You Think Chant is Too Hard for You?


#1

youtube.com/watch?v=9qfQM8vTTmA


#2

Chant is not too hard for anyone, unless they are unwilling to learn it. It is natural for a three year old to memorize. It is equivalent to putting a dry sponge in a pool of water and it absorbing moisture. This video should inspire us to take advantage of the grammar stage of a child’s learning and pump them full of valuable worship resources…Scripture, psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, prayers. This young man has a great advantage already. :wink:


#3

My first exposure to actually singing chant was at a three-day personal retreat that I had at the local Benedictine monastery a year or so before my confirmation. I had a couple advantages, in that I am a trained classical musician, and I had had chant CDs running during my sleep time for several years. Anyhoo, when I sat in on the prayers and looked at the books, it was almost like I had been doing it all my life.


#4

[quote="romandrojas, post:2, topic:304520"]
Chant is not too hard for anyone, unless they are unwilling to learn it. It is natural for a three year old to memorize. It is equivalent to putting a dry sponge in a pool of water and it absorbing moisture. This video should inspire us to take advantage of the grammar stage of a child's learning and pump them full of valuable worship resources...Scripture, psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, prayers. This young man has a great advantage already. ;)

[/quote]

I find chant difficult. I'm a good pianist (classically trained, but I play all kinds of music), and I'm learning the organ.

Perhaps because I'm not 3 years old, but 55 years old, I don't have much ability to sing by ear. I have to read the actual music. I have a hard time singing the Psalm in the OF Mass--the cantor can sing it perfectly, but I can't remember what he/she just sang! (I also can't memorize piano music or any kind of song lyrics, and never have been able to do so--it's the main reason I didn't go into music as a full-time career.)

Neumes are hard for me to follow, and even if they are modernized, I find the intervals tricky. I think this is because my "Western brain" demands a regular melody and rhythm, and I find it very difficult to sing or listen to random notes.

I also find chant difficult because of the type of singing voice required to make it sound tolerable. There is nothing more ugly than chant sung in a nasal voice, or a chest voice, or in a "pop" voice--that's the worst. It needs to be sung in that ethereal head voice, but so many of us have a hard time doing that, so the chant comes across like cats or squeaky gears grinding. I try to sing in head voice, but when I'm trying to get the neumes, I tend to forget to use proper singing technique.

I don't like Latin much, because I don't understand it. Our missallettes include several chants that are sung during Benediction. Last week, my husband pointed out that the "English translations" next to the Latin versions of these chants are NOT translations at all, but merely English alternative words. He said that unless he can have the REAL translation of the Latin, he would prefer NOT to sing these chants, because he has no idea what he's actually saying. That made sense to me. I can't understand why the publishing companies do this--if they're going to publish Latin, they should print the EXACT TRANSLATION next to the Latin! Make sense?

Finally, I have a hard time with chant because I don't find it particularly pretty. It's simply too random for me, too meandering, and I have enough randomness and wandering around in my life that I prefer most of my music to have a nice melody. Even John Rutter's "irregular" rhythms have a discernible pattern. But chant doesn't.

Those who love chant tend to think that everyone else will love chant, too. (That's the way it is with all musical styles--we always assume that others will love what we love.) But I'm guessing that quite a few people feel the same way I do about chant. Yes, they don't mind singing a chant during the Mass, or listening to a chant during Mass. But I think that a steady diet of it with no other music styles would be unpleasant for many people.

Although I realize that some Catholics, especially those on CAF, do not like or appreciate contemporary Christian music, like it or not, tens of thousands of Christians flock to the Protestant megachurches that feature good professionally-done contemporary music, while the Catholic parishes that feature chant do not attract tens of thousands of music lovers. That's reality in 2012, like it or not. :shrug:


#5

Well, now that's the simple tone. The solemn tone is considerably more difficult, though by no means impossible. However, there are some chants, particularly graduals and offertories, that are very difficult indeed, even for experienced choristers and cantors!


