Anglican chant tones
  • Hi everyone,

    Is there a collection of freely usable Anglican chant tones out there somewhere?
    Thanked by 1JonathanLC
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    as in choral setting?
  • It’s my impression than an “Anglican chant tone” is, by definition, harmonized, usually SATB. I could be wrong, though--I am Catholic, after all. :)

    But yes, choral.
  • Anglican chant is a method of singing non-metrical texts, chiefly psalms and canticles. It is a direct descendant of the monophonic psalm/Magnificant/Introit tones and shares the basic structure of a reciting note and formula for concluding each half verse. Because they are always harmonized and generally sung in 4-voice harmony, they bear some general, coincidental resemblance to 19th-century arrangements of the standard church tones of Orthodoxy and the Eastern Rites. A so-called Single Chant provides music for one psalm verse and follows the same form of reciting note--mediation (3 chords)--reciting note--ending (5 chords) of the psalm tones. A Double Chant covers two verses and creates an integral 4-section musical unit. The melodies and harmonies of Anglican chants mirror the language of the church music current when the chants were composed: chants by William Boyce are recognizably late-Baroque, Samuel Sebastian Wesley's are boldly Romantic, and Herbert Howells' are subtly spiced with suave mid-20th-century dissonance.

    Anglican hymnals, especially in America, will sometimes have chants with the words integrated with the notes. Most sources, however, keep the pointed psalms and the chants separate. It's expected that a reasonably competent singer and organist can learn the chant quickly and then apply it directly to the words.

    There's a circa-1980 variant called Simplified Anglican chant. They have only one chord change for the mediant and the ending and are thus extremely easy to learn and sing. They were invented for congregational singing, but can work well with choirs. They sound not unlike Gelineau psalms but don't jump around and skip intermediate notes/chords when encountering verses of different lengths.

    Anglican chant is cultivated at an extremely high musical levels at British Anglican cathedrals. They use Miles Coverdale's English-language psalms from the 1530s/40s, which appear in full in Anglican prayer books. Indeed, the 'King James' (Authorized Version) psalter is considered a distinctive of non-Anglican Protestantism.

    I could go on about various sources, if anyone finds that useful.
  • ...if, in your going on, you happen to mention a downloadable online PDF, that would be smashing....
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • Chris
    Posts: 80
    Although it's not free, the current Anglican Chant Psalter is available here, and it is quite wonderful:

    The Plainsong Psalter and other Episcopal worship resource materials may also be found there.
  • Here are a couple of standard-issue chants and pointed psalms. [Beware: moderately crummy typography]

    Here's a well-known example of how a chant might be dressed up in a large church for a special occasion.

    The treatment of unison sections, varied organ accompaniment, descants, etc. is typical practice, but is always subserviant to the clear, speech-rhythm declamation of the words.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    I have a resource somewhere that I've been meaning to put online. in time... but not for a few weeks!
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    I believe that many of the Anglican chants ARE in the PD. I don't think scanning from various sources is the most practical method of using them. I have quite a few in my computer from my years at Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Texas. If anyone finds Anglican chants that they like, and they are not covered by copyright (or you have gotten permission for using them) I can put them into Finale for you.

    As to performance, there are various approaches. I have seen musicians in Episcopal positions use Finale or Sibelius to "through compose" each chant for their choirs. I think it's only because these people didn't grow up singing these chants, and are frankly afraid of them. I never did that at OLW. The chant is printed at the top of the page, and the text is pointed below. And I pointed all of those texts myself. I'd be happy to assist there. Just contact me at my email. I taught myself quite quickly to memorize even a double-chant with about 10 play-throughs, and then I could concentrate on leading (vocally or with the keyboard) all the texts. (Hmm. That's the way we used to do the Rossini tones, isn't it?)

