Can we start with a volunteer choir?
Most parishes in the world are blessed with the devotion of volunteers singing at Mass.
Our choir might never have considered polyphony and chant, but that does not have to stop us. Our singers might not know how to read music, but that does not mean we cannot learn chant. Learning chant "by ear" or through repetition is not any different from how we learn other songs. Polyphony might take longer but we can do it.
We can focus on learning about this sacred music first.
Why is it out there and why does it matter?
Chant derives for the old Jewish temple. The Scriptures are to this day sung in the Jewish tradition. If you know something about our brethren, the chosen people, to whom Jesus was born, you know they are eager to learn, open to discussion and highly argumentative. The synagogue made a clear distinction, the words heard there were teachings and discussions, but The Word of God was sung. You would know to perk up more when the singing started, it was The Eternal's Word, not the word of man. When we chant we show hope if God's promises.
Polyphony is layered chant. It developed as those wonderful Gothic cathedrals rose heavenward, layer after layer glorifying God and referring to His splendor. Every voice has its own melody. The melodies do not chase each other, they do not walk side by side, they show an independent freedom to express the same unified text alongside the others. They reflect the Trinity in Unity, many voices one text, each singer an instrument to God's grace, to His healing power, to His mystery and Eternal Beauty.
This is why the documents of The Church have declared chant and polyphony to have pride of place among all other art forms.
All that being said, we can start where we are. Volunteers can do this. We can all do this. As we do, we will see the value of professionals also. They can do it better, of course, and we can learn from them. We can eventually have two choirs: a volunteer and a professional choir. Let us set our hearts on the beauty we can offer to lift souls in prayer before The Almighty!
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