Gregorian Chant Workshop:
12-13 October 2019
We were delighted to welcome back Philip Duffy, Associate Director, Schola Gregoriana, who led us for a weekend workshop on Gregorian chant on 12-13 October 2019, our fourth weekend workshop since 2015. We were very pleased that some non-members were able to join us, helping to make it a richer and more fulfilling experience. We particularly appreciated the way in which Philip took a personal interest in all attending, members and non-members alike.
The main focus of the Workshop was to help us prepare to sing the Mass for the 28th Sunday per Annum: the Propers and Kyriale II. As a Choir, we had already rehearsed these chants, but we looked to Philip to help us finesse our singing, particularly in enhancing the volume of our singing and singing legato. With the inimitable combination of his own esoteric brand of good humour and insistence on the highest standards, he did so admirably!
The Mass included some particularly beautiful chants. Among them were the Introit, Si iniquitates, imploring the Lord for forgiveness, and the Gradual, Ecce quam bonum, with its delicious imagery of the ointment running down Aaron’s beard as an analogy for unity, something that Philip certainly enabled us to accomplish as a Choir. The haunting melody of the Offertory Recordare mei reflected the fervent plea by Esther to the Lord to give her the right words to convince King Ahasuerus to spare her people. Reflecting and bringing out the words of the sacred text is such an important attribute of Gregorian chant and Philip helped us to achieve this.
As well as preparing us for the Mass, Philip led us in some exploration of the chants for the Feast of St Edward the Confessor, which would have been celebrated on 13 October had it not been superseded by the Sunday liturgy. He was disappointed that the Mass setting for the day was merely the standard one for a Confessor not a Bishop, without any special chants for St Edward. Nevertheless, it included some beautiful chants which we sang unseen. However, Philip had managed to find an early 16th century sequence from the Sarum Use for the Birth of One Confessor, Adest nobis dies alma, which we sang, as well as a vernacular version of a Sarum chant for All Saints.
By common consent, it was a most inspiring and enjoyable workshop. Philip Duffy has given us a great deal to chew over and has helped to boost our growing self-confidence as a Choir.
See also photos on the Photo Gallery page.
Weekend visit to Quarr and St Cecilia’s Abbeys: 21-23 June 2019
The Choir made its now annual visit to the Isle of Wight on a warm, late June weekend. We stayed at Quarr Abbey, where we enjoyed the hospitality of the monks and in particular the repartee of the Guestmaster, Fr Nicholas. Once again, we were very privileged to have tuition on chant from Abbot Xavier, with his patience, good humour and tolerance, but insistence on high standards. On Saturday 22 June, we spent the day at St Cecilia’s Abbey, where we had the benefit of tuition from Sr Bernadette, the Choirmistress, with her unparalleled knowledge of chant. Taking a break for lunch, once again we visited the nearby delightful Duck Restaurant for a convivial and delicious meal.
Above all, both Abbot Xavier and Sr Bernadette demonstrated their love of chant by showing us how it should be sung beautifully, in the service of the Lord. We also had the benefit of hearing the monks since the Offices and attending the sublimely beautiful Mass for the Feast of SS John Fisher and Thomas More at St Cecilia’s Abbey. On Sunday, we were privileged to be invited to join the monks of Quarr Abbey in singing at their Pontifical Mass for Corpus Christi. We were particularly delighted to be able to sing the lovely Corpus Christi Sequence, Lauda Sion, in full, alternating with the monks.
We are most grateful to Suzanne (who sadly could not be with us), Grey and Paul in making the necessary domestic arrangements, and as ever to our Director, Fr Peter, who accompanied us having made the necessary arrangements with Abbot Xavier and Sr Bernadette.
Weekend Workshop led by Philip Duffy: 17-18 November 2018
The descriptions most used by
participants after Sunday Mass at Ealing
Abbey were ‘uplifting’, ‘enjoyable’,
‘challenging’, ‘inspiring’, ‘opening our
horizons’ and ‘privileged’. All agreed that
Philip Duffy is a superb teacher who
succeeds with gentle determination in
producing a worthy performance from a
choir eager to broadcast the message
from the sacred texts clearly through the
sublime music of the chant.
Philip began the workshop by taking the choir through the Kyrie ‘Fons Bonitatis’ and the Gloria from ‘Rex Genitor’, and through the Propers of the 33rd Sunday of the year. These are composed in a variety of Gregorian modes, which gave Philip an opportunity to demonstrate the scales and distinctiveness of of the different modes. The choir, having had little experience of psalmody, sang in the afternoon through psalm 33 set to various tones, although finding the pointing in the style employed in the Liber Usualis somewhat challenging. Even more challenging, albeit highly enjoyable, was a foray into two songs composed by Hildegard of Bingen, and far easier, the measured rhythm of the 15th century Credo Cardinalis edited by Mary Berry, and of the sequence Veni, Sancte Spiritus as it might have been lustily sung at a Pentecost procession.
A musically action packed afternoon concluded with the beautiful troped Sarum version of the Salve Regina. Next morning Philip polished the choir’s performance of the Sunday Mass before conducting what everyone felt was a commendable performance. Following the ancient tradition of sending cantors from Rome to teach the chant to those in the most distant provinces of the Holy Roman Empire, a great benefit from skilled teachers such as Philip is that their guidance will accrue as a permanent investment in the choir to be applied to all its repertoire in the future.
Weekend visit to Quarr and St Cecilia's Abbeys - 5-7 October 2018
Choir members had a most enjoyable and worthwhile training weekend at these two Abbeys on the Isle of Wight. At Quarr, Abbot Xavier helped us improve our singing together as a Choir, giving us not only the benefit of his long experience in singing chant but particularly his evident love of it as extolling the Word of God, manifest especially in his exquisite singing. At St Cecilia's Abbey, again we had not only the superb instruction on chant from Sr Bernadette, but the great privilege of hearing the full beauty of chant sung so sublimely by herself and the Sisters. The weekend at Quarr Abbey also gave us a chance to get together socially. We are especially grateful to Ann Kealy and Grey for organising the event, and to Paul for organising taxis and the excellent lunch at the Duck Restaurant. Our thanks also, as ever, to Fr Peter for accompanying and leading us.
Latin Vespers - St Birinus, Dorchester-on-Thames: 30 June 2018
We were very grateful to Grey Macartney for organising the visit to St Birinus, Dorchester-on-Thames, where we sang Latin Vespers in memory of Mary Berry, who founded the Schola Gregoriana. It was a most uplifting and enjoyable experience.
We were sad to say goodbye to Sr Mary Molloy as our much loved Membership Secretary at the end of June 2018 and are very grateful to Ann Kealy who has agreed to take over her role. We send Sr Mary our best wishes and prayers on her return to her Order's mother house in Drogheda.
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