Friday, 13 June 2008

Can Gregorian chant be revived?

The New Liturgical Movement has an interesting post on whether Gregorian chant 'can be re-established as the primary and living musical language of Roman Rite Catholics around the world' - consistent with statements in Sacrosanctum Concilium!

NLM's Mr Jeffrey Tucker argues it can be done, using the example of the revival of Hebrew as a living language. In the late nineteenth century, he points out, Hebrew was essentially a liturgical language only, akin to Latin for the Catholic Church. A deliberate and concerted plan was launched to change all of that though, as a means of supporting the Zionist movement, and it succeeded.

Now personally, I wish the Catholic Church would attempt the same exercise in relation to the Latin language, and not just chant. Still, chant is a good place to start, and could be an important tool in driving out the banal music that dominate so many novus ordo masses.

And this is an area where traditionalists should in theory at least be able to spearhead such a campaign, since most TLM communities do have a schola or choir of some kind, and there a number of people in Australia with considerable expertise on the subject.

In practice, however, I suspect that most traditional communities here are struggling to maintain there own sung masses, and are not in a position to lend aid to other parishes interested in learning to sing a few versions of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, etc) even if they were inclined to so.

Still, if restoring Gregorian chant really is the aim, it is these groups that need to be re-invigorated into providing the base for such an objective. So what is there current status?

No Australian scholas have as yet added themselves to the International Registry of Gregorian Scholas mentioned on NLM recently.

Still, Sydney appears to have the most active choir training programme currently (with an eye to 'succession planning', with its men's schola, St Radegund's choir, and junior choir). There are also a series of workshops running there through June associated with Juventutem to attempt to spread the word.

Melbourne also has an active schola, with 'a small but expanding a capella choir'. Hopefully the planned Juventutem workshops on chant in July will give that a boost.

Adelaide has a sizable, good, and very youthful choir.

Canberra has only a very small group mainly of very longstanding members, albeit supplemented for special occasions.

And what about the congregations? Do they sing the Ordinary and responses??? Have any of the music directors attempted to do any training of their broader communities? Is anyone working with other parishes to teach them chant or help them establish choirs for new TLMs?

I'd be interested in intelligence others are able to offer on these topics.


Joshua said...

Perth TLM - small but beautiful (LOL)!

At St John's Pro-Cathedral (soon to move to St Anne's), there is a men's schola that sings the chant, a mixed choir that sings Masses by Dom Moreno plus motets, and, on a visiting basis, Quartessence, providing polyphonic Masses for great feasts.

At Good Shepherd, Kelmscott, a choir to sing the Latin Mass has been forming, and has just had its debut.

One of the main people to do with the music programme has been running beginners' classes in the chant also.

The congregation sings the responses and Ordinary well, and the hymns before and after Mass; also, the usual hymns at Benediction are well-sung.

But, as always, new singers is always looked for, especially as some good singers are going to be moving interstate...

Seminarian Matthew said...

Good blog!

Perpétua said...

I know that they also have a lovely choir in Hobart. Their schedule is something to pray for.

David said...

Ha! The "choir" at my church couldn't sing a gregorian chant no matter how much training they got. I'm one of them, and love the gregorian chants, but unfortunately the others have a lot of trouble with anything other than the "happy clappy" modern hymns. Well, maybe with time......

Actually, my parish priest is quite good. He certainly sticks to an orthodox novus ordo. The other day he starting singing "Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi..." instead of "Lamb of God......". That silenced most people! But I was able to happily sing along, and after a few more times the others started to remember it from childhood too. :)


David Webb

Terra said...

Thanks for these updates - sounds like its a mixed bag out there! Perpetua, is the Hobart group associated with the occasional TLM or the cathderal?

Joshua said...


I was a member of the Schola Gregoriana Hobartensis Spiritus Sancti from 1995 until 1999, and am still in touch with some of its members.

Bede Dunne had founded the schola some years earlier, and it sang Vespers (usually according to the Monastic Breviary) roughly once a month; I first joined them when they sang Vespers of the Ascension at St John's Church, Richmond, in 1995. During my time, we only sang at the Cathedral once.

Once Fr (now Bp) Jarrett began celebrating a monthly TLM at his church - Sacred Heart, in New Town - he had Bede get the schola to sing at it. This meant largely curtailing outside assignments.

We would practice on Tuesday nights, starting each session with the hymn Veni Creator and ending with Monastic Compline.

Bede was extremely skilled in music, indeed had studied the chant at Solesmes, knew Mary Berry (RIP), etc., unlike myself; with honourable exceptions, most of us in the schola were amateurs in singing. He taught us to read the notation - including the adiastematic notation in the Graduale Triplex! - and got us to sing the Ordinary, and such parts of the Propers as we could; we usually psalm-toned the Gradual and Alleluia verse.

Bede is now very aged, and is blind; of your charity, pray for him and his dear wife, Joan. A younger couple (connected to Juventutem) now run it.

The schola has continued to sing at the monthly Missa Cantata, which, after Jarrett was made Bp of Lismore, was transferred to St Canice's chapel in Sandy Bay, and has been celebrated there by Fr Gerald Quinn, C.P., an excellent and devout priest.

Despite trying, the congregation has been unable to date to persuade His Grace Abp Doyle to provide a weekly Mass (and to be fair, there is such a lack of clergy in Tasmania that it would seem mean to supply a weekly TLM while other parishes are closing); I believe the FSSP has approached him, but the local clergy would be quite opposed (strange, because it would remove from their parishes people that they find irritatingly conservative). Please pray for this!

As for the Cathedral: a certain person there, opposed to the Traditional Mass, is quite good at the chant, and at music in general; when last I heard, she was talking of using it more at the Cathedral's OF Masses, but I don't know the current state of play.

Terra said...

That's interesting stuff Joshua, I really love hearing about the history of the TLM in Australia and the people who made it happen in various ways, as much as about the choirs that are doing their best to keep the heritage of the Church alive, thanks. I'll certainly keep Hobartians in my prayers - I have to admit I'd been wondering whether anything was happening there on a more regular TLM there in the wake of SP.