Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chant: The voice of a child 

The Divine Office of Lauds — the office of praise which opens the day at sunrise — begins with a collective prayer of “O Lord, open Thou my lips and my mouth shall show forth Thy praise.” It is a simple recitation which stays on one pitch, dropping a minor 3rd for the last note. This interval has been shown by scientific studies to be one of the first musical sounds to be uttered by children! If you remember the days of playing “hide and go seek,” you too probably sang this interval when shouting at the person trying to find you. Also, if you remember early doorbells, they used these two pitches as did the television commercial which ended “Avon calling!”
 
I thought of this during this week while talking with people about how to start learning chant. Some of the most often used and profound chants are the simplest. And what a wonderful way to open the office of Lauds — with the “voice” of a child!
 
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About Cantor

I have been a cantor for over 25 years and an organist for most of my life. Chanting with people at home and across the country is one of my greatest joys. I remember the days of staring at the section of our undergraduate music text thinking to myself "what are all those dots and WHY do I need to know about them?!" Now, 33 years later, I am so grateful that those "dots" have helped teach me many things about God and His love!

One thought on “Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

  1. This is more like an email to Cantor than like an ordinary comment.

    Dear Cantor,
    You have spoken often about teaching chant. I am a friend of the Community and I do not have the book most commonly used for chant at the Community. I know a couple of phrases that I sometimes use in my own devotional times. (I’ve had a few voice lessons and a good deal of experience in small church choirs, and music is sometimes more natural to me than talking.) The phrase you mention above sounds like something I could easily learn. Is there somewhere that I could find it (the Latin and the pitches)?

    I have both volumes of The Sound Eternal by the Pugsleys and that is all I have. I have too much money to plead poverty, too little income (mostly from my wife’s job), and I have yet to find a job of my own, so I am hesitant to buy a large book. One piece of chant that is deeply under my skin is the Magnificat as sung on non-feast days. I’d love to be able to bring it home with me. I do have a number of chant CDs, but the idea of following them is, well, intimidating.

    I will be very grateful for any suggestions you have.
    Tim Woodruff

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