This Sunday I attended a workshop on Gregorian Chant, facilitated by Tony Vaughan, and others, from Brisbane’s Schola Cantorum. I have a few CDs of Gregorian Chant, some classical and one or two more contemporary. There is something intensely haunting and spiritual about this music; perhaps I’m stating the obvious given its religious heritage. However, what I mean is that the chant draws you into a space which is different than I’ve experienced with say hymns or choral music. It is a kind of inner-self-space. Not too dissimilar to what I would say I experience in a Taize prayer service. It is a quietly contemplative space, the space where one can hear God.

The chant is at one level simple. There is no complexity of the music when compared to some choral works. And there is no need of accompaniment with large orchestras. Yet, with a few techniques called organum (which gives the chant a polyphonic sound by someone chanting at a prefect fifth or fourth to the rest of the group), and ison  (a continuous note is held by one part of the group whislt the other continue the main chant) the chant develops depth and character. This greatly enhances the ‘drawing’ capacity of the chant.

It was an intensive workshop, covering in a very short period of time, the history of chant, deciphering chant notation, reading and pronouncing latin, and practice with putting it all together in a short chant session in the Church we were at.

Its only been the last few years since I’ve felt comfortable singing, thanks to the supoprt of friends, and in particular Betty Beath who spent time helping me develop my voice and confidence. I still find choral and part singing difficult and it will be ages before I would feel truly confident in a choir. But I enjoy singing. I discovered on the weekend that Chant offers a great deal for me. It does not have the same level of complexity as choral music yet has equally so, if not more, a level a inner-spiritual-awareness. It gives me a space to develop my voice and confidence while chanting the most beautiful pieces of religious works.

I plan to attend practice sessions also facilitated by Tony and Schola. And who knows, when I’m more confident and able to grasp more of the fundamentals of chant I may pluck up the courage to try out for Schola.

Oh, and one thing that was especially beautiful on the day, during our practice sessions some of the children also went off and learned their own pieces. We got to hear them when we all gathered in the church later in the afternoon. Angelic is all I’ll say about that.

Scholar will be running another workshop later in the year, perhaps October, I recommend it, give Tony an email and get him to add you to his contacts to let you know when it will be.

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