English Chant Propers for Corpus Christi

Wishing you all a blessed Corpus Christi, here are some recordings and practice videos of some of the English chant propers found in Lumen Christi Simple Gradual.

These antiphons use the new translation of the Roman Missal as their basis, and are simple enough for the entire congregation to sing, while having enough musical interest and beauty to bear repetition over time, year after year.

Even if your parish will not be singing the proper antiphons of the Mass this year, you can prepare yourself by praying along with the chants that the Church places before us on this most solemn feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.

The Lumen Christi Simple Gradual can be ordered here.

New English Propers for the Ascension of the Lord

Many will remember when videos for my book Simple English Propers were posted here on a weekly basis. This effort was grass-roots in every way, and did much to spark a renewed interest in chanting the Propers of the Mass throughout the English-speaking world.

Now, I am extremely excited to begin sharing some all-new recordings and videos from the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual—the work that has grown from and followed SEP. These simple, yet enduring chant settings are also found in the Lumen Christi Missal.

The antiphons of the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual have the benefit of being in accord with the new translation of the Roman Missal, and are arranged with the realities of parish life in mind. Accompaniment editions can be freely downloaded weekly at the Illuminare Score Library, and both Assembly and Choir Editions are now available for purchase.

Please enjoy these recordings, which are more than mere demonstration videos. I hope that they will also serve as helpful weekly meditations on the scriptures and on the proper texts of the Mass, so that we can continually strive to pray with the Church.



OFFERTORY ANTIPHON, God Goes Up with Shouts of Joy

COMMUNION ANTIPHON, Sing Praise to the Lord

Or: COMMUNION ANTIPHON, Behold, I am with you Always

From Simple English Propers to the Lumen Christi Series

Many of you will remember when Jeffrey Tucker was posting videos with recordings of Simple English Propers here on a weekly basis a few years ago. Much has happened since then, and I have been asked by many to tell the story of how SEP came into being, and to describe how it led me to further develop the Lumen Christi Series, from Illuminare Publications.

As the composer and editor of Simple English Propers, I would like to share a bit of what surrounded the creation of what appears now to have been something of a seminal project, and, also, how it led me to develop its immediate successor—my most recent effort—the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual, which is now shipping (you can order it here).

How Simple English Propers Came About

Simple English Propers grew out of a project that developed at Chant Cafe. The Cafe began in the summer of 2010, amidst the excitement that surrounded the new translation of the Roman Missal. Jeffrey and I began to put our heads together a few months after the blog began, when he made the startling realization that no single book existed that simply contained the processional proper antiphons of the Mass, in English, that was readily accessible and available to parishes today. He was determined to fix this problem right away.

He decided that a book needed to be produced—a single, inexpensive volume—that contained nothing more than a collection of simple chant settings of the Entrance, Offertory and Communion antiphons from the Graduale Romanum for Sundays and Feasts, in English, with Psalm verses, that could be sung in any parish by cantors and choirs without much chant training.

SEP Text Translations
The first issue that we discussed was the issue of text translation. I recommended that we try to make use of the new translation of the Roman Missal as much as possible, and also the Revised Grail Psalms for the verses—both sources had just recently been approved as official sung texts by the Church. Being that the Roman Missal and Graduale Romanum are at times quite different (e.g. the Missal contains no Offertories, and many of the Entrance and Communion antiphons between the two books do not correspond), it was clear that at least some unofficial translations would be needed. 
After much discussion, two factors led the CMAA to decide to use the text translation of the Solesmes Gregorian Missal for the entire book, instead of the antiphons of the Roman Missal, wherever this was possible:
Firstly, because Graduale Romanum technically has no “official” English translation, so any good translation of the antiphons can justifiably be used under the GIRM when the texts are sung in English.

And secondly, it was important for the entire book to be released under the Creative Commons so that it could be posted online for free download and be used by anyone according to their wishes, in addition to being sold in print editions. At the time, the copyright on the Missal texts appeared to restrict this.

And so it was decided that unofficial translations would be used for the antiphons, and the project moved on.

SEP Musical Settings

Once this was settled, Jeffrey began considering a possible solution for the needed simple chant settings, with the English antiphon texts set to music using the Gregorian Psalm tones. Jeffrey and I and a few others considered this model briefly, but almost immediately ruled it out as a viable option, primarily because of the conflict between the Latinate melodic structure of the Gregorian tones and the characteristic accent patterns of the English language. We decided that a better and more satisfying solution was needed.

After some more discussion, I presented an alternative approach to Jeffrey, which we both soon began to realize might be the most viable solution to the problem at hand. 

