Introductions to Gregorian Chant
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    More and more singers and musicians are encountering Gregorian, and would benefit from a readable introductory text to help get them up to speed. It needs to be pitched at the right level: it should be practical, well-written, assume basic musical literacy and give some liturgical context. I don't have in mind a detailed course-work, or a work of musico/liturgical history. Just something to back up the practical work that people are beginning to do.

    My starter would be Mary Berry's (two books: Plainchant for Everyone, Royal School of Church Music, ISBN 0854021523 and Cantors, CUP, ISBN 9780521221498 (currently out of print, but may be possible to get 2nd-hand).

    Dr. Berry, an Augustinian canoness, is an authority on plainsong who has done much good work re-popularising its liturgical use.
  • I highly recommend Gregorian Chant for Church and School, available on MusicaSacra or in print
    Here is the printed version


    There is also a book called "Square Notes Workbook" that you can get from Thomas Aquinas Books.

    Those are the best two that I've seen.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I'll second the recommendation, with a caveat: her hints on pronunciation and phrasing assume an English accent by default. Consequently, "a" is to be pronounced, she suggests, as in "rather." In American English, that would be like the "a" in "bad," which would be bad. Instead, Americans should pronounce the Latin "a" as in "father." Her other pronunciation illustrations are terrific.

    Also, her discussion of psalm tones focuses on Office tones and a few other (wonderful) tones, but not the Gloria Patri tones. Psalmody is simple, but its presentation is often confusing. It would be nice to have a single, complete, comprehensive guide devoted solely to it. Do any exist?
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I find it interesting to think about a "progressive chant primer," which would introduce the basic mechanics of chant by using actual, complete chants as illustrations. So that as you learn, you could apply what you learn immediately to a parish situation. Example: teaching chanters to sing pitches accurately, you'd use the chants for dialogues and responses, from simple to more complex. Guides to singing chant don't need to abstract overviews. Just food for thought.
  • My schola is using the Marier/Turkington - A Gregorian Chant Masterclass. It's very attractive, comes with a CD, and covers just the basics for a beginning group. It's organized in such a way that you can keep coming back to it.

    moconnor
  • tdunbar
    Posts: 120
    As a total beginner, I'm finding the Marier/Turkington - A Gregorian Chant Masterclass book very useful
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    I agree about the Masterclass book - very, very helpful. I'm looking forward to something from the FSSP along these lines. Are they working on anything?
  • What I like best about the Marier/Turkington is its limited scope. It's a starter manual. Some other similar texts try to take on everything in a single book.

    moconnor
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    I like the Maier/Turkington book as well. However Marier's explanation r/t the 'ictus' is difficult to understand on the CD.

    Another beginner's book "The Beginner's Book of Chant: A simple Guide for Parishes, Schoos & Communities" by
    'a benedictine monk is also good (ISBN 0-907077-39-0)

    I use a combo of both books for new chanters.
  • Until recently, I had a basic (music degree) knowledge of Gregorian Chant, though since being promoted organist to a Benedictine Abbey I have been given a few masterclass sessions by the Choirmaster and Prior -that surely is the best way to learn to read chant?!
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Quick specific question (which I'd guess belongs here): "ij" means repeat, and "iij" means repeat twice, right? (And just what do they actually stand for, anyway?) Thanks.
  • Mark: correct. As far as I know, they simply signify 2 and 3 in lower-case Roman numerals.

    The 'ij' is the basis for a good groaner if you sound it out: "Sing all the way up to the 'ij' the first time, then go over the 'ij' the second time around." Modify the pun and pronunciation slightly for 'iij'.

    Feel free to use at a rehearsal of your choice. Or not.
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 749
    plitman,

    Dead right - immersing ourselves in a living tradition is the best way of experiencing chant, and the Benedictines maintain the tradition.

    This raises the issue of the impact of modern communication systems on the tradition - or rather, on the traditions. There are varieties of performance tradition of most kinds of music, including Gregorian chant and liturgical polyphony. The advent of recorded music has threatened those varieties. For example: too many liturgical choirs in the UK want to sound like either Kings College Cambridge (Anglican) or Westminster Cathedral (Catholic); and from what I read on blogs, these sounds are popular throughout the English-speaking world. Comparatively few of the choir trainers, and even fewer of the singers, will have been influenced by regular attendance at live performances, either as musicians or members of the congregation. Rather, from the 1920s onwards, radio broadcasts and recordings have moulded our ideas of how liturgical choirs ought to sound. Thank God for living traditions, like that of the Benedictines, that live and develop outside of this narrow focus.

