August is always an exciting time for the youth choirs of Most Precious Blood Parish. Besides the return of school and reuniting with classmates, many kids look forward to the parish’s annual Chant Camp program. During this week-long seminar, students learn how to read, understand, and sing Gregorian chant, as well as music theory, vocal performance, and ensemble singing. Under the direction of Mrs. Sharon Burchill and Mr. Joseph Helinksi, over 50 kids (aged 8 through high school) spent five days doing exactly that. With the return of so many singers, and many new faces as well, this year’s Chant Camp was a great success.
This is also after an encouraging 2 months of youth participation in a “Summer Schola,” which allowed select singers from the Pueri and Gradus Cantorum to sing for the Sunday High Masses throughout the summer. These performances offered boots-on-the-ground experience for the kids, who chanted simplified Propers, most of the Ordinary of Mass, and a few selections of polyphony; all alongside the men or women of the adult schola.
This was a tremendous help for the Schola Cantorum, as the men and women could simply alternate each Sunday in order to supplement any remaining necessary chant or music. As a result, the schola was able to enjoy a well-deserved summer break, while the upcoming voices of the parish took advantage of a great learning opportunity.
In fact, the increased interest and enrollment in the youth choirs has enabled the music program to expand, to accommodate a broader range of ages and aptitude. Starting this choir season of 2022-2023, the music program will be divided into four choirs:
- Pueri Cantorum: this “training choir” is for Grades 2-4. As a first step in ensemble singing and even music in general, the choir focuses on fundamentals such as unison singing (in English and Latin), Western and chant notation, and basic performance techniques such as following a conductor, or adjusting volume or tone. Games, sung rounds, and other fun activities will form the core of learning for these young musicians. Performances at Mass will be limited to the spring semester, but will still give these beginners a chance to participate in the music of the liturgy.
- Harmonia Cantorum: for Grades 5-8. This new division of the youth choirs was separated from the former “Pueri Cantorum” to give experienced singers a more focused curriculum, enabling them to further develop their musical competencies. This will be executed through a more challenging repertoire of 2- and 3-part harmonies, including all of the chant from the Ordinary of Mass, and simplified Propers. In addition, this choir will be able to participate in more liturgies, singing up to 2 Masses per semester.
- Gradus Cantorum: for Grades 9-12. This high school-level choir expands on all of the competencies of the Pueri and Harmonia choirs, with still more challenging repertoire of 4-part motets, an introduction to Renaissance polyphony, and full Gregorian Propers for the Mass. This choir will sing 2-3 Masses per semester, and also affords opportunities for off-campus Masses or non-liturgical performances. Members of this choir with sufficient aptitude may also be invited to sing with the adult choir as a Schola Cantorum Apprentice. This invitatory honor is a practical way to propagate the music program from within the parish, while giving the youth an outstanding goal for which to strive.
- Schola Cantorum: the adult choir. This schola is chiefly responsible for the music at all High Masses, and boasts a diverse repertoire of 4- to 6-part polyphony from various styles, ranging from the medieval to modern contemporary eras. The full Gregorian Ordinary and Propers are sung for every Mass, and superior chant reading, solfege, and sight-singing skills are essential for the ensemble. Recruitment is by audition only.
With a rigorous liturgical schedule planned for 2022-2023, each of these ensembles will have an important role to play in maintaining a musical repertoire appropriate for the dignity and beauty of the Traditional Latin Mass.
Please see the gallery below for pictures from this year’s Chant Camp. Many special thanks are again due to Mrs. Burchill and Mr. Helinski for their continued direction and talent. With their dedication, together with our promising young singers, Most Precious Blood of Jesus Parish will continue to beautify the liturgy of the Latin Mass for the edification of the faithful, and for the greater glory of God!