Kelly, OSB, a Benedictine monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey since
1952, is the director and composer for the Saint Meinrad Gregorian
Schola. He finished his doctorate in Church music at Musica Sacra
in Rome in 1963, just as Roman liturgy was moving from Latin into
In 1964, Fr. Columba was appointed choirmaster for Saint
Meinrad, where he began his work of composing English-language
chants based on the principles used to create the original
Gregorian Chant repertory. That same year, he also began teaching
at Saint Meinrad College and Saint Meinrad School of Theology.
For 12 years, he taught summer courses at St. Joseph College's
(Rensselear, IN) Liturgical Musical Program. He has led numerous
workshops on chant, throughout the United States, at the Abbey of
Solesmes in France, and for Benedictine communities in
During the summer of 2003, he gave three presentations on chant
at the National Pastoral Musicians' National Convention in
Each summer, he gives a two-week workshop in the theory and
practice of chant in both Latin and English. In May 2010, he gave
two presentations on chant at the Ascending Voice II symposium
sponsored by Pepperdine University.
You can find information about this year's workshops at Saint
Meinrad at these links:
Chant Books and CDs
In recent years, Fr. Columba has directed Saint Meinrad's chant
schola in a program of Latin and English chants produced for CDs:
an Advent/Christmas CD, a Christmas CD and a Lent/Easter CD. In
1999, he directed the schola in a performance at the Ravinia
Festival in Chicago. He has also assisted in a number of special
projects and compositions regarding Gregorian Chant.
His settings of the Responsorial Psalms and Refrains for
Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter seasons have been published by
Gregorian Institute of America, Chicago, IL. His chant style
setting with SAB chorus of the St. John Passion for Good Friday has
been published by Oregon Catholic Press, Portland, OR. He has
written two books on chant, published by Edwin Mellen Press.
Developing English Chant
During the past several decades, in addition to his teaching,
Fr. Columba has created a body of English chant based on the
natural rhythm of spoken word.
Currently, there are more than 1,800 responsories and antiphons
in the liturgical books at Saint Meinrad. This music, which
represents only part of his work, forms the day-to-day music of the
Archabbey. This work has been carried on with the assistance of his
confreres, Fr. Samuel Weber, OSB, and Fr. Tobias Colgan, OSB.
Fr. Columba has worked with recreating melismatic chants for
English texts developed to fit (more or less) the Latin melody.
Although the music for the English is similar to that for the
Latin, it is not the same. Rather, it has been carefully crafted to
respect the rhythm and meaning of the English text.
In addition, Fr. Columba has created wholly new compositions,
such as the responsorial psalms for the Third Sunday of Advent and
for Christmas Midnight Mass in the melismatic idiom; both are
contained on the Advent and Christmas CD.
All of these compositions are an attempt to recreate the
tradition for our own time. With its free rhythm and modal
sonority, chant has a decidedly modern sense.