English chant or latin chant to start?
  • I've taken some time to look through the English gradual as well as having seen plenty of the true gregorian melodies with their latin text. Can anyone help to understand what the pros and cons are of using the english chants? Some of my own thoughts:
    The english chants do tend to be a bit easier melodically than the gregorian melodies, the language would be familiar to people, and if you don't have the resources to start putting together pamphlets for every mass for the congregation with the english translation of the latin propers, but want to start getting people used to hearing chant and the beauty it gives the liturgy, then it may be a good choice.
    However, I think alot of the melodies in the english gradual can get fairly boring, since many follow just psalm tone chanting. Even though singers would already know English, it doesn't mean they will know how to pronounce it properly. It may be harder to get them sing english correctly than it would be to teach them to sing latin. You would have to break regional english speaking habits which is usually very difficult.

    So far my thought has been that it might be better to be patient and take the time to really teach a new choir how to sing the true gregorian melodies with the latin meant for them and start planning for the making of pamphlets for the church before starting to actually sing the chants. I think learning settings of the ordinary would be first priority (at least two, one for penitential seasons and one for festal seasons) and getting the priest to start singing at least parts of the mass in english. THEN start moving them toward learning the more difficult chants.
    Let me know what you all think.
  • Welcome to the forum :)

    As far as English versus Latin, I believe you have answered your own question. Getting a choir to sing well in English is more difficult than singing in Latin; for the reasons you cite, I would even dare to put any type of English chant in the "more difficult" category - even the "boring" psalm-tone melodies of the Anglican Gradual.

    Starting with the Latin ordinary would be beneficial; I'd recommend (as the Vatican editions recommend) Mass XVII for Advent and Lent, and another of your choice for the festal seasons. All of the ordinary chants are online in downloadable MP3 format; if your singers have portable media players, these can be suitable teaching aids.

    As far as the celebrant's chants go: if he's chanting in English, I wouldn't be so worried about proper enunciation on his part - it can be an ongoing project as far as I'm concerned. (I am assuming from the post above that you refer to the dialogues that the priest initiates with the people.)

    Hope this helps in some small way.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    If you do choose to sing some of the propers in English, I would suggest looking at the "American Gradual" published by St. James Press. Rather than using psalm tones only, the texts are mostly set to melodies from the Roman Gradual (somewhat modified and in stemless 5-line notation).
  • This past weekend, we faced a choice. We could have done Ad te levavi as the prelude and then a processional hymn. Or we could have done the introit in English, using Psalm tone or the Ad te set in English. We chose English Psalm tone just as an experiment. I must say that I was extremely impressed at the results. The first antiphon we did with cantor and choir and then the people sang the Gloria Patri and then the whole antiphon again. The singing was very strong and it really set up a beautiful liturgical environment. It might be "boring" but it is far far better than the processional hymn, which I'm increasingly convinced is the enemy of solemnity.
  • Jan
    Posts: 242

    Thanks for your 'advent' liturgical programming thoughts and experiences. These kind of 'practical' suggestions
    are very interesting & helpful.