Saturday, June 28, 2008

The EnCHANTment Project - WEEK 2

We started the lesson with a prayer, then, because we had a few new people in the class, teacher David Molloy went over a bit of the history.

This included how the Monastery Library of Sankt Gallen in Switzerland has surving remnants of the earliest forms of chant notation and how the monks of Solesmes were the first ones to clean up chant in the 1880s and produced a Gregorian Missal.

In the US, Justine Ward, established a method for teaching chant and donated money to the Catholic University in the US so chant courses would continue to be taught.

In Australia, Dr Percy Jones and Fr Albert Lynch learnt the Ward method when they went to Rome for priesthood studies, and they came back and taught it at St Mary's Cathedral and St Patrick's Cathedral choirs in Sydney and in Perth, WA.

Then we learnt how to sing a torculus, as it says in the "Square Notes Workbook", so it "floats like a feather in the breeze". When singing a dotted podatus, we had to imagine "letting your feather float away".

Other points included:

+Speed up unaccented notes and slow slightly at accented notes.

+Quicken up in the middle of the phrase and slow down towards the end, because that's the pace of the language.

+Even though a porrectus is drawn like "swooping" notes, don't swoop.

"We sing some words slower to highlight a theological point in the text. For example, 'The Lord said to me, you are MY son," Molloy said.

We practised the O Salutaris, Pie Jesu, Confirma Hoc, and Alma Redemptoris.

Some good websites to check out include the Church Association of America ( and the New Liturgical Movement (

Molloy recommended some chant CDs – FSSP in the US ( and Sublime Chant by Richard Proulx and the Cathedral Singers (

For homework, we have to practice the Alma Redemptoris and finish the exercises in the workbook.

Fr T dropped in from Melbourne, along with a newly ordained deacon, Andrew.

We finished class with the Angelus, then went to lunch at the London Hotel, where the bartender looked amazed when 20 people ordered tap water and soft drinks with our meals.

Discussion included a Gregorian chanter's nightmare situation: after days of hard slog rehearsals, singing at a Mass where the priest leaves his microphone switched on and sings the chant at a s-l-o-w pace. "Priests, please switch off your microphones when the choir sings."

Afterwards, the Juventutem choir members went back to rehearse for a few hours.

The next chant class will be held this Saturday, from 9am to 12.30pm, at St Augustine's Church, 3 Jane St, Balmain, and costs $30, which includes a chant textbook. The workshops are being sponsored by Juventutem in preparation for the group's big WYD08 event on July 16 - a chant masterclass by US Gregorian chant expert, Scott Turkington, followed by Vespers with Cardinal George Pell, at the church in Balmain.

The EnCHANTment Project - WEEK 1

A diverse group of 30 people, of varying ages and nationalities, braved the cold last Saturday, from 9am to 12.30pm, to learn Gregorian chant at St Augustine's Church, Balmain.

Four workshops are being sponsored by Juventutem in preparation for the group's big WYD08 event on July 16 - a chant masterclass by US Gregorian chant expert, Scott Turkington, followed by Vespers with Cardinal George Pell.

The first lesson began with a prayer. Then teacher David Molloy played the well-known Do-Re-Mi song from The Sound Of Music. The Do-Re-Mi scale (known as the So-Fa System) is used for Gregorian chant and for homework we have to memorise it forwards and backwards. Also, we learnt some of the history from our textbook, "Square Notes Workbook In Gregorian Chant" by Sister Judith OP. We were also given photocopies of early manuscripts made by monks – before music notes had been invented – where they drew the hand movements of choir masters as various swirls and arches at various heights to indicate the tune.

Other points included:

+Gregorian chant is named after St Gregory because he was the first person to standardise it.

+"Do" isn't as in "Doe, a deer" – it's as in "Do-minus." "Re" isn't a drop of golden sun, it was the first syllable of "Resonare".

+Chant notes are square because they were drawn with quills.

+There are many technical terms, including punctums, neums and porrectus.

+Always soften the final syllable of each sentence so the sound dies away ("mora vocis").

+You have to roll the "r" in Latin otherwise other Latin speakers can't understand it.

+Alleluias and consonants shouldn't be punched out and sung like Pavarotti – keep the words soft and smooth.

We practised a few rounds of Do Re Mi, then had a break for tea with jam and bread. Plus some freshly baked scones with cream.

