• reblogged from NLM
    imageI've sung in scholas that accomplished the Introits, Offertories, and Communions with solid competence, fitting for the Holy Mass. And yet, when it comes to the Graduals and Alleluias, a different assessment is required. To put it bluntly, they are often botched, and sometimes horribly.

    This is not surprising. As the most glorious treasures of the repertoire, these pieces can be far more difficult. Indeed, they require a level of mastery that we just don't have yet, not in the early stages of the revival of chant. We will need a few more years before we are prepared to sing these the way they should be sung, week after week.

    For this reason, many scholas resort to the Psalm tone versions that are widely available. This is somehow tragic because these chants are the oldest and most beautiful of the repertoire. My goodness, we are talking about Psalms here, the first Christian song, the very musical link to our deepest heritage. There is something strange about doing the correct proper chants for other propers and then singing a disappointing tone on the Psalm itself!

    So what is the work around? In the 1920s, Solesmes saw the need and produced the most useful and most overlooked book of this generation. It was called Chants Abrégés. It came out only in French but of course the music itself is the same all over the world.

    What they did, and wisely, was reduce the Graduals, Tracts, and Alleluias to the level of difficulty along the lines of the Introit or Communio, so they are approachable. This makes this book invaluable for scholas without decades of experience. It includes chants for the entire liturgical year. The original is in French, as are the titles, but the index is complete so you can easily find the chant you need to sing. The typeface is flawless.

    You can download the book and print it a page at a time, or just get the print edition for the schola to have on hand right in the choir loft. I strongly recommend this book for parishes using the Graduals for the ordinary form and especially for Extraordinary Form parishes.
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 986
    Darn it, Jeffrey! Every time I open MusicaSacra there's another treat waiting for me.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    "the most useful and most overlooked book of this generation" — You are absolutely correct, Jeffrey!!!

    This really is an amazing book. What a masterpiece!

    I hope you never stop telling people about it, Jeffrey, because it is awesome. Wow, what a great little book, and so few know about its treasures!

    . . . kind of like the Gregorian Missal . . . which I ordered thanks to you.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Yes, I use this frequently. Although I will caution that the graduales are, while not to a traditional psalm tone, highly regular. That may be a turn-off to some, but not to me!
  • One thing that is helpful here is that these chants work as a kind of real-time tutorial for the full versions. One can't say that so much about Rossini, which have so often proven to be their own dead end, leading to nothing. These are just a help for those who are on the right track but not quite there yet. In that sense, even given the ideals of which Mahrt has spoken about, these serve to point the way rather than divert energy.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I don't see the need to avoid the chant alleluias. I suppose my method of attack would be to start with Communions and easy Introits and then Alleluias, and only when those are secure move on to Offertories and then Graduals. It seems to me that the chant Alleluias can be a start to learning to handle melismas. I would of course recommend singing the verses on a psalm tone!

    Still, this book is invaluable. I almost had to sub for an EF Mass (the organist was stuck in traffic) and so I ran off some psalm-tone propers and then these for the Gradual and Alleluia. A resource everyone should have on hand for emergencies!!
  • A couple of advantages of this book aren't obvious at first glance, but:

    • The Graduals are regular, as Gavin pointed out. (The ones in the Graduale Romanum are to a certain degree regular also, but this isn't immediately obvious due to their complexity.)
    • Even though the melodies are simpler, there is enough variety to them to be compelling; they don't seem perfunctory, like psalm tones often do.
    • While the Tracts and Alleluia verses are to psalm tones, they (and the Graduals) employ the modes of the original melodies; a feature that makes eventual transition to the full Gregorian melodies easier (and a feature that appears in the Rossini reductions only by coincidence.)
  • "In the 1920s, Solesmes saw the need and produced the most useful and most overlooked book of this generation."

    This error has been corrected elsewhere, but it bears repeating that the collection was not prepared by Solesmes, but by the "Society of Saint John the Evangelist" (whoever they may have been). It was printed by Desclee, who also printed the Solesmes editions. While admitting the real need for alternative settings of the major Propers (Gradual and Alleluia), it would be a mistake to view Chants Abreges as a collection of alternative "Gregorian chant" per se.

    And that is the extent to which I shall express my misgivings here (unless, perhaps, someone starts promoting an "abbreviated" version of Bach's Toccatas and Fugues).
  • Ok, but it turns out that it was prepared by Solesmes after all after a Vatican compromise. Jeffrey Ostrowski cites page 292 from the Combe book: "With regard to the formulas to be adopted for the simple chanting of the Graduals, Tracts, and Alleluia verses, Dr. Wagner proposes that, to this end, reference be made to the formulas of the responsorial psalms that have fallen into disuse. The liturgical nature of these chants would thus be maintained. Dom Mocquereau shares this opinion."

    The "Society of St. John the Evangelist" is the same that publishes the Liber Usualis.

    The confusing titles and sources had to do with political issues in France. In any case, Jeffrey clarifies (and even stakes his very life) on the fact that Solesmes produced the Liber Abreges.

    Any further information is welcome. I don't own the Combe book but I just bought the new paperback.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    I believe that the Liber Usualis and the Chants Abreges (along with hundreds of other works) were, indeed, published by Solesmes. The following books were all published by Solesmes, despite what it says about the "Society of St. John":

    Les mélodies grégoriennes, d'après la tradition,

    Paroissien Romain : contenant la messe et l'office, pour tous les dimanches et fêtes doubles, Chant Grégorien.

    L'accompagnement des psaumes.

    Accompagnement du Kyriale Vatican

    Paroissien Romain : contenant la messe et l'office, pour tous les dimanches et fêtes de I. et de II. classe. Chant Grégorien extrait de l'edition vaticane et signes rythmiques des Bénedictins de Solesmes.

