Friday, January 11, 2013


I was pleased to find on the front page of the metro section of the Macon Telegraph this morning a very nice article and large pictures on "Macon Hosts Chant Workshop" written by the Telegraph's reporter Liz Fabian (great name!) and a parishioner here at St. Joseph Church.

This is from the web version of the story which includes a video of one of the sessions!

Move over monks. Gregorian chant is not just for monasteries these days.

Melodies that pre-date the Middle Ages are becoming more mainstream in modern Catholic Masses.

This week, dozens of musicians from across the country have been studying the ancient art in a conference at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Macon.

With men and women sequestered in different buildings, instructors have been going over the basics and beyond.

“It’s challenging,” said instructor Richard Rice, a composer and music director for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. “The melodies do strange things.”

With its origins in the first century, chant is not metered. The familiar music staff and metered measures came a couple of centuries later.

“The problem with this music is it’s not all there on the page for you,” Rice said. “You have to have an organizational system.”

Singers at the conference are learning a rhythm technique developed in the late 19th century during another chant revival at the Abbey of Solesmes in France.

“We don’t know what it sounded like in 800,” instructor Arlene Oost-Zinner of Auburn, Ala., said. “Some don’t adhere to the method. They think it’s artificial.”

Her students made their own notations on the music to help set the rhythm.

“Don’t ever say beat with chant,” Oost-Zinner told her female students Wednesday. “It’s pulse -- (like) the beats of the heart, waves of the ocean, the flapping of angels’ wings.”

In the men’s session, Rice spent about 20 minutes working on three Latin words of a Psalm translated “Arise, shine Jerusalem.”

“We spend a lot of time figuring out the music,” Rice said.

The singers sound several notes in a singular vowel sound for just one syllable.

“Arise. We linger on that word 15 seconds,” Rice told his students of varying ages. “You’ve meditated on one word of scripture, and that’s an amazing thing.”

Chant enthusiasts say the slower pace and fewer words allow people to engulf themselves in worship.

Father Jonathan Venner, a 30-year-old priest from South Dakota, said there is a resurgence in chanting among people of the younger generation.

“Young people are looking for anything that has depth,” Venner said.

At St. Joseph, a Latin Mass is chanted the first Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. in a much simpler form than traditional Gregorian chant.

Five years ago, Pope Benedict allowed for the older form of the Mass to be celebrated with the priest facing the altar.

“I seized the opportunity,” said Father Allan McDonald, St. Joseph’s pastor.

Although the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s encouraged chanting to remain in the liturgy, the focus shifted to English hymns instead, McDonald said.

Latin was intended to remain the language of the Mass, but the council allowed for some English.

“But it almost went to all-English overnight,” McDonald said.

There was criticism that non-Latin speaking congregations were too passive in the Latin Mass and let the priest do the worship, he said.

Those who attend the voluntary Latin Mass at St. Joseph enjoy it, McDonald said.

“If I did one of those Masses at 9:30 (a.m.), there would be a riot,” he said.

The conference concludes Friday at 11 a.m. with a special Mass incorporating Gregorian chant. The public is invited.

Does lingering on one word for 15 seconds evoke greater spiritual meditation?

Rice said that’s a question the faithful have to decide for themselves.

“Clearly the writers of chant thought it was important to meditate on a word or two of scripture for that amount of time,” he said. “I don’t think it’s so far away from people’s sensibilities of what is spiritual, really, this idea of meditation, of stopping in our busy world to refuel, reflect on one moment, one beautiful thing.”

To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

Read more here:


Joseph Johnson said...

Georgia Public Radio has had this story on their morning broadcast of State news today. It was generally good, talking about the era of the "hootenanny" Mass going by the wayside.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Was something you heard, Joseph or something you read, if it was heard is there a way to get the audio?

Henry Edwards said...

In case you haven't by now seen Arlene Oost-Zinner's post at The Chant Cafe and her link to the GPB story

qwikness said...

Henry Edwards said...

“If I did one of those Masses at 9:30 (a.m.), there would be a riot,” he said.

A common assumption, but I wonder whether it's really true. I've talked to lots of Latin Mass first-timers, and seldom if ever heard a negative reaction. Young people born since Vatican II are uniformly positive. But, so long as Latin Masses are scheduled only at inconvenient times, only a minority of them will ever get to one.

Hmm ... would your parishioners riot at the kind of papal Mass we've seen recently--all chant and Latin?

Templar said...

Had to leave the Mass early to return to work, but it was heavenly while I was there. The Entrance Antiphone was bliss; I closed my eyes and let my mind pass beyond the veil for a few minutes.

The young Priest who chanted the Epistle was extraordinary, a bonus among an already beautiful gift to Macon.

I was saddened to see so few men in attendence. Saddened more so to see the Monte de Sales girls show up in skirts which would not pass dress code in my children's secular High School. Where on Earth are these children's parents? Not to be confused with the St Joseph's school children, who were all doing their school proud.

rcg said...

This is great! You are getting positive publicity about this. FWIW, as most already know, pronunciation is very important. Like opera, you can sing the notes more easily when you say them correctly. I make me crazy when people sing 'T-H-E' as "thuh".

Joseph Johnson said...

I'm sorry I couldn't respond to your question about the GPB radio report in a timely manner. I heard the report this morning while getting ready for work. I had to get a child to school by 7:40 and be in court at 8:30 (and I live 20 miles from town!).

I tried to respond at lunchtime today but my office computer (it's OK, I'm my own boss at work) doesn't always allow me to transmit posts. I haven't figured that one out yet, either--just like my home computer posts going to your email. Anyway, I hope a lot of Catholics in our Diocese heard the report!

Pater Ignotus Was My Pastor said...

Did Pater Ignotus make it to the "Chant Intensive" workshop to see how the other half lives?

Pater Ignotus said...

PI Was My Pastor - No, I did not attend the Chant Intensive. And it's not the "other half" but, at least in this diocese, the other 2%.

Pater Ignotus Was My Pastor said...

PI - It's called figurative speech. If it's literally 2% in the Diocese of Savannah, then it's quite sad that "Protestantized" liturgy is the norm these past 50 years. If your statistic is correct, then His Holiness, Benedict XVI, and hopefully His Excellency, Gregory John Hartmayer, in concert with him, have a lot of work to do to truly implement the true and genuine liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and Summorum Pontificum. (It also says that there have been and are quite a few disobedient members of the clergy in the Diocese of Savannah over the past 50 years.)

Pater Ignotus said...

PI Was My Pastor - I prefer the 2% number to the "figurative" and, I would say, misleading, "half." (I rounded to the nearest whole number. The un-rounded figure is 2.27273%.)

You can chack my math. Divide the number of parishes/missions where Latin and/or chant makes up a significant portion of the language/music of the mass by the total number of parishes/missions.

The Mass of Pope Paul VI is not "Protestantized" and there were no "Six Protestant Ministers" who forced this reformed mass on an unsuspecting Catholic Church.

If you know of any - ANY - "disobedient" priests, I encourage you to report them to the proper authorities.