Dear Friends in Christ,
This week I'm going to start tackling "The Lord's Prayer". I had never sung the Lord's Prayer in church before attending G.A. and it isn't a 'standard practice' in the Lutheran Church. Now, I've certainly sung my fair share of modern settings of the Lord's Prayer at weddings and funerals, but the version that we sing, Plainsong Chant, was new to me. Let's begin with defining Plainsong. I found the following information of the development of chant and wanted to share it with you. I have visions of Christians in those early years following the death and resurrection of Jesus in primitive church services beginning the development of what would become our liturgy.
After attending synagogue services on the Sabbath, the early Christians repaired to the house of one of their members for agape, or love feast, a reenactment of the Last Supper and of the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ. Synagogue cantors attended the agape, and they brought a sophisticated music to a fledgling faith. From cantorial song and from the melodic evolution of simple declamation, a profusion of liturgical chants developed by the 4th and 5th centuries. As the church spread, different traditions of chant arose, the most important being Byzantine, Old Roman, Gallican, and Mozarabic. The chant of Rome had developed by the time of Pope Gregory I (The Great; 590 - 604), after whom the whole body of Roman chant is named.
Under the reign of a Byzantine pope, Vitalian (657 - 672), the liturgy and chant of Rome underwent a thorough reformation, the fruits of which were designed for the exclusive use of the papal court. It was this chant that Charlemagne, some 150 years later, spread throughout the Frankish Empire as a part of his attempts at political unification. Vitalian (or Carolingian) chant, although highly ornamented, was characterized by great clarity of melodic line. As befitted the accentual patterns of the free prose texts, the chant melodies were written in a free rhythm using notes of long and short duration in proportion of two to one.
Largely because of the rise of Polyphony, by the 11th century the subtleties of Vitalian chant were quite lost. All notes were given the same basic duration, and thus rhythm was no longer proportional but equalist (hence the term cantus planus or plainsong), and ornamentation gradually disappeared.
Beginning in the 12th century the melodic notes themselves were tampered with, and by the early 16th century the melodies had been ruthlessly truncated.
More to follow next week on how the version of The Lord's Prayer that we sing came to G.A. but I'd like to reach out to any of you longtime church members. Do you remember when G.A. started using The Lord's Prayer that we sing each week in the service?
I look forward to hearing your responses and keep those questions coming!