    The internet has the potential to either mitigate or exacerbate this tendency. It broadens access to broadcasting, and so might increase the range of sounds we hear. On the other other hand, it might strengthen the dissemination of a limited number of approaches that have survived the destruction of the the last forty years.

    All this might seem a little esoteric to choir directors who just want to reintroduce their parishes to our musical-liturgical heritage. But the decisions made at this stage have the potential to influence the sound their choirs make for a long time to come. I would therefore encourage them to listen to - and if possible participate in - as wide a range of performance practice as possible. This will help them develop an informed judgement that can only be to the benefit of their parishes and singers, and their own professional development.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Thanks, Aristotle Esguerra, for the reply and explanation! Another one here --

    Could someone explain, even briefly, what the "E u o u a e" vowels mean in some of the Introits I see in the Graduale Romanum? (I think I missed that part at a workshop I recently attended.)

    Thanks again.
  • Mark M.: "E u o u a e" are the vowels of "...sAEcUlOrUm. AmEn," the final (Latin) words of the Doxology, and are put there to give the appropriate ending notes.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Ah... very good, Chris. Thank you.
  • I've heard about a chant recording by a Russian choir in which they went ahead and chanted the euouae on every psalm. Would be hilarious, but I haven't found the actual recording. :)
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Chris (or anyone), I just want to get a follow-up assurance on this (Jeffrey and others have been very kind in answering previous questions I've had): You said that the vowels are put there to give the appropriate ending notes, and indeed when I cross-reference the corresponding Doxology (i.e., the Gloria Patri tones according to the same mode as the Introit), those are in fact the correct notes.

    But they aren't the *ending* notes necessarily, are they, because don't you normally go back and repeat the antiphon? That is, isn't the order for the full Introit usually supposed to be: Antiphon - Psalm - Doxology (Gloria Patri) - Antiphon -- ? Thanks again.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Mark, that's correct. "Ending" means "ending of the melody," not the ending of the entire musical moment. The introduction to the Liber usualis describes traditional practice.
  • Yes, those notes are meant to let you know what pitches to sing the 2nd half of the doxology before returning to the antiphon. You don't sing them after the antiphon ever. I've found that now that the LU is online, I can photoshop the proper endings on to my psalms. It's very cool.

    moconnor
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Okay… a question here about singing the Psalms (i.e., the Responsorial Psalm).

    I'm the cantor, planning to sing it in English, straight from the Lectionary. For the third Sunday of Advent, I'd like to sing a Responsorial setting by Arlene Oost-Zinner (available here from the Chabanel Psalms page). I'm told that it's to be used with Tone I, VI, or IV… so I find the Office Psalm tones from the Liber Usualis here, conveniently available at musicasacra.com.

    Do I "simply" follow the instructions in the introduction to the LU (as linked by Pes above)… even though the LU assumes I'm singing in Latin?

    Do I choose one of those modes as indicated, then basically follow the given pitches for each line of text (being sensitive to accents and the like), and then for the last line choose at will one of the "termination formulae" indicated by lowercase letters before returning to the AOZ Responsorial?

    A little guidance here (or guidance as to where I can read a bit more) would be appreciated.

    (edit again: thanks for the help on the hyperlinks… I think I get it now!)
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Mark M,

    Excellent question. I've started a new thread on psalmody.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Very good! Thanks.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Mark, you've basically got it right. Only, choose a termination formula that ends on the same pitch that the response melody begins. Makes it easy for the congregation to pick up the melody. And yes, be a bit sensitive to the accents in English. Assuming Latin will sometimes produce awkward melody in English. As general rules, they work pretty darn well. Just be open to making small adjustments if the result strikes you as obviously strange.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Great, Pes… thanks so much. Some follow-up questions, if you don't mind:

    (1) For the Responsorial itself, in cases where I don't conveniently find one written by Arlene, where might I find them? Or should I "make them up" myself according to the Psalm tones… and if so, would I find the proper mode in the Graduale Romanum?

    (2) I see that some of those modes on the Psalm tones sheet don't have termination formulae. What's up there? Do they really not need them for those modes?

    (3) Somewhat unrelated: On the musicasacra Communio downloads page, I see the Gloria Patri tones are right there. Now, the Gloria Patri is used with the Introit, but not the Psalms, right?

    Thanks as always.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Mark

    1. There's no official music for the RP. There are melodies for them, of course, in various hymnals and missalettes. Some are obviously better than others.

    It's a fascinating question to ask how one should write them. Personally, I'd try to think like an old master chant composer: choose a mode, determine some overall melody shapes based on details of the text, and then start mapping hexachords on these constituent shapes. Then play with individual notes, paying attention to the possible significance that movement from one to another might suggest (bright major thirds, mysterious minor seconds, serious minor thirds, etc.). Also, maybe think "intertextually" -- that is, if a text strongly suggests another text elsewhere, find a bit of melody from that other place and quote it. Musical allusion.

