Peter Hitchens Muses on the Wind
Accents of the British Isles

Fourth Week of Advent

Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour forth righteousness..

Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, my salvation shall not tarry:
I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions:
fear not for I will save thee:
for I am the Lord thy god, the holy one of Israel, thy Redeemer.

Lazily searching for an online text that I could copy to save myself the trouble of typing it, I found it at a blog called Chantblog. I also found there this beautiful recording of the hymn in a chant setting. It's a bit puzzling to me, as it's the Book of Common Prayer English, but is described as Gregorian chant. Was it done fairly recently, or was chant used in Cranmer's time? I don't know and don't have time to dig into the question now. 

The choir is the choir of St. Etheldreda's church, a Catholic church in London. I'll have to go back and read more about it. Did it stay Catholic through the Reformation? 

Comfort ye, my people.


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"Described as Gregorian chant."
Sometimes the expression "Gregorian chant" is used in a very wide sense, so that even you or I could compose "Gregorian chant" if it sounded sufficiently, you know, chant-like.

Also, the melody used here is very similar to the OG Gregorian chant of Rorate caeli; if you are willing to make little changes to the rhythm, and add/subtract a note here or there, then you can sing English texts to a recognizably Gregorian tune.

At risk of starting a war on Christmas Eve, I'll say that there's an advantage to not being too scrupulous about these things: it makes the tradition of plainchant something that many people can get on board with, rather than the province of experts only.

Oh, I'm not scrupulous at all. I know next to nothing about chant. The person who runs that blog seems to be an expert, so I figured he or she was using the term "Gregorian chant" fairly precisely. But I was slightly surprised that Gc would have been used in Reformation England. Maybe it's what you suggest, just enough changes to accommodate the English translation.

Oh, I wasn't suggesting you were being scrupulous. I was worried that some other reader might be--and I say that with love, knowing all too well what it's like to struggle with various forms of pedantry!

Now you have me wondering what kind of music they used in Reformation England. There's a thing called "Anglican Chant," but that (he says after peeking at Wikipedia) doesn't go back to the 16th. C.

I should know what Anglican chant is, from my now-long-ago time as an Episcopalian and more recent time in the Ordinariate. I've never known what's different about it, though. I do remember the more-or-less chant tune that we used in the Episcopal church once for this:

It was quite beautiful.

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