Gregorian Chant has "pride of place": English or Latin?
  • JonDeulingJonDeuling
    Posts: 21
    Hey folks,

    Do the church documents specify anywhere that Greg. Chant must be in Latin in order to hold a "pride of place", as we talk about all the time? Or can we make tasteful English chants which also hold the same place alongside their Latin brethren?
  • Jon,

    The documents don't actually say that the chant must be in Latin, because nobody says that only ladies belong in the ladies' room. The Council Fathers took it for granted: Latin and Gregorian Chant had pride of place. Suitable place could be made for both the vernacular and non-chant music.

  • NihilNominisNihilNominis
    Posts: 990
    Gregorian itself means the Latin stuff, which is our musical heritage in the Roman Rite.

    However, as per St Pius X,
    the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.

    So well-done vernacular plainsong, given the current liturgical norms, seems very fitting too.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,397
    While I can be in enthusiastic agreement with Pius X, how can I be sure I understand "Gregorian form" in the same sense? The melismatic chants of the Gradual are quite different things from the chants of the psalms in the Office, or hymns of the Office. . And composing for a vernacular text requires a respect for the rhythm of the language.
  • davido
    Posts: 893
    Add to Hawkins’s comment the fact that Gregorian chant had 2 or 3 different officially licensed forms in Pius X’s lifetime, and things could get pretty muddy.

    But to answer the original question, in today’s climate English chant is a great idea
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  • francis
    Posts: 10,700
  • FSSPmusic
    Posts: 245
    St. Pius X devotes a section of his motu proprio to the "external form of the sacred compositions," where he says:
    10. The different parts of the mass and the Office must retain, even musically, that particular concept and form which ecclesiastical tradition has assigned to them, and which is admirably brought out by Gregorian Chant. The method of composing an introit, a gradual, an antiphon, a psalm, a hymn, a Gloria in excelsis, etc., must therefore be distinct from one another.

    As for the original question, Musicam Sacram (Vatican II) actually says:
    50. In sung liturgical services celebrated in Latin: (a) Gregorian chant, as proper to the Roman liturgy, should be given pride of place, other things being equal.
    It goes on in the following paragraph to recommend adapting to the vernacular sacred music that was composed in previous centuries for Latin texts. But the oft-quoted "pride of place" remark applies explicitly to liturgical services celebrated in Latin, which is nothing more or less than a reiteration of the principle articulated by St. Pius X.
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  • MarkB
    Posts: 1,032
    The GIRM doesn't restrict Gregorian chant's "pride of place" to Masses celebrated in Latin, but it does add the qualifier, "all things being equal."

    41. The main place should be given, all things being equal, to Gregorian chant, as being proper to the Roman Liturgy. Other kinds of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded, provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.[50]

    When I have appealed to Tra le sollecitudini for principles that should govern the choice and style of music at Mass, especially that the Gregorian form is the most excellent for Mass and that music imitating the style of the theater or popular entertainment should be avoided, I have been told by other music directors in the diocese that they don't see what relevance a 120 year-old document has today. Those are invariably the directors who are pushing P&W music and LifeTeen bands at Mass.

    To the original question, I would say that "Gregorian chant" is, by definition, a set repertoire of Latin (sometimes small amounts of Greek) chants that have been handed down over 1,500 years or more of Church liturgical tradition.

    The best vernacular English chants imitate the Gregorian melodic forms quite well and are, in many cases, excellent adaptations of Gregorian chant into English.

    My thinking is that although the Latin Gregorian chants are the only musical form that have the "pride of place" mentioned in Church documents about sacred music, the "all things being equal" qualifier in the GIRM means that when the Gregorian chants cannot be sung well by a choir or parish, or where lack of comprehension of Latin is a concern, or where pastoral considerations make singing a large amount of Gregorian chant unadvisable, substitutions may be made, and English chants that imitate the Gregorian form are a close second contender for suitable Mass music.

