Welcome to the first Sacred Music Studies Newsletter!

Are you as excited as I am to start learning some of the great music of the Catholic Church this September? I am thrilled that you are going to give it a try, and I want to offer you my help and support in any way I can.

For starters, I hope this newsletter explains the basics of what we will be studying, and how we will do it.

In this Introductory Newsletter you will find:
  • A peek into what each future newsletter will contain
  • Inspiration for starting these studies
  • The list of songs we will learn in the next 12 months
  • How I'm planning to use these studies in our homeschool
  • Explanation of how to make a family hymnal
  • Free download of a coloring book for learning Gregorian chant, plus other options
What to Expect in the Newsletters Each Month

Everything you need to study one hymn or chant:
  • Printable sheet music
  • Audio (sometimes video when available)
  • Lyrics typed into the newsletter so you can copy and paste
  • Ideas for blending hymn study activities into Religion, Language Arts, and History

Optional extras:
  • Assignments for learning to read chant
  • Audio of a polyphonic work (to enjoy)
  • Links to's videos to learn the chant propers for each Sunday
  • Occasional articles about sacred music for older students and adults
If we take the time to study sacred music at home, we will be preserving our great Catholic musical heritage, and passing it on to the next generation. Jeffrey Tucker and Arlene Oost-Zinner, two great music leaders in the reform of sacred music, note that "that most Catholics under the age of 60 are unlikely to recognize even the basic chants of the Faith." 

They talk about how Gregorian chant is supposed to have the "pride of place" in every parish in order to unify all Catholics. They recommend that "every Catholic who yearns to hear and sing chant in the liturgy should start to sing this music on his or her own. That is a contribution that each of us can make to prevent this music from dying as we await the time when it will be restored to our public liturgies." (Read full article here.)

By teaching these hymns and chants to yourself and your children, you are helping to return chant to its proper place! 
The above quote comes from the album jacket of Vespers Schola, which was kindly gifted to me by Mr. Frederick Ziegler, the music director for the album, and owner of Catholic Liturgy Solutions. The recordings are EXCELLENT!
Your participation at Mass will improve, too, if you study sacred music at home. You will know the overall meaning of the Latin hymns, or maybe what Bible verses or doctrines are being referenced.  Those gifts of knowledge will give you a deeper understanding that can only benefit your experience at Mass.  

Learning devotional hymns that aren't sung at Mass will also increase your personal devotion (hence the name) to the Sacred Heart, Our Lady, the angels, saints, and those in Purgatory.

And if none of these songs are currently sung at your parish, you will still benefit, by growing in your love for the Church.  Over the course of these studies, you will be thankful that she has provided and safeguarded such beautiful music over the centuries. 
How does that quote by Dr. George Harne apply to you and me?  Granted, we don't have resources like colleges do, although some creativity and planning could bear some fruit. However, we will be singing sacred music, in our home. We will be listening to beautiful music mostly from the web, instead of the concert halls. Once our children are old enough, they will be reading articles and documents about the Church's teachings  on sacred music, and discussing the theology in the musical texts. 

In general, you and I will be promoting the "intellectual and spiritual formation of our students," and ourselves

May God bless us as we begin this faith-building endeavor! 
I must admit, it was VERY difficult to choose which 12 hymns and chants to start with, but here is the official list of songs for Year 1 of Sacred Music Studies! Hopefully you see a mix of known and unknown hymns. 
Music for Year 1:
  • Concordi Laetitia (and/or Maiden Mother, Meek and Mild)
  • Dear Angel, Ever at My Side
  • Blessed are the Sons of God
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fidelis)
  • Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
  • Think of the Son of God
  • Stabat Mater, Dolorosa
  • O Sacrum Convivium
  • Regina Coeli Laetare
  • All Ye Who Seek a Comfort Sure
  • Firmly I Believe and Truly
  • Immaculate Mary
Suggestions for Studying one Hymn per Month:

This is how we will be studying hymns in our home. In the past, I've only done Week 1's ideas. The others are new to me, and they can be ideas for your own home, too, if you'd like.

Prep work:
Print any sheet music and add it to your hymnal.  Listen to the audio, and try to learn the melody before introducing it.  