#6

[quote="romandrojas, post:2, topic:304520"]
Chant is not too hard for anyone, unless they are unwilling to learn it.

[/quote]

:thumbsup:


#7

[quote="Cat, post:4, topic:304520"]
Although I realize that some Catholics, especially those on CAF, do not like or appreciate contemporary Christian music, like it or not, tens of thousands of Christians flock to the Protestant megachurches that feature good professionally-done contemporary music, while the Catholic parishes that feature chant do not attract tens of thousands of music lovers. That's reality in 2012, like it or not. :shrug:

[/quote]

I hate to say it, but if that's the attitude, maybe that's what we need right now in the church.

Ever heard of the Creative Minority? You know, a more compact, faithful church (faithful to all her teachings, including those extolling chant as the principal music for the liturgy).


#8

I think Matt and Pat have been simmering in the par boil pot over the presidential election a litte too long to cite their blog as a liturgical common sense hangout.

@Cat, what the OHCA RCC blogdom commentariat expressly does not need is one more disenCHANTed boomer that positively, absolutely knows why our worship is in the doldrums and chant sucks, especially if sung in the formant fach of the vocal range (as if), and that we chanters ALL hate sacropop or P&W, and that's why they're leaving the pews in herds to the nearest "seeker" theatre or auditorium, puh-raise JEEEEE-ZUUUUUUSSS!
You don't know squat about what goes on in my neck of the woods, nor I about yours. You're the speed limit age bracket, I'm six years higher, so we're in the demographic.
I won't tell you what's the bottom line for worship in the RCC locally or globally. I suggest you consider choosing to exercize that option as well. Some of us are doing fine, thank you.

musicgiftofgod.blogspot.com/2012/11/early-election-results.html

Ever try actually doing a real poll or survey? I have, last week, "chant won!"


#9

[quote="CharlesinCenCA, post:8, topic:304520"]
I think Matt and Pat have been simmering in the par boil pot over the presidential election a litte too long to cite their blog as a liturgical common sense hangout.

@Cat, what the OHCA RCC blogdom commentariat expressly does not need is one more disenCHANTed boomer that positively, absolutely knows why our worship is in the doldrums and chant sucks, especially if sung in the formant fach of the vocal range (as if), and that we chanters ALL hate sacropop or P&W, and that's why they're leaving the pews in herds to the nearest "seeker" theatre or auditorium, puh-raise JEEEEE-ZUUUUUUSSS!
You don't know squat about what goes on in my neck of the woods, nor I about yours. You're the speed limit age bracket, I'm six years higher, so we're in the demographic.
I won't tell you what's the bottom line for worship in the RCC locally or globally. I suggest you consider choosing to exercize that option as well. Some of us are doing fine, thank you.

musicgiftofgod.blogspot.com/2012/11/early-election-results.html

Ever try actually doing a real poll or survey? I have, last week, "chant won!"

[/quote]

What?! :confused: I don't understand any of this post. Why the "puh-raise JEEEEE-ZUUUUUSSS?" Are you trying to make fun of me, disagree with me, or agree with me? It's going right over my head.

I offered my opinion about the OP's statements. I understand that others will feel differently. I hope that every Catholic can find a parish that's right for them and where they find the music edifying. I am fortunate to have such a parish.


#10

I get 8 year olds singing along to recordings of both the Missa de Angelis Kyrie, and the one from the Missa de Luba. They seem to find both achievable, although the Missa de Luba naturally got us much warmer and gigglier than the Missa de Angelis.


#11

I think it is a much easier for children to learn chant. Part of it I think is because their minds are like sponges and theyare completely open to EVERYTHING. When I was teaching music at a Catholic school, my youngest students (age 3 to about 9 or 10) were not yet or not completely encumbered by any social barriers or peer pressures. They loved anything good I put in front of them, whether it was a great rock song or a beautiful Schubert lied or a chant. The older children needed "tricks" to get them to appreciate or like music outside of their norm. My first goal was to at least get them exposed to music they usually wouldn't hear or listen to in a way that was approachable. My second goal was to introduce them to sacred and liturgical music of the Church. I taught my choir simple chants and how to pronounce the Latin.

