Christian chant goes back to the very earliest Christian communities and even further, to the Psalms themselves which traditionally were sung rather than read. Today I’ve written a few chants which I am hoping to use at some point in the future. Having spent time with interfaith groups, I know that there are great chanting traditions in the Eastern traditions (Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism) but other than Taizé, Christianity often seems to get left out here. I found a beautiful Jewish chant while I was doing a bit of research which you might enjoy as it is based on words of Moses – Ana El Na Refa Na La
Taizé is my inspiration for singing songs to celebrate the Lord and I am really hoping that writing my own chants will help me express the peace and presence of God that I feel when I sing Taizé music. When I release a CD of chants, you’ll have to let me know what you think!
There’s something about chanting which reminds me of something I read recently about ‘slow prayer’. Here’s the extract – “St. Teresa of Ávila recommended this technique to another nun: Pray the Lord’s Prayer, but take an hour to pray it. Spend a few minutes entering into each individual phrase, until it becomes truly the prayer of your heart, and you become the prayer.” I’ve got a lot of time for the contemplative saints and this quote really rings true for me. By chanting you can grow in the words you are singing. They can mean something different to you each time round. They can reach a crescendo and they can be soft. It’s a beautiful experience to sing chants, and that’s why I love Taizé. The simplicity of the words lets you really open yourself up to their meaning.
So when I was writing some of these chants earlier I was using the words from various Anglican rosaries, which I discovered just this morning! I hadn’t realised that rosaries had made it into the Anglican tradition but have really enjoyed reading about them today. They’ve been around since the mid-1980s according to this website – http://www.kingofpeace.org/prayerbeads.htm. I have toyed with the idea of setting a whole rosary to music and recording it the right number of times so that it is like singing a rosary. I’d love your thoughts on that one!
Chanting is a way to sustain personal prayer. As St. Augustine said, ‘Singing is praying. He who sings prays twice.’ Beautiful! Today I have really felt the unity of these different things – that chanting is a way to pray slowly and thoughtfully, to delve into a relationship with God by using beautiful music to open up the heart and receive the love which God is desperate to share with us all. Here is a chant I’d love to use at some point (I’m working on my Hebrew!) The words are from Hosea 2:18. Video below.
VECHARAT I LAHEM BRIT BAYOM HA-HU
IM CHAYAT HASADE VE IM OF
HASHAMAYIM VE REMES HA-ADAMA
VEKESHET BE-CHEREV U-MILCHAMA ESHBOR
MIN HA-ARETZ VEHISHKATI LAVETACH (BIS)
In this day I make a covenant
with the beasts and the birds
with all creatures that walk on this earth
and bow, and sword, and battle disappear from the land
so that all may safely rest