Is this music Gregorian chant or something different?


I am very taken with the music in this video. I would like to hear more of this. But I’m unaware exactly what I’m listening to.

90-second video from an evening Italian mass, Canticle of Simeon.

Trying to identify it has produced a lot of basic questions that I’ve realized I’ve never thought about before.

Firstly: is this Gregorian chant? Is it still considered chant when an organ is following/underlining the notes like that?

The parts of the modern mass that are sung by the priest: do those melodies come directly from the old Gregorian chant mass? If so, would a modern Catholic still be able to recognize them during a chanted mass?

Does all Gregorian chant use the same melodies? Or are parishes allowed to experiment with notes and melodies of their own choosing? If so, might this music above be from a standard version that I might even find a recording of?

Does anyone recognize this particular melody for the Canticle of Simeon?

ALL HELP APPRECIATED. Thank you so much.


per comment (is that yours?)

Cantico di Simeone

Cristo è luce per illuminare le genti e gloria Israele tuo popolo
perché i miei occhi hanno visto la tua salvezza
preparata da te davanti a tutti i popoli

Sounds good.


No, what you linked to is not (IMHO) Gregorian chant - well done, and well worth the vist; however, not in keeping with what I was taught in music appreciation to consider GC:
(click thru)Encyclopedia BritannicaGregorian chant
Gregorian chant, monophonic, or unison, liturgical music of the Roman Catholic Church, used to accompany the text of the mass and the canonical hours, or divine office.
Your remaining questions are answered in the above link.


No, it’s in Italian. Gregorian chant is in Latin, with a few Greek exceptions (the Kyrie, the Improperias on Good Friday). However Gregorian-like modes and melodies are often done in the vernacular.

Here’s the Gregorian version of the Canticle of Simeon preceded by the antiphon “Salva Nos” as chanted at Compline in the Roman Church (note that in the monastic tradition, the canticle of Simeon was never chanted at Compline). It’s the Cistercian version; in mode IIIa, there are some slight differences from what would be chanted in the Roman version:

Nunc Dimittis


I must respectfully disagree with the comment that Gregorian chant must be in Latin. When I was a Benedictine (contemplative) postulant and novice we chanted the Office in English (except on solemnities) using the original Gregorian chants. And at least at our Abbey, the organ was used to accompany the chant at every hour of the Divine Office except Matins, and also at mass – although in Lent the organ was retired except for Solemnities like St. Benedict, St. Joseph, and the Annunciation.

I’m also not sure what you meant when you said “in the monastic tradition, the canticle of Simeon was never chanted at Compline.” That is exactly when we did chant it, every single evening without variation, except on Good Friday, I think. Perhaps I misunderstood what you meant by that.

As for the example in the OP, I believe that actually IS Gregorian chant. I’m guessing by the white vestments, the lit candles being held by the congregation, and the Canticle of Simeon that this may have been the introit to the mass on the feast of the Presentation.

God bless you in these final days of Advent!!



I doubt if Pope Gregory knew Italian back then. Just sayin…


Gregorian chant is necessarily in Latin or in some cases Greek. The melodies were composed around the Latin accents and phraseology. While some simpler melodies and modes can be adapted to the vernacular, that makes them rather more like “Gregorian-inspired” plainchant then pure Gregorian chant. Italian does work particularly well for Gregorian adaptations because of the similarity in the languages but even then there are some “traps”. Not that it really matters though, plainchant in the vernacular can be very beautiful as well, our abbey uses a mix of Latin Gregorian chant and French plainchant. I wish more places would use plainchant for the both the Mass and the Office, especially for the Propers of the Mass and other sung parts of the Mass.

As for the Nunc Dimittis: in the Benedictine tradition the Nunc Dimittis was not said at Compline and nor was the responsory “In Manus Tuas”. Only after Vatican II did some Benedictine monasteries start using it ad libitum. But in the Monastic Breviary pre-Vatican II, instead the verse

V. Custodi nos domine ut pupillam oculi
R. sub umbra alarum tuarum protege nos

was said after the reading. In the current Antiphonale Monasticum, the above verse is the norm, but the responsory “In Manus Tuas” and the Nunc Dimittis can be said ad libitum in monasteries that wish to do so.

From the current Antiphonale Monasticum:

“Ubi placuerit, loco versus Custodi nos cantari potest R. br. In manus tuas et canticum evangelicum Nunc Dimittis, p. 233, secudum consuetudinem Ecclesiae Romanae”


“Wherever desired, in place of the verse Custodi nos, the Responsory In manus tuas and the Gospel canticle Nunc dimittis may be sung according to the custom of the Roman Church”.

So while the Canticle of Simeon can licitly now be sung in Benedictine monasteries that so desire (and ours does as well, but in French), it isn’t in the monastic tradition to do so. Moreover in the monastic tradition the psalmody is done directly, without antiphon.


Reading through the thread, I wondered how long it would take before plainchant was brought up - now someone should explain the differences between the two.



Gregorian chant is a particular style of plainchant that has become the norm for most of the Western Church. There are other styles of plainchant still in use; the next most common is Ambrosian chant (diocese of Milan), and to a lesser extent, Mozarabic chant (diocese of Toledo). Other forms have become defunct or nearly so: Benevantan chant, Gallican chant (which most closely resembles Gregorian), Sarum chant, and Old Roman chant to name a few. Not enough time (and not enough expertise on my part!) to go through all the differences, but suffices to say that there are definitive and major style differences between each form of plainchant.

Vernacular plainchant is obviously a very modern innovation, since the Mass in the vernacular on a wide scale is itself a modern innovation. But it is not “Gregorian” chant, it’s rather “Gregorian-inspired”, but for some languages can come very close. Oddly, some “Gregorian” chant in the Graduale Romanum isn’t Gregorian at all; apart from a couple of Ambrosian pieces that made it outside the diocese of Milan and into the Graduale, Mass VIII (de Angelis) that is so popular, isn’t actually Gregorian chant as it was composed many centuries later.

The major corpus of Gregorian chant was composed in the Carolingian era, around the 9th-12th century. But it eventually fell into disuse. It only regained “pride of place” in the Western liturgy sometime around the late 19th century, through the works of the monks of Solesmes. The culmination of that work was the release of the Vatican Edition of the Graduale Romanum in 1908. It forms the basis of the current (post-Vatican II) Graduale Romanum of 1974.

Not only is Gregorian chant more of a fairly recent revival as the “official” music of the liturgy, we actually have no idea if it sounds anything like the original compositions, which were written in free-form “neumes” without a staff. The square-note notation is often erroneously called “neumes” but in fact the true neumes are written without a staff. What we sing as Gregorian chant today is what the monks of Solesmes of the 19th century onwards tell us Gregorian chant probably sounded like (they are still at work to this day modifying melodies based on more recent research). It is no more, nor less “traditional” than the other forms of chant, alive or defunct, and it’s use as the main music of the Mass is in fact quite recent as until the monks of Solesmes, chant music for the Mass was a real mish-mash.

Plainchant, unlike polyphony, is sung to a single melodic line, all voices in unison. No single voice should dominate, and it is more free-form and un-metered (except for the hymns of the Divine Office which follow the poetic metre of the hymn).


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