Category Archives: Chant

Random Service Music Note

Don’t ask me why I’m standing here on a rainy Saturday morning flipping through Galley’s The Ceremonies of the Eucharist, a book with which I normally have little to do.

In any case, I am, and I stumbled across this little gem in his discussion of the music for the Ordinary of the Mass:

It is sometimes asserted that Episcopal congregations are required to limit their repertory of music for the ordinary to settings included in the official hymnal. Such an assertion fails to take into account the fact that the only part of the hymnal that is set forth by authority is the words. The Episcopal Church does not legislate in the matter of musical settings. Clergy and musicians, working together, are free to make use of the settings in the hymnal (whether of hymns or of the texts of the ordinary) as are appropriate to particular congregations; and to select, compose, or commission such other settings as may be desired. (p. 49)

How interesting…

Ordinary of the Mass, Sarum Edition

If TEC is beginning to gear up to start to plan to prepare to form committees to appoint study groups to undertake the work of thinking about a new hymnal, then it makes sense for us’ns to start thinking about hymnal contents as well.

There are, of course, two major contents to Episcopal hymnals: service music and hymns.

As far as hymns go, I’ll let them off with but a single comment—we need good and suitable Office hymns…

But today, I’d like to think a little around the issue of service music. Two things are sparking this:

  • first, the discovery of this wonderful resource, The Plainsong of the Mass Adapted from the Sarum Gradual (bls, have you found this one before? most of the resources I think I’ve found you’ve already located…)
  • second, the unfortunate concurrence this weekend of the Star Trek prayer with the Darth Vader Sanctus. No. Just—no. It’s so hard to keep a straight face on that combo.

I’m not suggesting anything specific here but rather lifting up two items from the front-matter of the Plainsong of the Mass book:

  1. I had always kind of assumed that mass sets were just that—sets. Clearly they are in later periods. According to this text, however, that’s not necessarily the case for the early  chant settings: “The different melodies may be sung at discretion, as there is no modal connection between parts of the Mass…” (pg. vii)
  2. The work then goes on to reproduce a chart of suggested ordinary chants based on the liturgical height of the day (pgs. viii-x). There’s nothing unusual about this. Indeed, if you look at the recent Gregorian Hymnal you’ll similarly find suggestions. So too does our own Fr. John-Julian’s mass-sets. My question, then, is why we don’t have sets with suggestions as to when they should be done, and with which Eucharistics prayers they work best (or least!)?

Hymnal Changes?

David at Per Christum points to something I’d missed. There’s a new resolution coming to General Convention concerning a new hymnal. Now, we don’t need to hyperventilate yet—it’s looking at approval in 2015 for a 2018 publication date.

It is time, however, to consider what a revised hymnal might contain. The impetus for the change is stated this way:

The world of this new millennium is very different from that of the prior century, when The Hymnal 1982 and its predecessors were created. Rapid liturgical, cultural and technological change continue to have an impact on the lives of all the faithful. A study of the need for a new hymnal for the Episcopal Church would explore sensitivity to expansive language, the diversity of worship styles, the richness of multicultural and global liturgical forms, and the enduring value of our Anglican musical heritage.

The primary message that I get from this paragraph given its emphasis on a new millennium, rapid changes, rapid development, etc. is a drive for “new” things. The four central criteria:

  1. “sensitivity to expansive language”
  2. “diversity of worship styles”
  3. “richness of multicultural and global liturgical forms”
  4. “enduring value of our Anglican musical heritage”

also move in that direction, the last being the only nod to continuity; everything else is oriented towards change.

I’m currently “studying”—or perhaps “receiving”—this resoltion and considering what may be a helpful response to it. Several things come to mind.

1. Th current hymnal(s) paradigm—will it stay or will it go?

Currently, we have the ’82 hymnal—the normative hymnal—and two books that I regard as supplemental that meet certain perceived needs in the church: Lift Every Voice and Sing and Wonder, Love and Praise.

What will happen with a new normative hymnal? Will the supplements be rolled into it or will they be retained and, perhaps, strengthened or also re-issued?

2. Ecumenical Activity—how’s that working out for you?

Since the Great Liturgical Leap Forward following Vatican II, we’re now on our second generational of hymnals. There are lessons to be learned if we’re willing to ask the hard questions and take long looks at some sacred cows. Has our method of including multicultral hymns been effective; have they infomed our spirituality and worship styles? Which are the sucesses, which the failures, and what do we learn from this?

