Sunday, February 18, 2007

Embellished with Melody

In the Catacomb of St Callistus in Rome, there is an image of Christ as a musician, following the theme of Christ as Orpheus. Clement of Alexandria, in his description of this icon, said this:

"Truly, Jesus has embellished the universe with melody and drawn the dissonance of the elements into the unity of order, so that the whole world might become harmony in his presence."

Music has been a big part of my life, as has daily prayer. I like to think of my reciting the Daily Office as a part of that larger harmony-making prayer offered to God the Father through Christ by Christians around the world. Daily prayer, my own and others', suffuses my own life with God's presence, just as the prayer of Christians the world over permeates our world and, hopefully, makes it a better place.

Recently, I have been using the one volume Benedictine Daily Prayer: A Short Breviary, with its one week cycle of psalms (versus the Roman Liturgy of the Hours four week cycle). It also includes wonderful new English translations of the Latin Office hymns. I had been exposed to these hymns in the Latin original while visiting Our Lady of Spring Bank Abbey near Sparta Wisconsin.

Most of the hymn translations feature Common Meter and I've been working on funding tunes which work for these translations. On the off chance that somemone else might use them, here is a list of the tunes I've discovered through the resource Gather Comprehensive. You can use your own imagination as to which tunes would be appropriate at which season: i.e. Advent = The King Shall Come. However, I've just found that having a variety of tunes to use with my guitar makes the Daily Office experience much more enjoyable.

Gather Hymn # Tune Name Song Title

625 Christian Love Where Charity and Love Prevail
738 McKee In Christ There Is No East or West
320 Morning Song The King Shall Come
612 New Britain Amazing Grace
614 St Anne O God Our Help in Ages Past
392 St Flavian Lord Who Throughout These Forty Days

What I am still seeking are some resources which translate chant melodies (any chant melodies!) into guitar chords I could use with the Grail psalmody. My musical skills does not include transposing the notes into chords, especially given all the odd chord progressions inherent in any scale that uses frequent sharps or flats.

Help! In the meantime I'll just keep using guitar for the introductory hymns and speaking the psalms rather than chanting them.


Samuel said...

Concerning chant and guitars... as chance would have it I was looking for that yesterday. Here are some that I found interesting:

There are more out there for the interested reader. Just google for "chant guitar tab"

Someday I'll have to learn to play my guitar to try them...

Phil B. said...

Thanks! Bonus: I have 2 teenage sons who read tabs all the time who can help me learn. I should've thought of this sooner!