Chanting the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours in English. How to? Instructional Resources?
  • JMJ Praised be Jesus Christ!

    I am trying to learn how to properly chant the Divine Office in English. I am currently using ye "new-fangled" one volume Christian Prayer, published in 1972? A Catholic Retreat Center close to my home has begun doing Solemn Vespers and wants to chant them, and everyone who goes uses the Christian Prayer I just mentioned. They have asked me and my family to learn how to chant it, and then come and teach them.

    We began by trying to learn from the little instructional section in the back of the prayer book, but decided that the psalm tones there did not sound very Gregorian (upon further investigation, we learned that the composers were going for a more "Hebrew/Israeli" sound in order to bring us more in touch with our Biblical Jewish roots), and they were not, shall I say, "anticipatable" melody lines. I found that the instructions in general were difficult to interpret or follow unless one is already well acquainted with chanting psalms and the Office! Ha!

    So, my questions are:
    1. Does anyone know of a book or resource which could instruct me about the basic rudiments of how to chant the Office?
    Then instruction about the traditional way of properly chanting it.

    2. Also, at the Colloquium I recently attended, we sang morning prayer and night prayer - and having the notation above the text was just splendid. I wondered if that was taken from Deacon Pat Cunningham's Gregorian English Divine Office.

    3. What comments can you make regarding the Mundelein Psalter? It's format, ease of use, worthiness, etc.
    I would love to switch to a Liturgy of the Hours book which has the notation in it - even then I could make copies from it for the other people who don't have the book themselves, but are there to sing vespers. Maybe this book is "the answer" I am seeking.

    I think that's everything... for now... thank you! God bless you.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    I personally like the Mundelein psalter. It is quite nice, in touch the gregorian roots, and very easy to pick up for beginners. This is a work of my own typesetting, not from the Mundelein, and I converted the gregorian music to modern notation, but this is basically the content you'll find in an office in the Mundelein. The formatting is different, but very readable.
  • Thumbs up for The Mundelein Psalter. I've also been inspired by the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, who chant the Office in St. John Cantius Church every day here in Chicago. I think theirs is a good example of a simple method of communally chanting the Office that visitors and guests (who are always welcome unless for some reason they're not chanting the Office in the church on a particular day) can pick up easily and participate.

    They provide a basket filled with copies of Shorter Christian Prayer, which gives the four-week psalter of the Liturgy of the Hours. The brothers themselves, and of course anyone who brings their own, use the current volume of the four-volume LOTH edition also published by Catholic Book Publishing.

    I'm thinking of Vespers now, because that's the office I've attended there several times. They use a fixed formula for chanting the opening versicle, response, and Glory to the Father, and it's familiar to anyone who's chanted the office and is easily picked up.

    They print their own small booklets of Latin hymns so they can chant the proper hymn. I imagine these hymns match the texts in the Latin four-volume LOTH. For that bit, visitors just listen.

    They chant the psalms and canticle, including antiphons, all to Gregorian psalm tone II, and this proves easy to join in. I wondered how it could work with the strophic Grail psalms and their varying numbers of lines in each strophe: the brothers chant them as binary, so in two halves even though the psalms aren't pointed that way in the LOTH (but they are in the UK version, Divine Office, which is a big advantage of that version and one I hope the next LOTH edition, whenever that happens, will adopt). Anyway, the brothers alternate sides, verse by verse. They seem to "wing" the grouping of verses, using a flex in either the first half verse or the second half verse (!) when that half consists of two lines.

    A brother recites the reading without chant.

    Then they chant the Magnificat with its proper antiphon, all to psalm tone VIII, always. (I think I'm remembering this correctly but am not 100% on it.)

    They recite the intercessions, and then they chant the Pater noster in Latin, and the collect is chanted. I'm not sure if they chant or speak the conclusion, but I would guess they chant it.

    My point is that there may be a pattern like this that works for your community, keeping the tones used to a minimum. The advantage is that the people don't need several books and can sing the Office (better and better the more times they experience it) right from their LOTH, Christian Prayer, or Shorter Christian Prayer. And no need to print up leaflets every time. The hymn might be sung as given in the books, with organ or not. The first time chanting the Office might be done as an instructed liturgy (with introductory instructions and perhaps a stop before each main section to rehearse a psalm tone), or a core group could learn the tones and be a strong support for the singing, with the others catching on as they feel comfortable.

    I like all forms of chanting the Office, but I have a special soft spot for ones that let you chant using the same book you would say the office from.

    I'm thinking the Canons Regular would respond with information and tips if you emailed them...
  • By the way, I've emailed Fr. Phillips via the contact link above and will share any guidelines or suggestions he agrees to let me share.