Do we need great singers for polyphony and chant?
No, we don't, as long as our voices are steady, and we have enough time to prepare.
We can have a volunteer choir that works regularly and with heart to make this beautiful music come alive. We can't tell just how long it will take to make it happen, but it will. Once we begin, we can figure out how many hours of rehearsal we need to put it together. It all depends on our volunteers themselves.
Chant can have all voices in it. Polyphony requires steady voices. So, we can pair up into two sections, everyone on chant and only steady voices on polyphony. Tuning requires this, there are no two ways about it. The independent lines of melody, the interweaving chords can only ring with singers who are sensitive to tuning and who can keep their voices steady for those chords to lock in.
Yes, we do need professionals, if we want beauty to show up quick and by surprise at our parish.
Professionals can prepare all the music for a Mass, all polyphony and chant from Introit to Recessional in one rehearsal or two at the most. By professionals, we mean any musician with a steady voice who can sight-read music well. We can invite string players, woodwind players, brass, any instrumentalist. They are typically good at sight-singing, now they might need some encouragement to sing, but if they have the range and their voices are steady, they can do it.
Great singers can enrich our ensemble. A soloist that has had the training to sing opera, for example, has a lot to offer in beauty of tone but must know that polyphony will require singing from pianississimo to mezzo forte, that is, from very, very soft (compared to other singing the soloist does) to medium. Why is that?
Polyphony has no soloist, it is God's Word and with it there are theological implications. There are at least 3 voices singing the same text, not parallel to each other, but in unique and clearly distinct melodies. Each singer's melody is a stroke of the prophet's pen, but the multiplicity of voices shows that God is Trinitarian, always One, and always Three, always amidst His angels and His unity in Love is Eternal, Unchangeable and Real. Polyphony is a symbol to this, and an instrument to express this fact.
Singing polyphony is a joy because we are not really ourselves, but servants of God's Word and of His angelic presence, that perpetually seeks to reach out to all of mankind. We sing as an instrument for God to play, as a pen for the prophet to reveal God's glory. We are not ourselves. No selves are allowed here, no egos, no seekers of attention. This is why we sing from a loft, tucked and hidden away, serving as a means for that good that God has in mind for each soul in the pews that day.
Someday we can have both, a volunteer choir and a professional choir both singing polyphony and chant throughout for Mass regularly in our parish. That would be so good.
Please tell us what you think. We would like to know how we can give more here, for the benefit of anyone trying to bring this beautiful music to Mass. Stay in touch.
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