Ian Williams and I attended the bi-annual meeting of the Gregorian Chant Network on Saturday 18th February at the London Oratory. This informal association of chant groups, scholae and church choirs who sing Gregorian Chant lets us know who is doing what, where and when. The renowned Scottish composer James MacMillan was the guest speaker at the gathering. We heard how Gregorian Chant has been a great source of inspiration for him and continues to influence his compositions. He spoke about the weight of tradition this music carries from earliest times, through the great music written over the centuries, to our own era. James’s address was the core of the day. His words gave us all great encouragement to continue. During the breaks Ian and I chatted to lots of people from many parts of the country, and even from abroad! It was interesting to note that there are very few organisations like CGMS, which is a secular special interest society. Many groups are attached to particular parishes or denominations and only sing for Mass or the Offices. CGMS, in contrast, organises a variety of events such as our talks, our study days looking at Gregorian and other chant traditions, our participation in local events such as the Canterbury Festival and supporting patronal feasts in local churches. We dig up our own music from interesting sources and sing it ourselves. It was invaluable to meet leaders of other groups and find out where they came from. We all now know we can sing along with Ben Whitworth’s Schola if we are in the Orkney Islands!
Many thanks to Joseph Shaw and his helpers from the Gregorian Chant Network for organising the day, updating their website with news and keeping us all in touch.