28-December-2012 -- EWTNews Feature |

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Disappearing method of learning chant proving its worth

Dr. Alise Brown is teaching students at the University of Northern Colorado to read music and sing using a method originally used to promote Gregorian chant.

"The method itself is very simple, very easy to learn, you don't even need any music background to be able to do it," Brown told Denver's 9 News.

Justine Ward developed what is now called the "Ward Method" in 1912, after she converted from the Episcopal Church to the Catholic Church. The method teaches students to navigate pitch and to sight-sing.

Brown's doctoral dissertation was on Ward's method and how it could be applied to public school classrooms, which she is now doing.

Justine Ward "was very interested in Gregorian chant," Arlene Oost-Zinner, program director at the Church Music Association of America, told EWTN News.

She went to France to study with Benedictine monks at Solemnes Abbey under Dom Mocquereau, and was "trying to start a movement to get people to sing more chant."

Shortly before, Pope Pius X had lamented the lack of singing in Catholic churches.

"In 1903, they were trying to get people in the Church to sing chant again," said Oost-Zinner, noting that today "there's not a lot of chant going on in the Church, so that's not a new problem."

The Ward Method was taught in Catholic schools throughout the U.S. through the 1950s, but then started to disappear with the cultural changes of the 1960s.

"It's almost gone, and it is so good and so succinct that it's sad to see it go," Brown remarked.

"Sadly, Alise is one of the few who is using it," Oost-Zinner said. "As far as teaching the Ward Method as part of an academic curriculum at university, I bet Dr. Brown is one of the few, if not the only person, doing that now."

While the method was developed for use with chant, it can be used with any style of music.

There are only a few people in the U.S. who continue to use the Ward Method. In addition to Brown, Oost-Zinner knew of two parish choirmasters. The first is Jeffery Morse at St. Stephen the First Martyr parish in Sacramento, and the second is David Hughes at St. Mary's in Norwalk, Conn.

Oost-Zinner said the Ward Method is important because "if we can teach children in schools ... and our CCD programs to read chant, then they are going to be learning how to do what the Church is asking us to do."

"What the General Instruction (of the Roman Missal) is asking us to do ... is to keep Gregorian chant in a pride of place," she noted.

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=6769#ixzz2GODMxuM3

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