Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Ambrosian Liturgical Tradition comes to Harvard and St. Paul's

An interesting note came to me today about an event in St. Paul Parish, Cambridge, Massachusetts:

"There will be an Ambrosian vespers service, featuring Ambrosian chant, this coming Thursday, [October 18th] at 4:30 at St. Paul's (Catholic) Church in Cambridge. The chant will be sung by Harvard University students, as well as members of the Cappella Musicale of the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan, and directed by Maestro di Cappella Giovanni Scomparin."

I am told this will not simply be a concert either, but will also include the proper Ambrosian ceremonial that accompanies Ambrosian vespers.

Related article: Manuscript discovery brings medieval music to life:

“I was looking through several stacks of manuscripts to explore which would be good subjects of study for a graduate seminar, when I opened one and said, ‘Wait a minute…’” Kelly explains.

It’s a good thing he did. The manuscript turned out to be a book of Ambrosian chant, dating from the 14th century. Kelly estimates that there are only 100 complete manuscripts of Ambrosian music still in existence.

Ambrosian music is a style of liturgical chant that was practiced in Milan for centuries. The chant is named for St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. Although Gregorian chant is more familiar today, Ambrosian chant remained an important part of the medieval cultural scene well into the 15th century.

“We misrepresent medieval chant if we say it was all Gregorian,” Kelly says. “Ambrosian chant survived the spread of Gregorian chant, so it has a larger significance in understanding how music spread throughout the medieval world.”
(end excerpt)

In addition to this, a conference is being held at Harvard as regards Ambrosian chant: Ambrosiana at Harvard: New Sources of Milanese Chant

(Conference Schedule)

From the website:

The Ambrosian liturgy and its music, practiced in and around medieval Milan, is the only one of several regional practices not to have been suppressed during the Carolingian urge to uniformity that swept away so many dialects of chant in the interest of imposing the universal Roman liturgy and the chant now known as Gregorian. To the extent that these older practices can be recovered and studied, we can have a clearer picture of the early-medieval cultural landscape, and a better sense of the aesthetic variety of medieval music.

The conference will center on the three manuscripts of Ambrosian chant housed at Harvard. Houghton Library has recently acquired two such manuscripts, one of them perhaps the oldest surviving source of Ambrosian music. A third manuscript has long been housed at Houghton among other lavishly illuminated books, but its contents have only recently been identified as Ambrosian.

Conference sessions will consider the Houghton manuscripts as physical objects as well as place them in their urban and historical contexts, and in the musical and ecclesiastical context of Milan, of Italy, and of medieval Europe. The conference proposes to provide an example of interdisciplinary collaboration and to show just how much can be learned from individual objects subjected to sustained scholarly scrutiny.

The proceedings of the conference will be published as volume 3 of the Houghton Library Studies.

Speakers Will Include

Giacomo Baroffio, University of Pavia, Italy
Angelo Rusconi, Pontificio Istituto Ambrosiano di Musica Sacra, Italy
Terence Bailey, University of Western Ontario
Michel Huglo, University of Maryland
Thomas Forrest Kelly, Harvard University

The three manuscripts central to this conference have been digitized by the Houghton Library, and may be viewed online at the following links:

Antiphonary Fragment

Ambrosian Antiphonary, Summer

Antiphoner of Ambrosian Rite

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: