The American Gradual
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Have any of you had success with this book? The price of $99 is major annoyance here, and the claim that the high price includes (somehow) liberal copyright permissions is, how shall I say, economically unsound. The Liber Usualis has no protection at all, so maybe it should be $1000? Or maybe access to CPDL should be $1,000,000? And, why, then is the Anglican Use Gradual free online? The music of the PBC is entirely public domain so are we fools for charging a mere $14?

    Having just finished another reading on the sad, sad history of Solesmes's early tangles with its own copyrights, even to the point of claiming to be the only institution in the world permitted to use the ictus, proves to be me again that musicians and copyright are a toxic mix that poisons otherwise great art. Queen Elizabeth set a very bad precedent in the world when she introduced this idea.

    Anyway, that aside, this looks like a very interesting book, and I'm going to fork over the big bucks for it. Please, if you have seen it or used it, give me an honest assessment.
  • We have studied it and already have used it in a Mass two weeks ago where the Communio was chanted from the Graduale Romanum and the same Communion chanted then in English from TAG.

    It's the work of years by Bruce Ford who decided to do it and involved the setting of text to the original chant notes with modifications to the melodies to make English work. When it comes to using it with a choir of any size, being able to copy and use the copies is less expensive than purchasing a book at a market price for each choir member. It helps to understand that this is the premise that this publisher works by rather than liturgical Press's approach of selling individual books to each choir member in Paul Ford's By Flowing Waters, which we also use. BFW does permit copying of music for the Assembly.

    Also note that Bruce Ford created TAG for use in the Anglican OR Roman church.


    For those new, or confused:

    Latin - English
    Graduale Romanum in English: The American Gradual
    Graduale Simplex in English: By Flowing Waters

    The Simplex is called in full: Graduale Simplex in Usum Minorum Ecclesiarum

    So I guess we are a minor church leaing to....major?

    It is of great interest to be able to sing these back and forth in English and Latin....when people hear BYF and TAG and suddenyl realize that they can understand the words it is fun to see their reactions. I think using them is a very valuable way to return chant to its place in the church.

    Yes, I know that they are not in Latin....but they open the door to singing Latin in ways that....guitars never do.

    I'm still looking for an affordable used copy of the Graduale Simplex....paying more than $40 for a paperbound book rankles a bit. But it also indicates that they did not see much market for it, otherwise it would have been priced for the mass market...pun semi-intended.

    noel at sjnmusic.com in Tenneessee, hardly a hotbed of liturgical spearheading. At times there are calls for my....beheading instead. No one can survive at this without the strong support of at least a few....and I am pleased to have that here. My own chant terrierists.
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I ordered a sample and found it unsatisfactory. It consists of the Gradual tunes with the modern BCP psalter. However, I find the matchup to be poorly suited to English. It's basically the unedited tune somewhat haphazardly assigned to the English text. I don't know to what extent it can be considered a Gradual, given the variations in the Anglican Use Gradual from the Roman.

    I should state for disclosure that I don't like the singing of melismatic passages in English. I find the language ill-suited to such (try singing a gradual chant including the word "forever". It's even worse if you have a choir with a Michigan accent) And the problem is worse with contemporary rather than archaic language. So these opinions color my judgment and drive my own project along the same lines.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,079
    copyrights. my headache is coming back.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    yes, the adaption to English can be frustrating, and I'm ever more tending toward the school of thought that the closer we are to a pure Psalm tone, the better off we are. Still there are times when I wish I had an English resource a bit more elaborate than the Anglican Use. this morning was a good example. We had no offertory scheduled at all, and I found myself wishing for a quick English proper that would move a bit more than the Psalm tone version.

