Gregorian Vespers                    home

(also "Gregorian Meditations")

 

Each third Saturday (except in July and August) Gregoriana will sing a chant program in the Amsterdam Obrechtchurch (also: Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary).

 

Sometimes this program consists of Vespers; the traditional christian evening prayer, dating back at least to the sixth century. Sometimes we work together with external musicians, imams, chazans or other people. Sometimes Gregoriana is only men, sometimes only women, sometimes both.

 

Nearly always the program consists of a selection of chants from tenth-century manuscripts. The purpose of these programs is to understand and interpret these manuscripts; what was written in there, how could it have sounded, what could have been possibly related, what can we learn from this, what can we appreciate of it today?

 

The core of these tenth-century manuscripts consists of what we still, with an anachronistic term call "Gregorian" chant, after pope Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604). A better name would refer to the Roman-Frankish mix that arose after Charlemagne in his Admonitio generalis of 789 imposed the liturgy of Rome with its chants to the churches of his empire. Since "Gregorian" chant is still so familiar, we stick to this, although the english term "chant" would be better. Especially since we are not only singing "Roman-Frankish" chant, but also chant from other contemporaneous traditions.

 

Recently we pay special attention to the contemporaneous liturgical chant of the Iberian peninsula. Here again there is a problem with the name. We prefer to speak about "Mozarabic" chant, referring to the christians living under muslim rule. Others prefer "Visighotic", referring to the Visighotic Kingdom in which the repertoire could have been formed. Others speak about Old Hispanic chant. It is a fact however that the most important source for our mozarabic chants dates from the North-Spanish León of the tenth century. In this manuscript over 3000 notated chants are preserved. Except for a few dozen of chants, the mozarabic music notation however is indecipherable for us. Scientists speak about "one of the great tragedies of medieval music history ". We committed ourselves to the restoration of this lost repertoire by computer-aided reconstructions.

 

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