04 June 2014

Report of meeting of Monastic Chant Forum

Meeting of the Chant Forum, Quarr and Ryde Abbeys, 1 - 5 July 2013

At the beginning of July 2013, two years after the previous meeting at Douai in May 2011, the Chant Forum gathered at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight. There had been no such meeting in 2012, because the Monastic Musicians that year made Gregorian Chant the focus of their own annual session. This Quarr event was the seventh Chant Forum gathering. Hitherto the formula had been for a meeting of two full days only, but this time we made it three full days.

How many attended the Quarr meeting? That’s by no means an easy question to answer. There were fourteen resident guest participants at Quarr. It was good that several of these were lay folk involved in the running of Gregorian Choirs. The number of monastic communities represented was, however, disappointingly small. These fourteen were then augmented by three Quarr monks who attended all the sessions; also by one or two others who dropped in for single days; also by nuns from Ryde, and the former Wantage Sisters, who came, in varying numbers, for most, if not all of the Quarr sessions. That would add up to round about twenty five people. But on the Day spent at Ryde Abbey, the sessions took place in the large parlour, so that Ryde Sisters could attend from their side of the grille. Counting all of those, our numbers rose to around forty.

Instruction was given by three speakers: Joseph Cullen, Dr. Giedrius Gapsys and Dom Xavier Perrin OSB, Prior of Quarr.

Joseph is very well known to many of us. He has often visited both Pluscarden and Ryde, in both a personal and a professional capacity. He gave memorable sessions, in tandem with James MacMillan, for the Panel of Monastic Musicians, meeting at Pluscarden in 2000. Joseph is a professional vocal coach, Choral director and organist. Perhaps the best known of the Choirs he has worked with are the London Symphony Chorus and the Huddersfield Choral Society. As well as giving many solo concert performances on the organ, and acting as occasional organ consultant, he has been organist or assistant organist at Leeds and Westminster Cathedrals. Joseph is currently involved in the new John Henry Newman Institute for Liturgical Music in Birmingham, the Ste. Cecilia International School of Gregorian Chant in Rome, and the Musica Sacra Institute in Glasgow.

At our Quarr meeting, Joseph gave six sessions, all marked by his unforgettable style: most entertaining and amusing, and also, without any question, forceful. Joseph is a man on a mission. He has declared open warfare on lazy, sloppy singing; on incorrect pronunciation of Latin vowels; on the unthinking insertion of gaps in the music to follow gaps on the printed page; on breathiness; on Latin dipthongs! Many are the exercises and tricks he has to teach, both to those who wish to sing well, and those who have the responsibility of directing Choirs. He is also a man on a mission as a passionate lover of Gregorian Chant, and in general of music that is truly worthy of the liturgy. He is very much a lover also of Benedictine monastic life: and all of that came across in no uncertain terms during these Our second speaker was Dr. Giedrius Gapsys. He is a Lithuanian musicologist who lives with his wife in France. He is fluent in French and also in English. He gained his doctorate from the Sorbonne, and was a fellow student with Jaan-Eik Tulve at the Paris Conservatoire. Now he teaches at the Conservatoire school; working also with the Gregorian Choir of Paris. Those of us who know Jaan-Eik could recognise many common traits, rooted in shared doctrine and experience. But their specialities are entirely different. Jaan-Eik is interested in the practicalities of directing Choirs which sing Gregorian Chant. Giedrius is very much the theoretician, fascinated by the intricacies of modal theory, and by the layers of evolution according to which the Chant as we know it took shape. Giedrius gave nine sessions. He has actually read, and understood, the ancient and mediaeval treatises on music of which we have perhaps heard, but which for most of us had remained, hitherto, impenetrably obscure. The subject is certainly very far from simple, but Giedrius succeeded in shedding much light on it, with the help of many handout sheets, blackboard writing, reference to examples in the Graduale, and his own limitless enthusiasm. He is an avowed disciple of Dom Jean Claire of Solesmes, who first articulated the theory of three archaic modes, based on the notes C, D and E. He is in accord also with the published musical theories of Dom Daniel Saulnier, who was principal editor of the new Antiphonale Monasticum published by Solesmes.

