The Gregorian Chant Network's first training event, a weekend course, took place 9-11th April.
To enable us to divide the singers into more and less experienced groups, we had two tutors: Nick Gale, the Director of Music at Southwark Cathedral, and his colleague Mark Johnson. The picture above shows Nick addressing the entire group, of thirty singers.
The course was hosted by the St Catherine's Trust at their annual Family Retreat, and Nick (above) gave a very interesting talk to the Retreatants about the history of Gregorian Chant (picture, above). The SCT Family Retreat is a large retreat which has been taking place annually since 2006, and includes daily Sung Mass, Compline twice, and Vespers and Benediction once, and this year a Marian procession. So there is plenty of singing to be done! Nick Gale and Mark Johnson took the singers on the course through much of the music they would encounter during the weekend's liturgies, in the course of teaching the singing of psalmody, the interpretation of melismatic neums, and general style in the chant.
Nick Gale's general approach is based on the Graduale Triplex, and the scholarship it represents. Singers were taught to give the text the leading place in the interpretation of chant, and not to attempt to impose an artificial rythmic structure on it. This is particularly clear in chanting the psalms for Compline and Vespers, but is applicable to the chants of the Mass as well.
For the first Mass of the Retreat we had a professional schola; subsequenly, the Masses were accompanied by the singers on the chant course: in the picture above we are sitting at the back of the Chapel.
It was a wonderful and very stimulating weekend, of Chant in the context of the traditional liturgy and spirituality of the Church. There is a post about the Retreat itself on the LMS Chairman blog here, and I hope to post some videos of the singing soon.