Hymns by St. Thomas Aquinas

In honour of the upcoming Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, and to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, the Communio Circle of the Diocese of Hamilton and the Cantualis Chant Choir present an evening of hymns composedby St. Thomas for the Feast of Corpus Christi along with commentaries taken from Aquinas At Prayer by Paul Murray, OP, on Friday, January 24th at 7:00pm in Blessed Sacrament Church, 305 Laurentian Drive, Kitchener, Ontario. Refreshments to follow in the music room. The following notes on the founding of Cantualis and its activities were provided by David Hall:

Beginning a few years along in my time as music director at Blessed Sacrament (which began in 1997) and sometime around the arrival of Fr Lobsinger in 2005, I sat down with two senior choir members of Dutch extraction to explore what samples of Gregorian chant they might happen to remember from their youth as servers and school students. The book we used as a resource for this exploration was Liber Cantualis published by Solesmes in 1983. Lots of things were familiar as we sang through the 6 masses, funeral mass, sequences and varied hymns and antiphons included in that 118 page book.

When it was decided to continue with regular rehearsals we looked for more singers by becoming an ecumenical community group rehearsing in the chapel of Waterloo Lutheran Seminary. We included a student or two in the group and some other church musicians. We sang the propers for the Mass of the Holy Spirit at a Renaissance Singers concert presentation of the Missa Papae Marcelli so the audience could hear the full effect of a sung mass. We also sang this for the 2006 Pentecost celebration of the Extraordinary Form mass that is celebrated every week in Kitchener. Every appearance garnered us more members but since mass propers are fairly difficult and most of our members have Sunday morning duties in their own churches we concentrated on vespers services for awhile. We presented an Advent Vespers in conjunction with the Victoria Scholars in 2006, a Compline Service with the Schola Magdalena (both in WLS chapel) and various Sunday Vespers for Palm Sunday (Fergus), Corpus Christi and All Saints (Kinkora) and a recording of Friday vespers.

Various small scale projects such as music for a baptism liturgy, stations of the cross, Te Deum at the opening of the new church in Fergus and in alternatim settings at organ, demonstrations for the Medieval History class at WLU, and masses in nursing homes as well as cemetery masses, requiem and memorial masses and accepting invitations to sing at various significant local churches in Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph on miscellaneous liturgical occasions such as Saturday evening masses also broadened our scope.  Occasionally we were able to mount a full scale Extraordinary Form Mass for Immaculate Conception (2009 Kinkora) Easter Monday (Fergus) Trinity or Sacred Heart. This last was organized and prepared by Justin Peters who was posted to Blessed Sacrament as a seminarian 2010-2011 and who also lead the celebration of Vespers for Mary, Mother of God, and Tenebrae in Holy Week earlier that year.

We have also developed a “Chant Mass Lite” where we add the Gregorian Introit, Offertory and Communion into a regular English language parish mass with hymns. In such cases we begin each item by singing the English translation before we do the Latin to the proper antiphon melody. Furthermore we do a chant-like setting of the Responsorial Psalm and Gospel Acclamation of the day. Cantor Andrew Malton has written a complete set for the three year lectionary arranging an original Gregorian source for each psalm. It was with a mass of this style that we first participated in a festival commemorating St Thomas Aquinas in 2007 and 2008 hosted at St Michael’s Waterloo by the Catholic university chaplaincy. We are pleased to renew our participation in this commemoration hosted by the Communio Circle at Blessed Sacrament in 2014.

In all cases pastors have commented on our concern for the congregation’s participation and ability to understand and follow what is being sung. In Vespers services we repeat the antiphons regularly after every four psalm verses in order that people may develop some familiarity with the melody and begin to join in. This greatly increases the meditative effect and impact. In Ordinary Form masses we respond to the English context as described above and in Extraordinary Form masses where we can assume people are familiar with the Latin texts we broaden our repertoire by using some of the other Gregorian masses rather than just Missa VIII de Angelis and Credo III.  We also help concert goers realize that organ and choral masses had a lot more music in them than just the choral parts. We have recorded Mass II Kyrie Fons bonitatis coupled with Bach’s organ settings which incorporate the plainsong melody note for note as well as the Frescobaldi Fiori musicali.

In 2012 my position as Music Director at the Seminary ceased and we lost our rehearsal space. As well the pastors in the churches accustomed to issuing invitations to us changed, including my own parish which actually changed pastors twice in the next two years so our level of activity dropped significantly. Membership in the group now stands at seven: David Hall, Andrew Malton, Jan Boersen, Joe Torre, Don Nevile, Brad Moggach and Waldemar Scholtes. Our upcoming engagements include Evening Worship at St Marys Presbyterian Church on February 23 and Mass for the Annunciation on March 25 at 10:30am at Winston Park Village. Anybody interested in hosting us for Easter Monday mass, in either extraordinary or ordinary form Latin or English, is requested to be in touch with me:
music@blessed-sacrament.ca

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