Developing SEP’s Melodic Models

I had recently read the proceedings of the 11th International Colloquium of CIEL (edited by Uwe Michael Lang and published by Hillenbrand Books in 2010) and began considering and experimenting with one of the proposals made there by Laszlo Dobszay (requiescat in pace). His proposal was that a small set of simple melodic formulas be used to set vernacular translations of the Proper of the Mass. In principle, this would allow for the many different texts of the Mass Proper to be sung to a handful of easily learned “tunes”, and make the sung proper accessible to parishes that have never sung it before. 

His specific idea was to use the dozen or so formulaic Gregorian chant melodies that are found in the antiphons of the Divine Office, so as to form a substantial connection with the authentic chant tradition. Having been under the mentorship of Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB, for a few years, I was unsure of the extent that melodies that were written for Latin texts could effectively be used with the English language, but found the idea compelling and so I began to dig into it more deeply.
Before going any further in my compositional modeling and experimentation, however, I contacted Prof. Dobszay directly to discuss some points in his paper further. He responded right away, with great enthusiasm, and shared with me very generously some of his settings contained in his then-developing project, the Graduale Parvum, in addition to some of his other concerns and possible solutions surrounding the issues at play.

I was very eager to study his settings, and saw the potential benefit of his approach. At the same time, many of my previous fears were confirmed. While most of his formulaic settings of Latin texts appeared to be done in a very beautiful and congruent way, a great deal of the settings of English texts were laden with incongruencies between the text and its melodic setting to such a degree that I began to wonder if the proposal could even yield reasonably satisfactory results.

I shared the settings with Dom Kelly, and he further articulated the concerns that I raised, repeating his long-held conviction that the melody of a chant must always be in service of the text, and, in some way, naturally grow out of it. He stressed that the melodic formulas of the Gregorian tradition were developed with the characteristics of the Latin language in mind, and he asserted firmly that if there is to be a satisfactory use of them with English texts, the melodic formulas themselves would have to be substantially adjusted, or even re-written.

Fr. Kelly encouraged me to explore this further, and he reviewed and oversaw the compositional models that I began to develop—at first, altering the pre-existing Gregorian formulas, and, eventually, composing new melodic formulas that anticipated the particular challenges that the English language presents. It’s beyond the scope of this essay to get into the details of this effort any further, but suffice it to say that the result was the development of 24 melodic models for use with English language texts, which would become the basis for the book Simple English Propers.

SEP is Born

As I began to apply the melodic formulas to the English antiphon texts, I also began sharing them with Jeffrey and others in the CMAA, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Those who remember Jeffrey’s contagious enthusiasm and optimism, especially surrounding this project, realize that this is more than just a bit understated!

Effectively, all who were involved in this project almost immediately saw that the model that I had proposed was the right one, and so I proceeded to draft settings of the entire body of antiphons, Sunday by Sunday, with the weekly results being posted on Chant Cafe for review, feedback, and trial use. 

I called the weekly postings “Simple English Propers for Name of Liturgy Here”. What was first a functional name soon became an identifying brand, and before long, “SEP” began to take flight, with parishes reporting on a weekly basis how these new settings were allowing them to introduce propers at their parish for the first time.
SEP Finances
Realizing the amount of work that laid ahead, Jeffrey decided to run a crowd-sourced funding campaign to raise $5000 to help see the project through. We were able, in a matter of weeks, to raise this money, and the proceeds helped see through the successful completion of the work. I was very grateful for the generosity of those who contributed to the fundraising effort, which helped me finish the project after 9 months of diligent work.

When the book was finally published, it was sold at cost, as the CMAA had promised it would be during the fund-raising effort. In other words, the CMAA intentionally chose not to profit from sales of the book—and still hasn’t to this day—and the digital files were posted on the CMAA website for free download. This certainly was a sign of the sacrifice and goodwill of all who were involved in the project from the outset. 

SEP Practice Videos

Shortly after this, Jeffrey Ostrowski of Corpus Christi Watershed began making recordings and YouTube videos of the antiphons of SEP on his own, at the request of Jeffrey Tucker. These videos were posted weekly at Chant Cafe, and, eventually, at the New Liturgical Movement. I am very grateful for this act of generosity on the part of Jeff Ostrowski, as I know that these videos were the gateway and introduction to the propers for many.

Resolving Certain Confusions
As grateful as I was, it came as a bit of a surprise to me when I began to see advertisements for Corpus Christi Watershed’s Vatican II Hymnal in the videos. There has been some confusion over the years about this, with people assuming Simple English Propers was a project of Watershed’s in particular. There have even been instances where high-profile individuals have directed people the CCW website for information about the Simple English Propers, assuming that it would in some way financially benefit its author.
Just to clear up any possible confusion: Simple English Propers is not a project of Corpus Christi Watershed. It was an open, intentionally non-profit project that I undertook with the Church Music Association of America. Neither the CMAA, nor Illuminare Publications, nor I myself are connected to CCW in any way or receive any financial benefit from CCW’s advertisements, or from the sale of their materials and resources.
I wish Jeff Ostrowski and Corpus Christi Watershed the best of luck and God’s blessings in their continuing efforts to promote the sung liturgy and the traditions of the Church. However, after discussing the matter privately with Jeff, I feel I must clearly and publicly state:
The views expressed by Corpus Christi Watershed are solely their own, and do not reflect the views of the composer and editor of Simple English Propers. 
Regardless of how SEP has been used, whether for good or for ill, it was intended as and remains a free gift to the Church, and I remain grateful for the ways that the Lord has used it to help parishes begin singing the Proper of the Mass.
From SEP to the Lumen Christi Series

