14:05 PM

UST Lecture & Chants on “Singing Through Dying: Medieval Ritual for the End of Life”

Dr. Elaine Stratton HildFor centuries of European history, the sound of singing was customarily – and ideally – the final sensation of a human life.

Moving Talk and Chant Performances

Musicology Scholar Dr. Elaine Stratton Hild presents a moving talk on “Singing through the Dying: Medieval Ritual for the End of Life” along with performances of these chants by University of St. Thomas Schola cantorum.

“[This ritual] gives so much meaning and profundity to that moment,” Stratton Hild said. “Music has a great role to play. It gives peace that passes understanding as well. It is the one last type of beauty that we can accept at the end of our lives.”

Lecture on campus in Music Hall

Stratton Hild delivers this talk as the 2019 Archbishop J. Michael Miller Endowed lecturer at the University of St. Thomas. The lecture is at 8 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 3, Cullen Hall on the University campus, 3800 Montrose Blvd. and is free and open to the public.

This presentation explores the rite for the dying included in the 13-century Franciscan manuscript Chicago Newberry 24. The manuscript preserves not only the texts spoken at the bedside, but also the melodies prescribed for the moment of death.

Bringing Order to Chaos

According to Stratton Hild, in today’s world, we are specialized in end of life care, and now we can control the symptoms and the pain, which is something medieval communities did not have. This medieval ritual prescribed a type of acceptance.

“Medieval music was sung at the bedsides of the sick and dying,” Stratton Hild said. “Singing this chant together gave the loved ones something profound to do when there is nothing left to do. The community that gathered around the bed and sang were commending the soul of their loved one, and regulating time together, and they understood that they were bringing order to chaos. It joins the community together, and it is something beautiful to do for someone just gone beyond your reach,” she said.

Stratton Hild was the 2017-2018 residential fellow at Notre Dame and is an instructor at University of Wurzburg, Germany, Stratton. She also serves as an editor with Corpus monodicum, a long-term research project dedicated to producing scholarly editions of significant, previously unpublished repertories of medieval plainchant.

For more information, contact Dr. Randy Smith at rsmith@stthom.edu.

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