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What you don’t know about me is this:

At those times when Mirabilis.ca is quiet for a few days or a week, it may be that I have just become obsessed by some fascinating new topic, as I am wont to do. (LibraryThing, GPS, whatever.) I don’t just acquire new interests; I eat them up. The subject that has captured my attention this time is Gregorian chant. Not just listening to it, but sight-singing it. That’s my goal.

I live in the middle of nowhere, and the music at our little Catholic church here is often vile. In fact, I could record it and upload it as some sort of sick comedy file. Those 1970s schmaltz camp songs we sing make me want to vomit. I have fantasies about rosary beads that contain cyanide capsules, so if it gets really bad, or if we sing ‘Gifts of Finest Wheat’ one more time… well. It’s quite frustrating, that’s what. It’s the kind of music that makes one want to stick knitting needles up one’s nose, straight up to the brain. The thought is “stop this noise, PLEASE.” Or maybe “just shoot me now!”

It seems to me that Gregorian Chant is a perfect alternative to the icky music I hate. And so it is that I’ve immersed myself in the world of chant. We already have lots of chant CDs, but now we have tutorials and study guides as well. And soon we will have a schola, and it will not suck.

I’m learning terms like punctum, liquiescent clivis, and bistropha. I know why solfege is so important.

And guess who chants at Mass now, one song per week? We do. Ora pro nobis.

14 Responses to “Gregorian chant, and what you don’t know about me”

  1. Mike Wilson says:

    Hey that’s pretty cool!

    Now, if you REALLY immersed yourself in the topic then you almost certainly would have that incredible album from Snouto Domoinko de Silo.

    No need to thank me.

  2. Amanda says:

    I love chant, too. As a variation, I would recommend finding Durufle’s Requiem, which is based on gregorian chant but which includes other instruments (organ, strings, some horn). It is incredibly complex and, I think, one of the most beautiful pieces I have ever heard and had the pleasure to perform with a choir.

  3. Christine says:

    Mike: We do have that CD! It delights me. Sometimes we play it when erudite musicians come to visit, to see if they notice anything unusual about the music. Great fun.

    For those of you who don’t have this album, consider ordering a copy. It’s Grunt: Pigorian Chant from Snouto Domoinko de Silo, and is highly amusing.

  4. Christine says:

    Amanda: thanks for the suggestion. I’ll look for that!

  5. Mike Wilson says:

    yay! :-) I didn’t want to give too much information in case you hadn’t heard of it.

    Now I”m going to have to go crank up iTunes and put that on.

    I wonder if it makes for good trading music.

  6. Sarah says:

    What you don’t know about me is that all my Christmas cards say

    Pacem in Terra

    which is my prayer for the world.

  7. Amanda says:

    I think you’ll like the Requiem quite a bit. I went to an all-girl Catholic school where we had mass twice a month and I am very familiar with the bad 70s style music. Not being Catholic, though, I had the good fortune of going to my own church and singing with a fantastic choir and organist, who was at the time one of the top in the world (not sure where she ranks now). Definitely ease for the music-lover’s soul, but holy cow… some of those songs at mass were beyond belief and took away from the ceremony, I thought.

  8. LadyDoc says:

    Yeah, I hate most of what I hear in church today as well.

    I was training as a parish organist before and during Vatican II so I worked with both types of music. Learned to chant very young and still remember a little. I have to be careful at mass- I get a certain look where DH knows I want to strangle either the organist or the choir director, lol.

  9. Donna Farley says:

    Ooh, wonderful!

    I have been learning Byzantine chant with our matins choir– very good way to learn sight-singing. If you want to take a walk on the Eastern liturgical side, check out Ancient Faith Radio at http://ancientfaith.com/listen

  10. Carrie K says:

    I love listening to Gregorian chants, I’d never thought of actually chanting them myself. I’m Lutheran – it amazes me that Lutherans were ever considered the “singing” church, considering how we sound today. And I loathe and despise the chirpy camp rounds that pass as hymns.

  11. Sylvia says:

    That’s wonderful! Hmm, I wonder if that could be done at my church? We don’t really have a choir, and since our organist went off to university it’s all a capella. We just have a few ladies who sing loud and the rest of us follow along. It’s a sorry noise, the more so since half the congregation doesn’t sing (many can’t read English). I wonder if we’d have more participation in Latin?

  12. Christine says:

    What an interesting lot you are!

    Sarah: great prayer, and perfect for Christmas cards.

    Amanda: LOTS of those songs detract from the liturgy, I think. You’d probably like the endless variety of chant CDs we play at our house.

    LadyDoc: You’ve got musical training and you hate most of the music at Mass. Hmmm, this suggests to me that you’re in a great position to work for some changes in your parish, if you want changes. See note to Sylvia below.

    Donna Farley: Thanks for telling me about Ancient Faith Radio. I’ll check that out.

    Carrie K: I didn’t know that Lutherans had ever been called ‘the singing church’ – I though the Mennonites were the singers!

    Sylvia: I’ve got just the plan for you! (And for you, LadyDoc, and for anybody else wanting more chant at Mass.) See The Blueprint: Sacred Music in Your Parish at ceciliaschola.org .

  13. Sylvia says:

    Thanks for that link—very informative! I don’t think there would be any resistance at my parish—most of the people are old enough to remember and appreciate the chants—it’s just a question of time and energy. Lots of food for thought. Thanks and good luck! Let us know when you put out your CD. ;)

  14. peter nelson says:

    At my parish it seems to be the oldsters who are most attached to campsong hymns — I’ve noticed this peculiarity in parishioners age late 40′s to late 60′s (I’m 42). I try to tell myself there’s no accounting for taste, and offer it up to Jesus. Sigh…