How to learn the Extraordinary Form
  • My pastor heard me chant the ordinary (the basic, most well-known Latin ones) on All Saints Day and now wants me to learn the Extraordinary Form.

    I know enough (having read quite a bit here) to know that this principally involves learning to chant the proper.

    My question is: Is there a set of simple "generic proper chants" (like psalm chants) to which one can chant any day's proper? And if so, where can I find it?

    Also, I haven't read neumes since it was an exercise in my undergraduate days (more decades than I am willing to admit), so I need modern notation. Learning to read neumes is a worthy goal, but it's not realistic for me for the short term.

    Has anyone published any sort of book or online essay on the subject of "How to learn to chant the EF from scratch: A Guide for Dummies"? Dummies being the ignorant: I thought I knew a lot but a short time here has taught me that I don't even know what I don't know.
  • CeciliaJulia,

    Music at Mass in the Extraordinary Form is divided into 3 groups, from the perspective of non-clerics.

    1) Ordinary
    2) Propers
    3) Motets

    I encourage you to learn several Ordinaries, so that you can allow the richness of sacred time to be made manifest. It's possible to mix and match (using, for example, a Kyrie and a Sanctus from one Mass and an Agnus Dei from another) but there are good sides to that approach and bad ones.

    The Propers can be found in several places, but let me skip to the second part of the question first: is there a simple tone for chants. The answer is yes, but there are two ways to go, while you're first getting your toes wet. You could sing each set of Propers recto tono, i.e., on an unchanging pitch. Alternatively, you could find the Psalm Tones (in the Liber Usualis) and use these for the Propers.

    Popular some time ago (but now mostly deprecated) is the work of a man called Tozer (sp?) who set the propers for the year to a kind of fauxbourdon chant.

    As to relearning how to read neumes, I encourage you not to overcomplicate the process. Begin with small stages, such as knowing where half-steps and whole-steps come, and what the two clefs mean. Before long you'll be singing Offertory verses.

    Motets sometimes are built on chant melodies (as, for example, the collected works of Heinrich Isaac) and sometimes take sacred texts but use derived melodies or new compositions.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,863

    Is this of any help? If you click on a neume it will give you the note range etc. and you can change the pitch to suit your vocal range. Also you can choose psalm tone or simplified versions.
  • Tom, that is stunning. I am really amazed. And when I get to where I can read chant notation, I suspect I will use it all the time. Thank you so much!

    I am not disputing that chant notation is the ideal, and I want to learn it (and to teach it to others!), but I have to take this in small steps. Sadly, it is simply inaccessible to me right now. I need modern notation.

    But I will start using it when I start studying chant notation. And with gratitude!

    I wonder how long it will be before I am so numbed by all the brilliance around here that I cease to be gobsmacked by something every day. Like a childhood trip along the Canadian Icefields Parkway: "Look, there's a glacier!" "Another one, Mom? <<yawn.>>"
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,455
    As a person well versed in the NO and had only a simple introduction to my first EF Mass before I had to provide music: It.was.hard.... , so confusing!

    Learn everything you need to know WELL as per the above.

    Have someone who knows the EF very well with you for your first couple of Masses. When I did this, it made a world of difference and I was so much more at ease.
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • Chris, that is exactly what I need to get started. Thank you!

    find the Psalm Tones (in the Liber Usualis) and use these for the Propers

    Are the Psalm Tones in the Liber Usualis anything like the ones in the current OCP publication? Not that I like them, because I don't, but they are pretty simple without being recto tono. It would just be an easy place to start.

    On the subject of Ordinaries, I do know several (or I used to, and assume that they would be fairly easy to refresh), but at the moment I have only what is printed in the "hymnal" we use, i.e.:

    Kyrie: Mass XVI, Mode III
    Gloria: Mass VIII, Mode V
    Sanctus: Mass XVIII
    Post Consecrationem: "Chant" (I had never learned this before, but found lots of examples on youtube)
    Angus Dei: Mas XVIII

    The Credo is not included in this "hymnal," but I know what are presumably the simplest and/or most well-known. I'm also pretty sure I know the Missa de Angelis.

    Anyway, on the principles of starting simple and also promoting participation by others (the parish traditionally uses them for Advent and Lent), I will stick to these for now.

    Are motets optional? Or could I chant something I know well like Tantum Ergo or Salve Regina?

    One more big question: you said music for non-clerics. I seem to recall reading somewhere (in the 1962 rubrics, perhaps?) that only those serving on the altar may make the responses that we (the congregation) make today. I remember my dad talking about this as an altar server when he was young. My question is: does the current EF not allow the cantor/choir/congregation to make these responses now?
  • Tom, thank you again! I think I had already downloaded these, but there is so much to absorb! I will start studying in earnest.
  • canadash, you said it! I am hoping not to have to reinvent the wheel. I'm not afraid of it, and it will be a daily mass so it's not like we're starting off with the 11am Sunday "high mass," but it is a bit daunting. That's why I was hoping for a "how to for dummies." I may have to write one for others before it's all said and done. Incremental steps, how to make it accessible, vocabulary, etc.