Week 1:
This week's focus is learning how to sing the song. In our home, I start by giving a brief introduction to the song. (e.g. "Today we're learning the chant, XYZ, written by A, with music by B. This song is over 1,000 years old!")  Then I read the lyrics, and have the children read/say the words with me. Finally, I sing the hymn to them, so they know what it sounds like. (If you wish, play the audio instead.) I point to the words as I sing along, while the kids watch. (This week, you should try to get comfortable singing the first verse and chorus.)
Week 2:
Continue learning more verses, and use them for copywork, dictation, or as quotes in a journal. Begin to discuss religious themes, imagery, truths of the Faith, etc. found in the text.

Week 3:
Consider doing some historical, geographic, or religious research this week. Memorization should be happening naturally by now if you are singing the hymn once a day. How much you expect your children to memorize by the end of the month is up to you. (Charlotte Mason assigned 6 hymns per year, so that gave her students more time to memorize the entire hymn.)

Week 4:
Finish memorization. Listen to other recordings. Review other hymns.

I have official "Hymn Study" only once a week for about 15-20 minutes. The "extra" activities of copywork, for example, are done during "copywork time".  We will be learning how to read Gregorian Chant on a different day than Hymn Study Day. My aim this year is to sing the hymn (almost) every day as suggested in the Charlotte Mason method. I envision starting the school day with a prayer and a hymn. I noticed last year that the days we started with music, seemed to be happier and smoother!
How to Make a Family Hymnal

How do you save and organize all the music you can print? By making a family hymnal! It is so simple. Just grab a binder, print out the music you love, and add it to the binder!

Design a cover if you'd like to get fancy. 

Add tabs for the different Liturgical Seasons and major feasts: Advent, Christmas, the Holy Name, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Christ the King, Sacred Heart, Precious Blood, Holy Trinity, Holy Ghost, the Saints, Blessed Sacrament, Our Lady, All Souls, General 

The hymns we will be learning are in the public domain, so any sheet music in the newsletters is legal to print, unless otherwise noted. (If you see errors, please let me know!)

Like the hymnal cover design I made? Click this link to edit it with your family name! (There is another one with a white background for cheaper printing!)
Resources for Learning to Read Gregorian Chant

Can't read chant? No problem!

This is the book we are using this year to learn how to read Gregorian chant. You can download it for free here.  (You have the option to purchase a printed version, but the download is free.) You will also notice that there is a Teacher's version available for free, too!

Once you click "Download," you will need to fill out a simple survey, and then you are led to a page that has ALL the free downloads available by Frog Music Press. 

I HIGHLY RECOMMEND SAVING THIS DOWNLOAD PAGE LINK, so you don't have to fill out the survey again. (A lesson learned from experience!)


Here are two other options that are, again, free downloads. "If You Can Sing Joy to the World" comes with a free self-teaching video. There is some website construction going on at Frog Music Press, so If the website links don't work, click "Download" on the coloring book page, fill out the survey, and you will come to the same download page link that I mentioned above. Both resources are there.

The information in all three Frog Music Press resources are basically the same, but presented in different ways.  If your high-school student is embarrassed to do the coloring book, consider one of these instead.  I, personally, will need the coloring book! :-)
This beautiful book, Words with Wings, is intended for a classroom setting, so it is perfect for a group class. It also looks like it would work well in a homeschool setting, as long as you have some sort of white board.

I appreciate the scripted lessons that should take the stress away of presenting the material correctly.  I plan to use this next year for our family.

Its 20 lessons are meant to help shape the future of Catholic children's choirs. The author states, "My main goal is to evoke the love of Gregorian chant in the hearts of children." Beautiful.

A Workbook, Instructor's Manual, and Accompanying CD is available on Amazon in my aStore. 
If you're overwhelmed by all this information, remember, all you REALLY need to know, is that everything you will need to learn these songs will be delivered to your mailbox each month! :-) So relax, and enjoy the rest of your summer vacation! 
Expect the first Sacred Music Studies Newsletter to arrive the last week of August. I look forward to learning more about our Catholic heritage with you!

Know anyone who might be interested in receiving the Newsletters?
Please share below! Thank you!
I'm considering starting a Google+ community for these studies. I think it would be helpful if questions, answers, interesting facts found, or other helpful information could be easily seen and discussed by all. Stay tuned. 

In the meantime, stop by and say hi on Google+ or Twitter!
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