I’m back home again… I had such a great weekend in Colorado… I wasn't on my way to a long weekend ski getaway like so many other travelers I shared planes with along the way there. But, I’d say I probably enjoyed my weekend just as much as they did.
Together with my two youngest sisters and a friend of my sister’s from her parish, I was lucky enough to attend the Rocky Mountain Region Sacred Music Workshop in Colorado Springs. The workshop was very well attended, with over one hundred registrants – about eighty of whom were able to sing for the Mass with the bishop presiding on Saturday afternoon.
The first singing session was led by Scott Turkington of the Stamford Schola Gregoriana, who began by introducing the attendees to singing chant with the Kyrie XI (Orbis Factor). The method of introducing the group (many of whom were newcomers to the chant world) to chant by the ‘rote’ method was very effective. By doing this, all were able to hear the simplicity and beauty of the unison chant and also see that they, too, could sing it without being overwhelmed by the difference in the notation.
After the introduction by rote, then Scott dug into explaining the way the notation is written and how to read it. Over the course of the weekend, the attendees learned the basics of understanding the neumes, and several other wonderful chant pieces that were used for the Mass on Saturday. The chants sung included a very nice psalm setting from the Chabanel psalm project online , the Alleluia Proper for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, the Sanctus XI (Orbis Factor), and the Gloria XV. A wonderful setting of a combination of the English translation of the proper Introit – Omnis Terra -- and the Latin Introit (Sung by our two conductors) was also prepared. The two conductors also sang the proper Communion chant, Laetabimur.
Dr. Horst Buchholz, of St. John Vianney Seminary, the Denver Cathedral, and the Denver Philharmonic directed the polyphony for the weekend. We were able to sing some beautiful polyphony (a cappella) and get a sense of some of the possibilities available to us in digging into the Church’s beautiful motets. The pieces we sang for the workshop included: Iubilate Deo (Lassus), All People that On Earth Do Dwell, Agnus Dei: M.L’hora Passa (Viadana), and If Ye Love Me (Tallis). As a postlude, Dr. Buchholz played a wonderful organ selection.
Dr. Horst Buchholz gave a very interesting lecture entitled “Benedict XVI on Music”in which the attendees were given a very clear and thoughtful presentation of Pope Benedict’s writings on Music in the liturgy.
Prior to the Saturday afternoon Mass, a question and answer session was also offered. Many practical questions about the application of what we learned and how to move forward toward liturgical reform were asked and answered.
The acoustics of the cathedral were very nice, perfectly suited to the chant and polyphony music. Those same live acoustics also made it difficult at times to stay precisely in time with each other with such a large group participating and spread out across the space. This was a great learning experience for us all. Most Rev. Michael Sheridan, Bishop of Colorado Springs, was very gracious in his comments about the music during the Mass. The attendees sincerely appreciated the support the diocese of Colorado Springs offered to this project.
The hospitality, organization, schedule, meals and planning by the hosts of the workshop were wonderful. Many wonderful publications and recordings of chant were made available by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods of Colorado Springs. As part of the packet of materials, the attendees each received a copy of the Liber Cantualis, the Jubilate Deo booklet, and a copy of the book, A Gregorian Chant Handbook, by William Tortolano. With these tools, all attendees can continue their path to learning to sing chant after the workshop as well.