Teaching adults can be hit or miss. If the adult is open, willing and wanting to learn there won't be as much trouble in picking it up, because it is easy. An adult who reads music, especially classical singers, will usually have an easier time. I was in college when I first began learning chant in a catholic choir which did it every other week. Most of the singers were not trained, nor could they read music. I read music so it was easy, but the neumes were strange and difficult. Not only did we have neumes for chant, some of our polyphony was in neumes and that was crazy. But after almost a year I got used to it.

That said, some adults are set in their ways and they can't get past the mental and sometimes societal barriers to pick it up, whether or not they enjoy listening to it. Then you have other adults who just don't want to learn because they don't like it. I don't blame them. I wouldn't do some of the extremely difficult, atonal, modern classical vocal music if I weren't paid or if it wouldn't look good on my resume.


#12

[quote="OraLabora, post:5, topic:304520"]
Well, now that's the simple tone. The solemn tone is considerably more difficult, though by no means impossible. However, there are some chants, particularly graduals and offertories, that are very difficult indeed, even for experienced choristers and cantors!

[/quote]

This is an important point.

The typical O Salutaris as sung at a benediction is not the same as some of the more complex chants. I taught myself the classic chants for benediction by simply listening and singing along in the car. It was easy enough to the point where I got the idea that I would learn other chants by listening to MP3 files in my iPhone and singing along. I quickly realized that they are not all the same.

For one who has no musical training and who is not used to the rapid fluctation in tones, even the Te Deum is a challenge and some of the more complex chants can be quite difficult. Try and chant the last line of youtube.com/watch?v=5_ASr4gEyP4. :p The subtlety and nuance is extremely difficult.

Just about anyone can sing Tantum Ergo. Our entire parish chants the Gloria in English at Mass and it is spectacular hear 1000 people do it and to take part in it, but there are other which are way more difficult.

-Tim-


#13

[quote="Cat, post:9, topic:304520"]
I hope that every Catholic can find a parish that's right for them and where they find the music edifying. I am fortunate to have such a parish.

[/quote]

That portion is really the only segment that you can offer regarding the general state of music in the church, Cat. That's what my obtuse rant was about. We have too many experts decrying this, that or the other thing about music and liturgy in simplistic, general and universal terms, and that doesn't fly as none of us is omniscient or omnipresent.
I'm happy for you and your parish. Just don't diagnose from afar why you think chant is an untenable solution when my life's experience suggests quite the opposite. And, the people in the pews were actually polled in advance regarding two worthy settings of our second Mass to be introduced post Missale Romani III English, a choral metered Mass and a chant Mass. The chant Mass won hands down 4 to 1. From the vox populi.


#14

[quote="TimothyH, post:12, topic:304520"]
For one who has no musical training and who is not used to the rapid fluctation in tones, even the Te Deum is a challenge and some of the more complex chants can be quite difficult. Try and chant the last line of youtube.com/watch?v=5_ASr4gEyP4. :p The subtlety and nuance is extremely difficult.

[/quote]

I have always loved Aristotle's renderings of chant. Do keep in mind that offertories are some of the most difficult chants that were designed for the schola/choir, not the congregation.


#15

[quote="CharlesinCenCA, post:13, topic:304520"]
That portion is really the only segment that you can offer regarding the general state of music in the church, Cat. That's what my obtuse rant was about. We have too many experts decrying this, that or the other thing about music and liturgy in simplistic, general and universal terms, and that doesn't fly as none of us is omniscient or omnipresent.
I'm happy for you and your parish. Just don't diagnose from afar why you think chant is an untenable solution when my life's experience suggests quite the opposite. And, the people in the pews were actually polled in advance regarding two worthy settings of our second Mass to be introduced post Missale Romani III English, a choral metered Mass and a chant Mass. The chant Mass won hands down 4 to 1. From the vox populi.