In the second half, there was an emphasis on singing the chant by placing emphasis on the right words so it's a meaningful prayer. "There needs to be internal participation – bubbling out," Molloy said.

"Think about the words when you're singing to keep your mind and heart engaged."

It's preferable to sing in old churches because the resonance smoothes out the flaws.

"Buildings constructed in the 1970s and 80s with low roofs, carpet, and cork tiles on the ceilings suck up the sound so the choir have to wear microphones.

"People feel more comfortable singing in older churches where the building is like an extra instrument and helps the choir sound its best."

He says it's a mistake to think Gregorian chant should always be slow.

"It can be sung fresh and brightly. The things that slow chant down include taking breaths and the congregation. It's important to lock in the rhythm to counteract that.

"You have to fight against letting chant get slower and slower."

Then we finished with a prayer and adjourned to the nearby London hotel for lunch and further discussion, which included a debate on whether it was better to drink plain water or hot chocolate when preparing the voice for further choir practice.

After lunch, the experienced choir members returned to the hall to do several hours of rehearsal for an upcoming ordination.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hindu Gentleman Studying Gregorian Chant

Hindu Prasad Kota, 30, has been attending Juventutem's Gregorian chant classes to "see what it's about".

"I'd never heard it before I set foot in the door. It's a beautiful experience," Kota said. "The music has so much depth. But I'm not a good singer – I mainly listen during the class."

He attends a Hindu temple and has also been going to St Joseph's, Camperdown, for the past six months.

Kota moved here from Andhra Pradesh, India, four years ago and is doing a PhD in pharmacy at the University of Sydney. "I'm interested in Christian culture and traditions."

He's finding it difficult to pronounce Latin words and is interested in studying ecclesiastical Latin. "We have a liturgical language, Sanskrit, which we use for all our chants. Latin is not an easy language for me – it's a completely new experience. I'd like to study it further."

Kota has also registered as a volunteer for WYD08. "I'd like to go to Juventutem Vespers on July 16 but I'm not sure what my volunteer duties will be."

Juventutem's two official WYD08 events will be held on Wednesday, July 16, at St Augustine's Church, Balmain. US chant expert, Scott Turkington, will teach a Gregorian chant masterclass from 2pm, and then the group will sing Vespers with Cardinal George Pell at 4pm.

In preparation for the chant masterclass, 30 people from different parishes throughout Sydney, of various ages and nationalities, have been learning Gregorian chant on Saturday mornings, 9am-12.30pm at St Augustine's, Balmain.

The sessions, $30 each (which includes a textbook), are being run by Australian church musician, David Molloy, an experienced organist, choir director and teacher who has spent more than 40 years learning sacred music. Over the years, his studies have taken him to Austria, France, Hungary, Italy, England and America.

Parishioners are learning the technical terms, Latin pronunciation and the So-Fa (Do Re Mi) scale. The singing is taught with emphasis on the right words so it has a prayerful meaning and encourages internal participation with the heart and soul.

Once WYD is over, as a long-term goal, it's hoped there will be enough interest generated to start a Gregorian chant organisation so sacred music could be taught on a larger scale.

"Pope Pius X in his famous motu proprio on Sacred Music written in 1903 requested that Higher Institutions of Sacred Music be established for the proper teaching of Sacred Music," said David Molloy. "This request was reiterated by the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. It has been taken seriously in some other countries.

"In Austria, each diocese has its own church-run Conservatorium of Music to teach liturgical music. In Germany there are several church music schools – the most famous one being in Regensburg. Paris has its Gregorian Institute as well as the Schola Cantorum, and in the US, courses are taught at places such as the Catholic University of America. Rome has the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music - but Australia doesn't have similar schools. Perhaps it's time to take this very seriously and establish schools of liturgical music. Perhaps such schools could be attached to seminaries, Catholic universities or other established Catholic institutions."

From Juventutem Media Correspondents.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Juventutem Merchandise for World Youth Day

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Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church to join World Youth Day with Juventutem

From Juventutem Australia's media correspondents:

Four sisters from the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Church, in Spokane, Washington, have been sponsored by Juventutem to attend WYD08.

These women had lived in a sedevacantist community for several decades, and have recently returned to the bosom of Holy Mother Church. They will become an approved Public Association of the Faithful on June 24. Formerly, the Sisters were members of the Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen.

Their website tells why the Sisters decided to leave their community and accept the authority of the Pope.