How many people in the US read neumes?
  • I was discussing with Arlene Oost-Zinner how many people in this country read neumes. We should have some sort of betting pool pending a national survey. I would say 2,456.

    She says 3,672

    What do you think?
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    I'm thinking in particular of all of those music school geeks, modern notation types, who understand neumes "theoretically speaking," but couldn't sing their way through the simplex if their lives depended on it.
  • Jscola30
    Posts: 116
    yea pretty much like me.......
  • I can read it enough to often successfully sing a chant, but I couldn't name every single type of neum there is, that's fer sure! ;)
    BMP
  • I resisted learning the names of neumes for a long time, figuring that I would just do without. But getting to know each one is like discovering the names of your friends. It is also enormously useful. Also it's fun to construct long sentences that only other chant geeks can understand.
  • AOZ
    Posts: 369
    Brian, Jscola30, and Jeffrey - whether you know the names of the neumes or not, or whether you are fluent or not is not the question. The question is - can you read neumes? If so, then I count you among my 3,672. Do you understand how the four line staff and clefs and all of that work? Do you have an understanding of how the whole and half steps are represented? Do you know to sing the bottom note of the podatus first? Could you, with a greater or lesser degree of difficulty, get through an ordinary you've never seen before if you had to? Could you, in a hostage situation, explain to your captor how to read some of the the simple chants printed in the Liber Cantualis? If so, then again, I count you among the 3,672.

    Or wait, maybe we just need a clearer definition of what it means to read neumes....what does it mean?
  • I feel like it has to be more than roughly 3500. Maybe 10 or 15 000. Keep in mind, there are lots of musicologists out there, Anglo-Catholics, Independent Catholics, chant-loving Lutherans, monks and nuns, music librarians, lay enthusiasts of chant...

    I wish more folks were bolder about introducing their choirs to square notes. I've been singing in choirs for decades and have only been reading neumes for a couple years -- I still find them way easier to sightread than modern notation.
  • Jscola30
    Posts: 116
    Eh, maybe not all those things you said, but most, I know the Do and Fa clefs etc.,
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I would say a good guess is to take the number of people in the CMAA and multiply by 10 (assuming each has a 10 person schola). The discrepancies due to people w/o scholas and non-members/non-Church musicians should even out.
  • ShawnS
    Posts: 1
    Add myself, my choir at St. Paul's K Street DC, and however much of our congregation reads and sings along to our weekly chanting of the seasonal marian antiphon between evensong and benediction, handed out in neume notation.

    I've known plenty of people, including myself, who can sightread through the graduale and LU - so it's not a high bar to cross. Just a bit of training and intuition.
  • I can read the neumes, sure. It'd take me a couple tries to get the notes right (I'm not a trained musician) but I can certainly read it.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,191
    Although I haven't risen to the level of "geek" yet (that being the operative word), I've understood the concept of singing neumatic notation since my Oberlin days, and I suppose in a hostage situation I could muddle through some fairly complex chants.

    While at the University of Michigan, some of my colleagues in the organ DMA program formed a "Vespers" club, and we gathered every week in a freezing cold church (selected by the group leader for its acoustics, not its climate) and sang through vespers for Sunday (I believe we ended up using the appointed chants, etc. for "Low Sunday") from the Liber Usualis. It was an interesting experiment both in developing a facility in reading neumes and coming to grips with the complexities of the rubrics for singing the office in choir.

    On a slightly different note, I've begun having our parish choir sing the communion antiphon and psalm (for the Sunday or season) as set in BFW, which has been discussed in another thread. When we started out, I had to do a cheater's version with each verse written out with the formula notated. I also included the pointings (italics, bolds and other marks) so that they could begin to see the connection between the two. We had only begun this in Advent, and I'm happy to say that for Baptism they sang the chant as it appears in the book without needing a cheater version. Now they're beginning to get comfortable with the modality of chant and how to read pointings.

    I hope to move them on to singing the communion chants out of the Gregorian Missal. Any suggestions on how to beging the tutoring process in reading neumatic notation?
  • G
    Posts: 1,387
    Well, there's being "able to read," and there's "being able to read"...
    I might put the number a little higher if only because the Adoremus hymnal pew edition is around, (that has some square note, IIRC?) and because surely most churches, (and even perhaps church choirs,) have a man or two in his seventies who sang some of the propers at high mass in the day, and a woman or two in her fifties who sang funerals or school Masses in the day.
    Not ALL of them would have used Kyriales or Libers with modern notation, there are too many with square notes floating around for that to be the case.
    I would like to use square note with my choir, (I was reluctant to believe those who said it is easier for non-readers to pick up than modern notation is, but I learned through experience that it is indeed true.)
    But there is resistance enough among some choir members, first to actual liturgical music, secondly to Latin, and finally to chant itself.... I don't need to add another layer for the malcontents to b***** about.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    david andrew--A GREGORIAN CHANT MASTER CLASS by Dr. Theodore Marier & Turkington is excellent. (Yes, Turkington as in our own Scott Turkington!) THE BEGINNER'S BOOK OF CHANT by a benedictine monk gives a very practical lesson plan approach with a section on choir rehearsal methods for chant beginners. I've used a combo of both along with a handout to practice sight reading using the numerical approach rather than do-re-me (which in my experience, many average parish choir-types find confusing.) Have not used the WARD METHOD. Might want to ask Arlene about that.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    Sorry about the above digression

