VIDEO: Children learn to sing Gregorian chant at Chant Camp!

How many of you have heard someone object to Gregorian chant on the grounds that it is tooo haaard!


Here is a video about a summer camp where children as young as 8 years old are learning to sing Gregorian chant.

At St. Anne’s in San Diego, they don’t think you and your kids are too dumb to grasp and thrive within our common Catholic patrimony.

Just Too Cool file? Brick by Brick file? New Evangelization file?

Touch all the bases, St. Anne’s.

Fr. Z Kudos file, for sure.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    My three boys were blessed have participated in two of St Anne’s chant camps before the Navy moved us to a new location. They developed a love of chant and have been able to bring their knowledge and experience to the children’s choir of our current parish where chant is being taught. Having volunteered at these camps I can speak first hand of the sheer joy the kids have while learning this sacred music. By the end of the week the children sound like angels -a foretaste of heaven. My boys fondly remember that lunch each day of the camp was spent at a nearby park where we were joined by the priests who did not hesitate to jump in and play a game of soccer or ultimate Frisbee with the kids. I cannot say enough good things. Brick-by-brick!

  2. benedetta says:

    Right, again, it’s just an excuse…”Chant is TOO HARD”. What a joke. Anyone can learn, and, without much trouble. I have seen young people learn complex and stunningly beautiful chant in a matter of a couple hours. And singing with great joy and enthusiasm, and above all, incredible beauty.

    People don’t even sing the Haugen these days in most places. Young people are not interested in it. But they certainly are interested in chant. Why do their elders persist in their project to deny them?

  3. CatherineTherese says:

    This is beautiful and so encouraging. Having stumbled (almost unwittingly) into an EF choir as an adult convert, with no musical background since elementary school, I can say it is the sort of thing that just seeps in and changes you. It has affected a spiritual change that either would not have happened for me in the same way, or at the same speed, or perhaps even at all. I can only imagine what learning and practicing chant does to the minds and spirits of children, who are naturally better disposed – both to learning music and to integrating the spiritual wonder of chant. Truly beautiful to contemplate.

    The tones and settings of Gregorian chant penetrate the subconscious… they reappear out of nowhere in daily life – in the car, at work, preparing dinner. Is it too much of a stretch to call a neume a visual still-frame of the Holy Spirit? More accurately, if the Holy Spirit had a sound… could it be chant? I will need to keep working on that analogy, but it seems to fit.

  4. Cafea Fruor says:

    Complainers: “But it’s too hard for kids to learn! We can’t challenge children!”

    Camp staff: “We’ll take our chantses.”

  5. marypatricia says:

    We learnt Gregorian chant in primary school in Ireland in the 1950’s. There were chant competitions between the various school choirs. I loved it and it has stayed with me all my life.
    It certainly wasn’t too hard for youngsters to learn. The Latin was no problem. We had the translation in our missals so we knew what “Credo in Unum Deum” meant.

  6. Marlon says:

    I have been using Gregorian chant as prayer at the beginning of my classes (6th, 7th, and 8th graders) for several years now. They learn it incredibly quickly and are always up for learning a new chant. Another teacher also does this, and when I walk down the hall and hear her students chanting, I am stunned by the simple beauty of it. The downside is that no one in authority in the school (a Catholic school!) encourages us in this, and when once we tried to get to include some chant at Mass, we were rebuffed. I echo bendetta’s comment about their elders standing in the way. The children–and many of their parents–love this. I am convinced that it will change in time, but it will take time.

  7. Mark of the Vine says:

    What exactly are the girls wearing 3 minutes into the video?

  8. The Masked Chicken says:

    Chant notation can be programmed to be played in almost any computer or pad, so learning chant, even by rote, is not impossible for most people.

    The Chicken

  9. Pingback: Children can Chant Too - San Diego Chant Camp - Ben Yanke

  10. iepuras says:

    Chant is not that hard and it is beautiful. When I was in middle school, our choir director had us sing chant to teach us proper technique. I was raised Mormon and now that I am Catholic, I realize that my choir director was most likely Catholic. This was in the Bible Belt in the 80’s. Now that I understand what she was doing, I realize she was quite bold in having the mostly Baptist students sing so much chant and other older Catholic sacred music. This is one of many ways the Holy Spirit worked on me to bring me home to the Catholic Church.

  11. Uxixu says:

    My eldest daughter (7) loves to go to TLM with me when possible, thought it’s been a few months. She loves to sing, too so would be perfect for this. A bit too far south, though. I should see about making this possible in her parish parochial school.