    But I think every parish should be singing some Gregorian chant (in Latin) at every Mass, every Sunday and solemnity. Sometimes more, sometimes less, given the circumstances, but always at least one Gregorian chant. How can parishes be complying with the "pride of place" maxim if they never or seldom sing Gregorian chant? How can they make progress towards fulfilling that maxim if they don't or won't begin to sing Gregorian chant?

    English vernacular chant can be an excellent bridge towards that goal. It familiarizes people with the sound of Gregorian chant without the obstacle that Latin too often presents in the minds of a not insignificant number of people at Mass.

    I sometimes alternate between singing English and Latin in the Communion antiphon when Fr. Weber's English adaptation of the chant is nearly identical to the original Gregorian chant. Such will be the case next for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. I believe doing so introduces Latin chant in a gradual "boil the frog" way.

    This weekend, for Pentecost, I've programmed Veni Creator Spiritus as the entrance chant. Why sing "Come, Holy Ghost" when we can sing the original Latin Gregorian chant?

  • francis
    Posts: 10,700

    I proscribed to your present philosophy outlined above 101%... (from 2008 to 2017)
    I thought I could boil the frog... the frogs gathered together and threw me to the sharks.

    I proscribed to the philosophy of a 'solemn vernacular NO' 101%... (from 1990 to 2008)
    I thought I could 'bridge' the gap from novel (NO) to authentic (VO)...
    The novels burned the bridge and threw me into the river.

    Francis+ proscribes that the NO and VO are two different and non compatible rites. I am glad he has finally arrived to the truth, and is admitting it out loud.
    We have come to the Y in the crossroads.
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  • JonDueling,

    Here's a great and often forgotten document to help you in your music selections and discernment:

    I think Francis (above) has a point in that the divide is bigger than is often acknowledged and is inherent in the ritual itself, but for those of us in novus ordo (or ordinary form, or Mass of Paul VI, or whatever you call it) parishes, there's a way forward! I've seen it!
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  • francis
    Posts: 10,700
    I would also remind us of this important preface to the Liber Usualis about Gregorian Chant:


    The place of honour in this Solesmes Edition of the Vatican Official text is given to the Vatican Preface. Its wise counsels and general Principles of interpretation are embodied, elucidated and enlarged upon in the Rules given further on.

    Holy Mother the Church has received from God the charge of training the souls of the faithful in all holiness, and for this noble end has ever made a happy use of the help of the sacred Liturgy. Wherein — in order that men's minds may not be sundered by differences, but that, on the contrary, the unity which gives vigour and beauty to the mystical body of Christ might flourish unimpair- ed — she has been zealous to keep the traditions of our forefathers, ever trying diligently to discover and boldly to restore any which might have been forgotten in the course of the ages.

    Now among those things which most nearly touch the sacred Liturgy, being as it were interwoven therein and giving it splendour and impressiveness, the first place must be assigned to the Sacred Chant. We have, indeed, all learnt from experience that it gives a certain breadth to divine worship and uplifts the mind in wondrous wise to heavenly things. Wherefore the Church has never ceased to recommend the use of the Chant, and has striven with the greatest assiduity and diligence to prevent its decline from its pristine dignity.

    To this end liturgical music must possess those characteristics which make it preeminently sacred and adapted to the good of souls. It must surely emphasise above all else the dignity of divine worship, and at the same time be able to express pleasantly and truly the sentiments of the Christian soul. It must also be catholic, answering to the needs of every people, country and age, and combine simplicity with artistic perfection.

    All these characteristics, however, are nowhere to be found in a higher degree than in Gregorian Chant — the special Chant of the Roman Church, who has received it alone by inheritance from the Fathers, has kept it carefully thoughout the ages in her records, and commends it to the faithful as her own, ordering its exclusive use in certain parts of the Liturgy. (Motu Proprio. Nov. 22. 1903. n. 3.)

    Certainly in the course of time the Gregorian Chant incurred no small loss of purity. This was chiefly because the special rules of the Chant, as traditionally received from the Fathers, were either negligently overlooked or allowed to be altogether forgotten. Hence arose an evident decline in the spirit which is spoken of as "liturgical", and the "spirit of prayer", while at the same time the beauty and grace of the sacred melodies, if they did not wholly disappear, were certainly affected for the worse.

