Plainchant Gradual (Burgess & Palmer)
  • What is the copyright status on the Plainchant Gradual by Burgess & Palmer? I've produced GABCs of almost the entire work uploaded them to my GitHub account, but it's not visible to other people at the moment. If I'm not breaching copyright then I'll make the GABCs publicly visible.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 825
    As you may already know, the copy available online on this (CMAA) site says that it was "Made available online with the gracious permission of The Community of Saint Mary the Virgin, Wantage"
  • The second edition posted online is dated 1965 and falls under UK copyright jurisdiction.
    Jeffrey Tucker readily received permission to make this freely available.
    Their contact is
  • Sounds like it's ok to release the GABCs so I've made the repository publically available
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,099
    I was just wondering about this the other day.... I've been singing from this edition and I really enjoy it, but wondered if someone had already done this. I'm so glad you have. Thank you!
  • If anyone happens to have the FIRST edition of “The Plainchant Gradual”, it would be hugely useful to have scanned or transcribed, as it contains chants for, e.g., weddings, which the 2nd edition doesn’t contain.

    Someone on a mailing list sent me scans of the nuptial propers years ago; I don’t know what’s in the rest of the publication.

    (The sisters at Wantage, when I wrote to them years ago about this, weren’t aware that there had been a prior edition.)
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,776
    FWIW Worldcat suggests this exists somewhere, but when I look at the libraries catalogue entries, they are nearly all the 1965 edition. Trinity College Dublin has vols. 1-3, apparently not vol. 4 Nuptial propers would be in vol 3 I imagine.
    The plainchant gradual
    Author: Francis Burgess; R L Shields
    Publisher: Wantage : S. Mary's Press, 1946-1953.
    OCLC Number: 810459703
    Language Note: English words.
    Notes: Parts 3-4 edited by Francis Burgess and R.L. Shields.
    Description: 4 volumes ; 21 cm
    Contents: 1. Advent to Holy Saturday --
    2. Easter to Advent --
    3. Common of Saints and Votive Masses --
    4. Proper of Saints.
    Responsibility: edited by Francis Burgess.
    Are there nuptial propers in the The English Gradual which Burgess produced earlier?
  • Yes, the nuptial propers are in The English Gradual,
    which is/was the precursor of The Anglican Use Gradual
  • Erkenwald
    Posts: 16
    Wow – what a lot of work, and wonderfully useful! I've been trying merely to type out the text for the English Gradual with biblical references, which has been a piece of work in itself even with what is available in snatches online.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,400
    I'll repeat my plea for crowd-sourcing to complete the CPDL index to the Plainchant Gradual.
  • BruceL
    Posts: 1,066
    @Andrew Hinckley just wanted to commend you for this incredibly tedious task! The very thought of it induces heartburn...may God reward you richly!
  • The GABCs are now available on GregoBase:
    Parts I & II
    Parts III & IV
    Thanked by 1marymezzo
  • Jehan_Boutte
    Posts: 189
    I am still amazed at this book, and how sad it is Catholics did not use it when the vernacular became a possible option.
    By the way, would you say the adaptation into English here is successful or not? I've heard many pro's and con's on that matter.
  • Overall the adaptation is quite good. The chants are discreetly edited to fit the English text, which is largely taken from the KJV. It’s obviously difficult to place melismas on the same words in the English, and the proliferation of short words in English makes for a very different approach to text setting. But the editing is highly consistent, artistic, and arguably beautiful. From what I’ve seen, a good number of detractors have another—often their own—dog in the fight. There are also those who object to the hieratic (early modern) language. For those of us who will always find it jarring to call God “You”, it’s exactly right.
  • Jehan_Boutte
    Posts: 189
    Thanks. I asked this question because some traditionalists seem to find the PB Gradual a bit artificial and not very good. I am thinking of Dr. Kwasniewski for instance.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,099
    I like the PB and use it regularly. That said, it is occasionally a touch awkward, and sometimes I'm a little surprised when I reference the original chant to see certain things altered a little bit, but by and large, it is very faithful and well done. If you want full melismatic chant in english, I don't know that it can be beat. The only thing that is a stumbling block for some is that it uses KJV english, which I personally love, but some find outmoded. [edit: it's less about the style and more about a few of the antiquated translations that use words most people don't know these days like "mine travail"] Although, arguably, if you're interested in doing this type of chanting, the KJV english isn't a problem. It is not "perfect" and on one or two occasions in the last year I have done a little tweaking of notes or text to make it slightly more intelligible. That said, I think it should be republished in a newly-generated edition using the tremendous treasuretrove of GABC code that Andrew has so graciously provided.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,099
    ...some traditionalists seem to find the PB Gradual a bit artificial and not very good.

