Video Series: Chant Accompaniment tips, tricks, & ideas
  • Greetings, fellow musicians! This is something I've thought about doing for a long time, and decided to dive in head-first yesterday. I've created a video with tips, tricks, & ideas for chant accompaniment, including rhythm, voicings, registration, etc. This first video was totally unprepared and off-the-cuff, and it's essentially just stream of consciousness thoughts about chant accompaniment. I plan to start working on a series of videos covering specific topics in more detail, and maybe breaking down some individual chants.

    Introductory Video HERE

    I hope someone will find this info useful. I would also welcome feedback, good, bad, or indifferent, so that I can make future instructional videos as helpful as possible.

    Edit: I've decided to go ahead and start working on a whole series of individual topics, and I'll append them to this discussion as I complete them

    Video 2: How to Accompany Gregorian Chant from Square Note Chant Notation (4/28/15)


    Video 3: Accompanying Mode I (5/1/15)

    Video 4: Accompanying Mode II (5/6/15)

    Video 5: Accompanying Mode 3 (5/10/15)
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    Thank you so much for this informative video. I watched all the way through and picked up some very useful info.

    I currently use the Solesmes and Brager accompaniments for the Kyriale and would like to learn more about devising my own accompaniment, but I'll need more background in chant theory since my improvisational tinkering is still very primitive. There were some really illuminating explanations in your video that answered some questions I've had.

    I do very much admire the artful medieval/monastic quality of your accompaniments and your eminently tasteful registrations, both of which somehow remind me of the Fontgambault chant recordings.

    P.S. Your video on your Hauptwerk home organ system is also inspiring. Many thanks for sharing your expertise!
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    I passed this along to an organist friend and CMAA member who is not on the forum, and while my theory background isn't strong enough to get a ton out of this, he found it massively helpful, and said he will be listening back again and practicing some of the techniques you describe. Very good!
  • Thank you for the kind words. Glad to be of assistance.

    Next video in the series is up: How to Accompany Gregorian Chant from Square Note Chant Notation

    In Christo per Mariam,

    Patrick
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    Super cool! Can't wait to watch this one tonight. You're opening a whole new world for me with this! As you say, learning to accompany chant from the square notes offers unlimited flexibility.

    I find it fascinating in the other video when you explained that you can modulate your accompaniment to suit the needs of your schola, congregation and even to suit the liturgical season. That really blew my mind. : )

    The possibilities are endless indeed.
  • awilliamsawilliams
    Posts: 95
    I sat down with the organist at Clear Creek last time I was there and learned a good bit about chant accompaniment in their tradition (which is very minimalist and works far better with smaller congregations).

    Your videos seem to be in the same vein as their style.

    One thing I would be interested in seeing is a series on the harmonic patterns you often see in each mode. Seeing you set the magnificat antiphon in mode 3 was helpful since mode three is one that often gives me trouble. I similarly have difficulties with some mode 4 antiphons and occasionally mode 5 (depending on if "Ti" or "Te" is used).

    Since I accompany chant on a daily basis at the seminary, such a discussion would be very beneficial to me.

    Thanks,
    Aaron
  • Hi Aaron,

    I was thinking about doing demonstrations of each mode, with harmonic patterns and ideas, so your request has solidified that plan for me. Can't promise how quickly I'll get them done, but I'll be working on it.

    Patrick
  • BTW, I'm flattered by the comparisons of my accompaniment style to those of Fontgombault and Clear Creek. My initial training was in a very strict Solesmes/Fontgombault style. By listening to different methods, and then applying my own stylistic ideas, I've developed from that tradition, adding a few additional elements and harmonic ideas, which have resulted in my particular style.
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    . . . now if only you could publish your own accompaniment of the Kyriale, I wouldn't have to overcome such a steep learning curve at my advanced age. : )

    I'm very partial to the luminous chant accompaniments on the Schola Bellarmina CD set of the propers. Are you familiar with them?

    An example:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=11&v=nuZqqZDkDJ4

    An example of Fontgambault accompaniments:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Klddb5e70-c&index=25&list=RDnuZqqZDkDJ4

    Thanked by 1SarahJ
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    Gorgeous, Julie. Wouldn't be great for a newer schola needing help, but I love that style for an advanced schola for which accompaniment is more ornamentation than support.
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • awilliamsawilliams
    Posts: 95
    I altered my comment, because apparently I can't read.


