The Schola Project: A Plan for Beauty

by Rev. Håkan Lindström

Ultimate Objectives

1. The first objective of any effort to beautify the liturgy is of course to give greater glory to God and contribute more to the edification of souls. A greater edification of souls can generally speaking be achieved by any increase of effort to enhance the beauty and dignity of the Church and all that takes place there. If the faithful can see and feel that all the best effort is put into their Sunday Mass by all involved, they will more easily understand that it is the most important moment in their week; that music, and Gregorian chant in particular, is especially suited to this end should be clear from the previous article.

2. Making our main activity—the Sunday Mass—more attractive is also an efficient way of spreading the Faith to new people. Here also music is especially suited, as hearing is the “sense of obedience”: we can close our eyes, but we cannot close our ears, and we are often more overwhelmed by beautiful music than by beauty that we see.

3. Music-making and practising is for the faithful an activity that can go on during the week and that extends their Sunday Mass throughout the week.


By Easter 2016:

1. We should have the ability to celebrate a fully fledged Sung Mass with sung proper at every mid-morning Sunday Mass in the District. These Masses are: London Holloway Herne, Oslo, Burghclere, Woking, Bristol, Preston and Glasgow.

2. At all other Mass centres, we should have the ability to celebrate Sung Mass with at least the sung Ordinary (Kyriale and Credo) every Sunday, if this is at all possible given the abilities of the congregation.

3. In all priories or larger Mass centres, groups of faithful should have formed that meet outside of Mass to work towards the Divine Worship and tie bonds of Catholic friendship by practising together the chant for Mass.

Means and Methods


1. The priest: without a priest there can be no Mass, and without a priest that sings there can be no Sung Mass in the proper sense of the word, just a Mass at which the faithful may be singing. The singing of the priest is the most important.

2. Introducing the role of District Chant Coordinator. He is to help the Priors and responsible priests to improve the singing in our chapels and churches. His tasks are:

— To provide help to the priests in forming and developing this most useful instrument for beautifying the liturgy: a Gregorian Schola, which in its turn will teach the congregations that hear it to love and, according to their capabilities, participate in the Gregorian Chant.

— To organise twice-yearly seminars and oversee monthly rehearsal workshops in the priories or main churches.

— To stay in touch with and give advice to the Chapel Chant Coordinators.

3. Appoint a Chapel Chant Coordinator for each chapel. This person should be a stable member of the chapel congregation, have good social skills and know the members of the congregation well. Whereas some knowledge of music is necessary, it is merely a plus, but not a must, that they have advanced music skills. The conductor and musical leader (Schola Master) can be another person. The Chant Coordinator’s tasks are:

— To be the contact person of his chapel in matters pertaining to singing vis-à-vis the prior (or responsible priest). This means that he must inform himself of the priest’s wishes regarding any special choice of proper of Mass or hymns or other requirements as regards the chant.

— To be the contact person of his chapel vis-à-vis the District Chant Coordinator. This means that he should be able and willing to give an account to the District Chant Coordinator of how the chant is doing at his chapel: how often do they have sung Masses with or without sung proper; how many and how stable members are there of the local schola; what kind of help would be useful for the schola, etc.

— To invite able members of the congregation to sing with the schola. To stay in touch with them and encourage them to come and sing with the schola at rehearsals and at Mass. To ask one of them to lead the singing (act as Schola Master), if he is not able or less able to do so himself. In some situations it can be preferable to appoint an ad hoc Schola Master just for this particular Mass or for a certain period of time. The role of Chant Coordinator should be more stable than that.

4. Form a Schola or choir consisting of both men and women at each chapel. Initially, the Chapel Chant Coordinator will need the help of the priests to animate as many as possible of the able members of the congregation to join the schola. Once a schola exists, it will be chiefly the duty of the Chapel Chant Coordinator to look after its healthy development and to alert the priest or the District Coordinator if something is going wrong.


1. The priests are to lead the faithful by giving the good example of preparing their own singing well and by occasionally preaching on the texts that are sung by the schola.

2. There will be regular circular communications (emails) to singers.

3. Weekly schola rehearsals

— At the very least, 30 minutes before every Sunday Mass must be given to a schola rehearsal.

— Preferably, an additional rehearsal should take place on another day of the week or after Sunday Mass in preparation for the following Sunday or Feast day.

4. Monthly Workshops at the priories or at the main churches served by a priory (Holloway, Burghclere, Bristol, Glasgow, for instance).

5. Twice-yearly district-wide seminars at Bristol or St. Michael’s School.

Defining the Requirements and Forms of Sung Mass

1. The way of singing Mass is independent of the level of solemnity in the sanctuary: it stays basically the same as far as the schola and congregation are concerned whether it is a Solemn High Mass, a Missa Cantata with four servers (2 Acolytes, a Master of Ceremonies and a Thurifer) or a sung Mass with just one server, who serves in a manner similar to that of a low Mass.

2. The organ can be used (apart from during most of Holy Week) to support the chant. It is more true to the spirit of Plain Chant, however, to make use of the organ sparingly in accompanying the chant. Preferably, it should be used only to support the singing of the congregation if it is considered needed to lead the singing and keep everyone together. The organ can and should be used with great effect to add solemnity during processions in and out of the church as well as for interludes during Offertory and Communion during those liturgical seasons that allow this.

3. At the fully fledged sung Mass:

— The Asperges is sung on Sundays.

— The Schola sings the proper chants (Introit, Gradual, Alleluia or Tractus, Offertory and Communio).

— A couple of Latin hymns, or even polyphonic motets, can be sung during the Offertory and the distribution of Holy Communion. Here care must be taken not to hold up the continuation of Mass.

4. If some of the proper chants are too demanding, it is allowed to “psalm-tone” the verses of the Gradual, Alleluia and Tractus. This is the only simplification by “psalm-toning” that is encouraged. If the proper is still too demanding, it is better to concentrate one’s efforts at singing well the ordinary and a couple of Latin hymns during Offertory and Communion.

A sung Mass where only the ordinary and a couple of Latin hymns are sung is to be considered a good compromise, especially in smaller chapels where it is difficult to find enough good singers. Larger chapels should have higher ambitions, though.

5. On particularly solemn occasions, a group of very skilled singers can consider performing a polyphonic setting of the ordinary. As this adds a considerable amount of time to the ceremony, every care must be taken that it is a pleasant addition and not a disturbing one. Solemnity can also be added by singing polyphonic motets. Musical instruments other than the organ can be used to add even more musical solemnity. Both are to be considered exceptions for quite solemn occasions

6. In the celebration of Mass, Gregorian Chant must retain priority over polyphony or other settings of the liturgical texts: many singers find polyphony more interesting and enjoyable than plain chant, often because they have not learnt to appreciate the austere beauty of the latter. This can tend to lead to the Gregorian Chant being neglected, poorly performed and therefore to seem even less interesting. Gregorian Chant remains the most traditional and proper way of singing the Roman Liturgy, wherefore every care must be taken that it is performed well, so that it will also be interesting and gratifying to sing. The singing of polyphonic works is certainly to be greatly encouraged as a deepening of the appreciation and understanding of our Christian culture and as most honourable recreation. Its use at Mass must for the reasons given remain relatively limited in the present circumstances.

Appeal to the Faithful

Such are our ambitions, but they can only be realised with the generous gift of self. Contrary to the modern wisdom, time is not money; time is much more than money; it is the perfect gift because it is rare and can never be reclaimed. Please find time in your lives to participate in this project and so give Glory God.

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