English Gradual/Tract
  • Hello All

    We all know there are lots of collections out there for english propers (Introit, Offertory and Communion) based on the texts in the GR, which is awesome...and thank you everyone who is writing these and making them available for FREE!

    I am in search of the lenten Tracts in english set to plainchant in the modes used in the GR for that given day. Not looking for: choral settings, psalm-tone settings (which seem to be all I can find), etc. Does anyone know of something that might be floating around?

    Thanks in advance.
  • Have you checked the resources here? Surely one of these collections includes the Lenten tracts.
    Thanked by 1Settefrati93
  • The American Gradual comes to mind, though I am not well acquainted with it.
    Thanked by 1Settefrati93
  • The Plainchant Gradual, by Palmer and Burgess is available as a reprint (thanks to the Anglican Benedictine sisters at Wantage) from the CMAA.
    This is an Anglican English adaptation of the chants of the Graduale Romanum.
    It includes, of course, the tracts.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,479
    I'm not actually sure one can use an English Tract in the Ordinary Form (notwithstanding Ordinariate and various other Anglican-ish groups).

    If one reads the GIRM it gives permission for the Gradual from the Graduale Romanum to be sung.. but doesn't seem to allow for it to be sung in English. Furthermore, what translation would one use if one wanted to compose this?

    This is a more complicated question than just finding the resources.
  • 62. After the reading that immediately precedes the Gospel, the Alleluia or another chant laid down by the rubrics is sung, as the liturgical time requires. An acclamation of this kind constitutes a rite or act in itself, by which the gathering of the faithful welcomes and greets the Lord who is about to speak to them in the Gospel and profess their faith by means of the chant. It is sung by everybody, standing, and is led by the choir or a cantor, being repeated as the case requires. The verse, on the other hand, is sung either by the choir or by a cantor.
    a) The Alleluia is sung in every time of year other than Lent. The verses are taken from the Lectionary or the Graduale.
    b) During Lent, instead of the Alleluia, the Verse before the Gospel as given in the Lectionary is sung. It is also possible to sing another Psalm or Tract, as found in the Graduale. (GIRM 62)
    Considering that the tract is direct psalmody with only verses, no antiphon or response, how does one facilitate its being "sung by everybody"? B does mention the possibility of "another Psalm or Tract," which perhaps supposes that the congregation simply listens, although this is not unambiguously stated. Nothing is said about the language. As far as I know, the GIRM never specifies that any particular chant cannot be sung in English. Considerable leeway has been given for psalm translations elsewhere in the liturgy. The tracts wouldn't seem to be the preferred option in the new rite, however, whether in Latin or English.
  • Since there is no official translation, an approved scriptural translation surely cannot be wrong.

    Or you could sing the tract from the Simplex, in ICEL English, as we did last Lent.
    Thanked by 1Paul F. Ford
  • KyleM18
    Posts: 125
    Would it be licit to do the tract, and at the end have a response (Praise to you, O Christ, King of eternal glory)? I've seen this in some hymnal, but I can't remember where...
  • Some of the Tracts were likely sung responsorially in the Early Middle Ages, based on their structures. Simplistically, verse 1 would act as a respond. Three verses at a time, then repeat verse 1, then a few more verses, then repeat verse 1, and so forth. Or however you'd like to chop it up. I'm not much a fan of this approach, but there's not much doubt anymore that it was sometimes done historically, and so you can argue that it's traditional, even if it's not endorsed nowadays.
  • ...not much doubt...
    What evidence, if any, is there that has removed all but 'not much' doubt.
    Too, this is a pretty tenuous 'tradition'!
    Every tradition is relative to a given point in history -
    and, relative to its validity in overthrowing what was tradition before it came along.
    I think that this hypothesis (and it is just that) does not pass the test.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw CHGiffen
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,081
    I agree @MJO, this repeat "verse 1" sounds very much like how the Introit, with it's 3 verses, or the Communion interspersed with a psalm were at one stage sung. The Tract is very different to these, it is a psalm but sung to a complicated melismatic setting. The Tract could only really be sung by a choir, with access to the books or someone with a good memory.

    I suspect that the "...not much doubt" comes from someone that wanted 'audience participation' and so has coloured the past to suit, rather than to be honest and sell their idea on any merits it has.
  • David Hiley, Western Plainchant, 1993, page 82:
    The three tracts called graduals in early manuscripts were presumably performed like graduals, that is, with the first verse repeated as a respond after each subsequent verse. This seems to have had an interesting effect on their use of cadence formulas: one particular formula (Apel's Dn) is usually reserved for the last cadence of all, but in these three pieces it is also used for earlier verses. This is presumably because the cadence of the first verse, of the respond, was now the final one (D15); there was no longer any need to reserve Dn for signalling the end of the performance.