    By the way, necessity ends up being the mother of invention here. We ended up digging up Pange Linqua from the OCP hymnal, and sang all verses with the congregation. Actually, in retrospect, this was a wise choice. It really had a nice sound and feel to it. How I wish we could get the PBC in our parish! but until that day, we will just keep coming up with stuff based on what we have. It's funny how sometimes the things you don't plan in advance turn out to be the best music of the day.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "I'm ever more tending toward the school of thought that the closer we are to a pure Psalm tone, the better off we are."

    That's part of what inspired me to start transcribing chants. I looked at some of them and realized that they are mostly embellished psalm tones. Many of them end in the same termination depending on the mode, have similar melodies, etc. At the very least, one can take psalm tones and just embellish them. For example, I wound up doing that for communion quite often: singing the antiphon to a psalm tone and adding the final melody of the antiphon at the end. And again, it's about vowels. Get a bunch of us Michiganders with our whiny vowels singing an "er" sound for a couple seconds and it's painful.

    It seems to me that vernacular propers need to START with the psalm tone model and then evolve organically from there.
  • Gavin,

    This confuses me:

    "It's basically the unedited tune somewhat haphazardly assigned to the English text. I don't know to what extent it can be considered a Gradual, given the variations in the Anglican Use Gradual from the Roman."

    Bruce Ford very carefully provided YEAR A, B and C for Roman Usage in addition to the Anglican Usage when it varies.

    27 years of work by Bruce Ford deserves a more careful study and evaluation....even the Communio for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time shows carefully editing and adaptation of the tune to adapt this to English text.

    Mary Weaver sang them both as the other soprano was vocally indisposed due to a visit to a Southern house with mold....let's see if I can get Mary to post her opinion....

    noel
  • Heath
    Posts: 901
    I use it quite a bit in the summers when the choir is on break. I agree that the English language seems less suited to the melismatic writing (though maybe that's partly because it's our native language), but psalm tones every week would make me want to leap out of our choir loft.

    So overall, it's not bad. You have the whole liturgical year in there, so you can find whatever you need in a pinch. I actually wish there was a version with the actual Gregorian neumes; I find it much more difficult to sing chant from modern notation.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    I'm with you there Heath. I find it extremely difficult to sing chant from mod notes.
  • I digress and go tangential here, gentlemen; apologies.

    So, were you literally faced with only one option for both congregation and choir, that being modern notation only (ala LAUS TIBI or J.M.Thompson's "SIMPLE KYRIALE," you would forsake that option on principle rather than move minds, hearts and souls toward chant?

    I really just am interested in answers to that question, as opposed to answers that have the "Oh, it's so easy for people to learn the neumes" component.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    well, that's not a hard question. Of course I would go for mod notes. Who wouldn't? I prefer Nikes to Crocks but Crocks to being discalced.
  • Heath
    Posts: 901
    Just because I find it more difficult to read chant from modern notation doesn't mean I'm opposed to it. When I put the common "Jubilate Deo" chants in our pews for all our Masses to sing during Lent, I put them in modern notation.

    On the other hand, we have a weekly Latin Mass (Novus Ordo) here, and I gently introduced neumes to the congregation there. They seemed open to it . . . well, I didn't hear any complaints, let's put it that way! : )
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    I use the American Gradual every week for the Offertory. I started at the early morning chant Mass, but now my cantor and I have started singing it at other Masses as well. No complaints so far. But, even though I work very hard on diction, I'm not sure the complete text is always understood by the congregation.

    I tested this theory in a talk I gave to our RCIA candidates last year. I walked into the room with my CD player and played the Tallis Scholars singing Byrd's "Sing Joyfully." Then I asked them to close their eyes and imagine where they would likely hear music like that. They all answered "church." Try playing the introduction to any song on an OCP sample CD and asking the same question! Then I asked what the song was about, was it happy, sad, etc. They all answered that it was happy. Then I asked what language it was in - you guessed it -- they all said Latin!

    I'm hoping that by singing melismatic chants in English, people will realize that understanding the words is not always the point. After all, we don't look at a Monet painting and ask what every individual dot means. We stand back and look at the whole picture. When people understand that music communicates its meaning through the music itself, not just through the words, we will have gotten over a major obstacle in promoting Latin chant and polyphony.

