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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Seminarian's thoughts on studying Gregorian Chant

Nicholas Rynne, 27, has been in the Good Shepherd Seminary, Sydney, for the past 3 and a half years and recently completed the Juventutem Gregorian chant workshops taught by David Molloy.

"I love the music," Rynne says. "Chant encapsulates the artistic/aesthetic and spiritual traditions of the Catholic Church and I wanted to learn more about it."

He'd first studied Gregorian chant at a workshop given by Tony Vaughan in Brisbane several years ago. "Then I joined the Schola Cantorum of Brisbane, directed by Vaughan, and we sang at various religious services. When I joined the seminary in Sydney, in 2006, I became a member of the Seminary Schola and was keen to sing as much chant as I could, especially since the Second Vatican Council had asked that chant be given 'pride of place' in the Church's liturgy.

"I am excitedly anticipating the Mass at St Mary's Cathedral during World Youth Day for the dedication of the new altar when seminarians from Melbourne's Corpus Christi Seminary and Sydney's Seminary of the Good Shepherd will be singing all of the chant.

"This means we will chant for the reception of the Holy Father; the procession to the sanctuary; the antiphon and psalm when the relics are deposited in the new altar; the antiphon and psalm for the anointing, incensing and lighting of the new altar; and during communion and at the end of Mass."

Rynne says he attended the Juventutem workshops because he wanted to learn how to read the medieval notation and review the "Sol-fa" system.

"An important thing I learnt was the use of tempo and phrasing (called the 'arsis' and 'thesis'). A big problem is that many people perform chant slowly and without any dynamics – there's no undulation in the sound. Consequently, many people think all Gregorian chant is depressing and dull. But the music is alive and full of subtle nuance if it is read and performed properly.

"When I sing Gregorian chant I feel it's a deeply aesthetically and spiritually pleasing exercise."

Rynne said he would like to further his chant studies by doing more work on the "Sol-fa" system, and learning the Gregorian "modes".

"I'm being sent to a new seminary after World Youth Day - the Pontifical North American College in Rome, so I am hoping the Schola at the College practises a bit of chant and that there might be opportunities for further study in Rome."

More details: Juventutem, visit To study Gregorian chant in Sydney after WYD, contact David Molloy,

From Juventutem Australia's media correspondents.

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