Friday, July 25, 2008

Ft. Worth Schola Gregoriana?

Well, no doubt my few readers will be wondering just how auspicious a beginning our new schola has made... I am happy to say the first meeting was a great success. Now, I must tell you that we didn't have the full contingent of six of us that I was hoping for. In fact, four either had second thoughts about the amount of time commitment (good to have that out of the way) and two others had conflicts. So... you can tell by simple arithmetic that we started out last night with two! We had a wonderful and very productive evening, with excellent progress on singing the Kyrie Orbis Factor and going through the entire list of things I had planned. We joked about being the "anonymous two".

I must say that, although there were only the two of us, the sound was really quite nice... my first new schola member has a lovely voice with a very large range. She has a great deal of enthusiasm and many contacts for the area. She is already planning our first sung Mass and has a particular local priest in mind (he is dubbed the singing priest, apparently due to the fact that he often sings portions of the Mass already!).
I can't help thinking of the difference in the beginning here versus our startup in Shreveport. When we began in Shreveport, I had none of the knowledge about chant notation, propers, ordinaries, Solesmes, modes, chironomy, solfege... This startup is going to go so much more quickly and effectively (I hope). Because of my newness to the area, I don't know as many people, so the numbers we are starting with here are smaller. There will be so much less stumbling around trying to figure things out this time around that I think we'll be ready to sing in a relatively short period of time.

I have been ruminating about names for our schola and have thought that the name Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana has a very dignified and substantial sound to it... any comments?

I am still continuing to work on recruiting more... it would be a great blessing to have more voices like my first new recruit... Our family also going to Mass at a smaller parish west of our home this weekend. Perhaps more victims (er, make that potential chant singers) are waiting there!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A New Schola

After trying the limited amount of networking I have had available to me, it has become obvious that what I was seeking in terms of a schola was not (at least not easily) to be found here. Keeping in mind that I cannot count on many years of time available to do things in any one place, I have been thinking I need to get started -- and now!

So... I first began by talking to every Catholic I met about the possibility of a schola to sing Gregorian chant. I found one potential member at Steve Ray's talk... then I put the word out to the local Catholic homeschooling group (and found four more there). Then, last night I think I have found another -- a wife of a man who works with my husband. That puts me up to 7 (including me) potential members.

Now I'm in the process of scheduling our first meeting/rehearsal. That puts me in the planning mode. It is a little difficult to decide the best way to start our fledgling group on the road to chant notation reading and singing. This is what I have come up with so far in terms of music we'll start with and reading resources:

1. Copies of "An Idiot's Guide to Square Notes", Arlene Oost-Zinner and Jeffrey Tucker
2. Lesson 1 of Learning Solfege from the Textbook of Gregorian Chant by Dom Sunol
3. Kyrie XI, Orbis Factor -- marked with all ictus markings and groups of three circled.
4. Gloria VIII, de Angelis -- marked in advance
5. Cheat sheet with names and descriptions of neumes from the book A Gregorian Chant Master Class by Ted Maurier and Scott Turkington
6. A CD with recorded chants I plan to work on for the next month or so. This will include a complete set of Mass ordinaries and several chant hymns suitable for use during ordinary time, as well as several Marian hymns.
7. Online links to information about documents regarding Sacred Music and the use of Gregorian chant in the liturgy.
8. Links to online resources for music and interpretations.
9. Would it be too soon to include membership applications for CMAA???

I am toying with the idea of also printing out the online Jubilate Deo for each person, although I may simply give them the link and let them decide for themselves if they would like to have it.

My plan for the first meeting will be to first talk about why it is so important to pass on the knowledge of how to sing chant and give some documentation about its desirability for use in the liturgy -- both Novus Ordo and Extraordinary forms of the Mass especially.

Next I plan to do a little warmup of the voices with standard vocalization drills as well as some 'Ward-method' type vowel 'noo' singing and pitch-matching.

Thirdly, we'll work on singing the Kyrie Orbis Factor learning it by rote. This is a method used by Scott Turkington in his workshops and is very effective in making the chant seem less formidable. Once we have it mastered (or least nearly so), then we'll open up the music and look at the chant notation, discussing the various neumes used in that chant.

