Singing Alone and Making Mistakes

We’ve all known what the blogger below describes. We know the chant perfectly but when we sing alone, we end up making mistakes anyway. We need the numbers to help us through those tiny moments of insecurity. It’s true that Gregorian chant really is for groups.

A week ago I was asked to sing the Proper for an Extraordinary Form Mass today because the regular cantor was going to be away. Rather foolishly I agreed, but I had no options. I obtained good clear copies of the music, rehearsed well, and was note-perfect an hour earlier whilst sitting on the train on the way.

I ended up singing the Proper on my own. The sparse congregation joined in the Ordinary of the Missa de Angelis, though I sang alternate verses of the Kyrie solo. The Vidi Aquam, Introit, Kyrie and Gloria were fine. Then I messed up the Gradual and Alleluia verses, though I am not sure anyone noticed. Credo III went all right, and the Offertory was done to a psalm tone, which was not a problem. I started the Sanctus much too high, the Agnus Dei went all right but I bungled the Communion verse, again I am not sure that anyone noticed.

What went wrong? I have near perfect pitch and had a tuning fork with me as well. I was a bit nervous and there was a lot to do besides, keeping an eye on the priest and following the text carefully so as to see when to come in with the sung portions.

What is there to learn from this? First, to get a pitch pipe and write down the starting note on the music itself. But more important is to go mob-handed – in other words we need to set up a Schola who can provide at least four voices whenever they are called for. For a start, I want my own funeral done properly.

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