Gregorian Chant Resources and History
Gregoran chants are a body of chants of the Roman Catholic Church, most of which are part of two liturgical rites, the Mass and the Offices. Origins are traditionally are ascribed to the period of Pope Gregory I 590-604. The sacred music of the Gregorian Chant was also known as plainchant, or plainsong and named after Pope Gregory. This music consisted of a single line of melody with a flexible rhythm sung to Latin words by unaccompanied male voices. Manuscripts date from ninth century and used a system of modes, specific patterns of whole and half steps. This single line of melody, called monophony, characterized music until about 1000 AD.
History of Gregorian Chant
Unaccompanied singing has been part of the Christian liturgy since the earliest days of the Church. Following the legalisation of Christianity in 313, different forms and flavours of chant began to develop by region. Roman Spain produced Mozarabic chant, whose title refers to the Moorish rule over Spanish Christians after the invasion of 711. In fact, the chant was composed and complete by the 7th Century, and altered little thereafter. From Milan came Ambrosian chant, named in honour of St Ambrose; from Gaul, or what is now France, Gallican chant; from Rome, Old Roman and Gregorian; from England, the Sarum; from the Church in the East, Syrian, Byzantine, Coptic, Ethiopian and Armenian. Some of these chants were suppressed by Roman pontiffs striving to establish a unified liturgy and music for the Church. Others were abandoned when the region resolved to adopt what it considered a superior chant or liturgy. By these paths Gregorian chant came to dominate liturgical music in the West by the 8th Century.
The Gregorian repertory was systematized for use in the Roman Rite. According to James McKinnon, the core liturgy of the Roman Mass was compiled over a brief period in the late 7th century. Other scholars, including Andreas Pfisterer and Peter Jeffery, have argued for an earlier origin for the oldest layers of the repertory.
Scholars debate whether the essentials of the melodies originated in Rome, before the 7th century, or in Francia, in the 8th and early 9th centuries. Traditionalists point to evidence supporting an important role for Pope Gregory the Great between 590 and 604, such as that presented in H. Bewerung's article in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Scholarly consensus, supported by Willi Apel and Robert Snow, asserts instead that Gregorian chant developed around 750 from a synthesis of Roman and Gallican chant commissioned by Carolingian rulers in France. During a visit to Gaul in 752-753, Pope Stephen II had celebrated Mass using Roman chant. According to Charlemagne, his father Pepin abolished the local Gallican rites in favor of the Roman use, in order to strengthen ties with Rome. In 785-786, at Charlemagne's request, Pope Hadrian I sent a papal sacramentary with Roman chants to the Carolingian court. This Roman chant was subsequently modified, influenced by local styles and Gallican chant, and later adapted into the system of eight modes. This Frankish-Roman Carolingian chant, augmented with new chants to complete the liturgical year, became known as "Gregorian." Originally the chant was probably so named to honor the contemporary Pope Gregory II, but later lore attributed the authorship of chant to his more famous predecessor Gregory the Great. Gregory was portrayed dictating plainchant inspired by a dove representing the Holy Spirit, giving Gregorian chant the stamp of holy authority. Gregory's authorship is popularly accepted as fact to this day.
Gregorian chant appeared in a remarkably uniform state across Europe within a short time. Charlemagne, once elevated to Holy Roman Emperor, aggressively spread Gregorian chant throughout his empire to consolidate religious and secular power, requiring the clergy to use the new repertory on pain of death. From English and German sources, Gregorian chant spread north to Scandinavia, Iceland and Finland. In 885, Pope Stephen V banned the Slavonic liturgy, leading to the ascendancy of Gregorian chant in Eastern Catholic lands including Poland, Moravia, Slovakia, and Austria.
