Pronunciation of Greek in Gregorian Chant
  • Geremia
    Posts: 224
    The Kyrie Eleison and Hagios o Theos are some examples of Greek in Gregorian Chant. How are they supposed to be pronounced? Is there name for the type of pronunciation that is most commonly used in Catholic Masses? Is it how the Eastern rites pronounce Greek in their liturgies?
  • The Roman style is for liturgical Greek to be pronounced like modern Greek, just as liturgical Latin is pronounced like modern Italian. Note that s is always hard in Greek, even between two vowels.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,687
    I am not sure that either is in fact the case, madorganist.
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia articles on Agios o Theos and Kyrie eleison corroborate my claims about the Greek, and section IX of the Rules for Interpretation from the Liber can be compared to the rules for Italian pronunciation to verify that the Roman liturgical style of Latin is Latin pronounced like Italian, not French, German, Spanish, classical Latin, etc.
    Thanked by 1Geremia
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,687
    One overstates the case by saying that it’s like Italian, at least to be correct. Pius XII was recorded praying the Pater Noster.

    In seven months with the ICRSS, not once did I hear it sung or recited in such fashion. At Gricigliano, M. le supérieur, Canon Mora, does not allow the French pronunciation, with the caveat that “ps” is interpreted as in French and that “r“ is a wee bit guttural. Besides, other French and German clerics have historically ignored this prescription, which is of recent origin.

    The thread reminded me that vowels are always long if and only if following certain schools of chant. The regular vowels and aspirate h are to be respected in spoken Latin, and when chanting recto tono or singing a more monosyllabic chant, the pronunciation can be better respected.

    As far as the Greek is concerned, the melodies of the Kyrie suggest that there is no one single pronunciation which works for all. The pronunciation clearly shifted over time.

    Evidently, per the linked thread, the new books use the older form of the Reproaches, which by the time of the Vatican edition had been corrupted in the spelling. It simply does not use the modern spelling, and in this case, other than for convenience, I don’t feel bound to the gradual or any book of Solesmes, even for the TLM.
  • What does "'ps' interpreted as in French" mean, and how does that differ from the Italian style? French pronounces both consonants at the beginning of psaume or psychologie, if I'm not mistaken. English and Spanish are the odd languages here in comparison with Italian, French, and German, which have retained the Greek psi pronunciation.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,687
    Italian dropped the “p.” The word is “salmo.”

    There was a discussion here, wherein I was totally schooled on the “ps.” Both consonants are indeed pronounced in French. The conclusion seemed to be that because Italians don’t care for such initial combinations of letters such as “ps” and even “ex” (see “straordinaria”) that they’d be likely to drop them in Latin as well. Books rarely get into such detail.
  • This guy looks and sounds pretty Italian to me:

    At 5:23, notice how he says "epsallere," not "etsallere," as English-speakers have a tendency to do. You are correct that the Italian word is salmo, but the discussion is about Latin pronunciation in the Italian style, not Italian pronunciation per se.

    With all due respect to Canon Mora and the Institute, I'm inclined to rely on Pius XII, a native Roman, and other Italians for guidance in respect to authentic Roman liturgical Latin pronunciation. Similarly, recordings of the Trisagion and Kyrie sung by real Greek speakers are copious on YouTube and elsewhere. Unless one is trying to reconstruct historic pronunciation for a concert performance, the speculations of classicists are irrelevant for singing sacred music correctly as far as actual liturgical use is concerned.
  • ...classicists are irrelevant...
    I do understand your basic premise and the legitimate rationales behind it, and think that, in general, you are correct. The in general, though, is the key word here. Indeed, one should not sing anything at liturgy in a manner that is self consciously eccentric with respect to educated norms, for doing so calls attention to the musical item itself rather than to its role and import in the liturgical continuum.