    The most challenging thing appears to be the propers which by definition are different every day. But what that seems to mean is that I have to nail down my pastor to schedule a date so that I can learn that day's propers in advance.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,868
    reading GC neumes is not hard at all. read the basic rules and jump in. you will be surprised how quickly it will come. besides, if you use the crutch of the modern notation versions, you will never really make the jump to hyperspace (if you know what I mean)
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,015
    I agree reading square notes is not hard. In fact the main difference is that instead of spacing the round notes in even tempo and printing the words to match them, the words of chant are (mostly) evenly spaced, and the square notes grouped to match the syllables. Which makes it easier for singers IMHO.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • Francis, I will, I promise, but I can't do it this month.

    I really, really want to, and I even plan to teach some of my proto-Schola members (they don't know it yet) who can't even read music to read chant notation.

    But I do not have the time or energy to start there. I will get there, but I can't start there. It's just not realistic.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,015
    Did anyone say, read De musica sacra et sacra liturgia which is where the overall rubrics for music in the EF are found. Read carefully, because one can find "It is absolutely forbidden ...", and then "exceptions ..." and a reference to another part of the document. It's listed on the Resources page of this site, which points here.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • A F, yes, I read that a few weeks ago and felt like I'd been dropped head-first into the deep end of the pool. Rather, I read the 1962 rubrics, not sure if that's the same as the document you reference. Anyway, that's why I'm here asking for help.
  • dad29
    Posts: 1,908
    You didn't mention your ability with Latin. A very competent musician in my area "jumped into" Chant, but she had no knowledge of Latin. She was able to pick up the pronunciation quickly, but failed to learn about accents (and non-accents). As a result, the Chant was....quirky.....with every syllable receiving equal volume.

    While it is NOT desirable to lend a Germanic 'punch' to the accented syllable, it is correct to make it a bit more noticeable than the others; similarly, one does not drop the un-accented syllable(s) off a cliff, but they are UN-accented.

    It's also very useful to know the translation. The best translation is found in the "Gregorian Missal" of Solesmes. It is not the "official" translation--it's better. When you know what text you're singing, you will better understand the musical composition which 'illuminates' the text.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,015
    The Missal rubrics largely ignore the faithful, De musica ... gives principles for congregational participation, among other things.
  • CeciliaJulia,

    I don't have any remotely current OCP stuff at hand, but I'm going to guess that the tones in these publications are not what you really need to find. There have been some interesting attempts at writing new chant tones (Fr. Gelineau comes to mind) but I don't find any of them useful, but only confusing and distracting from what we should be using. Think of them as something between a bad knock-off of an original pearl necklace or a sheath to a scimitar. I'll see if I can extract the relevant tones from the Liber -- but nearly anyone here has better computer skills than I have, so if someone beats me to it, enjoy.

    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • PLTT
    Posts: 103
    As mentioned, you can sing the Propers recto tono or to a psalm tone, if the proper chant melody cannot be sung. The Rossini Propers is one such work - it sets the Propers to psalm tones.

    There are also other simplified-chant works that you can find on the musicasacra website, like Solesmes' Chant Abreges.

    You might also find this handout helpful:
    (P.S. this is for a sung Mass or high Mass, not a low-Mass-with-hymns)

    To answer the question in brief (the handout linked above has more detail): yes, the server responds, but during a chanted Mass, the choir (usually) responds to any text that the priest sings.

    My suggestion would be to watch a few videos on Youtube to get a sense of how it all fits together.

    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • JesJes
    Posts: 544
    Get the treasure and tradition book.

    Go on divinum officium and download the sancta missa of the day you're doing.

    Then... get a missal. It will help.
    Even a kids one is helpful. Treasure and tradition is like a picture missal. I find it helpful.

    Talk with the priest. See if he can install a "button of doom" for a server to press and tell you when to do everything (its a button that's linked to a box with a light inside)

    Watch a tonne of youtube videos of the masses.

    Print out all your music and prayers in the correct order so you have no possibility of needing to turn back a page.

    I'll be happy to help too. Feel free to private message and we can chat.

    As for neumes if you're unsure for your first mass use ccwatershed which have the chants in modern notation. You should probably get in touch with someone that knows how to read the neumes and sing with them for a while. There is a good app called square note which helps. Alternatively ccwatershed have recorded all the chants on youtube.

    Of course you can use psalm tones but you don't have to if you want to make a leap of faith.

