opening for him because he never had this kind of music class in school. He was also amazed at how the method incorporates the whole body and intellect to learn music. The 7 year old student, Christian, truly amazed us. He is learning music =beauty, not music = just entertainment, while he is having fun.
    I was told that David Lang's parish school teaches Ward method, and the children are learning sacred music. The pastor, music director and the music teacher are working together for this goal.

    The following is the point of each chapter we discussed together. It was so nice to hear different experiences in singing chants. The homeschooling parents who came to the meeting were also very impressed with the significance of the chant in our Liturgy.

    Reflections on the Spirituality of Gregorian Chant
    CMAA Washington-Baltimore Chapter
    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Chapter 1: A Survey
    Singing, as you know, implies the willingness to listen: in choir, we need to listen to our neighbors, and we must pay constant and careful attention to the melody itself. Here you stress the need to practice discretion, which presupposes humility. (15)

    Chapter 2: Sacred Chant
    Gregorian chant is sacred because of its role in the liturgy and divine office. It was made for the temple of God; that is its ultimate destination, its destiny….It always aims, sometimes indirectly, most often directly, at praising the Lord. (20)

    Chapter 3: Liturgical Chant
    Thus, the chant is not merely a decorative garment, haphazardly tacked on to the text for better or for worse…In brief: “It is not a question of adding music to the words, or even of setting words to music…Instead it is a question of making the words bring forth the music they already contain…” (27)

    Chapter 4: The Musical Aspect of Gregorian Chant
    More than any other type of music—and better, perhaps, than any other monophonic musical form—it seems to be aiming at something, or driving towards something. In its progression, it never pauses to savor the “present moment” (in contrast to vertical types of music). (39)

    Chapter 5: The Philosophical Dimension of Gregorian Chant
    It [true art] reveals something of God’s beauty, because man is created in the image and likeness of God. It opens the way into the realm of mystery, not only because it opens the soul to invisible and inexpressibly mysteries, but because it renders these somehow tangible. (53-4)

    Chapter 6: Music and Spirituality
    As for spiritual music, it transcends the lower levels of being and deepens our spiritual self. And, in time, it tends to fade discreetly into the background, leaving the soul in “the heart of the most profound Silence.” (63)

    Chapter 7: The Spirituality of the Liturgy
    Participation in the external rites and in the song of the liturgy is not meant to be an end in itself, to be achieved at all costs, but rather to bring the faithful to communion with the great invisible realities of Christianity, or to give an authentic expression to that communion. (72)
  • JennyJenny
    Posts: 147
    Sounds like you all had a wonderful time. I'm sorry I missed it but my baby (!) turned 9 today and a mom just can't miss that party!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    Jenny, I'm glad you said something--I definitely missed you!

    I've thought many times in the past day about various points that were raised in the spirituality discussion. I think a discussion like this would be a terrific breakout session at Colloquium, esp. during that privileged week of prayer and chant.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Thanks Jenny for posting. I hope you had a wonderful day with your boy and the family. And I hope everything went well with your schola singing yesterday. I saw the announcement in the "Catholic Review" paper. I went to EF Mass where Richard Rice directs the schola. The Introit "Laetare Jerusalem" was such a beautiful and joyful yet so peaceful chant, I couldn't stop my tears coming down as I listended. It lifts your spirit and hits your heart to remind that true joy comes from knowing that God is with you. (The spiritual uplifting of Gregorian chants cannot be compared to any other music as far as I know.)

    Steve, who is an artist and so drawn to the beauty of chant, sent me the following email, which expresses so well his expereience that wanted share it with others. (He is coming to Colloquium this year. He was so happy yesterday that he finally sold his sound system that can pay, at least part of his tuition, for the Colloquium. He is very very excited about the Colloquium.)

    "Thank you Mia for organizing this opportunity to gather and to share. It was filled with many surprises and gifts. Perhaps it is exactly in times set aside like this that mystagogical catechesis suddenly appears and happens! I believe it did. The other cause I appreciate is solidarity in faith. Coming away to a mountain with others to be strengthened (and more delicious is it that one doesn't necessarily know such is coming!) Praise our God of delightful surprise.

    St. John the Beloved is like a mountain place, where so many caring attentions are being focused on cultivating beautiful worship. They are like a beacon light for parishes.

    I was most affected by the tender rapport between Ms. Poel and her grandson. I hope God will bless them abundantly for the generous gift they gave us all, sharing the intimacy of that dance. It becomes more overwhelming the more I ponder it...

    The Ward method was a revelation. I had never witnessed a process like that, one that coordinates as many and different cognitive and motor functions, while at the same time being an engagement of love and delight.

    I loved those words she shared from Father Shields about how it is not reading and writing and 'rithmatic that develops the young person, it is the arts. [But I am biased a bit ; ) ] The tenderness of this method unveils the presence of beauty already (of course!) walking with Life, with the climb of life. What could be greater? What is indeed greater?

