Happy Birthday Dom Joseph Pothier!
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|Dom Joseph Pothier (b. 1835) – French monk (Benedictine), Gregorian chant scholar, composer – Les mélodies grégoriennes: d’après la tradition (French Edition) / Traditional Gregorian Melodies (1880)
Read about Joseph Pothier here
Read about the restoration of Gregorian Chant
[Restoration of Gregorian chant] began at Solesmes in 1853, when the Bishop of Le Mans asked Dom Guéranger to help in restoring the true chant in his diocese. Although he could not undertake this work himself, he directed his monks to return to the medieval manuscripts which were the first written sources of the chants.15
He assigned one of his monks, Dom Paul Jausions, to study and research the sources of Gregorian chant in order to aid in the restoration of the chants. He undertook this research with his assistant, Dom Joseph Pothier, at different libraries, searching for the manuscripts that contained the ancient notation. They discovered that in the manuscripts prior to the 16th Century the chant had been preserved “very often note for note and group for group.”
From that time on, the chants had suffered from “all sorts of alterations and mutilations.” These were the result of their being performed badly or as Dom Pothier called it a “hammered execution” which resulted in “a heavy and tedious succession of square notes, incapable of suggesting the least bit of feeling or of saying anything whatsoever to the soul,” as Dom Guéranger described it. The research undertaken for restoring the chants to their “primitive purity” resulted in the publication of Dom Pothier’s first edition of the restored chants in the Liber Gradualis in 1883.
The melodies of Gregorian chant are supposed to enhance the accents of the sacred Latin text and create “a musical phrase” that would be a natural extension of the written phrase. The melodies are based upon the actual accent patterns of the syllables of the language and naturally build upon them. The texts themselves are already prayers, but this chant is superadded to them and becomes a means to enter more deeply into that prayer.
Gregorian chant is intended to come forth naturally from the words and to express by its melodies a prayer, producing mystical effects in the soul.
Read the Cantus Mariales by Dom Joseph Pothier, 1903 music score of Gregorian chant
Listen to a 1930 recording of monks at the St Pierre de Solesmes Abbey singing Gregorian chant
“The abbey is noted for its crucial contribution to the advancement of the Roman Catholic liturgy and the revival of Gregorian chant.”
Visit the Solesmes Abbey website