Friday, January 29, 2010

The Gregorian Institute on Gregorian Chant

The website of GIA (The Gregorian Institute of America) has a page on Gregorian Chant resources for parish use. It is fascinating in many ways….first that a company named the “Gregorian Institute” would only devote two or three pages of a several hundred page website to...well…Gregorian music. But more fascinating, and a bit disappointing, is how they treat the whole subject of Gregorian chant.

The information given is really not of much use, but then again I suspect it is not supposed to be very useful. The goal seems to be to actually discourage the use of chant while showing that they are at least abiding by the letter of the law in their publications.

From the GIA website….
(My emphasis and comments)

Gregorian Chant for the Congregation
The Second Vatican Council stated that the faithful should be able to sing the ordinary parts of the Mass in Latin (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, no. 54).(It actually says that “steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. This is important because it makes clear that the Latin language is the important issue, not the chant settings. What steps have been taken by GIA to achieve this?) Catholic congregations in most parts of the world sing at least a few chants in Latin.( “Look! It’s being done elsewhere so we don’t have to worry about it!) But in the U.S., for the most part we have a ways to go in fulfilling SC 54.(Perhaps the understatement of the century…) One need not look far to find resources for basic congregational Latin chant—every major Catholic hymnal or worship aid includes basic congregational Latin chants. ( they’re really token inclusions, but so what?) The easiest places to start are with the Kyrie (which in fact is in Greek) and the Agnus Dei. Then one might advance to the Sanctus and perhaps the Pater Noster. (Take note of the language here…”one need not look far”…”one might advance”…rather than “you can find”…or “you can then advance”. In other words, “one could do this if one were so inclined, but not YOU.) The Gloria and Credo are more difficult because of their length. (so…don’t ever attempt to sing them in Latin? We should never try anything difficult?) In any event, slow progress and pastoral sensitivity are advised. (Good Lord!…why would slow progress be advised? I don’t see any descriptions of works in their choral anthem catalogues claiming “One might sing this for the Sunday after Easter, but only after careful pastoral consideration. If one’s choir is successful in introducing this work, one might then advance to the more difficult selections, but do so slowly.”)

There are several collections with more extensive congregational repertoire: Iubilate Deo, Liber Cantualis, and Kyriale Simplex. (But since we just told you that it should take a long, long, long time to introduce even the basic congregational chants included in our fine hymnals, why would you ever need a more extensive congregational repertoire?)

GIA publishes an edition of an earlier version of Iubilate Deo in modern notation: Jubilate Deo.
(We’re not going to tell you what this is or why it might be useful….just that we do publish it. Notice that we replaced the difficult Latin "Iubilate" with the much more accessible "Jubilate")

Easier Gregorian Chant for the Choir
Many choirs will be looking for easier chant than is found in the Graduale Romanum and the Graduale Triplex(?), especially at first. (Well...if you were encouraging them to look for chant at all they might be doing this, but you just told them to make slow progress and be pastoral) A good place to start is with any of the major congregational hymnals. (But…don’t look in the Parish Book of Chant…stick with the major hymnals!) The Latin chants found there are intended for congregations, but it is likely that congregations are not (yet) able to sing them. (Way to be encouraging GIA, way to be encouraging! I especially like the parenthetical “yet”.) The choir might (why not say “can”?) sing easier Latin antiphons, Latin chant hymns, or chant hymns in English. Hymns are an easy place to start because the same melody is repeated for each stanza of text. Because the melody of a strophic hymn is formulaic and not intrinsically tied to the Latin text, hymns are the one part of the Latin chant repertoire that can be sung in any language. (Well…they wouldn’t really be Latin chant repertoire then, would they? If we sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” in English, we’re not singing a Latin chant hymn simply because it was originally in Latin, are we? This is essentially trying to say that singing vernacular hymnody is a great way to fulfill the call to sing Latin chant. What absolute nonsense.)

Other easier collections for choir are Graduale Simplex and Cantus Selecti.
(We’re not going to tell you what these are either, but they are easier)

Gregorian Chant for the Choir (but not the easier stuff like above)
Much of the Latin chant repertoire was written for a trained choir.( choir isn't "trained"?) Being more difficult, it was sung primarily in monasteries (not like your parish), cathedrals (not like your parish either), colleges (not a parish, so not like you either), and parishes with more extensive resources (more extensive resources than your parish, that is!) In the right circumstances (not gonna tell you what these might be, but they aren't circumstances that apply to your parish) , parish choirs can still sing some of this chant.

Graduale Romanum, Gregorian Missal for Sundays, Graduale Triplex.
(We’re not even going to tell you why we have these books listed here…but they contain some of the chant that you might be able to sing in the right circumstances at a monastery, cathedral, college or extensively resourced parish.)


So….that is, in a nutshell, what GIA wants to tell you about the music for which their company is named. If you were a truly inquiring Director of Music trying to live up to the Church’s call to sing the music of the Roman liturgy, would this encourage you to do so?

No comments: