Tuesday, March 31, 2009

St Catherine's Trust Retreat: Chant course

I wrote yesterday the Family Retreat, but this year two events were taking place in parallel: the Family Retreat, taking place for the fourth year, and a Gregorian Chant course, taking place for the first time.
Chant class
I have always invited singers to come to the Retreat, since there is quite a bit of singing to be done: three Sung Masses, two Complines, and Vespers and Benediction; we also sing the Stabat Mater during Stations of the Cross. To rehearse all this requires a good deal of time. I thought it made sense to make a virtue of necessity and bring in a professional chant teacher and establish a formal Chant Course, to run alongside the Retreat and provide the singing for it. Mr Nick Gale, Director of Music at St George's Cathedral in Southwark, and Head of Academic Music at the London Oratory School, very kindly volunteered to direct the course. Mr Charles Finch came to play the organ for most the Retreat as well, which was especially useful during the offices.
Our chant course was by no means a plog through the set propers, however. Nick was trained at Solemses in France, the international centre of Gregorian Chant, where he imbibed the latest scholarship on the chant books. The dozen singers who attended the course were all people with experience singing the chant, in many cases very long experience indeed, but Nick was able to give us all something we had never had elsewhere, which is an introduction to the Graduale Triplex.
The Triplex includes, side by side with the ordinary chant notes, the strange-looking marks written to guide singers in the 10th and 11th Centuries. These marks don't give the melody, but tell us how the melody should be sung: essentially, the tempo and dynamics. They are the basis of the editorial marks made in the 'Solemses editions' of the chant books which started to appear in the 1920s, and include the standard books used by singers singing the chant today (such as the Liber Usualis and Graduale Romanum). These editorial marks, the 'dots' and horizontal lines, tell you where to lengthen notes, and by how much. But scholarship has moved on since the 1920s, and looking at the Triplex one can see that these markings are at best a very crude approximation of what the original books said; at worst they are completely wrong. Nick was able to show us how some consistent misinterpretations leads singers to place the emphasis in precisely the wrong place in the melody, on the note before the 'dominant' note, for example, instead of on the dominant note itself.
Furthermore, these markings encourage the idea that the chant score can be understood, like modern music, in a 'metrical' way, in which each note has a fixed length, which is doubled by a dot after it and so on. The great feature of melismatic chant, however, is that it respects the liturgical texts to such a degree that the natural emphasis and phrasing of the Latin can be reflected in the singing. Not only does this mean that we can stress the vowels which should be stressed, but we needn't lengthen short vowels and shorten long ones in accordance with a metrical straightjacket. This comes out particularly clearly in psalmody.

Having this explained and demonstrated was a revelation. We all know, of course, that the whole point of chant, particularly of psalmody, is that it is possible to set lines of text of unevan lengths to music, and that the text is not swamped or distorted by the music. Using the Triplex, however, this principle comes into play as never before.
Ardingly Chapel is well suited to the office, since it has benches facing each other. At Vespers and Compline we had the 'ceremonies', meaning that two cantors, one from each side, join each other in the middle to sing the first line of each psalm; they also sing back and forth with the priest leading the office at certain points. At Vespers Fr Southwell was sitting in the santurary, and here are the cantors addressing him.

Here are a couple of videos. In the first we are singing the Introit of Passion Sunday, Judica me (the video has the repeated verse). I can't claim we were singing it particularly well - we were a rather large and disparate group with a very limted time together - but you can hear the difference. The relentless speed takes a bit of getting used to. Singing this in the 'old Solesmes' style we would be pausing the melody in a number of places.

The second video is the end of Compline, which includes the canticle Nunc Dimittis and the concluding prayers. The presiding priest is of course Fr Andrew Southwell.

Monday, March 30, 2009

St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat

I am just back from the St Catherine's Trust Family Retreat, which as usual was a tremendous occasion. I blogged about last year's event here; here are a few photos and quick impressions. See more photos in this Flickr set.

