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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

That the Gregorian Chant was at its introduction performed without the aid of instruments everybody is willing to admit. Instruments are not in use to-day with the Cistercians or Carthusians, nor at the ancient church of Lyons, in France; and we see also that they have no place in the service of the Oriental Church, if we except the few sorry ones employed by the Abyssinians and Copts, of which Pococke speaks in his Travels in Egypt. From the papal choir, too, all instruments are excluded save a trumpet or two, which sound a delicate harmony at the Elevation. This choir, which is justly esteemed the most select in existence, always accompanies the Holy Father whenever he sings Solemn High Mass in any of the churches of Rome. Its members are strictly forbidden to sing anywhere else, and none but male voices are admitted among them.

The Organ.—It is generally believed that the introduction of the organ into the service of the Church was the work of Pope Vitalian, or at least that it happened during his pontificate, from A.D. 657 to 672. The first which appeared in France was that which the Emperor Constantine Copronymus sent in the year 757 to King Pepin, father of Charlemagne. This was placed in the Church of St. Corneille, in Compiègne. At first organs were of very small compass, but not many years after their introduction they assumed larger proportions. This may fairly be gathered from an expression of St. Aldhelm, who in his poem, “De Laudibus Virginitatis,” tells the admirer of music that if he despises the more humble sound of the harp he must listen to the thousand voices of the organ. The ancient cathedral of Winchester, in England, had a monster organ, which could be heard at an incredible distance. Its sound, we are told, resembled the roaring of thunder; and so huge was it that it required seventy stalwart men to feed it with air. It had four hundred pipes, twenty-six feeders, and a double row of keys. So famous was it that it formed the theme of many of the poetic effusions of the day. Wolston, the monk, wrote much about it.

Other Musical Instruments.—Besides the organ, the Anglo-Saxon Church employed a variety of other wind instruments, foremost among which was a sort of hoop sheathed in silver plates, having a number of bells hung around it. These were generally prescribed for processions out of church, but they were used also in the regular choir within.

In closing our chapter on Church music we cannot resist calling the attention of the reader to the great care our forefathers took to see that nothing should ever be sung in divine service that was not of the purest and gravest nature. To carry this out the better, some of the greatest nobles of the land would now and then volunteer their services and take an humble part with the rest of the choir in leading the sacred chant on Sundays and festivals. What a glorious and edifying thing it was, for instance, to see Richard I., Cæur de Lion—the Lion-hearted King, as he was familiarly called—take part in the choir of his own chapel and sing from the beginning to the end of service! Yes, that mighty warrior, who spread terror throughout the East by the formidable army he led to Palestine in defence of the Holy Land on the occasion of the Third Crusade, put himself on a level with his humblest subjects in singing the praises of God. “He would go up and down the choir,” says Radulf, Abbot of Coggeshall, “and arouse all the members to sing out and sing together; and he would raise his hands aloft, and take the greatest delight in directing the music on the principal solemnities.”

(For the principal matter of this chapter on Church Music and Musical Instruments we are indebted to the following works: Divina Psalmodia, by Cardinal Bona; Antiquities of the Anglo-Saxon Church, vol. ii., by Lingard; Church of Our Fathers, vol. iii. part 2, and Hierurgia, by Dr. Rock; Holy Week in the Vatican, by Canon Pope; and an article in the Dublin Review for 1836, denominated “Ecclesiastical Music.” The rest we have found in places which we cannot now recall to mind. We have been careful, however, to say nothing at random.)








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