Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song
The Beauty of Discovery
The choir, Gloriae Dei Cantores, is currently rehearsing for a recording of late Medieval and early Renaissance choral music. One of the works is a setting of the offertory for the first Sunday of Advent, Ad Te Levavi (Unto Thee do I lift up my Soul). As the rehearsal of this piece progressed, I found myself more and more stirred to track with the Gregorian chant proper of the same name.
The parallels between the chant Ad Te Levavi and the choral work were amazing! The melodic motives, lengths of phrases, and soaring melodic lines seemed to have been inspired by the chant. Perhaps most amazing was just one small point. At the text “non confundar” (to not be confounded), the choral work goes on for a great deal of time, constantly restating this outcry. When I looked at the ancient notation in the chant, under the word “non” was the letter X. In this particular notation, the letter X means “expectare” — to wait. I was amazed that at this moment in the chant, the indication was to slow down, lingering upon this text. The choral work did exactly the same thing!
Clearly, the composer of the choral work knew and understood not only the structure of the chant, but the truth contained within it. Without simply being a direct copy, the chant inspired a choral work to further explore the depth of the scripture which it so faithfully served.
Image Credit: File:Ad te levavi.gif – Wikimedia Commons