Sunday, October 16, 2011

They don't teach "pom poms" at the Madeline School

A couple of colloquia ago, Duquesne I (as it were), the first person we happened upon in the dorm was a young lady, Miss Jessica Happold, dispatched post-haste to her first CMAA event after just one month's tenure as the new Choir Director for the noted bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln Nebraska. Wendy and Jessica have shared a few FBook exchanges, but as I don't "social network" I hadn't heard from our lovely friend from 2010.
But in my office email I received this email below, and have included subsequent messages from one of Jessica's young charges. We've had a lot of good news about our "kids" of late, particularly through the work of David Hughes, Kathy Pluth and MaryAnn Carr. And it's a privilege to anticipate being able to take in the acclaimed Madeline experience started by Msgr. Mannion next summer. Just thought it might brighten the day to share this.

Hello Charles Culbreth,
My name is Seán Coffey, and I am an 8th grade student at Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln Nebraska. I am currently working on a project in “Sacred Music” with my teacher, Miss Happold, speaking of Chant. I would like you to answer this question, what do you think about Gregorian Chant. Do you think it is the right decision for it to return it after such a long disappearance and why? I would love to hear what you reply and please share your true thoughts, no limits what so ever.
Thank You so much.

Hello back, Seán.
I apologize that my response has been delayed, but I assure you that your interest has not been far from my mind. Please say hello to your teacher from both my wife and myself. You are quite fortunate to have such a caring and talented teacher.
“What do I think of chant?”
What I believe about Gregorian Chant is that it is the most refined, perfected language that we humans can employ to thank God, worship God, pray to God, praise God and return to Him a beautiful expression that unlike any other way, joins the best of “words” to the best ideals of “music.” Gregorian Chant is not just the sum of its major two parts, sacred text and melody. As I said, it is a sacral language that reflects our appreciation for the mystery that is at the heart of all we believe in our faith.
I actually think that the resurgence of Gregorian Chant in our era is not a return, or an acknowledgment of something that “lived” only in the past. The elements of notation that unlock the secrets of how best to perform its aspects are now being “de-coded” for popular understanding, along with the principles of why believers relied upon chant both in Mass and in the marking of the Liturgy of the Hours, so that virtually any interested Catholic, Christian or other person could learn to enact.
Recovering chant is not just about whether it is a “right decision” to help the Church spread the Gospel. Chant is the gospel, chant is our right, in fact our Catholic birthright. The decision we must face is whether to accept this God given right as being first among other equal ways to musically and poetically reflect our love for the Lord through the arts. Chant is first and foremost an action, an experience, something that cannot be fully understood or embraced by mere study or listening. It’s like swimming; you have to jump into its waters, take a breath and trust that you will move in a completely new manner .
Perhaps I can write you some more reflections later on.

Hello Charles,
My teacher says hi to both you and your wife. Thank you so much for your response. It is absolutely eye-opening and relevant for the church to know. This has strengthend my belief and has truly made me a much better Catholic member.
God Bless You So Much,
Seán Coffey