My first try at building a Youth Schola was a bust, because I tried beginning with polyphony. Big mistake. Singing is one thing–even singing in Latin is pretty easy–but singing in parts is difficult for inexperienced singers, especially the very young. Then one Pentecost I asked one of the original Schola members to chant the introit, on a simple Psalm tone. He aced it, and a few months later I began advertising for children to join our parish’s Youth Classical Schola, specializing in Gregorian chant.
Obviously Gregorian chant is more than Psalm tone introits, so thank goodness for Richard Rice’s The Parish Book of Chant., which became our standard textbook. It is published by the Church Music Association of America. Filled with chant Ordinaries, dialogues from the Mass, chant hymns, and information singers need, it is just what we needed to really move forward. I was just a step ahead of the young people myself, having grown up with the usual parish guitar and organ fare and without much exposure at all to Gregorian chant. The Parish Book of Chant helped us not only to sing the chant, but to love it. Over just a few years, our parish has trained dozens of young singers, some of whom can now sight-read difficult propers.
For those who would like to preview a copy, this option is available online here. It’s a unique resource, friendly, helpful, and not at all intimidating for new chanters, and I am so glad to be working at a time when such wonderful helps to singers are available!