Weekly Sung Mass
Music is an essential part of the worship, curriculum, and community life here at our education centre. The summit of a typical week at Saint Benedict’s Academy is surely found in the joyful celebration of Sung Mass each Friday. After a week of hard work, play and prayer, children and staff alike join the Sisters Adorers to hear Mass said by one of our priests. Together we offer our voices in worship, singing the Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) and the sacred motets that have been prepared as part of the curriculum.
Each class has two Gregorian chant lessons every week, as well as one choir rehearsal, additional warm-ups before Mass, and regular opportunities for recreational singing at break time. Music theory is incorporated into singing lessons. Complimenting practice and theory, some lessons will also include some music appreciation to cultivate in our students an awareness of the glorious treasures of their musical heritage, the history of this sublime subject, and an appreciation of the great composers, from St Hildegard von Bingen to Arvo Pärt, from Byrd to Bach, Brahms, Bruckner and others.
As well as singing for Mass each Friday, the senior choir sing at the local Shrine Church of St Walburge several times throughout the year and on holy days such as Ascension and Corpus Christi. Although singing for Mass is more dignified and indeed more important than performance per sé, it is nevertheless an integral part of our students’ education, giving them real-world, purposeful experience of public singing in a context that really does matter. Together with this focus on liturgical singing and sacred music, children at St Benedict’s also learn secular songs from the English choral repetoire as well as music from British and Irish folk traditions. We learn these for our own enjoyment and to broaden our musical vocabulary, but also to prepare for our termly concerts in which all our children (and staff, and family members) are encouraged to perform.
Music at Home
Our students are encouraged, where possible, to take-up instrumental lessons at home, and to share the fruit of their hard work with the rest of the community at our termly concerts if they wish. It’s essential that children put some home-study time aside to practise the songs we are learning, especially in the run-up to any performances and weekly Mass. There are some rehearsal videos which can be found video via the resources web page. Whilst some basic music theory is covered in lessons, parents are encouraged to follow a music theory curriculum at home, such as the Theory Made Easy course the Music Theory for Young Musicians course or the Practice in Music Theory course (there are several good courses!).
Informal recordings of our rehearsals and liturgical ‘performances’ are taken regularly. These are very useful for self-assessment, but also allow family members at home and elsewhere to share in the musical life of our education centre. You can listen to some of our recordings online at our SBA Music channel on YouTube. In the future, we would like to record a CD of our sacred and secular music.