“But I don’t know any chant!”
Whether I’m conducting a chant training session for choir members of parish churches, choir directors, or organists, or even doing a choral anthem workshop, inevitably, someone raises their hand and states with considerable firmness and clarity, “I don’t know any chant!” Frankly, I’m glad for the honesty because it bursts open a grand opportunity to point out to people just how much chant they “know but didn’t know.”
For instance, open the hymnal in your church pew – in ANY church and go to the Advent and Christmas hymns. Most likely, one of the first hymns you will find is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Instantly, your participants will probably express a certain amount of joy in that “certainly, we know this.” Then, they know a chant. Keep going through the hymnal and they will continue to be surprised by just how much chant they have been singing their entire life and did not realize that it was a chant.
However, it does not stop there. Point out the fact that Hollywood is no stranger to Gregorian chant. Movies such as The Name of the Rose, The Hunchback of Notre Dame or even The Matrix employ Gregorian chant to evoke a certain mood or frame of mind.
We hear and experience chant in both its original context and unexpected places. Sometimes it takes a moment of thought and realization – better known as an “aha moment” – to understand that whether we know it or not, we are influenced by chant in whatever context it may be found. But, we do know some chant!
Credit for Image:http://library.umkc.edu/spec-col/chantbook/antiphon.htm