Skip to comments.Gregorian Chant Back in Style at Local Churches
Posted on 03/07/2005 5:42:13 AM PST by NYer
Ralph Stanley singing "Angel Band," the strains of "Amazing Grace" and "Just as I am," often sung at the altar call, are the sort of sacred music most often heard in Northwest Arkansas, given the regions deep associations with evangelical Protestantism.
But for some people in the area, the ancient form of music known as Gregorian chant has a unique power and appeal. "The chant has proven itself over the centuries to be a powerful way to bring oneself into a spiritual state," said Roger Gross, a drama professor at the University of Arkansas. "Nothing has ever been so conducive to worship as Gregorian chant."
Justitiae Domini dulciora super mel et favum. The ordinances of the Lord... are sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
The origins of Gregorian chant, or plainsong, date back to the ancient Jewish synagogue. Its melodies would have been familiar to Jewish worshippers in the first century A. D. St. Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, developed and codified the use of the music by the Catholic Church. Often associated with the monasteries and cathedrals of the Middle Ages, recordings of Gregorian chant have sold millions of copies in recent years.
Ethel Simpson, a recently retired archivist and classicist from the U of A, is a singer in a Gregorian "schola," or choir, that sings chant every week at the Saturday evening Mass at St. Josephs Catholic Church in Fayetteville. Asked about the "popularity" of chant in the last decade, Simpson was reluctant to classify the music with Britney Spears, Eminem or Rascal Flatts. "I dont think chant is popular in the sense other kinds of music are," Simpson said. "Its appeal is related to the popularity in the last 30 years of meditation. Many different kinds of chant have surfaced. The Beatles went to India looking for chant. Chant is a part of Buddhism. People realized, Hey, the Western tradition has something like that, too. "
Qui biberit aquam fiet in eo fons aquae salientis in vitam aeternam. Whoever drinks this water shall have within him a spring of water welling up unto eternal life.
Simpsons schola has provided music recently for a special service held at 6 p.m. on Mondays in Lent at St. Pauls Episcopal Church in Fayetteville. The churchs rector, the Rev. Lowell Grisham, usually presides over the service, called "Ancient Roots: Chant, Silence and Breaking Bread." Grisham finds in the chant a measure of a peace the world cannot give. "Gregorian chant is so counter-cultural for people in our age," he said. "This music has all the time in the world. Time seems to stand still. Its so balancing to the hurry-up world that most of us live in.
" Before Mondays service, Id had one of those days, with too many plates spinning. I found myself almost sprinting to the service. After just a few minutes of allowing the peace of that music to enter me, my metabolism had changed. I was present, relaxed, everything was centered again. "
Grisham said the service is popular with his congregation.
" Its the only special Lenten program Ive ever offered where as many or more people come at the end as at the start of Lent, "he said.
Passer invenit sibi domum ubi reponat pullos suos: altaria tua, Domine virtutem, rex meus et Deus meus. The sparrow hath found herself a house where she hath laid her young: even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my god.
At a recent Saturday night Mass at St. Josephs, the congregation joined in some of the chants, singing from song sheets that contained translations of the Latin texts.
Lyle Cooney-Pead said the use of a sacred language that is not a spoken language in everyday use is a universal human impulse.
" At the Last Supper, Christ and his apostles prayed in Hebrew, a language as dead in first-century Palestine as Hebrew is today, "he said." Until a decade or two ago, Protestants used the King James Bible, which is written in a form of English that hasnt been used for 400 years. Every religion has a sacred language. "
Cooney-Pead appreciates the chants emphasis on the divine.
" Some people today say the purpose of the Mass is to celebrate community, "he said." I profoundly disagree. The purpose of the Mass is to worship God. With the chant, theres no forgetting that. The chant draws men to Christ. "
Richard Lee, a philosophy professor at the UA, has led the Gregorian schola for 10 years. Besides the mixture of aesthetic, historical and spiritual motives that have drawn the choirs members, the music they sing helps the congregation at St. Josephs reconnect to the denominations roots.
" One thing the priest [at St. Josephs] has been asked to do is re-introduce some Latin into the Mass, "Lee said." So he looks to us to help the congregation learn the ordinary [unchangeable] parts of the Mass in Latin. Putting Latin back into the Mass might be a way of restoring some common ground so people can pray together anywhere in the world, for example, singing the Lords Prayer together in Latin. It might be a way of returning to tradition. "
Simpson said the Catholic Church places a high value on tradition as a means of teaching.