    I dont know your precise location but see if someone nearby also knows what to do. You might find they are not that far away and for a good cause will help you.
  • JesJes
    Posts: 544
    Definitely send me a message, this is what I do for others around Australia. If I can get kids who have no prior music to understand I'm sure I can get a musician to.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,863
    Another useful guide can be found here,
    and here,
    The last link is very useful for beginners.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,329
    CMAA has a handy book of exercises for practising sight-reading chant notation:

    You can also buy it in softcover at the CMAA "shop" website.

  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,015
    Elementary? I am pretty sure few people need to be able to identify a SCANDICUS SUBTRIPUNCTIS RESUPINUS in words, the neumes should be enough for a singer. Excess of jargon confuses most of us, I have been in a language class where the teacher used the word 'adverb' and an adult student's mind went numb with fear (or so she said).
  • Cecilia-Julia

    The easiest and best way is the way the monks learn in the Benedictine orders: by listening.

    We use this website, but you have to know which feast is coming up:

    If you hit Control+F (Command+F) you can search by title.

  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,329
    That book of "elementary" exercises was written by a Trappist.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,329
    Back to CeciliaJulia's question:

    Easy psalm-tone settings of the graduals are in this book from the late 50s:
    ("Graduals, Alleluia Verses, and Tracts") -- even simpler than Chants abrégés.

    Simple Alleluias are available in CMAA's "Parish Book of Chant", p. 141.

    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • Dixit-Dominus,

    Would you suggest that she have the music in front of her, while she listens, or not? I know that listening develops faster than reading comprehension ability in young children (and so they can, for example, understand The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe long before they can read it) but I wonder if the same principle applies here.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • Y'all, this is all so overwhelming and I am so very grateful. The responses to my questions were everything I'd hoped for. This is a wonderful place.

    I am very tired so I will just respond to a couple of things briefly. I promise to look at all of these links. I promise to use youtube (have already looked some of course but I promise to really use it). I do have a new Roman Missal.

    Perhaps I should have said this up front: my Latin is excellent, no worries there. I first learned the basic Latin ordinary chants from about age 8; took piano lessons from ages 6-24 and voice lessons from ages 12-22 and sometimes since then; have an undergraduate degree in music; and my first love in music after the piano has always been sacred choral music. I also took three years of classical Latin in high school.

    My biggest problem moving forward with this is not learning it per se but having the energy to learn it and then to do it. My energy is rather limited. So I really appreciate all the support you all are so willing to offer.
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen MarkB chonak
  • CeciliaJula,

    Look for the topic 'Jubilate Deo Booklet' on this site. Blessed Pope Paul VI compiled what he considered a basic chant repertoire for parishes. The book is in the public domain, so you can make as many copies as you like.
    Thanked by 1CeciliaJulia
  • CGM
    Posts: 488
    CMAA also publishes a brief and helpful book about navigating all the music in an EF liturgy:
    — what chants go where,
    — how things are varied by liturgical season, and
    — the formal structure of the various chants.
    It's entitled Psallite Sapienter, and you can download it for free here, or order a paperback copy here.
  • I had to set this project on the back burner a couple of months ago, but I am recovered from Christmas now and feeling better and really looking forward to sinking my teeth into learning it.

    I have been unable to get my pastor to set a date for our first EF mass, but I'll corner him when I'm ready. :)

    In the meantime, I sang (led) the Latin ordinary for Advent (yes, I know!) but Father liked it so much he had me sing it all for Christmas (including Gloria, but not Credo) and all the way through Epiphany. I sang the Gloria a capella (but never really pushed to sing the other parts a capella) and got some positive responses from parishioners, though I think there were also complaints which weren't addressed to me. One lady asked me if I would teach her, or conduct a class! And my little proto-schola (as I think of them) is growing, with two people who used to sing with them before I arrived re-joining. Still can't get them to show up 40 minutes before mass to rehearse, but they're starting to come a bit earlier than they were. Therefore I wasn't really able to "teach" them any chant, but led by example. We also went out to lunch a few weeks ago after mass, and I think that also helped.

    Now we are back to singing the Schutte "Mass of Christ the Savior." Not my favorite, but now it's not all "on me" and I can literally take a back seat, which I am grateful to do. Now I am "leading from behind" which means I am next to the organ (and the volunteer organist) and can keep the rest of them in tempo (comments about amateurs and late entrances omitted). The young ladies seemed to like it better, and so do I!

    This morning only four other voices showed up, only one came early, and two of them were new. Unfortunately one of those who didn't show was the one who was scheduled to lead the psalm and alleluia verse, so I ended up cantoring them, but otherwise things went quite well.

    All this may sound deplorable--but I think there's significant improvement since I joined last fall. Baby steps, but discernable progress. I wish I had the energy to take over and make it happen faster, but I don't.

    In another thread someone brought up praying for our choirs, and asking the parish to pray for us too. It was a timely reminder.

    I want to say thank you again to everyone who's responded to this thread. Your advice and help are very heartening. I hope to report more tangible progress soon.