ABOUT THIS CD
This collection of Gregorian chants was assembled for a performance in the Fall of 2002 at Sakya Monastery of Tibetan Buddhism in Seattle. Designing that program, in which we would share the monastic tradition with contemplatives of another religious tradition, offered us a special opportunity to explore more deeply the meaning of music designed for meditation, and to identify shared aspirations. Tibetan Buddhismâ€™s cherished values of wisdom and compassion became our focus. Our goal was to articulate those values as they are expressed in the Christian tradition and the Gregorian chant repertoire.
In Christianity the icon of compassion is Mary, who made the choice to open herself, taking on the difficulty of birth, the challenges of nurturance, and the heartache of profound loss, so that a higher order of compassion could be available to the world. Divine wisdom (in Greek, â€œSophiaâ€) is a powerful presence in Eastern Christianity. In the West, the fertile soil of monastic spirituality, out of which Gregorian chant springs, is in its own way a repository of the wisdom of the heart, the wisdom of contemplation.
The fruit of this union between Wisdom and Compassion is selfless love, known in the Christian tradition as Agape or Caritas: a clear-eyed, completely honest sense of the Spirit of Christ, embracing and transforming the humanity in our hearts and in the hearts of all those we encounter. And this love leads in turn to the action of making peace. As in the time of the Psalmist, Jerusalem remains today the most thorny, difficult and vivid image of the challenges of peaceâ€”this ancient city symbolizes both the longing in our own hearts for connection and the sharp hard stones that stand in our way. And so we conclude with chants for the peace of Jerusalem.
PEREGRINE MEDIEVAL VOCAL ENSEMBLE
Peregrine was founded in 1993 by Joseph Anderson and Bill McJohn. The six current members are artists-in-residence at St. Markâ€™s Cathedral in Seattle; the group is also affiliated with the Center for Sacred Art. For the members of Peregrine, singing Gregorian Chant is a profound spiritual experience, practiced within community.
As a group our work is both meditative and collaborative. We believe entirely in the process of singing together, feeling our way to the truth of each chant through experimentation, dialog, and listening. As part of cultivating spontaneity in our singing, we explore improvisation in the singing of Psalms. Using medieval church modes, we take turns at rendering the Psalm texts in ways that are colored with our individual understandings and energies. We also make use of both polyphony and harp accompaniment to color and enrich the simplicity of the chant. These experiments carry forward the great medieval music traditions of improvisation and elaboration.
As individuals, we have varied relationships with the texts we sing: our members come from Catholic, Jewish, Episcopal, evangelical Protestant and Congregational backgrounds. This diversity has quite naturally led us to a multifaith orientation. We sing chants within Christian contexts, honoring the teachings and rhythms of that tradition; we also sing for and with contemplatives of other spiritual traditions. With each other, our collaborators, and our audiences, we seek common ground: universals that allow us to hold our own convictions and yet be together in harmonious accord.