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Gregorian Chant Camp for Children

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Jun 04, 2014 | In On the Good

A reader, Daniel diSilva, sends us this short video he made about a musical summer camp at St. Anne Catholic Church in San Diego, CA. The camp immerses young people from age seven and up in the Church’s musical heritage of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony.

Watching the video, I was struck by the emphasis that the children are “not singing for their teachers… [or] for their parents,” but for God – a bit different from the “performance” mentality that plagues most church choirs, regardless of age or level of proficiency.

DiSilva writes: “We are not so much promoting the camp itself as much as the ancient art of singing the ancient music of the Church.” To that end, the video covers a few interesting aspects of the chant tradition, from its unique rhythmic flow to the practice of harmonizing plainchant melodies.

This yet again demonstrates my conviction that there is no reason to insult the intelligence of children with shallow sentimentalism in art and music. Plainchant is not inaccessible, nor is it all that difficult to sing with a little training. Children, who are naturally open to learning new things, free from an agenda and not yet predisposed to like what is mediocre, are quite capable of rising to the level of their Catholic musical heritage.

The children in this video will grow up with a better idea of what good liturgical music is than the vast majority of professional Catholic church musicians today. May their tribe increase, so that one day camps like this will exist all over the country.

Thomas V. Mirus is a pianist living in New York City. He is the director of audio media for CatholicCulture.org and hosts The Catholic Culture Podcast. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: DrJazz - May. 30, 2017 8:26 AM ET USA

    Reilly suggests listening to "the single most performed American composer of choral music," Morten Lauridsen. I was very fortunate to study freshman music theory with Lauridsen at USC, but I had no knowledge of his works at the time. He went on sabbatical the next semester, and a friend played them for me years later. Lauridsen taught from the Walter Piston harmony book. When I re-read that book years later, I realized just how dry it is. He was a great teacher: He made that book come alive.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - May. 30, 2017 8:16 AM ET USA

    Reilly's article is excellent. It presents ideas that I have tried to get across to my music history and performance students for years: that beauty in music is more than just something that is "in the eye of the beholder," that it mirrors a sense of striving for communion with our Creator and each other, and that musicians mirror the Creator, but by using existing materials (whereas God created out of nothing). A society that doesn't make music is a society that has lost its sense of love.