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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.

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