Thursday, March 24, 2011

Help with the St. Louis Gradual

Now that the Mass translation is complete and on track, work on the legendary St. Louis Gradual by Fr. Samuel Weber can continue apace. The goal is a complete English Gradual for the ordinary form, and it is certainly within reach.

But there are many options to consider. The largest possible edition is all days of the year with antiphons and Psalms. This would likely be several volumes. I had suggested that what we really need is the equivalent of the Gregorian Missal that covers Sundays and feast days only, since this is what is used most often in parishes. Fr. agrees with that.

But that does not end all questions. The big one is whether to produce a pew edition without Psalms and just antiphons, and they make a separate edition for the cantor. I had suggested to him that this would be of limited use in parish environment. It is doubtful that such a book would need to be in the pews at all, and what we need is a schola edition that includes antiphons and all pointed Psalms. The people can have the antiphons printed in the program for the week for those who want the people to sing - though even this is not necessary.

There are many subtle points here. Are we ready to insist that, after all, the introit, offertory, and communion are schola parts and not people parts? Or is the socialization of hymn singing at the entrance so strong that people will expect to sing the antiphon or at least be given the opportunitty? If so, it is perhaps enough to print it in the program. Then there is the issue of whether in fact parishes are ready to adopt a single book for Mass propers or continue the current practice of picking and choosing between sources.

This is all part of the details of a transition from a hymn-based liturgy to one that actually employs music to sing the liturgy itself. This are difficult questions and no final answers. The issue here really comes down to which is most useful for parishes at this point in history.

If you would like to weigh in, consider these two possibilities:

Antiphons with limited Psalms for a pew edition (perhaps 400 pages)

Antiphons with full Psalmody for the schola (perhaps 700 pages)


Andrew said...

I actually like the idea of having a pew edition. Granted, not everyone will use it, but having it available will make it easier for parishes to make the propers a permanent part of the Sunday liturgy. You mention a printed sheet as a solution, but in these days of limited resources is printing up literally hundreds of sheets each week really a viable solution? if anyone is serious about about giving the propers a permanent place in their parish's liturgical life, then having a music book in the pew with those propers is very important, in my opinion. Even if the people don't sing at first, "seeing" the propers and not just "hearing" them will go a long way in promoting liturgical formation.

Pancho said...

I think making a pew edition available would encourage adoption of the St. Louis Gradual by parishes. It may not be necessary at some, many, or most parishes but I think people like options. If you can provide options, you become attractive. I think this is one of the reasons for the dominance of the big publishers. Plus you make it easier and thus more attractive for staff and priests who can't afford the time and money for programs but want the faithful to know what's being sung or read. If you don't offer the option of a pew edition, I think it puts you at a disadvantage (since everybody else will be offering missalettes, etc.).

Consider making at least some of the material available on CD-ROM so you can save yourselves some of the cost of printing, and parish staff can save some of the time and work of design and layout.

Aristotle A. Esguerra said...

I would favor a pew edition, but with an appendix that contains:

- a complete, unpointed Psalter;
- OT and NT canticles whose verses used within the context of the Propers (e.g., the Canticle of Isaiah, the Magnificat, etc.)
- Gloria Patri tones for the Introit and Communion

This will afford a few things:

- The full psalter will illustrate to inquiring souls that the Psalms are much fuller than the pericopes used for the propers;
- the psalter and canticles may also be used to follow along with the Liturgy of the Hours (though not necessarily in a sung manner, and not necessarily word-for-word depending on the LOTH translation used);
- Moving the psalter, canticles, and Gloria Patri to the index will save a bunch of space in the main body of the book (as the verse and Gloria Patri need not be included in the Introit engraving).

Myron Patterson said...

