Tuesday 24 November 2015

Gregorian Chant Hymns, the website, again

A version of this article appears in the Autumn 2015 issue of The Monastic Musicians Newsletter.

Gregorian Chant Hymns, (gregorian-chant-hymns.com) our website, grew out of a very practical need. Frequently, people decry Gregorian Chant Hymns, (gregorian-chant-hymns.com) our website, grew out of a very practical need. Frequently, people decry the music that they hear week by week in ordinary Catholic parishes. Complaints are made about the choice of music, the quality of the choir and the level of audible participation from the congregation. The people involved in producing this music are usually very dedicated, following the lead of others, but so very often a feeling of dissatisfaction is experienced, that after great efforts expended, the desired result is not achieved. A music is needed that is apart from the world and which creates an atmosphere conducive to prayer. We have this music. It is chant.

Gregorian Chant Hymns sets out music that is an integral part of the tradition of the Church in a manner that makes it possible to sing it in an ordinary parish.

Countless articles have been written describing the grave need for chant in the liturgy and readers of this newsletter hardly need another apologetic, especially from a lay person. It remains a paradox however, that whilst recordings of chant from monasteries and abbeys are very popular in the secular world, it can be very hard for lay Catholics to have access to this music in a liturgical setting. Our website offers some practical assistance, so that where there is a will to sing chant, there is a way in. It sits alongside other very useful and free internet resources and will support those who having perhaps attended a chant workshop are wondering what they might usefully do next.

Gregorian Chant Hymns gathers together recordings that one may listen to online, alongside the notation and translations into English of the texts. The recordings use both male and female voices, so can be useful for a variety of groups of adults and children. We have been generously assisted by St Cecilia's Abbey, Ryde and Pluscarden Abbey, who have allowed their recordings to be used for non-commercial purposes. As Wikipedia reminds us,' In 1974, Pope Paul VI issued Jubilate Deo, a selection of plainchant pieces, to every bishop in the Church to encourage the singing of Simple Gregorian melodies in parishes. The Community [of St Cecilia's] recorded the chant to support this endeavour, in what was the first recording of nuns in the UK. ' This website merely provides the means for parishes to do this in the Internet age. Other groups have kindly allowed their editions to be used and Dr Candy Bartoldus has been meticulous both in citing all copyright holders and obtaining permission for their work to be used.

An example
If at Communion, you wished to sing Adoro te devote, from scratch, some of these steps may help you.

Click the Hymns tab at the top of the home page.
The music available is displayed in alphabetical order.
Click on Display score and play Audio.
The image left appears.
Click on the arrow, recording will begin.
The arrow has now turned into a pause button.
Click pause to stop the recording at any point.
The notation for each verse is displayed separately, with a translation beneath.
This allows you to listen and to practise singing.

You may want to distribute this recording to members of a church choir who do not have Internet access.

Under the hymns tab, you can also Click Download MP3.
You can then save the recording onto your computer.
The recording may be burned onto a CD.

If you are to sing the music in church, you need sheets.

Click Download Latin text and you have a sheet to sing from.
Click Download translation and there it is.

If you are going to produce a booklet, it may be necessary to alter the size of the notation and to edit the size of the text. Go to Build-a-booklet. There you can download images (JPEGs) of the chant notation and translations in PDF format.

A simple example and you will see that there is much more on offer, particularly in the Build-a-booklet section. There may just be something there that will save someone a great deal of time.

To those who say the task is too great, I say, in five years of singing chant every Sunday, practising for 20 minutes a week after Mass, we learnt Masses I, IV, IX, XI, XVII and the Requiem Mass, plus about 30 devotional chants and office hymns and sang the propers every week to psalm tones. Most people can memorise a large number of chants and as we bring out chants particular to the liturgical season each year, so our appreciation grows of this beautiful music.

Our Catholic music.