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On Anglican chant

February 3, 2012

When I was growing up, there was a soprano in our church’s choir who did not like to chant the psalms. A talented, conservatory-trained musician, one must attribute this dislike to her humorless Presbyterian upbringing.

Perhaps.

It is possible as well that she had never been exposed to the psalms, chanted properly and with all of the range and power that Anglican chant can provide. Absent such exposure, how can anyone really place the efforts of his small parish church choir within the larger context of a rich and living history of Anglican choral music? How often is the dislike of some item on the small scale rooted in an ignorance of what it is a shadow of? I remember watching a video of a master class given to New York City schoolchildren by Wynton Marsalis. He asked one young trumpeter how he could expect to play Handel if he did not listen to Handel.

How could one learn the many nuances of a psalm chant, and how could one understand what it means to chant the psalms, absent a similar listening?

Below, we offer Psalm 30, sung magnificently to chants by Corfe (from Lawes) and Elgar by the choir of Ely Cathedral.

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