About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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When you consider that the greatest hymns ever written—the plainchant hymns—are pushing the age of eight hundred and that the noble chorale hymn tunes of Bach date from the early eighteenth century, then what is the significance of the word “old” applied to “Mother at Thy Feet Is Kneeling”? Most of the old St. Basil hymns date from the Victorian era, particularly the 1870s and 1880s.
— Paul Hume (1956)

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Ascension • A Gorgeous Illumination
published 16 May 2015 by Jeff Ostrowski

ONCE ASKED THE PRIEST who taught me Gregorian chant what his favorite 1 chant was. He replied, “I think the Ascension Introit, because the melody is so incredible. I can almost see the Apostles, standing there gazing into Heaven.”

Here is that Introit as it appears in a manuscript (circa 1385AD):

764 Ascension Manuscript


By the way, my teacher had two teachers. One drilled the Introits into the seminarians over and over, until they began to hate them. The other had a different theory: “You pay more attention to singing if you’re just a little bit nervous, a little bit unsure of the music.” Both were good teachers—according to this priest—and because of the first he has almost every single Introit memorized five decades later. However, the second teacher made a valid point I often employ as a choirmaster…



NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:

1   Had I read with understanding the famous article by David J. Hughes about “favorite hymns” for Mass, I might not have asked this question. David makes the point that Gregorian chant is perfect for different liturgical “moments”—we usually don’t have a favorite piece.