Floriani is dedicated to inspiring and educating the next generation of Catholic musicians.
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The beautiful and mysterious tones of Catholic chant have inspired dedication in the faithful for centuries. While these often somber tones are moving to hear, they can be difficult to sing, especially for those unfamiliar with the ancient musical format. Now there’s a new podcast series that is teaching the nuance of this sacred artform, and it’s run by a non-profit men’s choir Floriani.
Floriani is a new ensemble that just established themselves as a 501(c)(3) in May of 2021. They accompanied their launch with a lovely rendition of “Salve Regina,” and then promptly delved into a new podcast series, called Chant School Podcast. In the first three weeks they have already released five lessons on chant.They explain their mission on their website:
“St. Hugh of Cluny once spoke of how the learning, practicing, and singing of liturgical chant is a sure way to grow in holiness, in closeness to the Word, and in submission to the discipline of singing God’s praises. Floriani has taken these words to heart, and it is our intent to inspire and educate the next generation of Catholic musicians in the spirit of this beautiful inheritance.”
The lessons include instructions on singing, pronouncing Latin lyrics, sight-reading Gregorian notation (the standard format of chant), and even historical context. For example, in their first episode, which covers the chant “Ave Maris Stella,” Floriani members Thomas Quackenbush and Giorgio Navarini give a brief history of the hymn:
“The ‘Ave Maris Stella’ is a chant that probably goes back to the 9th century … The chant itself probably arrives in the 12th century and that’s the earliest we see the notation for it. Regardless, it is a powerful text and it emphasizes the Virgin Mary’s role as the ‘Star of the Sea,’ the Northern Star that is fixed in the sky and we can follow.”
Giorgio goes on to tell a quick story related to the chant. He explains that in the 13th century, St. Bridget of Sweden was taken by a Roman mob and prepared to be burned alive. While on the pyre, Our Lady asked her to sing the “Ave Maris Stella,” which she did. When she reached the phrase “Solve vincla reis” (Loosen the chains of the guilty) St. Bridget was released.
The lesson proceeds with the pair taking viewers step-by-step through the chant. First they sing a section, then they explain each portion of it. They go through the Latin pronunciations syllable-by-syllable in order to ensure that each word is sung with the appropriate nuance.
One of the things that we appreciate most about this series is that they don’t just teach to sing, they teach how to practice. The routines and habits singers learn when they practice are an aspect that can make or break a performance. Here, they show singers how to break down complex sections and tackle them phrase by phrase until the student can achieve chant perfection.
There are already five episodes of the Chant School Podcast, totalling over an hour and a half of free vocal lessons. As it hasn’t even been a month since their launch, this prolific pace could see as many as a dozen lessons by year’s end. Be sure to like and follow their YouTube page in order to support their non-profit mission to teach the next generation of Catholics to chant.