To recapitulate it all very briefly: already in the 4th had developed for the sung pronunciation of the words in the Latin liturgy. This musical language was passed on orally. Some of our simple and common melodies (“Dominus vobiscum”) survive intact from that period. But this musical language evolved, or developed, as if by its own natural force, and musicologists are able to trace its progress. By the end of the 5th was singing the more complex pieces of the Mass. Members of these scholae were semi-professional singers, who spent long years learning the repertoire by heart. This all worked very well until around 780, when the Frankish rulers of much of Europe North of the Alps decreed that the Gallican liturgy had to be Romanised. The Gallican liturgy was Latin, but its Chant had evolved independently from the Roman Chant, and had acquired its own proper characteristics and peculiarities. Now the Gallican singers had to re-learn their entire repertoire, in order henceforth to sing it in the approved Roman way. Two important changes resulted. The first was that the music in the Frankish Empire itself changed, neither remaining purely Gallican nor becoming purely Roman, but morphing into a hybrid mixture of both. We call what resulted: “Gregorian Chant”. And since it proved almost impossible to teach or learn so much material in so short a time, ways were sought of writing it down: also of explaining it in a coherent and easily memorisable fashion. So the theorists at this time set about forcing the music they already knew into conformity with the musical rules they had learned from the Byzantine East. Hence arose our system of Eight Gregorian Modes: the “octoechos”. Giedrius convincingly demonstrated in multiple ways that this is a very ill fit. It was devised long after the melodies themselves had been composed, and many of them stubbornly refuse to fit into it. Melodies composed after around 800 would be consciously devised to conform to the Rules of the octoechos; but in earlier Chants - the “authentic repertoire” - we can still detect very ancient formulae which elude its strait-jacket The four line stave we know came into being in the early 11th us through the complicated evolution of that also. Once that had been refined and become well established, for the first time in history composers could write notes for others to sing, independently of a living aural tradition.

According to Giedrius, in order to interpret a piece well, we need to bear in mind three or four of the elements that go to make it up. The first is the text; then the mode in which it is set; then the notation which attempts to transcribe what is sung onto the page; then the melodic formulae which are Although Giedrius is very much an academic musicologist, nevertheless his love of the Chant is not merely abstract. He not only recognises the greatness of this music; he also values it as a favoured vehicle for prayer; for conveying the faith of the Church. Like Joseph Cullen, he also is an unashamed lover of the Benedictine life, and repeated many times how happy he was to have the opportunity to contribute to our session.

Our third speaker was Dom Xavier Perrin. He himself is no mean musician and Chant scholar; also a very experienced organist and Choir director. He was the main speaker at the Downside Chant Forum meeting in 2009. His focus at the Quarr meeting was on the spirituality of the Chant. How do we pray the Chant? How do we enter into its spirit? How does it help us enter truly into prayer; help us praise God worthily? As Père Xavier loves to insist, through the Chant we pray with our bodies. The true Cantor of the Chant is Christ himself. Singing the Chant, or even just listening to it, we pray with him and in him; adoring his Father; with him receiving the Father’s love. Or sometimes, as his Bride the Church, we pray to him; or else we address the world, calling on it to praise him (“Omnes gentes plaudite manibus!”) The Choir director has to situate his Choir within the space of this prayer; he has to help it receive what the Chant has to give it. This reception continues without end. Even when a piece is frequently repeated, and known entirely by heart, it will always have something new and fresh A dictum about the Chant current in early mediaeval times may be adapted to sum up all this teaching. What Joseph Cullen taught us above all was the Ars bene dicendi: the art of pronouncing the sacred words well. For his part, Giedrius Gapsys taught us the Ars bene modulandi: the art of singing these words well, according to their modal conventions. And Père Xavier taught us the Ars bene orandi: the art of praying these Chants well.

Clearly this was a wonderful meeting, very much appreciated by all who took part. It was generally agreed, though, that the constituency is probably too small to warrant meeting each year. A hope was expressed, nem. con., that the Chant Forum re-convene some time in 2015. Most participants seemed to think the formula of three full days to be a good one.

