Mary Berry (conductor)

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Mary Berry

Mary Berry, CBE (in religion Sister Thomas More 29 June 1917 – 1 May 2008) was an Augustinian canoness and noted choral conductor and musicologist. She was an authority on the performance of Gregorian chant.

Berry studied at Girton College, Cambridge with Thurston Dart as well going to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger. In 1970 she received her doctorate from Cambridge after submitting a thesis on the performance of plainsong in the late Middle Ages and the 16th century, and afterwards became a Fellow at Newnham College.

In 1975 Berry founded the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge for the study and performance of Gregorian chant. The Cantors of the Schola are a group of young, largely professional singers and have performed and recorded extensively under her direction, often working from primary sources. The Schola was one of the first ensembles to perform (and certainly the first to record) music from the Winchester troper after research by Mary Berry and others made the music accessible from the manuscripts.

Berry travelled widely to promote the teaching and singing of Gregorian chant, and organised and participated in many workshops and courses, including Spode Music Week, of which she was a patron. She was a particularly keen advocate for the use of Gregorian chant in its proper liturgical context. Her two introductory books, Plainchant for everyone and Cantors: A collection of Gregorian chants, encourage people to learn the chant, and are often recommended to beginners in the field.

In 2000 she was awarded the Papal Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, and in the 2002 New Year Honours she was appointed CBE.

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