Sunday, 7 February 2010

London Calling.

I used to hate London, but am now beginning to rather like the place - in small doses. For a city which I've usually visited only once in blue moon, to have been there 3 times in the last 7 months to me, speaks for itself.

This time it was for the launch of the Gregorian Chant Network at the end of January. Various accounts have appeared in the blogosphere already, so I won't repeat what's been written there. I will add, that I thought it quite appropriate that other organisations besides the LMS [who hosted the event] were represented, who do not, as a rule, have the same opinion on the EF held by most of us present.

Gregorian Chant is still the official music of the Roman Rite (in BOTH FORMS) and I'm personally quite fed up of people with their heads buried so deep in the sand who think it should be exclusively associated with the EF. (These generally tend to be people who either love or hate the Extraordinary Form with equal fervour!) Despite my preference for the EF, I'm more than happy to get involved with OF liturgies, either directly, as a singer, or indirectly by offering advice or by going to listen and supporting other singers. This applies to other choral music too. How are we going to encourage the use of Gregorian Chant & other good quality sacred music in parishes if we think it's our exclusive preserve?

I was particularly keen to hear that several cathedrals are using the Chant more often, although there is still a distinct bias towards South/Central England. I can only think of Leeds in N/NE England that is taking Chant seriously alongside other good Liturgical music, though I'm quite happy to stand corrected if that's not the case. That said, it's still good to hear, and I'm very much in favour of the proposed idea to have Regional Chant workshops in our cathedrals [led by the Cathedral Directors?] where details of local choirs/scholas such as ourselves can be provided should people who attend wish to take their interest further and start singing on a regular basis.

Putting Gregorian Chant aside, I'm also, as some of you know, very fond of the Eastern Rites. After leaving the Oratory, roydosan, [my host for the weekend] & I went up the road to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral for the Vigil Service of the Sunday of the Prodigal Son - all 2½ hours of it(!) accompanied by some excellent, virtually non-stop singing in both Church Slavonic & English by only a handful of chanters. Much praise is due, & if I knew who was in charge of the music there I'd write to them to let them know!

The Byzantine theme continued on Sunday with a visit to the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral. This was an experience not to be missed. Although there were only 3 chanters, they had only to intone various parts of the Liturgy and we were suddenly engulfed by the sound of the entire congregation joining in - in harmony! Considering there were about 300-400 people present, you can imagine what that must have sounded like... For those of you who want to see/hear genuine participation without it being forced on you in the misguided mindset of 'Community', go along to your nearest Ukrainian Catholic or Orthodox church and prepare to be overwhelmed! The Poles, to be fair, are pretty good too, but the Roman Rite - in either form - doesn't really allow for the same experience because of the way it's structured. Other Byzantine Rites could potentially do the same of course, but in my experience, Greek, Russian & Romanian congregations just remain silent and let the chanters or choir get on with singing the Liturgy along with the clergy.

I would have liked to have stayed longer, but had a train to catch in order to sing Vespers of Septuagesima Sunday back in York, which in the end didn't happen due to the train breaking down - twice! Still, a pretty good weekend, and I'm looking forward to the next one. :-)

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