"Towering at 6 ft 3 in (191 cm), Gaurav literally looks down on people. This young Gujarati convert was captivated by Christian music of the Renaissance era, and choral music awakened in him a quest for beauty. "
“....'The beauty of sacred music held me spellbound at my first ever experience of the Eucharist at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai on 15 August, Indian Independence Day and the Feast of the Assumption. The sublime music of the Mass undoubtedly assured me of God's presence; the Gregorian chants elevated my spirits, creating in me a sense of awe for the Sacred. I was instinctively drawn by the aesthetic beauty of the Eucharist and this experience filled my heart with immense joy.' ”
Gregorian Chant is making a significant comeback in American and around the world. Its simple yet transcendent tones - immediately recognizable as sacred music - can't help but stir one's soul and bring one closer to Divinity. Learn more about restoring Gregorian chant to its rightful place this Friday:
The Restoration of Gregorian Chant in the 20th Century Lecture by Sam Schmitt, Ph.D. Friday, March 20, 2009, 8pm to 9pm Humanities Room at Thomas More College
What, you may ask, is "Mozarabic liturgy"? According to Wiki, it refers to early Catholic worship in Spain, dating back to the 7th century, when Catholics lived under Muslim rule.
"As is generally the case with Islamic rule the Christians were made dhimmis and therefore became subjects of an Islamic ruled state. Islamic rule is normally more systematic than Christianity when it comes to its treatment of non-believers. This system kept Christians in an inferior political and financial position. This was true of the Umayyad emirate which enforced the Qur'anic rules obliging dhimmis to pay the jizya and killing those who defamed Muhammad or reverted to Christianity after converting to Islam."
"Francisco de Zurbarán's 'Still Life With Lemons, Oranges and a Rose' normally hangs on a back wall of one of the smaller rooms in the Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena. Like a large black magnet, it draws its viewers from the entry into its space and deep into its mystical world.... The painting projects an aura of mystery, powerful in its unadorned simplicity, its mystical quality creating an atmosphere of deep contemplation. Its effect is immediate, transcendent and overpowering. Before it one tends to speak in hushed tones, if at all."
I was pleasantly surprised at my church a few weeks back when the cantor chanted the Agnus Dei after the eucharistic bread was consecrated. Chanting Latin in a "normal" Post Vatican II Novus Ordo mass?! But there is was, all reverent and sacred and stark:
"Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccati mundi, miserere nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccati mundi, miserere nobis. Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccati mundi, dona nobis pacem."
Which translates as "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace." Gregorian chant is simultaneously pure, simple and transcendent. It takes you to a sacred place, unlike much of the sing-song responses and modern "hymns" we're singing these days. Sigh.
Please, please, please - if you're looking into Gregorian chant, and decide to purchase a CD to check it out, buy this one, notthis one.
First the yucky stuff:
"Frank Peterson, whose production credits include Sarah Brightman, Ofra
Haza, Jose Carreras, Alannah Myles, Placido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli and Marky
Mark, created the idea of the Masters of Chant, by fusing pop and choral
music, performed by ten classically trained singers. Peterson has been
pursuing his vision of a harmonic fusion of pop and choral music ever since
"....Incorporating well-known classic songs with a new sound transporting the
listener into the timeless world of Gregorian chant, the Gregorian Masters of
Chant CD includes: 'Brothers In Arms,' 'Tears In Heaven,' 'Wish You Were
Here,' 'Close My Eyes Forever,' 'Bridge Over Troubled Water,' 'Heroes' and
How did Peterson manage to get it so wrong? Gregorian chant is a sacred music used in religious rites. It's designed to praise God and support the liturgy of the Mass. The thought of mixing Gregorian chant and 'Heroes' is just awful! Cringe, cringe. The use of Gregorian chant video game Halo didn't bother me, but this does. I'll have to think about why, what's the difference between these two.
If you want the real deal, buy this CD instead, Chant Music for the Soul, a recording of the Cistercian Monks of the Stift Heiligenkreuz in Austria. Very lovely and incredibly well done. The pauses in their chanting stop the world for a moment. The rhythms of the psalms (Track 1, Psalm 121, for example) convey the plaintive yearning of the psalms themselves.
Good interview with the head of the Cistersian Abbey about Gregorian chant and what the monks do all day can be found here.
Tea at Triannon has a nice post about St. John's Eve, which we celebrate today, while tomorrow is the Feast of the St. John the Baptist. As Marie Elena writes: "It was a tradition in the days of Christendom to have a bonfire in honor of the saint who was a 'burning and shining light.' (John 5:35) In some places, they still do; my father always had a bonfire in honor of the Birthday of the Baptist." Now there's an excellent tradition to bring back.
"Another interesting thing about the Feast of St. John: the Breviary's hymn for this day, Ut queant laxis -- the hymn sung or recited during the blessing of the bonfire -- is the source of our names of musical notes -- Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do. The hymn, attributed to Paulus Diaconus (Paul the Deacon, ca. A.D. 720-799), was noted by a monk to rise one note in the diatonic C-Scale with each verse. The syllables sung at each rise in pitch give us the names of our notes (the 'Ut' was later changed to 'Do' for easier pronunciation):
Ut queant laxis Resonare fibris Mira gestorum Famuli tuorum, Solve polluti Labii reatum, Sanc Te Ioannes:
"The words mean:
So that these your servants may, with all their voice, resound your marvelous exploits, clean the guilt from our stained lips, O Saint John.
