How to sing and accompany Gregorian Chant

Where to start when wishing to learn to sing or accompany Gregorian Chant?

I would love to get back to helping in person once lockdown ends but in the meantime here is a one-stop-shop to get you started!

How to read and sing chant– an introduction given by the great Jeff Ostrowski at Corpus Christi Watershed.

If unsure about how to sing Solfa- get the basics here and with the subsequent videos.

Chant Accompaniment

1. Although every organist should aim to accompany chant directly from the neuems, the following link contains full Nova Organi Harmonia harmonisations of the Gregorian Ordinaries and Propers and more!

2. Chant Talk– Patrick Torsell, is Director of Music at Mater Dei FSSP Parish, Harrisburg, PA. He has some useful video tutorials on effective chant accompaniment in different modes.

3. I suggest that they immerse themselves in listening to excellent chant accompaniment. I recommend Fontgombault and Westminster Cathedral.

In terms of chant books and resources, see my post about top tools for TLM musicians!

Tenebrae, Spy Wednesday

Tenebrae on the evening of Spy Wednesday is the anticipated Matins and Lauds of Holy Thursday. A perfect way to take advantage of a lockdown Holy Week.

Or live-stream at 7.30pm here

Booklet available here

The music may not be the same as the recording but you can follow the text if you wish.

The following notes are those of preeminent liturgist, Fr Adrian Fortescue.

Home Liturgy – Palm Sunday

We find ourselves in a situation where we need to keep the liturgies of Holy Week at home. This sort of situation is not unprecedented. My thoughts are drawn to the recusant Catholics of the Anglican persecution, the true Church in China and other underground Christians and even His Eminence Cardinal Pell who has been denied the right to offer the Holy Sacrifice for many months.

Rather than becoming angry and frustrated, let us resign ourselves to the permissive will of God as did Our Lady during the Passion. We should make the most of this opportunity to grow in our understanding and practice of the faith.

Collect for Saturday in Passion Week

We beseech Thee, O Lord, may Thy devoted people grow in the spirit of pious devotion, that learned in the holy rites, they may become the more pleasing to Thy majesty as they abound in spiritual gifts. Through Christ Our Lord…

In the Pearce household, we have greatly benefited from praying in union with livestreamed Masses and we are grateful to all priests who have made the liturgy available to us, especially the FSSP at Livemass.net. For Holy Week, however, we have decided not to livestream Mass but to do what we can to be present to the liturgy in our own home- a time for us to up our ‘Ecclesia Domestica’ game. (For that is our WiFi name after all!)

Being church musicians we are fortunate that we can sing most of the liturgy at home and have chosen (since no permission is required from Rome for a Missa Sicca or ‘Dry Mass‘) that we will celebrate according to the traditional Holy Week liturgy from before the reforms of 1955 which anticipated the promulgation of the Novus Ordo. The timing of these liturgies is more toddler friendly too!

Below I have provided notes on how this can be done at home. Some points to consider:

  1. We don’t have to try to replicate liturgical perfection at home. The point of this is to pray and absorb the theology of the ancient prayers and chants.
  2. This is an example of the maximum that can be done. If your kids get restless, cut things out and read them privately once they are in bed. The point here is to celebrate what we can and not to overdo things and put our families off. Better to do less for the greatest spiritual payoff than to try to do everything and end up with tantrums. It is consistent with my Benedictine spirituality to adapt things to the needs of those participating rather than making unattainable demands.
  3. We don’t allow toys in our home chapel but we do allow anything that we would pack in the Mass bag. Age appropriate books and colouring sheets are a good idea and since the ceremonies are longer than usual, we will allow a little more moving around than at the family rosary each evening.
  4. For those who can’t sing the liturgy, I have compiled playlists. These could even be used outside of the prayer time to keep a recollected atmosphere throughout the day.

Texts for each liturgy can be found here by selecting rubrics pre-1955 and selecting ‘Sancta Missa’ at the top of the page. Another option would be to print the relevant pages from a pre-1955 Missal such as the Fr Lasance Missal.