The other plainchant repertories of the Christian West faced severe competition from the new Gregorian chant. Charlemagne continued his father's policy of favoring the Roman Rite over the local Gallican traditions. By the 9th century the Gallican rite and chant had effectively been eliminated, although not without local resistance. The Gregorian chant of the Sarum Rite displaced Celtic chant. Gregorian coexisted with Beneventan chant for over a century before Beneventan chant was abolished by papal decree (1058). Mozarabic chant survived the influx of the Visigoths and Moors, but not the Roman-backed prelates newly installed in Spain during the Reconquista. Restricted to a handful of dedicated chapels, modern Mozarabic chant is highly Gregorianized and bears no musical resemblance to its original form. Ambrosian chant alone survived to the present day, preserved in Milan due to the musical reputation and ecclesiastical authority of St. Ambrose.
Gregorian chant eventually replaced the local chant tradition of Rome itself, which is now known as Old Roman chant. In the 10th century, virtually no musical manuscripts were being notated in Italy. Instead, Roman Popes imported Gregorian chant from the German Holy Roman Emperors during the 10th and 11th centuries. For example, the Credo was added to the Roman Rite at the behest of the German emperor Henry II in 1014. Reinforced by the legend of Pope Gregory, Gregorian chant was taken to be the authentic, original chant of Rome, a misconception that continues to this day. By the 12th and 13th centuries, Gregorian chant had supplanted or marginalized all the other Western plainchant traditions.
The renewed interest in early music in the late 19th century left its mark on 20th-century music. Gregorian influences in classical music include the choral setting of four chants in "Quatre motets sur des thèmesGrégoriens" by Maurice Duruflé, the carols of Peter Maxwell Davies, and the choral work of Arvo Pärt. Gregorian chant has been incorporated into other genres, such as Enigma's "Sadeness (Part I)", the chant interpretation of pop and rock by the German band Gregorian, the techno project E Nomine, and the work of black metal band Deathspell Omega. The modal melodies of chant provide unusual sounds to ears attuned to modern scales.
Gregorian chant as plainchant experienced a popular resurgence during the New Age music and world music movements of the 1980s and '90s. The iconic album was Chant, recorded by the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, which was marketed as music to inspire timeless calm and serenity. It became conventional wisdom that listening to Gregorian chant increased the production of beta waves in the brain, reinforcing the popular reputation of Gregorian chant as tranquilizing music. Gregorian chant has often been parodied for its supposed monotony, both before and after the release of Chant. Famous references include the flagellant monks in Monty Python and the Holy Grail intoning "Pie Jesu Domine." The asteroid 100019 Gregorianik is named in its honour, using the German short form of the term. Gregorian chanting has been also used in Vision of Escaflowne anime series. Gregorian chant-like music was composed for the Xbox game Halo as the main theme, written by Marty O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori. On the original Halo: Combat Evolved the theme was sung by the two composers and three other singers (from the liner notes of the Halo Original Soundtrack). In later installments the theme was performed by a sixteen piece choir (Halo 2) and a 24 piece choir (Halo 3). Also in the anime series of Death note, a theme named Kyrie has the gregorian chant style.
- AISCGre (International Gregorian Chant Studies Association)
Currently has German, Italian and Spanish language sections, promotes the study and performance of Gregorian chant according to the "Gregorian Semiology" approach pioneered by Dom Eugène Cardine. The site provides a multilingual site with news of events, bibliography, fonts for chant notation, and much else of interest.
- The Abbey of Solesmes
- Associazione Viri Galilaei
choir and supporting organization in Florence, Italy, singing chant at the Duomo.
- Canticum Novum
Lessons on gregorian chant
- CANTUS: A Database for Latin Ecclesiastical Chant
Indices of chants in selected manuscripts and early printed sources of the liturgical Office. University of Western Ontario, London, ON Canada
Presents the research, teaching and musical initiatives undertaken by the "Saint Michael the Archangel" Association of Stroncone in the study of sacred music of the Middle Ages, with special attention to its sources and its modes of execution as well as the liturgy of which it was an integral part. In English and Italian.
