I recently had the pleasure of attending the Winter Chant Intensive’s track on “Singing the Mass” for priests and deacons. Why me? While I’m obviously neither a priest nor deacon, I was interested in seeing how Matthew Meloche of the Cathedral of Saints Simon and Jude would work with a diverse collection of clerics.
The willingness of the priest/deacon participants to get up one at a time and sing was wonderful. There is nothing more terrifying to most amateurs (and most professionals, if we’ll be honest) than singing before one’s peers. Some of the singers struggled to find their voices at all; some simply needed tuning up and clarification. Meloche sensed quickly how to meet each participant where he was at that point. He also knew when to back off, lest personal attention begin to seem humiliating focus. Everyone was encouraging and positive, even as we moved quickly from dialogues to orations and finally to the dread Exultet.
Each of the participants made progress and seemed ready to take some of the learning home and into actual liturgical practice. My only concern was the length of this intensive course because the last day seemed to push some over the edge into musical and psychic exhaustion. What did I get from this 4-day crash course? A better overall picture of the priestly and diaconal musical requirements of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, strategies for helping priests with whom I presently work or may work in the future, and most importantly a chance to spend a few days with dedicated men who want to do everything within their power to bring the richness of chant into their local churches.
A similar course will be part of the XXV Summer Colloquium at Duquesne University this summer. If you’re a priest or deacon who wants to build his chant on a firm foundation, give that opportunity some thought. It is a chance to experience musical collegiality and growth, to learn the music particular to your liturgical vocation, and to be surrounded by singers who want you to “shine” in the sanctuary as much as they would in the loft.