Dominican seminarians teach the world to sing – in Latin

A new YouTube channel from Switzerland enchants the internet

Young seminarians from Switzerland have been surprised by the powerful global response to their new YouTube channel, accessible in English, through which they teach subscribers to sing Latin chant in the Dominican tradition.

The channel, OPChant, publishes one video a week. In each video, the friars sing an ancient chant from the unique musical tradition of their order. The score and words to every antiphon are provided as a PDF file in a link under each video and can be printed out.

The young Dominicans, Brothers Stefan Ansinger and Alexandre Frezzato, follow the calendar of the Church with each new release. They want to give communities and individuals time to learn a piece of music before it is called for in the liturgy.

As recently as late in November 2019, the seminarians had only about 200 subscribers. They thought of their target audience as other Dominicans or young religious, and perhaps musical hobbyists. Just a few months later, in the new year, Brothers Stefan and Alexandre are heading towards 10,000 subscribers. 

The seminarians take this surge in attention as a testimony to the appeal of chant, and an expression of hunger for a beautiful tradition that has not been nurtured in recent years. They see each subscription is a vote for beauty in the prayer of the Church.

Media outlets in many countries have written about the brothers, including the journal Avvenire of Milan, LifeSite of Toronto, and the French and English versions of Aleteia. A quick search on Facebook reveals translations into Ukrainian, Greek, Portuguese and Chinese.

Amid the hubbub, the Brothers remain committed to their work. The plan is simple: each piece of music is executed clearly and without ornamentation, to help listeners to follow along and learn. The seminarians do not pause their singing to comment or instruct the listener. They trust each subscriber to follow along, sheet music in hand.

Based in Fribourg, Switzerland, the seminarians have easy access to old monastic churches. This is where they record their videos. The churches create beautiful backgrounds to the music and greatly enhance the acoustics of the recordings.

The seminarians call their channel a “weekly private class” for every subscriber. Subscribing is easy: anyone interested can go to OPChant, click the subscribe button, and click on the bell to receive notifications when a new video comes out. 

While many subscribe in order to learn, the seminarians have found that many others follow the channel as a form of private prayer, or for aesthetic reasons. Latin chant touches the heart. It is accessible to the pious and questioning alike. “We don’t mind if people listen to it while doing the washing up,” says Brother Alexandre.

“Through chant, the heart is led gently into prayer,” said Brother Stefan in a recent interview for the Swiss Dominicans website. “Surely, that gives glory to God.”