    Father Henri-Dominique Lacordaire said "Beauty is the creator of love" (see Magnificat meditation excerpt Sunday 24 January 2010). Amen.

    David Sullivan's generosity, in his willingness to create discussion rather than lecture, I will not forget either. He is a person who, as soon as you meet him, can see how deeply chant has blessed his countenance and whole carriage. We talked briefly and agreed that this is what chant does. It is transformative and opens spiritual doors that can't be otherwise seen.

    Many happy sharings in the car too.

    praising God for rich blessings, may we bear Him abundant fruit for having received them. Amen.

  • What's really needed in the Baltimore/Washington area are ongoing, public classes in singing chant at the 'advanced beginner' and 'beginning intermediate level'.
    There are currently parish scholae which do a great deal of teaching--primarily through Mia Coyne's work. They are largely limited to their own parish population and area.
    There are currently parish scholae which sing the Gregorian propers. They do not provide a way for beginners to get involved.

    We need an ongoing commitment to teaching the chant that takes responsibility for bringing singers from the stage of initial interest through to being able to 'apprentice' with scholae that sing the full propers. Workshops are great for lending enthusiasm and expert insights to this process, BUT THEY DO NOT ADDRESS the larger-scale question.
    There are people willing and able to do this work, but no appropriate institutions or venues yet willing to support and sponsor it.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    I've often thought we need something like Pueri Cantores, for all ages, and with a more limited repertoire.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Daniel, you are right. I talked David Lang birefly about having another workshop of learning and singing propers and having Mass. And it will be wonderful we can make it more regular and expands of having classes. That would be WONDERFUL. (I'm sending emails to chapter members and get some more ideas.) Thanks.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Kathy, I'd LOVE to have all the children's scholae in this area get together have something like 'Chant Festival." (although singing chants outside liturgy might be awkward?)

    We could assign each participating group to sing a different proper, and everyone learn to sing Ordinary parts?
  • Well, I'm on record as being willing to do everything within my power and ability to make something like this happen.
    I'm about 90% certain that I can make available a central Baltimore venue with easy, free parking.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    The problem with kids is transportation and supervision...
  • The question of creating activities for kids is extremely difficult (as well as rewarding).
    I was speaking most directly about some sort of chant school in Baltimore.
    For anything with children, we would need to work through parish/diocesan structures so as to conform to and be supported by their processes for maintaining safe environments.
    I would be more interested in something that looked more like Cantores in Ecclesiae (Portland), but with an openness to both EF and OF liturgies.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Daniel, you are on. What do you need to start? How can we help?
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Well. For the children's schola, how about each gruop work on in their area with their own director and get together for final rehearsal on the last day? I think Pueri Cantores does something like that. We can pick one of the big Feast day, a parish for the Mass and the director for the entire gruop. We will be following that director's interperetation of the chants, whoever is.

    It might be a good project for summer chant week for children that I always wanted to do. So we don't have to get together until the last rehearsal. But the director of each gruop shuold be coordinating the details? Wherever we meet, the parents have to drive, of course with some carpooling. I think I can ask some of the parents to be in charge of the carpooling.
  • Let's chat offline.
  • I second what Daniel said. When I moved to this area, one of the many difficult things was having no way to continue singing and learning chant. The parish's closest to us were/are deep into OCP type music and distance was an issue to any parish I that could find that seemed to have any links to chant and or polyphony. Workshops or the colloqium are wonderful, but when you don't have anyway in between to learn, you stay a perpetual beginner.

    I would definitely be interested in classes to learn the propers and to develp and since my geographical parish just began offering an EF mass, that would be perfect. It would just need to be somewhat closer than Baltimore- somewhere in Montgomery would be great.
  • Ah, yes. The problem of two large archdioceses both desperately needing this kind of offering: Washington because of complete indifference at the archdiocesan level, Baltimore because of complete hostility at the archdiocesan level.
  • Many thanks to all of you for being such a receptive audience for the Ward Method demo in McLean on March 13, and for your compliments and encouragement. Mega-thanks to Mia Coyne for organizing the chapter meeting; David Lang for hosting it and for all his help in making necessary equipment available; and to David Sullivan for leading a fruitful book discussion. I am sure you will agree that all three are very generous people! I think little Christian enjoyed himself, too. (He had never been "solo" in front of a crowd of adults before and I was a bit wary about how he would be- -and wondering if I would have to implement "Plan B" using you adults as students!) I forgot one part of the lesson: having the student sing the "nu" vowel on various pitches to check pitch but also to extend the vocal range. (Instructor Nancy Fazio would have strong words for me for omitting that!)