    The fact of the matter is, it is never as comfortable to sing latin chant in any language other than Latin. My schola learned the PB version of ecce advenit for the feast that was transferred to Sunday in the USA, and then we are singing the true latin version this evening at a TLM. One of my choir members who isn't particularly interested in traditional liturgy and, I would guess, is mostly dragged along by me with the rest of the choir, cheerily quipped on Wednesday that it was easier to sing the latin. Exact same notes, but it was easier to sing because the text and the melismas are better matched in the original tongue. That isn't PB's fault... that's just, well, natural.
  • Jehan_Boutte
    Posts: 189
    The only thing that is a stumbling block for some is that it uses KJV english, which I personally love, but some find outmoded. [edit: it's less about the style and more about a few of the antiquated translations that use words most people don't know these days like "mine travail"]

    Well, English isn't my mother tongue, but on the whole, I have no problem with KJ English.
  • The fact of the matter is, it is never as comfortable to sing latin chant in any language other than Latin.

    I agree, but there are some individuals who think that chant can only be sung in Latin and that setting the melodies to any other language amounts to high heresy. One should never point out to these individuals that certain chant melodies have long been divorced from their "original" texts or, heaven forbid, used for more than one text.

    In terms of an adaptation to English on its own merits, the PB Gradual is without peer.
  • sdtalley3sdtalley3
    Posts: 223

    I second what you said, chants can and do exist outside of just Latin, and I actually like other cultural renditions of known chants done to their own style.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,099
    Oh yes-- don't misunderstand me: (I know none of you have stated this but) I'm not saying we shouldn't sing chant in the vernacular. I quite like it and enjoy using the PB. In fact, when lockdown was first implemented with strongest force and there was no in-person worship, this is what I used rather extensively, right down to singing the gradual rather than singing a psalm. But I confess I do view vernacular chant a bit like a "gateway drug". That said, I've also composed chant (straight into square note notation using a GABC engine). So I heartily believe in vernacular chant, even adaptations.
  • davido
    Posts: 533
    I’d really like to sing the gradual in English instead of the responsorial psalm. In a spirit of Pope Francis liberality, can anyone who works with seminarians convince them that Palmer Burgess graduals are ok in the NO? So someday maybe I can use them?
    Thanked by 1Jehan_Boutte
  • Jehan_Boutte
    Posts: 189
    I don't see why not. I have no problem for people who sing the gradual in the vernacular.
  • I have heard some Catholic chant scholars wax disparagingly about chant adapted to languages other than Latin. One, very well known to and respected by many on this Forum (including me), who haughtily dismissed P-B as just careless and artless throwing of words and notes together. This assessment is, besides being highly subjective, more an out-of-hand denigration of anything Anglican than it is an honest and academic assessment of the virtues and genius of P-B. It has long been my observation that if one wishes to discredit and to illustrate how ugly (in his or her opinion) something is he or she will sing it deliberately uglily. On the other hand, the same music that is recognised as beautiful will be sung beautifully by those who perceive its beauty.

