Good news: you are already “wired” to chant. You have it in you. To give yourself the gift you already have, three basic steps:
1- Give it your first try in a safe environment, where you can quietly feel yourself chanting. Silence and chant are close relatives. Being aware of your body, your mind, and how they connect as you chant is a necessary discovery. The earlier, the better. Chanting at home, alone, with a keyboard or video tools, might be part of it. Please also read “Chant and Time”. This relation to time is essential to chant.
2- Come to Mass and further your practice in the “natural habitat” of chant*. Click here for a list of the Southern California parishes where some chant is sung during Mass.
3- Educate yourself about the “big picture” of chant. Chant is not old, it is ageless. One quick look at the “Instructions on Music” emphasizes the “pride of place” that should be given to Gregorian Chant in post-Vatican II liturgies: Musicam Sacram (14 pages). Too many parish leaders ignore these instructions, and follow the largest publishing companies (OCP, WLP, GIA) towards the commercialization of liturgical music as part of multi-billion-dollar “Christian Music” scene, and away from the spirit of Liturgical renewal clearly prescribed in the Vatican-II Council documents.
Thanks to the internet and 1-click-ordering, there is so much education material available to us nowadays that ignorance is inexcusable. Confusion is more likely. We have just too many choices. This is why reading Musica Sacram, or the USCCB’s Sing To The Lord should be required reading for any Music Minister in the US Catholic Church.
Finally, do not let anyone, including yourself, convince you that you cannot chant. See also Talent and Participation. Also, let no “expert” pontificate that it is “impossible” to apply the instructions of Vatican II and sing all the Proper from the Roman Gradual at Mass. At least two parishes in Southern California have done it for the past year, with a cantor who started chanting regularly only five years ago, and who holds no degree in music. And the pews have been filling up. Those who say it is “impossible” have just not tried.
(* This group in Los Angeles, The Gregorian Chant Society , gathers to chant in non-liturgical settings. If going to Mass is more than you can do, consider visiting them)