" Gregorian chant is a way of connecting to the those earlier ages [of Christianity]. It connects us to the universality of the church, not only across the world today, but across time. "
Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of goodwill.
The lyrics of Gregorian chant, such as those interspersed through this article, are generally taken from the Bible, mostly from the Psalms. The music that goes with it, with its four-line staff and square notes, is far older than the five lines and round notes familiar to choirs today. Lee said those are not the only differences.
" The rhythms are different in chant than in modern music, "he said." Its not like a four-four march. Its more like the rhythm of spoken words. Some chant is melismatic, where there are several notes sometimes dozens on a single syllable. Theres a lot we dont know about chant. Sometimes were surprised at which words are ornamented in this way, because they dont seem to be the most important words. "
According to Lee, Gregorian plainsong does not have four-part harmony.
" Chant has an advantage in a choir like ours because everybody sings the same note, "he said." Ive been in other choirs [that sang modern music] where the tenor didnt show up and we couldnt sing. "
Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo. Spare, O Lord, spare thy people.
Austin Welsh is a Springdale physician who belongs to the Northwest Arkansas chapter of Una Voce, an organization that promotes the use of Latin and Gregorian chant in church services.. The group is circulating a petition to church authorities, asking them to implement locally a directive from Pope John Paul II that Mass be offered for those who want it in the" Tridentine rite" the form of Mass common in the Catholic Church until the early 1960s.
The word "Tridentine" refers to a reforming church council in the 16 th century, held at Trent in Italy. "We have found the traditional Latin Mass is the perfect setting for Gregorian chant theyre made for each other," Welsh said. "Our organization seeks to make the Tridentine Mass a permanent part of the Northwest Arkansas religious landscape."
Cantate Domino canticum novum. Sing to the Lord a new song.
Roger Gross and his wife are among several Northwest Arkansas residents who like to share in the worship of a religious community in Oklahoma that uses Gregorian chant in its daily round of praise and intercessory prayer. Clear Creek Monastery, near Tahlequah, Okla., was founded in 1999 by 13 Benedictine monks from Fontgombault, a medieval abbey in France famous for its recordings of the chant. The Grosses and others from Washington County make the 90-minute trip to Clear Creek to participate in the monks worship, and sometimes to spend a few days in the monastery guesthouse. "We used to have traditional vacations and take recreation in the ordinary way," Gross said. "The time we spend at Clear Creek in the monasterys atmosphere of peace provides much better re-creation than any vacation or entertainment weve ever done."
The Rev. Philip Anderson, the prior of Clear Creek Monastery, quoted a choirmaster from the communitys French motherhouse on the power of the chant. "Gregorian chant excels in transporting souls to the blessed region where God waits for them," Anderson said. Lee said the Gregorian schola welcomes new members, of any religion or none. "If there are people interested in singing chant, wed love to have them," he said. "Were small, but wed like to be bigger." Contact information for Lee is available on the scholas Web site at comp. uark. edu /~ rlee/chant. html. Directions to Clear Creek Monastery can be found at www.clearcreekmonks.org. Una Voce of Northwest Arkansas has a Web site www.uvamo.org.
What an ironic twist .... the Episcopal Church discovers Gregorian Chant while the Catholic Church embraces 'Amazing Grace'.
Where have these people been? I've been a cantor in the Episcopal Church for 15 years.
I could use a change from "Christian top 40".
"What an ironic twist .... the Episcopal Church discovers Gregorian Chant while the Catholic Church embraces 'Amazing Grace'."
This is nothing that replacing 250 or so "Catholic" bishops in the U.S. couldn't cure. Most of our bishops appear to be as Catholic as my dog.
New GIRM rules, we must stand immediately following the song.
my Catholic parish has been incorporating some Latin and English chants for Lent. I honestly don't know if they would qualify as plainsong or Gregorian chant, though I'm guessing the former since the whole congregation sings it. Sometimes our choir sings in Gregorian chant after communion, and it is just beautiful. I adore Gregorian chant and other Latin church music, and hope more parishes around the country are able to use it.
