Saturday 7 May 2011

Qui bene cantat bis orat

St Augustine is often quoted as saying "he who sings well prays twice", although apparently this is contested (see Fr. Z here) and I seem to remember St. Therese of Lisieux having been quoted as saying something similar. No matter what the truth is, singing - particularly the purity of Gregorian chant- often feels as though it takes prayer onto a higher plane.

It's tiring though! Today I spent the day with the wonderful Dom Yves-Marie LeLievre OSB from Solemnes Abbey at a Gregorian chant workshop at St James', Spanish Place. It was a wonderful day, there's something spiritually invigorating about spending eight or so hours in a room singing God's praises with a group of virtual strangers, all voices merging into one. We sang Sext and Vespers and the 6pm Sunday Mass (Mass I). By 4pm my brain was turning into a mushroom, and the Latin words were bouncing around on the stave and the notes dancing off the page: it's a heavy brain workout this singing business!

Huge thanks are due to Dom Yves-Marie, Candy Bartholdus and Stan Metheny without whom this would not have happened. What a wonderful gift they've given us.

If singing is prayer twice over, I reckon that fifty or so people strengthened their spiritual armour today. Dom Yves Marie said that the Gregorian 7th mode is also called "Angelus" and the 8th is called "perfectus". It felt as though through song we managed to touch something angelic and closer to perfection than this Vale of Tears today.

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