- Cantus Planus
Data pool for research on Gregorian chant; David Hiley, Regensburg, Germany
Christ in the Desert Monastery, NM USA
Unique Gregorian Chant CDs, lyrics to many famous Chant pieces, free samples for download
- Chant Sheets for Celebrants
The Windsor Tridentine Mass Community has developed a resource to help priests sing the Orations and Readings of the Mass.
- The Chant Kit
Sacred music resource site dedicated to the return of Gregorian chant to its proper place in Catholic liturgical music. The Chant Kit includes two professionally recorded CDs with companion sheet music, as well as a brief instructional on how to chant.
- Ensemble Trecanum
Formed December 1996 by Etienne Stoffel, prizewinner of the National High Conservatoire of Paris a pupil of two monks of Solesmes Abbey with Dom Eugene Cardine († 1988), who was Father at the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music in Rome and Dom Jean Claire, former choral conductor of the Solesmes Abbey; France.
- Gloriæ Dei Cantores (Singers to the Glory of God)
Celebrating a rich tradition of sacred choral music from Gregorian chant through the twenty-first century.
- Grégoire software
Computer program for writing Gregorian Chant.
- Gregorian Association
Founded in 1870 to promote the study and practice of plainsong; England
- Gregorian Institute of Canada
Undertakes research and education to promote the study and performance of Gregorian and other western chant repertoires in Canada. In English and French.
- Gregorian Chant Notation - LPH Resource Center
A description of the traditional Gregorian Chant notation, so that anyone will be able to read the notation and sing it.
Brazilian Gregorian Chant site - in Portugese
- Gregorian Chant Albums by the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael's Abbey in California
- Gregorian Chant Notation
Description of the traditional Gregorian Chant notation, so that anyone will be able to read the notation and sing it.
- Gregorian Chant E-mail List
A mailing list to discuss the use of Gregorian chant in its natural context: as the Christian church's music for the worship of God. How does your church use chant? How does one start to learn how to read chant notation? What courses and books are available? Congregational chanting as well as scholas of chant.
- Gregorian Schola
information, links; St. Joseph's Parish, Fayetteville, AR USA
- Gregorianik & Liturgik
links and more; Germany
- Internationalen Gesellschaft für Studien des Gregorianischen Chorals
AISCGre; International Association for Studies of Gregorian Chant; Germany
- Latin Mass Society Chant Downloads
A wide selection of Ordinaries, the Asperges, and a number of other useful chants
- Luis' Gregorian Chant Page
Brazilian Web site by Luís Henrique Camargo Quiroz presents live mp3 recordings of the Benedictine brothers of the Mosteiro de São Bento of São Paulo, Brazil.
- The Medieval Music Database
at La Trobe University, includes Gregorian chants of the Dominican (Ordo Praedicatorum) tradition and information about Scribe notation software
- Nota Quadrata
The Nota Quadrata project is devoted to musical notation of the late Middle Ages, provides an introduction to square notation as well as regular updates on ongoing research.
- Orthodox Music Resources
- The Sarum Use
Essay concerning the Sarum Rita by Reverend Canon Professor J. Robert Wright. PDF files requiring Adobe Reader or equivalent.
- Paraclete Press - Gregorian Chant books and CDs
Represents the most authentic scholarship and worship in the field of Gregorian chant today.
- St. Laurentius Digital Manuscript Library
at Lund University Library in Sweden
- Sainte Antoine Daniel Gregorian Chant Ordinaries (Kyriale)
- Sheet Music, Chant Books, Hymns for download from the Church Music Association of America
Resources for singing chant in English and Latin
- OSB Topics: Gregorian Chant Bibliography and Websites
Richard Oliver, Order of St. Benedict, Collegeville, MN USA
- RADIO SET Gregorian
broadcasting Gregorian chants 24/7 through Windows Media Player with FM Stereo quality
- St. Joseph's College Chant Institute
- Women in Chant: The Choir of Benedictine Nuns at the Abbey of Regina Laudis
- Last updated: 10/7/2023