As Easter moves to and fro, and we have to keep the Retreat in the school holiday (the holiday of the school which provides the venue, that is!) the retreat dates have been alternating between the weekend of Low Sunday and the weekend of Passion Sunday. This year it was a Lent retreat again, and at the end of Saturday the crucifix on the altar was veiled, and the Gloria Patri fell silent.
The retreat giver was Fr Andrew Southwell, who was assisted by Fr Thomas Crean OP. Fr Crean celebrated Low Mass before breakfast on Saturday and Sunday in the traditional Dominican Rite. For most people this is a very rare chance to see this fascinating ancient rite, which represents an important thread in the liturgical tradition of the Latin Church. We also has a traditional missa cantata each day celebrated by Fr Southwell. In addition to these we had Vespers and Benediction on the Saturday, and Compline on Friday and Saturday. I am going to do a separate post about the singing at the Retreat, which marked an important new departure for us.

Fr Southwell gave a series of talks to the adults based on the different characters who played a role in the Passion of Our Lord, and he and Fr Crean also gave talks to the children. The children, divided into 'older' and 'younger' groups, enjoyed various activities, including football for the older children and, on Sunday, an Easter Egg hunt for the younger ones.
On Saturday, in accordance with our custom at these Retreats, we had Stations of the Cross outside, with pictures of the stations produced by the children. After this there was a chance to relax and talk over a cup of tea, while Southwell Books provided a bookstall. This was followed by Vespers and Benediction, and after dinner a very interesting talk about the importance of the family in upholding civilisation by Mr Phillip Moran of Tradition, Family, Property.

Apart from the obvious spiritual benefits of a Lenten retreat, the St Catherine's Truth Family Retreat is a chance for families, both parents and children, to meet each other and gain mutual support. Catholic parents are usually isolated at work, and their children are usually isolated in their schools; it is of prime importance for the Traditional Catholic movement to provide more than simply tea and biscuits after Sunday Mass to build up a sense of community nation-wide, the chance to share experiences and resources, and above all the moral support of knowing that other families are fighting the same fight.

This support is very much appreciated by the families who attended the retreat. It can't be provided in an extensive way at a local level, which is why we need national events and national organisations, like the St Catherine's Trust and the Latin Mass Society, to organise them. It is often said that there is 'much to do': in this important respect we are actually doing it!
Please spread the word about the Family Retreat, and support it, above all by attending. The prices are heavily discounted for families, so the larger Traditional families can still attend: children under 16 come for free. Nevertheless people of all stages of life are welcome. Email the St Catherine's Trust to join the mailing list.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Traditional Catholic Events 2009

I've received this list from the office. It doesn't have all the details for each event but there should be more information on the website, the office (email), and from the local reps.

It gives a good indication of how much is going on. Most of these events have been annual events for many years; a few are new this year, such as the priest training conferences in Ushaw and at London Colney.

I've been a number of them over the years. Downside is a wonderful setting for a Solemn High Mass; I think it is the only church in England to be awarded the title 'Minor Basilica' by the Holy See.

The pilgrimage to Glastonbury is a moving experience, with its procession through the ruins of the Abbey, which is very near the parish church.

Holywell in Wales is the only Medieval shrine to have survived the Reformation, and can boast continuous Catholic devotion since its foundation in the 7th Century, making it one of the oldest shrines in Europe; it is the National Shrine of Wales.

Walsingham, the National Shrine of England, was once one of the greatest pilgrimage places of the world. Totally destroyed at the Reformation, the Catholic shrine is now in the medieval 'slipper chapel', where pilgrims left their shoes for the final mile to the Holy House, built to the plans laid out by angels before the Norman Conquest.

The Oxford Pilgrimage, of course, is my own initiative; last year we had a spectacular event with the blessing of a plaque to four Catholic martyrs by a bishop.

All these events are well worth making the effort to attend: naturally, the draw people from a wide area, with coaches from London and so forth.


20-23 Ushaw Training Conference


Sat. 23 Guild of St Gregory Pilgrimage and High Mass (2.30pm) at West Grinstead


Sat 6 Fr Goddard’s first Mass in London at St James’ Spanish Place

Sat 20 AGM (11am probably) and Annual High Mass (2.00pm)

