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Saturday, January 17, 2004
  Gregorian Chant Mass for Christmas Day: Kyrie
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, Volume 1 CD 1 Track 4

Before hearing the first note of this piece my ear is prepared by two notions I have long held about Gregorian Chant. The first is that, unfairly, I think of Gregorian chant to be monotone. The second is that plainchant notation simply looks good on paper. This piece, which presents gentle cascades of notes that carry a petition for mercy, is a fine example of the aesthetic appeal this notation can have. However, it is also a rich piece to hear. Contradicting my monotone notion, the melody here is in constant motion.

Remarkably, in spite of lasting a mere one minute and forty-nine seconds, this Kyrie expresses an emotional AABBAA form. In a piece so short, it is also surprising to have this much repetition. We hear the "Lord Have Mercy" twice, "Christ Have Mercy" twice, and then return to the repeated "Lord Have Mercy."

What I like about this Kyrie is that within such an elegant and economical range it accomplishes a climax at the most appropriate moment which is the repeat of "Christ Have Mercy." It is important that this phrase is repeated because with the second hearing the listener may understand the delicate petition this chant carries. 

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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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