Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gregorian Chant Network, Report from 2009

In preparation for the 2010 meeting, the Gregorian Chant Network of the UK posts a fascinating report from last year's invitation-only meeting:

The main speaker at this session was Père Xavier Perrin, Choir Master, Novice Master and Prior of Kergonan Abbey of the Solesmes Congregation in Brittany. We were very fortunate indeed to have him. He has a deep knowledge and love of the Chant, and very considerable musical ability. His English is more or less fluent: well able to express his teaching points on music, liturgy and prayer, and also his rather dry humour, seldom far from the surface.

Appropriately for the Year of St. Paul, the theme Dom Xavier chose was St. Paul in Gregorian Chant. First of all, he presented Paul’s doctrine of how to pray as a key to understanding the Chant. “I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind as well” he says in 1 Corinthians 14:15. Accordingly the Chant is rooted in the word, the text, which is always primary: it is not mere sound, but always conveys clear meaning. Yet this word, this text is expressed with free musical movement. We can think of this as representing the spirit, whose depths reach far beyond earth-bound human comprehension. Dom Xavier continually returned to this idea: that in Gregorian Chant we have a perfect union of word and spirit, and this above all is why this music is so much honoured in the Church, and still so valuable for us today.

There are relatively few Pauline texts in the Gregorian corpus. In the current Graduale Romanum indeed, only 17, of which one is a 19th century “neo-Gregorian” composition, and another a mediaeval adaptation, setting Pauline words to a pre-existing melody. We were therefore able to look during these days at a good portion of the available repertoire in some detail.

Read the whole thing

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