    That CD set is marvelous! Now I need to buy it.... Too bad I don't get paid.
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    The Liturgical Year by the Schola Bellarmina is my favorite chant recording, and I've learned so much from their style of singing the propers. Gregorianbooks.com often has their videos as examples of the EF propers so there are a number of their recordings on YouTube.
  • awilliamsawilliams
    Posts: 95
    I noticed on the repeat of the antiphon you played the melody on the great with the chords in the swell. Did you find this useful in keeping people moving at the seminary? My greatest difficulty in accompanying at the seminary right now is keeping the chant moving (and convincing overly zealous seminarians that accompanied chant is not an intrinsic evil).
  • Yes, sometimes a nice 8' flute and 8' string in the swell for left hand, with a rather stodgy 8' diapason on the great (and a 4' if really needed) for melody can be very helpful on the antiphons. Keep psalms on swell/choir with softer registrations. It can be nice to alternate choir/swell during the psalm with the alternatum. But with chant tempo, most of all, don't be afraid to push them, but never get too far ahead. [[sidenote: I do recall pulling some gnarly reeds on one particularly frustrating occasion when the seminarians were several beats behind and about 3/4 step flat during a procession. Definitely took care of that problem. But I wouldn't generally recommend that approach!]]

    Re: the overzealous ones... assure them that even the SSPX happily accompanies chant on the organ, so it must not be intrinsically evil ;-) In my seminary time (FSSP), I had to deal with a few lads who thought that the organ itself was superfluous, always and everywhere. Wow.
  • awilliamsawilliams
    Posts: 95
    3/4 step flat during a procession


    I was convinced that flat seminarians are just part of the package after I heard the asperges/verse from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgAngwKlBqg
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,307
    flat seminarians


    Doesn't that usually happen right before their ordination?
  • I was convinced that flat seminarians are just part of the package after I heard the asperges/verse from


    Yeah, that was painful. But it brought back lots of memories! It's a great penance to sit at the organ bench, know where the pitch should be, and still have to listen to 80 voices go flat!
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    Thanks very much for the latest installment, 32CB! The light is beginning to dawn. I have been experimenting with Mode I propers that I have on hand and writing in chord names as you suggest, and it works! Just like that. It's magic. : )

    I can't believe I can look at square notes now and begin to see harmonization patterns. I'm so used to seeing only a melodic line. As you say, it's so liberating to realize that if one could become adept at this method, all you'd need is a page of square notes, and you're good to go. No more accompaniment books in your music bag. My 13 y/o daughter is learning with me as we go along, so I imagine she'll be far better than I am someday if she continues along. (She's already better now! Mom's brain is rusty.)
    Thanked by 132ContraBombarde
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,465
    flat seminarians

    Perhaps flatt trumpets might help.
    Thanked by 2Richard Mix eft94530
  • I have to say that this has inspired me greatly! Also, shout out to Ben Yanke who posted your link on Chant Cafe and Facebook. I watched the whole video when I got into the office this morning, and I spent the last hour tinkering with the organ for tonight's rehearsal! I'm learning the organ out of necessity, since my very accomplished organist graduated last year. I find that harmonizing my own accompaniment is far easier than reading notes on a page with text. I was already doing this to modestly improvise during some interludes in our TLM, but I'm not trained in modal theory. I found that I was already following most of your rules (most of the time), and that gave me hope for accompanying my schola again.

    Also, I can't thank you enough for your quick lesson on registration! My last organist always did things WAY TOO LOUD, and that was something I wanted to avoid, since we have 5 regular singers in the schola. I'll be catching up on the rest of your video posts during the week (hopefully).
  • I'm truly glad that people are finding these videos helpful. I will continue to post new videos as time allows, and I do intend to make it through all 8 modes (and the Tonus Peregrinus, 'cause it's awesome!), and maybe revisit registration even more in depth, and a video of little tricks that come in handy in a variety of situations. Someday I'll be able to afford a 3-manual console, and maybe then I can go through some of the neat possibilities that a choir/positive opens up.

    And if anyone has any requests or suggestions, please feel free to let me know. I'll do my best to accommodate.

    In Christo per Mariam,

    Patrick
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • Jazzer
    Posts: 34
    Dude this is seriously good stuff. People remember good stuff like this. For centuries.

  • At long last:

    Video 6 is up, on accompanying Mode 4

    This one's a little lower quality. Really wanted to get these going again, but didn't have time to do the direct audio export from the organ and overdub multiple voices for chant. So audio is less than ideal, but hopefully it gets the message across.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 510
    Curious to know about accompanying the credo. I've been using the already notated ones cos they are so easy to read but my conductor has developed a semiology system and it's hard to follow these notated accompaniments. I want to move closer to the chant notation. I'm so fixed doh it's kinda nuts. I so far have succeeded in easier transposition from notated scores but I don't know how to choose the chords. I will watch all these videos before I head off to the colloquium. Sounds like good plane watching.

    Anybody keen to catch up at Colloquium and help me out please?
  • JulieCollJulieColl
    Posts: 2,437
    These are superb. I have learned so much.
    Thanked by 1Jes
  • JesJes
    Posts: 510
    I haven't stopped watching and it's so many hours later :P thanks for making them!