Jaan-Eik Tulve: Fascinated by the spirituality of Gregorian chant

Estonian choir conductor Jaan-Eik Tulve found the gregorian Chant when studying in the Estonian Academy of Music in Tallin. He visited the Sibelius Academy in March as a part of the International Visitor Programme to teach the choir conducting class.

Tulve says that he has always been interested in early music - medieval music and also Gregorian chant.

- It is not only my interest in the music but also its spiritual background that is the base for all European culture. And the gregorian chant is the base for European musical culture. First I studied the subject in Paris Conservatoire but I also had the chance to work with monks in monasteries. Today, they are the most important musicologists of Gregorian chant and of course I learned a lot from them.

Very quickly Tulve was also invited to teach monks and nuns and today, he works regularly with about 12 monasteries in Europe, mostly in France but also in other countries like Belgium and Scotland.

The conducting of gregorian chant differs from othe conducting since it is not measured music.

- In Gregorian chant, the rythm is very clear. The conductor has to know where the accents are and where the music is heading – and then to be able to show that with movement in our conducting. The basics of conducting - the signs conductor uses - are still the same. To me, conducting is like drawing the music with your hands. With the students we are focusing on understanding the horizontality of monodic music. In monody, the musical phrases and movements have to be felt.

Tulve says that the Sibelius Academy conducting students are also very good singers – they know their music and they also read medieval scores well.

- This class is listening very carefully and they are all also good musicians. I think that this consept of visiting programme, where you meet the students not only once but several times, is very good – since this is music that some of the students are only just discovering. Time gives us time to get more inside the musicality of Gregorian chant! The main thing is to go inside the non-measured feeling, non-measured musicality- It takes time.

More about Jaan-Eik Tulve
More about the International Visitor Programme