Nothing has yet been decided about any of that: but Giedrius has already expressed his willingness to come again, and to speak to us, perhaps on the subject of Gregorian musical formulae. As for venue: again the field remains at present open. Perhaps it may be said here, though, that Quarr has many advantages. It is quite well placed for those living in the South of England. It has plenty of space, and is close to Ryde. It belongs to the Solesmes Congregation, with its venerable tradition of excellence in the Chant, and is always very open to those who wish to deepen their knowledge and ability in that. We shall have to see what eventually transpires, according to the mysterious workings of Divine.

Dom Benedict Hardy OSB; April 2014

16 April 2014

Chant Training days in London: 31st May and 3rd August

Two opportunities for chant training in London are being organised by the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge.

They will take place in conjuction with special Sung Mass for two different events: the training will enable a larger group of amateurs to take part in singing for these Masses.

The Masses are the Latin Mass Society Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Willesden, in North West London, on Saturday 31st May (feast of Our Lady, Queen). The Shrine is at Acton Lane, Willesden, London NW10 9AX. Click for a map.

and the LMS-sponsored 'Chesterton Pilgrimage' (to seek GK Chesterton's beatification), where Mass will take place in Our Lady of Lourdes Uxbridge, on Wednesday 30th July. The church on the Osborn Rd (or, more simply, next to the A4020), and the post code is UB8 1UE. Click for a map.

Anyone who would like to join the Schola Gregoriana on either occasion please get in touch with the Schola Gregoriana in advance.

Numbers are limited only by the capacity of the choir gallery! And they are both a pretty large.

Tel: 01223 263063

Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, 
St Benedict's, 
124 Cambridge Road, 
Cambridge CB23 7AR.

LMS Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Willesden, last year.

13 March 2014

Chant Workshop in Somerset, 28th June


Led by Rupert Bevan

Saturday 28 June 2014 

9.30am for 10.00am to 4.30pm

includes coffee, lunch and afternoon tea 

Cost: £40.00

In this workshop, led by Rupert Bevan, you will learn about the origins of the chant and how it works, and then learn some plain chant, culminating in the singing of Vespers in Ammerdown Chapel, which offers excellent acoustics.

Rupert Bevan comes from a well-known musical family. He was Head Chorister during his time at Westminster Cathedral, which is where he first learnt the Chant. He is currently Director of Music at St John’s Catholic Church in Bath and the Director of Bradford on Avon Choral Society. In addition, he sings locally as a professional tenor soloist.

For more information or to book , please go tohttp://ammerdown.org/Gregorian-Chant-Workshop-2014 or emailcentre@ammerdown.org or ring 01761 433709

05 February 2014

Clever chant tool

The blogger 'Counter Cultural Father' has drawn attention to this extremely clever online tool. It will given a huge number of chants - all the Sundays and a few Votives (Nuptial Mass, Mass for the Dead) - in both the full chant text and at Psalm tones. With the latter, it will let you choose what Psalm tone to use. And it produces lovely clean pdfs of the chant.

It can toggle between the 1962 and the Novus Ordo calendars.

It does other clever things too. For example, if you have the Latin text of a reading, it will set it to chant according to the Gospel, Epistle or Prophecy tone. The image above is a bit of nonsense Latin which demonstrates how you can feed in your own texts.

Go and check it out!


03 October 2013

Schola Gregoriana Weekend in Whitby 22-24th November


Friday 22nd November to Sunday 24th.

St. Charlemagne and the Play of Antichrist

Sing, study and learn about music from the early Middle Ages in honour of the first Holy Roman Emperor and his successors, and chants for the Feast of Christ the King.

The programme will include excerpts from the early 13th c. Office of 'St. Charlemagne' together with hymnody from the Carolingian renaissance and some of the earliest polyphony, and a speculative edited reconstruction of the semi-liturgical drama 'Ludus de Antichristo' from 12th c. Germany, in which the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I 'Barbarossa' is first seduced by Antichrist and then won back to the true faith.

