On Christmas Day, the YouTube channel OPChant — launched by two Dominican seminarians in Switzerland — had fewer than 1,000 subscribers. Today, the virtual community learning to sing with the young friars has surpassed 11,500 people.
Internet users from across the world are now following brothers Alexandre Frezzato of Switzerland and Stefan Ansinger of the Netherlands in their weekly effort to teach others to sing in the great tradition of the 800-year-old Order of Preachers, founded by St. Dominic.
Though new, OPChant is among the most recognized and celebrated Swiss Dominican initiatives in more than 50 years. This shows that across the world, there is a real hunger for the traditional Latin music of the Church.
Brothers Ansinger and Frezzato study at the University of Fribourg in western Switzerland. They constructed OPChant as a teaching tool; it is the only online channel that systematically teaches Latin chant in the Dominican tradition.
A new video is posted every week, each synchronized with the liturgical calendar of the Church. This design allows those learning with the friars to prepare each piece of music before it is required in the liturgy.
The brothers go out of their way to help new learners. In the description below each video, they provide a link to the full musical score, including all the words to the songs in Latin. That way, anyone who wishes to learn can print out the music, take a score in hand and follow along as the brothers sing. Thousands of users have learned to sing in this way.
The videos are also beautiful, recorded in a variety of old monastic chapels that the brothers have chosen for their excellent acoustics.
The brothers are providing a weekly private class for free, to everyone, and their teaching is good both for specialists and for people with no special training. Some followers have no intention of singing themselves, but feel attracted by the beauty and spiritual power of this centuries-old musical tradition. The seminarians know their music is even helping some listeners come back to the Faith.
As the channel has English descriptions and offers music exclusively in Latin, it has been able to cross borders and touch the hearts of thousands from different cultures. Enthusiastic articles have been published on OPChant in English, but also in French, German, Flemish, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Ukrainian, Greek and Arabic.
One of the singing brothers was even the guest of honor last month on the Vatican Radio program Anima Latina.
With each new article or report, OPChant gains subscribers and the number of students in the brothers' "classroom" grows.
This week, to celebrate their success and say "thank you" to God and to their subscribers, Ansinger and Frezzato shared excerpts from their "fan mail" — letters of appreciation which have come in dozens of languages from countries around the world:
Brothers, never give up. Don't stop choosing the holiness that comes with leaving the world. Don't stop what you're doing. And may our Lord give you more and more motivation and blessings to continue this beautiful idea of sharing all these amazing chants. (Paola Ingrid Marín Castro, South America)
In the name of every soul whose faith in Jesus Christ and His Church will be deepened by your efforts, thank you from the bottom of my heart. And thanks be to God. (Matthew Talbott, United States)
This channel is a fantastic way to promote the Order's ancient musical tradition. My friends say they have to keep themselves from watching and listening to too many of your videos at once. Gregorian chant requires moderation, and one excerpt a day is enough. I am delighted that such a rich treasure-house of music is now available to everyone. (Theo Ruiter, The Netherlands)
Those interested in joining the global community of those learning to sing in Latin — free of charge — may do so at OPChant.