    2. If I'm not mistaken, all the tones have terminations. Perhaps you're looking at Tones Two, Five, and Six, which seem to have no termination options. That's because they have only one termination (indicated after the full bar).

    3. As to the use of the Gloria Patri, I'll have to defer to more knowledgeable people here. I've always heard that the GP is a "festal" tone, thus appropriate for Sundays. IIRC, the "psalm tones" in the Liber are tones from the Office and therefore "ferial" tones. For that reason, they seem to be more appropriate for the RP, which is arguably a "reading." I think this is open to debate, however. My inclination would be the same as yours: I'd use GP tones on Sundays for verses accompanying antiphons, and Office tones for the RP. But I'd feel a bit unsettled doing that. Like you, I'd welcome additional comment.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Okay, 'nother question here: Next week (fourth Sunday of Advent), the Offertory according to the GR is Ave Maria… et benedictus. But would it be okay to do this classic and very familiar chant setting of the Ave Maria instead?
  • Mark, if you are singing the Advent IV Offertory for an OF Mass, I don't think you are obligated to use the Gregorian Proper from the EF. You would be covering the text exactly so I think you're OK. I'd be interested in the opinions of others on this.

    If all else fails, sing "Gentle Woman" (ducking for cover now!)

    moconnor
  • BTW I should add that the pastor of the church I will be leaving soon (I promised the choir director I would stay until Christmas) will not stand for any Marian music outside of Marian feast days, so no references this week...

    moconnor
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Ha! (First post.) Thanks for that!

    And on your second post, I've encountered the same, I think… so I'll have to check with my pastor.

    But with "Alius Cantus Aptus," I'm never really "obligated" to use the Gregorian Propers, right? Isn't it still the ideal for OF Masses, too?
  • No, I don't believe you are obligated to use the Gregorian propers. The GIRM is pretty clear on what the "options" are. Parishes with the necessary resources should feel "obliged" to use the highest option, but Americans are very well known for paying lots of money for low culture. It's no surprise that they prefer it in their worship too.

    moconnor
  • G
    Posts: 1,386
    Hmmmm.... I've always thought of myself as an iijit, regarding early music and liturgical music practice, but I did manage to figure that out on my lonesome...

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    Mark M -

    Mr. Ostrowski will be hosting my RP antiphon settings on his sight as I send them to him. (I have an entire year C complete; these should all be up fairly soon. Working on and sending him years A and B in real time)

    Would love any feedback/discussion.
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Excellent, Arlene!

    (I'm curious now of something that might warrant another discussion entirely, namely "fixing" the Alleluia. Mr. Ostrowski mentioned to me once in an email that he was working on a collection for that, too….)
  • mahrt
    Posts: 505
    moconnor, the offertory Ave Maria is proper to both the EF and the OF without distinction. Whether you substitute the antiphon Ave Maria (which derives from the antiphon for vespers for the Annunciation) is the same question as whether you use the Graduale simplex instead of the Graduale Romanum. The Graduale Romanum chants are the principal propers of the Mass; the chants of the Graduale simplex are essentially chants from the office (where they serve quite a different function) adapted for use by choirs that cannot manage the chants of the Graduale Romanum. It is not simply a matter of singing the obligatory text to some music, though that was a pervasive attitude before the Council; it is a matter of singing the proper chant. This was never strictly obligatory, though, because of the need to accommodate various levels of skill among choirs.
  • Professor Marht, thanks for clearing that up. I'm surprised the Gregorian propers are actually proper to the OF since few people have heard them in 40 years. Let me ask you this. Wouldn't substituting the Vespers antiphon be the same as substituting a polyphonic setting for the Gregorian Proper?

    moconnor
  • Mark M.Mark M.
    Posts: 632
    Thank you, too, Prof. Mahrt… and an excellent follow-up question, moconnor.

    I'm taking a look at the offertory Ave Maria and am thinking that it's a bit too much for my small schola at this time. And I'm mindful of Dr. Mahrt's call (from the EWTN interview) to introduce chant back into our congregations gradually.

    Which brings up another very simple question on my part (which I am wont to do!): Am I correct that, simply put, the people are to sing the Ordinary of the Mass (with the cantor and/or schola) and that the schola alone is to sing the Propers (though the people may join if they wish)? Keep in mind that I'm in a congregation (like most, perhaps) where the people expect to sing some sort of song during the Offertory.

    This weekend, though, that song won't be "Gentle Woman."