Photos by Marc Salvatore
Schola Cantus Angelorum, a six-member choir, leads the Mass in Gregorian chant.
Photos by Marc Salvatore
Schola Cantus Angelorum, a six-member choir, leads the Mass in Gregorian chant.
AMITY — Archbishop Alexander Sample celebrated Mass in Latin at the Brigittine Priory here, accompanied by a group singing Gregorian chant. He praised the Tridentine liturgy.

One alluring aspect of the sung liturgy in both the New and the Old Form is the Gregorian chant, which many say creates a contemplative experience.

“Whatever name it goes by, it is alive and well in the Church, praise God,” the archbishop said in the closing liturgy of a three-day conference on Gregorian Chant.

After the second Vatican Council the modern Mass or Novus Ordo eclipsed the ancient rite.

In 2007 Pope Benedict told bishops they could freely celebrate both forms of the traditional liturgy.

Since then, many Catholics who had remained attached to pre-Vatican II Mass have been able to observe their faith more freely, and younger generations have been introduced to this form of the liturgy.

“There is a resurgence of interest in Gregorian chant,” said Dean Applegate, founder of Cantores in Ecclesia, a group that sings Gregorian chant and polyphony in Portland parishes.

Polyphony, introduced in the 14th and 15th centuries, is sung in harmonizing parts — for example, alto or tenor — as opposed to chant, which is sung in unison.  

Chant flourished during the 6th century papacy of St. Gregory the Great, and so it came to be known as Gregorian chant.

During the liturgy, like the one celebrated by Archbishop Sample, parts of the Mass are chanted by a choir.

Learning how chant pairs with the liturgy brought enthusiasts together for the conference organized by Dr. Lynne Bissonnette-Pitre and Yumiko Rinta, leaders of Cantus Angelorum. Four sung Gregorian Masses were celebrated during the weekend including two in the (old) Extraordinary Form and two in the (new) Ordinary Form. This was the third conference Bissonnette-Pitre has organized, and Bishop Liam Cary has invited her to do a fourth in the Baker Diocese Aug. 21 -24.

“It happens every time at the end, all of the people have a sense of oneness, a cohesion, a joy,” she said. “I know it’s because the liturgy with theGregorian chant is woven through the entire conference.”

She first heard chant in a Benedictine monastery when she was a child. In the 1990s, she began studying the music, which retired Pope Benedict described as “singing with the angels” before the throne of God.

Bissonnette-Pitre and Rinta were both singers in the Catheral choir but left to focus on Gregorian chant.

Eventually, the two formed a six-member group, which is not attached to a particular parish.

In the monastic life at the priory in Amity, the monks chant the Liturgy of the Hours at certain times each day with the rosary and spiritual reading.  The monks also celebrate Latin Gregorian-chanted Masses, sung by Cantus Angelorum, once per month and on feast days. The group will chant there during the Triduum and on Easter Sunday at 11 a.m. with Archbishop Emeritus John Vlazny as celebrant.

For 18 years, Father Robert Palladino sang Gregorian chant eight times each day. He was choir director for 10 years, but left the Trappist monastery in Lafayette in 1968, when the music ministry switched to English. He taught calligraphy courses at Reed College.

Alternating with Fathers Edmond Bliven and Jon Buffington, Father Palladino celebrates Latin Masses at St. Stephen Church. He finds it more enjoyable to sing the Latin Mass than to say the English Mass.

“There is a broad cross-section of people [who attend the services],” Father Palladino said.

“Some come because they like the music; some come because they like the reverence of the Mass.”

One young girl who participated in the conference at Amity, Claire Ingram, said she was awed by the grandeur and sentiment of the music.

“Chanting is considered the perfect form of praise in the Catholic Church,” she said.

The chants that accompany services during the fourth Sunday of Lent are among Father Palladino’s favorites. He celebrated that Mass on Saturday, March 29, at St. Stephen’s.
Bissonnette-Pitre, a psychiatrist in private practice, said that music allows people to feel connected to others and to be present in the moment.

Bissonnette-Pitre hopes interest in Gregorian Chant will continue to grow.

OCP, publisher of the Catholic Sentinel newspaper, publishes a wide range of liturgical music, including Gregorian chant.

“That diversity of offerings is clearly what the worshiping Catholic community is seeking,” said Rick Modlin, manager of music development at OCP.

“And that diversity is reflected in church documents, which directly confirm the value of Gregorian chant and the work of contemporary composers.”