How should one move towards chant propers and ordinaries at a small college Mass?
  • Hi,

    I was wondering whether you might have some advice for my situation.

    I am de facto music director/cantor for a tiny, tiny college Mass (average attendance: 5-6 people). We currently use the Catholic Community Hymnal by GIA, and out of previous practice, a "four-hymn sandwich" with some of the ordinaries from Mass of Creation and others spoken rather than sung.

    Thanks to the previous chaplain (who gave an informational session some time ago and was working on eventually bringing chant into the Mass at our Newman Club), I was introduced to Gregorian chant and have since gotten personal copies of the Parish Book of Chant and the Gregorian Missal. I have been beginning to inform myself by sites such as the New Liturgical Movement and the Musica Sacra site, for which I have many thanks, and started to learn to read and sing from chant notation.

    The problem(s):
    We have a very small community (as many of the students at my fairly secular school who do go to Mass go to the nearby parish), so I'm not sure what pace of changing things is appropriate. I would also like to leave a structure (that is, what to do next, where to find settings, how to learn the music, etc. -- general guidelines and concrete information) for the next person in-charge of this to be able to move towards the goal of chant propers and ordinaries. The college is a rigorous math-and-science sort of school, and so time and energy is limited both for me and for the other students. We also have a new chaplain who does not know chant (but who I think would be willing to learn, given time and instruction). I am also mostly self-taught with regard to singing (though I can read music due to playing French horn). I am graduating in June, so much of this would need to be training up people and putting what I can in place this year.

    What advice would you have for moving from where we are to the ideal?

    I guess I am looking for what I can implement easily/quickly and what needs more "stepping-stones" and training and time -- but most of all, just what to do next.

  • I'd prevail on members of this group to prepare a little Mass card with chant on it to be in the pews.

    Set a goal of singing the simple Sanctus, an English Chant Acclamation, simple Amen and then the Agnus Dei.

    And begin doing it.


    Make a CD, put these four things on it as the first tracks, then add the Adoro Te, Jesu Dulcis and a few other popular chants.

    Give the CD to every person that crosses the doorstep along with a copy of the mass sheet guide and the time of the Mass...even the UPS guy. Let everyone that enters the building leave knowing that the music at Mass here is different.

    Get the school newspaper and the local newspaper to talk to you and tell them that you are representing the little engine that are the leading edge of the reform of the music in the liturgy.

    It would not hurt at all to play cd's of chant before and after Mass (not during) to set the frame of thinking to solemnity.

    Now...where's that coffee? It's early!
    Thanked by 1JulieColl
  • Carl DCarl D
    Posts: 985
    And make sure to get hooked into that OTHER thread that's active right now, How to start a schola.

    P.S. I played French Horn too in a previous life, but let's not tell anyone, OK? ;-)
  • Frogman Noel has great ideas, as usual! Here is another idea: You mention that your school is a "rigorous math-and-science sort of school"; does your school have a service department for music or fine arts? ("Service department' means that they don't have majors or grant degrees; they "just" contribute to the academic offerings of the school. Ignore the irony of "just" contributing...) If so, you should contact those faculty members (not just music, but the other arts as well) and let it be known that you are doing this. Ask to be able to advertise/make an announcement in choir or band rehearsals if they exist. Ask about students or faculty or staff members who might also be interested ("so-and-so sings with X, so-and-so's wife plays with a recorder consort", that sort of thing; particularly at a smaller institution, everyone knows the interests and hobbies of everyone else. ) If no fine arts department, ask a faculty member you know about faculty/staff leads. Even in rigorous-math-and-science schools, there are usually people who would be interested if they only knew, or who might become intrigued.

  • I couldn't help but notice similarities to my own situation. We have Mass at my university (Cal Poly Pomona in CA) during the week as well, usually 10-12 persons show up.
    What I did was make a small booklet of the music for the Ordinary, consisting of simple english "chant style" settings.. (I would love to use the latin, but I figured that having english would be an easier transition for the people). I didn't start singing everything at once, but am adding it little by little. In regards to the Propers, I'd suggest you get ahold of Fr. Samuel Weber's English chant settings, they tend to be easier and are in modern notation. If you email him(, he'll send you an attachment. Maybe you could start by singing the communion antiphon? Definitely put out notices around the school, there's bound to be someone who'd be interested in helping you. Good luck! (oh, and good choice with the french horn, that's my instrument as well :) )
  • Andrew is wiser than most... We tend to jump to Latin and as a result the music of the chant then becomes bracketed in minds with Latin. I know, I've done it myself.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Funny thing is that I tried to start the English chant Mass and they all sang it in Latin!

