Hello everyone and welcome to this blog. This will be a way for me to share with you some thoughts and guidance on the chants that we are preparing month by month. It will be a way for all members to share reflections, questions and observations. Thank you Patrick for setting it up for us.
Having no qualifications in music or skills beyond what we are gradually acquiring together I would never think of putting this out in the public domain. I trust you to accept it as an honest attempt to enrich and deepen our singing together. Not infrequently I expect to be posing some questions myself and would welcome it if members have time to help by sharing their research and observations.
Plainchant is prayer.
The most basic assumption of our choir is always that plainchant is prayer and that we are attempting to sing chant as prayer. A consequence of this, as you know, is that we will always consider the text to be primary. This, even though sometimes the melodies were not composed for the texts for which they are being used. Even when that is so our approach to the melody must be nuanced by the texts that we are singing. Another important consideration is the context within the liturgy as it is celebrated now. For instance is the chant accompanying the entrance of the priest, the preparation of the gifts, the procession of the faithful to receive communion? Not unrelated to this is the context within liturgical tradition through history. That starts to get complicated but is an important consideration.
To reach a point where we are comfortable enough with the music to begin to use it to pray the texts is the great challenge. When he have reached that point we can be sure that our singing will be far more effective. Nevertheless singing can be wordless prayer. There is that oft quoted observation from St Augustine:
‘In praise, there is the speaking forth of one confessing; in singing, the affection of one loving.’
(St. Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 73, 1).
As with all prayer it is important always to invoke the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We always pray for each other. Our choir is under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin and we always ask her intercession as well.
The Exultet furnishes us with an example of praying for inspiration.
As the deacon begins the Exultet, that great hymn to Christ the Light in the Easter Vigil, he asks of the assembly; ..Dearest friends, standing in the awesome glory of this holy light, invoke with me, I ask you, the mercy of God almighty, that he, who has been pleased to number me, though unworthy, among the Levites, may pour into me his light unshadowed, that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises’
‘It is truly right and just, with ardent love of mind and heart and with devoted service of our voice, to acclaim our God invisible, the almighty Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten’.
We ask to be similarly inspired as we sing the sacred chants in Mass.