Academic journal article Sacred Music

Justine Ward and the Fostering of an American Solesmes Chant Tradition

Academic journal article Sacred Music

Justine Ward and the Fostering of an American Solesmes Chant Tradition

Article excerpt

The Ward Method of music instruction based on Gregorian chant and developed long ago would seem to be experiencing a revival, because of the recent relaxation of the regulations concerning the celebration of the so-called Tridentine Mass by Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Pius X had established Gregorian chant as the one true music of the Catholic Church in his 1903 Motu Proprio, Tra le sollecitudini and in some ways this helped the scholarship and editions by the monks of Solesmes to gain precedence over all others. Early in the twentieth century, the stage was set for Justine Bayard Cutting Ward, who quickly solidified her contacts with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, the monks at Solesmes, and the Catholic University of America. Ward developed the educational product, recognized a readymade distribution system in the world-wide organization of Catholic schools, and marshaled the devoted, religious consumer-workers in the field to train Catholic youth as dedicated participants in the liturgy through music.


The purpose of this study is to shed light on the character of Justine Ward, her relationship with the Pius X School of Liturgical Music at Manhattanville College, and the rapid rise to prominence and dissemination of the Ward Method. It will also examine the fracture in the relationship between Ward and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, which resulted in her increased promotion of a prominent center for Gregorian chant study at Catholic University in Washington, while the work she had begun at the Pius X School was left in the hands of her erstwhile friend, Mother Georgia Stevens, R.S.C.J. (Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). There is also the matter of the Ward Method's influence throughout the United States and, because of the close association in the early years with the Pius X School, the conflation of her work and reputation with that of the school, which lingered for some time after the break. Who was this remarkable woman, Justine Ward? How did she go about creating and establishing her method of music instruction intimately linked to Gregorian chant and Catholic liturgy? What happened to dissolve her relationship with the Pius X School of Liturgical Music? In what ways has her sphere of influence changed over the years?


Justine Bayard Cutting, the second of four children of William Bayard Cutting and Olivia Peyton Murray, was born in Morristown, New Jersey, on August 7, 1879. This was no ordinary family, nor was she an ordinary child. Her father, heir to a large financial empire consisting of a number of railroads and other business interests, was involved in numerous arts and philanthropic organizations. Her mother moved in social circles commensurate with their wealth. Brother Bronson went on to become Republican senator from New Mexico, where he had gone to alleviate certain health problems. Another brother, Bayard, became private secretary to Joseph Choate, the American ambassador to England. When her father died on March 1, 1912, his estate was valued at $10,906,480, enormous wealth for that time. In 1936, Westbrook, the Long Island family mansion, now known as the Bayard Cutting Arboretum, was donated to the Long Island State Park Commission along with some 690 acres of property.


At first, Justine was tutored at home, as was the norm at the time for well-to-do young women. Subsequently, she attended the Brearley School from the fall of 1893 through the spring of 1897 but did not receive a diploma. (1) Her parents thought that "having a child that was musical was like having an epileptic in the family or a hunchback." (2) Having acquired some skill at the piano, she wanted to study music in Europe but was frustrated by the mores of the time. That avenue being closed, she pursued lessons in "composition, orchestration, harmony, counterpoint, and form" privately in New York with Hermann Hans Wetzler (1870-1943) from 1895 to 1901. …

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