The Winter Chant Intensive, 2010

By Sullivan, David | Sacred Music, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

The Winter Chant Intensive, 2010


Sullivan, David, Sacred Music


During the week of January 4-8, 2010, about sixty chant enthusiasts gathered at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, South Carolina for the CMAA's winter chant intensive. The participants came predominantly from the South, but also from as far as Vermont and Utah. They ranged from college students forming new scholas to music directors with doctorates and established music programs, along with a substantial number of priests and seminarians. The welcome provided by Father Gregory Wilson, the cathedral's rector, and the cathedral staff was warm and whole-hearted, in contrast to the chilly weather.

As presented by chant master Scott Turkington and organized by Arlene Oost-Zinner, the course lived up to its name--intensive. The week began by learning a chant the old fashioned way, by imitation without notation, but Turkington quickly elicited a commitment from the participants to concentrate on working to sing the solfege syllables and on making every phrase beautiful. With those commitments, the group embarked on a journey that encompassed Gregorian notation, staffs, neumes, the eight church modes, the solfege system, chironomy, and rhythm according to the classic Solesmes method. One class session introduced the contents of the Parish Book of Chant, stopping to sing several pieces along the way, including the solemn Te Deum, because that might be needed at any time, and the Carolingian chant Christus vincit, which was chosen by popular acclaim for the conclusion of Mass. To illustrate various points, the class was asked to sing several chants from the Gregorian Missal. Throughout the week, the demanding work of learning the chant was leavened with fellowship, chant lore, and a neumatic birthday cake.

In addition to the daytime classes, there were two evening sessions. The first covered chironomy, or chant conducting, using a book newly reprinted by CMAA, The Technique of Gregorian Chironomy, by Joseph Robert Carroll. After Turkington's presentation, the group practiced and prepared chironomy, along with discussions of various possible interpretations.

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