Chant in Texas


Over seventy-five people gathered in a South Houston suburb over St. Valentine's Day weekend to experience the joy of singing chant. The workshop, entitled Rediscovering the Sacred: A Workshop in Gregorian Chant was taught by the well-known chant master, Scott Turkington.

The workshop began on Friday with an explanation of the history of chant, its development in the Roman Liturgy, and its suitability as the ideal music for the Roman Rite. Indeed, as Mr. Turkington pointed out, the chant is wedded to the liturgy in a particularly organic fashion--the type and style of chant is flexible as needed for the various parts of the Mass. The introit, usually straightforward and less melismatic, reflects the purposeful march of the procession. The gradual and Alleluia (or tract) on the other hand, with its ecstatic jubilus is quite ornate and soloistic. Why? Because the congregation and ministers are reflecting on the Word of God, and no ritual action is taking place. Again the Sanctus is usually less melismatic, so as to fit into the role of a Eucharistic chant. Thus Gregorian chant is music particularly fitted to the Roman Rite. Mr. Turkington also outlined the structure and contents of the Gregorian Missal, and noted the congregational nature of the eighteen Ordinary of the Mass settings.

Then we moved on to practical lessons, the notation of chant, the clefs, modes, types of neumes, and the expressive neumes. It was inspiring to hear the several ways in which an expressive neume can be sung. It is one thing to read about the chant, but hearing a master teacher of the repertoire sing the chant, demonstrating the musical interpretation of the neumes, was illuminating and inspiring. We learned about solfege and its importance for helping us understand the mode and pitches of a chant--not easy, but very useful!

After dinner at various local restaurants, the St. Theresa Schola offered a concert of the music of William Byrd. Organ and harpsichord music was offered, and the Mass for Four Voices was sung, as well as the Ave Verum Corpus. …

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