Monday, September 29, 2008

More chanting

On this, our third time to practice at the central location, our group was uncomfortably cozy in our little space. We had 5 new faces there this evening, although we were missing two of our regulars. After rehearsal, we met up briefly with the pastor outside while we were chit-chatting. He said we can use the church if we have outgrown our space... so maybe next week, we'll rehearse in the church itself. It will have a much better sound, I am sure, so I'm looking forward to it.

Of the five more Parish Book of Chant copies I have ordered, three are already spoken for... Since we have had new folks each time, I have found myself covering the same ground each week in some ways. I don't want the newcomers to feel lost about understanding the notation, etc., so I rehash the basics each time.

Next week, we begin work on solfege in earnest. I'm planning to bring some practice sheets and will begin our session with some of that. We are still working on the ordinaries for the Mass.

We will work toward being ready to sing at Mass beginning in Advent. There are so many wonderful chant hymns for the season. It will be very nice.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Chant news...

Many possibilities may come for our schola in the months to come. I think there may be broader appeal among the parishes in the diocese than I had originally thought. Today I had the opportunity to speak with the music director of one of the local parishes (who also has a blog). We have talked about a sort of collaboration. His choir has interest in learning more about chant, especially the nuts and bolts of reading the notation and learning more about singing it. Since they are already doing polyphony and are mostly strong note-readers, I am guessing the learning process will go more quickly. We have scheduled an initial mini-workshop for October, when I’ll give them a quick course in singing the chant, as always following Scott Turkington’s lead in the methodology.

I see a great opportunity in the diocese to gradually let more and more parts of the liturgy include Gregorian chant. Whether it is by having the schola sing the communion proper each week so that the parishioners get used to the sound of the chant, or by gradually teaching them chanted ordinaries, I think this growing interest will be shared by the parishioners as they learn more about it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Trip out west...

We returned last night fairly late from a trip out to New Mexico and Colorado. My dear husband had a work trip he had to make to Denver, so we decided to make a family trip out of it. I have two sisters who live in the Denver area, and we have both sets of parents in New Mexico, as long as a brother in law and family.

Over the course of ten days, we were able to see all of them, along with assorted in laws and nieces and nephews, to the great satisfaction of our boys. We visited the Natural History Museum in Denver (which has sparked a huge interest in rocks and minerals, as well as feeding the interest in dinosaurs). We also visited the Denver mint, where we saw how the coins are made there. It so happened that we also got to hear a Medal of Honor winner, Drew Dix, speak at the middle school where one of my nephews is a student. I really enjoyed the entire event and was very pleased to see the emphasis on patriotism and the feeling of gratitude being taught to those students toward our military men and women.

It was a pretty long drive, but we got a lot of visiting family done in a pretty short time... it was a great trip.

Our Schola is growing...

As of this evening, I am in need of more Parish Book of Chant books. Yes... our group has grown again. With four new people in attendance this evening, I am down to just one (or possibly two) books left from my stock purchased this summer. We are still taking baby steps, working on understanding the notation, learning the rudiments of solfege, and working on ordinaries of the Mass. The group is very enthusiastic and I think we will continue to grow over the next few months. This is a great stage for newcomers, since we are all working on basics now. If, over time, I can see that we continually have newcomers who need to learn beginning stuff, I may have to make arrangements for a short course for those folks separate from the regular schola practice in order to allow us to progress past the ordinaries.

We ended our rehearsal by praying the Ave Maria (in Latin, of course).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

C.S. Lewis' Book, The Great Divorce

Whilst picking up the Military History Quarterly for my dear husband, I chanced upon a book I have been wanting to read for some time -- The Great Divorce, by C.S. Lewis. I read it yesterday in between kids' school subjects. I found it very thought-provoking -- because it is a work of fiction, the underlying theological ideas were woven into the various characters, their actions and words... It was a quick read, yet one that left me thinking about it and the various ideas it held.

I have to wonder how this idea of how a vision of heaven and hell could be (in the book) compares with the vision granted the children of Fatima. This book, along with The Screwtape Letters, really does give another way of looking at sin, forgiveness, love, how someone could choose hell over heaven, how one could be happy in heaven even if a loved-one chooses hell...

I liked the book very much and think I'll read this one again...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana Update

As of this evening, our group can no longer be called the Anonymous Two. At our first rehearsal at the new location, we had a total of seven of us there this evening. Several have some experience in singing the Jubilate Deo chants for Mass, and all seemed very enthusiastic. I thought it was a great beginning...

We started out with some basic solfege and warm-ups, followed by the Kyrie XI, taught without music first. After we had the basic melody down pretty well, we sat down and looked over the notation. I was able to give a short lesson in neume-reading and square-note theory. We also went over the Sanctus XVIII and Agnus Dei XVIII, which were at least somewhat familiar to all.

Much discussion about the plans for the group and possibilities for the future took place along the way. Members of the growing schola are all thinking of others they want to invite to join us... we may end up with a larger group yet before long. I had brought along several copies of the Parish Book of Chant -- four of them wanted to buy their own copies this evening... I hope I run completely out and need to order another ten!

We talked about how our little group differs from what else is already out there... I think we have a niche here that we can help to fill in the diocese. Currently, at the cathedral, they do a pretty nice job of singing the same Sanctus and Agnus Dei from setting XVIII. They have also (from what I have heard) done other chant pieces from time to time with the regular choir. The local EF Mass schola does a lovely job of singing for the high Mass every 2nd and 4th Sunday here. The members seem to be very experienced and have a really nice sound.

The thing that I think is different about our little group is our focus on bringing chant to a Novus Ordo Mass. Also, the focus of our group is going to be more toward an ever-expanding role of chant in the liturgy, rather than the mixture of music types that is typically found with a traditional choir. With any luck, I'll have a few members who run with this and work to learn the notation well enough to be future Chant Intensive attendees... things are looking up in Ft. Worth.

I also have a meeting with another pastor, and a couple of the music directors for that parish this week... I hope to get permission to place my advertising flyers in the parish for our little schola and also to open the door for the possibility of singing there with our little group later on as our skills progress.