    To address the neum reading question: I would have to agree with Skitalets (10-15K). There are plenty of persons 55
    & older who were lucky enough to attend Catholic schools pre-V2 who were taught to read neums. Even though they haven't used it for 40 years, it's like 'riding a bike'...you never forget. Also it's easier than standard 5 line notation.
    I have also found a number of persons here from Latin America & India who read neums. In addition, I met
    a 20-something women from Poland (here on a Fulbright studying education, not a music or church history major) who came to sing with our schola for a few months. She was fluent in reading neums. And all those academics!
    Our schola sings with a 'regular novus ordo congregation' & you would be surprised how quickly they picked up
    reading handouts with neum notation. The key is to pick an ordinary and stick with it for a while.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242
    G--Very true about some (many?) parish adult choir's resistance to reading neums! Some older members who sang chant pre-V2 associate it with a 'retro movement' of some sort (we have a lot of educational work to do with this issue!) One gentleman in the Adult Choir suggested I leave Gregorian Chant to the schola. Even though for 'ever' (way before the schola was formed) the Adult Choir sang the Gregorian Gloria each Holy Week! I've noticed this reaction
    since the 7-7-7 Summorum Pontificum.
  • john m
    Posts: 134
    I know 21 neum-readers in Upper Michigan, representing two scholae and three priests. LSSU, NMU and Tech may add a few more. Except for three far-flung parishes, the Catholic U.P., including our cathedral, is largely driven by the OCP happy clappy machine, and the liturgical Protestant churches are dropping their traditions and caving in to evangelical schlock.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    There are at least 20 in the Central Coast of California, plus we've been using "neum" versions of some responses in our worship aid, so the entire parish has been exposed to them. We couldn't count all of them, but that's at least a couple hundred. Heck, if they can't read modern notation, what difference does it make using neums instead?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,262
    I know some silly gnomes that
    Know the neumes by name;
    But I'll be Damned if they will sing them
    Even holdin' their feet to the flame!

    I know a ton'a bureaucrats
    Who don't care about the neumes
    Nor dare to gander back in time
    Cause they think it's for the tombs.

    I know the gnomes that'r s'posed to know
    But march against it all-
    The liber usualis,
    Simplex and Graduale.

    So gather up the neumes, my friend;
    It's time to chant the chant!
    The Punctum heads the army
    And Podatus leads the rant!

    Sing out now Clivis, Torculus,
    Porrectus, "Let us pray!"
    Hold the Climacus aloft
    And Scandicus, I say!

    The Custos looks ahead
    To make the crooked straight!
    The valleys filled and hills made low
    The neumes, 'By God', are Great!

    And when the battle's o'er
    And the Saints go marchin' in
    It won't be rock or sacro-pop
    The neumes will be the thing!

    The organ pipes will thunder out
    The tierce, the nas, the quint;
    The neumes will be the notes we sing
    No matter who's in print.

    And when we gather at the gates
    To join in heaven's throng
    We're hoping that those wayward gnomes
    Will be able to sing along!

    Copyright 2008 Francis Koerber
    Feel free to distribute, print,
    copy, by all means and forms,
    electronic or otherwise!
  • I learned to sing most of the Ordinaries in parochial grade school in the early 1960s. It was with western notation. It was accompanied by the organ. ALL of us sang it. Each class took turns learning the day's Propers from the Rossini book, and I still have 2 copies from those days in my past! I was already married with children and 30+ when I started chanting from the Graduale Romanum. I was 50+ before I went to my first CMAA Colloquium. Like some already posted, I can read them and sing them, but only know some of their names. I can compare Vatican versions to the Solesmes versions, and make whatever pencil marking on my western notation organ accompaniments reminding me of the 'basics' of the rhythm. I read with interest references to the historic neumes in the Graduale Triplex, but am too busy with 4 jobs (two of which are playing the organ for mostly EF Masses) and putting my knowledge to practical use to spend much time in reading. I am chanting some of the melismatic Propers as accompanied solo before Mass and during Communion, and the people love to hear it.

    PS I love the poem, and will send it on to some of my local RC music friends!
  • Darcy
    Posts: 73
    Although not all will admit it, I bet a great majority of the older religious sisters and brothers in the US read neumes. So they should be included in the count. I know the younger Nashville Dominicans are learning to read them too.

    According to the USCCB, the total number of religious:

    Sisters: 64,877
    Brothers: 5,095