For any question that may not be answered below, please Email Hervé at firstname.lastname@example.org
Who maintain this site?
My name is Hervé (pronounced Air-Vey). I am a Catholic cantor, singer and children choir director. I am hoping to give for free what was freely given to me. St Matthew in Long Beach, CA is my home parish, but I also worship at Mary Star of the Sea in San Pedro and the John-Paul II Center in Yorba Linda.
Why this website?
Its primary purpose is to support the chanting groups at the churches where I sing, in Southern California, by gathering learning and practicing material in one place. Live group rehearsals are more efficient if preceded by individual practice. Individual learning is more efficient in frequent short sessions. I hope this website can make such frequent individual practice easier.
Chant is a beautiful expression of the Catholic “Both…and…”.
The chanter experiences both the confidence from the scriptures chanted by an engagement of his/her whole body, and the vulnerability inherent to exposed singing.
Elisabeth-Paule Labat writes:”Chant is also, like other music, infused with nostalgic yearning and with joy. But through its medium, these two sentiments, apparently opposed, cause no disquiet in the soul that lives and probes them with the clear insight of faith.” (From “the song that I am” p.98).
Catholic means “universal”. Latin is the language common to all Catholics, worldwide. Of course, not all-latin-all-the-time is necessary. But some-latin-by-all-catholics will cement the unity of the Church.
Also, those of us who have an interest in the history of the Church will understand how much latin can unveil to us. For a musician, getting acquainted with latin will open 1,500 years of deep and exhilarating musical tradition to meaningful exploration. Western music grew from plainchant. And plainchant grew from reading the Bible aloud (“cantillating”). Could the same path be explored in English? Of course. In fact, some recent music publications have made it easier to chant the Bible in English. Some examples are on this website.
How does this ancient ancient music answer the “Pastoral” need of a music ministry?
I have observed many music ministries function more like community choirs than liturgical ministries. The pastoral success seems to be measured by the budget that is raised to finance paid professional musicians, accompanists or singers, who then increase the musical level of the ministry, along with new expenses in hours of practice and copyrighted music. When we measure pastoral success by the solemnity, beauty, and spiritual development attained by the sole active participation of parishioners, there is no better “return on pastoral investment” than gregorian chant. Temporary professional help might be needed to demonstrate, but is no longer necessary once volunteers have gone through the liturgical cycle and keep investing thirty minutes to one hour of practice a week, often just before Mass. Chant also carves the voice and will benefit every singer. If the “Pastoral” need extends to the finances of a parish, then Chant is the most sustainable of all liturgic music ministries.
Please clarify: most church pianists are not familiar with chant, and the few organists who can help are too expensive for our parish?
Gregorian chant is best learned “a-cappella”, without instrumental accompaniment. In fact, accompaniment delays the learning process by giving new chanters the impression they sing, when they are just “leaning” their voice on the instrument. In this case, when you take the instrument away, the voice goes away too. That is not singing. It can be intimidating to start singing a-cappella, but it is absolutely necessary to progress in chant. Instruments should complement the voice, not prop it up. Start chanting humbly, with easy material (ex: responses at Mass, Agnus Dei,..), progressively, in the privacy of your home, but do it at least 30 minutes a week. If you do, in three years, you will be lead cantor. Many tools are available to “sing-along”, starting with this site. Then come and share your new singing skills at Mass with fellow Catholics who made the same effort. No instrument is needed. No money is needed. Just your voice, and your commitment to practice.
Where can I read more about this?
A great place to start are three short articles that were written by Father Cassian DiRocco and published in the bulletin at Mary Star of the Sea:
Embracing what is ours, part two- Gregorian Chant
Embracing what is ours, part three- The Mass Propers
Episode 11 of season 2 of “The Liturgy Guys” podcast hits the nail right on the head. “Liturgical asceticism” expresses very well what this website is about: practice makes perfect!… Exactly. I recommend this podcast.