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Ronald M. Clancy

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Sacred Christmas Music
by Ronald M. Clancy   

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Books by Ronald M. Clancy
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Publisher:  Sterling Publishing ISBN-10:  1402758111 Type: 


Copyright:  October 2008 ISBN-13:  9781402758119

Barnes &
christmas classics ltd.
Christmas Classics Ltd.

A lavishly illustrated and unique perspective of the history of Christmas music from the early years of Christianity to the 20th century.

Publisher: Sterling Publishing

* Inspirational Collection of Christmas Music spanning two thousand years

* Fabulous Period Art

* Excellent Primer on Development of Western Music

* Biblical Citations

* Soaring Instrumental and Choral Music

* Quintessential Addition to Christmas Music Library


* Exquisite collection of magnificent fine art, many full-page color plates, from the great museums and libraries of the Western World, including works by Fra Angelico, Jean Fouquet, Hans Memling, Jan Van Eyck, Pieter Bruegel, and Raphael, plus sacred illuminations from great choral and church manuscripts and Books of Hours.

* Gregorian chant, motets, Latin hymns, carols, and classicalworks by Bach, Handel, Corelli, Palestrina, Desprez, Victoria,and Sweelinck.

* Lyrics of all hymns and carols

* Sensational CD of 16 tracks with performances by world renowned choirs, orchestras, and vocalists.
The Early Years of Music
Western music was in some ways simpler in the early days of Christianity. In the age of Roman rule, music was primarily composed for poetry. In fact, the term "music" designated "sung poetry" in ancient times. Choral music was popular, but it was generally sung in one voice no matter what the vocal ranges of the singers. Singing in two, three, or four voices was probably not in practice. The basic musical instruments of the time were the aulos, an ancient Greek and prominent wind instrument, which is a reed instrument more similar to the oboe than the flute, and the lyre. The aulos accompanied drama, and the lyre, a harp like instrument with a history dating as far back as 3000 B.C., was normally used for songs. In brief, there was little innovation to Western music in the early stages of the first millennium.
The advance of Western music was given its greatest shove to glory by the Christian Church. It is imperative, if one wants to fully appreciate the general history of that music, to be able to link it directly with the liturgy. There is very little history of folk or non-liturgical music in the Western World until the late Middle Ages, save for precious few extant examples of notated secular music. Although there are many documents that provide evidence for the practice of (or against) music, which of itself constitutes a rich history, one might see how music was made to become a servant of the Christian faith by making the connection to Church liturgy.
The liturgical organization of the Mass for the early Christian Church was partly based on the Jewish set of services. This was understandable since the Apostles and the first Christian disciples were Jews who accepted Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. It is this heritage that allowed for the Jewish form of biblical worship to take hold as the basic structure of Christian worship within sixty years of Christ’s death and resurrection. The extensive use of the Bible for worship was an integral part of the liturgical rite of the Jerusalem Church, begun by St. James its first bishop, which set the standards of worship for the new churches from Antioch to Rome. It was not until the fourth century when liturgical books make their appearance.
Early Church music was a form of chant derived from the Jewish synagogue. The development of chant in the early Church was highly influenced by Greek, the common language
of the Roman Empire, and likely adopted even by Jewish synagogues outside of Palestine. The nature of this chant was a melting pot of Jewish, Syrian, and Greek musical systems; and Psalm tones were clearly derived from synagogue practice. Although Greek was the common language of the Roman Empire, Latin would eventually become the official liturgical language of the Church since it was already the literary and diplomatic standard of Rome. Because Latin was common to the city of Rome and other regions of Italy, it may have also been spoken along with a vernacular dialect by the Roman army as it marched throughout the vast reaches of empire.
Not sanctioned as part of the Church liturgy was the use of musical instruments. The early Church fathers, including St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.), the Bishop of Hippo and Doctor of the Church, were particularly appalled by such a prospect. In fact, they felt music was too seductive and might become a lure and end unto itself. The Church fathers rejection of all musical instruments from Christian worship was also due to their association with pagan orgiastic rites and the barbarities of the Roman coliseum. Some Church elders wanted an outright ban on all music; but in their attempts to convert humanity to the Christian faith they were forced to concede that some music, which could be uplifting, should be allowed into church’s official prayers in order to compete in the arena of souls. Most importantly, ancient people were accustomed to public speech, whether religious or political, being intoned or set to music pitches. This was particularly so in poetry, which was always sung.
The chants of the early Christian Church consisted mainly of Psalms and the great canticles, including: 1) Nunc dimittis (from Luke II: 29-32), 2) Magnificat (from Luke I: 46-55), and 3) Benedictus (from Luke I: 68-79). The singers were at first the Christian faithful, but by the fourth century, the chant repertoire was becoming complex enough to require trained singers, who were increasingly part of the clerical hierarchy, or choir monks in a monastery. They chanted these texts monophonically, i.e., in a single melodic line. For example, in the Ambrosian liturgy of Milan the cantor would sing verses of the Psalms and Readings, and the congregation a simple refrain. In many places the singing of women was mostly frowned upon because it was believed that men were readily aroused by the sounds of women's voices. In some regions, the congregation was split into two sections, each singing verses of the Psalms, and eventually separate books for readers and the choir were compiled for use in the Mass and the Divine Office.

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