Students discover Gregorian chant

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Three recent graduates of Brigidine Catholic College, Randwick, donned their school uniforms one last time to perform Gregorian Chant at a Mass in Lewisham to celebrate a special sacred music program run by Sydney Catholic Schools this year.

The college is the only school in the system to have formed its own schola this year under the direction of fortnightly music teacher and youth ministry coordinator Robyn Ross and with help from visiting facilitator Australian Sacred Music Association’s Ronan Reilly.

It’s one of several schools to have embraced the sacred music tradition, along with Trinity Catholic College in Regents Park, St Michael’s Catholic Primary School at Belfield, St Jerome’s Primary School at Punchbowl, St Patrick’s Primary at Summer Hill, Holy Family Catholic Primary School at Menai, and All Hallow’s Primary School at Five Dock.

Students were taught the Simple Mass Ordinary as well as various other chants.
Brigidine College graduates Madeline Maher, Marcelle-Rita Zarzour and Jasmine Delaney joined the student choir which gave a soaringly beautiful performance at the recent Mass led by Bishop Richard Umbers at St Thomas of Canterbury church.

For the students, learning chant had helped them to connect with the faith and its musical traditions.

Madeline Maher, Marcelle-Rita Zarzour and Jasmine Delaney of Brigidine College, Randwick, with Ronan Reilly. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Marcelle said she enjoyed singing in the same way early Christians used to. “It’s really beautiful to hear so many voices singing and praising God in a different way to what we are used to,” she said.

Jasmine said that chant produces a “very pure, very prayerful sound”.

“It’s very meditative and enables me pray more easily during the Mass.”

Called Jubilate Deo the initiative is part of a larger program developed by Sydney Catholic Schools titled Leading Liturgy in Catholic Schools, which is aimed at increasing students’ understanding of and engagement with school Masses.

At Belfield, St Michael’s school principal Mary Colagrossi said it had been one of the highlights of the school year.

“We have a very strong faith community in Belfield and our parents and parish priest were also very open to the idea,” she said.

The Australian Sacred Music Association’s Ronan Reilly leads students from several Sydney schools in Gregorian chant at the program’s end of year Mass. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Sydney Catholic Schools director of religious education and evangelisation Anthony Cleary congratulated Brigidine College for developing a comprehensive program for sacred music for its students.

“The quality of the music and the performance of all the students was really incredible,” he said. “It’s always a great delight to hear beautiful voices raised in union to give praise to God. We are trying really to bring about a wider appreciation of sacred music in our schools and for our young people to have a fuller understanding of various genres of liturgical music there might be.

“All of the young people involved in the program create beautiful music and they have an opportunity to explore the riches of the Catholic tradition which they may not ever have been exposed to but can appreciate. We should never imagine what young people will be interested in.

“A key motive of the program is to try to enable exposure to different forms of sacred music so students can develop an appreciation of it.”

Bishop Umbers said a return to the Church’s sacred music tradition “is a really beautiful way of reaching out to new generations”.

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