Liturgy Symposium | Henry Parkes

Event time: 
Monday, February 8, 2016 - 11:30am to 12:30pm
ISM Great Hall See map
409 Prospect St.
New Haven, CT 06511
Open to: 
General Public
Event description: 

When Chant Became Gregorian

In Western Christianity, the tradition of chanting at Mass and Office is considerably older than the adjective now used to describe it. The idea that musical compositions should be described as ‘Gregorian’ famously emerged from an eighth-century project to ‘Romanize’ the Frankish liturgy, almost two hundred years after the death of Pope Gregory the Great and many hundreds of miles from Rome. However, the story is more complex than it first appears. With a focus on materials from the eleventh century, this paper exposes the remarkable degree to which opinions about Gregory’s involvement differed, and through that discourse it explores changing medieval understandings both of liturgical chant and of the wider concept of a named liturgical authority.


Henry Parkes is a specialist in the musical traditions of the central Middle Ages (ca. 800–1200), with particular expertise on music’s place within the institutions, rituals, and intellectual life of the Western Church. After graduating with a first-class degree in music from the University of Oxford, he earned a Ph.D. in musicology at the University of Cambridge, where he was subsequently appointed as a postdoctoral research fellow at Gonville and Caius College. Prior to coming to Yale in 2014, he also served as a visiting lecturer at the University of Cambridge and at Royal Holloway, University of London. While his teaching interests encompass the major musical repertories of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, both monophonic and polyphonic, Professor Parkes’s recent publications traverse the disciplines of musicology, history, theology, canon law, and liturgy. In 2015 Cambridge University Press published his first book, entitled The Making of Liturgy in the Ottonian Church, which narrates a history of religious life in early medieval Germany by means of its surviving liturgical books (among them the famous Pontificale Romano-Germanique). His current research project explores the notion of liturgical authority in eleventh-century Europe, with particular reference to Pope Gregory I and the developing concept of ‘Gregorian’ chant. Professor Parkes has an FRCO diploma in organ and has held organist positions at a number of the UK’s leading Anglican choral foundations; until his move to Yale he regularly shared the concert platform with the London Philharmonic Orchestra.