Tuesday, April 09, 2013

"The Power of Gregorian Chant"

By Richard J. Clark at CCWatershed:

OME STYLES OF MUSIC do certain things better than others. I work in a parish that utilizes many styles from chant and polyphony to Gospel and contemporary. This is a product of three merged parishes, the preferences of the pastor, and the pastoral realities of an inner city parish. However, chant and polyphony are normative. They are present in some way at every liturgy.

While we do not process to the Introit propers from the Graduale Romanum, we often sing them as a prelude before mass in lieu of an organ prelude. This allows the congregation to enter into a prayerful state and meditate on the text which is provided on the worship aid.

Keep in mind, I am an organist who studied for many years with James David Christie, organist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I have a wonderful four manual, fifty rank pipe organ to play in an extraordinary acoustic. As I did not play any preludes or postludes during Lent (save Laetare Sunday), I am certainly itching to get back to letting the organ roar again!

However, I LOVE singing the Gregorian Introits as does my schola. They get EXCITED when we sing them. To forego an organ prelude on Easter Sunday speaks to the power of the Mode IV Introit, Resurrexi.

So this morning, something very blessed happened. Easter Sunday is filled with many people who are not regular churchgoers. Instead of griping about it, this is an opportunity to reach out and evangelize to those who do not attend church with any frequency.

As such, there was a standing room only overflow crowd of close to 1,000 people. There was a LOT of noise and talking before mass. It was certainly not a prayerful or reverent environment.

But then, amidst the cacophony the schola began to sing Resurrexi. By the time we got to the first “alleluia” there was a hush… The crowd slowly quieted down to a still silence. They listened through the antiphon, and the extraordinarily intimate verse from Psalm 139: “O Lord, you have searched me, and know me; you know when I sit and when I rise up.”  At the end of the last antiphon one could hear nothing—nothing at all. A crowd of nearly 1,000 people, many who don’t come to mass, many who may not prefer Gregorian Chant, many who know nothing about chant—fell silent.

I don’t know what was in their hearts and minds, but intuitively, a sense of reverence and awe prevailed. Perhaps for many it was a rare moment of stillness in a busy, noisy world. Perhaps it was an opportunity for interior prayer. Perhaps it was a moment to revel in presence of the Risen Christ—the Salvation of the World. My hope is that the ineffable mystery of the Resurrection shone forth in these words:
I am risen, and am always with you, alleluia; you have placed your hand upon me, alleluia; your wisdom has been shown to be most wonderful, alleluia, alleluia. v. O Lord, you have searched me and know me; you know when I sit down and when I rise up. Psalm 139: 18, 5, 6 and 1-2
Happy Easter!

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