Propers of Mass: Chant vs. Polyphony
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,639
    Well, maybe the title is a little misleading. I'm polling those who have experience in this sort of thing.

    If your church choir sings the propers of the mass, do you:

    A. Sing the chant version and use a polyphonic setting as a motet afterwards (i.e., Communion)
    B. Sing the polyphonic setting alone, since it covers the text, and save your schola rehearsal time?
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,629
    The one group I sang polyphonic Propers with tended toward B, though they'd sometimes follow with the chant version if they needed extra time.

    BTW, what's this "rehearsal time" that you speak of?
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,109
    C. Spare the assembly from listening the same thing twice, unless it is a bilingual occasion.
    Thanked by 1canadash
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,639
    But here's the thing, Richard - would you potentially sing the polyphonic version of one proper as a motet at another point in the mass?

    As example: Let's say I sing the Gregorian chant version of Justorum Animae for Communion on All Saint's Day, but for the Offertory motet prior, sing the Byrd or Saint-Saens version of the same proper?

    P.S. Am I the only person who thinks Justorum Animae is the perfect name for a self-storage service for Japanese cartoon memorabilia?
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  • mahrt
    Posts: 512
    I do not see a problem in repetition. I often sing the communion antiphon from Isaac's Choralis Constantinus in the context of an antiphon alternated with psalm verses. We sing the chant antiphon and then a psalm verse, then the polyphonic setting, then another psalm verse, etc. It works very well.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    My suggestion was going to be along the lines of what Dr Mahrt said. Begin with the chant, then alternate verses with the polyphony, or better yet: true organum! Organum is not particularly difficult and is akin to learning a descant in terms of rehearsal time.
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  • melofluentmelofluent
    Posts: 4,160
    Introit: chanted
    Communio: choral
    Thanked by 2Adam Wood hilluminar
  • CGM
    Posts: 488
    We sing
    - a harmonized setting of the Introit chant (I've composed SATB of all the Gregorian Introits for the "choral year")
    - the Offertory chant, followed by a motet, usually Latin, but occasionally English (sometimes on the same text as the chant, but usually on a different text - sometimes the psalm verses given in the Offertoriale, sometimes reprising a piece of text from elsewhere in the Mass - the Gospel, the Responsorial Psalm, another proper, etc. - or sometimes a thematically related but unprescribed Biblical text)
    - the Communion chant, followed by a motet (sometimes more than one), usually Latin, but occasionally English (sometimes on the same text as the chant, but usually on a different text - sometimes the psalm verses given in the Communio, sometimes reprising a piece of text from elsewhere in the Mass - the Gospel, the Responsorial Psalm, another proper, etc. - or or sometimes a thematically related but unprescribed Biblical or devotional text)
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,109
    I of course don't have a problem with repeating antiphons, and have been known to repeat Isaac's In salutare three times (with chanted verses) to cover offertory (We've never gotten rid of the communion hymn, so comm. anthems are so to speak off the table). But it's pretty dismal to contemplate back-to-back Mozart, Elgar & Byrd Ave verum's, as sometimes happens at choral concerts. More acceptable might be a chanted Justorum followed by Imbrie's "The souls of the righteous" or the Bruce Ford Justorum followed by Byrd's, but my first choices for 'filling in' would usually be an organ choral, a bit of silence, or a different motet/chant.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,641
    When we do polyphonic propers, we just do the polyphony and not the chant. If it happens during OT, Easter, or Christmas - it's usually organ, then polyphonic proper, then more organ (if necessary). During Lent or Advent it's polyphonic proper, then another motet.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,181
    I love the repetition--the reiteration--of a chanted text in polyphonic form.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen JDE
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 4,370
    Kathy, so do I!!
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,639
    Here's another item to consider, Clerget - the Communion proper is (along with the Introit and Gradual) an antiphonal piece, in that it was regularly sung alternating with psalm verses. But what about the Gradual and Alleluia - obviously you can't follow either piece with a motet, but do you still consider it "kosher" to follow either the Offertory or Communion with a motet based on the Gradual/Alleluia? Do such creatures exist???

    Which brings me to the underlying concern throughout this whole thread - ARISTOTLE, WHERE IS YOUR SPREADSHEET LISTING OF POLYPHONIC PROPERS? I MISS IT
    Thanked by 2irishtenor Heath
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,596
    Palestrina set (I believe) all the offertories (SATTB), and a choir that I sing with has used some of these - they replace the SEP offertory. BTW, Antonio Salieri also has a great setting of "Confirma hoc Deus" for Pentecost - SATB & Orch./Org.

    Stimson: the Gradual is, along with the Alleluia and Offertory, a responsory, not an antiphon. There are some wonderful settings of gradual-alleluia sequences (that's "sequence" as in two or more things following each-other immediately, not "sequence" as in Dies Irae) by Michael Haydn, W.A. Mozart and others from the Classical period. They are usually scored for SATB and Accomp. (Originally usually Strings and Continuo), and could be used as free motets during the Mass. I sang M. Haydn's "Prope est Dominus" in a secular chorus a number of years ago, a good piece.
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,350
    Palestrina set (I believe) all the offertories (SATTB), and a choir that I sing with has used some of these - they replace the SEP offertory.