[/quote]

And that is your experience at your parish. As you say, everyone's experience is different.

I happen to love chant, but I know many many people - of all ages- who do not. We use a chant setting for the propers at my parish and some are fine, some still struggle and some simply don't sing the chant.

Cat gave her opinion (which is what these threads are all about) in a reasoned way. It behooves you to respond in a like manner.


#16

Thank you Ms. Sally, may I have another?
You and likely Cat have totally missed the point I'm advancing: no one has a "bead" in sight that there is or is not a "silver bullet" solution. The difference between our POV's is that you think I'm advancing chant as a "cure all." Nothing is further from the truth. However, Cat's "opinion," as you call it (thus justifying its import) purports to be conclusive. This is a logical fallacy is all I'm saying. And if you don't care for the manner in which I say it, then I suppose you'll just have to get over that.
At our joint, a four parish merged mini-See, I manage a full service, big tent operation with four decades plus (degreed) of continuing learning curve. One thing I've learned, don't even think there's a conclusion to your opinions.
But I will leave you both with this observation. After three years of having All Souls mid-day Mass at the local civic cemetery, and putting in the hands of a very diverse congregation of 200+ souls in the Central Valley of the Simple English Propers and Ps.23 from the Parish Book of Psalms (both CMAA), those folks enjoin the chant fully and totally at first glance and without complaint. It's one of the most "catholic" of the yearly highlights of the year.
It's about competence, not preference.


#17

I was 41 when we moved into the parish we are in now.

The parish uses Chant extensively, mostly the settings from Jubilate Deo.

I picked it up pretty quickly, especially since it is used almost weekly.


#18

[quote="Sarabande, post:11, topic:304520"]
That said, some adults are set in their ways and they can't get past the mental and sometimes societal barriers to pick it up, whether or not they enjoy listening to it. Then you have other adults who just don't want to learn because they don't like it.

[/quote]

My guess is the above is a huge part of it. Simple chant tones are easy to pick up if someone has half the desire. Its the I can't or I won't attitude that generally gets in the way.

I guess I don't get those who reject a music style that is so distinctly Catholic and would rather sing stuff that the super mega evangelical church is singing. When that appeal to popularity of the music in Protestant communities is brought up all I can think is "well they also like rejecting the sacraments so should we follow them down that path too?"

Father had us chant the our father a couple weeks ago and everyone was able to do it. This was at the "contemporary music" mass and yet I heard many people comment on the way out that they enjoyed it. I guess all too often I feel like many church musicians state that no one likes it when in reality it is that they don't like it.


#19

Excuse me.

I never claimed to be an expert,omniscient or omnipresent, but merely a good pianist.

I offered my opinion in response to the OP’s query. That’s what an online forum is all about–allowing people to offer opinions. I fully realize that CAF tends to attract Catholics who enjoy or love chant, and that my opinion is a minority one in this environment.

I made it very clear in my response to the OP that I was talking about me, myself, and I–my personal opinion. I didn’t try to say that all people have the same problems with chant that I have. I am simply not a good chanter, and I think that chant IS too hard for me (the OP’s query). Maybe that’s why I’m a pianist rather than a singer.

You (and apparently some people on other online forums who are having a jolly good time tearing me to shreds) have utterly missed my point when it comes to Latin–that it is useless to many of us without the accurate translation (rather than the "English alternative lyrics).

I don’t want to be emoting nonsense syllables (to me, anyway) without the exact translation–that kind of mindless singing is not acceptable to me as a Christian and as a musician. I want the facts, please–the REAL translation of the Latin words, so I know exactly what kind of things I’m saying (singing) to the Lord God.