    [Whoops! This comment and those below are adding to a discussion made five years ago. --admin]
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    "Funny thing is that I tried to start the English chant Mass and they all sang it in Latin!"

    In that case, you just roll with it and thank God they don't hate it!
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • aria
    Posts: 85
    First, if you can get the priest to chant the dialogues, that would be a great start in the right direction. I believe the music he needs (albeit in square notes?) is in the Roman Missal and he may even know some of it already. When a priest chants "The Lord be with you", the people can't help but chant back their response. This is GREAT way to get the people chant w/out even really realizing it. Yes, it's very basic, but it's a start.

    And I think Noel offers a solid plan in his post. Even simpler, I agree w/ Andrew's suggestion to start w/ a communion antiphon. See for some very accessible settings (modern notation with recordings).

    Alternatively/in addition/next, I would recommend a chant setting of the responsorial pslam. See for a wonderful variety, including some modern notation w/ recordings. Since you did say that you're reading square notes, another option I've come to rely on is . The text is from the Roman Missal (so it matches what people may have in a missalette) and the settings were written with an eye toward being "congregation friendly" (i.e., antiphons are not too long and not too difficult vocally).

    Best of luck to you!

    PS: FWIW ,here's a link to how our very large parish moved from P&W to a mix of chant (in English) and hymnody: .
    Thanked by 2chonak CHGiffen
  • hartleymartin
    Posts: 1,447
    It might be quite a long project.

    Absolutely first stage is to chant the responses and the preface dialogue and chanting the Great Amen. These seem to draw a spontaneous response from the congregation and will be a great first step to removing any resistance towards chant.

    Some well-known chant hymns should become a regular part of your repertoire. Pange Lingua/Sing My Tongue the Saviour's Glory and Adoro Te Devote/Godhead Here in Hiding should become two staple hymns, especially if you have a regular adoration or holy hour.

    I would also start chanting the Our Father in English. You'll use the ICEL one. Here in Australia we use the AELC tone, which is honestly better than the ICEL version, but it is only used here because of some 60+years of customary use. Later down the track you can introduce "First Sunday Latin" policy which will help.

    The next stage would be to add parts of the simple chant mass:

    - Great Amen

    - Mystery of Faith - pick one and stick with it for several weeks before going to the others. Repetitio est mater memoriae!

    - Add the chanted Kyrie (I would always chant the Greek, never the English)

    - Eventually add the Sanctus and Agnus Dei according to the Missal Tone. Perhaps best to first introduce the English Versions. At my own college chapel I've been pushing the English Chant for about 2 years, and now I regularly swap between the English and Latin chants for the Sanctus and Agnus Dei.

    - Familiarise yourself with some chant tones and accompany them on the organ. This will help with the responsorial psalm. I almost always chant these to a psalm tone, but this is because I intend to introduce Sung Compline and possibly Sung Vespers into the parish (with full support from the clergy.) Tone IID and Tone VIIIG are the two easiest and most natural psalm tones for chanting English Psalms.

    The above is roughly what I've been doing over the past 3 years, although I've been making music only for Feasts and Solemnities at the College and for 9 months now Saturday and Sunday evening masses at a local parish church. (Sort of helps that I'm also a member of the Cathedral Choir, so I've got the right contacts and sources!)
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 1,808
    I'm confused about whether there is a new CCH with new English ordinaries: this page gives G-5000H as the catalog number, the same as our 1999 copies, but the url is P-5000, which may or may not mean anything... If it's not updated, you still already have the Gloria de Angelis (161), mode vi alleluia (114), Sanctus & Agnus xviii (185-87), Our Father (120). You still need to decide on the Memorial Accl. and what to do with the Guimont reps. psalm refrains (ugh). I've just finished penciling in the 2010 Preface dialogue at 116, but more pressing may be choosing an English ordinary and making an insert booklet/sheet. Then add communion antiphons, offertories, and if possible graduals, not overlooking The American Gradual...
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,592
    Hello... let's look at the dates of posts...
    They posted it in 2009.
    They've likely graduated by now.

    So perhaps it is best to use this post to give general information, or to just let it go...