    The congregation at OLW used to sing the Psalm/Canticle verses to Anglican chant, even some times without any pointing! Believe me - it grows on you! And I've put Tudor & modern English, Latin and Spanish to it. Once you have a feel for the musical concept, it is very flexible.
    Thanked by 1Patricia Cecilia
  • Chris
    Posts: 80
    One great way to experience Anglican Chant is to go to the website of Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NYC, and listen to their 'webcasts.' They record their services and then leave them up on the website for a few weeks. About 70% of their Psalm settings are the traditional 4-pt Anglican Chant right from the Psalter, done exceptionally well. The other 30ish% comes from the Plainsong Psalter.

    Here's a direct link to their webcasts:
  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 992
    This talk of Anglican chant takes me back to my Anglican days and it also takes me back to memories of moderately vigorous singing at Morning Prayer. The secret in the church of my adolescence was that they never changed which setting they used with a particular psalm, canticle, Te Deum, etc. Enough Sundays and the congregation simply knew it.

    I found the same to be true in my years in OCA Russian parishes that used the standard 4-part Obihod settings. We reeled our way through enormous quantities of text at vigil services with minimal pointing. And oh, that Byzantine poetry!
  • Playing off Steve’s comment about the flexibility of Anglican chant, it occurred to me to wonder why Catholic parishes haven’t made an attempt to integrate this style of singing the psalms. I am thinking of trying it for our church dedication, since the needs of the dedication rite are so unique.
  • richardUKrichardUK
    Posts: 85
    Each Anglican cathedral and collegiate chapel in the UK has its own particular "chant book", where the entire psalter (or most of it) is matched with SATB chant in such a way that particular chants fit together tonally in an evening or morning's service, as well as set off the affect of the words of that particular psalm or portion of psalm. The psalms and their chants are sung at all the choral services through the month, at choral evensong 6 days a week, then the cycle repeats the next month, which is why English choirs sound so wonderful when they chant the psalms: everyone knows them backwards and forwards. In most choral foundations the chant book tends to be a closely guarded affair. The King's College Cambridge chant book, which David Willcocks compiled in the 60's is often thought of as the "gold standard" of matching chants to psalms, and beautiful it is. It slowly leaked out and many cathedrals base some of their psalm chants on those in the King's book, of which I have happen to have a copy somewhere. Other superb chant books are those in use at Wells Cathedral and St Paul's Cathedral, London.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    Yes, King's College is sort of the ultimate. I purchased the collection of LPs "The Psalms of David", and that helped teach me pointing. When King's College Choir visited Houston for the AGO Convention, I went to their Evensong both times - once to site back, close my eyes, and imagine I was not sitting in First Pres. Church. The second time, I marked all of their pointing! It was amazing, and I made some slight adjustments in my own pointings after that.

    Why haven't Catholics picked up on Anglican chant? Well, I have two answers.

    1) They did, at least a little bit. The Magnificat alternatum in both the "Pius X" and "St. Gregory" hymnals uses an Anglican chant for the even verses. You can even hear this piece at the beginning of "The Great Caruso" with Mario Lanza.

    2) They didn't, in fact BECAUSE it was "Anglican"! Anglicans have had their Liturgies in English for centuries, including chanting Psalms and Canticles, and composing wonderful hymns with good texts. But when we were "allowed" to have English in our Masses back in the 1960s, well, God might as well have forbid that we use ANYTHING that the Anglican started! Our bishops just had to re-invent the wheel!
    Thanked by 1Patricia Cecilia
  • I have a copy of the 1982 Anglican Chant Psalter, and I haven't found an Anglican Chant outside of the major or minor keys.

    I suppose one could jury-rig the Gelineau tones found in Singing the Psalms: A New Translation, but does anyone know of any modal Anglican Chants?
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    No. I've never come across any that were strictly modal. I suspect, though, that some more time spent playing and chanting from NOH, and I'll be more and more confident with that style of modal voice leading. But here's another thought: one of the links between Anglican and Gregorian chant is the "faux bourdon" - the Gregorian melody in the tenor, with harmonies above and below. Maybe some of the NOH Psalm tones with the voices inverted would sound interesting. Jeff Ostrowski, what do you think?
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    This is a marvellous topic which deserves I think a bit more discussion. I'd be interested to hear Jeff's take on NOH psalm tones employed this way.

