The Christopher Page Book

In recent days, I find myself constantly talking about The Christian West and Its Singers: The First Thousand Years. There can be no question that his account is seminal and, of course, deeply interesting to anyone who sings at liturgy or has an interest in Gregorian chant. I’m thrilled by the intense focus on the subject that I care about most deeply, so the book is a joy from the first to the last. It begins in the Apostolic period and goes all the way to Guido d’Arezzo. The production values are fantastic (thank you Yale University). My only complaint is that the book is so heavy that I could not bring it with my on travels so all I can do at the moment is look forward to getting back to my reading. I aspire, actually, to live blog the book in the Chant Cafe, chapter by chapter. Live blogging a book can be rigorous and draining but it is a wonderful way to learn. This book is certainly worth such a detailed treatment. Perhaps it will happen. In any case, you should get your own copies so we can discuss it in the comments box as we go along. The price is certainly right. I say again to Professor Page: your book is a marvel and you deserve profound congratulations on this monumental work.

9 Replies to “The Christopher Page Book”

  1. Nick, a far more interesting history of the second millennium will be the treatment of innovation from the traditions of plainsong: how organum and polyphony triumphed in the face of orthodoxy and tradition.

    Personally, my biggest six-string hero of the second millennium was Claudio Monteverdi. Guitar groups could do much worse imitating the ensemble efforts of the 1610 Vespers.

  2. Tradition and orthodoxy, properly understood, are not static but allow for development which builds upon previous forms and derives organically from them.

    Polyphony triumphed in the face of conservatism, not tradition.

  3. First, I have the book; had to leave it at home as it requires its own suitcase and we've gotten to PA with carry on only. Yay!
    Two, it reads as well or smoother than Ruff and that's saying something.

    Funny, Todd, I was just listening to the 1610 over last Weds./Thurs. The Learner recording if I recall. I'm more inclined to the Vspr. Vigil of St. John B, I think. But lutes don't play such a big role in cori spezzati stuff in any case.
    If guitar groups would do their homework like re-creationists such as the Baltimore Consort, then heads would turn with a smile.
    I don't know that I'd agree that classic polyphony "triumphed." If anything, it persevered through its own noble DNA, which Mssr. Claude Greenmountain and his Venetian cohorts co-opted and sewed onto their beloved emergent operatic genre.
    X post with MS Forum: WHY DIDN'T ANYONE TELL ME PENNSYLVANIA HAD BLUE LAWS ON SUNDAY? How am I supposed to shop?

  4. Monteverdi was a gambist, though. And while the lute is only part of the ensemble (I saw Paul O'Dette with Tragicomedia performing the 1610 Vespers–still one of the best three concerts I've enjoyed in my life) it's been a very long time since I've seen guitar-dominated groups in church.

    Being part of an ensemble (as either a guitarist or a pianist) is far more enriching that being a lone accompanist, even if it is on the organ. Here's to ensembles! Have a happy colloquium, Charles.

  5. I think the obvious follow-up volume would be the Christian East and its singers. I wish I knew more about that repertoire of chant: the Eastern, Oriental and Chaldean varietals.

  6. I enjoy recordings by Gothic Voices (dir. Page) very much, particularly the ones having to do with the chant of the trouvères. With lute accompaniment, these noble chants nearly represent a model. What might contemporary sacred music have looked like ca. 1970 had musicians taken it as such? The melodies of trouvères like Gace Brulé are very like chant.


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