Mary Berry, RIP
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
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    It may interest you and the readers of your blog to know that Dr Mary Berry CBE (Sr Thomas More) died peacefully yesterday evening (Ascension Thursday, 1st May), having received the last rites. She was 90 years old.

    Mary will long be remembered for her promotion of Gregorian chant in the liturgy, both in England and around the world. She was Fellow and Director of Studies in Music at Girton and Newnham Colleges in the University of Cambridge, and the founder and director of the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge, with whom she made several exceptional recordings of Gregorian chant and sacred music. She was awarded the papal cross, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in 2000 and the CBE in the 2002 New Years Honours List.


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    Mother Thomas More, Canoness Regular of St Augustine (Dr. Mary Berry) will also be remembered as former director of Ward Method Studies for Great Britain, a student of many years of Nadia Boulanger and Thurston Dart as well as Dom Eugene Cardine, it was she who, while doing research at the Bibliotheque National in Paris in 1967 uncovered the original melody of "O Come O Come Emmanuel" in a 15th century processionale, at a time when most scholars had written the tune off as a 19th century invention.

    She will be missed by her many students who loved her and the countless numbers that attended her workshops all over the world, a brilliant pedagogue and a tireless and courageous promoter of Gregorian Chant as a living tradition. A truly great scholar, but one who was never satisfied to simply rest in the ivory towers of academia, but who was a true apostle of the Chant.

    I shall be forever grateful to her for taking on a rather foolish 17 year old Californian as a student nearly 30 years ago. A truly life changing moment. Thank you Dr. Berry! May your students ever live up to the high standards you set for us, and please God, that it bear fruit, as you often prayed, in Holy Church.

    Requiescat in pace.

    Jeffrey Morse,
    Precentor & Master of the Choristers,
    St Stephen the First Martyr Church,
    Sacramento, California.
    Jeffrey Morse | 05.02.08 | #

    Gravatar How beautiful to die, as St Bede did, on the very feast of Our Lord's Ascension into heaven. May He receive her soul unto Himself, to eternal repose in a place of refreshment, light, and peace.
    Joshua | Homepage | 05.03.08 | #

    Gravatar Requiescat in pace.
    I am sorry I only met her three times, but she was so nice to us that I will always remember her simplicity.
    Philippe Guy | 05.03.08 | #

    Gravatar I had the privilege to have been able to sing with the Schola Gregoriana several times while I was studying at Cambridge, and to have sung Mass for them. Dr. Berry was a wonderful person, and we must pray that she soon experience the heavenly liturgy with Our Lord.
    Fr. Marshall Roberts | 05.03.08 | #
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    by the way, I had never heard of the case of Veni Veni before. Very striking!
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    Jeffrey,

    Thank you for posting this. Dr. Berry's scholarship, musicality and enthusiaism helped keep alight the love of singing chant at a time when the Church to which she dedicated her life seemed to have forgotten it. I'm so glad that she lived to see a resurgence of appreciation not simply of its beauty, but also of its proper place in the liturgy.

    Regards,

    Ian.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Scott turkington was talking to her about an article or interview for Sacred Music only a few months ago.

    I see that her book is only 48 pages but it is $200 in the states to purchase.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    It doesn't matter how long life is; it always turns out too short!

    I just hope someone at C.U.P. notices the market price and burgeoning interest in the subject, and considers a reprint. It would be testimony to the value of her work, in more than one sense.
  • Jeffrey MorseJeffrey Morse
    Posts: 202
    Jeffrey, not many know of Mary Berry's delightful discovery of the tune for "O come O Come" though some newer hymnals give her credit, as does the New Oxford Book of Carols. The melody was found as a trope for the Requiem Responsary LIBERA ME in a processsionale of the 15th century in use by Franciscan nuns. On the opposite page is a note for note harmony which is charming. Dr. Berry's book CANTORS, originally published by Oxford University Press (and originally sold with a cassette of the men and boys of Westminster Cathedral singing the contents) has been expanded and is due to be republished by Paraclete Press. Mary was working on the new forward when she died. She also reviewed for Gramophone for many years, her last review will be in the July issue. She also wrote a brilliantly simple introduction to Chant called PLAINCHANT FOR EVERYONE, published by the Royal School of Church Music, and available in this country through GIA (in their RSCM publications series).
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    That's really great about keeping her material in print.

