Schola Members Chant Workshop Experience

posted by Webmaster

This weekend (September 17-18, 2010) St. Peter's Sacred Music director Patrick Burkhart and eleven schola cantorum members and organ academy students traveled to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse to attend the Gregorian Chant workshop. Co-sponsored by the Shrine and the Diocese of La Crosse, the workshop was led by international Gregorian chant expert Scott Turkington. The workshop was attended by 70 participants, traveling from areas throughout the diocese as well as from Minnesota and Iowa.

This is the third Gregorian Chant workshop to be held in the Diocese of La Crosse in the past few years. The first two workshops were hosted by St. Peter's, featuring Father Robert Skeris and Kurt Poterack. While we enjoyed hosting Gregorian Chant workshops, the Shrine presented an irresistible location, as an excellent facility for a workshop as well as a noble, beautiful and acoustically excellent setting for singing Gregorian chant.

Christopher Carstens, director of Sacred Worship for the Diocese of La Crosse, graciously took on the mission to connect with the Shrine staff and Scott Turkington to make the workshop possible.

The workshop was covered by the media: the La Crosse Tribune featured a story about the workshop on the front page of Saturday's paper including a photo of Scott Turkington with four members of our parish contingent in the background!

The Tribune's website also includes a video of the beginning of the workshop as participants learned to sing Kyrie XI (Orbis Factor). We are also looking forward to an upcoming edition of The Catholic Times including an article by Joseph O'Brien about the Gregorian chant workshop.

Patrick Burkhart served as the facilitator for the talks and was the organist for the final Mass. Ladies from our schola sang the introit (with Scott Turkington) and the gradual for Mass (as well as the beginnings of the stanzas for the Agnus Dei). All the chant workshop participants learned and sang the Kyrie, Gloria, Alleluia, Sanctus, Agnus Dei and Communion chants for Mass.

Through the process of learning the chants for Mass, Scott Turkington demonstrated a method for learning a new piece of Gregorian chant, by using solfege ("do re mi") to learn the relationship of the pitches in the music, and by identifying the types of neumes (a term for the various groupings of the "square notes" of Gregorian chants) in the piece and how they function. He then took participants beyond the mechanics of reading the music to some points on technique: how to sing the chant beautifully and with expression. There were also suggestions for working with your own parish choir or schola to succeed in singing chant for Mass. Turkington's presentation style was personable, sprinkled with interesting historical notes, "fun facts" and anecdotes. His style of directing the singers might be described as patiently organic - he was able to draw from the singers the result he wanted without blunt commands or excessive explanation. I think he would describe his style as "sneaky."

We were extremely blessed to have Scott Turkington come to our Diocese, as he is not able to run many Gregorian chant workshops (he is the new principal organist and choirmaster at the St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Charleston, SC). Moreover, our schola members were especially honored to have some extra instruction with him, working on the chants we sang for the Mass. It was a huge opportunity and we are looking forward to employing what we learned in the sacred music program at St. Peter's.

Here are some mp3 recordings of the chant sung at Mass (and some of the organ prelude). (Apologies for not having all the music recorded - technical difficulties.)

(Proper chants from the Mass for 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Organ Prelude 1
Organ Prelude 2
Introit Salus populi
Kyrie VII (Missa de Angelis) and Gloria XV
Gradual Quis sicut Dominus
Alleluia (Confitemini Domino, et invocate)

I'm glad this was a positive experience(but sad that I missed it!).
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