On November 9th and 10th, just over 100 singers participated in a chant workshop at the Church of St. John the Beloved in McLean, Virginia. Scott Turkington of Stamford, Connecticut, acclaimed Gregorian chant expert and teacher, provided a thorough introduction to chant performance according to the classic Solesmes method—the workshop’s primary focus. First, Turkington taught the group to sing a Kyrie from memory, then he introduced the basics of singing and reading square notes and clefs, the names and functions of neums, chant rhythm, the church modes, and psalm tones. He also provided an overview of the material contained in the Liber Cantualis, which served as the workshop’s primary textbook.
On Friday evening, David Lang, Master of Music at St. John the Beloved, gave an organ recital of works based on chant melodies, drawn exclusively from the 20th century repertoire. The pieces covered a wide range of the liturgical year and chant modes, and demonstrated a variety of organ colors and moods. A schola drawn from workshop participants introduced the chant on which each piece was based, and, for Maurice Duruflé’s Prelude, Adagio and Choral Variations on ‘Veni Creator Spiritus,’ sang verses in alternation with the organ.
On Saturday, Fr. Franklyn McAfee, Pastor of St. John the Beloved, gave a lecture entitled, “To Sing Is the Mark of a Lover,” in which he compared those who sing chant to people who have fallen in love. Mere words are not sufficient to express their love, which must be exalted by the addition of music.
The workshop concluded on Saturday with the participants singing the full chant Mass ordinary and other chants as part of the parish’s Sunday Vigil Mass. The Mass propers were sung by the schola.
Response was enthusiastic, and St. John’s plans to make the workshop an annual event. Readers in the northern Virginia area should watch the Arlington diocesan newspaper and the CMAA website for an announcement of next year’s program.
Here is a wonderful interview with CMAA President William Mahrt that appears in the National Catholic Register.