I cannot understand why any bishop would be against singing in Latin. At a former, far less traditional parish, we often sang contemporary songs in Spanish, even though the congregation had almost no Hispanic members. I always thought, if we can sing in Spanish, a language almost no one here speaks, why the heck can't we sing in Latin? Sadly, not a word of Latin was heard in the parish, and the only times we sang songs older than 1970 were Christmas and the Marian feast days (hymns like "Immaculate Mary" and "Hail HOly Queen Enthroned Above")
Our Very Catholic Choirmaster is a big fan of chant. We sing a LOT of chant - at almost every service.
His S.O.P. (which I think is very good) is if we sing a polyphonic anthem with a traditional text, first we sing the chant then lead into the anthem. There are tons of pairs that work extremely well this way - Ubi Caritas, the Magnificat (with any number of anthem settings), etc. etc.
I actually had to learn to read the Solesmes notation. . . . we're reading it off the original texts from the Liber Usualis (or the short version, Chants of the Church). . . and I found a copy of the short version for sale on line cheap cheap cheap.
And yes this is a VERY orthodox parish. Praise the Lord!
Sometime back, I read an article which noted that this hymn does not express Catholic faith and is inappropriate in a Catholic Church. Of course, I can't find it right now.
I notice we can sing many songs which were forbidden years ago. I wonder if there is a list somewhere?
I could almost stand the Novus Ordo if they'd just get rid of the chick "music minister" that always gets up at the lectern. You know, she also is the one that sings the "Responsorial Psalm" at the new Mass. I just can't get past the hand. Folks who attend Mass must know what I mean. She's up there, doing her little solo-part, then she does that little flick with the hand, that palm up sweeping motion. You know, the sign that says, "You peons may now join in the singing."
There is /nothing/ that drives me more nuts than "the hand". I can't hack it. I wind up walking out muttering, "The hand. The hand. Will you stop with the hand. In the name of God, quit it with the hand."
Thanks so much for posting...Hub and I love chant, we hear it at a nearby Trappist Abbey.
At one time, our then 2 yo granddaughter used to shush us when we played a tape of it for her; she still likes to play the tape at bedtime, after her prayers.
A humble yet sincere suggestion. You attend Church to praise and worship God. Remember what our Lord said:
"If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna."
If the hand motion bothers you, sit somewhere in the church where you won't see the psalm leader - or - look down at the missalette during that time. If necessary, close your eyes. I did that so many times in my previous parish, to avoid these 'near occasions of sin'. Consider moving to a different parish but whatever you do, for the sake of your sanity and soul, try to avoid this distraction.
An "Amazing Grace" is not even Catholic in content!!!!!
No they don't!
The children sing this version at the Children's Mass. Thank goodness that is not too often.
Wish I could find the link to the article which provided the justification for this. Any ideas?
Rasing her hand is much more respectful that our music minister who yells out: (at some Masses)
"Now all join in!"
A cantor raising their hand is much more respectful and reverent! Think about it and count your blessings!
It has to do with the idea that "grace" bought our saving.
I'll look -- someone posted it here on FR -- maybe me???
**Actually, the hymn has been criticized by some Catholics due to the text. While we know that grace precedes conversion/metanoia, and is a requirement for salvation, it is also true that the Prots have transmogrified the terminology (thus the "Born Again" moniker which essentially denies 'works' for 'grace.')**
**The hymn's emphasis on grace without mention of works is out-of-balance, so to speak. At one time I worked as church organist/choir director for a South Side Monsignor who didn't want the tune used in his church, period.**
I can understand why it would be sung on this particular Sunday in the lectionary cycle, though. The text comes directly from the Gospel reading (at least in the NAB version, and in the NIV as well.) The man born blind, when questioned by the Pharisees, responds, "I was blind, but now I see." (John 9:25)
So it's a natural, so to speak (I like hymns and anthems that bounce off the lectionary) although the theology isn't Catholic (John Newton probably never even MET a Catholic). I can't get too upset, under the circumstances. Lots of the hymns in the missalette are full of bad theology. Most hymn writers aren't also theologians (until you get back to the early church fathers).
