KIND READER brought to our attention an interesting letter written by Dom Andrew Gregory Murray, OSB (1905-1992). In my view, Dom Gregory was an excellent composer. Many of his organ interludes are masterpieces! (His famous People’s Mass is an aberration; it is uninspired, technically flawed, and insipid.) He served as organist and choirmaster at Downside from 1929 to 1940. Tension was caused amongst the other monks owing to the BBC constantly dragging their recording equipment to Downside to record Dom Gregory’s organ playing. In 1940, he left the Abbey to serve as a parish priest: at Ealing from 1940 to 1946; Saint Benedict’s Hindley (near Wigan) from 1948 to 1952, and Saint Benedict’s (Stratton-on-the-Fosse) from 1952 to 1987.
An excerpt from his letter:
Pope Pius X described plainsong as “the chant proper to the Roman Church, the only chant which she has inherited from the ancient fathers, which she has jealously guarded for centuries in her liturgical codices, which she directly proposes to the faithful as her own.” Plainsong, then, is the exclusive property of the Catholic Church, whose official liturgical music it is. The question of its interpretation, therefore, is not, and cannot be, for me a merely musical matter, for it is not merely music but the Church’s liturgical music. Moreover, if non-Catholics wish to discuss how it should be sung, it seems to me that they do so with the primary object of receiving assistance in the singing of plainsong in their own services. I am still further persuaded of this when I find the name of an “Anglican Benedictine” printed side by side with my own name on a leaflet advertising the discussion. I am not prepared to assist non-Catholics in the musical conduct of their services, nor will I take part in a discussion which is calculated to promote the use of the official liturgical music of the Church in heretical worship. I suggest, therefore, that unless Catholic musicians especially priests, are particularly careful in questions of this kind, they may easily encourage non-Catholics in the belief that the differences between Catholics and non-Catholics are of minor importance.