Sunday, 30 May 2010

Singing the Chant

Not so long ago, I went to a Gregorian chant workshop in Middlesbrough. Now, this was the second such workshop that I’ve attended. A handful of years ago, I went to one in Lancaster, run by Mary Berry, that being a time when I lived over that side of the Pennines.

Two workshops and no regular singing of the chant was beginning to make me think that it might be a good idea to attempt to put this training into practice. Fortunately for me, Mike Forbester attended the workshop in Middlesbrough and suggested that I might like to join in the fun at English Martyr’s in York.

So, last Sunday saw me join the schola for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite for the Feast of Pentecost. Mike had warned me that there wouldn’t be many singers there, but I was slightly surprised when I arrived to find that “not many” equals “three”! To my great delight the other two singers were really strong and secure, so I found that blending in with them was much easier than I would have found blending in with a larger choir. I had practiced the ordinary of the mass (lux et origo) beforehand, but the rest of it was done on a couple of run-throughs.

I have to say that my Gregorian chant “début” was a wonderful experience (for me, anyway…) and I really would encourage anybody who fancies having a go to do so. From my experience it’s worth noting that

  • There are an increasing number of high quality workshops on Gregorian Chant available throughout the country. They are open to, and encourage, complete beginners.
  • If you are already a singer (up to the standard of an average church choir, let’s say), learning how to sing chant to an acceptable standard is not difficult.
  • If you can read conventional musical notation, learning four-stave square note notation is not difficult (in fact, I find it easier to sight read than conventional notation).
  • There seem to be an increasing number of opportunities to sing chant in a liturgical context.
  • There are lots of free resources (such as this) available to support singing the chant.

So, if it’s ever crossed your mind as something you might like to try, just do it!

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