Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor 

Chant as Prayer

Looking toward the fall and the new school year, it seemed a good time to reflect on chant as prayer.

The following text is a short excerpt from Reflections on the Spirituality of Gregorian Chant by Dom Jacques Hourlier. Based upon a series of college lectures from 1975 given at the Abbey of Solesmes, this excerpt is from a chapter entitled “Gregorian chant as Prayer”:

The statement that Gregorian chant is prayer has been repeated so often that it seems commonplace. Nevertheless, it is a profound truth, corresponding fully to the inner needs of our lives as Christian . . . {Chant} has a beauty which never wearies. Its originality and cyclical nature . . . help create the impression of something very dynamic – the public prayer of the Church.

Each Gregorian piece is an invitation to prayer. It nourishes that prayer day by day. It shapes the very depths of your being. At the same time, it bursts from your heart and lifts you, in mind and in heart, towards heaven. Is prayer supposed to be anything else? In the words of Auguste Le Guennant: “Prayer has become music.”          (pp. 10-12)

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Immediately

By Melodious Monk

Every time I hear Matthew’s account of Jesus walking on water I think of John Ortberg’s book, “If you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat.” It was some time in the late spring about 12 years ago– I had gotten sick with a seasonal flu, and I stayed home for a day. I had just finished my first year of college and was living at the Community for the summer. I was in a lot of turmoil inside, trying to figure out what to do with life. A friend had recently been reading this rather short blue-covered book and sent it over to me.

It was the perfect book for me at the time, and a huge comfort. I was quite anxious of the decisions about college and life, and how these decisions would affect the rest of my life!

I was thinking back on this transition time as the Gospel was read this past Sunday. At the end of the familiar gospel passage, I realized I’ve forgotten a very important part of the story. Yes, action is needed. We must take a step, must “get out of the boat” which undoubtedly can present challenges interiorly and exteriorly, physically and emotionally. What I tend to forget each day is what happens after we step toward Jesus. Matthew recounts that Jesus immediately catches Peter (and you and me) when we start to sink. Immediately. How much time does that leave for danger to occur?

When we are willing to step out toward God’s calling, every day we can choose to walk into any storm, whether big or small, dangerous or joyful, with the assured faith that if we start to sink, “immediately” we will be rescued.

 

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chant, Chant and MORE Chant!

I was in a meeting working on a very exciting possibility for another chant conference. It is simply amazing to me that the demand for teaching chant seems to be on a very quick rise.

During a lesson with Dr. Mary Berry in the summer of 2007, we were discussing the revival of Gregorian chant. What I remember is the look that came over her face as she expressed her heartfelt belief that there would be a great revival of chant. Anyone who knew her will instantly understand the following description: With eyebrows slightly furled, lips slightly pursed, eyes WIDE OPEN as she peered above her glasses, and gently but firmly stated “It will happen — it’s already beginning!”

I will be forever grateful to have heard these words from Dr. Berry’s mouth with such a clear expression. It was as though she had a glimpse of the future and she wanted to make certain that we all knew exactly what she had seen. Such faith and awareness that this treasure of the Church would indeed return to be a blessing to all who encountered it.

Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est  (Where true love is, God Himself is there)

The Community of Jesus

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

“But I don’t know any chant!”

Whether I’m conducting a chant training session for choir members of parish churches, choir directors, or organists, or even doing a choral anthem workshop, inevitably, someone raises their hand and states with considerable firmness and clarity, “I don’t know any chant!”  Frankly, I’m glad for the honesty because it bursts open a grand opportunity to point out to people just how much chant they “know but didn’t know.”

For instance, open the hymnal in your church pew – in ANY church and go to the Advent and Christmas hymns. Most likely, one of the first hymns you will find is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Instantly, your participants will probably express a certain amount of joy in that “certainly, we know this.” Then, they know a chant. Keep going through the hymnal and they will continue to be surprised by just how much chant they have been singing their entire life and did not realize that it was a chant.

However, it does not stop there. Point out the fact that Hollywood is no stranger to Gregorian chant. Movies such as The Name of the Rose, The Hunchback of Notre Dame or even The Matrix employ Gregorian chant to evoke a certain mood or frame of mind.

We hear and experience chant in both its original context and unexpected places. Sometimes it takes a moment of thought and realization – better known as an “aha moment” – to understand that whether we know it or not, we are influenced by chant in whatever context it may be found. But, we do know some chant!

Chant Blog.June12.2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit for Image:http://library.umkc.edu/spec-col/chantbook/antiphon.htm

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

Chant “back then”

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of traveling to the city of Barga located in the northern part of Italy. As part of that travel, our chant schola chanted the midday office and compline in a church which was constructed and then added to over the course of several centuries. Towering above us in this church was a 12th century wooden statue of St. Christopher, still bearing its own wounds from centuries of war and unrest made visible in the arrowheads still in its torso.

As we chanted, I was struck by the thought that when that statue and that church were new, it is quite likely that chants we were praying were also relatively new. We were actually chanting in the surroundings in which these chants first came to life! Listening in this extraordinary building, the acoustic “told us” the tempo to take, allowed us to hear and experience the building of harmonies which hung in the air like incense, and gave us a sense that this chant had been heard in this room many thousands of times. The span of centuries was instantly crossed as we joined our voices with those voices of chant from “back then” – when the voice of the church was much younger and yet full of all the years that it would carry through. It made me realize again that we have the privilege every time we chant, of joining instantly with all of those centuries of prayer.

