Friday, June 29, 2012

The Graduale Parvum: "Gradual Progress"

Last evening, before his exquisitely sung Mass, Fr. Guy Nicholls of the Birmingham Oratory introduced the Colloquium to the forthcoming Graduale Parvum, a most promising form of Proper chants, based on the pioneering work of László Dobszay.

Instead of relying upon newly composed simple chants, the work is based on the very thoughtful realization that the Church already has a vast store of simpler Gregorian melodies, the antiphons of the Divine Office. These may be paired with the Proper text to form a new unity, with the authenticity of a true, ancient, Gregorian melody.

Notable as well is the intended format of the Divine Office melody as an antiphonal chant, wonderfully appropriate for those Proper Mass texts with an antiphonal form.

At some point in the future I would like to write out some thoughts about the publishing decision, not exclusive to the Graduale Parvum but also Simple English Propers and By Flowing Waters, of pointing the Psalm texts rather than lining the text of the song out beneath a printed melody. Despite many good reasons for pointing, the latter format is enormously more initially accessible to the average parish musician and would greatly increase the possibilty of these collections being used regularly in more situations--and thus, of the Proper texts of the Mass being sung. But for now, let me say that this is a brilliantly thought-out project, and easy and lovely to sing.

One insight I gained from Fr. Nicholls' talk is the pattern of Introits through Ordinary Time, which acts not as a reflection on the readings, but as a Psalter. This is a thought that might well resonate in and help form the minds of parish musicians who make decisions about music to be sung at Mass.