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!


James H said...

Sounds exciting. I bet you will find a lot of interest once the word gets out

Scelata said...

Sound excellent, I'm filing it away for when I move in a couple years (shhh!) I think that is the route I am going to go rather than seek a full-time MD position at a parish.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

Tim A. Troutman said...

God bless you in this endeavor. It takes a lot of work. I started one in the diocese of Charlotte early 2007 and after chanting for a while with 10 guys & gals we were forcibly disbanded. Only 3 of us remained faithful though lots of others came and went over the next year or so and today we finally realized our dream of chanting an entire mass joined by several others from a nearby parish.

It was great! So keep up the good work and let me know if I can offer any assistance.

lvschant said...

James, G, Tim... thanks for your comments. As a volunteer and not affiliated with a particular pastor or parish gives a lot of freedom... I'll keep posting on how it goes.

Tim -- glad to hear you were able to chant an entire Mass... hope it is just the first of many! I also added your blog to my list... very nice.

Diane N said...

Wow. Sounds wonderful. But overwhelming at the same time. You are lucky that you have the gift of time and are not tied to the responsibility of a parish and providing its music on a weekly basis. You are free. And for that you are blessed. I brought back so much from that intensive workshop, and the most exciting was to be able to sing with you. Thank you for that wonderful gift. I will keep watching this space to see how you are progressing in the hopes that I will be able to keep up with you. Many of my schola members are so analytical that if I give them the music, we'll never get it off the page, so I think rote is the way to go. Peace to you today.

Diane N said...

Finally had time to go online and read all about this. Wow! Sounds wonderful. But overwhelming at the same time. I brought home so many things from that workshop including the excitement of being able to sing with you. Our schola is small and just beginning as well. We do not have the luxury of time. And a couple of the members are very analytical, which would make the rote method work so much better. I will keep referring to your site in the hopes that as I teach our little schola, perhaps I will follow some of your lead in putting resources into the hands of these members. It is exciting. I fear, however, that we have a challenge ahead of us. Remember what Jeff said,we are a transitional generation. May it please God that we teach it to our children that they may carry the music into the next millenium. God Bless and thank you for your wonderful website. Diane

Mary Jane said...

You are quite possibly the most organized person I know. I'm much less devoted to Solesmes than you, so I can let myself off the hook with marking up everyone's music (and trying to explain it to them). However, I do look for the 2s and 3s myself.

One thing I wish would disappear are the quarter bars. You can tell everyone, including yourself, to ignore them - but there they are.

However, I am going to print out your plans and flog myself with them at least once a month.

And I think I've picked up a singer to replace one who has "faded away," as singers are wont to do.

BTW, do you find the Utrecht group recordings quite slow?

lvschant said...

Diane... thanks for stopping by. It was such fun singing with you at the workshop this summer, too. I wish you much success with your schola. I also had one very analytical guy in my last schola who would often question me when I would make pronouncements about pronunciation, interpretation of neumes, etc. It kept me on my toes and inspired me to try to learn more... so it can be a very good thing.

Plus... it may get them to do more learning on their own. Those detail-minded folks can turn out to be great assets to the group.

Mary Anne,

I'm not so organized... I need lists to keep on track. As for the Solesmes method... it is really the only one I've had any training in so far :)

I did find the Utrecht recordings very slow. I am wondering how on earth that lady can sing such a long phrase. Also, the voice sound is very unusual. We did find it helpful, though, in the early days when we really weren't sure how to interpret the various neumes. Once I had more of an idea, I began making my own recordings of the pieces we were planning to sing. I could more or less sing them exactly as we would be singing them, so it was more helpful to us as a practice tool.