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Gregorian Chant: Choralist messages about Gregorian chant

The Gregorian Chant Home Page


Date: Wed, 8 Feb 1995 11:56:44 -0700
Subject: Solesmes Study

California State University, Los Angeles
July 1-18, l995.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century the solesmes Abbey has
been the site of the official research on Gregorian chant for the Vatican.
Students will experience:

* Twelve days of concentrated study of Gregorian semiology, the
interpretation of chant according to both the ancient neumes and traditional
square notation as now practiced by the monks of Solesmes.
* Daily attendance at Mass, Vespers, and Compline sung entirely in chant in
the Abbey chapel.
* Four hours of class instruction daily in performance and principles of
interpretation taught by outstanding, internationally-recognized authorities:


* M. Clement Morin
Emeritus dean of the Faculty of Music, University of Montreal; professor of
musical paleography, University of Bologna; lecturer on the interpretation of
Gregorian chant for the French Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
* Dom Jean Claire
Chantmaster, Abbey of St. Pierre de Solesmes.
* Dr. Robert Fowells
Emeritus Professor of Music at California State University, Los Angeles,
coordinator of the Gregorian Schola and translator of the English edition of
Gregorian Semiology, will conduct the tour and provide background instruction
for both professional and non-professional students.

For more information contact:
Dr. William Belan
Director, Roger Wagner Center for Choral Studies
California State University, Los Angeles
5151 State University Drive
Los Angeles, California 90032
(213) 343-4067
Fax: (818) 572-0954


Date: Fri, 06 Jan 95 17:05:43 GMT
Subject: Plainsong and Medieval Music

I'd like to draw the attention of list members to some publications of the
Plainsong and Medieval Music Society that might be useful for services:

Eight Sequences for St Benedict and St Scholastica, ed. David Hiley (1980) -
1.50 pounds
Terence Bailey: The Ambrosian Alleluias (1963) - 10 pounds
Matins at Cluny for the Feast of St Peter's Chains, ed. D.R.Lamothe and
C.G.Constantine (1986) - 5 pounds
Frere's Index to the Antiphons of the Sarum Antiphoner, ed. L. Collamore and
J.P.Metzinger (1990) - 7.50 pounds
The Office Hymns of Guillaume Dufay, ed. Gareth Curtis (1992) - 8.50 pounds
Sarum Chant with English words (discount available for multiple copies):

Anthems of the BVM - 0.50 pound
Evening Canticles - 0.50 pound
Nicene Creed - 0.25 pound
An Order for Compline - 1 pound
The Ordinary of the Mass - 2 pound
The Plainsong of the Holy Communion - 0.50 pound

All prices exclude postage. All are available from:

King's Music
Banks End
Cambridgeshire PE17 2AA

fax no.: 0480-450821

No money should be sent with orders, but orders should state whether the
invoice is preferred in pounds sterling, US dollars (1.55 dollars = 1 pound)
or French francs. Overseas orders should state whether the order should
be sent surface mail or airmail.


Date: Tue Oct 25 11:15:40 PDT 1994

My DMA document is also on semiology from the
University of Oklahoma; I too studied with M. Clement Morin and have served
with Bob Fowells in forming the L.A. Gregorian Institute and its
activities. The Institute is part of the RW Center


Date: Mon, 11 Oct 93 15:47:34 EDT
From: Peter Jeffery
Subject: Re: Plainsong and Medieval Music Society

You can get the journal, Plainsong & Mediaeval Music, from Cambridge
Univ. Press at 40 West 20 Street, NY NY 10011-4211, enclosing $31. But
that only gets you the journal. To join the society, which I hope includes
the journal, you have to go to the British, because there is no American
office right now. Sorry.


