Sr Marie Levey with Congregational Leader, Sr Monica Cavanagh.

For those with an appreciation for the story of the sung prayers of the Ordinary of the Mass, a new scholarly book is available at the Mary MacKillop Place shop in North Sydney and online.

Titled The Place of the Kyriale, the Ordinary of the Mass, in Catholic History, Liturgy, And Music and written by sacred music specialist Sr Marie Levey rsj, the book covers the history of Gregorian chant in the Western Church, especially the Kyriale.

Sr Marie is a Sister of Saint Joseph, a musicologist, church musician, and retired teacher of piano, violin and theory. For 20 years, she was musical director of The Gregorian Schola of Sydney.

“The book is a response to the need expressed by choral singers, parish musicians and scholars of music history, to know more about the origin and sources of the Kyriale, the people’s sung parts of the Mass,” says Sr Marie.

“The Kyriale has formed a type of spiritual chain which has linked all of the prayers of the Mass together since the first years of Christianity, down through the Middle Ages, and to the present day.”

The Place of the Kyriale, the Ordinary of the Mass, in Catholic History, Liturgy, And Music is the story of those sung prayers of the Ordinary, their development in Western music theory and notation, their plainchant congregational loss in the renaissance-reformation years, and their restoration as the people’s parts in the twentieth century, especially by the Second Vatican Council.

Readers are taken back over the centuries to meet church leaders who contributed to the Kyriale – Saints Gregory I the Great, Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis of Assisi, Dominic of Osma, and others who loved praising God in song. You will also meet those who made life difficult for them.

Today, when Catholics prepare the liturgy for a special celebration, the question sometimes arises: “Which Mass will we sing”? What they really mean is “Which musical setting will we sing for the Ordinary of the Mass?”.

Campion College President, Dr Paul Morrissey who launched the book, describes it as a rare commodity in academic literature in that “it combines first rate scholarship with an ability to reach a general audience”.

Dr Morrissey said that sacred music and liturgy are “an intrinsic dimension of Catholic faith and Sr Marie’s book is a wonderful way for a Catholic to appreciate the Mass as truly something passed on through the ages”.

Commenting on The Place of the Kyriale, the Ordinary of the Mass, in Catholic History, Liturgy, And Music, Professor Thomas Connelly, Emeritus Professor of Music and noted medievalist from the University of Pennsylvania says:

“With small, unexpected delights and reminders at every turn of the page… Sr Marie’s book is a singular work by a singular scholar-teacher. Well known in Australian church music circles, Dr. Levey realised that there was no strict history of the Kyriale and decided to put things right.

“While the resulting book tells from beginning to end the story of the Ordinary Chants of the Mass, and how they became a unified entity, it contains much more, with breaks and digressions to discuss matters of chant theory, of notation, of historical context, and other related topics that will be of great interest to directors and teachers blessed with even small curiosity. This will likely lead to more knowledgeable and more interested singers of chant.”

Hard copies of The Place of the Kyriale, the Ordinary of the Mass, in Catholic History, Liturgy, And Music are available to purchase at the Mary MacKillop Place shop in Mount St, North Sydney or via their online store (click here to order). It is also available to online via Kindle and audio books – Amazon Kindle (click here to order); Apple iBooks (click here to order) or St Paul’s Press (click here to order).