    Nonetheless, such educated norms and 'speculations' are never categorically 'irrelevant', nor should one rule out a cautious and judicious inclusion of what some people would consider out of bounds 'classicist speculation' simply because it is, in the context of a culturally impoverished American Catholicism, rather unusual. On such grounds Gregorian chant itself, sung in whatever manner, is banished from more parish and cathedral worship in this land than one could shake a well-deserved stick at. No. We should not think of chant, done in an accustomed manner or in an historically informed manner, speculative or not, as out of bounds, particularly for a congregation which has a history of music appreciation and an openness to a wide variety of music. The 'speculations of classicists' are not only for concerts, sacred concerts, and recitals and such. They are legitimate for worship wherever there is reason to believe that they will be appreciated, will be a positive spiritual experience, and will be a true grace to the Lord's worship. This applies to whatever constitutes correct pronunciation of Greek in the liturgical chant repertory as well as to any and all other liturgical music. Lift people up. Always. Speak (and sing) to their highest minds.

    One example out of many in my experience - I often play at St Basil's Chapel at Houston's UST. The people there are perhaps a tad above average. They sing very well and are appreciative of organ and choral music. I always sing (a capella) the psalm responsory and the alleluya verse to chant that I improvise 'on the spot'. This chant is quasi flourid and might be defined as 'neumatic' as opposed to 'syllabic' or 'melismatic'. Several of the Basilian fathers are amazed by it and look forward to hearing it. The people? They are rapt to the point that one knows that a deep rapport betwixt cantor and people exists. When I am not there (when the choirmaster and choir are not in recess) they are accustomed to R&A. There are some who might call this way of performing the responsory as 'speculative' or outlandish. I prefer to think of it as logical and as an heir to the historic (and unique) Roman gradual responsory. It could be called 'speculative'. It is definitely unusual. It should definitely be commonplace.

    Thanked by 1madorganist
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,687
    1) Canon Mora was educated in Rome and ordained for Genoa when Cardinal Siri was the archbishop of that see. (The same is true of Mgr Wach.) So, his exposure to proper Roman Latin is far greater than mine. Sure, I imagine priests did speak it in like manner to Pius XII, but as far as that goes, his Latin uses a heavy Italian pronunciation. That’s ridiculous to expect from the rest of the world. It’s ugly to non–Italians, and it’s difficult as it is, because of all the work that goes in to learning the phonics and making the correct sounds. I imagine that back in the day the average priest of any nationality spoke it in a more balanced manner.

    2) The correct form of the Trisagion in the Mass of the Pre–Sanctified is not modern Greek. That was the whole point of the thread shared here.

    3) Who cares how modern Greeks sing at a liturgy in modern Greek? The Kyrie might be identical textually in modern Greek but its composition was not intended for contemporary pronunciation, so one must investigate the pronunciation in order to figure out what is best.

    4) I understand the discussion is about Latin…… the point is whether Italians carry over the habits of their own language or if they pronounce it differently.

    To return to Vianini and Pius XII: Vianini doesn’t sound Italian, at least not to the average listener when singing. Germans and French speakers of Latin are identifiable when they use their local pronunciation…I imagine that it’s perfectly possible for Italians to do the same. But I would sing “et psallere” without losing “t” and “p” both. It would take a bit of training to get everyone to do that, I imagine. But it is possible.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • It's been noted numerous times on our forum that Latin in times past was pronounced in each and every land just like one's own language, so this fetish for Italianate Latin (a convention which is hardly an hundred years old) is an entirely new-fangled thing. I think that most of our forumites know this already, but it doesn't hurt to keep it in mind when there are those who worry about whether their 'church Latin' sounds Italian enough, or if it slavishly follows Liber Usualis Latin. Good diction, good vowels, and clear consonants are the most important factors. The Latin of late antiquity or of the mediaeval era cannot reasonably be replicated. If they could they would represent a far more 'correct' pronunciation than Italian, whether modern or antique. Some have noted that the French are not all that enamoured of 'Italian' Latin, nor, I think, are the Germans or Spanish. We Anglophones seem to be the only ones obsessed with it - which may be a boon, lest (heaven forbid!) our Latin sounded like British public school and university Latin, or the Latin of botanists and lawyers.
  • 1. It's spoken Latin, not sung Latin. You can find other recordings of Pius XII chanting.

