Friday, June 3, 2011

Directions for Chanting (stolen from John Wesley and modernized for the 21st.c)

Ya know how sometimes you pick up an article that you haven't read in years and realize that the first time you read it, some mystical information was passed directly into your soul, and then you realize that you are the way you are NOW because of what you allowed inside THEN? Here's something that was hard-wired into me about thirty years ago. I happened to open The Sacred Art of Chant: Preparing to Practice this week for no reason at all and there it was. Feel free to post it where singers, choir directors, and members of your local garage band will be sure to pay heed.
...It was originally published as "Directions for Singing" by John Wesley in his 1761 collection Select Hymns. I found it on a bulletin board in a choir room long ago, and have adapted the language to be a little more modern. I've tried to be faithful to the spirit of the original.

Directions for Chanting

1. Learn each chant thoroughly; take it to heart. Learn as many as you please this way.

2. Listen closely and try to sing the chants as they are taught, without altering or mending them at all.

3. Sing often with others, as frequently as you can. Don't decide to pass up a chance to chant with others because you're tired or stressed out. Go anyway, sing with your whole soul, and you will find it a blessing.

4. Chant with your whole body, and with good courage. Be careful not to chant as if you are half-asleep; lift up your voice with strength. Don't fear the sound of your voice, and do not be ashamed of its being heard by others. Aim for a unity of spirit. Your voice is a unique gift from God, given for your health and happiness.

5. Sing modestly. Don't bawl, or try to drown out your neighbor who doesn't sing as well as you, so you can be heard above and distinct from the rest of the group. Chant with the intent of making harmony, and strive to unite your voice together with other voices to make one clear, melodious sound.

6. Sing in time. Make an effort to identify and stay with the group pulse. Listen to the leading voices and breathe with them so you don't fall behind the group beat. This will help to entrain the group energy, and build a sound community.

7. Above all, sing spiritually. Have an ear to God in every word you sing. Aim at hearing God more than pleasing yourself or anyone else. In order to do this, attend to the sense of what you sing, and see that you don't get carried away with the sound, but offer your song to God and the group continually.

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