Gregorian Chant: an Overview

Interview With Researcher Julieta Vega García

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MEXICO CITY, JUNE 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Gregorian chant continues to be the official chant of the Catholic Church of Latin rite, though composition of new works is nonexistent, says a music expert.



Julieta Vega García, who has a licentiate in philosophy and classics, with specialization in art history, and a doctorate in geography and history in the area of musicology, gave a brief overview of Gregorian chant in this interview.

Vega García is a piano teacher with a certificate from the Higher Conservatory of Music of Granada, Spain, and director of the Schola Gregoriana Iliberis since 1986. Her research is centered on Gregorian chant.

Q: What is Gregorian chant?

Vega García: It is an age-old chant, cultural patrimony of humanity and continues to be the official chant of the Roman liturgy, as John Paul II himself reminded in 2003 in a chirograph on sacred music, on the occasion of the centenary of the "motu proprio" "Tra le Sollecitudini," in which he recalled the norms of the Second Vatican Council on liturgical music.

Q: Why is it called Gregorian chant?

Vega García: Because its authorship is attributed to Pope St. Gregory the Great.

One of the points that attracts most attention in his fruitful pontificate was his zeal for the improvement of the liturgy -- his stimulus in the definitive organization of liturgical chant, known as Gregorian chant, becoming very important.

He began to dedicate him himself to the service of God at age 35. To him is owed the first great reform of the liturgy, especially of chant, hence the name Gregorian chant, which is the basis of Western liturgy.

Q: When did Gregorian chant arise?

Vega García: Its origin is in Jewish psalmody, but the first scores that are preserved were written in the Carolingian Renaissance, at the end of the ninth century.

Q: What is the relationship between Ambrosian and Gregorian chant?

Vega García: Before the unification that took place in the ninth-11th centuries, each region had its own traditions: the Ambrosian in Milan, the Visigothic-Mozarabic in Spain, the old Roman, the Gallican.

The Gregorian seems to be a synthesis between the Gallican and the old Roman. In specific pieces there is considerable relationship between the Ambrosian and Gregorian, but the Ambrosian is somewhat more ornamented melodically.

Q: Is Gregorian chant being produced at present? What is its social acceptance?

Vega García: Production, understood as composition, is really nonexistent. There is good social acceptance of this ancient repertoire, both in concerts as well as Masses, conferences, assistance to courses, and the purchase of recorded music among other types of consumption.