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.
- 3 Easy Steps to Start Singing Gregorian Chant
From the St. Catherine Catholic Culture Center.
- 11 Lesson on How to Read and Sing Gregorian Chant
From Corpus Christi Watershed.
- A simple guide to singing Gregorian chant
From Aleteia, an online publication distributed in five languages (English, French, Spanish, Polish and Slovenian).
- 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
- The Caecilia Project
Gregorian Chant Repository founded with the simple goal of providing a community-driven repository of sacred music in the Roman Catholic tradition for ease of public use.
- 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
- Chant Sheets for Celebrants
Resource developed by the St. Benedict Tridentine Catholic Community to help priests sing the Orations and Readings of the Mass
Unique Gregorian Chant CDs, lyrics to many famous Chant pieces, free samples for download
- The Church Music Association of America
Society of Catholic musicians and supporters who have a special interest in music and liturgy. They are active in advancing Gregorian chant, Renaissance polyphony, and other forms of sacred music, including new compositions for liturgical use, in Catholic parishes in the Extraordinary Form, Ordinary Form, and other traditions across the United States.
- 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.
- Global Chant Database
Developed by Jan Koláček - PhD student of the Institute of Musicology at the Charles University in Prague. The database is intended as an easy tool for scholars and students to search and identify plainchant melodies. The purpose of the database is to comprise the chant incipits of all important editions of plainchant and an adequate number of significant medieval manuscripts. The melody encoding scheme is compatible with the font Volpiano and other melody codes - this enables to make links with other chant databases.
- Gloriæ Dei Cantores (Singers to the Glory of God)
Gloriæ Dei Cantores (Singers to the Glory of God) holds a passionate dedication to illuminate truth and beauty through choral artistry, celebrating a rich tradition of Sacred choral music from Gregorian chant through the twenty-first century.
- Graduale Romanum 1961
Complete Propers and Ordinary for traditional Masses (1962 Missal)
A database of gregorian scores.
- Grégoire software
Computer program for writing Gregorian Chant.
- 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.
Brazilian Gregorian Chant site - in Portugese.
- Gregorian Chant Albums by the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael's Abbey in California
- 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 Missal (Latin/English, first edition, 1990)
Complete Mass Ordinary and Propers for the modern Roman rite for Sundays and Solemnities.
- Gregorian Schola
information, links; St. Joseph's Parish, Fayetteville, AR USA.
- Institute of Christ the King
PDF reproductions of the Gregorian Chant propers of the Mass in notation inspired by the Liber Usualis. These were developed for scholas and choirs of the apostolates of the Institute of Christ the King. They are free to download for use in the study and performance of sacred music.
- Internationalen Gesellschaft für Studien des Gregorianischen Chorals
AISCGre; International Association for Studies of Gregorian Chant; Germany
- Latin Mass Society MP3 Chant Downloads
MP3 chant downloads.
- 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
Sacredmusic.fm streams online 24/7 Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony with the occasional piece that continues that tradition.
- The Sarum Use
PDF essay concerning the Sarum Rita by Reverend Canon Professor J. Robert Wright.
- Paraclete Press - Gregorian Chant books and CDs
The publishing house of a Cape Cod Benedictine community, the Community of Jesus, Paraclete Press presents a full expression of Christian belief and practice - Catholic, evangelical, mainline Protestant, Orthodox - reflecting the ecumenical charism of the Community and its dedication to sacred music, the fine arts, and the written word. They publish books, recordings, sheet music, and videos that nourish the vibrant life of the church and its people.
- Parish Book of Chant (CMAA)
Mass Ordinary in Latin for modern and traditional forms of the Roman rite; hymns, sequences, and other popular chants.
- Saint René Goupil - Gregorian Chant Propers
The propers (Introit - entrance chant, Offertory, Communion, and so on) are singing settings of specific liturgical texts, taken directly from sacred Scripture, from both testaments.
- 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
- Square Note: Gregorian Chant
Square Note puts a huge library of Gregorian Chant scores—over 600 unique chants and counting—right at your fingertips. Always wanted to learn how to read square note notation? Always wondered how to find all the amazing Gregorian Chants of the Catholic Church? Square Note brings the ancient music of the Church to your mobile devices, ready for you to utilize in your schola, your choir, or your home.
- Women in Chant: The Choir of Benedictine Nuns at the Abbey of Regina Laudis
- Last updated: 2/8/2024