Saturday, October 31, 2009

Implementing the Vatican II Reform: The Cathedral Chant School

Another Diocese in a full swing for the 'reform' of the Vatican II and 'continuing' the Church's tradition

Implementing the Vatican II Reform: The Cathedral Chant School
by Angela Manney

“There should be choirs, or Capellae, or scholae cantorum, especially in cathedrals and other major churches, in seminaries and religious houses of studies, and they should be carefully encouraged.” Musicam Sacram, 19(a)

A sea of priests in flowing white chasubles circled around the marble sanctuary of the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, each taking a moment to shake the anointed hands of the newly ordained ministers of God. An ancient Gregorian chant wafted from the third-story balcony, which was packed tightly with the bodies of three choirs and a brass quintet. Surprisingly, this description befits a ceremony which is not yet relegated to the musty records of posterity. Rather, it describes the priestly ordinations of the diocese of Peoria, Illinois on May 23, 2009. That morning, two men were ordained to the eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ; and that morning the Cathedral Chant School sang for the first time to parishioners across the diocese and beyond.

The Cathedral Chant School, on the cutting edge of the liturgical reform, was founded in October 2008 due directly to the desires of our Bishop Daniel Jenky. Bishop Jenky envisions the Cathedral to be a mother in many respects, and in accord with the Vatican II document Musicam Sacram to be an exemplar of good sacred music. He requested that the Diocese of Peoria be taught about our sacred heritage of Gregorian chant. “We Catholics are suffering from liturgical amnesia,” he remarked informally to the schola. “It is as though we have whitewashed the paintings of the Sistine Chapel. You are doing a very important work.”

The Cathedral Chant School provides beautiful chant for the Cathedral's Latin Saturday Vigil Masses and other special occasions. It has a secondary purpose as well. In teaching musicians throughout the diocese how to sing Gregorian chant, it prepares those musicians to take Gregorian chant back to their own parishes and to continue the liturgical reform there. The school is currently provided to its participants at only the cost of materials, and convenes at times which strive not to conflict with the times of other parish music program schedules. The base of participants has remained consistently around the number of ten, and they come from all different musical backgrounds.

Since its inception, the school has already distinguished itself in hosting Master Class workshops by Dr. Jenny Donelson, in singing many of the Gregorian propers once a month at the Cathedral's Saturday Vigil Masses, in featuring the Te Deum and Alleluia Iuravit Dominus at our diocesan priestly ordinations, and this August in singing the Solemn First Vespers of the Assumption. In the same spirit the Cathedral has also adopted a newly published Latin Mass Hymnal designed specifically for the Novus Ordo Mass, and uses this hymnal for its Saturday Vigil Masses (please see details on this special hymnal below).

As co-founder of the Cathedral Chant School, I hope that my own personal journey will inspire others. I knew nothing about our heritage of early sacred music until my first visit to the tiny chapel of my alma mater, Thomas Aquinas College. I did not know how to sing, or to read a note of music. When I heard the unassuming melodies of Gregorian Chant and the subtle harmonies of sacred polyphony entwine their silky strains with the Liturgy, I was moved toward contemplation in a way that was new to me. Since then I have seized every opportunity to learn and sing this music.

Although I do not have a degree in music, or a previous background in directing a chant schola, I was still chosen to co-found the Cathedral Chant School. What I do have to offer is a strong background in cantoring (especially at the Cathedral), ten years of chanting experience, some semiological studies under a previous schola director, and attendance at the Sacred Music Colloquium and at an advanced Gregorian chant study week in Solesmes, France. And, of course, I bring a strong passion for what I do.

Just as in the case of Moses, God chooses as instruments people who least expect it. Slow of speech and slow of tongue, Moses was called by God to free His people from the shackles and miseries of the land of Egypt. Through the grace of God, Moses succeeded in his task, and freed God's people to worship their Maker in a more befitting way. Today we musicians are called as Moses was called. The People of God need to be freed for contemplation of the heart of God, and our ancient musical heritage is uniquely capable of leading us toward this encounter with the divine.

For updates on the Cathedral Chant School, please visit our Facebook fan page, or email to be added to our email list.

A binder which provides an overview of the development, structure, and curriculum of the Cathedral Chant School is now available. Included are a copy of the Latin Mass Hymnal, our starter folder, and 100 highly organized pages of proposals, fliers, schedules, class handouts, and lesson plans. If you are interested in a copy, please send a $30 check payable to Angela Manney, Office of Sacred Music, 613 NE Jefferson, Peoria, IL 61603.

The Latin Mass Hymnal: A Concise Guide to the Novus Ordo Mass for Catholic Parishes is now available for use. This hymnal was developed by volunteers dedicated to providing a low cost, educational tool for parishes that are re-introducing Latin and Gregorian chant. The current version has several features that aid and encourage congregational participation including (a) side by side Latin and English translations for the Order of the Mass, (b) chant in modified standard notation for all responses and ordinaries, (c) 35 chants in both Gregorian and standard notation along with guides to Gregorian chant notation and Latin pronunciation, and (e) literal translations directly below music text. A compact disc with recordings by a cantor is also available for parishioners interested in learning at home. Approximate cost is $3.00 per copy. Contact Candy Bartoldus ( or Fr. Paul Dudzinski (540-675-3432).

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