The Meaning is in the Sound

by Sr. Fidelis

At our recent Gregorian chant retreat, we were having discussions about the ways in which chant illuminates text. Suddenly one of the participants said, “The meaning is in the sound.” It actually brought the class to a momentary halt as we all pondered his thought. What a wonderful insight! It reminded us of Dom Eugene Cardine’s statement: “The sound of chant is drawn from the sound of the text.” In fact, we had spent most of our time working “by ear” at that point in the retreat, and this gave us just the opportunity we needed to return and review the chants we had already covered to see how this thought bore out.

One of the simplest but most profound examples was the Kyrie from the daily “per annum” chant mass. This Kyrie, with its opening scalar uplift of a major 3rd, has a gentle sense of supplication and is based on the interval of a 3rd — the interval often associated with the music of children!


Perhaps this person’s insight – the meaning is in the sound – might give all of us a moment to reflect that, as we chant, the sound we hear is itself speaking to us about the text we are praying.

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About Sr. Fidelis

I am 46 years old, and have been a Sister at the Community of Jesus for 26 years. Having grown up here, I have been singing Gregorian chant since I was 10! I was very blessed to study Gregorian chant with Dr. Mary Berry in Cambridge, England and here at home. Recently, I have been able to do some radio and tv interviews, sharing about the blessings of Gregorian chant. I love leading chant workshops, and have been able to do that in the US and abroad.

One thought on “The Meaning is in the Sound

  1. As one of the participants in the retreat. I remember well the impact that comment made on all of us. So profound in its simplicity.

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