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Always Keep Learning!

By Cantor

I am forever looking at old books. If there is a used bookstore to be found, I will probably find it! Recently, I came across a wonderful “old” book (from GIA-1945) simply entitled “Gregorian Chant”, written by Father Andrew F. Klarmann, discussing all kinds of wonderful aspects of chant.

In reading through this book, I found a number of quotable “gems” which I will feature in this blog over the next few weeks. However, I thought a great point to start with has to do with the performance of chant in the responses found at Mass. Rev. Klarmann states that, “the reply et cum spiritu tuo should always be made in a steady, joyful voice expressive of the holy joy and lively faith abiding in the hearts of the faithful…the et cum spiritu tuo should follow immediately upon the Dominus vobiscum not unlike grateful replies which follow heartfelt greetings in our social life…Our meetings in God’s house should manifest every sentiment of joy and love.” (p.114)

What moves me about these remarks concerning the performance practice of chant is the complete emphasis on the spirit behind the words and why they are chanted in the first place. Spirit prior to technique – technique in service of the Spirit – chant in service to the text!  This must always be our approach to the understanding of chant or else we place the elements of chant in backward order! How wonderful it is to discover these principles so beautifully espoused in a small, post-World War II book intended to teach the basics of chant!

Chant Blog.June12.2014

Holy Cargo

By Melodious Monk

I found this meditation inspiring and full of vision for the potential of life with God.

The theological truths about providence and guidance, about the ever-presence of God, and about his merciful indwelling in us must become concrete, lived possessions. Then we will succeed in living through the experiences and events of workdays and holidays, of bright hours and dark hours, right up to that central point at which God reveals himself as their deepest meaning. The secret, holy cargo entrusted to these events we are living through consists of his questions, his guidance, his leadership, his punishment, his judgment, his consolation, and help. 

Temples of God are located not only where churches are still standing. Rather, let the great temple arches stretch and raise themselves up wherever the human heart worships, wherever the knee bends, wherever the spirit opens itself, and where man’s highest potential is fulfilled by those who worship and love.    

The life of God is lived within us, within the deepest center of our being. Man becomes truly himself precisely at the point where he recognizes that the highest and brightest Being dwells within him. Moreover, he will rediscover himself and his own identity, as well as his faith in his own individual value, mission, and life options, to the degree that he comprehends human life as streaming forth out of the mystery of God. Then all that is negative and threatening is surmounted, its futility is exposed from within and simultaneously disempowered.

     -Father Alfred Delp, S. J.

The biggest question I always find myself asking God is “Why?”  Why is this or that happening, why, why, why? I’m always looking, rather un-patiently, for God to change some parts of my life. And if you are like me, with anything I bring to God I’m usually looking for a big, clear, dramatic (and swift) change! In my haste, I run rampant over the little secret joys the Holy Spirit tries to teach me each day. I think Father Delp has written out a vision, and a possible road map for how our lives can mysteriously be lived out to their best and most satisfying fulfillment.

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Myriad Beauty

By Melodious Monk

I saw a wonderful slideshow today that reminded me of how big the body of Christ is around the globe. While in many of our local towns and schools, religion is being pushed to the background, this Easter season it is good to remember that there are millions of Christians in every part of the world who are celebrating the beautiful mystery of Jesus’ Resurrection. Today there are so many streams of traditions, and ways to reverence, honor, and adore this blessed mystery. Traditions ranging from rockets being launched in Greece, to beautiful egg painting in Lithuania and Ukraine, festive Eucharists in Bambari, young boys baptized in St. Peter’s square, new-fires in countless churches, and candles lit everywhere: it’s exciting to see the myriad of ways that the world is once again proclaiming loudly, “Alleluia!!”

 

Care For The Soul

By Melodious Monk

One of the oldest members of our community died this past week, her name was Marny. A monastic tradition that we hold at the Community of Jesus is the observance of a prayer vigil when one of our members dies. After the wake, the coffin is brought to the church where it remains until the funeral service the following day. As we hold vigil with the body, we pray for the soul of the faithful departed, that they may be granted eternal rest in their heavenly home.  We take turns through the night to pray for our friend until she is laid in the ground at her final earthly rest. 

While praying for Marny I was asking myself, isn’t this watch care over each others’ souls something we should do for each other every day? Its not just the faithful departed that need our constant prayer, but those we live and work with each day. Jesus teaches us this in his commandment — you shall love your neighbor as yourself. If I want my friends in Christ to help me when I can’t see what might be a stumbling block in my life, I’d better do my best to pray and help them as best I can, for surely I’ll need the return favor!  Vigilantly caring for each other is the best sacrifice we can make for one another, and a way to love Christ in each other. It’s this unified body of Christ that allows us to show love, and it’s this love that allows us to catch hopeful glimpses of Christ’s eternal kingdom which is to come.

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Cleansing

By Renaissance Girl 

Everyone seems ready for winter to be over. Even I, die-hard lover of snow, find my spirit lifting when the temperature goes above 40 degrees and the ground is free of slush.
 
So I stepped out of the house this morning, and caught my breath at the blanket of white that I wasn’t expecting. I found myself muttering, “seriously?” as I headed towards the church.
 
And the phrase went through my mind. Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean, wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.  Psalm 51 — a cry out from King David in the full realization of his sin — a gateway into Lent. And I found the image somewhat comforting this morning. The world does look beautiful and clean shrouded in snow – and if God can do that to the inside of me. . .
 
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