The Lutherans have just introduced a new hymnal which seems to incorporate these very same principles (only altering the proper adjective in point 4). What can we learn about how these changes have been received, and whether they were done well or ill?

What’s going on in Roman territory? The most interesting developments I’ve seen are a move away from hymnody at mass and back to the chant propers. However, you’ll note that the Parish Book of Chant—the hymnal of choice for the Reform of the Reform—has no propers in it; they’re in the Gregorian Missal which is intended for the choir/schola, not the congregation. What it does have is ordinary chants for the mass.

Which raises yet another issue…

3. Mass Settings

Will the new hymnal have new service music in it as well, and if so, what form will that take? I know the kind of things I’d like to see, of course

Current Thoughts

My current thoughts—subject to further input and reflection, of course—look something like this:

  • I doubt this is a train that will be stopping. Barring something unforeseen there will be a new hymnal come 2018. And it will implent at least the first three criteria above. I sincerely hope the fourth will be respected as well.
  • I’m of a mind to advocate for a spectrum of resources: one normative hymnal and a set of supplements that augment it.
  • Given that, I’d recommend a supplement that is directed towards a traditionalist/Anglo-Catholic constituency that would include chant settings for mass and office, the breviary hymns, and, to best fit with Rite I services, a selection of “traditional-language” hymns. I.e., hymns with words un-fooled-around-with.
  • Chant propers could either be included or be done separately in an “anthem” book.

Liturgical Renewal: Mass Propers

In the Roman Use

One of the major emphases in the current Roman “Reform of the Reform” is the move to replace the Chant Propers into their correct place. A quick review is in order here. Following the handy “Division of the Mass” in my (1962) Roman Missal, there are nine variable parts or propers in the Mass:

  1. The Introit
  2. The Collects
  3. The Epistle
  4. The Gradual
  5. The Gospel
  6. The Offertory Verse
  7. The Secrets (offering prayers over the gifts just before the Canon)
  8. The Communion Verse
  9. The Postcommunion prayers

I’ve bolded the sungpropers. Note: there are no hymns in this line-up. Classically, hymns weren’t sung at Mass—they belonged in the Office. Thus, the items sung at Mass were the chant propers. After Vatican II, the use of the chant propers diminished and vernacular hymnody was introduced. The Roman Gradual (where these propers are found) was never officially translated into vernaculars that I know of. Certainly, there has never been an authorized English translation. This was a kiss of death in the post-conciliar years. As a result, many Roman Catholics today don’t know that these exist and are the normative forms of music to be used at Mass. Hence the efforts by the Reform of the Reform.

I want to make two points here:

  • The Chant Propers have always been and are now part of the historic Western liturgy.
  • The Chant Propers for the Temporal cycle are all drawn exclusively from Scripture.   (I don’t know if that’s the case for the Sanctoral cycle)

In the Anglican Use

Clearly the early BCPs simplified the Roman Mass. However, of these four sung propers, only one—the Gradual—was dropped by the 1549 BCP. The others were transformed:

  1. The Introit was a whole or a section of a psalm (rather than the Antiphon/Ps Verse/Antiphon/Gloria Patria/Antiphon pattern of the Roamn Rite) appointed for all Sundays and major days along with the Collect, Epistle, and Gospel.
  2. The Offertory was no longer “proper” and a list from which one to be chosen was given. These were now exhortations to give money, rather then Scriptures for meditation tying in with the meaning of the season or mass.
  3. The Communion also became a list of Scriptural sentences from which one was to be chosen. These too tended towards moral exhortation.

The 1552 book dropped all but the Offertory sentence. While Elizabeth’s 1559 book allowed the rite to start with a hymn or metrical psalm, none were appointed. The concept of the introit was preserved; the texts were not.

The High Church party would sometimes smuggle the chant propers back in when they could and, sure enough, inclusion of the chant propers, is one of the key points of the Anglican Missal and its relatives.

The American BCPs and the current book do not include these propers. However:

  1. We have a “hymn, psalm, or anthem” opening the service
  2. The Psalm in the RCL and the “Psalm, hymn or anthem [which] may follow each Reading” serve as the Gradual and the Alleluia with verse/Sequence
  3. The Offertory sentence is retained and the option given of “some other sentence of Scripture.” Furthermore, “During the Offertory, a hymn, psalm, or anthem may be sung”
  4. “During the  ministration of Communion, hymns, psalms, or anthems may be sung”

In short, then, the rubrics of the BCP give space for the retention of these classic parts of the historic Western liturgy that would give our congregations yet more exposure to Scripture…

Points to Ponder

  • If many of our great liturgical stride over the past decades have been ecumenical in nature, isn’t this something to keep our eyes on?
  • It’s permitted, it’s classical, and it’s Scriptural; what’s not to like?

