THE BEGINNER'S BOOK OF CHANT
by a Benedictine monk
(St Michael's Abbey Press, 2003, 90pp, $24.95. Available from AD Books)
The author of The Beginner's Book of Chant has carefully constructed a primer for the sacred liturgical music of the Church with the clear intention of aiding the elevation of the form to its rightful "pride of place in liturgical services."
To use the word "beginner" in regard to the chant and this book may convey a false impression to the potential reader. An "Idiot's Guide" to chant it is not. The reader should have at least a reasonable knowledge of music theory.
This short treatment covers a great deal in its 90 pages. While being a little light on the history of chant, it more than makes up for this in the practical tutorials, rehearsal methods and hints for choirmasters. Essentially, the book is designed to have the musically aware reader singing masses by book's end. The notes and suggestions for rehearsals where the chant can be introduced to newcomers will be especially useful for parish choirs either new to the use of chant or trying to incorporate new members.
The book's final chapters deal briefly with the question of accompaniment, vernacular adaptations and the mandatory FAQs.
For every frustrated choirmaster unable to persuade the choir to look at chant or the chorister who likewise cannot get the choirmaster motivated, The Beginner's Book of Chant may well provide a solution.
The book is also timely in light of the recently released Papal document on liturgical music to commemorate the centenary of Pope St Pius X's Tra le Sollectitudini. Pope John Paul II emphasises that all liturgical music must convey a sense of reverence and appreciation for the sacred and that Gregorian chant is especially important in this regard.
Paul Russell is SA President of the National Civic Council and SA Vice President of The Australian Family Association.