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ance with the Roman practice, that so all the faithful may praise God, as with one mind, so with one mouth.”
The first serious attempt which seems to have been made in England to corrupt the Gregorian Chant was in the time of the Norman Conquest, when Thurstin, who had been removed by William the Conqueror from the monastery of S. Stephen at Caen to that of Glastonbury, compelled his monks to adopt the vicious harmonies of one Wilhelm, in the place of the pure Gregorian Tones ; a proceeding which threw the society into confusion, and was made a subject of grave charge against him.*
In the centuries following, the Gregorian Chant seems, in this as in other Catholic countries, to have been involved in that general corruption of the ecclesiastical music which is so fertile a subject of lamentation and remonstrance with the great mediæval writers, and which eventually drew forth the strong condemnation of the Council of Trentot John of Salisbury, in the reign of Henry II., is one of many who deplores the profanation of the Sanctuary, of a flippant and secular style of music, destructive alike of Christian edification and of the reverence due to the sacred words of Holy Scripture and the Church. I This evil had reached its climax in the 16th century, when Palestrina arose, and with him a new and brighter æra in the annals of ecclesiastical music.
We have thus brought the Gregorian Tones to a period of their history in which they began, among ourselves, to give way to the psalm-chants of other composers, by which they were, in the Anglican
* Knyghton, Canon of Leicester, De Eventibus Angliæ, c. 2. + Sess. xxiv. c. 12, &c.
See Gerbert, De Cantu et Musicá Sacrâ, vol. ii. p. 96, et seq.
Church, gradually, but at length completely, displaced. Till very recently, their name was hardly known in this country, and when our increased intercourse with the Continent first brought them into notice, it was supposed that ears familiarized with our own brilliant and diversified Cathedral chants, would be intolerant, almost to loathing, of their austere simplicity. The very reverse, however, has been the case, and the Gregorian Tones have been received among us with a heartiness which cannot but be cheering to all those who are on the watch for traces of sympathy with the ancient spirit of the Church.
It needs but little skill in music to perceive that the Gregorian Tones are formed upon an idea of the nature and proper end of chanting, entirely different from that which has given rise to the tunes to which the Psalms are commonly sung in our own Cathedrals. Modern chants, to speak generally, seem to presuppose that music is intended to embellish and set off the sacred words of inspiration; whereas the very notion of a “ Tone,” by which name the Gregorian Chants are most fitly designated, is that of a simple form of recitation, a mere vehicle of the sacred words, not an elaborate and ornamental framework. Some modern chants, no doubt, there are, which are constructed upon the simpler principle; but by far the larger portion, though preserving a certain character of solemnity suited to their object, are too much, surely, of the nature of musical compositions, to be consistent with that high and self-forgetting reverence towards their subject which is characteristic of the older melodies. The Gregorian Chant seems to proceed upon the view, that the simplest medium of the Divine accents is the best suited to their intrinsic majesty and sacredness. It differs, therefore, alike from eyes of
reading, which is too familiar, and singing, which is too artificial ; being at once plain without meanness, and elevated without display. Display, indeed, is the idea of all others which it excludes, and which the average of modern chants rather involve. The Gregorian Tones have no character, or even existence, apart from the words which they are meant to convey ; viewed by themselves, they are like the a statue, inexpressive for want of an animating soul, and beautiful only through the power of association which instinctively connects them with the words which are their true life and spirit. To say, then, that, as heard for the first time, they communicate even to a musical ear no just idea of their peculiar sweetness and
power, is less near the truth than to say that they communicate absolutely no idea of melody at all. Many of our modern chants, on the contrary, lose very little indeed of their effect by being detached from the words.
The Gregorian Tones, in short, bespeak a mind which approaches the Psalms of David or the Evangelical Canticles with so profound an awe as to relinquish, from the first, all thought of giving them effect by the help of human art. When it is said that our modern chants are conceived under a different idea, it is by no means intended to charge the composers of them with want of reverence ; but, at the very worst, with a mere misconception of the true end of chanting. One view of sacred music there is, and surely a most legitimate and strictly Catholic one, according to which those very characteristics of the modern chant which are here mentioned in objection to it, may be explained even upon the principles of reverence. The use of the more ornamented style of Church music is thus justified by Hooker :
“ Be it that, at the first, the Church in this exercise
was more simple and plain than we are, that their singing was little more than only a melodious recitation (where he points at, or at least exactly describes, the Gregorian Chant), that the custom which we now use was not instituted so much for their cause which are spiritual, as to the end that into grosser and heavier minds, whom bare words do not move, the sweetness of melody might make some entrance for good things, . .... those harmonious tunes of Psalms were devised for us, that they which are either in years but young, or, touching perfection of virtue, are not yet grown to ripeness, might, when they think they sing, learn.” *
The question is, not whether music has a purpose in the Church of the kind here intended, (for upon this point all are agreed,) but whether it should be employed in chanting under this particular view of
Hooker, it is true, is speaking in this passage immediately of psalm-chants ; of those, however, of his own age, which were undoubtedly far simpler than the class which has succeeded them ; and considerably nearer in character to the Gregorian than to the generality of those latterly in use among us. But the fact is, that, when once the principle of ornamental music in psalmody is admitted, the degree in which it may come, as time proceeds, to be applied, is quite out of control ; hence the especial wisdom of that jealous care, with which, in the ages of Faith, the Church laboured to guard the purity of the Gregorian Tones.
Whether the chants which, under the name of Gregorian, are now in use among us are precisely the same with the original Tones of S. Gregory, is a question which the present writer leaves to be determined by others more competent than himself to the
* Eccl. Pol. b. v. c. xxxviii. [3.] Ed. Keb.
task.* At all events they are considered by scientific musicians to correspond essentially with the description of the Gregorian Chant which is given by Catholic writers. Thus Cardinal Bona says,
“ Gregory the Great instituted his Plain Chant, which, beginning in plain tune, goes on to measure out its several notes in even but quick time. For, with him, it was no object to produce the harmony of different voices, and the elegances of melody by a variation of intervals ; but he confined the range of each tone within certain fixed limits; and appointed certain transitions and passages of the voice, according to the natural arrangement of the diatonic scale.” +
The especial defects of chanting which it is hoped to obviate in a degree by the present manual are exactly described in the following rule of S. Bernard :
“Let us beware,” says one of the Cistercian statutes, “of drawling in our psalmody; let us chant with a full and clear voice; taking care to intone, and break off together, both the division, (i.e. the former half up to the colon,) and the end (the latter half) of the verse. I No one should dwell on the notes, but each pass on at After the division of the verse, let us make a
No one ought to venture on beginning before the others ; nor on outstripping them ; nor on stopping after them to draw breath, or lay stress on a note. Let us keep our ears open, so as
* Mention, as I am told, is made by Thibaut, (ueber der reinheit der tonkust, pp. 28-30,) of a MS. of the Gregorian chants at S. Gall, in Switzerland, as old as the ninth century, which he commends to the especial notice of those who are interested in the subject.
+ “Gregorius M. planum cantum instituit, qui de plano procedens, singulas notas brevis temporis æquali mensurâ dimetitur. Non enim variarum vocum concordem discordiam et concinnam per intervallorum distantiam me. lodiam observavit ; sed certos tantum limites et terminos cujusque Toni constituit; certosque vocum transitus et progressiones, secundum naturalem diatonici generis dispositionem.”—De Divinâ Psalmodia, c. xvii. 9 4.
* Metrum, et finem versûs simul intonemus, et simul dimittamus.