When it comes to teaching children sacred music, sooner is better than later. That’s the theory behind a Gregorian chant pilot program for children ages 3-5 at Star of the Sea Preschool in San Francisco that concluded its first year on May 30.
The program is the first of its kind for Catholic preschoolers in the archdiocese and perhaps well beyond it, according to preschool director Jacqueline Maria Paras, a member of Star of the Sea Parish’s Latin Mass choir and a champion of chant.
“I wanted to bring my own love of chant to my students,” she told Catholic San Francisco during a visit to the program’s once-weekly session which is part of the preschool’s religion and enrichment programs. “We can help them experience music theory in a way that is developmentally appropriate.”
Gregorian chant is the unaccompanied, ancient sacred song of the Roman Catholic Church. According to the Star of the Sea Parish website, the Second Vatican Council called Gregorian chant “the most suited music for the Sacred Liturgy.”
“Music is a language,” said Sven Edward Olbash, a vocal performance specialist and Gregorian chant recording artist who partnered with Paras to offer the Gregorian chant program. “What’s really cool is that kids up to the age of 5 or 6 can learn two languages at once and don’t even know they are speaking two languages,” he said. “If you learn that language by 5 or 6 you will always know the notes.”
Alternately fidgety and fascinated during the 30-minute lesson, the children executed the simple exercises the instructor offered them. At one point he showed them the difference between a “loud” voice and a “beautiful” one, which produced some giggles as they attempted the same. Later, students took turns tapping the metal bars on a “metallophone” – a type of xylophone – with mallets to train their ears to the note it produces.
Paras said preschoolers typically learn songs by ear in group sing-a-longs. And in other classroom settings at the school, they still do this type of singing, she said.
“The real difference in this program is that lessons are specifically modeled to Gregorian chant,” she said. “If we are all working toward the same goals and using same terminology we will have a greater impact.”
Full story at Catholic San Francisco.
This is a wonderful parish, and shout out to “YFC”, since you are in the Bay Area, avail yourself of the many treasures at Star of the Sea. Fr. Illo would be a wonderful spiritual advisor for you.
Yes, it is a wonderful parish and I wish that I were able to attend there more often. Kudos to Jacqueline Maria Paras, Sven Edward Olbash, and to Fr Illo for the ever increasing beauty and love of God shown in that parish. I also concur with Kristin in that I think Fr Illo would be wonderful spiritual advisor for YFC!
Since when are we in the business of telling strangers who should or shouldn’t be their spiritual advisor? FYI, Father Illo is not my parish priest, and by the way, this program at the parish seems pretty cool. Hopefully there will be a class like that for adults one day!
Just trying to look out for a “fellow” Catholic, “YFC”. Btw, a spiritual advisor need not be one’s pastor. Submitted for your consideration, that’s all.
This is so wonderful! Not just because it’s Gregorian Chant, but because the children are learning notes and how to sing. I’m amazed at how many people cannot sing. In the little town of Brookfield, Vermont, with 28 students from Grades 1-8, we had a professional classic music teacher visit us (about) once a week to teach us notes and how to sing. Today there is no time because the children must be taught political correctness and sex ed. Too bad, so sad. I hope we hear more about these children.
This is a bit over the top! Let children be children! Having 3 to 5 year olds chanting a song in a language they do not understand is for the benefit of some misguided adults and not for the benefit of the children.
Well aren’t you just a whole barrel of fun!
Fred, children have been learning to sing in other languages here in California since I, a senior, was little. We started with “Frere Jacques” (French) in public school kindergarten or first grade and went on to sing Spanish and other songs. Many of my elementary school friends went after school to learn Chinese, Hebrew, Spanish or Greek at their temples or churches. A Greek neighbor taught me the Greek alphabet from a little astronomy book I had when I was about seven or eight. I still remembered the Greek word “lambda” to put in a crossword puzzle I did a few hours ago.
By the way, the Greek word “lambda” I was referring to was for the Greek letter that is equivalent to our letter “L .
I did not mean to be disrespectful. The whole point of what I said is, if children could learn all those other things gradually from an early age, surely Catholic children can learn to sing some of the beautiful Psalms of King David and other Church prayers in Latin. I think this is a beautiful program.
Easy, Fred Flintstone. Never sang Frère Jacques as a kid?
Way to go! How lovely.
“..the Second Vatican Council called Gregorian chant “the most suited music for the Sacred Liturgy.” Too bad that directive is ignored in 99.9% of the parishes. It is great to see young children taught the beautiful and timeless chants that lift up our hearts, minds and soul upward to Heaven.
This is good! Most schools today don’t teach anything but modern music. At one time, maybe still, Kindergarten was where you learned beats, using sticks and drums, etc. By fourth grade kids were reading music and playing Recorders. Then the moved on to more difficult music; bands, orchestras, choral groups, etc. Maybe the still do. In high school they still have a lot of music, but not required. I know that singing age appropriate hymns is always part of Protestant Sunday School, which is why they all sing so well in church compared to the Catholic mummer. At my small town church we had a boy choir every Sunday – about 20-30 kids. They sang Latin mostly, but some other languages too.
It would be great, if our Catholic schools would again be truly Catholic, with teaching nuns, and the Catholic Faith lived and breathed there! With Catholic families raising their children in their Faith, eager to save their money, for their children’s Catholic education! It is shocking, but in many Catholic schools of today, there are not very many Catholic students! So many cute non-Catholic school children, in many lovely pictures!! Hard for devout Catholic teachers, too– bless them all! And, in too many cases– non-believers who deny our holy Faith and Morals, and holy Mass— giving lessons in our sacred music heritage, from just a music history book!
In past eras, prior to Vatican II, lessons in our Church’s sacred music and liturgy (including Gregorian Chant) — were usually followed, by the priests inviting and encouraging all the little boys, in Catholic school, to become Altar Boys! And of course, this was a traditional pathway, to a vocation to the priesthood! Prior to Vatican II, nearly every little Catholic boy, at some time in their young life, considered a vocation to the priesthood! In some countries, little boys as young as age five, began serving as Altar Boys!