Chant Psalms While You Work!
Just chant psalms while you work
Lala La, la la la la.
Put on that grin and start right in
to chant psalms loud and long
Just chant a merry tune
Lala La la la la la.
Just do your best
and take a rest
and chant your self a psalm.
When there's too much to do
Don't let it bother you,
forget your troubles,
Try to be
just like a chanting chick-a-dee
And chant psalms while you work
Lala La, la la la la.
Come on get smart,
tune up and start
to chant psalms while you work
This adaptation of the ditty from Snow White applies to me recently on three counts ...
First of all, I've had Anglican chant on my mind a lot since I posted the last blog entry. Since May, I have been giving a group of low-church Protestants who up till then had never chanted a single syllable a crash course in singing the Psalms using Anglican chant. This has required me to distill the technique to very simple instructions, to select (or compose) simple, melodic chants (usually double-chants), to sing them to the class, and to encourage them to sing with me, to teach them how Psalms are to be pointed for chanting so they can understand the pointing marks, and then to follow me as we chant through Psalms and the canticles of the Prayer Book.
The project has given me tremendous encouragement, for it validates what I had suspected all along: that Anglican chant is peculiarly suitable for congregational use precisely because it is so quickly learned and easily remembered. After only about 10 sessions (mostly the "follow along while I sing" kind), the class can now pick up a pointed Psalm or canticle and sing it to any of the eight chants we've learned. Last night, I gave them the pointed text for the Benedictus from the 1928 Morning Prayer service, with no music, and chanted the first line to one of the chants we had learned a couple of weeks ago, asking them to join in with me on the second line and to continue through the canticle if they could. All of them joined right in, and we sailed right through to the end without a bobble. I was ecstatic. These are ordinary Christians with absolutely no experience of chant in their Christian pasts. If they can pick this up as quickly as they have, anyone can.
Along with this involvement with chant, I've found myself engaged by a couple of correspondents who have asked just the right questions to get me to answering them. One is a young woman of Jamaican origin, living in London, reared in a Pentecostal Baptist communion. She candidly acknowledges that the practice of chant -- so foreign to her cradle faith – has always held a kind of fascination for her, one she has never been able to explore. Another correspondent is a Presbyterian law student who hopes to resurrect the practice among his PCA brethren (and, I’m sure, the sistern too). I’m not surprised to find him hinting that it is probably going to be an uphill battle, particularly when I find it to be so among those who are supposed to be the home of Anglican chant.
Second, my second daughter’s wedding to my godson is now only two weeks off, and our household is in full tilt wedding mode. As I find myself presiding over everyone who’s making this event happen, I also find my plate threatening to run over on the floor.
Third, in the midst of all this, a sudden mad-dash across the continent to take advantage of a cheapo air fare and the discovery of a business which purchases the contents of closed churches, monasteries and convents. It looks like a prime opportunity to acquire the altar vessels for the Anglican parish we are planting in our community.
Guess what is not getting much attention? You guessed it. This blog.
I am thinking a lot, and I’ve even begun writing, on the next blog entry, a defense of the practice of chanting the Psalms, cabbaging on to the work of William Law to the same end a quarter of a millennium ago.
Look for something on that [crossing fingers hopefully] in the week after the wedding (August 14).