This programme will be the basis of a concert to be performed by the Schola with the Bristol University Schola Cantorum on Saturday 30th November, 7.30 pm, at the Temple Church, Fleet Street, London EC4Y 7HL

The inclusive cost of board, accommodation, music and tuition is £200.
For full details, and non-residential participation, please address enquries toscholacambridge@aol.com, or St. Benedict's, 124 Cambridge Road, Barton, Cambridge, CB23 7AR   Tel:  01223 263063

06 September 2013

Call for singers for YCA retreat, 18-20 October

John Curran, of the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, seeks help to provide a small group of singers to support the Young Catholics’ Association annual retreat at the Franciscan house at Cold Ash, near Thatcham in Berkshire during the weekend 18-20 October.

Depending on your talents you might consider to serve as an ordinary robust choir member for Compline, Vespers and the Ordinary of Mass in the Extraordinary Form, or also help rehearse the Proper of the Mass. We will be trained by one of the Schola’s professional chant experts.

You can also take part all other events and spiritual conferences of the weekend.

John has arranged an inclusive £100.00 package from Friday evening (18th to lunch Sunday 20th October.)

Contacts: JPCSedate@aol.com; 01509 852259 (up to 8pm!)

20 March 2013

PIMMS Conference, 10th July

PMMS 125th Anniversary

There’s no place like Rome: Centres of music and liturgy before 1550

PMMS members are warmly invited to the AGM study day on 10 July 2013, held at Bedern in the city of York. The day will celebrate the Society’s 125th anniversary with a wine reception and free evening concert of conductus by candlelight, two public lectures and a series of papers held in medieval venues in York city centre. The theme of the day is the exploration of centres of music and liturgy before 1550, and will have a good balance of talks on plainchant and polyphony. Speakers include Roger Bowers, Emma Hornby, Rebecca Maloy, Andrew Kirkman, Jim Borders, Thomas Schmidt, Matthew Ward and Hannah Vlhova.

Registration will be in the region of £50 (non-members) and £35 (members and students). Delegates will be provided with lunch, refreshments, a free ticked to an evening performance at the Merchant Venturer’s Hall and a discounted ticket to a further concert at York Minster, as part of York Early Music Festival. Further details and registration will appear on the PMMS website in the new year. The day will also include the AGM, which is free to attend.

Delegates may like to stay for a few days to enjoy further events at the York Early Music Festival (Friday 5 - Saturday 13 July) and will focus on Rome, with music created under the patronage of medieval Popes, the renaissance polyphony of Palestrina, and the exuberant baroque of Handel in Italy. Special features will include a celebration of the anniversaries of Corelli (1653-1713) and Dowland (1563-1626). Artists will include countertenor Iestyn Davies, one of the world's foremost viol players Wieland Kuijken, the Italian medieval Ensemble Medusa with singer Patricia Bovi, medievalist Stevie Wishart and her group Sinfonye and Theatre of the Ayre with Elizabeth Kenny and members of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain!

You will find the registration form attached, or alternatively you can download it from the PMMS website at http://www.plainsong.org.uk/anniv125.php

09 March 2013

Introducing: Juventutem Bristol Schola

A new affilate of the GCN is Juventutem Bristol Schola. As the name implies, this is part of the Juventutem Federation, and is composed of young people - Bristol, of course, is home to many students. They are financially supported by the Latin Mass Society, and since at celebrations of the Extraordinary Form in the Church of Holy Cross, Bristol.

Check out their blog here.


13 February 2013

Blasted blogger

Without deleting the blog or the blogger account, by some gremlin or other Blogger made this blog invisible for several days, and still prevents access from the custom domain name purchased for it. We are still here, however, and life goes on.

Apologies to all for the inconvenience. And may the gremlins be afflicted with halitosis.

Please update your links to http://gregorianchantnetwork.blogspot.co.uk

Chant Training at Ealing Abbey

Gregorian chant workshop

6.40 to 8 pm

Bulbeck Room
Ealing Abbey

Ealing Abbey Parish Schola

Director: Jennifer Smith
0777 625 7472


No qualifications required – only to love singing and to do so in tune!

19 January 2013

Chant training in Gloucestershire

From an email.

