Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Teens and Chant

~from the latest Adoremus Bulletin by Patrick Cunningham:
The guitar was never intended — and cannot be effectively used — to lead congregational singing. The use we made of it in a religious formation community of seventy people was about the limit of the instrument’s ability to accompany singing. When transferred to a congregation of several hundred, spiced up with harmony and syncopation, guitar music becomes a self-centered performance, not an experience of communal worship.

Fifteen years later, after intense study (and significant repentance), and with the encouragement of Lt. Col. Roger Darley and others, I undertook to complete Father Dreisoener’s unpublished work and brought out Chants for the Church Year, a collection of English Propers for the Mass — with authentic Gregorian settings for the most part — for the three-year liturgical cycle. It won a modest following. I dedicated it to Father Charles and considered it an ongoing act of penance, and an incremental contribution to the true renewal of Liturgy. As circumstances permit, I introduce the chant in the places I minister as deacon, including our own parish, where we sing Lauds every Saturday and Sunday to authentic Gregorian melodies, in English.

...By the time we prepared the April Mass, an Easter celebration, both sophomore Latin classes wanted to participate. I gave them the choice between two Easter Week Communion antiphons; they chose the shorter one. In this case, the result was a bit rougher because we had too many boys singing at once. We also used the psalm verses in English. In this case, the chant was used as an entrance chant. We prepared the school for the experience by a series of school bulletin announcements.

Before we tried to introduce chant into the school Mass, a religion teacher told me “the boys hate chant”.

“How do they hate something they have never heard?” I responded. In the end, most of the students believed that they had received something good from the use of chant at Mass. By incorporating young students who had never participated in sung worship before, and by using authentic Gregorian melodies and the Latin language, we introduced half a thousand adults and young men to the heritage of beauty shared by the universal Church, Latin rite.

Only God knows what can happen next, but we are not finished with this experiment. This year, I will introduce Latin chant through all the Latin classes and the Humanities class. Some experimental liturgy, the kind that is tightly connected to our heritage of art in worship, is very much in line with the authentic renewal of our liturgy.
He includes a confession of sorts of his time in guitar Masses.

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