Simple English Propers, however, is not the end of this story—it is actually only the beginning. This one resource was imagined and developed as a means to fill a specific gap, and it appears to have done its job well.
Even before the book was completed and published, I began to imagine an organized effort that could take on the task of developing a complete program of sacred music resources for parishes—one that could make the riches of the Church’s chant tradition as accessible as any popular resources today. I had discussed and proposed this idea to Jeffrey Tucker, but it was clear that such a project was well beyond the scope of the CMAA, which is a volunteer organization without a single employee.
And so, I took a leap of faith and gathered the funding and support that would be needed to undertake and sustain this long-range effort and established Illuminare Publications, where I have served as President and Editor since 2011. I began to develop the Lumen Christi Series, which will soon be fully available to parishes, containing a comprehensive Missal for the pew, a Simple Gradual in both Choir and Assembly Editions, a Hymnal for Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours, a complete Gradual in English, Accompaniment Editions, and so much more that lies on the horizon. 
The Lumen Christi Missal continues to make its way into the liturgical life of parishes and cathedrals across the country, and the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual—the first true successor of Simple English Propers—is opening many of the doors that SEP had left closed, helping parishes sing the Mass in a way that will naturally develop and endure over time.

The Lumen Christi Hymnal is due out in the Fall of 2014, in addition to accompaniment editions for the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual, and for Responsorial Psalms and Alleluias for Sundays and Feasts. The Lumen Christi Gradual also continues to develop, and draft scores can already be downloaded weekly at the Illuminare Score Library.

The Lumen Christi Simple Gradual

Before concluding, I would like to share some of the ways that the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual builds upon the experience gained from SEP, and how it opens up new possibilities for sung liturgy in ordinary parish life:


As I have noted before, SEP created great confusion for the faithful by choosing not to use the English translations of the antiphons as they are found in the Roman Missal, Third Edition, wherever this was possible. In order to lay the groundwork for the Lumen Christi Series, Illuminare Publications undertook an extensive project to translate the antiphons of the Graduale Romanum (e.g. the Offertory Antiphons), with professional translators, according to the principles and methods that were used to translate the antiphons of the Roman Missal itself. We worked in close consultation with those who actually made the translations in the Roman Missal, and took great pains to assure that the requirements of Liturgiam Authenticam were heeded. What resulted was a seamless translation between the new edition of the Roman Missal, and the Graduale Romanum, which is the Church’s primary source or the sung liturgy. These translations bear the episcopal imprimatur of Bp. Thomas J. Olmsted, and form the basis of the antiphon settings found in the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual, Lumen Christi Missal, and forthcoming Lumen Christi Gradual.

Lasting Musical Settings

At the outset of this essay, I described the process of experimentation that was undertaken with the musical settings found in Simple English Propers. The chant settings that resulted from this effort varied in quality. After living with these settings for a few years now, I feel that about a third of the antiphons have a high musical integrity, a third are satisfactory but less than inspiring, and another third clearly sound as though a square peg was being forced into a round hole. While these musical settings have certainly helped parishes sing the proper texts, week after week, it is becoming clear that the chant settings are not wearing well over time. In order to remedy this, the antiphon settings in the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual (and full Gradual) are composed with a musical quality that fully respects the integrity and character of the text, all while remaining just as accessible, if not more so, than SEP.


The Lumen Christi Simple Gradual contains, in addition to a full repertoire of Entrance, Offertory and Communion Antiphons, the fully sung Order of Mass, and 18 chant Mass Settings, in English and Latin. The four English settings (from ICEL, Bartlett, and Kelly) contain great variety amidst their simplicity, while the five Ordinaries of the Kyriale Simplex and nine of the most commonly sung Ordinaries of the Kyriale Romanum form a series of progressive steps into the Church’s inestimable treasure. Also, the Simple Gradual includes simple chants for the Commons, various Votive Masses, Ritual Masses and the Mass for the Dead. It truly is a complete starting point for sung liturgy.