    2. Nobody argued otherwise.

    "A liturgy in modern Greek."
    Are you kidding me? Which eastern rite, Catholic or Orthodox, has its liturgical prayers in modern Greek? There is not one style of liturgical Greek for Byzantines and another for Latins! Like historical pronunciations of Latin, how the Greek was pronounced in Paris, London, Madrid, or Vienna at any given point in time is irrelevant. For over a century, the Roman (Italian) style of pronunciation has been used in Catholic churches in English-speaking countries. As the language of this forum is English, and the CMAA's activity is based in English-speaking areas, we have no reason to assume that consideration of German, French, or other non-Italian pronunciation is at all relevant. Furthermore, the Greek portions of the papal liturgy were historically sung by Greek clergy, cantors, or choirs.

    4. Should one be able to distinguish between a native Italian, English, French, Spanish, or German opera singer singing the same aria? Good diction is an important part of good singing, whether in opera, song, chant, or choral music. There is not one standard for secular music and another for sacred! If you're fond of the aspirated h's and ay diphthongs that so often plague American choirs, then go for it, but don't pretend it's proper liturgical Latin because you don't want to sound too Italian.

    To address the original question directly:
    How are they supposed to be pronounced?
    Like modern Greek.
    Is there name for the type of pronunciation that is most commonly used in Catholic Masses?
    Liturgical Greek.
    Is it how the Eastern rites pronounce Greek in their liturgies?
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,687
    1) I said above that spoken Latin is to be pronounced correctly. The words of institution for the host is a great example: the “h” is pronounced and the vowel is short. The Italian style would be less than desirous here.

    2/3) If there haven’t been some modernizations to the texts of liturgies of the Greek Orthodox Church and of the Church of Greece, to the Greek Catholic liturgy, etc. then that would be surprising. (Basically, what we saw with the Good Friday reproaches but left unrestored...)

    I don’t want it to sound straight–up Italian. Blimey, why is it so hard to understand? It’s not identical to Italian, and even Italians have to moderate it. To go back to the Vianini example–and repeat myself again...– “ps” is fine, but don’t lose the preceding “t” too.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • stulte
    Posts: 334
    I've taken the approach with Greek during Holy Week of simply using the same pronunciation as with Latin. Much simpler. Fie on alleged authenticity (especially when you have only an hour to get ready to sing!).
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,076
    You get a whole hour?!?!?! The choir at my church gets maybe 30 min. before Mass.
  • stulte
    Posts: 334
    LOL, well, more like 45 minutes usually.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,341
    I have found there are 3 ways of pronunciation of the Greek in the Liturgy...

    1. The 'Latin' pronunciation found in the second post of the link provided by Liam. We have usually sung like this.

    2. Our resident liturgical expert fluent in Latin and Greek, tells us that the above is wrong and we should use a different pronunciation. Sorry I can't remember what it is, I have almost always been part of the Latin choir (EF).

    3. We have a Eastern Rite priest that visits us, his pronunciation appears to be of a 3rd kind. But he did not complain about our singing on Good Friday.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,341
    It's been noted numerous times on our forum that Latin in times past was pronounced in each and every land just like one's own language,

    This may be true for some places and times, but not others. I suspect the monastic foundations in England that at various times invited experts in brought their pronunciation with them. I find it hard to believe that St. Augustine and his monks would have picked up the local pronunciation from the various converts... Or say that St. Bede would have used a local pronunciation of Latin.
  • tomjaw -
    I nearly always bow deferentially to your scholarship and your views. It does indeed seem strange to us that Bede or mediaeval English monks pronounced Latin just as they did their own language; further, that the Latin with which Augustine was presented was very likely quite different from that spoken in the Rome from whence he came. But, this seems nevertheless to have been the case. Even Erasmus complained that, though Latin was supposed to be an international language, one could not understand it going from one land to another. Heavily Anglicised Latin, a 'gift' from historic times, is to this day spoken in English public schools and universities as if it were English. Not only did tribal and geographical boundaries produce new language children from antique Latin, but what Latin remained had a quite different and readily apparent pronunciation from place to place. We (including me) really don't want to believe this, perhaps because it seems unseemly, but it does happen to be true. Further, it would be reasonable to assume that what our forebears did to Latin they did also unto Greek.

