Friday, June 05, 2009

Chant, the Professor and the Photocopier

Clare who runs our choir went to the conference organised by the Society of St. Catherine of Siena at which Prof. László Dobszay spoke about the use of chant in parishes, there is a brief account of the Professor's paper here. Clare was very impressed, especially as the Professor had very practical experience working with a parish choir in rural Hungary with a high illiteracy rate.
She was also glad to meet some of the leading choir directors and liturgical scholars in the country.
The main concern she said was that there are no publications, of Propers for use in the Mass, short of the Missal itself. On the Feast of Pentecost for the principle Mass the schola sang the Sequence in Latin here, for the other Masses we sang it in the vernacular to the tune of, I'm sorry to admit it, the Stabat Mater. On other feasts we do a great deal of photocopying for the schola, invariable the people simply listen. It is hardly the best solution and becomes almost impractical on other feasts.
It seems absurd that most English congrgations nowadays can't even sing a Te Deum or even a hymn or chant to St Joseph, St John the Baptist, or for the feast of Martyrs, or Virgins.
It would be good to be able to do what the Professor suggests having a cantor or two singing the Latin text with the people singing in the vernacular in response, what might be relatively easy in Hungary for a musicologist, is a bit more difficult in English parishes, thank God for the photocopier, but that is an expensive and tedious process and unless it is the Liber, it is normally fraught with copyright issues.

In a similar vein In hoc Signo carries the following quote of Fr Gerard Byrne:

We ought to ask ourselves too whether we really spend enough time considering the most appropriate options in our hymn books and other sources, or whether we simply consult the index of whichever hymn book our parish happens to possess and select the hymn we know best.? This is dangerous, since these indices are often simply lazy (listing only the tired old ditties we have been hearing for the past forty years) or, in the case of one prominent hymn book series even a blatant, shameless attempts to force the editor's own kitsch compositions into our parish repertoires.


Malcolm Kemp said...

Look at the Paraclete Press website; they do copies of the Solesmis Graduale Romanum - which would give you all you need for just under $50 each. No doubt it would be rather cheaper and easier to getcopies via St Paul's bookshop by Westminster Catthedral. (Foyles also have them, as do Blackwells if you're thinking of visiting Oxford.) They are good, sturdy books with good binding (but marker ribbons that disintegrate before your eyes!). The inital outlay may seem prohibitive but ultimately it is the cheapest way of doing it. Photocopiers break down, cartridges run out at inconvenient moments, they are very expensive to use, photocopies look tatty, become torn and lost, pages get in the wrong order &c., &c., If you bought even 8 or 9 copies (costing in total not more than £400 absolute maximum) it would quite quickly become cheaper than the alternative methods. Clare is welcome to ring me about this. I don't know of any printed editions of Propers for individual Masses available anywhere in eithe rEnglish or Latin.

I hope this helps. A sponsored something-or-other may help to raise the money.

berenike said...

How about the Solesmes Gregorian Missal? It has a major plus - taking it into your hands, there is no need for anyone to explain how it is that the chant is an integral part of the liturgy - anyone can see that for themselves from the book.

And, incredibly, it's available online here.

I think it's rather cheaper than the Gradual as well, but I could be wrong.

The English translations are also rather good (the text includes the collects and so on, as I recall), which has the advantage of letting people see WTPRS :-)

I.P. said...

How many people sing about "fuzzy, fuzzy bears" or "Come by car, Lord"?

MC Man said...

The lady who runs our small choir refuses point blank to allow any Latin to be sung in church and would rather go to evensong in the local Anglican Church than attend Benediction or Corpus Christi celebrations,you are very lucky to have Clare in charge of your choir

Henry said...

Plainsong for Schools is a good collection with a few propers included.

But why not include the propers for the Sunday in the newsletter each week?

Royce said...

The Gregorian Missal costs only $37 online, and if you don't want the propers but rather the hymns you can get copies of the Liber Cantualis for only $16 each online. Unfortunately, it's all in Latin though -- absolutely no English.

Description here: "The Liber cantualis is an excellent resource for the beginning Schola. The book contains the complete Order of Mass, seven chant Masses, the Requiem Mass, four sequences and 40 familiar hymns and other chants — truly some basic music that every congregation should hear (and sing!)."