Last night at chant practice, one of the members of the schola asked a question that resounded among the schola members... she asked "Why do we mark ictus locations? What value does this have for us?". Obviously, she and others in the schola were not finding them particularly useful to them in singing the chants. It made me stop and think about it.
It shows that I have not been effective in convincing them of their usefulness. I find them immensely helpful in my directing and in learning new chants and in keeping the rhythm flowing properly. I am afraid that my answer was not completely persuasive.
I, of course, mentioned how useful they are to me in directing (which they could all see), but they were unconvinced that those pesky little marks had anything to offer them, as singers. I then tried the tack of telling them it would help them understand my directing since my hands move in time with the rhythmic markings... that still left them cold. I've spoken in the past about how the groupings help get the feel of the piece (still not making contact). I sang an example of a sort of monotone - every note getting the same exact rhythm without the groupings and then with the groupings... (apparently, my example wasn't dramatic enough).
Back when we first learned the rudiments of ictus marking in Shreveport, I can recall how upset and bored this exercise made some of the schola there. An irritated sort of unhappy attitude developed among some of the group at that time. They felt that it was a complete waste of precious time to go over rhythmic groupings with the entire group. I couldn't completely understand why they found it so annoying then (even though I really didn't yet even know all the rules to properly mark them)... and I find myself surprised again by this here.
I guess I need more information -- a better way of explaining their value to new chant singers. I can see that my feeble defenses aren't working yet. It is time to pull out my books and relearn that part again. Perhaps it is exposing a weakness of mine... I really didn't quite question the technique all that much... I just wanted to learn how to do it. The frustrating thing for me initially was that I didn't know what the rules were. Once I learned them at Chant Intensive, it made a big difference to me. I never really questioned their intrinsic usefulness.
I need to be a bit more considerate of my schola... I'll be doing more of the marking of music in advance in the future... taking less group time for this activity. We have come along so very quickly in such a short time. I think I might be working them too hard. Time to back off and give some time to relax and enjoy.
We worked on several things last night at chant practice:
Introit: Veni adoremus (5th Sunday of Ordinary Time)
Communion (ad libitum): Qui manducat
Jesu Dulcis (review)
Ave Maris Stella (new)
Pange Lingua (new)
They all picked up the two new pieces very quickly. Ave Maris Stella will be a new favorite, I believe. I'm now looking at plans for Lent and Holy Week. There is so much wonderful music that could be done, that I have a tendency to be a bit too ambitious. I'm going to try to keep it very simple so that we have plenty of time to learn well what we will sing in the next couple of months.