LOVE THE CHANCE TO BRING CHANT TO a wider audience. I love that the director of our parish Christmas play has asked us to sing some Gregorian chant as a way of creating a sombre, reverent mood at the death of the Selfish Giant. I’m just a bit miffed at the assumption that Gregorian chant is always a sombre category of music.
Gregorian chant covers a huge range of music, encompassing the lively processional hymn “Gloria, Laus et Honor tibi sit”, the uplifting introit for Laudate Sunday in Lent, so many soaring Alleluias, the beautiful Marian antiphons to name but a few. There are pieces for every liturgical occasion.
Of course, most recordings of chant feature all male choirs in resonant churches, which makes sense considering the ideals of liturgical music. They often sing quite slowly – a reflection of the acoustics of the venues, the patience of the contemplative life and awesome breath control. But you can sing it a little faster, especially with smaller people with smaller lung capacity (and attention spans).
I’m thinking of singing the offertory antiphon for the last Sundays of the year. The words are “De profundis” as a nod to something of a turning point in Oscar Wilde’s life ending in a death-bed conversion. Other contenders are “Ubi Caritas” or “Christus factus est” from Holy Thursday, “Absolve” or “Libera me” from the Mass for the Dead. What would you choose?