Learning Gregorian Chant at Winston


If you’ve been paying attention to the notice boards around campus, you’ll have noticed some flyers about a chance to learn Gregorian chant from Associate Professor of Fine Arts Frank Archer. Gregorian chant is a form of Western plainchant or religious singing that is very common in the Roman Catholic Church. It is named after Pope Gregory I, who took interest in the lyrics of Western plainchant. Gregorian chant is written with a focus on what is trying to be said, regardless of the quality of the music that accompanies it. Originating in the Catholic faith, it is unusual that this is being celebrated at a Presbyterian college. When Professor Archer was asked what motivated him to set this up, he responded that Reverend David Keck wanted to set up a time for “students and community members to gather in a quiet and contemplative way through this musical experience.”

Professor Archer also has a desire to teach the chant and other forms of liturgy because it has been his main focus of study in his academic career. Professor Archer makes learning the chants easy. He is a great teacher, and no musical background is necessary. He thoroughly explains how to sing each note, and gives a small history lesson into how monks worked and expanded on the chant. After some practice the language shifts from English to Latin. Professor Archer then reviews certain notes and plays with and without music to allow the group a chance to hear how they sound as a whole and make adjustments if necessary.  There is hope that more people will show up, which will allow Professor Archer to continue working with the group even after he retires at the end of this school year. Professor Archer invites people from all faiths to participate, citing the fact that a number of chants actually happen to cross over into other religious denominations, such as the Baptist, Episcopalian, and Lutheran Churches.


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