Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gregorian Chant Conference in the Diocese of Baker

The Diocese of Baker hosted a Gregorian Chant Conference recently (August 15-17), which, by all accounts, was a rousing success! (I think that the vast majority of the participants were from outside the diocese, but no matter: success is success, and maybe next year’s conference will be better-advertised in the Baker Diocese.)


The Catholic Sentinel ran an article about the conference, noting that:

Portland’s Schola Cantus Angelorum led the gathering, which was sponsored by the Diocese of Baker and the diocesan association of Mother Mary's Daughters.

… Masses celebrated during the conference were in the form of the Missa Cantata, with all the parts of the Mass sung in Gregorian chant…

Four lectures on chant were given by Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre [who leads the Schola Cantus Angelorum]. The lectures covered what Dr. Bissonnette-Pitre called the "intelligent design" of the ancient music and its relationship with the liturgy. The lectures covered the origin and development of Gregorian chant, including the church and papal documents. [See the full article here]

The event was well-photographed by Marc Salvatore, who has kindly allowed me to use his photos in this post. Please visit this website to see the entire collection; photos are available for purchase there, as well. 

My friend Barbara Etter attended the conference, and kindly provided me with this report of her experience:

 Bishop Liam Cary celebrated Mass at
the conference
What more beautiful day and way to begin the Gregorian Chant Conference than on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a Mass, and having our Bishop Liam Cary as principle celebrant?  We were off to a very good start. Of course, nothing of this nature could begin without prayer, so Friday began with a 7:30AM breakfast followed by Morning Prayer, the Rosary, and the Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart.

Then began the real learning process, with the first lecture presented by Dr. Lynne Bissonnette on “What is Gregorian Chant: Its Origins, and How It is Processed by the BrainIf someone didn’t know before, it was made very clear what chant is: beautiful, wave-like melody produced by the human voice.  It is meant to be sung a cappella (unaccompanied by instruments).  The document of the Second Vatican Council Sacrosanctum Concilium states that Gregorian chant should have pride of place in the Liturgy of the Catholic Church.  It was interesting to note that modern music sprang from Gregorian chant---the Solfege method using DO-RE-MI-FA-SOL-LA-TI-DO. Dr. Bissonnette also presented a lecture entitled “The Form and Function of Gregorian Chant – Intrinsic to the Sung Roman Mass”.  

For the “hands-on” learning, the chant was demonstrated in the first workshop with Yumiko Rinta.  The use of square notes on a four line staff was clearly explained.  We were taught about the usage of the DO clef and the FA clef and the Solfege naming of the lines and spaces on the four line staff. There is only one note that is flatted in chant; TI becomes TE. There is only one basic square note called the punctum that receives one beat; a dotted punctum receives two beats.  There are basic nuems such as the podatus, clivis, scandicus, tristropha, etc.. which are combinations of two or three notes, and special nuems such as the liquescent, pressus, quilisma, etc.   There are no ‘rests’ in chant, but breathing is determined by bar lines: quarter bar, half bar, full bar, and double bar. 

Then came the hard part: the eight modes. However, we did not go into those very deeply.  It was time to move on to a pronunciation on vowels, diphthongs, and consonants. A very helpful hand-out packet was given to help us and as a reminder of all that we learned.   This workshop made it clear that Gregorian chant is much easier to sing than music in modern notation.

After dinner and Vespers, another workshop was taught by Fr. Daniel Maxwell; he covered the formulas for chanting the Old and New Testament readings.  Concurrent with this workshop, the priests and deacons had a session on the formulas for chanting the Gospels, which was taught by Fr. Eric Andersen.  It was surprising how easy it is to chant the readings using the given formulas.  We had the experience of actually chanting the introduction to the readings, some lines, and the conclusion to the readings, and the peoples’ responses.

The day was completed as we chanted the Office of Compline at 9:00PM.  It was a very full and informative day.

Saturday was another full day beginning with 7:00AM breakfast, Morning Prayer, the Rosary, and a Votive Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Dr. Bissonnette presented a lecture on “The Sung Liturgy”; she emphasized the importance of singing the Liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church to experience the beauty, mystery, and awe of the Sacrifice of the Mass.  The peoples’ parts of the Mass that are meant to be sung are: the propers (usually sung by the schola or choir), including: the Introit or the entrance antiphon with its psalm verses; the gradual (Responsorial Psalm)the Alleluia with its psalm verses, the Offertory antiphon and psalm verses; and the Communion antiphon with its psalm verses. For a properly sung Mass, the readings should be chanted by the reader (lector) or deacon; also to be sung are: the ordinary, which includes the Kyrie (Lord have mercy), Gloria, Credo, Preface dialog, Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), and Agnus Dei (Lamb of God); the acclamation after the Consecration; the great Amen; the Pater Noster (Our Father), and he dismissal.  The priest is to sing the parts proper to his priestly duties: Preface, Eucharistic Prayer, and Post-communion prayer.  The workshop content emphasized that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass needs to be sung, not that we should just have singing at Mass.

Dr. Bissonnette also gave the final lecture of for this Conference: “The Documents of the Church Pertaining to Gregorian Chant”.  The documents of Pope (St.) Pius X, Pope Pius XI, and Pope Pius XII set a foundation for our Catholic Church use of Gregorian chant.  Documents of the Second Vatican Council, especially Sacrosanctum Concilium, very much expected the use of the chant in our Liturgy to continue, as it has pride of place. No document from Vatican II dismissed the use of Latin or chant.  The post-Vatican II years saw Pope Paul VI issuing “Jubilate Deo”, which was sent to all bishops as a guideline indicating the minimum chant that all Catholics must be able to sing.  Blessed John Paul II also encouraged the use of chant. Our Pope (emeritus) Benedict XVI in his moto proprio Summorum Pontificum issued July 7, 2007 also permitted all priests to be able to celebrate the Extraordinary Form Mass as well as chant.  This was followed up in May, 2011 by Universae Ecclesiae which is a further explanation of Summorum Pontificum.  The Document “Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship” (2007) continues to declare the primacy of place for Gregorian chant. This document was issued by the Roman Catholic bishops of the Latin Church in the United States.

The final workshop was “Chanting the Ordinary of the Mass”.  Here we put into practice what was learned in the previous workshops. We sang the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei for both Mass IX (Cum Jubilo) in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Mass XI (Orbis Factor) for Sundays of Ordinary Time.  We also sang Credo I.  It was amazing how beautiful we all sounded together in the praise of the Lord!

Fr. Eric Andersen 
Following this workshop, we celebrated the Mass for the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  It was a beautiful Liturgy with everything being sung.  Oh, if only we could have such music in our parishes! The Mass would truly be more appreciated, and we would really have active as well as actual participation of our congregations.

The entire conference ended Saturday night with the Office of Compline at 8:30PM.

Overall the chant conference was wonderful. The lectures were very informative and the workshops were a “hands-on experience to use what was taught---for all levels of experience – beginner, intermediate, or advanced.  The Masses were not only beautiful and reverent, but also examples of how the Mass should be sung.

Plan to attend next year’s Gregorian Chant Conference!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This is wonderful! Can you imagine what it would be like if Gregorian Chant were sung in every parish? It'd be Heaven to me!

    I'm so thankful I'm able to sing in the Latin Choir here. We sing Gregorian Chant every Sunday at the Latin Mass. We practice once a week. I feel such a connection to the Communion of Saints. THIS is what they sang and said. THIS is the Mass they went to. Amazing, isn't it?

    God bless!


    BTW, thanks for the report, Dr. Jay!


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