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my recovered faith, and reflect that at this time I am affected, not by the mere music, but by the subject, brought out, as it is, by clear voices and appropriate tune; then, in turn, I confess how useful is the practice." *
The Church of Alexandria, it may be observed, of whose practice in the time of S. Athanasius mention is here made, probably derived its method of chanting from the Essenes, a contemplative sect of the Jews, which had settlements in those parts, and of whose psalmody a writer of the first century gives the following description :
They sing hymns composed in honour of God, varying in metre and in tune ; chanting them sometimes in chorus, sometimes in antiphonal harmonies, ..... after the fashion of the hymn of thanksgiving sung after the passage of the Red Sea, when the quire of men was led by Moses, and of women by Miriam.” +
But the name of all others most celebrated in the history of Antiphonal Chanting is that of the illustrious Saint from whom we derive the Gregorian Tones ; Gregory the First and Great, Bishop of Rome from A.D. 590 to A. D. 604. That S. Gregory the Great did not introduce the antiphonal chant into Western Christendom, nor even into the Roman Church, is evident from what has been said : he did but “gather up the fragments” of an earlier antiquity ; and give shape and method to sacred strains, which, in the West, may be directly traced up to S. Ambrose and S. Damasus, three centuries before him ; through them into the Oriental Church ; and so on to their springs in the very age of the Apostles themselves. But, at all events, it is in the Gregorian Chant that the aboriginal music of the Church has been preserved from age to age ; so that we to whose times it has descended, and among whom it is at this day in use, may have the comfort of feeling selves associated with the “ Church of the Fathers,” not merely through the words of our Psalms, Hymns, and spiritual Canticles,” but in the very tones in which we utter them.
* Confessions, x. 50. Oxford Translation. † Philo Judæus De Vitâ Contemplativâ, p. 902; quoted in the Oxford Ed. of Hooker, Eccl. Pol. B. v. c. xxxix. [2.]
The following short notice of S. Gregory the Great, and of his labours in the cause of ecclesiastical psalmody, appeared, some time since, in the pages of a periodical.
“S. Gregory, surnamed the Great, was born at Rome about A. D. 545. The Emperor Justin the Younger appointed him prefect of the city ; but he speedily became weary of political life, and withdrew into a monastery. He was induced to return into public by Pope Pelagius II., who sent him A. D. 580 as his nuncio to Constantinople. On the death of the Emperor Tiberius, Gregory returned to Rome and became secretary to Pelagius. His heart, however, was all the while in the monastery whence he had been reluctantly withdrawn at the command of his ecclesiastical superior, and at length he obtained permission from the Pope to return to it. He was afterwards recalled to Rome by the great pestilence of which Pelagius died. On occasion of the plague, he instituted Litanies and solemn processions, interceding for the people night and day. On the death of Pelagius, Gregory was unanimously chosen to succeed him ; but he shrank from the dignity, got himself conveyed out of the city in a basket, and hid himself in a wood. At length he was prevailed upon to return, and invested with the pontifical robes. He was consecrated Bishop of Rome in the year
Lord 590. He presided over the Church thirteen years, and died in 604. He was of a profound humility, and won the regard even of his enemies, by a rare kindness and moderation. The facts of his history seem to prove that his heart was above the world. Such was Gregory ; a name which should be had in honour by all English Christians. He is remembered in our Calendar on the 12th of March, the day on which he was taken from the Church below. It is to be feared that in this country, which is largely in his debt, fewer think of him on that day than could be wished.
“Pope Gregory the Great remodelled the Antiphonary of the Roman Church, founded the schools for chanting, and instituted the canto fermo,' or plain chant, in the form in which it has been since
carefully, or, as we may rather say, religiously preserved in the Church. It is worth mentioning that his various labours in the cause of religion were undertaken and accomplished against the discouragements of very bad health. It is related that he used to instruct his choristers from his bed ; this bed was preserved with other mementos of his zeal and diligence to a late period. S. Gregory constructed his celebrated chant upon the basis of the Ambrosian, increasing the number of tones from four to eight. We believe, but we speak under correction, that the old Ambrosian chant is known at present only through the medium of the Gregorian. . . . A strong evidence against the genuineness of the present
Ambrosian chant' is in the almost inevitable tendency of music to degenerate without such persevering care as there is no reason for believing has been bestowed upon any chant except the Gregorian. It has required the vigilance of Popes and the protests of Councils to guard the severe tones of Pope
Gregory from the encroachments of later corruptions. Nay, and in other times, a great sovereign of Europe* thought the purification of the Church song a matter deserving of an embassy to Rome.” +
The Gregorian Chant was brought into our own country by S. Augustin (of Canterbury) and his companions at the close of the 6th century of the Chris
No doubt it was to the solemn tones of S. Gregory that those “litanies,” were chanted, in which, on their approach to the city of Canterbury, the Missionaries of the Holy See implored the mercy of God in behalf of our heathen ancestors. I S. Gregory is said to have taken under his especial patronage the quires of that church, which he ever regarded as the child of his tenderest affection. On the death, however, of the original chanters, the ecclesiastical music of this country was deteriorated by profane additions ; and efforts were made to restore it, first by Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, who came with instructions to that effect from Pope Vitalian ; and afterwards by John, Arch-chanter of the church of S. Peter at Rome, and abbot of the monastery of S. Martin, who was invited over to this country by Benedict Biscop, for the purpose, especially, of training a quire, upon the Roman model, at his monastery of Wearmouth. The same John, according to Venerable Bede, not only instructed the brethren of the monastery, but was in the highest request, throughout the north of England, as a quiremaster. A like service to a portion of the English Church had been rendered, many years before, by James, a Deacon of York whom Paulinus left in charge of that church upon his removal to Rochester. Of this James, Venerable Bede says, that he was “profoundly skilled in the ecclesiastical chant,” according to the practice of Rome and Canterbury,* which is thus shown to have been uniform. At a somewhat later period the knowledge of chanting is said to have been confined to Kent ;t so that it would appear to have been the above-named John, Abbot of S. Martin, to whom our Church was chiefly indebted for the excellence of its psalmody. The purity of the ecclesiastical chant seems to have been ever a main object with the rulers of the ancient English Church. Thus we read that Acca, Bishop of Hexham, sent, about the year 709, “ for an eminent chanter, by name Maban, who had been instructed in the musical tones by the successors of the disciples of Pope S. Gregory in Kent, to educate him and his people ; and retained him twelve years, that they might learn of him chants of which they were before ignorant, and that the tones, which, although known, had, from length of time, and neglect, degenerated, might, by his instructions be restored to their original state. ” I
* This alludes to the Emperor Charlemagne, who, finding, about the year 774, that the Gregorian Chant had become corrupted in France, despatched two ecclesiastics to the court of Rome, to obtain it in its authentic shape
† British Critic. Oct. 1840. Art. Chanting.
It was about half a century after this time that the Council of Cloveshoe § enjoined the use of “a simple and solemn melody in the recitation of the Divine Office, according to the usage of the Church," as a security against an irreverent and theatrical mode of delivery. And, in a later decree, the same Council insists upon an
“ uniform tone in accord.
* Bede, Hist, Eccl. Ángl lib. ii. 20.
+ Ib. 1. iv. 2. Ib. 1. v. c. 20. Ś Commonly
supposed to be Cliff, near Rochester; but by some, Abingdon, formerly called Sheovesham. A Council met there yearly, on Aug. 1, to regulate the affairs of the National Church.-Bede, Hist. Eccl. 1. iv. c.5.