Encountering Our Past Through Music

Just a quick quote from Thomas Forrest Kelly of Harvard University. In the Winter 2014 edition of EMAg, he writes:

For me, one of the special joys is holding in my hands a thousand-year-old book and singing from the same music that fellow musicians sang a millennium ago….And sometimes you open a music book to the feast of Candlemas and see a spot of centuries-old wax on the page, or turn to the Rogation days, when monks went out in procession to bless the fields, and you just might see a thousand-year-old raindrop. It’s a way of taking a time trip, of being in touch, literally, with my fellow human beings from a long time ago.

The title of his essay is “Chants Encounters.”  If you have the opportunity, read the whole piece.  If you do or don’t, take a few minutes to find a favorite chant and sing it mindful of the “cloud of witnesses” who have sung it before.

5 Replies to “Encountering Our Past Through Music”

  1. I had a similar feeling on Maundy Thursday 2005 hearing the monks at Pluscarden Abbey (Scotland) singing monastic Compline from memory, only one lighted candle in the medieval church. Directly opposite me the full Paschal Moon was framed by the gothic tracery of a large window; the air was still edged with incense from the Missa in Cena Domini which had recently concluded. The same words, the same chant, the same stones of 700 years ago. This seemed reality – the 21st century with its superficial concerns and tawdry TV culture took on the appearance of an illusion.

    Then and there I resolved to study and sing Gregorian Chant.

  2. Unfortunately I can't give a link to the essay because it's in the Early Music America's quarterly journal (EMAg). However, I can give you a link to the organization and encourage you to join. http://earlymusic.org/ There are levels of membership from student to senior. BTW I'm very devoted to the style of Pluscarden Abbey – I think of it as "thoughtful energy."

  3. Thanks for this. I can't help thinking of Deforest Kelley (Dr. "Bones" McCoy) when I see Mr. Thomas' name.

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