Seminarians Reviving Gregorian Chant Through YouTube

News: Commentary
by Jake Ross  •  •  December 25, 2019   

Swiss Dominicans teaching subscribers to sing in Latin

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FRIBOURG, SWITZERLAND ( - Seminarians bored with contemporary music in the liturgy are mobilizing the Internet to teach the world to sing in Latin.

With a popular new YouTube channel promoting Gregorian chant, the seminarians are making the case for beauty and tradition in the prayer of the Catholic Church.

Brothers Alexandre Frezzato of Switzerland and Stefan Ansinger of the Netherlands, both of whom are Dominican seminarians studying at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, have a passion for the ancient chant of the Church. Their Dominican order is 800 years old. It has a distinct tradition of medieval chant that varies from that of other orders. The musical settings for all the antiphons and hymns of the entire liturgical year have been carefully preserved in a storehouse of musical masterpieces.

In the past 50 years, many Dominican communities have abandoned their musical heritage in favor of modern compositions. In some communities, the break has been so radical that the chain of transmission for Latin chant was ruptured completely. Many Dominicans, and many faithful Catholics, are ignorant of this musical history and have no idea how to sing Gregorian chant or read the sheet music.

The seminarians, both in their early 20s, noticed this problem. Rather than complain, they took action.

Everything is done to make this music accessible, even to those who have never really studied it.

Brothers Stefan and Alexandre are using 21st-century technology to propagate ancient music. Their goal is not just to record and broadcast Gregorian chant, which has been done before — they want to actually teach people to sing.

Anyone willing to learn can log on to their YouTube channel, OPChant. At least once a week, and sometimes more often, the brothers release a new video with an antiphon in Latin, sung clearly and distinctly, filmed in a variety of old European churches. The full score of the music and all the words in Latin are available in the description under each video, as an aid to learners. No other online service provides this.

Brs. Stefan Ansinger (L) and Alexandre Frezzato (R)

OPChant also releases videos in sync with the liturgical calendar, which begins this month in the season of Advent. As the year goes on, more videos will be posted, giving communities and individual students enough lead time to master a chant before it is called for in the liturgy. According to the seminarians, timing the videos to the liturgical calendar has the potential to transform the singing into a powerful form of prayer in union with the Church.

They want their channel to be accessible to everyone, including those who have never learned to sing. In an interview in French on the Swiss Dominican website, Br. Alexandre explained, "Everything is done to make this music accessible, even to those who have never really studied it." The music is in Latin, but the descriptions for each video are provided entirely in English.

Since it began in October, new viewers have subscribed to the channel every day, including from the United States. Subscriptions jumped this month in response to an English-language profile of the seminarians' work on LifeSiteNews. Based on the online comments, it is apparent that some are studying and learning to sing, while others are content just to listen and enjoy a virtual visit to a magnificent old church. "It's about time!" wrote one new viewer.

Anyone who visits OPChant and subscribes to the channel is registered for free weekly lessons about the Church's musical wealth. By subscribing, they are also sending a message: In a turbulent time for the Church, the growing number of subscribers to OPChant signals to the seminarians and their superiors that there are many in the Church today with a passion for the beauty of traditional music. The young Dominicans urge Church Militant readers in particular to subscribe and show support.

Jake Ross is a young husband and father living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is a co-founder of the website Cream City Catholic.

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