A few of my scattered thoughts:


  • See bullets one and two above
  • Furthermore, it opens more (and more interesting) musical options
  • I know of at least one Chant Gradual (Fr. John-Julian’s) that uses the RCL psalms for precisely this purpose


  • Yes, it’s historical and all—but how much of this is about recovery and revitalization and how much of it is Romish affectation?
  • Using the Roman cycle raises exactly the the same problem that we currently have with the collects. What is the true shape of the Temporal cycle: is it a one-year cycle or a three-year cycle? Given the rotation of readings it seems to be three; reintroducing another one year pattern would reshape the answer. Not necessarily a bad thing, but one to be intentional on.
  • Hymns are part of our heritage. Granted, most English language hymnody is not strictly Anglican, but hymns at Mass are what American Episcopalians are familiar and comfortable with. Where would this scheme leave room for hymns?

Obviously, I’m not in any way suggesting that chant propers be made mandatory. I don’t even see them being included in the next BCP. Rather, I’m offering food for thought. Is a recovery of the sung propers even something to be interested in?

Chanting the Gospel, Episcopal Style

Previously I’ve noted a Roman Catholic site on chanting the Mass readings and pointed to Grace Church Newark’s (slightly idiosyncratic) collection of pointed Gospel texts, but here’s another resource for you:

One Man’s Offering

The one man is Fr. Bill Gartig who provides us with quite a number of fascinating chant items. Given my lead-in, you’ll not be surprised to see that he’s working his way through the RCL Gospels. His tones accord with both the Liber and the instructions in the Episcopal Altar Book.

Also cool are a number of other pointed items, particularly Eucharistic Prayer A and Eucharistic Prayer B and the Great Litany. Other items including Benedictions are here.

For Fans of the New Roman Missal

(Ok—since it’s me I’ll clarify: “new” in this case doesn’t mean Trent, I mean the Vatican II revision…)

Word of the availability of this version of the missal is leaking out slowly because the hosts don’t want the server over-run. Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful resource, and people should know that it’s available. I’m shooting for balance here; I’m letting you know it’s there but to reduce googability I’ll not mention it by name…

The pdf I’ll be linking to contains:

  • The full Novus Ordo mass in both Latin and English (yes, all four Eucharistic Prayers)
  • Square notation chants for the Latin of the mass—not the English
  • The Sprinkling rite with the Asperges Me and Vidi Aquam
  • Chants for the Ordinary of the Mass according to 18 settings, identified as to when and for what they ought to be sung
  • 6 Credos
  • Propers through the year with the chant from the Gradual; English translations without the chant; the lectionary readings on the three year schema

Whether you’re Roman, Rome-leaning, or just a liturgy/chant nut, this is a great volume to have. And it can be found here.

(And for those who did think I was referring to the Tridentine Mass, it can, of course, be found here…)

Plainchant Gradual for RCL Year B from OJN

Prompted by the previous post on English language graduals, Fr. John-Julian has sent me an electronic version of his just completed (note the 2009 copyright date!) Gradual that corresponds with the official lectionary of the Episcopal Church, the Revised Common Lectionary.

A quick history note for those primarily accustomed to the “new” liturgy… Formerly there were only two readings at a standard mass in the Western Church—the “Epistle” and the Gospel. When the cycles were first constructed they were separate as they circulated in two different books. They linked up with one another in the 8th century or so as exemplified by their combined treatment in the Commentarius in Evangelia et Epistolas of Smaragdus and as we find them in the writings of Amalarius of Metz. The “Epistle” was often but not always from the New Testament epistles; on fasts it came from the prophets—see Ash Wednesday in the American 1928 BCP  as a survival of this formerly consistent custom.

Was there a Psalm appointed? Well—yes and no. Technically, no—but there were Mass Propers appointed which originally served as an appointed psalm because the Introit and Gradual—and sometimes the Offertory and Communion—were often taken from the same psalm. After the Epistle, the choir would sing the Gradual (a psalm with an antiphon, eventually only a verse or two of the psalm), then proceed into the ceremony surrounding the Gospel. This was a Sequence incorporating an Alleluia or, in fasting seasons, a Tract. The Sequence/Tract was a fairly late addition to the mass, note that the 10th century Leofric Missal contains no incipts for Sequeces/Tracts. (Sequences as a whole were supressed at Trent with the exception of 5)

So—in Fr. John-Julian’s work you’ll find the psalm appointed for the Sunday/feast in the RCL treated as a gradual with an antiphon, then the appointed psalm with a matching tone. The Sequences are biblical verses preceded and followed by alleluias; the Tracts are sections of psalms or other biblical texts (viz. Proverbs for Lent 2). The Sequences/Tracts are to be sung before the Gospel.

