Father Stephen Concordia, O.S.B., Translates Chant Books

The call to a religious vocation may manifest itself in various ways to the men and women who hear it. It may come through prayer, meditation, reading, or even just be an urge or desire to be closer to God. But for Father Stephen Concordia, O.S.B., the call really did involve listening—listening to, and then performing, Gregorian chant.

Father Stephen was born into a large Catholic family in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, in the Diocese of Worcester. He attended Saint Paul’s Cathedral School, Worcester, where he was a member of the Saint Paul’s Cathedral Boys’ Choir for seven years. He attended the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, and after graduation began to pursue a monastic vocation, first, as an Oblate of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis, Bethlehem, Connecticut, before entering the Abbey of Montecassino, Italy in 1989. There, he professed solemn vows in 1994 and was ordained a priest on September 17, 1995. In 2008, Father Stephen transferred his monastic vows to Saint Vincent Archabbey.

While in Italy he began studies at the Pontifical Atheneum of Sant’ Anselmo, Rome, where he earned a Baccalaureate in philosophy (1993) and a Baccalaureate in theology (1996). Following ordination, he studied organ and Gregorian chant at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome, receiving the Licentiate and Magistero/Diploma in organ in 2000, and the Licentiate and Magistero/Diploma in Gregorian chant in 2004.

It was while he was in Rome, at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music that he encountered Monsignor Alberto Turco, a priest from the Diocese of Verona, who is widely recognized as a leader in the fields of Gregorian chant scholarship and performance. Monsignor Turco has been a professor at the Pontifical Institutes of Sacred Music in Milan and Rome, and continues to lecture and conduct workshops in Italy, throughout Europe and beyond. That relationship as professor and teacher led, in later years, to Father Stephen’s present avocation, translating the work of the master teacher from Italian to English to make the academic study of chant more accessible to others.

But prior to his work in translation, Father Stephen transferred his vows to Saint Vincent Archabbey, arriving in 2007 and making his solemn profession in 2011. During his time in Latrobe, he has been involved, at various times, with the Saint Vincent Camerata, the college choir, teaching at Saint Vincent College as well as serving as a visiting professor and coordinator of the sacred music program at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and serving in various weekend ministries.

It wasn’t until 2020 that he began to work on translations, following stints at the Saint Gregory Institute of Sacred Music in Pittsburgh and as an adjunct professor of sacred music at Duquesne University.

Two of his translations­—work completed over a three-year span—were published in 2023. The first, The Gregorian Melody: The Expressive Power of the Word, by Alberto Turco, was published by Liturgical Press. The second, published by Archabbey Publications, is Teachings and Essays: An Initiation to Gregorian Chant, also by Turco. The book is part of a series of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music.

The story of chant, Father Stephen said, goes much further back into the history of the Catholic faith than most are aware, to a time before even musical notation was invented.

“It was an oral tradition,” Father Stephen said. “It was not invented until the ninth or tenth centuries. Some people think that chant notation is the oldest notation ever used.”

Often attributed to Pope Gregory I, scholars theorize that chant was a synthesis of the old Roman chant and Galican chant. But the tradition of chant is not just for the history books, Father Stephen said. He noted that there are still churches in the major cities of the United States that have chant choirs, and that he has given workshops on chant in many places throughout the country.

But a translation is not simply a transcription or rephrasing of the words from one language to another, Father Stephen noted. In poetry or prose, good translators attempt to elicit the style and meaning of the original author’s words. Difficult enough for works written in the same or recent centuries, with references and notations from more than a thousand years past, the challenge increases. And, with the works of Monsignor Turco, Father Stephen is also translating the technical language of a prominent scholar that may not have a direct English word to represent it.

“The work involves a great deal of research,” Father Stephen said. “You have to understand the research, but first it needs to be accurate.”
Many of the texts are instructional texts meant to be studied by students as well as scholars. Most of the chant composers are anonymous. There are about 2,000 pieces of ancient chant music, and the composers may be known for a handful of those pieces, and that would just be the person who wrote the words, he added. “The composers of the melodies are completely unknown. People (in the churches) were singing these songs from memory for at least 300 years.”

The first book, The Gregorian Melody, the back cover notes, “is a resource of music pedagogy that focuses on one of the most ancient musical repertoirs honored by the church and music historians. The material included in this resource is foundational as it lays out the elements of the Gregorian melody through a careful analysis of first principles. It will be useful as an introduction to Gregorian chant and for helping readers to understand the Gregorian melody. Readers of all levels may turn to this book to sing the liturgical chant with a deepened appreciation for the expressive power of the Word.”

The book is the “encapsulation of decades of research, study, and teaching by one of the most brilliant minds in the field of chant. Turco’s approach to the text, and ultimately to the wedding of text and melody, is thorough and masterful,” writes Edward Schaefer, president, The Collegium, in his endorsement of the publication. “It renders this volume an essential addition to the library of any student or teacher of chant.”

“We are fortunate to have this excellent translation of Alberto Turco’s [book] by Stephen Concordia, O.S.B.,” wrote Ann Labounsky, chair of organ and sacred music at Duquesne University. “It is the first time that we have realized the true relationship between the neumes and the words they express. I recommend this book most highly.”

The second book, Teachings and Essays: An Initiation to Gregorian Chant is for students already familiar with chant. “Of particular interest are the chapters dedicated to proposals of performance practice, beginning from the perspective that the rhythm of the melodies and the rhythm of the words work together in perfect symbiosis; and the understanding that the modality contributes structure in detailed, comprehensive analysis to serve as models for students. Other topics include a presentation of the practice of Psalmody, and an introduction to the modal system, including the archaic modes used in books of chant published only since Vatican II,” the back cover notes.

For the Archabbey Publications book, which retails for $35, Father Stephen credits the assistance of Kathryn Klawinski, a 2016 graduate of Saint Vincent College, with helping with the design and layout of the book, as well as Mary Vanden Berk, a 2018 graduate, and Paul Fox, a retired music educator, who also assisted with the project. Both books can be obtained on the Archabbey Publications website,, as well as on The Gregorian Melody (retail $39.95) is also available through Liturgical Press,

These books are not the end for Father Stephen, however. He is already at work on the next of perhaps another half-dozen translations of additional scholarly works by Monsignor Turco. The work, Father Stephen hopes, will carry on the legacy of the ‘chant of the Word,’ and perhaps inspire others in their faith journeys.