Monday, August 13, 2012

Enchanting chanting

Yesterday at church we soared like eagles and attempted the Gregorian "Salve Regina." Well, I attempted it. Everyone else knew it better than I did.

Which did not stop me from singing two lines pretty much solo. Ha, ha! We hit a part where the women were supposed to sing a line separately from the men and that is what I sang. Unfortunately none of the other women really stepped up to the plate and so there was my voice, echoing through the church.

That was a funny feeling!

Especially since I really did not know what I was doing.

I sang the lines: "O clement, o pia." That is "O clement, o loving." You can hear it from about 1:30 to about 1:38. Please note, this is not our performance! These are singers from somewhere else in this recording.

After Mass the organist, Josephine, and I got talking and we agreed it is too bad that the average person no longer knows any of these chants. I mean, I did not know the "Salve Regina." I know the prayer because it is my favorite prayer. I love the words: "Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope." But I did not know the chant melody.

Imagine back when people knew all these chants off the top of their heads. You would know when Mahler worked one of them into a symphony, when Verdi or Puccini or Respighi quoted one. You would recognize it. But alas, no more.

There are various versions of the "Salve Regina." It is a famous prayer.

There is one horrifying instance in opera where you hear it. At the end of Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmelites" the nuns sing the "Salve Regina" as they go to the guillotine one by one. This opera was unfortunately based on a true story. There were these nuns who were martyered in the French Revolution. Their feast day is July 17. What savage days. What an awful thing the French Revolution was. A terrible time and a big blot on the history of France if you ask me.

That is a Metropolitan Opera production with Jessye Norman as the Mother Superior. She has such presence. If I were, God forbid, in that situation, I would want Jessye Norman as my Mother Superior, I will tell you that right now.

Anyway. Not a good thing to watch before bed, you know?

I think I will go back to the chant.

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