    Accompagnement du chant grégorien pour les Bénédictions du T. S. Sacrement : : d'après les
    “Cantus Selecti” et les “Varii Cantus” Henri Potiron, maître de chapelle de la Basilique

    The Society of St. John seems to be associated with the Declee publishers (which also published things not by Solesmes).

    The Chants Abreges, as Jeffrey mentions above, seems very wonderful and useful to me (IMHO), and was (ultimately) the fruit of a decision made by the Vatican Commission.
  • "Jeffrey Ostrowski cites page 292 from the Combe book: 'With regard to the formulas to be adopted for the simple chanting of the Graduals, Tracts, and Alleluia verses, Dr. Wagner proposes that, to this end, reference be made to the formulas of the responsorial psalms that have fallen into disuse. The liturgical nature of these chants would thus be maintained. Dom Mocquereau shares this opinion.'"

    It would be helpful if someone were to flesh this all out (Tucker!). It sounds to me like you're saying they were formulating a prototype Graduale Simplex. Who is Combe? What were these "formulas of the responsorial psalms that have fallen into disuse", and when and where were they ever used? Who was using this collection when it first came out? And does its subsequent low profile (I never heard Marier or Skeris mention it) suggest a falling out of favor (as its apparent successor, the Simplex, later did)?

    I'm happy to rely on my (uncannily accurate) instincts in judging things like this, but would probably do better to have at least some context to go on. I can't believe I'm the only one.
  • The Dom Pierre Combe book I had in my hands for one brief day and then it went away. I've ordered another in paperback from Amazon. It is supposedly being reprinted from CUA. Amazon here. Says December. Yuk. Anyone have a copy on hand?

    It wouldn't surprise me that the book had a low circulation. It falls somewhere between Liber Usualis and Rossini, so the market might have been limited.
  • RagueneauRagueneau
    Posts: 2,592
    If I may interject with my two cents:

    I thought the issue was who published the Chants Abreges. I believe it was published by Solesmes.

    Also, several paragraphs from Combe page 292 show that this "Chants Abreges" idea had been kicked around by no less than the Pontifical Commission itself ! So, it seems not to have come out of nowhere.
  • The issue is what the heck these things are, who wrote them, and what relation to the authentic chant repetoire they might have. You both are (very slowly) establishing the patrimony of the thing (Mocquereau; some mysterious Vatican commission...), but I would like to know more before I endorse it. Others have "simplified" the authentic chant melodies (most often, to shoe-horn them into English texts), of which I do not approve. (It is a far different matter than the standard method of psalmtone replacement for verses and things, of which I obviously approve.) But you seem to be talking about something altogether different (this very intriguing "formulas of the responsorial psalms that have fallen into disuse"). So, keep digging, boys!
  • Hey, maybe we'll find some St. Gall signs for these and appoint a commission to study them for 50 years!

    Actually, I'll write Fr. Skeris, who knows all.
  • PS. This raises the larger issue, which I would like to see treated scholarly in Sacred Music someday: How were the Propers being sung in churches in the centuries leading up to Vatican II? (OK, say "the century leading up to...") I would guess there was a fair lot of substituting of authentic Gradual chants going on, of which CA is clearly symptomatic (and, of course, Rossini a disease unto himself). But the problem of inadequate singing for the Proper chant at hand was as real then as it is now (disparities in music education not withstanding). Just as in the liturgy generally (despite the post-Vatican II caricature of pre-Vatican II "uniformity"), I suspect there was probably a wide spectrum of creativity at the service of something called Missa cantata.
  • Just got my copy, and love it! Thanks for making it available.
    There is one thing that strikes me as odd. In the Liber Brevior, the graduals are set to simple Psalm tones, but the real melody of each alleluia is given, with its verse set to the introit tone (not to be confused with the Psalm tone) of that mode. In this book, the graduals are rather more elaborate (Could these be the verse tones for the Responsoria prolixa? or adaped therefrom? The double reciting tones make me wonder), but the alleluias are strictly formulaic (it seems that every mode I alleluia is the same, etc.) and shorn of any sort of jubilus. It would make more sense to have the LB gradual with the CA alleluia, as a bare-bones start, then put the CA gradual with the LB alleluia, yet another step on the way to the real melodies.
    Unless Solesmes/SSJE/Desclee thought of this and published yet another book that the CMAA will kindly make available, I guess I'll just have to (sigh) cut and paste, for those (few, thank God!) occasions when the real melodies are not practicable.
  • Ok, here is Fr. Skeris's answer:

    If there is a mystery, it is an old one. The most difficult chants in the Graduale have always been a particular challenge for even the average parish choir, in any country. It is by no means only the XXth century that has sought to overcome this difficulty in practise by proposing simpler alternatives. The Chants Abrégés are an attempt to find a via media which would be useful in a typical parish.

    Dom Gajard was chef d`atelier of the Paléo at the time, and under his supervision the booklet went to press. The tunes seem to have been chosen from various sources ranging from ordinary psalm tones simple or solemn (e.g. Introit psalmody) through melodic types for Allelujas etc. (e.g. Processionale of 1887) and Toni Communes for Gloria and Alleluja in the Mattins responsories (e.g. Liber Responsorialis 1895) to tones for Invitatory psalms or other simple cantillation formulae such as lections or Historiae Passionis, similar to those which Gajard suggested to Mrs Ward for the booklet of seasonal Mass Propers she published during the Second War.

    So it is actually neither controversial nor mysterious, but rather a proposal to solve a "pastoral"problem in a meaningful way.