    But, back on topic, I have to admit I am constantly puzzled by some of the editorial choices Bruce Ford made. Comparing the chants to those of the Roman Gradual, one misplaced icti, full or half bars replacing half and quarter bars, missing flats, changed notes, etc. Some of these may be the result of genuine scholarship, but even then one can question the usefulness of such scholarship to the parish choir when it differs so much from the Solesmes editions. Others I just have to assume are errors. And of course we end up spending a lot of time marking up the five-line notation so make sense out of the neumes. Still, I've got to say it's worth the $99 investment even when I'm only using two copies right now.
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    And another thing...

    Where did the English propers from the opening Mass of the Colloquium come from? I thought they were beautifully rendered, and more of the kind I'd like to see for parish use. Someone suggested they might have come from Fr. Weber's project, and while this might be true of the psalm, the English square-note notation for the Offertory looked more like that of the Anglican Use Gradual. However, the chants I have looked at in that resource seem to be based more on psalm tones than on the traditional melismatic melodies from the GR.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Fr. Weber wrote them for CMAA use last year and it so happened that the same texts applied this year. He is working on a full volume of these. I'm really glad about that, but also astounded that it has taken nearly 40 years for these to appear. In retrospect, it seems obvious that if Bugnini were really intent on issuing a new vernacular Missal, he should have waited a few decades until it could be done in an orderly fashion. But that's water under the bridge now I guess.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    incantu - I have to wonder what the point is then of melismatic propers in English. Why not do the original in Latin, given that it's just as easy?
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    Well, my use for them right now is a practical one. There are some people who object to having too much Latin. I'm not one of them, but one does sign my paycheck. So for the time being, these translations are helpful. Once people hear the beauty of chant and are able to meditate on the text expressed through the music, rather than merely along with the music, it will not be a big leap to doing authentic Gregorian chants and polyphony in Latin.

    But I think there is also a great use for newly composed propers in English. Whether or not the words are understood, it is still the words that inspire the composers to write the music that they do. Applying the principles of chant composition to new English texts will necessarily yield original results, which, in the hands of a good composer, may prove superior to the edited and translated chants found in BFW, AUG, and the American Gradual. But, for now, many of us still have a need for those resources.
  • Jeffrey and Heath has stated that is seems easier to sing from Gregorian Chant notation rather than modern. I've been working on a very simple guide to reading chant and to me the ease of reading chant over modern notation is that chant is made up of small patterns of notes that are strung together.

    The brain recognizes and interprets these little chunks of notation much quicker that the same phrase written in modern notation, especially if written in modern without stems, since the brain does not have to analyze the individual notes to figure out what the pattern is....and Solemnes episema, while it may help with chant notation, further confuses the mind with modern notation.
  • I know that Paul BFW Ford has written that he would look forward to the day that BFW might also be in Gregorian notation...and I seem to think that Bruce TAG Ford may have indicated his interest in that as well, but I am unable to find the source for that.

    noel
  • marymezzomarymezzo
    Posts: 236
    frogmusic brought this up, so I'll comment, based on my limited experience with The American Gradual (TAG).

    A few Sundays ago at Communion, I sang the Communio for the day from the Graduale Romanum (GR), followed by the Communion proper from TAG. A couple of the members of the congregation commented favorably, and I think perhaps people liked hearing that chant can be done in both Latin and English--and liked the "aha" moment when they could say to themselves, "so that's what she was singing in Latin a minute ago. Now we get it. Maybe it's not so strange." In the future, I hope we'll have handouts to help the congregation grasp the Latin propers . . . but that's another story and another expense.

    As a singer, I nearly always prefer the original language in which a piece was written. I also prefer chanting from square notes. The old notation communicates more to me, offers more guidance. For these reasons I'm always going to prefer the Graduale, but I see no point in excluding other forms of chant.

