Saturday 18 July 2015

Monastic Chant Forum at Quarr and St Cecilia's Abbey

What a marvellous five days!

Reunited with my chant buddies, we enjoyed a rich diet of talks, Offices, singing and Benedictine hospitality, all whilst clutching a Graduale Triplex.

The balance of participants was heavily weighted towards religious and so we were able to enjoy a very particular atmosphere. Silence.

The talks focused on music for Marian Feasts. Dr Gidrius Gapsys, who teaches chant at the Paris Conservatoire, took us through how the propers for the Assumption have varied between the 9th and 20th centuries. We got to see overheads of the original manuscripts and dipped into some discant. He also re-explained the semiology symbols of St Gall, something that I, at least, cannot have a revision session on too frequently. After having first encountered them at Solesmes in 2009, on Dom Saulnier's summer course, something may be coming together in my mind.

Sr Bernadette Byrne, choirmistress of St Cecilia's, spoke on office antiphons for Marian Feasts, with a particular focus on modality and was brilliant as ever. On two of the days, we were at St Cecilia's, so we benefitted from the presence of a number of the community in the big parlour.

And Fr Xavier Perrin, Prior Administrator of Quarr, took our nightly Mass practice, preparing for the Mass the following morning. All was organised with a sheet giving all the page numbers, and he provided a written and verbal spiritual commentary on the chants. What an excellent teacher and inspiring example.

Meantime, much organisation had gone on and much work, by many and the whole week ran like clockwork, without a hitch.

Altogether a precious few days.

We were very sad to leave. We really didn't want to go at all.

Quarr Abbey is looking very good indeed, with a new visitor centre explaining their life, a thriving and excellent cafe, pigs (yummy sausages,) whilst all the while, the magnificent Abbey houses the Divine Office.