I didn’t grow up singing Latin, so I harbor no sentimentality about it, or sweet, warm memories of Masses in Latin. Singing in Latin means nothing to me, and so I would like to at least be able to read the translation while others sing the Latin. Even the Latin advocates on CAF are quick to mention that the missals contain the translation!.

That’s good–but OUR hymnals/missallettes do NOT contain a translation, but merely an alternative English version–that’s NOT good! It isn’t good scholarship (I’m guessing a lot of people think that the English version is the exact translation–wrong!). And it isn’t good for our souls to be singing syllables without knowing what we are actually singing.

Got it? Are we clear now? I would appreciate it if those who are lifting my quotes into other forums would please lift the above paragraphs about Latin, and I would really appreciate it if you would take on this fight and try to convince the publishing companies to print exact translations rather than the English alternative lyrics.

My post about others and chant was speculation–hence my use of the phrase “I think”. Of course, I based my opinion on MY parish and several other parishes that I am involved with (as a pianist). Don’t criticize me for doing this when you did the same. Yes, you used a “poll.” I used week-to-week experiences as a parish pianist.

Here is the quote from my post: “But I think that a steady diet of it with no other music styles would be unpleasant for many people.”

Also please note that I also added the phrase “with no other music styles.” MY parish uses chant! But not for the entire Mass. We have nine Masses on the weekends, all well-attended, and even the family Mass has some chant in it (English, not Latin). This is in keeping with the recommendations of the Church documents–that chant should continue to have a place in the Mass. No one in my parish or diocese is “in violation” or “rebelling” against the Church recommendations for appropriate Mass music. I certainly am not leading a vanguard of protesters trying to knock chant out of the Mass.

CharlesinCenCA, please do not diagnose from afar why YOU think chant is a tenable solution when MY life’s experience suggests quite the opposite.

For those who are not aware (even though it says so in my signature), I am a convert to Catholicism from evangelical Protestantism. I was received into the Catholic Church in 2004, so it’s been 8 years now. I love being Catholic and I have no plans to leave the Catholic Church and drive to Willowcreek (about a half hour from my house) just to hear good music. Christianity is not about “good music.”

Thank goodness that Holy Mother Church advocates subsidiarity when it comes to Mass music!! The bishops, our apostles, are allowed to make the decisions about what music is best for their area of the world, thank goodness! In many dioceses, including mine, it is apparent that the bishops do not think that eliminating all musical styles except chant in the Masses is the best approach.


#20

I would say the answer is yes and no. If I am being taught chant in the traditional manner, then I find it simple to learn. Unfortunately, this simply is not an option for me. We have no one to teach, and I am the one who currently has to teach new music. It takes greater mastery of a piece to teach it than it does to just sing it. Add to this the dearth of those willing to sing or practice in my parish, chant becomes untenable as a regular staple, as do many other musical options. New music has to been incorporated slowy, for example. This same problem makes chant well suited for the Psalm. Chanting the Psalm does not take any coordination to practice.

On a practical note, that chant is written in an unfamiliar clef, with a whole new set of notations, it is quite a learning curve for those who have been reading music for a long time to switch over. Our hymnal has some chant written in standard notation, and this is much easier to read.

In no case is chant “too hard.” That’s a silly as a grade school dare. I would hope dealing with adults we could get beyond such things and go to the true issues. Chanting takes time to learn, especially at first. Most of us have lives and jobs outside of singing at Mass. The cost of time learning chant must be factored to our real lives. Against this, we have to factor the time that is spent preparing for Mass and practicing current selections.

I have chosen to take a middle path. I have gone to one seminar and am attempting to learn as time permits chant notation. In Mass, we have learned some, Jubilate Dei in English and Latin, and a few other specialized pieces. A little more, and I think I will be at the balance that works well for us. I will not go strictly to chant for the same reasons Cat outlined. People love the old hymns too much. Others receive spiritual benefit from some of the newer selection, the stuff that always gets blasted here.


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