Of Music and Musicians

The feast of St Cecilia is a good day on which to think about music and musicians. Let me say straight away that I am very average choir fodder. Indeed, when being taught to sing plainchant, I so exasperated my teacher that she exclaimed, ‘It’s just a matter of intelligence!’ Whereupon, to my eternal discredit, I did an off-the-cuff translation of one of the trickier hymns in the Hymnale. Pride 1; humility nil.

Inability to sing or play should not be confused with the ability to enjoy. There are very few who do not enjoy music, although we certainly don’t all enjoy the same music. I think it’s no accident that the concept of ‘heavenly harmony’ and the ‘music of the spheres’ runs so deeply through western culture and civilization. For instance, I often use the image of playing a string quartet to describe the dynamic of community living. Each brings to the whole an individual talent, but through intense listening to each other, periods of silence as well as playing, something greater and more beautiful is produced than one alone could achieve.

So today, when we thank God for the joy and beauty that music and musicians bring to our lives and to the liturgy of the Church, we might also spend a few moments thinking about something less abstract: the way in which we ourselves contribute to the music of the universe. We may be only ‘average choir fodder’ but we each have something worth giving.

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Pitch-Pipes Are No More

iChant Gergorian Keyboard
iChant Gregorian Keyboard

While the rest of humanity was preparing for the end of the world, we were playing with iChant Gregorian, one of those iPhone apps one wishes one had designed oneself and about which I tweeted a few days ago. It is essentially a keyboard which helps one practise singing by enabling transpositions on the fly. So, no more incantations of ‘it’s fourth mode transposed, so . . .’ or ‘the reciting note will be A but . . .’ or ‘the semitones are . . .’ and some fumbling with the pitch-pipe (which, in Digitalnun’s hands, at least, can lead to unexpected results.) It’s £1.79/$2.99 in the iTunes store; so, if you love singing the chant but are not a brilliant musician, I recommend it to you as a great help, much easier and more convenient than dashing up to the organ loft or digging out a pitch-pipe. Click the icon below to go to the iTunes store. (N.B. we are not associated with the developer or with Apple.)

iChant Gregorian

 

 

 

 

 

 

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