by Sister Fidelis
A group of Cantors at our community have been researching the history and roots of Gregorian Chant: a broad subject full of variety and many interesting angles. In reviewing this project I am reminded about the real purpose behind the centuries-old tradition and what has kept it alive and pertinent even today. I think we all know but sometimes forget the simple answer: to proclaim the Word.
It is easy to get caught up in minutia, rhetoric, and opinions and turn the subject of this form of worship into some sort of heady, scientific study. There is much to delve into in the learning of Gregorian chant, but in doing so let’s not forget its Life and simple purpose! This is really why it captures our hearts and has endured the test of time.
To share a few quotes from some of the Masters…
Chant is a question of bringing forth the music which the words already contain.
—Dom Jacques Hourlier (1910-1984, Solesmes monk)
The predominance of vocal music as a tool grew out of the attitude of using music to convey ideas. The vocal song of the Temple drew from folksongs of the day. People would learn the melodies and text and bring them back to their homes (thus spreading the word).
—A.Z. Idelsohn (1882-1938, Jewish musicologist and composer)
Gregorian chant presents itself as an art which continually undergoes change because it is alive.
—Dom Eugene Cardine (1905-1988, Solesmes monk & Gregorian chant specialist)
Chant is like a garden….you visit it dozens of times, but always see something new and fresh!
—Dr. Mary Berry (1917-2008, Augustinian canoness regular, choral conductor & musicologist)