Music News & Notes: March 9, 2023
What’s with all of this chanting?
You may have noticed during Morning Prayer during the season of Lent, we have begun to “chant” the Venite. While we have been singing hymn settings of the Canticle during morning prayer for several months, this week you will notice something different. This week we will join in singing the Canticle as plainchant. So what is with all of this chanting?
As you may know, chanting of a sacred text is a commonly used practice in many diverse spiritual traditions. It is often a component of personal or group practice - much like prayer. Music director, Sanford Dole of St Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco writes:
The services for Morning and Evening prayer in the Book of Common Prayer include numerous passages from scripture and tradition called canticles. As the name implies, canticles are meant to be chanted or sung. But this can seem tricky if you don't know how to read music. You can improvise a chant tone or use a traditional chant tone that you learn by ear. Or you can explore some simple musical settings of the canticles from the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 … As you sing along, the tones and words of scripture will slowly work their way into your memory, your body, and your heart.
Chanting calls us to a level of simplicity, even if we are initially uncomfortable with this simplicity. Chanting is also a “great equalizer.” A basic rule of thumb to singing plainchant is to sing as you would speak - it is a way to get over your singing talents (or lack thereof) and just sing the notes in “unimpressive ways” while praying the text. I hope that this brings you value as another form of worship within our service of Morning Prayer.
In case you missed it:
The next couple of months are packed full of beautiful and exciting music at the church. From the exciting Lenten musical with our Junior Choir, the poignant and reflective music Lent and holy week, the excitement of Brass at Easter, the return of the Mother's Day Bach cantata, and the chiming of our hand bells welcoming the Holy Spirit at Pentecost - the next 16 weeks is expected to be an exciting time of music making at St. John's.
Often we hear the "invitation to join the choir" at the beginning of the program year - and then we settle into a routine and the invite never comes again. Maybe you were busy in the fall, but now you have a little extra time on your hands. Perhaps you love listening to the hand bells and are curious about what it would be like to actually make a joyful noise and play them. Maybe you have always wanted to sing with an orchestra, but never found the right opportunity.
If you fall into any of those camps (or anything like it) now is a terrific time to dabble in the musical offerings at church and experience Sunday worship from different perspective.
As I told the choir last Thursday night, the music that I pick is a bit like a tasting menu, there is something for everyone - and if you don't like the current offering, just wait, something else is coming around the corner to try that you may just love!
So, come and dabble - there really is a choir for everyone!
See you on Sunday!