Chant from the ground up

One of my other recent projects that has kept me from regular blogging was the organisation of a neighbourhood ‘chant’ group. Since attending the Sacred Music Colloquium 2008, I wanted to spread knowledge of chant to other Catholics. Thankfully, South Bend, IN is not wanting for Catholics, though it is wanting for chant opportunities.

Now, I’m talking very small steps here. I began simply by inviting some of my friends from my local parish, which would not traditionally be understood as traditional, as well as other friends near my neighbourhood. There are about twelve of us and we will soon be having our fourth meeting. The goals are small: to chant vespers prayerfully, praise God in doing so, and introduce more Catholics to an inestimable treasure of the church. 

At our first gathering, we sang compline which, except for the Salve Regina, was entirely in English. I used a simple setting I received at the Sacred Music Colloquium. After that, I took some time to put together a ‘Vespers for the Pauline Year.’ The general format is of the new breviary, with three psalms and the hymn at the beginning. The antiphons are in Latin, and borrowed from the old calendar’s Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, as well as the Feast of St. Paul (which is the day immediately following Sts Peter and Paul in the old calendar).  The psalms themselves are in English, the Our Father in English, and the Magnificat in Latin. For those interested, I would be happy to share this via e-mail, with the caveat that this is my first pointing of psalm texts (simply send me an e-mail request).

Compline, at our first meeting, went really well. The group is mixed musically – we’ll not be a schola anytime soon, but that’s not really the goal. One member has a degree in vocal performance, while most of the rest of us are really in various levels of the amateur category. None other than myself really knew how to read chant notation to begin with, so it is instructional as well. 

Our next meeting which was our first attempt at the full Vespers was a bit more halting. But the session after that we definitely made significant progress. As anyone who has played or sung in an ensemble knows, there is such a difference in singing by oneself compared to lending your voice to the whole. And of course, the same can be said for praying where two or more are gathered.

And so in some small way, I hope, and hope that our little group, can contribute to the growing resurgence of chant. I will have more posts as our group continues.

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2 Comments on “Chant from the ground up”

  1. Bryan Says:

    Is your chant group still meeting? I have just resumed my study of Gregorian chant. I hope to produce an English-language Compline service and then Vespers for use at our Catholic Worker house. It sounds like I will doing work very similar to yours. The Web site for the St. Benedict Catholic Worker (in Fresno) is

  2. arscatholica Says:

    Unfortunately, the chant group no longer meets. I recently was relocated to San Francisco for my job, just a few months ago.

    Good luck to you in your endeavour! If you have any questions or I can be of assistance, please let me know and send me an e-mail.

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