Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

by Sr Fidelis  

 A Great Visionary

We owe much of the restoration of the chant to the zeal, vision, and inspiration of Dom Gueranger, the first Abbot of the reopened Benedictine monastery of Solesmes, France in the 1830’s. In the wake of the French Revolution, monasticism had come close to total extinction.Yet Dom Gueranger had a tremendous sense of call to re-claim what had been almost lost, and founded a monastic and liturgical revival that spread through France as well as other parts of Europe.

He charged his monks with the task of restoring the chant to its former beauty. This restoration consisted of two primary components: The study of ancient manuscripts and the development of a lighter style of chanting, as opposed to “plainchant.” This lighter style enabled the words to take on their true meaning, and the musical phrases recovered much of of their natural suppleness.

By the 1850’s,  Solesmes monks were copying chant manuscripts from all over Europe.  By carefully comparing manuscripts containing the ancient neumes to manuscripts containing lines and notes, they were able to determine how the chant would have been sung in its original form. This on-going work was the first step in attempting to re-claim the origins of the chant — a search for truth that continues to this day. 


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