Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guest Column: Ask the Priestman

Dear Priestman,

I'm a young pastor struggling to introduce chanting into my parish. I remember reading an article in Priestmen's Quarterly about how Fr. D. Jewel was able to restore the mitre to the procession on feast days by first wearing a bowler, then a fedora, etc., while slowly morphing them into the shape and coloration of a mitre. A couple of years later and, voila, he had some headgear that confessed the unitary nature of the Office. Can something similar be done with chanting? - Muddled in Minnesota

Dear Muddled,

But where would one begin? With the mitre there is an obvious Ur Hat that can be modified. It is reasonable that a hat loving pastor would perhaps forget to take off the fedora for Mass, thus giving space for the mitre transformation (though the Fedora Transfiguration gambit was pushing the envelope even for such a priestman as Fr. Jewel). But with chanting the only place to begin would be the Talking Song - and from that there is no escape. Indeed, I have seen with my own eyes some poor vicar reading Psalm 23 in the most heartfelt manner while the organist played The King of Love My Shepherd Is with the stops marked "1950's Melodrama" fully open. This will not give way to the Church's historic chant - that poor vicar may even now be praying ex corde while his guitar gently weeps.

There are some things only Johnny Cash can or should do.

All the Best,
The Priestman

PS: Other pastors with some musical talent have attempted to soften up the congregation to the idea of pastoral singing by entertaining congregational gatherings. See "Wee" Willy Wildon's, "Potlucks and the Ivories -or- Chords and Bar Cookies," in A Priestman's Way: Essays in Honor of the Author. The ebook version has video footage of Wildon plying his pianic priestmanship.

Ed. Note: Questions may be addressed to


  1. For "emergent/emerging" or "emerging/emergent" types involved in off-the-chain "youth ministry," I suggest not using the term "chant" (which means rhythmic speaking over a tone), but instead calling it "rap" (which means rhythmic speaking over a tone).

    Just watch TLH become crunk again, yo. We will soon see the fellas with the shaved heads and wee little beardlets on the lower lip using words like "he hath holpen" and becoming Kantorei groupies.

    That priestmanship really works.

  2. Please clarify the situation a bit. Does the congregation chant at all? For example, some congregations chant the entire service but frown upon the pastor chanting. Other congregations don't chant at all with the pastor following suit. These are two different situations, and I think they require different approaches to introducing chanting.

    In Christ,
    Daniel Skillman


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