Message from Jeff Ostrowski: “I see that my colleague, Mr. Patrick Williams, has added another installment to the Gregorian Rhythm Wars series. I will certainly respond, but not immediately. I try to avoid ‘knee-jerk’ responses. My preference is to first consider carefully my response (for a few days) before posting. There is no rush. I suspect our series will continue for a considerable period of time. Needless to say, our series will only terminate once everyone agrees that my views are correct, perfect, and incontrovertible.”
M The following was sent to us
M by Dom Stephen Concordia, OSB.
M (Reproduced with permission).
FTEN HAVE I THOUGHT of writing to Corpus Christi Watershed to express my gratitude for your work. I’m writing to you now to contribute a few words to your series “Chant Rhythm Wars”. It’s sad to say that your choice of the word ‘Wars’ has been—at least at certain times in our history—accurate. I’ve been a Benedictine monk since 1989, first at Montecassino, and since 2008 at Saint Vincent Archabbey, and the debates have been at times harsh and unfair … and sometimes worse. I greatly appreciate your hospitality and willingness to engage in dialogue. By way of introduction, I first studied chant according to the Solesmes Method, and with Ward Method pedagogy, with Dr. Theodore Marier at Catholic University. Just a few years later, as an organ student at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome, I was required to study Semiology with Nino Albarosa, an early disciple of Dom Eugène Cardine, and Gregorian Modality with Alberto Turco, a disciple of Dom Jean Claire. I then chose to complete a DIPLOMA (Magistero) in chant with the same faculty. Since then, I have continued to be active with teaching, directing, offering workshops, and—more recently—translating recent chant textbooks by Alberto Turco from Italian to English. I’ve been a professor of Gregorian Chant at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute Sant’Anselmo (Rome); at Saint Vincent College here in Latrobe; at Franciscan University of Steubenville; at Duquesne University; and I’ve offered numerous workshops.
A. Now, regarding Mr. Jeff Ostrowski’s assertion that the Solesmes Method is the Official method of interpreting the rhythm of chant, there are numerous points of fact to the contrary:
1. Why is this supposed law known to so few practitioners?
2. At Papal liturgies where chant is sung, and a worship aid has been printed for the congregation that includes the chant melodies for the congregation to sing, the rhythmic signs of Solesmes are entirely absent.
3. The 2nd Vatican Council mandated the publication of a volume of chant for use in smaller churches and parishes; namely, the Graduale Simplex. Once again the rhythmic signs of Solesmes are entirely absent.
B. Regarding the assertion that the Solesmes Method recreates the original rhythm of chant:
The semiologists would affirm: To approach an interpretation as close as possible to an “original” rhythm there is no witness, no testimony, no factual evidence historically closer than the adiastematic neumes.
C. Regarding the predominant role of the word in chant interpretation:
1.The “composers” of Gregorian chant spoke Latin, they knew the sound of the words and their rhythmic qualities. Knowing of their passion for Latin grammar, and the Roman grammarians, it is unlikely that they would have sung in a manner contrary to the rules of Latin pronunciation. For instance… the Solesmes method does respect the words, but it also advocates for the “the subordination of the words to the melody” (Dom Gajard). This notion, together with the rule of the “indivisible beat’ cannot help but result often in mistaken pronunciations, additions of, and exaggerations of, accents.
Thank you again! With all best wishes and blessings on your work.
Fr. Stephen Concordia, O.S.B.
Volumes of chant pedagogy by Alberto Turco and translated into English by Fr. Stephen Concordia OSB:
(1) Tones & Modes (pp.328 (treatise on Gregorian modality) Rome, Torre D’Orfeo Ed.
(2) The Gregorian Melody: The expressive Power of the WORD (pp.250) Forthcoming from Liturgical Press, March 2023
(3) An Initiation to Gregorian Chant (pp.180 Forthcoming from Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music + Vatican Editions + Archabbey Publications, December, 2022