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I've been listening to about 10 audio cd's by Ensemble Organum for a few months now. Ensemble Organum was founded in 1982 by Marcel Peres to perform medieval western chant from years 600 to 1600 AD. and is based in France. Lycourgos Angelopoulos (His All Holiness Bartholomew I entrusted Lycourgos with the role of the Archon Protopsaltis of the Archdiocesy of Constantinople.) appears as guest on at about a third of their 25 to 30 different recordings. Sr. Marie Keyrouz, a Melkite, was ^featured on at least 2 recordings too.

I believe they claim to perform authentic versions of ambrosian, old roman, mozarabic, beneventan and 11th century aquatainian and parisian chant.

Having heard other 1 or 2 recordings of each the ambrosian, old roman and Mozarabic chant by other Scholas and Ensembles that sound nothing like Ensemble Organum versions I now wonder who is wrong and who is right. Not to mention their Guillame de Machaut 13th century Liturgy which is night and day radically difference from all other recorded versions.

Is Ensemble Organum imagining an Eastern influenced chant in the west that never existed?
Is Lycourgos trying to "hellenize" the west? (we know he likes ecumenism with respectful RC's)

Or are the other western chant scholas imagining a western chant that either has destroyed all eastern influence in living tradition or never had it at all and existed in it's own unique stasis bubble.

I myself would like to believe that such beautiful recordings have some basis in truth and would even be accepted by Roman Catholics of today. At present I know many Roman and Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox that very much enjoy Ensemble Organum and are astounded by their interpretations. But does that really mean anything? What's the point if it's never accepted as legitimate by any Church. I fear that their methods may be doomed to history never to be tried again by anyone else..because they are considered biased and unauthentic corrupted versions of dead traditions.

I await your answers with great anxiety and impatience.


http://www.harmoniamundi.com/usa/artistes_fiche.php?artist_id=120
^This is the label they record for and a bit of their biography^

http://www.wnyc.org/shows/newsounds/episodes/2003/04/16
^A Spectular live version of Mozarabic Chant to my ears!^

http://www.romancatholicism.org/chant/chant.htm
^to hear their most well known recordings, try scrolling down this page, it is a good example of their most eastern influenced work.^

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Very quickly for now, I don't believe that Marcel Peres claims that such are precisely how these chants sounded (I remember in the notes to one of those recordings, he says something to the effect of 'far be it from us to claim to be recreating or reconstructing an `authentic` version of the chants or producing an exact reproduction of how they were once heard in churches'), as manuscripts and documents, as is generally the case in scholarly work and archaeological research, will always be lacking to some degree that it will impede even the very capable scholarship of Mr. Peres and his colleagues from offering a clear window to what was before. As such, these are good attempts on their part at offering a good taste what we might have heard as chant centuries back, but their input, deductions, and their opinions as scholars factor into the final product, hence the variations you mention when comparing with other groups. I am no musicologist and can't offer much of an opinion but the influence from the East was there and the Eastern popes and Byzantine Christian presence in Italy both did their parts in influencing the development of Western ecclesiastical music.

The group is unique in its interpretative approach, and they have been accused of bias. I wish I could know what level of impact their scholarship could have on the field of liturgics, but I certainly do hope that this Eastern angle could be explored further by others, and this of course does not exclusively mean Byzantine influence. Listening to old Mozarabic chant as interpreted by Peres, the Semitic sound is unmistakeable, and I dare say a sound Muslims in particular would find alluring.

An aside: do you know which recordings aside from that of the Ambrosian chants of the Church of Milan feature the voice of Sr. Marie Keyrouz?

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Thanks for the second link. I'm giving the festival performance a listen.

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Originally posted by Criostoir McAvoy:
... I now wonder who is wrong and who is right.
I once asked an experienced senior liturgical musician these kinds of questions, and his answer was always "yes".

What's wrong and right in liturgical chant is can become a VERY contentious issue - especially when the tradition has died out the way it did with Gregorian Chant or Old Roman Chant (and I'd imagine the other western medieval chant and polyphony traditions). Basically, everyone can have their theory, and how you apply this theory can sometimes greatly alter the nature of the the piece being sung. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that no one can "prove" that a method is right or wrong.

As for Ensemble Organum, to some degree their "hellenization" is apparently in the text; the way the melody is and the fact that an isoncratema works pretty well are in my mind indisputable. Whether or not EO's singing it right, or whether the isoncratema is correct to include is a completely seperate and unprovable issue.


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But does that really mean anything? What's the point if it's never accepted as legitimate by any Church. I fear that their methods may be doomed to history never to be tried again by anyone else..because they are considered biased and unauthentic corrupted versions of dead traditions.
I don't think legitimacy is the problem, I think the problem is that Old Roman Chant is basically irrelavant to modern liturgy, if only because no one has made books on how to sing it that your average parish can use. The widespread restoration of Gregorian Chant has been difficult (and unsuccessful!) enough; adding another even less-studied chant tradition in my view is not reasonable. Especially when there's really no consensus among Gregorianists on how Gregorian chant is really supposed to sound like (and there are thousands of sources for Gregorian Chant, versus only a few for Old Roman chant).

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I just finished listening to the Mozaribic link and it is beautiful.I'm not a musicologist, but before deciding whether a group is authentic or not you'd need to know more about the history and geography of the regions.

For example, Spain and France were formed out of independent regions and at one time the Catalan speaking region was closed off from other regions because of the geography. That's why Catalan speakers still speak a mix of Spanish and French that dates back to the Middle Ages. Perhaps some the regions where mozarabic was sung were isolated politically, historically or geographically and developed styles so different that they it seems like one of them must be fake.

You're dealing with music from a very mobile porous region accessible by water as opposed music from a remote landlocked amazonian culture that's lived in a pristine enclosed area for centuries.

What do Mozarabic Rite cantors say about the issue?Time to brush up on that spanish and visit Andalucia!


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