"And the melody is as follows:
An alternate translation here, with further explanation of the musical notation:
O for thy Spirit, Holy John, to chasten, Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen, So by thy children might thy deeds of wonder Meetly be chaunted
The rest of the verses can be found here, with Gregorian chant notation here.
I heard another great quote at the Sacred Music Colloquim XVIII in Chicago, this one from Father Frank Phillips, who spoke this evening about the success of the local St. John Cantius community. Fr. Phillips spoke about the decline in sacred music after Vatican II, and how the community he founded is working to bring sacred music back to Catholic churches. My favorite quote was about my beloved Pope:
"With tender tenacity, he (Pope Benedict) is moving the church in a direction in which the fullness of the sacred liturgy and liturgical life will raise all mankind through her sacred art and sacred music."
What an apt and lovely phrase, "tender tenacity." And what a high purpose we are called to!
The Sacred Music Colloquium is a wonderful mixture of high quality music lessons and high quality worship and devotion services. Tonight we had an hour of Eucharistic Adoration, with Gregorian chants (of course), extraordinary polyphonic singing (Tantum Ergo, Palestrina), capped off with a magnificent organ playing for the recessional (Three Versets on Pange Lingua from Premier livre d'orgue, Grigny). Personally, I found that reciting the Litany of Loreto was heart rending (in a good way). It made me cry to be reciting "Ora pro nobis" after the cantor chanted out each of the names for the Blessed Virgin Mary, in a church filled with people. The Anchoress would have loved this. Chanting does open the heart and calm the mind. I've only ever seen the Litany of Loreto (or the Litany of Saints, for that matter) it on EWTN before. Live is way better than TV.
Youn can listen to Dr. Phillip's lecture - and the Litany of Loreto - here (scroll down).
Not much blogging this week, I'm in Chicago at the Sacred Music Colloquium being held at Loyola Unviersity, learning a few things about Gregorian chant, sacred music and the liturgy, not to mention truth and beauty. Professor Mahrt gave a memorable quote last night, which he heard from an Episcopalian friend:
"The Episcopal church has given up on truth, and the Catholic church has given up on beauty."
Certainly feels that way. But that's why there are 250 or so people at this colloquium, trying to "foster good music" in our churches, as Pope Benedict has asked us to do. The church I attend has an excellent choir up there in the loft, but the musical director has been completely uninterested in adding Gregorian chant to the mass. One woman here said that she's starting up a chant schola in her church as a devotional activity. What a great way to bring chant to your parish without "upsetting" anybody or trying to push it on everyone. Make it a prayer group. It's a wonderful form of prayer that engages everything; voice, mind, breath. Good stuff. I'm a complete novice and I'm in over my head musically here, but it's been great so far. If I can sing the Pater Noster by the time I leave, I'll be happy. There are morning prayers, chant practice, daily mass (at this lovely chapel), afternoon practice, evening lecture and night prayers. It's a 7 AM to 9 PM schedule, we are really getting our money's worth and working with tremendously skilled, passionate singers.
Lots of tenors here, which isn't the norm for most church choirs. There are folks here from all over the US and quite a few foreign countries. All ages, although predominantly folks in their 40's and 50's, I'd say. A healthy number of college age men and women, lots of women in modest dresses and skirts, a handful of veils being worn in the chapel, lots of priests, apparently few nuns.
Do have to skip out early tonight though for the Celtics/Lakers game. Hope the Celtics just blow those Lakers out of the water. Take it in six, Guys!
"The Sacred Music Colloquium will take place at Loyola University,
Chicago, Illinois, June 16-22, 2008. Participants include some 250
singers drawn from a nationwide invitation to novices and experienced
singers from all walks of life. The 17-member faculty is made up of
some of the most experienced teachers and conductors in the country."
"Chant and polyphony are the two forms of music specifically named
by the Second Vatican Council as music appropriate to the Roman Rite.
Gregorian chant is experiencing a huge revival, not only in popular
culture but in Catholic worship as well. Recent initiatives from the
Vatican and a change in the musical ethos of parishes have given new
energy to the cause of making chant part of the lives of Catholics.
Training here is essential, and this week-long program provides it on
The program is jam-packed, with scheduled lectures, singing and Mass every day from 7:15 AM to 9 PM, for five and a half days. This is sure to be an intense spiritual as well as musical experience. Very much looking forward to this Colloquim! There's a few spaces left, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
if you're interested.
Want to learn how to chant? Head to Loyola University in Chicago, June to 16-22, 2008, for the Sacred Music Colloquium XVIII. They've got something for everybody, from beginners to advanced. Schedule here, cost is $575 (shared room) or $675 (single room). The days are packed, from 7 AM (eeeks) to 9 PM.
"The primary focus of the Colloquium is instruction in chant and the
Catholic sacred music tradition, participation in chant and polyphonic
choirs, nightly lectures and performances, along with daily
celebrations of liturgies in both English and Latin."
Be part of the comeback in chant!
Nice article here about the Clear Creek Monastery in Hulbert, Oklahoma. Clear Creek is the only
monastery in the United States, and they're in the process of building "a monastery to last a thousand years." I love big goals! Their website is here, they've got great CDs of chant for sale.
"As Western civilization
slid into the Dark Ages,
monasteries became repositories of culture. Indeed,
many scholars suggest that the
Dark Ages weren’t dark at all,
considering the art, literature
and philosophy that flourished
around the Benedictines,
the Augustinians and the
"The Renaissance would’ve
been impossible without
monks, and now some people
see the need for another
Renaissance.....Monasteries have saved
civilization before, and
monasteries might do it
They are needed. Society has to relearn a whole lot of things.