« Ambrose, Isaac Ambrosian Chant Ambrosians »

Ambrosian Chant

AMBROSIAN CHANT: A lively, rhythmical, melodious congregational song, which grew out of a union of the ancient Greek musical system 152 in four keys with the traditional Church psalmody. Whether it was introduced by Ambrose, bishop of Milan (374-397), or whether he merely regulated and improved it, is not certain. The singing had been confined to the choir (Gk. psaltai, Lat. cantores), who recited the psalms and prayers in monotonous fashion with no fixed rules. The new Ambrosian tunes were lively and joyous, all took part in the singing, and the people found pleasure and enjoyment in it. Augustine in his Confessions (IX. vii. 15; X. xxxiii. 50) speaks in glowing terms of the effect of this new method of singing, which was executed “with a clear voice and modulation most suitable.” Antiphonal or responsive singing between men and women, congregational choirs, or congregation and choir, borrowed from the Greek Church, came particularly into use (see Antiphon). As text Ambrose used the Greek and Latin hymns already existing, both rimed and unrimed. He also composed hymns himself, generally without rimes, but well adapted to the melodies; as Deus creator omnium; Jam surgit hora tertia; Æterne rerum conditor; Veni redemptor gentium; perhaps also O lux beata Trinitas; Splendor paternæ gloriæ.

The Ambrosian music spread rapidly and was soon dominant throughout the West. But in course of time an artificial and profane manner crept in, which, toward the close of the sixth century, called forth the Gregorian reaction; and thus the singing in the churches was again confined to the choirs or the clergy. The popular, fresh, congregational singing of the Reformation period may be regarded as a partial revival of the ancient Ambrosian chant.

M. Herold.

Bibliography: H. A. Daniel, Thesaurus hymnologicus, Halle, 1841; C. Fortlage, Gesänge christlicher Vorzeit, Berlin, 1844; F. J. Mone, Lateinische Hymnen des Mittelalters, 3 vols., Freiburg, 1853-54; J. Kayser, Beiträge zur Geschichte und Erklärung der ältesten Kirchenhymnen, Paderborn, 1881; F. Gevært, Les origines du chant liturgique dans l’église latine, Paris, 1890; M. Dreves, Aurelius Ambrosius der “Vater des Kirchengesangs,” Freiburg, 1893; H. A. Köstlin, Geschichte der Musik, Berlin, 1899.

« Ambrose, Isaac Ambrosian Chant Ambrosians »
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