Give Chant a Chance

A new school year is just around the corner, and the bright young children will soon be sitting in their uniforms in our Catholic schools.

Now is the time to give them access to their hereditary music as Catholics: Gregorian chant.

Mary Ann Carr Wilson has surely taught two hundred young chanters this summer in her hugely successful summer Chant Camps, and although not everyone can travel to California for this experience, everyone can do something.

  • Begin with the presidential chants, even if only a recto tono (sung on one not) “The Lord be with you/ And with your spirit.”
  • From there, sing the simplest chant ordinary, the Jubilate Deo Mass, which, as Pope Paul wrote, should be learned by all Catholics.
  • From there, sing a Psalm at Communion instead of a hymn. And from there, the sky is the limit.

Meanwhile, in classrooms, teach the children how to sing and how to read Gregorian chant. It will be good for them in every way, from posture to general liberal arts learning to contemplation.

It’s always easy to think that kids will like the easiest music. But the single-voiced unharmonized music of chant, besides being perfectly age-appropriate, is genius composition, and will foster a love of music that will last a lifetime.

2 Replies to “Give Chant a Chance”

  1. My mother attended a Catholic teacher training college in the north of England on the eve of the Second World War. Gregorian chant was part of the curriculum and the students were examined in it. I still have her certificate, awarded by an examiner from Solesmes. Primary school teachers were expected to teach chant to the children.

    The current generation of teachers in Catholic schools have no knowledge or experience of chant, and so cannot teach it. This even applies to most secondary schools who have music specialists on the staff. Yet it took me only ten minutes to teach the Kyrie from Mass XI (Orbis Factor) to a class of ten-year-olds. That they were singing an ancient Greek text to a thousand-year-old melody appealed to their imaginations.

    Yet at Mass in a local church with a congregation of mostly well-heeled and well-educated adults the best they could manage was 'Colours of Day'. Lord help us.

  2. People must have been much "smarter" before the Council. By age 10, I could chant 5 Latin ordinaries by heart. Since then, certain clerics have ranted and raved that it "is tooooooooooooooooooo hard." Nonsense.

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