This project is a fabulously useful resource. As Jeffrey describes, there are two parts to consider: pew and schola. To my mind, producing these two items separately would be desirable with the schola version coming first. Having everything, text and music, including the Gloria Patri, together, much like the Gregorian Missal would, in my experience, be most beneficial for singers in order to avoid shuffling or flipping back and forth. While this may seem a minor thing, to singers the choral shuffle can be problematic and annoying. I look forward to Fr. Webber's publication. One thing seems certain, notwithstanding its shortcomings and controversies, the new Missal has infused, even if only conincidentally, a great deal of enthusiasm for bringing new music, especially chant resources to the fore.

Pancho said...

I think makeing a pew edition available would be a good edition. People like having options and this would make adopting the St. Louis Gradual more attractive to parishes. Not having a pew edition would put it at a disadvantage compared to the big publishers, which will have many pew resources available.

Another good idea would be to sell CD-ROMs of the complete gradual. From it parishes could print separate materials for scholas, choirs, and congregations.

Pancho said...

"I think makeing a pew edition available would be a good edition"

Sorry, I meant to write "I think making a pew edition available would be a good idea.

Anonymous said...

At this point, I would say that Pew Edition is most useful.

*FOR MOST:* When discussing ANY transition to propers, the simpler the transition, the better.

Anonymous said...

I "vote" for have both the full version and the pew edition available. I don't think that the people in the pews need the full version in their hands. I would purchase enough copies of the full version for the cantors/schola and pew editions for everyone else.

I am already making the transition to the use of proper texts at our liturgies, but I am producing way too many "throw away" leaflets. I would like to be able to stop that practice.

Robert said...

It appears that there are many options given for the antiphons in this resource--some clearly inspired by the Graduale Romanum, some by the Graduale Simplex, some closer to the old Rossini Propers. Since the simpler options lend themselves to congregational singing, a pew edition makes sense.

Particularly if the choir is going to be singing a simpler setting anyway, it would make no sense to insist that these are by nature "schola parts"--a schola singing proper texts to psalm-tones is not really fulfilling the role of a schola. Also: "It is desirable that the assembly of the faithful should participate in the songs of the Proper as much as possible"--Musicam Sacram 33. In a circumstance where the Proper is sung to very simple settings because the choir lacks the ability to sing more complex settings, then this participation would seem to be very possible and therefore to be encouraged.

Anonymous said...

WOuldn't it be confusing for the congregation if they are expected to sing sometimes, and other times they are not? (even if you indicate in the bulletin or announce it before the Mass every week?)

I think it's better to be consistent, and use the simple ones Propers such as Psalm tone ones for the schola or choir to use when they are not capable of singing more elaborate ones. But if one insist on congregation (from the pews) participation, then music of the Propers will remain just simple, and not so different from Ordinary parts. Doesn't the Propers, which are directly from the Scriptures, deserve more elaborate music so the congregation can listen and meditate to the Word set to beautiful music? The members of the congregation can certainly participate in singing Propers if they JOIN the choir, but they need to make commitment to do so.

Kathy said...

Would an antiphon-only pew edition be possible, alongside the full cantor/choir edition?

Chironomo said...

Like many parishes making a transition in music, I produce a weekly music booklet in which I print the Entrance and Communion Antiphons (these are chanted either by myself or a small schola at choir Masses). I have received many positive comments about having these in the booklet to "follow along"... that interior participation we often speak of.

If the Propers are going to be used at Mass, I think it's critical that the assembly have them, whether to sing or to follow along with. Psychologically, they would become much like the Readings at Mass are currently, rather than like another hymn or song.

Not sure that the assembly needs the complete Psalmody. A Schola Edition would be needed for that, and I would have to agree with Aristotle... not pointed.

Lastly, I'm absolutely thrilled that this is a conversation that we are having at all...what an amazing time that we are discussing whether the assembly should have Antiphons AND Psalms, or just the Antiphons... the sooner these books are "out there", the better.

Chironomo said...


This reminds me... I came across an old book from 1966... wire spiral binding labeled "Pew Edition" in a box in a closet at our parish. It is a pew book of the "Propers In English Set To Psalm Tones"...a leftover from that time when this was the direction of things. It was very definitely the intention that the assembly sing the Psalms. They are quite like the Rossini Propers, which were most likely the model.