    Look up Paul McCreesh's CD of an English Christmas Day mass about the time of the great vowel shift. It features a polyphonic mass by John Sheppard and much chant, the Latin being sung with a heavily informed early XVIth century English. The contrast betwixt chant and polyphony in this presentation is highly dramatic, as is the alternation betwixt men and boys at dramatic moments - a thing which, I think, our mediaeval cousins took deliberate advantage of.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,341
    @MJO. Thank you.

    I did not explain my thoughts well... I agree with your point but I think there are (a few) exceptions

    What I wanted to say what that who you learnt from would have a large impact. Our pronunciation is mainly shaped by the sounds we hear when we are babies, the other input will come from our teachers. I suspect that St. Augustine's pronunciation was preserved for a while before being 'corrupted' by local pronunciation in his monastic foundations in England. Of course at that time there would have been many languages / dialects spoken in England... I am sure the last few Britons (welsh) would have used a different pronunciation of Latin to say Augustine, and what of the recent Saxon invaders different again? How long did the Romano-british pronunciation last... did it have an effect on how a Saxon spoke Latin? How much effect did Augustine have over how the new converts spoke Latin? The later Norman invasion would also have had an effect on what later became Anglicised Latin.

    In many places the local language would be a spoken rather than written language and wonder how much effect it would have over say Monastic establishments that could include monks from places that were not local... I am referring more to the misnamed Dark ages (in England) say c. A.D. 400-1000 rather than in later mediaeval Europe c. A.D. 1000-1400 with its distinct languages and no doubt localised pronunciation of Latin.
    one's own language

    I do wonder what say St. Bede, St. Augustine, St Edward the Confessor, or Simon de Montfort would describe as being their own language?

    I do accept that Latin was pronounced differently across the empire, I think we can see this in how different Europeans pronounce 'Caesar'. Modern English is also an example of how pronunciation and even use of words can divide formerly 'united' people.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • Interesting... I studied Νέα Ελληνικά in high school taught by a native Spartan. Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός would be pronounced Άγιος ο Θεός / Ay'-os oh Theh-os' (with unvoiced theta sound) in modern, romaic greek. It is assumed the true manner of pronouncing the more ancient aspirational diacritics has been lost to time (There are no mp3's of ancient greeks speaking). Even Ah'-ee-os oh Theh-os' is acceptable as some music requires. The rough part of the mediant gamma is almost not present: the tongue and palate don't rattle as they would in the initial position (like in γάλα or γάμμα), but the airway is restricted enough to briefly modulate the stream. Agios or Hagios is also written as Άïος.
  • stulte
    Posts: 334
    Maybe we should make everyone, everywhere, regardless of Rite, say the Liturgy in Esperanto?
  • But, um, isn't Latin the Church's Esperanto???
    Thanked by 2MarkS CHGiffen
  • stulte
    Posts: 334
    Of course it is. Though, I've actually read an article written by a Bishop arguing for using Esperanto instead of Latin in the Liturgy based on claims of it being easier to learn. Of course, my suggestion was not at all serious. The whole discussion of which pronunciation and language to use in the Liturgy isn't going to be over any time soon.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    IIRC, the Church has an approved Mass text in Esperanto for use at conferences, so one could say Esperanto is the Church's Esperanto.
  • stulte
    Posts: 334
    LOL. Yes, you're correct.
    Mi aktuale lernas Esperanton, sed neniam iris al Maso en Esperanto. La lingvo estas tre facila lerni. Sed mi ŝatas la latina pli.
    I'm currently learning Esperanto, but have never gone to Mass in Esperanto. The language is very easy to learn. But I like Latin more.

    In a (slightly) more serious vein, I wonder what effect the internet will have on the pronunciation of liturgical languages as time goes on.
  • Um, need one ask if there is an ecclesiatically approved pronunciation of Church Esperanto? Actually, I've always thought of Esperanto (on those incredibly rare occasions on which I have thought about it at all) as something of a linguistical simulacrum.
  • stulte
    Posts: 334
    more like linguistic theft...