    I'm completely intrigued by this Veni information. For as long as I can remember, I've believed it to be 19th century, though I'm not sure why, and with that has come a slight tendency to look down on it (of course). To me it does raise questions about the dating of music, and keep in mind that I'm totally naive here. But it seems to me to be an obvious fallacy to date a piece by the earliest known physical copy, especially concerning chant melodies, especially those without specific liturgical function. Music is not like painting for example. It can be transmitted audibly for potentially hundreds of years before it is written down, not to mention that written materials are not always preserved. this whole thing has made me very curious. Maybe I've read something on the method here or maybe not, I don't recall. But I would be interested to know. What is the best source on discussion of this topic of the method of dating chants? Is there controversy here or do all musicologists agree on a specific standard?

    Of course you also know, Jeffrey, that I have to ask you to write more on her work for Sacred Music!
  • Jeffrey MorseJeffrey Morse
    Posts: 202
    The first appearance of "O Come O Come" with the melody we all now know first appeared in 1854 in Part II of the HYMNAL NOTED, edited by Thomas Helmore. Helmore said that the melody had been 'copied by the late J.M. Neale from a French Missal' which he located in the National Library in Lisbon. All attempts to find this "French Missal" failed, and the compilers of HYMNS ANCIENT AND MODERN in 1906 drew a complete blank. By the mid-20th century, scholars thought it may well have been Helmore himself who had written it, hiding behind a "medieval source", he was, it seems a confirmed Pre-Raphaelite, and was a great supporter of the neo-gothic revival. Mother Thomas More (Mary Berry) found the melody quite be accident in 1966 at the Bibliotheque National in Paris in a text that had nothing to do with Advent, though she did make the connexion later when writing about this discovery and the "indubitable link.... between the theology of Advent and a procession marking the passage from death to eternal life."

    Jeffrey, you are correct I think about the dating of music, and Dr Berry would most likely agree. In particular I remember her talking about that in regards the "dates" found in the Kyriale. These simpler chants of the congregation were most certainly known by heart, and only noted long after the chants of the proper. Your advocacy of Gloria XV is a good one, she would talk about that one in particular as being even earlier than the dates given, it is rather simple and extremely beautiful and Dr Berry would often say repetitious "almost like a psalm-tone", this was proof of its antiquity to her. Of course musicologists follow a certain scientific method, but I don't think that many in the field of Gregorian Chant would suggest that the earliest layer of Gregorian Chant found in say the CANTATORIUM OF ST GALL only date from the last half of the 9th century since that is when they were written down, scholars of course know that before notation, the chants were all transmitted orally. Mary Berry would teach her students that one could surmise in regards the Chants of the proper those that were the oldest(but not the actual date of course) by looking at how many manuscripts a particular chant appeared in, the theory being that an older chant would have had more time to "make the rounds" and therefore appear in more manuscripts.These manuscript sources are represented by letters in the Graduale Triplex to make it easier to guess at their antiquity. Of course later chants can be dated with a bit more certainty, but it is an educated guess most of the time. As in most academic fields there is always controversy and disagreement.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    Jeffrey M,

    Thanks for the news about the re-publishing of "Cantors". One of the problems with lending others books which you think they'll appreciate is that sometimes the books don't return!

    I hope you take up Jeffrey T's suggestion for a Musica Sacra article on Mary. The last time she spoke at Spode Music Week (of which she was a patron), she recounted something of the origins of her love of chant scholarship in a visit to a France as a young woman, before moving on to a detailed examination of chant development and analysis, complete with illustrative paradigmatic analyses. It would be interesting to know more of the development of her work, in relation to wider movements in analysis, chant scholarship, liturgy and performance.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    With your article, which doesn't have to be long, perhaps we can also publish her discovered music in modern notes?
  • Jeffrey MorseJeffrey Morse
    Posts: 202
    Ian, the trip to Solesmes in the early 1930's was also the beginning of her conversion to the Catholic Church. Of course it was to confirm her in her life's work as well. She and her father (who was a fellow of Downing College, Cambridge) went to Solesmes so that she could write an essay for an academic prize. The musical world was buzzing about Solesmes in those days, so she thought she would have a better chance of winning the prize choosing Chant and Solesmes as a subject. Dr Berry said the "musical" conversion came while listening to the responsaries of the the Office of Tenebrae, and in many of the verses of the responsaries there is a beautiful little melodic phrase which comes up quite often, of a descending melody of torculi, familiar to those who have sung those responsaries. When she heard that, she realised this was real music and she was hooked. Of course, perhaps she related this all in her talk at Spode Music Week.

    Jeffrey, it is flattering to be asked to write an article for Sacred Music about Dr Berry, I don't know if I am the right person for the job. Perhaps Bill Mahrt would want to do this? The idea of publishing the melody and the note for note harmony of the Veni is a good one I think. If I can help in anyway, let me know, I would be honored.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    The London Times has published an obituary.