In recent years, chant has had a rebirth in the church and, perhaps somewhat more astonishingly, among the general public! The world of music was startled by the sudden popularity of an album of chant, released first as a phonograph record and re-released by Angel Records as a CD in 1994. This CD was recorded by the monks of the Spanish monastery Santo Domingo de Silos. Entitled simply Chant, the album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 music chart and was certified as triple platinum, making it the best-selling album of Gregorian chant ever released. Indeed, Gregorian chant as a form of church music has made a resurgence in the eyes and ears of the general public.
Other forces have also converged to bring the chant into the popular realm, as many people across the world who would otherwise have never known of the chant, are finding that the “sacred universe” into which chant introduces us really is available to them. Pope Benedict XVI has, from the beginning of his papacy, said that Gregorian chant has a very unique place in the life of the church, in the liturgy, and in sacred music.
The work of chant restoration continues. Throughout the world, numerous groups promote the singing of chant, including the scholas of the American choir, Gloriæ Dei Cantores, based at the Community of Jesus. While chant recordings are no longer reaching the triple platinum level, they continue to sell widely and steadily. In a world filled with noise, stress, and anxiety, the sounds of monks or nuns singing in a quiet church, filling it with ancient strains of praise to God can bring an otherworldly comfort.
However, as beautiful as it may sound, chant was not intended simply to be heard. The only way to fully explore its purpose and depth of meaning is to actively participate in it. People who offer their prayers using chant find themselves caught up in something much larger than themselves and are rewarded with unexpected fruit—just as Christians have been discovering for over 1500 years.
Excerpted from The Song of Prayer: A Practical Guide to Learning Gregorian Chant
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