Every Choir director should have and use a copy of Simple English Propers For the Ordinary Form of Mass Sundays and Feasts. Adam Bartlett, the composer and editor, has created chants that lift the Ordinary Form of the Mass to the beauty it deserves and just as the title promises, they are simple. Published by Church Music Association of America, copyright 2010, ISBN #978-1-60743-724-6 this is a user friendly introduction to using chant.
My background includes belonging to up to five choirs at the same time and many years of singing in church and for pure joy. Singing is a pleasure for me and from the moment I pulled this volume from the packaging I found myself enchanted. The book does not assume experience with chanting and so takes the time to explain how to understand the notation. I was exploring my first chant within minutes of opening the book.
Physically, the book sat open in the palm of my hand without the pages flipping. A spiral binding would sit flatter, but this is a nice durable binding and I suspect with time and use the book will lay open even more easily. The sewn pages felt secure in the binding, the weight of the paper made pages easier to turn, the typeface was clear with good contrast even for my middle aged eyes, the color of the paper prevented glare, and the weight of the book was little enough that after I had stood with it in one hand for half and hour straight I felt no strain at all.
The Content is another delight. In addition to explanations of how to interact with the notation, which note to sing first and what method to use when moving from one note to another, the verses for longer pieces are carefully arranged so that everything is on the same two page spread as much as possible. Titles are clear and bold, making locating what you need easy. There is a nice range of options covering all the places in the Mass where it could be appropriate to sing a chant.
The use of easy chant arrangements that are lovely and simple enough for the beginner to perform will go far to satisfy the longing for beauty in the Liturgy.
I would recommend this book with no hesitation at all for use by choir, song leaders, or the individual who simply loves church music in all its forms. If a parish wanted to do something truly marvelous for the Ordinary Form of the Mass, then this book should be purchased for (or by) the entire Chior and put to use. It is wonderful and I wish I could think of a way to express my joy in finding something so well suited to our Novus Ordo!
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