Palm Sunday

  • Resources: Either sing or listen to chants using playlist here. Chant can be seen and printed here. Generally speaking, chants in Latin, readings and orations in English. Fr Lasance Missal pg388 onwards.
  • Asperges III- Father of the family sprinkles home altar and family with holy water.
  • Antiphon. Hosanna filio David followed by prayer- Deus Quem Diligere
  • Lesson from Exodus 15
  • Ant. In Monte Oliveti
  • Father reads Gospel
  • Always replace Dominus Vobiscum with V. Domine exaudi orationem meam. R. Et clamor meus ad te veniat
  • Father reads through the blessings- Only a priest can command a blessing of an object but we can still pray that God will bless the palms/branches that we have prepared. We also benefit from the rich theology of the ancient prayers.
  • Sing the Sanctus.
  • Sing Pueri Hebraeorum while the Father hands branches to each family member in order.
  • Procession- (The door of the prayer room/chapel is closed when the last person leaves.) The Father can lead with a large crucifix if one is available. Think of a reasonable procession route that includes parts of the house and garden.
  • Sing Gloria, Laus et honor tibi sit during the procession.
  • Return to the prayer room/chapel in time for the ending of the hymn. (If your family is large enough, you could have some inside the chapel as in the rubrics of the missal, if not just continue).
  • The family wait outside the closed door of the chapel/prayer room.
  • The father knocks three times on the closed door with the foot of the large crucifix. (He could just knock if no such crucifix is available.)
  • Sing Ant. Ingrediente upon re-entering the room.
  • N.B. You may decide here to skip to your time of spiritual communion depending on how the kids are doing.

The Missa Sicca proper

  • Follow the missal as is.
  • The reading of the passion.
  • Option 1- Read the full Passion. C-Mother, S- All, + – Father
    OR (if your kids are getting restless by now!)
  • At what would be a low Mass, the Passion is substituted for the Gospel that is read before the blessing of the palms. You may decide that since you already read this earlier, you may omit it and give a summary of the passion in your own words for the benefit of the children.
  • Sing the Credo
  • Sing the offertory
  • After the offertory, select some prayers from offertory of the Mass to prepare for a spiritual communion. (Suggestion- Suscipe Sancta Trinitas, asking God to receive all the Masses throughout the world. The preface could be read and the Sanctus sung. Pater Noster, Agnus Dei, Act of Spiritual Communion, silence.)
  • Finish the prayers of the Mass. End with Benedicamus Domino in place of Ite Missa Est

I will post the same sort of resource for the Sacred Triduum in due course.

Homemade Paschal Candle
Making facemasks for priests and palm crosses for friends

Vespers: Feast of the Holy Family

Today is the feast of the Holy Family. Here is the Immaculate Heart of Mary Schola joined by a few of the monks of Papa Stronsay singing Vespers of this feast day in 2019. You can follow with this booklet. The hymn at 18.02 is particularly beautiful.

The collect of the feast is a mission statement for every family:

COLLECT O Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified home life with untold virtues by being subject to Mary and Joseph. May they assist us to imitate the example of Your Holy Family, so that we may share with them their eternal happiness; who lives and rules with God the Father . . .

Learn about the Three Hearts Devotion Here

Heart of Jesus I adore thee,

Heart of Mary I implore thee,

Heart of Joseph pure and just,

In these Three Hearts I place my trust.

22nd December: O Rex Gentium

O Rex Gentium or O King of the Nations (December 22)
O King of the Gentiles (Jeremiah 10:7; Haggai 2:7),
and the Desired of all, You are the Cornerstone that binds two into one (Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20). * Come, and save man whom You fashioned out of clay (Genesis 2:7).

21st December: O Oriens

O Oriens or O Rising Dawn or Morning Star (December 21)
O Rising Dawn, (Jer 23:5; Zechariah 3:8; 6:12),
Radiance of the Light eternal (Habakkuk 3:4; Wisdom 7:26; Hebrews 1:3) and Sun of Justice (Malachi 3:20): * come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107:10; Lk 1:78).

A setting in English by Sir James Macmillan

20th December: O Clavis David

O Clavis David or O Key of David (December 20)
O Key of David, (Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7)
and Scepter of the house of Israel (Numbers 24:17): You open and no man closes; you close and no man opens (Isaiah 22:22). * Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107:10).