    For example, Tract Deus Deus meus is thought to be one of the oldest in the repertory, and perhaps a melodic model for the others in Mode 2. Its final cadence [DCDEFGAGEF EFAGF FED EED], also found in Qui habitat, is found three times in Domine exaudi orationem meam, where verses 4 and 5 bear the same final cadence that verse 6 bears, leading musicologists to believe it replaced the ordinary [D EED] cadence as a signal to repeat the first verse like a respond. There are a few other cases of this. There is another Tract in particular where a non-final verse ends with the final cadence in Laon but the ordinary cadence in St. Gall.

    Tomjaw, in response to your comment that the Tract requires experts with books or good memory, the Tracts are actually highly formulaic, and their inner structures are very memorable. Studies have been done before, and the verdict is once you memorize (a) the melismas and (b) the rules for applying them to the grammar, you can improvise a Tract on any psalm verse with no written aid. I've tried it myself, and it's tough, but it can be done, and surely it had to be done by the Carolingians. Otherwise, there would be no explanation for the striking formulaic consistency between the Gregorian Tracts and the Old Roman Tracts. See both books by Emma Hornby on the subject.
    Thanked by 1Richard Mix
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,081
    were presumably performed like graduals


    I think this says it all! He then goes on to explain that there are similar melismas in the different modes... Each mode has its own reciting note and its own final, modes also have their own melismas that repeatedly appear, which is true of all chants.

    It is all very well for one singer to improvise... that will be no different to the priest singing the Epistle, Gospel or collects to their tones. The problem comes when we compare how different priests sing a Gospel, they do not always choose the same method of fitting the text to the tone. Without books a choir would have to memorise... or be vary familiar with how the lead cantor thinks!
    Thanked by 2CCooze CHGiffen
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 586
    b) During Lent, instead of the Alleluia, the Verse before the Gospel as given in the Lectionary is sung. It is also possible to sing another Psalm or Tract, as found in the Graduale. (GIRM 62)

    It doesn't say that everybody has to sing this. It is showing that there is an exception to the previous statements regarding the Alleluia, is it not?

    I'm not actually sure one can use an English Tract in the Ordinary Form


    When you are fortunate enough to have a missal with the graduals, tracts, et al written in both Latin and English, there is little reason for such use to be disapproved of. That's what programs/bulletins are for (page numbers... no need to reprint the tract when they can open the missal)!

    We have the St. Isaac Jogues Missal, and for Palm Sunday I (cantor) sang the tract in English to the prescribed psalm tone (see here).
    I'm not 100% sure that I'd prefer the English plainchant version of the tracts for an OF Mass. We then moved on. (I am unaware of any complaints about there being a tract instead of a generic gospel acclamation. )
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • It is all very well for one singer to improvise... that will be no different to the priest singing the Epistle, Gospel or collects to their tones. The problem comes when we compare how different priests sing a Gospel, they do not always choose the same method of fitting the text to the tone. Without books a choir would have to memorise... or be vary familiar with how the lead cantor thinks!

    Wrong on two accounts. First, you're assuming that melismas are interchangeable, as though up to personal preference. Treitler, Hornby, and several others have scrutinized the Tract figures in detail. Every melisma and cadence has a 'grammar' behind it, such that Melisma A is chosen only on incomplete phrases, Melisma B only on prepositions, Melisma C only on verses describing the devil, etc. The consistency among the sources and with Old Roman chant suggests that the Tracts are written the way they are, in the particular order of figures, because there is an underlying 'melismatic grammar' conceived in the Roman schola, which determines when to use a melisma, in order to make the chant transmittable by memory only. The melisma I mentioned above is used only as an ultimate to the whole section. Its place in those verses at first glance contradicts the grammatical rules -- one of a few places that do --, and there happens to be a correlation between that occurrence and scholarship's suspicion of which Tracts might have been done responsorially at some times and in some places, based on circumstantial testimony of certain writers at the time, such as Alcuin.

    So, no, the Tracts are not just elaborated psalm verses with a reciting note and a menu of dinner cadences. This myth has been busted to death in the literature, and no musicologist subscribes to it anymore.

    Second, you're assuming something so complicated cannot be done consistently without paper. The aforementioned 'musical grammar' rules are a collection of cues for oral memory. The exact same kind of mechanic is still in use in Ethiopian and Coptic chant, and in other music systems too. You don't need paper to sing something as elaborate as a Tract. It may seem daunting and complex, but there is much rhyme and reason to its shape, reason that is easier to grasp if you're living in a musical culture that isn't out of touch with the concept of oral tradition.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,081
    I do find it interesting that you say,
    Tomjaw, in response to your comment that the Tract requires experts with books or good memory,

    But then say,
    "to make the chant transmittable by memory only." [...] "collection of cues for oral memory."