    But the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius X. — may his enterprise be crowned with good fortune and success! — emulating herein the zealous endeavours of his pre- decessors, determined and took measures to prevent any further decadence in the Gregorian Chant. Wherefore, in his Motu Proprio, issued on November 22nd, 1903, he accurately and clearly laid down the principles (surely the first step of reform) whereon the ecclesiastical Chant is based and whereby it is controlled; he gathered together at the same time the principal regulations of of the Church against the various abuses which had crept into the Chant in the x. P r e f a c e to t h e V a t i c a n E d i t i o n of t h e R o m a n C h a n t . course of time. And then appeared the Decree of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, issued on January 8th, 1904, wherein clearer directions were give for the restoration of the Gregorian Chant.

    Nevertheless it remained for the Roman Church and the other Churches which follow her Rite, to provide themselves with books containing the true melodies of the Gregorian Chant. His Holiness, Pius X, had this in view when, in his Motu Proprio, promulgated on April 25th, 1904, he declared: the Gregorian melodies were to be restored in their integrity and identity, after the authority of the earliest manuscripts, taking account of the legitimate tradition of past ages, as well as of the actual use of the Liturgy of to-day.

    Guided by these rules and standards, those who had taken the task in hand at the bidding of the Pope set to work to revise the books then in use. The first thing they had to do was to undertake a thorough and well considered examina- tion of the primitive manuscripts. This procedure was clearly a wise one; for documents of this kind are not merely to be esteemed on account of their anti- quity, which unites them so closely to the beginnings of the Gregorian Chant, but chiefly because they were written in the very ages in which the Chant was most flourishing. For although the more remote the origin of the melodies and the longer they have been in use amongst the ancients, the more worthy they might be of finding a place in the new edition which was in hand, nevertheless, what gives them the right of being included is their religious and artistic flavour, and their power of giving suitable expression to liturgical prayer.

    Therefore, in studying the manuscripts, this was the primary object which was kept in view: not indeed to admit off-hand, on the sole ground of antiquity, whatever happened to be most ancient, but, since the restoration of the eccle- siastical Chant had to depend not only on paleographical considerations, but also was to draw upon history, musical and Gregorian art, and even upon expe- rience and upon the rules of the sacred liturgy, it was necessary to have regard to all of these things at the same time; lest a piece, composed perhaps with the learning of antiquity, should fall short in some of the other conditions, and do injury to Catholic tradition by depriving many centuries of the right of contri- buting something good, or even better than itself, to the patrimony of the Church. For it is by no means to be admitted that what we call the Gregorian tradition may be confined within the space of a few years; but it embraces all those cen- turies which cultivated the art of the Gregorian Chant with more or less zeal and proficiency. The Church, says the Holy Father in the Motu Proprio already mentioned, has cultivated and fostered the progress of the arts unceasingly, allowing for the use of religion all things good and beautiful discovered by man in the course of the ages, provided that liturgical rules be observed. The work of the present edition has been carried out in accordance with these wise directions delivered by Our Most Holy Lord Pope Pius X.

    The Church certainly gives freedom to all the learned to settle the age and con- dition of the Gregorian melodies, and to pass judgment upon their artistic skill. She only reserves to herself one right, to wit, that of supplying and prescribing to the Bishops and the faithful such a text of the sacred Chant as may contribute to the fitting splendour of divine worship and to the edification of souls, after being restored according to the traditional records.
  • JonDeulingJonDeuling
    Posts: 21
    Thanks to everyone. I am getting what I need here.
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  • Mark,

    As I've recently commented on another thread, the "provided that.." clause undoes what it appears to support.

    You've no doubt heard of the "white elephant", the so-called Novus Ordo Mass in Latin? In those Masses, Gregorian Chant can/should have pride of place, but these don't, apparently, meet the "provided that..." clause's standard, and so they shouldn't exist.
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