Monday, June 22, 2009

+Dom David Nicolson OSB R. I. P.


I just found out that one of my favorite teacher from the seminary has passed away.

Father David Nicholson, OSB (89) a monk of Mount Angel Abbey, passed away on June 9, 2009.

Father David took pride in his British lineage and in classical music, especially in Gregorian Chant, for which he received recognition.

Father David was born Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1919, to British citizens John and Mary Whitfield Nicholson. This made him a British citizen, which he considered an honor. His initial elementary schooling (1926-1929) was at King George School, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Then his family moved and he studied at Balmoral Public School, Calgary, Alberta, from1929-1934. He advanced to secondary education at Crescent Heights Collegiate Institute, also in Calgary, from which he graduated in 1938. The following year, still in Calgary, he began studies to become a chartered accountant. With the development of World War II he was conscripted into the Canadian Army Medical Corps, in which he served from 1940-1941. With advice of the bishop in Calgary he appealed for a release from military service to enter a seminary and study for the priesthood. He was granted a release and entered the University of Ottawa, in Ontario, Canada, in 1941. The next year he moved west, to the Seminary of Christ the King, near Vancouver, BC, where he studied Philosophy from 1942-1945. In 1939 Mount Angel Abbey had established a community of monks to take over that seminary. This opened the possibility for Fr. David to come to Mount Angel Abbey, which he did after World War II, and made profession as a monk on September 8, 1946. He then continued his studies in preparation for ordination, completing his theological studies in 1950. In an unusual development, he made solemn profession on September 12, 1949, and only 3 months later was ordained a priest, on December 8, 1949.


After ordination his life as a monk emphasized music, primarily Gregorian Chant, which he studied at six different prestigious universities in the U.S. and in England. As well, two different times he had extended periods of study of Gregorian Chant at Solesmes Abbey in France, which is a highly-regarded center for the study of Gregorian Chant. In 1968 he earned a Master’s of Music from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

Father David strove to be a scholar of music, and particularly of Gregorian Chant. Strive as he did, and going so far as to prepare a long draft of a doctoral dissertation, Father David’s goal to be a published scholar of Gregorian Chant was a goal which escaped him. However, his musical abilities were put to good use at Mount Angel. His work as a choirmaster began in 1950 at Mount Angel Seminary, and continued there to 1965. During those same years he taught Gregorian Chant to novices and seminarians. In recent years he returned to teaching Gregorian Chant to novices, as his health permitted. From 1952-1958 he also served as choirmaster at nearby Saint Mary Parish, in the town of Mt. Angel. At the Abbey he served as choirmaster from 1968-1980, except for two years when he was away for music studies, from 1974-1976. At that same time he taught Music and the History of Music (1968-1980) at Mount Angel Seminary. Before the Abbey retreat house was completed in 1960, he served as guestmaster in the monastery, from 1951-1959.

I had the privilege of being a student of the Dom's for four years. It should also be noted that the Dom was a devotee of the Extraordinary Form.
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