Ok, that’s enough lead in, here’s the file as a PDF: rcl-b-all-graduals-ojn

Liber Usualis Modern Notation in English

The title here is more a string of keywords that bring a lot of people to this site. I have addressed this issue before where I essentially said that it’s much easier to just learn how to read square-notes. I still believe that, but that only addresses one of the issues in the use of the Liber Usualis [big PDF download warning]—it’s also not in English…

The best response, well, I’ll just leave that unsaid… but I will point you to a growing set of resources that have come to my attention. What I’ll try and do here, is to give you some small snippets of what you can find in these resources in comparison with a bit of the Liber itself. So, without further ado, a snippet from the Introit of Advent 1:


The Anglican Use Gradual: This gradual contains the Propers for the Mass according to the Anglican Use of the Roman Catholic Church. While it retains the use of square-notation, it is in traditional-language (Rite I) English. Its base material is drawn from the current (1979) Graduale Romanum so it follows the same basic kalendar as the RCL. (I.e., the last proper of the liturgical year is for Christ the King.) For the most part, it presents the propers using the Rossini “psalm-tone” settings:


but on occasion presents a more full and complex setting—as with the Introit for Advent 1:


It also sometimes includes chants that match with the three-year lectionary but this seems rather infrequent and haphazard. Overall, this work is very nicely produced with all of the seasons, commons, propers for major saints, and votives included masses for the departed that one would need. A section at the back includes common tones for the Asperges/Vidi Aquam, Preces, Gloria Patri, etc. A clear index wraps everything up.

Access/download is free but the work is copyrighted and a contact email appears for obtaining permissions.

Here is the PDF of the Anglican Use Gradual.

The American Gradual: This uses both modern notation and contemporary (Rite II) English but don’t on those accounts think that it’ll be “easier” than the Anglican Use Gradual… Bruce Ford here presents the real deal, a full transcription of the chants of the gradual. (It’s worth noting that he states clearly that his material is adapted from a German site that presents the chants alongside the actual early notation and that glosses the Latin in modern German.) Here’s a sample from this work:


Unfortunately, the copy I’ve found available for download only gives material for the Advent and Christmas seasons, ending with the Communion from Baptism of Our Lord (1st Sunday after Epiphany). I don’t know if other parts come available seasonally or not…

It lacks an introduction, table of contents and index, but it’s certainly got the goods muscially. It is copyrighted, but allows photocopying for the personal use of local churches and individuals provided they give correct attribution.

Here is the PDF of the American Gradual.

Archdiocese of St. Louis Worship Resources: These appear to have both psalm tone and other settings in English with modern notation and organ accompaniment. They’re also still under development. Some of the PDFs contain handwritten scores. Here’s a sample of one of the typed ones, though:


This site also contains some Office materials—proper Vespers settings. These may be in square notation. (The one I looked at was.)

So far it only offers Advent, Christmas and Lent, but promises that more settings will become available as the seasons progress.

These resources are collected here.

Files of the Yahoo Gregorian User Group: These are all user contributed and come in quite an array of formats, languages, etc. To access the files you must be a member of the moderated group. A wide and wild variety of things can be found, but be prepared to do some poking around to find what you’re after.

Here’s a sample of one offering:


The group is located here.

So—that’s everything that I know of that relates to English or modern notation and the Liber. If others know of more resources, drop it in the comments or shoot me an email.

Fascinating Edited Volume on the Psalms

Google Books—as you know—has full-text of old stuff and snippets of new stuff. Mostly. However, there is some full-length new stuff there including a fascinating collection of essays on the Psalms. [Note: it is actually under limited preview. I got through the first essay, then it turned itself off…] It immediately attracted my attention when I saw the editors: H. Attridge and M. Fassler. When Harry Attridge, noted New Testament scholar and Margot Fassler, noted musicologist team up on something on the Psalms you know it’s going to be both good and broad.

The table of contents suggests exciting too… A lot of big names from various fields are represented: Robert Taft (liturgical history), John J. Collins (intertestamental literature) Gordon Lathrop (liturgical theology) and more.

This is definitely worth a read and can be accessed here.