    Incidentally, is there a more general term for "Anglican chant"? I've seen "fauxbourdon" used to describe this sort of homophony, but this seems to make a fairly precise term less precise. Lasso and Viadana wrote "tonales" for psalm tones -- would that term work better?

    Finally, are there any composers who bring a much more adventurous color palette to these things? Something more modal would be very beautiful and consistent with RC tradition, and one can imagine still more adventurous approaches.

    There is nothing intrinsically confessional ("Anglican") about this musical approach. It's a very good approach, and seems ripe for revisiting.

    One can see in it a framework for harmonizing the Propers, for example. This would help move a parish toward the RC liturgical ideal. It's very much within the reach of an average choir, which can truly master them, and the effect can even be glorious.

    There is much to recommend here.
  • Haskell
    Posts: 1
    There is a wonderful cathedral psalter archived online in pdf at
  • Thank you!!!!!
  • IanWIanW
    Posts: 754
    I've attached an example of how Anglican chant might be used in Catholic liturgy. It's a responsorial setting of the Communion Antiphon for the 1st Sunday of Advent (thanks to Richard Rice, whose example gave me the idea). I've provided pointed text under the music, as you might see it in an Anglican chant book, and on the stave so you can see how it works. One of the virtues of the form is that the chants aren't difficult to write, though the constraints, like those of any stylised miniature, can be an inspiration to imagination and technique. Alternatively, just try singing the verses to some of the chants in the download to which Haskell has kindly pointed us.
  • There are many chant books such as the ones alluded to above.
    A relatively new one, for those who may be unaware of it, is The Anglican Psalter, ed. John Scott and pub. by the Canterbury Press.
    This book contains a number of chants of more modern tonality, as well as some by Howells and others not found in most
    chant books or hymnals - with those of a more conventional or expected tonality predominating.
    The psalms are, of course, the Miles Coverdale and the pointing is sometimes 'imaginative', always more interesting than older pointing styles.
    Often the cadence is begun much earlier in the text, yielding quite musical results, and adding interest owing to less predictability.
    This book was originally published a few years ago under the title, The St Paul's Cathedral Psalter.
    It may be easily had from Lois Fyfe in Atlanta.

    (As for the Miles Coverdale psalter - no one can any longer say it isn't Catholic! It is one of the two official psalters of Anglican Use Catholics.)
    Thanked by 1Patricia Cecilia
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,121
    The R.S.C.M. Chant Book was published around 1981 and contains a nearly exhaustive collection of Anglican chants (almost all music only, save for a couple of settings of Psalm 150) - except for modern ones. I treasure my copy, purchased several years ago. I should point out that Anglican chant tunes are still being composed (I've done a few myself).
  • Paraclete Press has recently released a beautiful psalter of Anglican Chants by Dr. George Guest - choirmaster and organist at St. John's College, Cambridge, England for over 40 years. It is called: The Psalms of David, Pointed and Edited for Chanting. It contains all 150 psalms - both single and double chants. It is based on the 1928 BCP (revised Coverdale) edition. It is a hardcover edition, with a satin ribbon marker and a lay flat binding. Beautiful tunes - I would highly recommend it!! Here is the direct link to the website:
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,100
    By the way, @nunsense, if you happen to represent Paraclete, let us know. I'm sure people have questions from time to time.
  • Well at my RC church (in UK) we have recently started using these Anglican SATB psalms, now and again, replacing the lovely Coverdale translation by the chummy, but less beautiful, Grail version. Works OK. Choir loves them. Congregation seem to too. (Oh, and we've also started using the Anglican Use Gradual - including Coverdale! - for the introit and offertory, before bursting into the usual entry or offertory hymn...)
  • PeterJ
    Posts: 87
    You might be interested in these []