Downside High Mass


Sat 11 Day of Recollection at Ware

Sun 12 National Pilgrimage to Holywell Mass at 2.00pm Bishop Rifan celebrant


2-9 St Catherine's Trust Summer School

Sat 15 Welsh Pilgimage to Shrine of Our Lady of the Taper

24-28 London Colney Training Conference


Sat 5 Pilgrimage to Glastonbury Mass at 12 noon Benediction 2.15pm

Sat 12 National Pilgrimage to Walsingham

Sat 26 Southwark Diocese Pilgrimage to Aylesford? tbc


Sat 7 Confirmations at St James’ Spanish Place 11.00am

Sat 14 Dio Reps meeting am Annual Requiem in Westminster Cathedral 2.00pm

Towards Advent Westminster Cathedral Hall

Sat14/Sun15 Una Voce Rome Conference

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

St Paul's School

Yesterday I gave a talk to St Paul's School, one of England's most presigious schools, particularly noted for its outstanding academic record. It was founded by the great Humanist Dean Colet in 1509 and has a large statue of him by the entrance. This year is therefore its quinquegesimal year, which puts the school into the odd category of ancient public schools founded as Catholic institutions.

I spoke about Faith and Reason in the Middle Ages, flying a small flag for Oxford University and my own Hall, St Benet's, and also for Philosophy and Medieval and Catholic Philosophy.

I give talks like this to schools pretty regularly. Over the last couple of years I have been to the London Oratory School, Cardinal Vaughan, and St James's School for Boys.

The Office

I visited the LMS office in Macklin Street yesterday. Macklin Street is off Drury Lane, in the heart of the West End. It is also the heart of the LMS' organisation, not only producing Mass of Ages, the LMS's magazine, and processing memberships, but answering streams of enquiries on every conceivable matter connected with the Traditional Mass. It was quiet at lunch time yesterday, however.

We are extremely lucky to have the resources to fund one full-time and two part-time members of staff; the operation is run on a shoestring, all the same.

For those who know the office and its staff, that's James on the right and John in the upper picture.

Monday, March 23, 2009

New Chairman and Treasuer of the Latin Mass Society

On Saturday the LMS committee co-opted from its members a new Chairman and a new Treasurer. The Chairman is now Joseph Shaw. Yes, that's me.

The new Treasurer is Paul Waddington, the tireless Committee member and Rep for Middlesbrough. Having been closely involved in the Priests' Training Conferences for the last two years this year he is the leading organiser of the new Priest Training Conference in the North of England, at Ushaw College, county Durham, which is taking place next month. Another Training Conference is taking place in the South, in the All Saints Pastoral Centre, London Colney, in August.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Pope's Legion

In one of those unexpected coincidences of Oxford life, I found myself today at the Oxford book launch of 'The Pope's Legion' by Charles Coulombe, a book on the fascinating subject of the Papal Zouaves, the light infantry which was recruited internationally to defend Rome from the attacks of Garibaldi and Count Cavour. In the end the papal army was defeated, and in blatant disregard for international law Rome was annexed by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870 (in time to disrupt the First Vatican Council, which was not a coincidence). The Zouaves came from all over the world, including England, and their story deserves to be more widely known.

I was introduced to the author (pictured in Blackwells) by no less a personage than James Bogle.

Here's the beginning of the English Zouaves' song:

St George and old England forever!
Once more her sons arm for the fight,
With the cross on their breasts, to do battle
for God, Holy Church, and the right.
Twine your swords with the palm branch, brave comrades,
For as pilgrims we march forth today;--
Love God, O my soul, love Him only,
And then with light heart go thy way.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Altar girls?

Letter to the Editor of The Tablet, published 14th March 2009.

From Richard Duncan

Like Fr McCoy, I cannot be sure what St Paul would put in a letter to Blackfen. But if he were writing to Cambridge, he might well repeat his advice to the Corinthians about those with strong consciouses given way to those with weak consciences in the interests of charity. He might conclude that an extraordinary-form Mass on a Saturday evening with female altar servers was not entirely consistent with that advice, even if he deprecated the fact that those who were uneasy with the policy were resistant to liturgical change and motivated by the exaggerated antiquarianism that he rightly, if implicitly, deplores.

Fr McCoy and others may derive amusement and satisfaction by teasing traditionalists by doing things he knows they will disagree with, but to me, it is a policy that, in Edmund Burke's words, 'has very much the constructinon of a fraud.'

Richard Duncan

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Traditional Confirmations 2009

It has just been confirmed that Bishop George Stack will be with us again for Confirmations at Spanish Place, London on Sat 7 November at 11.00 am.

Please get in touch with the LMS office if you want to have your children confirmed. Or indeed to be confirmed yourself!

Email: <thelatinmasssociety@snmail.co.uk>

Here's a picture of Bishop Stack.