• I'm working on introducing more chant-style music at a parish where I work. However, we have a couple of instrumentalists (flutist & oboist) who regularly play with the choir, and I'm unsure of how to incorporate them. They are used to accompanying hymns and metrical Mass Settings from C-Instrument books like GIA Gather Comprehensive, OCP Solo Instrument binder, etc. They are some of the most dedicated and talented members of our music ministry and I definitely want to utilize/include them, but I also want to be sure the result is appropriate and beautiful.

    Any suggestions for incorporating flute & oboe with chant music? It would be great if some resources/publications already exist, but I'm fairly experienced with arranging things myself if needed. Specifically, I'm planning to have us do the ICEL Chant Mass during the season of OT between Christmas and Lent this year. Since we do the standard "no instruments except organ/piano to accompany voice" during Lent, I don't want to exclude the instrumentalists from playing the Ordinary during the preceding season as well.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions!
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  • petrus - from a musical perspective I agree completely. That's where I hope to eventually get, but currently the choir and congregation is currently used to them playing on everything (I do not know or why this came about, it was before my time). I need to figure out how to transition away from this in a way that feels natural and is and respectful towards the instrumentalists.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,371
    As a player of no instrument I would suggest that the difference between using a flute or oboe and using the flute or oboe stops on an organ is that the organ is less expressive.
  • The fact that you are changing Mass settings to ICEL seems to me to be the perfect occasion to transition out of it. I also happen to think ICEL sounds best without any accompaniment, so you might make their exclusion more diplomatic by simultaneously announcing that you won't be playing organ/piano for it either.

    As petrus_simplex has said, giving them features might work. Two-part polyphony would make nice instrumental motets. Orlando Di Lasso wrote a large collection of it. They could also be inner voices on other polyphony. Not sure about homophony as the oboe's tone may not blend so well.

    At a recent wedding Mass they sung, with organ accompaniment, the ICEL Alleluia. Then the Alleluia antiphon was a beautiful, beautiful piece written by Leo Nestor (RIP) called "I give you a new commandment" which opened with a flute solo. That would be a tasteful example of how to incorporate it elsewhere in the Mass.
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  • So if you could have either a real flute / oboe, or a simulated one created by an organ pipe, which would be preferred?

    (Assuming all things are equal, ie equally competent, dedicated and sanctified players of each.)
  • ryandryand
    Posts: 1,640

    To rephrase what’s been expressed above - just because an organ has a trompette en chamade, that doesn’t mean it must be used to accompany chant. It’s there, yes. Use it for what it works with, leave it silent when it should be silent. The same goes for these instruments and the ICEL chant.

    I cannot imagine any way that their inclusion will be successful in introducing that setting to the parish, and the mismatch may be a negative experience that winds up with people hating chant.

    Use the instruments with other music that they are well suited for, and explain any concerns of their “exclusion” as a matter of integrity - of both the music being sung and of the musicians and their instruments. Let people know that you appreciate those instrumentalists and are using their talents where appropriate, but that not every piece of music requires every available instrument to be sounding at once.

    I had a father & son step forward as volunteer trumpets once upon a time and I had them join us for holidays on certain hymns. They understood that there were times when they fit, like a hymn introduction or descant, and times when they didn’t, like an entrance antiphon.

    That does make me think... if there’s going to be revolution in the pews if the winds are not being used for the ordinary, maybe a short introduction which includes them could work. I wouldn’t try to arrange anything for them to be playing during the chant itself, though.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,768
    Have trio sonatas for preludes & postludes; it's an astoundingly rich repertoire. I do have one other favorite for flute & oboe though.
  • GerardH
    Posts: 411
    Wasn't the serpent used in plainchant? While the range is quite different to a flute or oboe, there is something of a precedent there. Perhaps a solo instrument could play in counterpoint to the plainchant? Or parallel fourths, fifths or sixths? If used sparingly, I would think those options could be used to good effect.

    Just be glad it's not a violin...
  • WGS
    Posts: 297
    Yes, the serpent, and also the ophecleide were used to accompany chant.
    (My college roommate had an ophecleide just for fun, but I don't recall his using it to accompany chant.)
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,371
    Maybe we can blame Tra Le Sollecitudini and Solesmes for driving out the serpent
    L’usage du serpent dans les églises, qui s’est instauré en France dès le XVIIesiècle et s’y est maintenu dans certaines paroisses de campagne jusque dans les années 1920-1930
    Glancing at this abstract suggests that the serpentine precedent is not one to follow.
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,934
    Given that the serpent could fill in for the lack of male voices, I would gladly add one to my choir. I think a euphonium player might be easier to find.

    I haven't fully decided that Solesmes didn't do more harm than good.
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  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    Since the ordinary belongs to many voices, why not add the two instrumental "voices" to theirs? Ordinarily they could simply follow a standard organ chordal accompaniment. Once in a while throw in a drone or organism, and at least once per Mass, maybe the Kyrie or Agnus Dei, sing a capella so the congregation can find its own voice. Unless the Mass is chanted by the priest, in which case they will find their voice in their responses.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,500
    We are talking about flute and oboe.
  • I play euphonium, but I’m also a tenor, so.....

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  • So the blend is easier with the euphonium or the natural tenor?
  • Thanks all for the input! I think I might have us sing a familiar Gloria with the instruments playing (probably Heritage), then the rest of the Ordinaries will be the ICEL chants without instruments.

    Richard - perhaps I'll program the Ligeti as a prelude so the flutist & oboist don't get bored ;-)
  • I speak as an oboist; don’t do it. Playing long suspended notes with the organ and choir will be difficult to blend and maintain intonation, etc. Can your instrumentalists sing? Depending on their abilities, you might be able to transition them away from playing at all during Mass unless there’s something very specific (ie: Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring) and maybe offer them the opportunity to build up a repertoire of appropriate prelude solos with organ accompaniment.

    On a side note, the oboe stop on organs is a joke and insult to the oboe. Sounds nothing like an oboe.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,151
    I have to agree about the typical Oboe stop on an organ being a poor imitation of a true oboe sound. However, speaking also as an oboist/English hornist, I have to disagree about the blend and intonation objections raised. Long suspended notes were never much of a problem for me (and really good oboists cultivate "circular breathing" to allow for even longer notes & legato passages).

    Oboe & English horn actually blend quite well with voices, at least as well as trombones (or, better, sackbuts) and much better than solo strings (at least as played in most modern styles). I have often played oboe or English horn with choirs, of course most often on a descant/obbligato part (sometimes improvised on the spot), as well as in unison with a voice part.

    An important principle when playing an instrument with voices is that of restraint: how often have you heard music directors ask to the instrumentalists to play less loudly?

    The idea of using flute & oboe (or English horn) with (possibly ornamented) chant is one I've toyed with off and on over the past few years. My own 3-part "Psallite Domino" (Communion for Ascension) employs the Gregorian proper melody as a mezzo-soprano cantus firmus around which the other two voices (soprano & alto) weave fluid harmonies. It is not an easy work to sing (because of the other two parts), although there is an excellent YouTube performance by a girl's school choir. And so it is that I have also prepared a sound score with flute & English horn replacing the soprano & alto parts. The original tessitura is too low by a whole tone for an oboe on the alto part, so I have also transposed it up a step for flute & oboe. The resulting sound files (using Garritan instruments) are rather satisfying, at least to me ... and hopefully, to you, as well.

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