    We've also been using the *other* Ford's By Flowing Waters, with its simple chants, and I think it's a useful and beautiful addition to our repertory.

    So back to that Sunday Mass. Once I had learned the Communio from the GR, it was easy to pick up the TAG version in modern notation. I sang it down about a third because in my view, the TAG Communion proper was set too high for relaxed chanting. Pairing the two chants was a nice experiment that I wouldn't mind repeating.

    Would I want to replace the GR with TAG? By no means. But I see no reason not to use TAG when it makes sense to do so--for example when it is easier for singers who are not so comfy with square notes, when it helps a music program make the transition to a more perfect liturgy, and so on.

    Mary
  • francis
    Posts: 10,079
    Boil it all down to the objective:

    GET THE CHURCH SINGING THE CHANT.

    The benefit of GC in modern notation is a simple one. When you are up against a bias against chant, having it in MN eliminates half the bias right from the start. Most choirs will not be taking advantage of the nuances of chant notation, especially for most of the choirs that are just jumping into chant. Remember the objective: GET THE CHURCH SINGING THE CHANT. (You can always move to square notes later when they are ready and hungry for the nuances.)

    There are three significant foreign elements to chant that the typical modern church music program has to wrestle with:
    1. the (non-metered) compositional style
    2. latin
    3. chant notation

    Out of the two, you cannot do without 1 and 2. Without 3, you can still GET THE CHURCH SINGING CHANT.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    incantu: I realize the necessity of such a "via media" as an English offertory. I was more commenting on the irony of the situation: you are singing something which will take great concentration for a hearer to understand well. And yet a Latin offertory would require LESS work to understand and it is discouraged! Alas, we often have to do such odd "compromises" in our jobs.

    Francis: To split hairs, I'd question to what extent 1 and 2 are necessary towards the goal of getting the church to sing the chant. This discussion is over ways to get around 2. The American Gradual, By Flowing Waters, Fr. Weber's work, and my own is about preserving the music of the chant without the language barrier. Also, chant need not be non-metered. I recall that one hymn sung at the colloquium was a chant hymn arranged in a rhythmic fashion. This is an ancient practice in the history of chant and indeed the development of music. I'm reminded also of the Episcopalian hymnals which contain "of the Father's Love" with a triple meter, and the setting of the Pentecost gradual in some GIA books which does the same. So while I myself wouldn't throw out any of those 3 barriers, there's no reason one in a difficult situation couldn't do as much.
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    To free rhythm, I would add modality. The tyranny of TI-DO is as difficult to overthrow as the barline. (I admire the Chabanel Psalms, for instance, for their use of the modal psalm tones. I only wish the antiphons shared the same rhythm as Gregorian chant, following the model of Theodore Marier or Columba Kelly.) Chant-based organ music can also help develop an ear for these two qualities of sacred music, which, by the way, are also found in polyphony.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Right, incantu. It seems to me that is the only barrier to chant that can't be gotten around.
  • francis
    Posts: 10,079
    I am sorry. I was trying to address too much in too little words, and it was scattered.

    Well, generally speaking, chant is non metrical. That seems to be one of the 'foreign' elements that a choir feels uncomfortable with (at least in my own experience.) If one is going to sing chant, why not in latin? Liturgical latin is relatively easy to learn, and then one has the entire repertoire at one's disposal. Then again, I have also experienced where 'latin' can actually be the central issue. I have come to the realization that often it is not the 'latin' that is the problem, but issues that go much deeper - and thats a whole 'nother ball of wax!

    Gavin: I should have been clearer - I was referring to THE chant which of course is the latin and their respective melodies. sorry. Rereading the post, I think I am off the beaten path with regard to the subject that Jeffrey originally presented. I do like chant in English, but forcing gregorian melodies to English text seems ... well, forced.

    As for the modes, MN can also help them to better understand where the unusual intervals are occuring.