In the same box with this lone copy were myriad cheaply produced booklets of "Songs for the People of God" (Ray Repp) and some first edition "Songs of Praise" and "Songs of Youth" booklets ... the ones with typewriter printed words with guitar chords above. Sadly, it appears that those were the ones they decided to go with.

Jeffrey A. Tucker said...

Thank you Chironomo, but let me ask further here. If there is a pew edition, that implication is that the parish sings these antiphons and no others. It become essentially a St. Louis Gradual parish. That's the implication. All flexibility is gone. I'm not opposed to that but I find it very unrealistic actually. Most parishes that sing propers use a variety: Gregorian, Rice, Weber, Bartlett, Ford, Willan, etc. etc.

Andrew said...

I don't think it has to be that way. If the choir were to sing the actual Gregorian propers, or even a polyphonic setting, on a special solemnity, they would simply make that announcement.. But the St. Louis Gradual would function as the default option. If consistency is an important factor, then yes, I think the choir should stick to a particular setting for most of its regular Masses. On the other hand, if a parish doesn't want to buy a pew addition, they don't have to - at least its there for those who want it!

Jeffrey A. Tucker said...

Well, sadly, Andrew, it is not that simple. Things like affordable books can't just appear and disappear based on a wish. They have to be produced - very time expensive - and bound and held in large quantities, and it only works if sales recover expenses. You see what I mean? So essentially this is a decision that absolutely must take into account parish realities for a sizable number. There is no such thing as a perfect forecast but it is just not possible to print something on the off chance that a few might want it (print on demand is still way too expensive for books like this).

Even with the Simple English Propers, I never imagined a pew edition. This is a choir book, and that seems very clear to me.

Anonymous said...

Something I have not heard too much discussion of is the singing of the psalm verses by the congregation. No matter what set of antiphons you choose, from simple English propers to the melismatic chants of the Gradual, the verses can all be sung to simple psalm tones. With a cantor or schola chanting the odd verses, and the congregation the evens and the Gloria Patri, there should be little difficulty getting them involved in the singing. Antiphons may very well be more suitable for the choir.
A pew resource that would make this a possibility would be most welcome.

I would also welcome a CD-ROM or online downloads to allow the printing of antiphons in a program. In the absence of an official English Gradual, I feel almost compelled to choose the best of what is available from a variety of sources.

Sid Cundiff said...

After reading Mr. Tucker's writebacks, I vote for the 2nd option: Antiphons with full Psalmody for the schola: "The beauty of holiness" will be more evident with a schola.

Anonymous said...

The complete edition with antiphons and psalms is clearly what is going to be most useful for scholas as they introduce better quality sacred music into the ordinary form. As long as the antiphons are available as PDFs, it will be easy to cut and paste what is necessary for worship aids or seasonal booklets.

Claire Christina said...

I like the idea of a pew edition - using real books for liturgical prayer rather than flimsy printouts each week - but the above would be bewildering for most congregation members, I fear. (Not only is it in chant notation, but multiple options for the same chant...) Most congregations today would want at least the option of singing the propers. (Just my two cents, for what they're worth.)

hank_F_M said...

With modern computer and publishing technology would it not be possible to have several versions (maybe two or three) "on disk" and a parrish could order the they one they want.

A commopn theme even between parrishs make differnt selections


small axtra cost per book
a requiermnt for a minimun order to keep the cost down
longer delivery time from publisher since they would not be stored in the wherhouse waiting purchase.

Stephen M. Collins said...

I am more in favor of printed worship aids for each Mass or weekend. As good as this publication is, it is not the only option out there. And the congregation does not need to see all of the options that they are NOT singing, much less the notation of the verses.

As to the content, I really, REALLY would like to see a single "Alleluia" Antiphon cited for every instance of the Gospel Acclamation. The only way we will ever get away from the triple )or more!) Alleluia Anitphon is to at least have the option of singing a singly Alleluia, with jubilus. This book seems like the obvious place to begin this journey.