“Gregorian chant is the foundational music of Western Civilization,” Dr. Treacy reflected the week following the 7th Annual Musica Sacra Florida Gregorian Chant Conference, which she organized and hosted at Ave Maria University. “All later Western music developed from the chant,” she continued. “Gregorian chant is considered by even non-believers to be one of the sublime monuments of our culture.”
The conference, which ran from May 15-16th 2015, was a collaboration between the Florida chapter of the Church Music Association of America (CMAA) and the Ave Maria University Department of Music. It featured a children’s chant workshop led by Michael Olbash, two sung chant Masses, and a keynote address by Father James Bradley on the importance of the Proper prayers of the Mass. Fr. Bradley is an English priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham who is currently studying canon law at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. The conference participants (both the adult and children’s choirs) sang for the closing Mass of the conference, and the children’s choir also sang at the Ave Maria Oratory’s 10:00am Sunday Mass. “Gregorian chant is the sung prayer of the Catholic Church,” Treacy explained. “It was composed for no other purpose than to praise God in the liturgy.”
Besides rehearsals and practices in singing chant, the conference included the following workshops: Carrie Nolan (AMU, ’11) on English Propers for parish cantors; Dr. Edward Schaefer (University of Florida) on a new online project for reading digitized manuscripts of medieval chant; and Dr. Susan Treacy (AMU) on basic chant notation.
Dr. Treacy co-founded the Musica Sacra Florida Gregorian Chant Conference with Dr. Jennifer Donelson (then at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale) in 2009. The first conference was held on the Nova campus, with Mass sung at the church of Saint Michael the Archangel in Miami. Ever since the first year, the annual Musica Sacra Florida Gregorian Chant Conference has been hosted at Ave Maria University. Donelson recently moved from Florida, so Dr. Treacy has become the sole organizer of Musica Sacra Florida.
Treacy is on the Board of Directors for CMAA, which was founded in 1874 as “an association of Catholic musicians and others who have a special interest in music and liturgy, active in advancing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other forms of sacred music, including new composition, for liturgical use” (cited from CMAA’s website). She has attended every one of CMAA’s annual Sacred Music Colloquia—excepting two—since 1994, and has occasionally taught and lectured at the annual colloquia.
Dr. Susan Treacy is Professor of Music and Chair of the Department at Ave Maria University. She has taught courses on music history, sacred music, Gregorian chant, and directs both the men’s and women’s Scholae Gregoriana. “As a music department at a Catholic university, we consider the role and relevance of Gregorian chant to be very significant,” Treacy remarked. “In their music history course (MUSC 312A / Survey of Western Music History I), all music majors and minors learn about Gregorian chant as the foundational music of Western Civilization, not just of sacred music but also of all Western music, sacred and secular. Music majors who elect to take the Sacred Music Concentration must take MUSC 420 (Gregorian Chant), which is a course in which students learn to read the characteristic square notation of Gregorian chant; this notation is based on notations of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. They also learn to understand the eight Gregorian modes—the special scales and melody types that are the building blocks of Gregorian chant. And last, but not least, the students learn chironomy, the special technique of conducting the chant.”
Last year, the AMU Women’s Schola, led by Dr. Susan Treacy, had the opportunity to sing for the opening Mass of the Catholic Medical Association Conference, which was celebrated by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.