Two young seminarians are teaching the world to sing Latin Chant through an ultra-modern medium: YouTube.
The seminarians, Alexandre Frezzato and Stefan Ansinger, both study at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland. Their Dominican Order is over 800 years old and has a rich musical tradition of hymns in Latin that are used to make beautiful liturgies.
The seminarians discovered, that in many places, these Latin chants have been replaced with blander music. They hungered for tradition, but instead of complaining, they just went work. They took their laptops with them.
Using an iPhone and editing software available online, they travelled to old stone monasteries where the acoustics are particularly good. After rehearsing the chants, the seminarians simply pressed record. The result is OPChant, a rich video library that anyone can use for free.
They began in October 2019 and have already laid down dozens of tracks with clear renditions of the Latin chants shot against the ravishing background of historic monastery chapels.
At first, the seminarians assumed their videos would be appreciated only by other Dominicans and chant hobbyists. To their delight, the channel has taken off like a rocket. They have amassed over 5500 subscribers in less than ten weeks, with many thousands of views and an ever-growing catalogue of videos. Anyone willing to learn is welcome to subscribe, but so is everyone who wants to bask in the beauty of ancient music.
The channel is different from anything else online. While there are many places to hear Latin chant on the internet, this is the only channel that teaches it in a systematic manner. In the description under each video is a link to a PDF of the sheet music with all the words. Everyone is invited to download the music and follow along, learning to sing with the seminarians.
The channel is also exceptional because it follows the church’s liturgical calendar. The seminarians started in the month before Advent, which is the beginning of the Church’s year. They release at least one video a week, timing them so that students can learn the music before it is called for in the liturgy. For instance, all of the antiphons for Advent were put on online over the past six weeks. In 2020, they have moved on to the music for the season of Christmas and beyond.
Everything has been done to make the theological message and profound beauty of Latin chant accessible to all. Although the words are in Latin, the descriptions and explanations are entirely in English. The channel includes a contact address, and hundreds of users have written in to the seminarians for help. They are happy to reply.
By subscribing, you are voicing your support for beauty and history in the liturgy of the Church. Beyond that, following OPChant is a chance to form a truly personal relationship with this powerful form of prayer that defined the Church for centuries. When a new video is posted, it gives a spontaneous prompt to pause for a moment and prayer. When subscribers use the music provided and sing along, they bring the benefits of Latin chant into their own lives: prayer and spiritual mediation, but also physical health benefits like lower blood pressure, improved mental clarity and deeper breaths.
For those who have been Catholic for a long time, singing a prayer helps put the words of the Bible in a striking new light.. The musical setting of the chants and the Latin language help those who listen and sing to rediscover the awesome power of well-known passages of Scripture. The brothers think their singing helps to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.” (29:18)
Brothers Stefan and Alexandre urge you to subscribe. Anyone, at any level, can follow as they journey through the Church’s musical treasury. Subscribing is as easy as going to OPChant, clicking the red “subscribe” button and clicking on the bell to receive notifications. It’s never been so easy to learn to sing in Latin.
The featured image is taken from the OPChant Youtube channel.