We are holding a day-long Plainchant workshop on 

Saturday 16th February 2013
from 10 am to 4.30 pm at the Marist Convent, Nympsfield.

The workshop will be led by former Westminster Cathedral Head Chorister Rupert Bevan. It is aimed at those with some musical knowledge/ability.

There is no charge for tuition: the purpose of the workshop is to form a small Schola to sing at Mass once a month on a Sunday evening at St Dominic’s, Dursley.

To find out more, please contact
Sara Harvey-Craig on tel: 01453 872925
or email: saraharveycraig@hotmail.com

14 January 2013

Announcing the Chant Training Weekend 2013

The Gregorian Chant Network's annual big chant course - a three-day intensive course (Friday afternoon/evening to Sunday morning) - will take place 5th to 7th April 2013. That is, Easter Friday to Low Sunday, the weekend after Easter itself, at the Oratory School, near Reading (map).

It will be led by Christopher Hodkinson, one of the Musical Directors of the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge. 

Each of them has an enormous experience of chant, its interpretation and performace, and having two chant teachers will enable participants to be divided for various purposes in the course of the weekend, enabling everyone to be taught in a way appropriate to their experience.

The course has always run alongside the St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat. Apart from seeing the vast number of small children devoted to the Church ancient liturgy, which is always fun, this means that participants in the chant course have the opportunity to sing at a succession of live liturgical events with an appreciative audience. Each of the three days has a Traditional Sung Mass, which have a special interest because it will be the week after Easter. There is also Compline on two days, and Vespers and Benediction on the Saturday. The Retreat this year will be led by Fr John Hunwicke of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

The headline price is £90 all inclusive (tuition, accomodation and meals), and this falls dramatically for groups of singers from the same schola, if the schola is affiliated to the GCN. (And yes, of course you can affiliate right away at no cost, if you want to take advantage of this offer!). There is also a discount for LMS members, thanks to sponsorship from the Latin Mass Society. This means that it can be as cheap at £30 a person!

£90 per person
£50 each for 2 people from the same choir or schola
£40 each for 3 or more people from the same choir or schola
£10 discount for LMS members

The GCN's hope is that the course will be taken by enough members of a given group to make a difference to performance when they get home, and not just by an individual here and there. It is up to Chant Directors to make this happen!

Download an application form:
For Choir directors signing up several people;
For individuals, and for the Retreat.

Or email us: info@stcatherinestrust.org

05 January 2013

Medieval Music Conference, September 2013

Cantum Pulcriorem Invenire: Music in Western Europe, 1150-1350, Southampton, 9-10 September 2013

Following the first conference on the music of the Ars Antiqua in Princeton in November 2011, the University of Southampton’s Department of Music will host the second conference in this series at its Highfield Campus on 9-10 September 2013. 

The conference seeks to shed light on the issues around the discovery and management of known and newly-discovered source material, the implications of claims of meaning in thirteenth-century music, the use of digital technologies in the study of music of the period, as well as other traditional and innovatory approaches.

The conference invites papers on any aspect of music of Western Europe between 1150 and 1350. If applicable, authors of papers will be able to benefit from the presence of the artists on the recent CD: John Potter, Christopher O’Gorman, Rogers Covey-Crump, ‘Conductus 1: Music and Poetry of Thirteenth-Century France’. Hyperion, CDA67949, 2012. Visit the websitefor more information.

Proposals for papers should make explicit their aims, methods and outcomes, and should not exceed 300 words; they should also explain how the paper would benefit from the participation of the artists given above. Proposals for linked papers or complete sessions are also welcome. Abstracts should be sent in duplicate: one version should be anonymous; the other should include name and full contact details. 

The conference will provide accommodation for the nights of 8, 9, 10 September 2013, all meals, and aims to reimburse travel from both within the UK and abroad.

The conference director, Mark Everist, will be happy to discuss proposals in advance of formal submission (m.everist@southampton.ac.uk). Closing date for submission of proposals for papers is Friday 25 January 2013. Proposals should be sent as email attachments in pdf format to:G.Bevilacqua@soton.ac.uk and this call for papers, together with material relating to the conference will be posted in the ‘Cantum pulcriorem invenire’ website.