Dom Daniel Saulnier OSB
The Centre for Superior Renaissance Studies (CESR), University of Tours,
announces, with great sadness, the death of Dom Daniel Saulnier OSB, at Tours on the 30th April 2023.
Daniel Saulnier was trained as an engineer, at the National School of Public Works and worked from 1977 to 1980 at the Ministry for the Environment. Following his religious vocation, he was admitted to the Abbey of Solesmes on the 11th July, 1980.
He studied theology and collaborated increasingly intensively with the monks working on the renowned Gregorian Chant research project by reviving their publication Gregorian Studies (Études grégoriennes). Daniel decided to work on a doctoral thesis on Medieval Musicology under the supervision of Marie-Noëlle Colette, at the École Pratique de Hautes Études and, during this time, he prepared new editions of the Antiphonale Monasticum (3 vols.) and of the Antiphonale Romanum.
In 2005, Daniel was invited to teach at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome. He remained there until 2010, when he joined the Ricercar Programme at the CESR in Tours. He directed the research of the department in 2015. Within the CESR and the Department of Musicology, he was responsible for teaching Latin, Palaeography and Musicology. He also directed workshops and summer-schools on Gregorian Chant. Always available for his students, he dedicated himself to their progress, notably in Latin and Palaeography as well as supervising doctoral theses.
Daniel Saulnier has been a profound influence in musicological and liturgical research over the last thirty years. His book Gregorian Chant – an Introduction (2003: Solesmes) has been translated into Spanish, Italian, English, Korean, Japanese, German and Lithuanian. His detailed book Gregorian Modes (2005: Solesmes) exists also in Italian, Spanish and English. Earlier this year he was at work on the proofs of his new book synthesising the modes of plainchant (Edition Epitome musical, Brepols).
His influence remains and is greatly appreciated at the heart of the CESR, but he leaves a void which cannot be filled. We wish to associate ourselves with the sadness of his family and close friends.
His funeral took place at the Cathedral of Saint Gatien in Tours on Tuesday 9th May 2023
The Abbot of Solesmes and Patron of Schola Gregoriana, Dom Geoffroy Kemlin,
giving the Homily at his funeral, referred to Daniel as a Missionary, through his work and teaching of the Chant, and went on to say:
‘ The Brothers and also his friends who visited him recently, a few days before his return to God, were struck by his serenity and inner peace.
Our Brother Daniel drew this peace from his faith and from Gregorian Chant, which he saw as a true commentary on divine revelation – a ‘musical patrology’ as he described it. The Chant illuminates the Word of God. It is so entirely at His service that it is almost indistinguishable from the Word. In this sense it is a formidable instrument in proclaiming the Gospel. It makes us missionaries.
Father Daniel Saulnier was a true Missionary through the Gregorian Chant courses which he led for many years in Fontevraud, Solesmes and elsewhere.’
Dom Daniel filmed at Solesmes
The Director of Schola Gregoriana, Iain Simcock, writes;
I first met Daniel at the end of December 1993, by which time he was already famous across the world as a remarkable musicologist, applying astonishing rigour and method to his study of manuscripts. I remember him saying to me, one has to be careful to let only the neumes tell us what they are actually saying. A film made at Solesmes shows Daniel taking out a pen and singing the Introit Puer natus, while writing the neumes at the same time, with an elegant artistry.
I took part in many sessions with Daniel and my playing of the complete works of Bach during the liturgies at Solesmes during the 1994-1995 liturgical year, gave us a natural musical connection. I last spoke with him on the telephone for 40 minutes at the end of December (he was always generous with his time) whilst pondering projects for Schola Gregoriana. His natural courtesy, elegance of speech and serene nature – eminently Benedictine – gave his intellect a cloak of discretion which I found truly humbling.
Only an in-depth biography can hope to render faithfully his astonishing contribution to the development of Chant understanding. His work improving the quality of transcriptions of neumes into square notation, has released us from many errors previously circulated. His book Gregorian Modes is a tour-de-force of musical understanding and sensitivity. Put plainly, I cannot think of another person alive capable of writing such a musically penetrating work.
Daniel Saulnier was the last of a long line of gifted monks working on the Chant at Solesmes, thanks to an abundance of Providence, and it is hard to see how he might be replaced.
Père Daniel – requiescat in pace.
Julian Berkeley writes:
The founder of Schola Gregoriana, Dr Mary Berry, was working on her English translation of Dom Daniel Saulnier’s Le Chant Grégorien at the time of her death in 2008. Mary shared with Daniel the missionary ardour for promoting the Chant, referred to in Dom Kemlin’s address (above). Both of these remarkable musicians were committed to guiding others to a deeper understanding of the Chant through careful analysis of the early source material.
Having participated in Mary’s Chant Workshops, I myself was fortunate enough to be accepted for Daniel’s course at Solesmes in 2010. His edition of the new Antiphonale Romanum had just been published by the Abbey and it was an exciting moment to explore the mysterious neumes of the Laon, Saint Gall and Einsiedeln manuscripts. These had been the precursors of the square-note Vatican editions prepared and edited by Solesmes which were now being revised in the light of the research undertaken to produce the amazing Graduale Triplex, combining all three manuscript sources with the familiar ‘modern’ square note system.
Daniel liked to open a Graduale at a random page and ask all the course participants to sing a chant together. He would then dismantle the successive phrases in order to demonstrate how they took their form from the neumes in the original manuscripts. The best part of this process was when he actually sang the phrases to us. There was something quite extraordinary in his soft, gentle timbre which was intensely moving. It was the sound of his chanting – rather than singing – in a completely natural way, as though he were simply vocalising the inflexions of the Latin text which had evolved into the contours of the melodic line. This subtle vocalisation is the distilled essence of ‘live’ Gregorian Chant. I can still hear it in my memory today and I have no doubt that Daniel’s deep love of these ancient melodies lay at the heart of his ability to convey them so affectingly to all of us.
Dom Daniel in the Library at Solesmes