  12. Singing Mum says:

    Thanks for posting this, Fr. Z! I really believe this is possible in most places where chant is encouraged and musicians are supported. The camp is a true community effort, starting with the blessing of the pastor every day, parent volunteers who give their time, staff musicians who are there to train and inspire. With high expectations and team effort, the YOUTH are the hardest workers in the whole production. They work diligently to offer something beautiful to God.

    If you find yourself in San Diego, please do stop by St. Anne’s. You will find many fellow travelers, and children who will sing for you!

    Please pray for the camps this year. We had to move to two because of numbers- 110 and counting.
    And know my family prays for you! In Cor Jesu, Mary Ann Carr Wilson, aka Singing Mum

  13. Singing Mum says:

    NANCY J! You are still missed by your SD friends. There is room in the July camp if you can make it here. Hugs to your boys, and I’m so glad to hear they are still chanting.

    Nancy was the volunteer coordinator for Chant Camp 2012, and did a fantastic job, btw!

  14. Singing Mum says:

    Mark of the Vine,
    The children in the video at about 3′ are standing outside the San Diego Mission Basilica, where they sang for a Solemn Mass marking the 25th Anniversary of the FSSP.

    The girls in that photo are wearing their Chorister garments, which were chosen by our pastor. They are comprised of an white alb and a black (blessed) scapular. Boys in the photo are wearing a cassock and surplice.

  15. Cafea Fruor says:

    Honestly, I think the girls’ outfits are way too similar to a nun’s habit. They look like little Trappists or something.

  16. Mark of the Vine says:

    Singing Mum,
    Thanks! I thought it might be as much, but was waiting for a confirmation of my suspicion. I find their garments ot be more apropos tan cassock and surplice, as one sometimes sees female choiristers.

  17. La Sandia says:

    This is amazing, and a true rebuke to those who think that the key to getting “youth” interested in the Church is to dumb everything down and/or to ape the worst aspects of contemporary pop culture.

    It’s also great to see Fr. Carl Gismondi, FSSP and everything that he’s doing. He was the celebrant at the first TLM I ever attended back when he was the pastor of St. Michael’s in Scranton, PA. It’s in no small part thanks to him that I’m even still a practicing Catholic, as “discovering” the TLM during college was a big turning point for me, spiritually. He’s considerably tanner in this video than he was in Scranton though ;-)

  18. Jerry says:

    “Honestly, I think the girls’ outfits are way too similar to a nun’s habit. They look like little Trappists or something.”

    That was my first impression as well. But what is wrong with looking like (traditional) nuns or Trappists?

  19. Mike says:

    To view this video gives me hunger pangs, since to make this happen at my parish would require both (a) kids to do it and (b) successful conquest of the parish’s prevailing Latinphobia. One can pray, anyhow.

  20. AVL says:

    I lead a children’s schola at our parish, ages 10-15, for our Latin Novus Ordo. Children are definitely capable of chanting beautifully! In fact, since I had my baby 6 weeks ago they have even been cantoring. Since I am no expert on chant, I love the idea of sending them to chant camp! Going to look into this! Thanks Fr Z for posting it.

  21. Cafea Fruor says:

    @Jerry: IMHO, what’s wrong with it is the same reason we don’t want Trappists looking like lay people. Clothing means something and speaks to the identity of the person wearing it. Little girls are not Trappists, nor are Trappists little girls.

  22. I soooo want to be eight years old and go to Chant Camp!!

  23. KosmoKarlos says:

    I work with both a children’s choir and a adult choir at my parish.
    Ironically, the children’s choir has grown more, handles more complex music, and is more enthusiastic to sing chant.
    It makes me giggle when I hear someone claim children to be incapable of singing such.

  24. almagne says:

    In regards to the young ladies attire at about three minutes into the video: Yes it is designed to look like a Nuns habit. In particular it’s based upon the Cistercian nun habit. And it is the attire for the young ladies who are members of our choristers.

    If we dress little boys in the habit of priests (cassock and surplice) when they serve at the altar or when they sing in the choir, why wouldn’t we dress little girls who singing choir in the habits of nuns? The attire is basically an alb with a black scapular. The black scapular is blessed as a scapular of our Lady of the seven sorrows. The idea is that the black-and-white Cistercian style habit matches well with the black-and-white cassock and surplice of the boys.

    At Chant Camp girls do not dress in this, simply because we do not have enough habits for all the campers.

    I hope this helps clarifies the issue.

    God bless,
    Fr. Gismondi FSSP

  25. av8er says:

    This was beautiful. I admit to a lump in my throat with Ellie at the end of the video when she said “even if no one hears me on Earth, heaven hears me” @14:22. Very moving.

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