The St Catherine’s Trust
for Traditional Catholic Education
Traditio et Veritas
Our 2009 Family Retreat and Gregorian Chant Course
Friday 27th to Sunday 29th March 2009

Our fourth Family Retreat was held from Friday 27th March to Passion Sunday 29th March 2009, at Ardingly College near Haywards Heath in Sussex. The retreat giver was our Chaplain, Fr Andrew Southwell, and the Retreat included Traditional Sung Mass each day, traditional rite Vespers on the Saturday evening and Compline on the Friday and Saturday nights. There was also Rosary each day, and Stations of the Cross on the Saturday afternoon.

Sung Mass in Ardlingly College chapel
As always, the Retreat was a tremendous occasion. This year it was a Lent retreat again, and at the end of Saturday the crucifix on the altar was veiled, and the Gloria Patri fell silent. Our retreat giver, Fr Andrew Southwell, was assisted by Fr Thomas Crean OP. Fr Crean celebrated Low Mass before breakfast on Saturday and Sunday in the traditional Dominican Rite. For most people this is a very rare chance to see this ancient rite. We also had a traditional Missa cantata each day celebrated by Fr Southwell. In addition to these we had Vespers and Benediction on the Saturday, and Compline on Friday and Saturday.

Fr Southwell gave a series of talks to the adults based on the characters involved in the Passion of Our Lord, and he and Fr Crean also gave talks to the children. The children, divided into older and younger groups, enjoyed various activities, including football for the older children and, on Sunday, an Easter Egg hunt for the younger ones. We are very grateful to the many volunteers who helped with the children, to enable their parents to attend the talks without too much distraction.

Stations of the Cross in the grounds of Ardingly College
On the Saturday, in accordance with our custom at these Retreats, we had Stations of the Cross outside, with pictures of the stations produced by the children. After this there was a chance to relax and talk over a cup of tea, while Mary Lord of Southwell Books provided a very popular bookstall. This was followed by Vespers and Benediction, and after dinner a very interesting talk about the importance of the family in upholding civilisation by Mr Phillip Moran of Tradition, Family, Property. Mr Moran is based in Glasgow, at the British branch of this international apostolate.

Well over a hundred people attended the Family Retreat, making it wholly unique as an event. Apart from the obvious spiritual benefits of a Lenten retreat, it a chance for families, both parents and children, to meet each other and gain mutual support. Catholic parents are usually isolated at work, and their children are usually isolated in their schools; it is of prime importance for the Traditional Catholic movement to provide more than simply tea and biscuits after Sunday Mass to build up a sense of community nation-wide, the chance to share experiences and resources, and above all the moral support of knowing that other families are fighting the same fight.

This support is very much appreciated by the families who attended the retreat. It can't be provided in an extensive way at a local level, which is why we need national events and national organisations, to organise them. It is often said that there is ‘much to do’: in this important respect we are actually doing it!

Gregorian Chant Course

Mr Gale and servers
at the tradtional rite sung Mass,
St George's Cathedral, Southwark,
6th December 2008
See a brief biography below.
We have always invited singers to come to the Retreat, since there is quite a bit of singing to be done, with daily Sung Masses, Offices and Benediction. This year we initiated something new, a residential chant course directed by a professional, to run alongside the Retreat and provide the singing for it. This was attended by a dozen singers, most of them from the regular chant scholas singing in St Bede's, Clapham Park, Oxford, and Reading.

Our director was Mr Nick Gale, Director of Music at St George's Cathedral in Southwark, and Head of Academic Music at the London Oratory School, who very kindly volunteered his services. Mr Charles Finch came to play the organ for most the Retreat as well, which was especially useful during the Offices.

Nick was trained at Solesmes in France, the international centre of Gregorian Chant, where he imbibed the latest scholarship on the chant books. The singers who attended the course were all people with experience singing the chant, in many cases very long experience indeed, but Nick was able to give us all something we had never had elsewhere, which is an introduction to the Graduale Triplex.

Mr Gale (right) gives a chant class at the Family Retreat
The Triplex includes, side by side with the ordinary chant notes, some strange-looking marks written to guide singers in the 10th and 11th centuries. These marks don't give the melody, but tell us how the melody should be sung: essentially, the tempo and dynamics. They are the basis of the editorial marks made in the 'Solesmes editions' of the chant books which started to appear in the 1920s, the 'dots' and horizontal lines, which tell you where to lengthen notes, and by how much. But scholarship has moved on since the 1920s, and looking at the Triplex one can see that the old Solesmes markings are at best a very crude approximation of what the original books said; at worst they are completely wrong. Nick was able to show us how some consistent misinterpretations lead singers to place the emphasis in precisely the wrong place in the melody, on the note before the 'dominant' note, for example, instead of on the dominant note itself.

Furthermore, these markings encourage the idea that the chant score can be understood, like modern music, in a 'metrical' way, in which each note has a fixed length, which is doubled by a dot after it and so on. The great feature of melismatic chant, however, is that it respects the liturgical texts to such a degree that the natural emphasis and phrasing of the Latin can be reflected in the singing. Not only does this mean that we can stress the vowels which should be stressed, but we needn't lengthen short vowels and shorten long ones in accordance with a metrical straitjacket. This comes out particularly clearly in psalmody.

Having this explained and demonstrated was a revelation. We all know, of course, that the whole point of chant, particularly of psalmody, is that it is possible to set lines of text of uneven lengths to music, and that the text is not swamped or distorted by the music. Using the Triplex, however, this principle comes into play as never before.

Nick's guidance transformed the way we sang the Chant, even within the timeframe of a three day course. It was immediately clear to all of us how his approach made better sense of the melody and the liturgical texts. We all leant a huge amount from Nick Gale, and look forward to developing our understanding of the chant still further in future years.

About Nick Gale

Nick Gale, who gave our Gregorian Chant Course in parallel with our 2009 Family Retreat, has studied Gregorian Chant at the world-famous Monastery of St Pierre de Solesmes in France under Dom Daniel Saulnier, Head of Chant Studies at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgical Music in Rome. He is an honorary fellow of and secretary to the Academy of St Cecilia.

He has directed Gregorian scholas across Europe, recent highlights including directing Solemn Mass (new rite) and Solemn Vespers and Benediction at Westminster Cathedral, Solemn Vespers and Benediction in Cologne Cathedral and Solemn High Mass (traditional rite) at the FSSP Church of Ss. Trinita dei Pellegrini in Rome. Recent tours include Germany, Italy and the US. He has also conducted choirs for a number of Solemn High Masses for the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.

Recent courses Nick has directed include a week-long residential school for the Panel of Monastic Musicians at Quarr Abbey on the Isle of Wight, day courses for parishes in the Archdiocese of Southwark and a master class for the Schola Gregoriana of Belfast. He organised the Academy of St Cecilia’s International Gregorian Chant Symposium in London in 2006, assisted by Dr Naji Hakim, Dom Daniel Saulnier and Prof. Nick Sandon, and is directing the Academy’s next Gregorian Chant Study Day, assisted by Sr Bernadette OSB and Prof. John Caldwell of the University of Oxford, to take place at St Cecilia’s Abbey in Ryde in July 2009. Nick has worked with a number of choirs and scholas, including St George’s Cathedral Choir, of which he is director, and the London Oratory Schola, of which he was until recently assistant director. He has broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and BBC 1 television. He is a practising Roman Catholic and an ascribed member of the In stitute of Charity.