Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Many readers are familiar with my husband, Charles, who spends time with his colleagues here in the Chant Café and Optima Musica discussing, with devotion, our Holy Mother Church and her liturgy. I am an estate administration paralegal by profession but have had the joy of working beside my husband in the ministry of pastoral music since 1974.
This year, after attending two Colloquium and listening to Charles’ experience at Chant Intensive in San Diego two years ago, I decided to join the many others this past week in New Orleans in the Beginning chant seminar offered by Scott Turkington. Approaching the seminar facility - a two story building nestled in the courtyard behind the rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, it seemed only fitting that those of us beginning our study of chant, its history and performance, its prayer, ascended two flights of stairs to spend a week learning from our instructor and, often, being supported from below by the strains of chant melody sung by the Advanced seminar members led by Dr. William Mahrt (Charles included...). The week passed in that manner...ascending to learn, descending to reflect and to join with the other seminar attendees to share experiences and, finally, to sing at the solemn celebration of the Mass for Epiphany with Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. What a glorious week!
Our beginning group gathered from Canada to California, Minnesota to New Mexico, and was made up of professional directors and brand new volunteer directors seeking tools to use in locating repertoire and teaching their choirs; cantors and choir members (new members and experienced members); seminarians, deacons and priests, all there to invest themselves in the beauty of chant as clergy; together with new Catholics without musical backgrounds seeking the beauty of their new faith in the ancient chant of the Church...all of us, together, hoping to gain an understanding of the neumes and nuances of modes and the ictus, propers and ordinaries, solfeggio and lonely punctums, psalm tones and chironomy...word accents...all elements illuminated through Scott’s expertise and dedication.
Ascending those stairs for each session brought all of us into the presence of a master teacher...Scott saw each of us at our ability level and need and was able, in a room of 35-40 individuals, to gather us into the one voice of the chant melody with care and confidence, humor (“Oh...listen to the semiologists downstairs...” Scott would quip) and challenges! Each aspect of chant study was accompanied by authoritative references to Solemnes masters and historical writings, anecdotes offered by Scott from his personal experience of Gregorian chant study and his own writings which informed the instruction along the way. Scott conducted through our stumblings and rejoiced in our successes as we learned Mass IX, the Introit and Communion antiphon for Epiphany, the Te Deum Laudamus and other chants for the Friday celebrations.
Our Beginning seminar, now a familiar ensemble, descended the steps of St. Patrick’s last Friday to take up our journeys with and through Gregorian chant in our own communities. For my part, I have given up Sudoku to spend time with a pencil (with eraser!), my PBC (Parish Book of Chant) and Gregorian Missal, and the rules of chant worksheets now rough-edged and worn. There with me, as I pour over the 2s and 3s and liquescents, is Scott with his smile, lifted palate and pitch to voice the Great Song at the heart of our worship. Deo gratias!
Thank you, Scott, for everything. See you, and hopefully many of our Beginning seminar members, at Colloquium in Pittsburgh!
PS from Charles:
The blue skies above the Gothic beauty of St. Patrick's, the Pro-Cathedral of New Orleans, attest to the notion of recovery and clarity, after tumult and devastation, both things that our liturgy and NOLA/Gulf States residents have experienced accutely over the last number of years. But as is stated in Chant Café's mission statement excerpted from St. Augustine, "singing is for those who love."
Happy Anniversary, my beloved Wendy.