Date: Fri, 10 Dec 1993 03:25:45 -0800
From: (Katherine Zieman)
Subject: re: children in the choir

Elizabeth Randell alerted me to this discussion--hope I am not
too late to join in. Choristers have been one of my
preoccupations of late since I am working on early education in
late medieval Britain. As I am neither musicologist or
liturgist, I submit the following under correction:

In the fourteenth century, at least, choristers would be a
regular feature at secular cathedrals. At Wells and Salisbury,
they were to be present at prime, High Mass and vespers every
day. The number and participation of boys at other hours would
depend on the rank of the feast (as suggested, higher rank =
more boys). Collegiate establishments (I've been working with
Ottery St. Mary and Winchester College the most) they were often
required to be at all services (Ottery's statutes, e.g., required
them to be singing whenever they were not in school). Things get
more varied and more complicated, however, at other institutions.

Boys under 18 were not a regular feature of monastic choirs (or
at the very least, Cistercian ones) after child oblation went out
(12th c, also Lateran IV), but towards the end of the 14th c.,
the boys of the almonries (who initially did no singing) were
increasingly called upon to help perform the Lady Mass (usually
under the rule of a secular priest)--it is only later (15th c.)
that one sees Lady Chapel choirs composed entirely of boys.
Choristers, or just local boys could be present in choirs at
hospitals, household chapels, and (increasingly towards the turn
of the century) at funeral masses. I have not seen any analogous
"chorister-like" singing deputed to girls (and boys) in the
nunneries. In fact, what little I've researched suggests that
they would attend, but not participate in the services.

As for *what* they did, well, that's what I'm tryng to find out
right now. And as this has gotten too long already, I'll just
leave you with some bibliography. To be crudely reductive, their
participation changed over a period of time, from a largely
"decorative" role to a more "musical" one (which was also
decorative...). According to bowers, boys' voices were not
used in polyphonic singing until the 15th c.

I'd love to be in contact with anyone who has been doing similar
sorts of research. I'll trade you my findings from statutes and
episcopal registers for info on treatises written in or copied in
14th- and early 15th-century England!

Bowers, Roger. "Choral Institutions within the English Church:
Their Constitution and Development 1340-1500."
Unpublished Ph.D. diss., University of East Anglia, 1975.
The best-researched treatment of choristers if you can get your hands on

____. "The perfoming ensemble for English Church polyphony,
c. 1320-c. 1390." In _Studies in the Performance of Late
Medieval Music._ Ed. Stanley Boorman. Cambridge: Cambridge UP,
1983. pp. 161-92.
Gives reduced form of arguments in the dissertation in the notes.

____. "The Performing Pitch of English 15th-Century church
Polyphony," _Early Music_ 8 (1980): 21-8; comment on choirboys'
duties on p. 22.

Edwards, Kathleen. _The English Secular Cathedrals in the Middle
Ages: A Constitutional Study with Special Reference to the
Fourteenth Century._ rev. ed. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1967.
pp. 315-6 and elsewhere, though Bowers claims that some of this
information is inaccurate.

Harrison, Frank Ll. _Music in Medieval Britain._ 2nd ed. London:
Routledge, 1963. pp. 9ff.

Robertson, Dora H. _Sarum Close: a picture of domestic life in a
cathedral close for 700 years, and the history of the choristers
for 900 years._ 2nd ed. Bath (Somerset): Firecrest, 1969.
Antiquarian history--a bit difficult on the stomach at times, but
she is one of the few who has looked at all the documents.

Katherine Zieman
UC Berkeley


Date: Thu, 6 Apr 95 17:00:14 TZ
From: Bill McJohn
Subject: RE: gregorian choir

| I would like to start a men's Gregorian
| chant choir at our church. Where can I
| locate information on music and availability
| Have any of you done this before? If so, what
| were your successes and difficulties?
The monks of Solesmes have published chant books (in
Latin) for the modern Roman rite. I get my books through
Paraclete Press:

Paraclete Press
PO Box 1568
Orleans, MA 02653

Books you may be interested in:

Liber Cantualis -- the Gregorian 'top 40'. A delightful
little book that might be just the ticket for a new chant

Kyriale -- chants for the Ordinary.