    Not sure they're "true" Anglican chant, but I regard them as a bit of a hybrid with Gregorian chant.
  • The George Guest book from Paraclete is indeed a beautiful, very handsome, book with a fine layout. One should be mindful, though, that the pointing leaves much to be desired. It, like that in the back of the 1940, is rather out of date, overly simple, and lacking in interest insofar as it puts the cadence almost always as near the end of the half-verse as possible, which results in a rather too-predictable and tediously repetitious text rhythm sometimes humourously referred to as 'Anglican thump'. A much better book is The Anglican Psalter, edited by John Scott, and had from Canterbury Press. This is the book used at St Paul's Cathedral in London (and was originally titled The Saint Paul's Psalter). This book follows the more musical trend of the past few decades in moving the cadence farther back from the end of the half-verse, resulting in far greater musical and textual flow and interest. I recommend it heartily to all who wish to incorporate the best of Anglican chant into their liturgies.

    For example, here is this from the 1940:

    !. Blessed be the Lord God of | Israel *
    for he hath visited and re-| deemed . his PEOple;
    2. And hath raised up a mighty sal-| vation for us *
    in the house of his | servant DAvid.

    1. My soul doth magni-| fy the Lord, *
    and my spirit hath rejoiced in | God my SAviour.
    2. For | he . hath re-| garded *
    the lowliness | of his HANDmaiden
    3, For be-| hold from henceforth
    all generations shall | call me BLESSed.
    4. For he that is mighty hath | magni.fied me;*
    and | holy is his Name.

    and the same from The Anglican Psalter:

    1. Blessed be the | Lord . God of | Israel: *
    for he hath | visited . and re-| deemed his | people;
    2. And hath raised up a mighty sal-| vation | for us
    in the | house of . his | servant | David.

    1. My soul doth | magnify . the | Lord: *
    and my | spirit . hath re-| joiced in . God my | Saviour.
    2. For | he . hath re-| garded>
    the | lowli.ness | of his | handmaiden.
    3. For be-| hold from | henceforth: *
    all gene-| rations . shall | call me | blessed
    4. For he that is | mighty . hath | magnified me: *
    and | holy | is his | Name.

    (Note that in verse 2 of Magnificat in the second example one should go straight from the first to the second half-verse without any break at all.)

    Too, The Anglican Psalter contains a more varied selection of Anglican chants, including some by Howells and other XX. century figures.
  • Indeed, the Anglican Thump was even notated in Stainer's Cathedral Psalter, where it's supposed to be speech-rhythm until the syllable with the accent over it...that's where the chant is to be treated metrically. "O-come-let-us- SING...UN...TO....THE....LORD: let-us-heartily-rejoice-in-the STRENGTH... OF... OUR...SAL...VATION. An obsolete and discouraged way of chanting.
    Thanked by 1Gavin
  • PeterJ
    Posts: 87
    John Scott's book is great, and modern pointing is very nice indeed, but I'm going to stick my neck out and disagree with the rather disparaging comments above regarding the traditional "Anglican thump". It's simply not THAT objectionable - the resultant effect of a predictable speech rhythm is not THAT dull.

    On the contrary, may I suggest that there are good reasons for it - a more predictable text rhythm makes the chant much, much easier to learn and remember (and for that matter much, much easier for the organist to accompany). It allows choirs to focus on other things which are needed for good chant (diction, emphasis in the right place etc).

    Anglican chant these days, even in the Anglican Church here in the UK, is the reserve of cathedrals/Oxbridge colleges/the more significant parishes. It didn't used to be - it used to be much more widespread - and I think part of the reason it was able to be so widely used is because the traditional pointing was user friendly.

