Here’s a story:
If you ever take a class in music history and wonder if Gregorian Chant will ever be of use to you …
I was on a plane in 1980 with 40 or so nuns, some of whom I had overheard in the terminal talking to a priest about the conference they had attended and their return trip to Ireland. I was seated across the aisle from one, a lovely, kind-looking woman of around 50, with thick, stunning, waist-length, metallic sterling silver hair. And the one next to her was one of those sad, bitter old prunes I was just exactly unfortunate enough to have studied under in college.
So I looked across at her amazing hair and she scowled. And I smiled a smile that said, (I hoped), “Oh hey, no, I know you’re a nun …” and she scowled again. So how best to proceed? “Say, sister, I overheard some of your colleagues discussing …” ? Sigh.
Without further thought, I picked up a magazine and started “idly” whistling the chant version of Ave Maris Stella. After the first three notes she looked across and beamed, though I gave her only a few sidelong glances as I struggled to whistle the rest of it through a smile.
The whole rest of the flight we kept looking across, shrugging, smiling, chuckling. It was three hours of the most enjoyable conversation I’ve ever had, and neither of us spoke a word. When we got to my stop I got up and shook both her hands, both of us laughing happily, and said “Have a safe journey, Sister!” And I gave a slow nod to the other one. When I turned around to get my bag I heard the other one say “Who was that!?” And she replied simply, (the only time I heard her lovely Irish accent), “A friend.”
So yeah. If you ever need a medieval hymn to flirt with an Irish Catholic nun on an airplane, an intimate knowledge of Gregorian Chant is just the ticket! I speak from experience.