Pueri Cantores in Ireland, and repercussion in Gregorian chant

I received a note from a friend about the Pueri Cantores convention in Ireland at Maynooth Seminary.

There are some fine video available for your perusal on Gloria.TV.

The chant is not perfect, but they will nevertheless convince you that we need more boys choirs!  There is nothing quite like the effect of a boys choir.  When the boys get back onto more familiar territory, such as the proper, the sound is exceptional.

One of the things I noticed right away was the striking use of repercussion in the Gregorian chant.  This is evident in the first video which begins with a less than optimal singing of the Introit, particularly when they get to the Gloria Patri.

Singers are divided about repercussion.  I tend to favor it but only when it is done with greeeeaaaat delicacy.   The notes mustn’t be hammered.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. AnAmericanMother says:

    The boys sound splendid, beautiful clear tone even when they get a little muddled – there is nothing like the sound of a good boys’ choir.

    Repercussion is essential in the beginning (or in the case of this video, with multiple choirs) to keep everyone together. Our director has started heavy-duty instruction in the Solesmes method, and we’re relying on repercussion for now. Delicacy comes later (hopefully, soon!) Fortunately our parish church is a phenomenally reverberant space (for an American parish church)! Hang time is 8-10 seconds with the building empty, about half that when full. That covers a multitude of sins – and as our director pointed out, the melody actually makes chords out of the echoes. The sound shimmers in the air. Lovely.

  2. I see girls in the choir!

  3. momoften says:

    It is amazing with the right person what boys will do. Our pastor through his hard work and leadership has taken many young boys and turned them into decent cantors…unfortunately, now they all fight to see who will sing and who will serve..these boys will do anything for him!

  4. momoften says:

    …yes, I saw girls in that choir as well….

  5. AnAmericanMother says:

    You can tell a difference between the sound of a girls’ and a boys’ choir if you listen very very hard and know exactly what you’re listening for (especially in the altos) but so long as everybody is below the age of puberty the difference is negligible. Boys generally have a much better high range and a fuller sound in the top end, but if you blindfolded most people they would not be able to tell.

    This is why my children’s choir director back in the Early Pleistocene made all the girls tie their hair back or put it up in a bun. Of course, in those days a lot of the boys had long hair anyhow. :-D

  6. Singing Mum says:

    Repercussion is not a problem when the choir director has sufficen vocal technique to explain and demonstrate it well.
    It can be beautifully, skillfully done, and then it can sound like someone is slapping the vowel with their voice.
    Vocal skill is the key.

  7. Mitchell NY says:

    God Bless the choir. Singing Gregorian Chant makes these young guys unique. It is an experience that they will treasure for the rest their lives. Being part of being able to bring such heavenly, unique, and timeless music alive and echoing throughout the Church. Their voices have reached across the shores in my home in NY. I hope they stick with it as their sound will strengthen and develop over the years. Very cool.

  8. AnAmericanMother says:

    Singing Mum,

    What you said. Many of our choir members have never sung chant before – and all are amateurs except a core of staff. I sang Anglican chant for many years, but repercussion is not used (the text mostly drives the notes, and if necessary each element of a dipthong is pronounced separately on multiple notes). So I’ve had to learn it properly too.

    We have the advantage of a very talented director who came up through choir school as a young boy back when the Catholic schools all taught chant. He can sing all the parts except the 2nd bass himself . . . .

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