Question from Kevin on 10-07-2000:
In your reply to Bob's post, you said, "I hope that you don't sing 'Amazing grace'. Its doctrinal position is incompatible with Catholicism." I have read the lyrics and I'm not too sure what kind of problems there are. Could you please enlighten? Thanks.
|Answer by Karl Keating on 10-08-2000:|
|The lyrics of this Protestant hymn refer to receiving grace at "the hour I first believed." This refers to an adult conversion experience and implies the rejection of the efficacy of baptism, which confers grace even on infants who, not yet having reached the age of reason, are incapable of performing an act of faith. "Amazing Grace" implicitly denies Catholic teaching on baptism.
Don't get me wrong: I like "Amazing Grace." It's a great hymn--for Protestants. It just doesn't belong in a Catholic setting because its theology is wrong.
(Worse yet: If you're going to sing "Amazing Grace," at least keep to the lyrics as originally written. In many parishes the line that says "that saved a wretch like me" is changed to "that saved and set me free." There is a kind of dishonesty involved in such tinkering. Still, I don't think the hymn should be sung by Catholics at all.)
I never, ever, ever do it myself though. If somebody can't figure out when to join in the refrain with the text of the Psalm in front of them, they're probably too far gone to read the text anyhow. (Besides, when we choir members are cantoring, we're in the back of the church so nobody can see us anyhow.)
Lyle Cooney-Pead....there are some names that should never be hypenated.
Yes, after the new GIRM came out we had to start standing immediately following the offertory.
We are now standing when we say, "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory
of his name, for our good, and the good of all His Church".
before the new GIRM we were still seated and stood "after" we said that.
I think I saw something about it on the EWTN Q&A, but I'm not sure. I know I had read that too, though.
other than that Karl Keating response...
The non clappers in my former parish were scolded by the priest from the altar, myself included.
I grew up years after VII. However, our little corner of Philadelphia escaped much of the storm for a good long while. I grew up with the Novus Ordo, but not like what it is today. And from what I hear, we missed out on all the wackiness that was floating around a number of places in the US in the 70's.
I had to move to the suburbs to find out what I was missing. I guess in the "bad old days", the priests ran /everything/. Us po' old lay folk couldn't do nothin' but kneel in the pews and mumble our rosaries.
Ok, does anyone else think this sounds like that cartoon when Bugs Bunny played baseball all by himself? You know, but it's the priest playing all the positions by himself during Mass? So Father said Mass AND played the organ AND sang all the parts in the choir himself AND collects the money AND set the linens and flowers? Really?
It took me going to a Traditional Mass to figure something out. Father can't have been making himself the center of attention for everyone at Mass, because he rarely faced them. But maybe I'm wrong, after all ex-nuns who run Religious Education programs all over this country say so.
So now, we're under the premise that this evil monopoly of the priesthood had to be broken. All of us laypeople needed to be "actively participating". But in reality, there is no such thing. In reality, we've gotten a new bureaucracy. We've gotten a bureaucracy of dissatisfied middle-aged married women who need to feel fulfilled. So now they're up on the altar (you see, I remember a time when you had a choir and a director who were in the back, so as not to compete with that Holy Sacrifice of the Mass thing). They're up on the altar, and they've exiled Father to some chair on the side. And the three times they do let him up to do something, they have to voice over him. So now, now they feel good about their lives, for at least a few hours. And now I have to duck and bob and weave to see Mass being offered.
That's just not right.
They've gotten to the point where there is no quiet. They can't even allow there to be some silence during the Consecration. Oh no, we have to sing through that in our smug little hand-gliding way. So instead of seeing the /hands/, the ones that hold aloft Our Precious Lord, I get to see the /hand/. And ya know what? That's just not right.
Now I'm sure NYer and Salvation are good people. I know they mean well, and I've given a good amount of thought and meditation to their advice. Thank you both for trying to help me be a better Catholic.
At the same time, I have to disagree. NYer talks about how to avoid sin, which is helpful for everyone to remember. In this case, however, I'm not sinning. Not every time a person gets ticked off is it a sin. I'm watching the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass be dismantled in slow motion, and I'm steamed. Being upset about such things is not sinful. Allowing these things to keep on without protest would be sinful. Besides, why must I sit in the back of the church and bury my head in my missal. Isn't that the very thing all these "reforms" were supposed remedy? Irony, thy name is parish liturgy committee.