Gregorian Missal--chants for Sunday Mass; includes English

Graduale romanum/Graduale triplex--Mass propers & ordinaries
for the modern rite.

Processionale monasticum -- processional chants, including
many responsories.

Liber hymnarius -- Hymns for feasts through the year. I
believe this is the revised version (and the first
installment on chants for the revised Liturgy of Hours).

Any good music library should also have a copy of the
Liber Usualis, which contains a wealth of repertoire
and some pretty good instructions on How to Do It, but
does not reflect the liturgical reforms of the 2nd Vatican


The repertoire you choose will clearly depend on the
ability and experience of your singers, as well as the
choir's liturgical function. If your group is starting
more or less from scratch, I would strongly encourage you
to begin with the recitation of psalmody according to psalm
tones. It's the basic skill of chant--useful, if not
glamorous--and chanting psalmody well will build a good
foundation for the more complex free melodies. (You can
also adapt the psalm tones for English psalmody pretty
easily, which may be liturgically desirable.)

I would also introduce square note notation as quickly
as possible. Psalm antiphons make a reasonably painless
introduction, or the simpler hymns and Kyries. In the
long run, I expect you'll find it much easier than reading
chant from modern notation.

Next, I would tackle hymns and ordinaries. Hymns tend to
have fairly accessible melodies and are useful in a variety
of situations. In particular, they're very useful at
Offertory or Communion, because you can stop at the end of
almost any stanza. (Psalmody has the same convenient feature.)
Some of the ordinaries, particularly, settings of the Kyrie,
Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, are straight-forward enough that
the congregation could probably learn them.

The Marian antiphons (Alma Redemptoris Mater, Salve Regina,
Ave Regina Coelorum, and Regina Coeli) have lovely melodies
that aren't too terribly difficult. My quartet gets a lot
of mileage out of these each May and October, along with the
hymn 'Ave maris stella'.

I would hold back from attempting mass propers until the
group had some experience behind it. These chants tend to
be more complex; they're also less accessible, because they
represent an older layer of the repertoire and are more
foreign to our ears. Thus, not only are they technically
challenging, but it's also more difficult to make musical
sense of them.

For an experienced group, I find Matins responsories to be
very useful. Their melodic style is somewhat like Graduals,
but not as complex; the verses, in contrast with the extremely
complex Gradual verses, are fairly simple, which means you
don't need a star cantor; and their repetitive form makes
them good for covering an uncertain amount of time--if
necessary, you can even insert extra verses, since the verse
is sung to a formula, like an elaborate psalm tone. They
can be a bit hard to track down, though.

Two last thoughts: first, bear in mind that chanting well
together requires practice. Make sure you schedule enough
rehearsal time that the group can sing well. Second, any
group that chants together over a period of time will tend
to develop its own idiosyncratic style--and I consider that
a good thing.

If you have other questions, I would be happy to discuss them
with you. (I'm sort of interested in the topic.)

Bill McJohn

Date: Fri, 7 Apr 1995 10:03:21 -0400 (EDT)
From: Mark Gresham
Subject: Re: gregorian choir

On Thu, 6 Apr 1995 wrote:

> I would like to start a men's Gregorian
> chant choir at our church. Where can I
> locate information on music and availability[?]

Our new, April 1995 issue of Chorus! includes a pair of articles on
Gregorian chant -- which are, incidentally, by members of Choralist:
Charles Chapman and William Belan. Charles has a bibliography at
the end of his article with sources. There is also mention of
Chanticleer's new Gregorian chant CD in the interview with Louis Botto by
Vincent Plush.

(I post this to the whole list as much as anything because Choralisters
wrote the articles. This was, of course, thanks to the many responses I
got from my query about chant experts on Choralist. My appreciation
again, and kudos to the authors.)