November 2, 2018

Remembering Columba Kelly, OSB

Stained glass window

†Benedictine Father Columba Kelly (1930–2018) was one of the world's foremost experts in Gregorian chant and sacred music. During the time of the Second Vatican Council, he studied and received a doctorate from the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome. As the Mass began to shift from Latin to English in the U.S., Father Kelly recognized the importance of continuing the chanting tradition. Adapted to accommodate the natural rhythms and cadences of English, he began developing music for use in daily liturgy while living at St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana. During his 54 years there, he served as a teacher, choir master, composer of and writer on English chant music. He wrote extensively on the importance, technique, function and implementation of chant, frequently contributing to OCP's quarterly magazine, Today's Liturgy. He also published two books of psalmody for Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter through GIA, as well as two books of analysis on Gregorian chant through Edwin Mellen Press.

The musical compositions created at the archabbey were later compiled into a larger body of work by the brothers of the community. OCP first began publishing this extensive collection, Saint Meinrad Entrance and Communion Antiphons for the Church Year, in 2014. The collection includes music for Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and Ordinary Time, in both print and digital formats.

On Father Kelly's death and legacy

Father Kelly provided a wealth of resources for the liturgical community, spreading the joy and beauty of sacred chant throughout the U.S. Integral to the formation of 20th century liturgical music, he helped and encouraged us to preserve Gregorian chant through all of the immense changes brought on by the Second Vatican Council. OCP is forever grateful for his contributions to the Church, praying for his family, friends and all those who have utilized and cherished his music over the last 50 years. Father Kelly dedicated his life to glorifying God and serving the Body of Christ. May he rest in peace.

Below are some of Father Kelly's articles from Today's Liturgy, along with some sample sheet music to help singers and directors adapt to the chanting style. His blog, "What are the O Antiphons?," can be found here.