Salvation says I need to count my blessings. This is true, I really should be grateful more for all that God has done for me. This, however, is not one of those times. It's not right to observe the tragedy going on and be glad it's not worse. I don't want to appear before Christ at my judgement and say, "Well, yeah, I saw what was happening but since they weren't making us do a conga-line to receive communion I felt pretty lucky."
I don't want to be glad it's not worse, and believe you me I know it could be. I want to see it get better. Now I can't just magically drive back all the abuse and scandal of the last thirty years all at once, but I have to start somewhere. So I'm starting with the hand. The hand has to go. The hand delenda est.
Been there and TOTALLY appreciate what you are saying and feeling. You're new to the forum, so you don't know what happened in my parish nearly 2 years ago. The others in this forum will recall the battle I waged against the pastor who asked the Confirmation students to 'volunteer' in a liturgical dance. He didn't aske for 'students of the dance' who would like to volunteer .... everyone was encouraged. These were my students and he was asking them to violate church norms ... IOW ... he was encouraging them to sin. Of course, he didn't see it that way and so the letter campaign was waged with the local diocese. They, of course, supported him. It took a 2nd letter, however, in which I cited Sacrosanctum Concilium and Canon Law - "all catholics have a right to a valid liturgy" - before the brakes were applied.
You don't know about the absence of a Crucifix in my former parish, but the others here have heard this story as well. The GIRM mandates that there is to be "a cross with a corpus, on or near the altar and visible to the congregation". A processional cross qualifies, assuming it has been placed in a holder in the Sanctuary. You don't know how tormenting it was each week to show up at that church, anticipating a confrontation with the officiating priest because the processional cross was locked up in the confessional that was used only 2x each year.
The others in this forum will recall the event that took place last year that set my wheels in motion. That was the Sunday an EEM dropped a consecrated host on the ground and didn't know what to do about it. That was the day, I buried my head in my hands and pleaded with our Lord to guide me to - a holy man, a reverent liturgy and a welcoming community.
Our Lord told the disciples that when we ask our heavenly Father for those things we need, He will give them to us. Three weeks later, that prayer was answered, but not in a Roman Catholic Church.
If you would like to hear more, I would be more than happy to share this extraordinary event with you but right now, I am off to church - that very church where He led me - the Maronite Catholic Church.
**"May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all His Church".**
Yes that is when the new GIRM says to stand.
That is when we stand. During the offertory, while the altar is prepared and while the priest prepares the gifts -- we are sitting down so the offertory can be taken.
After the Hosanna we then kneel until after the great "Amen".
I really don't see how you could be standing during the offertory while the collection is being taken up.
This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.
And the congregation responds:
Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.
I have started to strike my breast as a response of respect at that time. I would much rather be kneeling.
The Hidden Hand Behind Bad Music never rests.
I'll be darned if I can post the link. Search the Religion Forum by Title - The Hidden Hand Behind Bad Catholic Music.
"At a former, far less traditional parish, we often sang contemporary songs in Spanish, even though the congregation had almost no Hispanic members. I always thought, if we can sing in Spanish, a language almost no one here speaks, why the heck can't we sing in Latin? Sadly, not a word of Latin was heard in the parish, and the only times we sang songs older than 1970 were Christmas and the Marian feast days (hymns like "Immaculate Mary" and "Hail HOly Queen Enthroned Above")"
This could be my parish. Some of us just quietly say our Rosaries while they sing the pop-slop.
That is an excellent point. The individual personality of the priest disappears behind the alter Christus at TLM.
sorry, I see that those questions were already answered.
**they don't kneel at all during the consecration and communion**
This has happened in some churches in our Archdiocese, and I understand that the Archbishop is on their case to GET ON THEIR KNEES during the Consecration!
Sorry about the Caps, but that is how the message is coming out from the Archbishop here!
I guess each of us has things that we don't like and would like to have changed! God bless!
"...but that is how the message is coming out from the Archbishop here!"
" to GET ON THEIR KNEES during the Consecration!" and STAND from the Our Father until after the Communion. (the rest of the message from our archbishop)
thank you, you too.
How much of your music is a capella?
When we get back from Communion, we all kneel down. And then sit down after the priest sits down before the final prayers and blessing.