    As for the language, what more needs to be said other than that it is an objectively beautiful tongue, hallowed by five hundred years of use in worship, and which is truly hieratic. Like 'church Latin' itself, this Old Church English (otherwise known as Prayer Book English) was created for no other purpose than for use in the worship of the All Holy. The average person living in those respective times would have thought that both of these were most extra-ordinary and eccentric - but not 'archaic', for, indeed, they both, understood by all to have a strictly sacred and Godly connexion, rise above time, place, or zeitgeist. Still, there are those (whose unfortunate lack of appreciation and taste I shan't, out of charity, attempt to describe here) who hold this treasure in low esteem, insisting that the language is 'archaic' (it is, indeed, historic, but it assuredly is not archaic), and that we should use only that language which, to them, is modern - for some, even modern street language.

    If, indeed, one wants a modern language equivalent to P-B, well, there happens to be one, and a very good one at that. It is The American Gradual, the decades-long work of an Episcopalian chant scholar, one Bruce Ford. The language is that of the 1979 Prayer Book psalter, which is unrivaled (so far) as a ritual text in modern English. I have used this on some occasions and would recommend it highly to those who might require modern English. It is available 'on line' and may be had in both note head and chant notation versions. Our Forum member, Felipe Gaspar, collaborated with Bruce Ford on the chant notation version.

    As Serviam has observed, Latin, sung to chants conceived originally for it, naturally has an ease of flow, a more natural fit, and a more gracious air about it than the same chant adapted to any other language. That is not, most definitely not, to say that the chant adapted to other languages is sui generis objectionable, not beautiful, clumsy, artless, or is a travesty. It isn't any of these things. As was pointed out by someone above, there are numerous chants in the chant repertory which appear with multiple texts, some even adapted from the original Greek. Further, there are chants here and there which one would have to admit are less than perfect partners with their texts. So, the argument that chant can or should be done only in Latin is specious. The French in North America even taught their Amerind friends how to sing chant in their own native languages. This is nothing new.

    It is often said that English has no beautiful vowels, as if the Italians had a monopoly on beautiful vowels. Well, it does, and they don't. It takes a little sensitive practice to realise that English does have its own treasury of beautiful vowels - they are just different from those in other languages. If one wants to make something sound beautiful he will perform it beautifully. If he wants to 'demonstrate' that it is ugly he will perform it uglily.
  • The Plainchant Gradual from Wantage has been used quite successfully by the Ritual Choir at St Mary Magdalene, Toronto (Healey Willan's church). I think they have their own copies with adjustments, and Willan redid some (like the All Saints' Day propers), but when I asked the leader of the Ritual Choir after Solemn Mass, he showed me the Plainchant Graduals they were using at the time. As was the case when Willan was there, the Ritual Choir chant accompanied; the polyphonic, mixed Gallery Choir sing unaccompanied. The pipes are above the Ritual Choir stalls in the sanctuary.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,099
    I’d really love to refer people to Lásló Dobszay’s fantastic book: The Bugnini-Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform. There are excellent articles in the back of the book that deal with music specifically, including historical context and praxis of chant. He actually touches on the fact that chant has been adapted into the vernacular for centuries in certain cases. He also touches on the fact that various liturgical texts were not so rigidly wedded to specific chant melodies in earlier ages. With the relatively new editio vaticana and Solesmes editions we are lulled into a false sense of universality and rigidity. Ultimately I believe he’s espousing the view that to chant is better than to not chant, and that vernacular chant is legitimate, if not always “preferable”.
  • Jehan_Boutte
    Posts: 189
    Ultimately I believe he’s espousing the view that to chant is better than to not chant, and that vernacular chant is legitimate, if not always “preferable”.

    I would actually think vernacular chant is preferable, ceteris paribus, since people can understand it more easily than if it were in Latin (provided of course that vernacular is not seen as a synonym for "banal", hence hieratic vernacular should be preferred).

    It is also somewhat amazing to see that those who dismiss vernacular chant out of hand most of the time are found on both sides. Trads will reject it because it's not Latin, Liberals will do so because it's not "folk music". If I were a conspirationist, I would quickly draw the conclusion there is a secret plot set by both these people in order for the liturgical state of the Latin Church to remain the same.

    The French in North America even taught their Amerind friends how to sing chant in their own native languages.

    Yes! I have even heard of an event when Indians were forcibly evacuated from their lands by the British and sung the Dies Irae in their language when leaving in exile.
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn