The MA Ritual Chant and Song is a one-year programme which explores the voice and its use in ritual contexts. At the heart of the programme is an investigation of the voice (through vocal technique and somatic practices) as well as of specific ritual vocal repertoires. Western plainchant is a the chant repertoire studied and the programme has been developed in association with Glenstal Abbey, a Benedictine monastery in the environs of the campus. Drawing on the expertise in Irish traditional music, dance and song at the Academy, Irish traditional religious song is also studied as a key repertoire. Each year, guest tutors also introduce a number of additional ritual vocal repertoires, which have included a diversity of traditions from Shona ritual song to Georgian chant.
Vocal study is contextualised by seminars in performance practice, palaeography, semiotics, liturgy, medieval history, ethnomusicology, ritual studies, a survey of Irish religious ritual practices and a variety of methodological approaches to the study of performance and ritual, including ritual ethnography and ritual composition. Students may choose to work towards a final performance, a final dissertation, or both.
The programme was originally designed by Helen Phelan (Irish World Academy), in consultation with Nicholas Sandon (Exeter, UK), David Hiley (Regensburg, Germany) and Ronald Grimes (Wilfrid Laurier, Canada). Scholars and performers who have course directed or taught on the programme include Katarina Livljanic (Croatia/France), Benjamin Bagby (USA/France), Malcolm Bothwell (UK/France), Lila Collamore (USA), Edward Foley (USA), Ronald Grimes (Canada), Michael Hawn (USA), Emma Hornby (UK), Carolina Magalhaes (France), Edward Nowacki (USA), Norbert Rodenkirchen (Germany), Wolodymyr Smishkewych (USA), Catherine Sergent (France) and Leo Treitler (USA).