    So I presume you agree with me that to do this you need good memory...

    I like singing Tracts, but it is not one of my interests to research them, so rely on part remembered talks and writings on them. Anyway your
    Wrong on two accounts.
    does not appear to agree with following quotes from the great Dom Saulnier

    The chant (Psalm) is assigned to the soloist, while the assembly exercises its involvement in the liturgy simply by praying through listening. [...] The psalmist “unfolds” the Canticle or the Psalm, verse after verse, “in a line” (“trait” from the Latin tractus), or “directly”, that is, without intervention of the assembly, in the same manner that he would a reading. Saint Benedict speaks about singing the Psalm in directum, which we can translate today as psalmody without refrain.

    The Tract and the Canticle represent the oldest layer of the chants of the Mass, that of psalmody without refrain or in directum.

    During the Sundays of Lent, we encounter the Tracts, that is, chants between readings that are related to the same type of psalmody. Here it is not a Canticle but a Psalm that is sung, verse after verse, without response by the assembly, originally by a soloist and later by the schola.
    The Tracts are of two melodies.
    One, in the 8th mode, is related to that of the Canticles of the Easter Vigil.
    The other, in the 2nd mode, is found notably on the First Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday, and Good Friday. This is an ornate psalmody, with its set of formulas for intonations, mediants and terminations. However, it is not a melody-type. It visibly recalls the mother-mode (reciting note) of D.


    So as I said above, this type of chant is designed to be sung by one cantor, to allow others to join in we need good memory, or books, and I notice books with the chant many of them containing the Tracts notated, have been rather popular over the last 1000 years, even with those singing chant everyday and in times when books were rare and very expensive. I suspect they found singing from memory was not that easy.

    I have noticed when singing chants in Latin from breviary texts, the flex, and mediant are not always in the same places in the same psalm, the different editions do not always agree. This obviously will effect the how the chant is sung. Just as different priests and Lectors do not sing identically when singing the same text from the Missal, just look at the various editions setting the lessons texts with notation vary.

    Also I notice that Manuscripts are not identical, the Melismas in the Sarum books are not identical to say the Roman books, while they are obviously come from the same source we have found some room for a different interpretation...
  • So I presume you agree with me that to do this you need good memory...

    Indeed! But it's a matter of degree, and perhaps I was reading a bias into your comment that wasn't really there. What I mean to say is that a Tract learned with the underlying formula rules is not hard to memorize at all (assuming you've heard the formulas themselves enough times in Church to get them stuck in your head). A Tract melody without those mnemonic aids would be nearly impossible to memorize as-is, without the memory messing up and swapping one formula with another without rhyme or reason.
    I suspect they found singing from memory was not that easy.

    Good point. However, I think this could be historical circumstance. The last 1000 years begin in 1017. That was around the time when Guido of Arezzo and Berno of Reichenau reported the chant custom was decaying after decades of neglect of the rhythmic institution, faulty antiphoners galore, and bigger interest in organum and troping. So everything was being recorded in books for obvious reasons. The 'easy memory' that I'm talking about is more a feature of cantors in the 800s and 900s, centuries when change in ecclesiastical culture was not as hectic as it was in the High Middle Ages, and the Tracts were first written down.

    Concerning solo vs. shared, in-directum vs. responsorial, I think Saulnier is giving a prescriptive summary from some medieval Roman Ordos, but he's not describing the whole historical picture. From Emma Hornby Medieval Liturgical Chant and Patristic Exegesis:
    P. 120:
    The standard text-book definition of a Tract is as 'a solo chant' whose 'verses, generally derived in order from a psalm, were sung one after the other by a soloist without intervening choral responses'. Such a definition is certainly oversimplistic.

    P. 134:
    Qui habitat and Deus deus meus, it seems clear, would have been recognised by Amalar [of Metz] as tracts. The other three chants, however, would not. Domine exaudi and Domine audivi are usually called responsorial graduals in the chant sources, have verses numbered responsorially in several of the early manuscripts in my sample, and will have had a responsorial mode of performance in some places at some times. They sometimes seem to have been performed as solo chants, although it is possible that the soloist only ever sang the verses, with the respond performed in full or in part by the schola after some or after all verses.

    Concerning discrepancy in Sarum versus Roman, can you point me to any melismas in particular? It would be premature for me to comment on that without a sample.

    Psalm tones are a whole other can of worms!
    Thanked by 1tomjaw

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