In the fall of 2009 I remember a voice from the street in Volpaia, Tuscany calling to me, " You must come to the Chiesa (di San Lorenzo) now!". Being a village of 52 citizens, it was but a stone's throw from our rental home to the Chiesa. Soon, in awe, I listened to scholars singing from ancient texts of Gregorian chants. Having experienced Gregorian Mass several times it felt as though we were at the source of that beauty in this centuries-old church in this medieval place.
One of the scholars was Dr. David Hiley. His picture is in my book on " Medieval Volpaia" standing in the center of a group of 3 scholars.
As a layman, but with a music minor in College, I find this scholarly, well-written, and therefore easy to read. This history enlightens the evolution and variations of the Gregorian chant as it provides information on the various contexts in which this form developed.
The illustrations and the text surrounding them will be welcomed by scholars of this music and for other historians Hiley's music-centered perspective will surely be broadening. For instance, his treatment of Gregory I ( "the Great") separates legend from fact and is woven throughout the book.
But, again, I am a layman. As such I say, " Thank you David Hiley"