A. 1. Gregorian chant, also called plainsong, plainchant (cantus planus), choral chant (cantus choralis), is the unisonous, diatonic, worship music developed in the Christian Ch. for the Lat. liturgy, assoc. by tradition with Gregory I (see Popes, 4), under whom existing melodies were collected and ed. by ch. musicians, esp. the schola cantorum, which he is said to have founded or reorganized. The term cantus firmus, sometimes used in reference to Gregorian chant, denotes an unchanged melody to which a harmonic setting of one or more voices may be added. As the chant spread through Eur. and to Eng., schools were est. acc. to the Roman model at various places, e.g., Metz, Fr., and St. Gall, Switz. The golden era of the chant, the high point of Gregorian, dates ca. 600ca. 1100. Then followed a period of preservation and transition. Measurable decline began ca. 1300. Mensurable music, polyphony, harmony, instrumental music, and the operatic style, all in turn contributed to decay of the chant. Changes in method of chanting and simplification of melodies robbed the chant of its characteristic rhythm. Restoration began ca. 1850. Benedictine monks at Solesmes, Fr., tried to recapture the original melodies and method of chanting, but the Solesroes theory was gen. rejected in Ger. toward the end of the 19th c.
2. Gregorian chant is used in varying degrees in Luth. and Angl. chs. It was adapted for use in the Ger. Mass* (see also Chant; Mass [Music]); many later Ger. ch. orders followed suit, weathering pietistic and rationalistic movements. In the 19th c. renewed interest in the chant was manifested in Ger. and America. F. J. C. Lochner* wrote Der Hauptgottesdienst der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Kirche to restore it in Am. Plainsong settings were used in The Psalter and Canticles Pointed for Chanting to the Gregorian Psalm Tones (1897) and The Choral Service Book (1901), ed. H. G. Archer and L. D. Reed. Some Luth. chs. use plainsong for certain parts of the service; some have issued special eds. of Gregorian chant for the complete service. Scand. Luth. chs. also adopted Gregorian chant for the vernacular. The Swed. plainsong service is esp. noteworthy.
3. The Angl. Ch. and the Prot. Episc. Ch. followed J. Marbeck's* example of The Booke of Common Praier Noted (1550) and have adapted plainsong to the Eng. language extensively since 1850, chiefly as a result of work done by the Plainsong and Mediaeval Soc. (founded London, Eng., 1888) and such men as C. W. Douglas,* T. Helmore,* and A. Hughes.* CaB
B. The present repertoire of Gregorian chant includes ca. 3,000 melodies. Rhythmically free, Gregorian chants are based largely on prose texts taken from Ps. Some are simple and syllabic, others melismatic and involved. Tonalities used are modal, not maior or minor. The claim formerly made that Gregorian chant is pure and absolute ch. music has been gen. discarded. Gregorian chant has elements akin to the music of various religious and pagan cultures. It is the finest chant music the world has ever known. WEB
See also Modes, Ecclesiastical; Psalm Tones.
G. M. Suñol, Text Book of Gregorian Chant According to the Solesmes Method, tr. G. M. Durnford (Tournai, Belgium, 1930); A. F. Klarmann, Gregorian Chant (Toledo, Ohio, 1945); D. [Franz] Johner, A New School of Gregorian Chant, tr. H. S. Butterfield (New York. 1906); A. Mocquereau, Le nombre musical Grégorien, 2 vols. (Rome, 1908, 1927); O. Brodde, Evangelische Choralkunde, Leiturgia, ed. K. F. Müller and W. Blankenburg, IV (Kassel, 1961). 343557; W. Apel, Gregorian Chant (Bloomington, Indiana, 1958); E. J. Wellesz, Eastern Elements in Western Chant, 2d ed. (Copenhagen, 1968).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission
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