Askrigg Chant Workshop 25th April, 2015

We have two reports on this event!

From Betsy Everett, a local Journalist

A masterclass in the ancient art of Gregorian chant came to a Dales village on Saturday, drawing 40 participants from all over the country.

It is the third time St Oswald's Church, Askrigg has hosted the event, the only one of its kind held anywhere in the Dales. Philip Duffy, associate director of Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge and former choir master of Liverpool's Roman Catholic Cathedral, led the workshop which included many who had never experienced the chant before.

The unaccompanied liturgical singing, rarely heard in churches now, was thought to have come to England from Rome in the 6th Century. The purpose was to allow the words of the liturgy to be more clearly heard.

"I love to hear the chant but never thought I'd have chance to sing it. It was hard work but a fantastic experience, and very moving," said deputy churchwarden Joanne Jones, of Askrigg.

MaryRose Kearney of Askrigg, a member of the Schola Gregoriana for many years, organised the day, which ended with a service of Vespers. "It's amazing how popular the one-day workshop has become and it's a rare opportunity for people to practise and hear this music in the setting of a rural parish church," she said.

Photo of Philip rehearsing the group

From Grey

The only thing that was not perfect for an enjoyable and instructive day of chant was the wind and rain beating outside the mid-fifteenth century church of St. Oswald in the centre of the North Yorkshire Dales. This in no way affected the enthusiasm of over forty participants directed by Philip Duffy, for many years the Director of Music of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral.

Having established that a fair number of those present had never read square notation before, Philip handed everyone ‘an Introduction to the notation of Gregorian Chant’, which could profitably be used by the Schola for future instruction days. He also recommended a new edition of ‘Plainchant for Everyone’ originally written by Mary Berry and now added to by her ‘Arch-Cantor’, John Rowlands-Pritchard, and published by the Royal School of Church Music at £9.95. This is the third year in which Philip has directed a chant workshop at Askrigg, appearing once again by popular demand.

After a quick run through the highway code for square notation we tried out our newly acquired skill in singing eight Alleluias (one for each mode), a word that is on everyone’s lips during Eastertide. We then sang through some of the antiphons proper for the Fourth Sunday of Easter before embarking on First Vespers, pausing only for a tea and coffee break accompanied by delectable cake for which the Yorkshire Dales are justly famed. Fortunately there was enough left for our tea in the afternoon.

At Vespers we had an opportunity to sing the tuneful Ad Cenam Agni Providi (“The Lamb’s High Banquet…” in the English Hymnal) followed by the psalms set for this Vespers, and the remainder of the service as it is currently performed. Some Associates of the Schola, familiar with the chant, and Mike Murphy as Cantor, added confidence to the singing. The congregation who attended Vespers felt that the singing was better than it would have been during the first hundred years of St. Oswald’s Church, thanks in large part to Philip’s guidance. Each participant was able to take the music home. It is worth keeping as Philip has included amusing black and white reproductions of old prints of music groups. One of them is accompanied by a serpent, inexpertly played, judging by the pained expressions on the singers’ faces. Among the many individuals who contributed to the success of this most enjoyable day especial thanks are due to our Associate, MaryRose Kearney for attracting such a wide group of singers and for her smooth organisation of the day.