    By all means extol the virtues of modern pointing (which I don't deny) but don't bash the early-20th century pointing methods because I think they had their reasons for doing it that way - reasons which still have their merits today.
    Thanked by 1Adam Wood
  • Alas, PeterJ -
    It isn't, methinks, that Anglican thump is more 'user friendly' (OHH! how I do deTEST that term) than more recent pointings, which do, in fact, attempt to make the chant even more sensitive to word rhythm. Anglican thump deserves its name and is, in fact, comical in the hands of MOST of those who hie to it. Then: chant not being sung as often or as well these days is not the fault of chant style and pointing but of a rather general failure of the church to pass on its musical culture to the next generation - a situation that is bad and is getting worse... here in America as well as in Britain. We even had introduced into the 1982 hymnal some very 'simplified' 'Anglican chants' (they REALLY AREN'T Anglican chants) which have much simplified candences, so simplified that even a cretin would not have to have them so much as explained. My first impression was a rather confident 'WHHAT for!!!? No one will use them!!' But, wouldn't you know it! The Dumber Downers won the day: they told people that they couldn't sing 'those old chants' (and the people just swallowed and believed them); so, voila: Anglican chant is becoming more foreign to people whose parents never had a problem with it. Too, we have a very different brand of choirmasters, organists, cantors(?), and teachers today than was common in the past when music leaders simply presented congregations with what they needed to know and they learnt by repetition and use in churches that they frequented two or three or four times a week; and singing was a part of culture: people JUST DID IT... they hardly needed to be taught!
    Now to our day: as you say, great concern is had over whether materials are 'user friendly'=easier than pie, and take an utter minimum of time and effort on the part of teachers and teachees. And heaven help the teacher who has chosen something requiring more that a minimum of effort, for he or she will be greeted by screeching exclamations from The Spoilers in the congregation that 'it's too hard', 'we can't do this', 'we don't like this', all of which can be translated as 'this doesn't sound like TV music or what my teen-ager listens to'.
    Still, having gotten side-tracked, I will agree with you insofar as that Anglican thump CAN be somewhat charming... artless, but charming.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen PeterJ
  • PeterJ
    Posts: 87
    M Jackson Osborn - obviously this is something you feel very strongly about and I have clearly hit on a raw nerve. To be clear, I am not advocating a general approach of "dumbing down", but picking one's battles. Nor am I saying that the decline of Anglican chant is due to modern pointing (!).

    I just think that very modern pointing is unnecessarily complex for most of us (although I can see why it would be great for St Paul's or an Oxbridge college), and I'm afraid I am going to stick to my guns on this.

    My preferred pointing style - by far and away - would be the pointing method of S Nicholson in my late-1940s Anglican Psalter. In my view, it achieves the right balance between sensitivity to the text and a predictable speech rhythm, and is a pleasure to sing (and, as an organist, readily accompanied, given its predictability). He generally tries to keep the cadence towards the end of the half-verse (which I think is a philosophy you seemed less keen on) but the resultant effect is fine.

    I find modern (and more complex) pointing, which I guess has built on the work of S Nicholson, very pleasant to listen to, but unnecessarily complicated (and an absolute pain to accompany on the organ). I think S Nicholson hit the right balance the first time round. And yes, his psalter is (in my view) more user friendly than Mr Scott's (albeit excellent) book, and that is no bad thing.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • PeterJ -
    Well, thanks for 'sticking to your guns'. You, too, obviously feel strongly about this, and I wish you the best. Anglican thump chant is better than none at all. No doubt your choir and congregation make it sound not at all 'thumpy'. Godspeed!
    Thanked by 2PeterJ Gavin
  • Here are some old Public Domain resources available for free download.

    I. Here are links to Free downloadable files of Anglican Chant in Three styles
    (All use the Coverdale text):

    The Cathedral Psalter

    The Psalter and canticles, with appropriate chants, ed. by J. Turle

    The free Rhythm Psalter
    The Free Rhythm Psalter Organ edition
    (explaining the principles behind the free-rhythm method):

    II. Here is a split leaf Anglican Chant Psalter with tunes
    The Scottish Prose Psalter--Authorized Version
    Be patient though as it is a large file so it takes a while to download.
    I installed the most recent copy of Adobe Acrobat reader (free) before downloading it.
    Once it is downloaded there should be a tab off to the right by which you can save it to a file.
    The first 300 or so pages are the KJV Text (which would be the bottom half of the book.
    The last 300 or so pages are the tunes which would be the top half of the book.

