Music in the Monastic Life
Benedictines are known for liturgy, and also for sacred music in the liturgy. Our monastic calling brings us together several times a day to sing out to our God. We follow the call of Benedict in chapter 19 of the Rule, “Let us stand to sing the psalms so that our minds are in harmony with our voices.” We do this with music in many styles from the whole history of the Church.
The community sings hymns at every Office and most Masses. We have about 1,000 hymns in our repertoire! We chant the psalms at the offices, and in all our liturgies we sing a wide variety of songs, canticles, responses, antiphons, and other pieces.
Benedictines are known for Gregorian chant, and we still keep the tradition alive at Saint John’s. Though our liturgies are primarily in English, on occasion we include Latin chant easier Mass settings and antiphons of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Gregorian Chant Schola sometimes sings more difficult Latin chant treasures.
The Abbey Schola sings "part" music – everything from Renaissance polyphony to anthems and motets and spirituals.
Monks minister by cantoring, singing in schola, and playing organ, piano, guitar, or other instruments. Sometimes our musicians improvise upon a congregational melody, giving us a chance to reflect upon and savor what we’ve sung together.
Several monks are composers. Fr. Bryan Hays has composed many hymn tunes in American folk style that draw upon his background in the Protestant south. Fr. Jerome Coller writes serious contemporary music with adventurous chromaticism. Fr. Anthony Ruff composes English chant, especially antiphons for the office and daily Mass. Fr. Bob Koopmann and Br. David Klingeman have also composed antiphons and service music. The community greatly appreciates such creative talent in our midst.
As the bible admonishes us, “address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and playing to the Lord in your hearts.” (Ephesians 5:19) The monks of Saint John’s joyfully follow this call, and we are happy to welcome others to join us in our praise of God.
“In every age, the Church has called upon creative artists to give new voice to praise and prayer. The Church joyfully urges composers and text writers to draw upon their special genius so that she can continue to augment the treasure house of sacred musical art.”