Plain Song is the name by which is known a variety of Church music, more commonly and incorrectly called Gregorian. It was not invented by Pope Gregory, but was systematised and much improved by him. The decree of Pope Benedict XIV, in 1590, defines Plain Song as follows:
"This is the chant which S. Gregory labored so much to direct and to mould upon the rules of the musical art, a chant which excites the souls of the faithful 'to piety and devotion, and which if it be rightly and becomingly sung in the Churches of God, is heard with greater satisfaction by pious Christians and is deservedly more esteemed than ought else that is styled music."
The use of this style of Church Music has never died out in the Roman Catholic Churches, and within the last two decades there has been a remarkable revival of it in the Church of England and to a lesser degree in the American Church. This revival is chiefly owing to the life-long labors of the Rev. Thomas Helmore, ably seconded by the Rev. Messrs. Wilberforce Doran, Spenser Nottingham, Richard Redhead, A. H. Brown, C. Warwick Jordan, and other clergymen and organists of the English Church, and every year a large Gregorian music festival is held in S. Paul's Cathedral, London.
It is believed by antiquarians that Plain Song has its foundation upon the music which was sung by the Christians in the Apostolic age, and, consequently, traces its origin to the Jewish Temple Chant. At first it was transmitted by oral tradition only, but after the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, schools of singing were established. A "Schola Cantorum" was founded. in Rome in the fourth century by Pope Sylvester. Towards, the close of that century, S. Ambrose, the great Bishop of Milan, made the first attempt to reduce the traditional melodies to a definite system, and he introduced the four Authentic Modes in which the most ancient melodies are written. These are the modes now known as the first, third, fifth, and seventh. In the sixth century, Pope Gregory further improved the system, and added the Plagal Modes, now known as the second, fourth, sixth, and eighth. In the eighth century, four more modes, two authentic. and two plagal, were added.
These modes were named also in addition to being numbered. These names, derived from the Greek, are as follows: (1) Dorian, authentic, beginning on D; (2) Hypo-Dorian, plagal, beginning on A, a fourth below D; (3) Phrygian, beginning on E; (4) Hypo-Phrygian, beginning on B; (5) Lydian, beginning on F; (6) Hypo-Lydian, beginning on C; (7) Mixolydian, beginning on G; (8) Hypo-Mixolydian, beginning on D; (9) AEolian, beginning on A; (10) Hypo-AEolian, beginning on E; (11) Ionian, beginning on C; and (12) Hypo-Ionian, beginning on G. The even numbered modes are authentic, and the odd ones plagal.
-"The Church Review," Volume 55 "show more