    III. If you are looking for just Anglican Chant tunes:
    The Westminster Abbey Chant Book

    IV. In view of the discussion of this page about the Anglican "thump" here are links to a couple books that endeavor to reform and instruct:

    The Art of Chanting
    John Heywood analyzes prominent Psalters of his day and categorizes them as Cathedral style/Church style, explaining the weaknesses of the pointing methods (addressing particularly the notorious "thump."
    Note also that the Free rhythm Psalter (#3 above) is written in response to Heywood's instruction in this book. The organist edition explains the method of maintaining the chanting note for as far into the phrase as possible and using a slur to avoid the thump at the end.

    Practical Remarks on the Reformation of Cathedral Music
    This book has some poignant instructions regarding methods and music in chant that is befitting the KING of kings.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,486
    Wow, thank you!!
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,444
    ermergerhd! ernglercern chernt!

    Thanked by 1noel jones, aago
  • My personal experience, not having been exposed to Psalm singing prior to my investigations, enables me to affirm the underlying values of both Peter and Mr Osborn in their adherence to their respective preferences in pointing methods.

    Using the Cathedral Psalter pointing I found the Psalms themselves were quickly and automatically embedded in my memory. I was amazed at how suddenly I remembered Psalms without even trying. Musically however, I found myself inclined to spread the tune more evenly through the text. However, after singing the Psalms in this way for some time, I realized I was not remembering the Psalms themselves nearly as much and certainly not as quickly.

    Concerning the old style of pointing, I have found that some of the odiousness of the "Anglican Thump" can be avoided by a slight delay of the last stressed syllable to avoid its falling directly on the down beat. This softens it, and somehow allows the unstressed syllables to follow very gracefully. As for distributing the tune more evenly throughout the text, perhaps over time, the Psalms themselves would be ingrained in the memory despite the intricacies of the music.

    But generally, for memory I would affirm Peter's perspective. For grace and musicality, I would affirm Mr Osborn's perspective.

    I do understand that this is a divergence from the topic of the initial post here; however, given the dichotomy between the two camps I thought it might be nice to offer a mutually affirming perspective.
  • I have always loved Anglican chants and have tried to use them occasionally throughout my 40+ years as a music director at Catholic churches. Now there is an easy way to learn them. Keith Shafer, music director at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Augusta, GA has arranged the chants for the 3 year cycle with the text integrated with the music. No memorizing the chants is necessary. Chants by many composers are used. It is called "Psalms Made Singable", edited by Keith Schafer. My pastor allowed me to buy the three books (years A, B, C) and you are allowed to photocopy the psalms for the choir as necessary with no permissions. We now use an Anglican chant each week at the choir mass. I arrange the response to the psalm usually using a fragment of the chant and it is printed in the Sunday bulletin.
  • tsoapm
    Posts: 79
    When looking myself, I found this site containing thousands, with various helpful indexes, referencing the sources, with links to online chant books where applicable and midi files:

    I’m proposing Anglican chant to my choir in Italy, and I’m not sure I’d manage without such a scrupulously organised resource. Where the original book isn’t online, I’ve been processing the midi files to get the parts.
  • So you are in Italy! Anglican chant should be quite interesting in Italian. A friend of mine does it often in Latin, and it adapts quite beautifully. And, why shouldn't it? It's really not altogether different from fa-burden. I'd like to hear some in German and French, too.
  • tsoapm
    Posts: 79
    There’s an Anglican Chant Appreciation Society on Facebook, with examples frequently posted. I’ve heard about it being appreciated in French, and actually quite well established in Dutch (hence the .nl domain above, I suppose).