We've been marching through gregorian chant and polyphony this week, with our patient instructors maintaining good cheer at all times; and I can imagine them saying, a la Professor Higgins: "By George, I think they've got it! I think they've really got it!" (Replace a British with a German accent, and you have our consistently humorous choir director.)
I am sorry not to have posted on Friday; however, I somehow posted Thursday's twice, so you'll have to take that as consolation.
As mentioned, each day we've been practicing polyphony--that is, multi-part music--and chant. The polyphonous music has been the ordinary prayers of the Mass: the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. There is some controversy in liturgy-nerd circles about whether one should have such music at Mass, as it means the assembly is not singing these. Well, there is a lot to be said on that, and anyone who wants to can quote relevant documents in the comments.
But I would say this: first, as one of our speakers pointed out, one can have these prayers sung by everyone almost all Sundays, and have these pieces for special occasions. Second, it's not totally true that the assembly can't participate; for one, they participate by being blessed and moved by the beauty and content of the prayer; and two, when what is prayed is a familiar prayer, they can more easily pray along than when it is a one-time piece.
We've also been learning gregorian chant, something I only had an introduction to in the seminary. This is something that can be more accessible, especially simpler chants, and when the same settings are used over and over, folks can learn them. (By the way, does anyone know if there's any progress in setting more English texts to gregorian-style chant? This has all been Latin.)
Well, I missed yesterday morning's practice; I was preparing for Mass, as I rashly volunteered to be celebrant, then realized, "I will hardly have a more discriminating assembly for which to offer Mass! Oh my!" Then, I figured, "it's a win-win: either I'll do well, or they'll never ask me to do it again!"
Anyway, we sung almost everything. The only things we didn't sing were the readings, (which were sung at some of the Masses), the entirety of the petitions (I sang the intro and conclusion of them, and the cantor sang the "we pray to the Lord" and the assembly the response--in four-part harmony!), parts of the Eucharistic prayer (actually, I chant the entire Eucharistic Prayer fairly often, but our leader, Father Skeris, suggested doing it this way)--i.e., from the epiclesis to the end of the "offering" (which comes right after the "memorial acclamation"). And I recited the prayer that begins "Lord Jesus Christ..."; I could have chanted it, but I didn't know a chant for the Peace that follows, so I thought it would be a little clunky. And I recited the "This is the Lamb of God"--actually, I believe its been recited by everyone this week. Maybe next year, I'll come back and really dazzle 'em and sing that!
Meanwhile, I had several parts I sang that I don't usually sing, and I needed to get those right: an intro to a Gloria that was new to me, and the Credo. Both in Latina, of course. Most of what I prayed was in English, with some in Latin.
But I have to say, it was awesome! We had Mass in the Holy Rosary chapel at the Basilica Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and with all it's stone-faced walls, the sound blossomed. One of the attendees stepped out into the main body of the church, and said the music went everywhere.
There was no homily, and one regret was no incense! Probably that was not an option in that situation; too bad, I'd've smoked 'em up!
However, being a pastor, I did make an adaptation: as there was a plenary indulgence associated with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, I thought, I really should enable the folks to receive that. Well, it involves praying an act of reparation. I found the text online, and I started to copy it out, longhand, and then thought, "this is crazy--there's got to be a way to get this printed out." Some folks in the music department helped me out, and we had handouts for immediately after Mass.
Well, once Mass was over, Father was tired; but it was a joy. The rest of the day was more chant practice, a lecture on liturgical theology, and after dinner, a lecture on the nature of chant as it pertains to the sacred liturgy, then a nice wine-and-cheese gathering.
Today, we had briefer rehearsals before Mass at the Franciscan Monastery here in D.C., that is a hidden gem of the U.S. capital. Father Robert Skeris had the Mass, and we did mostly chant; it was very nice. He got incense; that's what you get when you're in charge, I guess! Then a nice lunch, rest of the day free.