    RE comments by Daniel Bennett Page: Following the first workshop in McLean in October 2007, I realized that a chant school in the diocese would be a worthy effort to fill that very need of continuing education in progressing beyond the beginner level. I spoke with a liturgically- and musically-literate priest about it (who is also "politically" astute). He named two essentials: a place and money to do it. Here In the diocese of Arlington, as well as other dioceses, one would need the support of the bishop in order to have a program at the diocesan level. I doubt that we would get the support here right now, thus a program would probably have to be done through supportive parishes. I have not thought how to implement that. But chapter programs, similar to the one in McLean last November 21, are perhaps an idea to build on. However, this involves driving some distance for some people, usually, for the meetings. Getting chant into the parishes via the parish schola should be a goal, and the propers can be worked on there. A chant workshop at the local level for parishioners might well stimulate interest in forming (or expanding) a schola at the local level- - for either form of the Mass.
  • A very enjoyable afternoon on Saturday. The Ward lesson struck me as using an approach that Dr Marier and others used in advanced courses--small amounts of various topics to keep things interesting and progressing. Something on rhythm, pitch exercises, modes, psalm tones, Latin diction, etc. Even Marier's colloquium book is organized this way. Not an accident, I'm sure.

    The chant school idea sounds good, I'd be interested in helping. I made a big move forward in chant when I answered Lois Kane's advertisement for a 6-8 week summer course at St Ambrose. I'm a little unclear about Daniel's and Mia's exchange--are you talking about a school for children, adults, or both?

    Kathy, thanks for starting this dicussion--I wondered who you were texting on that little gadget during the meeting!
  • Adults, definitely. Children, possibly.
    The sad part is the issue Elizabeth mentions: the utter lack of understanding of the importance of this music by the dioceses in this area.
    In Baltimore, there's not even a conveniently located parish with decent facilities and parking willing to partner with such a venture.
    If we wait for the dioceses, the natural human life expectancy will overtake us all!
    Fortunately, the pursuit of holiness does not depend on ecclesiastical bureaucrats!
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500

  • JennyJenny
    Posts: 147
    I have been wanting to do some beginning teaching on chant for some while now. I gather a small group of singers for the EF Masses we have been doing, but we are so busy learning the music that there isn't much time for teaching. Plus, most of the folks in the group are good singers but not necessarily interested in (or have time to devote to) learning more, esp. in terms of liturgy, documents etc. But I know there are other folks who are (but not necessarily great singers.)

    After attending the McLean conference in 2008, I thought about arranging something similar at one of the parishes I go to (either Westminster or Manchester). My fear was that, even if I could convince one of the pastors that this was a good thing, I wasn't sure I could get anyone to come. Now, it might be a bit better. The Music Director at the larger parish has been the organist for us at the EF Masses and really seems interested in it but there is no sacred music to speak of at any of the regular Masses at either of these parishes. We do have parking and a parish hall, though. ;)

    Westminster is rather too far for any folks in the DC/NoVa area but not so bad a drive from Baltimore city/county or Frederick. (hmmm... there's a small group that sings sometimes in Hanover, PA. Not too far for them either.)

    Sound ridiculous? Possible? Mia or Daniel?
  • I can't commit to more regularly traveling outside the immediate Baltimore area than I already am: 3-4 rehearsals and 2 Masses each month in York (through June: unknown after that), at least once a month to DC, and at least once (ideally 4 times!) to Alexandria (prayer group) each month. However, that shouldn't restrict any other plans or aspirations. Also, the minute I am able to professionally, I'll be gone from Baltimore, so it would be wrong for me to be anything close to the centerpost of a multi-year plan.
  • miacoyne
    Posts: 1,805
    Jenny, it seems the distance is a big barrier. Maybe you can get a class started there and have them sing with your advanced schola when they are ready , probably they can start with Ordinary parts. And eventually we can get together with Baltimore area gruop, if Daniel can start a schola class/school here?
    I started a chant class with 4 people two years ago. I got a permission to use the room and put announcement in the church bulletin. I also made flyers and left them whereever possible even in other parishes. These days I made sort of like business cards for the chant class, and it became very handy to give to people when I have a chance. It sounds like it's a good time to start a regular schola there.
    my 2 cents.
  • Marier's chant practicum book IS Ward method. Towards the back of the book you will find a method for studying the chant: understand what the words mean; work out the rhythm and the chironomy; say the solfege; sing the solfege; sing the chant w/Latin words.

    Many Ward songs are wordless; if so, we skip the first one above. We "tap" the rhythm (and do some rhythmic dictation, writing "strokes and dots") and add measure bars (none in chant, o'course!) and add the "rhythm wave" (chironomy). Then we say the solfege; sing the solfege; sing the song (if it has words)- - if not, we sing the wordless song while conducting. Justine didn't miss a thing! Learning a chant this way is easy and effective; of course you need to know solfege- -but it is easy to learn.