Neumes

For those of you who do not know, which maybe a lot.  . . neumes are old musical notation from Gregorian chant. 20 years ago, I can honestly say I had no idea what neumes were or even how to pronounce the word and probably did not care to know. The founders of my home community however, having heard Gregorian chant in a monastery in Europe, wanted our nascent Benedictine community to have such a beautiful and peaceful sound. This meant a lot of us were going to be learning Gregorian Neumes2chant!! Now I have learned more names of Gregorian musical notation than I ever wanted to know and am familiar with what the square black neumes look like on hand copied pages by long ago patient and diligent monks. I know what I see when I see it! Such was my experience in the library of the Begijnhof this night. One sister had taken me there for a lesson on proper checking out of a book; I had inadvertently not left the library book card in the proper place. In fact, I had thought the card was a stray piece of trash left in the book!!! I might just possibly be in big trouble! Fortunately, after my lesson, I was able to retrieve the offending piece of paper/ the card from my wastebasket and returned it to its rightful place in the library book recording Neumes1box. Whew, close call! However, in the Begijnhof library, which I frankly have not truly explored (filled with French, Dutch and German books and an occasional English one), is a giant book prominently displayed on a stand in front of a once operational fireplace; the book is Gregorian music, neumes for the divine offices and Mass. WOW! How old must this ancient and magnificent manuscript be?? It is old though . . . and once stood in the Begijnhof church. My interest precipitated a peek at other Begijnhof library treasures used by Beguines and sisters of previous centuries. One book was even hand copied. There is a lot to think about here . . . whoever questioned tradition? I am one small sister in an amazingly large and long train of tradition!

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