Next, I'll go through a quick description of the theory of solfege, using a simple lesson from the book listed above.

Finally, we'll sing the Kyrie Orbis Factor all the way through to get it thoroughly in our heads and talk about the other resources I'll be sending home.

If time permits, I think I'll also show them the Parish Book of Chant, with the plan of moving to using that as a primary resource over time. Initially, I'll be making copies so that all the music is fully marked with rests and icti.

This is certainly different than the way our little schola in Shreveport began... with none of us knowing how to read the notation or anything about names of neumes or rhythmic markings, etc. I hope it is also better... but we shall see!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Steve Ray visits Ft. Worth

Yesterday afternoon the boys and I attended a short talk given by author Steve Ray. The talk was about teaching your children to love their Faith. The boys truly enjoyed his way of talking about raising children to love God. He sprinkled his talk with many anecdotes about his own family and illustrating his points with actual occurrences. I was impressed with his excitement about being a Catholic and his positive encouragement for us all to live our faith daily.

We left with one of his books, a DVD and a CD. I also plan to check out his website regarding his trips to the Holy Land, including his cruise tour of the journeys of St. Paul. I think my parents would really enjoy such a trip... Steve and his wife, Janet, are both licensed tour guides in Israel.

I've already begun reading his book Crossing the Tiber. It is wonderfully documented and very compelling. I think it would be great reading for anyone who is interested in why (how) a good evangelical could possibly consider becoming a Roman Catholic. It has big value in giving a level of understanding of the logic, as well as a fair analysis (and refutation of the underlying assumptions) of the typical prejudices taught in many protestant denominations. For a Catholic, I think it offers great information for apologetic occasions... I sometimes find myself at a loss to know just how to approach a discussion with a non-Catholic about faith and religion. I feel the need to share the truth with them, but would like to do it in a way that may actually do some good, rather than just give me a feeling of having 'been right'. To me, the goal isn't winning the argument so much as helping them to find their way home to the Church if at all possible.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chicago's Grant Park Music in the Park, June 14th

I have been meaning to write about the wonderful concert I was able to attend with my sister and brother-in-law while in Chicago. After the completion of Chant Intensive, I spent a little time visiting my sis and her husband before departing. After a nice morning spent doing a little pool-cleaning, a little shopping, and a lot of talking, we made the trek in to the city for the Saturday evening Grant Park Music Festival Concert of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. It was performed by the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus, with four soloists, as well.

Having spent the week singing Latin Mass parts in chant, hearing them in this wonderful Beethoven concert was an amazing end to the week. My sister and her husband, who are Baptist, weren't really all that familiar with the parts of the Mass. I helped them find the words and translations in the programs so that they would understand a bit of what was being said...

I found the Credo particularly nice... and emotionally moving. When thinking of the words of the Creed and listening to Beethoven's musical interpretation of them... I find myself lacking the words to describe it appropriately.

The park is lovely... we were there early and had all the necessary accoutrements (folding chairs, table, wine, cheese, fruit... ). It was also fun to walk around the park and see the water feature where all the kids were playing beneath the fountains. The changing faces sculpture thing was very cool.

Quilting... not quitting

I've been silent, but not idle... Since moving into our new digs, I've found myself not blogging as frequently as before for a few reasons. One reason is the less-convenient location of the computer... upstairs and out of sight. Another reason is the fact that I have been working on several projects related to the new home.

The picture at the right shows my latest project, new patchwork quilts for the boys' room. I began working on these quilts about 8 years ago, when my youngest son was very small. At that time, I had to abandon the project, finding it impossible to quilt with little ones underfoot. Now that they are older (and even somewhat interested in the project), I am finding it possible to revisit the project. As you can see, I have finished the quilt tops. I now need to put them together and do all the hand-quilting (on the quilting hoop I have from my great grandmother on my father's side).

I've also made curtains for the dining room and kitchen here in the new home...

You'll be happy to know that I have (in between projects and on quick rests during) been practicing my chironomy on various chants from the Parish Book of Chant. So, my chant directing skills are, hopefully, continuing to improve.