    Overall, I guess I am always looking for ways to 'bridge the gap' between the 'alien' form that THE chant presents itself to be in the mind of a modern western musician. It is a big puzzle that we all seem to wrestle with every day.

    It never ceases to amaze me that the church has gotten so far from its liturgical roots in such a little amount of time. It reminds me very much of when I used to play with a top when I was a child. I would get it spinning... perfectly. It would hum and the colors would be a blur. It seemed to go on effortlessly. All of a sudden I would bump into it and it would go a wobbling. And then I would think, "maybe if I hit the top at just the right moment, with just the right pressure for just the right amount of time, I could 'right' the spinning top back into its perfect balance." Needless to say, I could never do it. And that has been a very similar experience to 'righting' the liturgy as one who is responsible for music in the church.
  • Justin
    Posts: 1
    Dear Friends:
    Though there is no doubt that, at this moment, mountainous liturgical and musical difficulties beg redress, it is a privilege to scale these heights as it provides rewarding challenges to ingenuity and creativity. I do employ TAG at our parish. Given the parameters of producing such a book – arguably a task that, by its very nature, may inevitably fall short of a completely satisfactory result – we owe Bruce Ford our thanks for his thoughtful and tremendous effort. It serves well, not least as a transition to the Graduale Romanum. I would argue that accusations of awkwardness or other difficulties in this edition should be addressed to Mr. Ford. Yes, English texts set to these melodies pose difficulties; nevertheless, many, many of those (e.g. intelligibility of text despite melismatic passages and Michiganian vowels) can be effectively overcome (to most ears) through graceful singing. I have been repeatedly complimented on the use of this resource and assured that the text is correctly understood. Now to pair this with the Graduale permits far easier access to the Church's musical treasure.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    Actually, Mr. Ford has dropped by my blog to discuss some of the issues in chant translation. Check out the comment threads on some earlier entries: http://introibo-ad-altare.blogspot.com/ as well as my own takes on the concept.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,582
    This discussion might be worth bumping. Heath writes "psalm tones every week would make me want to leap out of our choir loft." For too many of us there is only the front pew to fling ourselves from, like Gloucester in King Lear :-D
  • Psalm tones causing the fabled Lemming Response? To be polite, if psalm tones cause one to consider self-immolation, maybe one needs to restudy them and recover a bit of wonder...they are wonderful when done well. If your singers are able to sing more complex chants fine, then singing psalm tones can be like eating sorbet between courses of a meal.

    The wonderful taste of the entre is emphasized by the light flavor of the sorbet and the next course takes you in another way.

    But eating sorbet all the time? Great if it's well made, and psalm tones are also small works of art and go a long way toward preparing singers for more difficult music.

    If this all sounds like drivel, go up and read what Francis wrote, he's always meaningful.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,956
    If people find singing psalm tones annoying, the group probably isn't doing them well. I don't think people can get them without making them a habit: e.g., by singing Vespers or Compline every week at rehearsal. That way, the group gets to know how to sing them together, pronounce together, etc.
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,994
    @ chonak

    Singing Compline at the end of every weekly rehearsal is not only good for chanting the psalm tones sensitively and sensibly, it is also good for the spirit - both of the group and of the individual - a richly rewarding way to end (complete) the day.

    chuck
  • Heath
    Posts: 901
    Richard, I just read Lear this summer, so I could actually chuckle at your comment!

    I do love re-reading old threads. Great quote from Incantu above: "The tyranny of TI-DO is as difficult to overthrow as the barline." Very nice!

    Gents, I didn't mean to rail against psalm tones;of course, they are wonderful . . . in their proper place. AFAIK, they certainly weren't meant to be used as antiphons, and when they are, it seems very perfunctory, no? Stepping-stone, yes; beyond that, I question their use to replace something a bit more neumatic.

    An interesting thread, isn't it, since we now have a great piece of the puzzle in the Simple English Propers?