Sacred Music 101


I’m very partial to Gregorian Chant. I could listen to recordings by Scholas for hours and never tire. But it’s not just a matter of personal taste. The Church’s teachings are very clear that all the faithful should be familiar with at least some basic Gregorian Chant, as suggested by the Jubilate Deo booklet that was published in 1974 under Paul VI. And within the Church’s liturgy chant must have a prominent and permanent place.

If you have any part in music ministry and have the time, the Summer Music Colloquim (click on banner above) is a wonderful way to learn, practice and enhance your knowledge of chant. The Colloquium brings chant to life. It’s not only for monasteries and convents. It should be everywhere in our Universal Church.

But that’s the hardest part of teaching chant. The main reaction is that it’s out-of-date and unusable.

Hattip to Amy Welborn pointing out the link to the awesome article in this month’s Crisis Magazine entitled An Idiot’s Guide to Square Notes by Arlene Oost-Zinner and Jeffrey Tucker. This will give you a taste of reading the little “neumes”.

If you need some chant help from the Web, this Gregorian Schola has some wonderful links and resources.

Years ago I attended my first Summer Music Colloquium. Although my mother and I were not as experienced musicians as many in the group, the session was extremely uplifting, inspiring and educational….and fun. The next year I attended the Colloquium and took Book 1 and Book 4 of the Ward Method at Catholic University.

I taught young children through this method and it’s fabulous. Now that I have my own little one, I’m trying to implement some of the method in our home.

Most of what I do now with my 2 1/2 year old is sing some simple chant phrase to him — and he repeats it back to me in a response, matching pitch and tone and rhythm. Many times it’s just a simple two note phrase, with words like “It’s time for dinner, come to the table.” and he’ll respond “Okay, Mommy” with the last note going down. This was one of the exercises from the class, such as throwing a ball to a child, singing a phrase like “I throw the ball” and the child sings back, while catching the ball, “I catch it” repeating the melody pattern.

But I also incorporate the simple chant from the Mass parts and the Litany of the Saints in our prayer time. Ambrose loves it. We pray to our patron saints, such as “St. Joseph” and he sings “Pray for us.” He likes to sing “A-men” when I sing the sign of the Cross.

His favorite is when we attend Mass and the priest chants the parts. His day is made if he hears: “The Mass is ended go in peace” and he belts out “Thanks be to God.” I will hear that coming from his bedroom as he’s settling down for bed.

Gregorian Chant is part of the living tradition of the Church. I’m just doing baby steps, but trying to find ways to live and breathe the chant in our home.

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