    Because middle ground is for LOSERS!
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,639
    middle ground is for LOSERS!

    What would Jesus do with lukewarm music?

    Not sing it. SPIT IT OUT
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,596
    Because middle ground is for LOSERS!

    Because Herr Direktor doesn't know a Pes from a Torculus Initio Debilis. Singing chant with them is a penance. It is deadly slow, devoid of any life or any rhythm: every note gets the same emphasis--the musical equivalent of Ben Stein's performance in Ferris Beuller's Day Off. God help us when there is a string of episemata.

    I've tried convincing him to attend a Colloquium or Chant Intensive, but to no avail, alas!

    His polyphony is fine.
  • I heard that someone needed this. Please let me know if it's accessible or not.

    Also, there is this.
  • ClergetKubiszClergetKubisz
    Posts: 1,895
    Stim, you would essentially be singing the same text but switching back and forth between settings of the same time thing. I believe that's what Mahrt was getting at. You're not following the Communion or Offertory with anything necessarily, at least not in my suggestion. Of course you can still do the motet after the chant if you desire and time allows. If this doesn't make sense to you, its entirely possible that I simply misunderstood your question.
  • StimsonInRehabStimsonInRehab
    Posts: 1,639
    This, Aristotle, is why Dante called you the "Master of those who know".
  • Artistotle,

    I didn't see this 4 years ago. Thank you for preparing the list.


    Thank you for starting this thread.


    It seems that using polyphony in place of chant is not forbidden, and polyphony as well as the same text chanted is not forbidden either. Why, therefore, do we see so many places which use polyphony as singing at Mass, instead of singing the Mass?
  • CharlesSA
    Posts: 110
    I probably don't qualify as someone who "has experience in this sort of thing" but thought I would throw in my 2 cents:

    It seems it would be the "best of both worlds," if one wants to sing polyphonic propers, to sing both the chant version and a polyphonic version. That way, one does not have to ignore the actual Latin Gregorian chants assigned for the text.

    I am aware this only represents my personal strong preference for hearing the chanted texts of the Mass in full, no matter the occasion - but although replacing chant propers with polyphonic propers is allowed and obviously is objectively beautiful in its own way, to me something is always missing when a chant is left out and replaced with another version of the text. At least this option of doing both is possible in full with the propers, unlike for the ordinary, when you must do one or the other, or at best half the chant will be replaced (i.e. Gloria and Credo when chant/polyphony is alternated).

    This is why, where it is possible, I think it is ideal to have a schola focused solely on mastering every chant in the gradual (or at least every one that is regularly sung each year, i.e. every Sunday and major feast) - separate from a SATB choir that can sing music in addition to the liturgical texts. It seems better to be able to sing all of the texts to their proper chants, and then when there is time to sing polyphonic versions of them or other appropriate texts. But then again I have always been an idealist and have (probably rightly) been accused of "letting the good be the enemy of the perfect"...

    C'est la vie.
    Thanked by 1mmeladirectress
  • Examples:

    I enjoy singing Sicut Cervus and Sitivit Anima Mea, of Palestrina, but how much more beautiful would they be when reserved for the Easter Vigil, instead of sung, perhaps, 15 - 20 times a year?

    On the other hand, when a text is repeated throughout a Mass (take the 1st Sunday of Lent) a variety of options exists: sing some with chant and others with polyphony.
  • Charles,

    One needn't always choose between the chant and a polyphonic setting. The collected works of Heinrich Isaac, for example, use the chant melody (shoulder tap to Corinne Cooze: is it always or just most of the time?) in a polyphonic setting.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Jeffrey Quick
    Posts: 1,629
    Why, therefore, do we see so many places which use polyphony as singing at Mass, instead of singing the Mass?

    There are mighty few choirs who can prepare even one Proper motet per week, let alone 5. For these groups. it makes better sense to prepare general motets for the Offertory, and general Eucharistic motets for the Communion. I have some simple settings of Offertories that I do year after year, but they're for exceptional feasts (All Saints, Pentecost, etc.) Both Proper settings and choirs get scarce in Time After Pentecost.
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 1,839
    But some Propers are worth learning more than others, The ones for the third Sunday after Epiphany, as they are also used for the 4th, 5th and 6th Sundays. Also the Offertory is used for Maunday Thursday. The same applies for the Propers of the 24th and last Sunday, they also are used repeatedly on the additional Sundays after Pentecost.

    This year on one of the Sundays after Epiphany we only sang one Proper the Gradual to the Chant! We are building up some Sundays each year to be polyphonic Proper Sundays, where we are learning each Proper, O.K. this approach takes a few years but means we only need to learn a couple of new pieces per quarter.