Monday, March 14, 2005

Gregorian Grace

Something about Gregorian chants touches my soul like no other music. About 30 years ago, I made one of the smartest purchases of my life when I bought a five-LP set of chants. I don’t listen to them frequently -- perhaps once a month. I find them especially meaningful at the very beginning of the day, especially if it’s still dark and rainy or cold. But they’re always meaningful, no matter the time or season.

Meaningful? Since I don’t comprehend Latin (although I managed to pass a high school course in it), I have no idea what the chanters are singing. Doesn’t matter. The music is meaningful anyway. Hard to explain. . . .

Our teen-age daughters pretend they don’t know what those naughty rock-and-roll idols of theirs are singing about. “We don’t pay attention to the words. We just like the music.” I’m convinced they know better. However, in listening to my chants, I have to admit the children make a valid point. A listener can derive value from music for music’s sake. I don’t know what the chanters are singing about (I think we safely can assume it isn’t satanic). I just like the music -- and the spirituality. It brings to my mind the need for Christian discipline (as I envision the monastic lifestyle of the early chanters), the fine merits of simple arrangements (chants typically are sung in unison) and the beauty of ancient melody.

Chants ("plainsong" church music) originated during the time of Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) at the end of the 6th Century A.D. He composed chants to serve as part of Roman Catholic liturgy.


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