Simple English Propers was intentionally designed as a resource for parish choirs and cantors to sing the proper antiphons week after week. In a sense, a parish has to fully jump into the ocean of the propers and must either swim or sink. Some have been able to swim, while others have gone through the discouragement of being unable to sustain this weekly demand. The Lumen Christi Simple Gradual, on the other hand, is laid out with this reality in mind. It makes use of the permissions and guidelines in the GIRM, Musicam Sacram, and in the Introduction of the Graduale Romanum (Ordo Cantus Missae) for parishes to begin introducing new musical settings seasonally, if needed, so that they can slowly being developing a repertoire of sung antiphons that can be repeated enough to be properly learned. The antiphon settings in the Simple Gradual are indeed simple, but they are through-composed, not formulaic, so that each setting is uniquely beautiful and will continue to inspire the faithful for years, even for decades and generations.

Assembly Edition

Some well-meaning parishes assumed that Simple English Propers would be simple enough for the faithful in the pews to sing, and proceeded to purchase bulk quantities for their parish. Others understood that this would not be a viable solution for congregational singing, and have allowed the choir or a cantor to chant the propers before or after a congregational hymn. In either case, the desire of Musicam Sacram 33, “that the assembly of the faithful should participate in the songs of the Proper as much as possible, especially through simple responses and other suitable settings”, is not being satisfactorily met. This is why the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual is available not only in a Choir Edition, but also is available in a Assembly Edition, which is only a half of an inch thick. All of the antiphons are numbered, in keeping with the common convention of popular hymnals and song books, and only the antiphons are provided for the faithful, while the Choir Edition provides Psalm verses for the cantor or choir. In this way, the faithful have in their hands a complete repertoire of liturgical chant for the Order of Mass, Ordinary of the Mass, and Proper of the Mass, which can be sung in a variety of ways, even in combination with choral settings of the proper by the choir or schola cantorum, where this is possible. The Assembly Edition offers great flexibility and value, in a highly economical edition, that can help the assembly of the faithful sing the Mass.

Worthy Binding

One look at the cover of Simple English Propers can tell any casual observer that the edition is designed more as a textbook than as a book that is intended to be used and seen in a liturgical context. If it is used in a choir loft, it is out of sight, but, if it used anywhere else, the words “Composed and Edited by Adam Bartlett” on the cover seem highly out of place for use in a ritual context. The Lumen Christi Simple Gradual (in addition to the Lumen Christi Missal, and all parts of the Lumen Christi Series) is hardbound, with a gold-embossed cover, with a silk ribbon and high-quality paper. The binding is “round back”, so that the book opens easily and can lay flat in the palm of the hand, or even flat on a table, without having to break the binding first. The Assembly Edition is unbelievably thin and light, making it easy for anyone to comfortably hold. The books in the Lumen Christi Series take the beauty of the liturgy and the sacredness of the words of the Mass very seriously, and the high-quality production values directly reflect this.


I remain grateful for the Simple English Propers project, and am extremely honored to have been able to play a part of this movement in the life of the Church. I am happy that the modest work is able to be shared freely and used by anyone, even if it has created confusion in some cases. I am even more excited about what lies ahead, though, and there is much more that could be mentioned here, but that will be announced soon.

As it happens in life, so too it does in the Church: A tree must grow from a planted seed, and it will grow steadily and naturally, with the help of proper cultivation and care, even pruning when necessary. Also, the tree can only be judged by its fruit, and its yield is unknown until a certain point of maturity.

I am grateful to the CMAA for helping plant many of the seeds of liturgical renewal in our day, one of which was Simple English Propers, and also to the many who have helped cultivate and bring about buds of life in the sung liturgy around the globe. The mission of the Lumen Christi Series from Illuminare Publications is to assist the renewal of the Church’s liturgy in the stages of growth that lie ahead in the coming years and decades, as these fruits continue to become readily visible and ripe for harvest. I would like to ask for your help in supporting this work, and especially ask you for your prayers. May the Lord bring to completion in our day the good work that he has begun.

See you in Florida!

I’m looking forward to being with all of the good people in the Florida CMAA chapter this week at the 6th Annual Gregorian Chant Conference, held at Ave Maria University.

I’m particularly excited to have the opportunity to give a presentation on the Lumen Christi Series which I am developing with Illuminare Publications, and also to direct the advanced men’s schola in both Gregorian and vernacular chant.

The brand-new Lumen Christi Simple Gradual will be available at the conference, and I’m very excited to share with the participants the ways that this new resource can help average parishes sing the Mass.

The concluding liturgy on Saturday will include the Entrance and Communion chants from the Graduale Romanum, in addition to the Gregorian Alleluia, and the Responsorial Psalm and Alleluia will be from the Lumen Christi Missal.

The Ordinary of the Mass will be Mass Setting II, as found in the Lumen Christi Missal and Simple Gradual, which is a simple, tone-based mass setting in Mode 6 that can easily be sung in any parish:

It’s going to be a great conference. I hope to see you there!

Lumen Christi Simple Gradual Now Shipping!

I am extremely excited to announce that the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual, from Illuminare Publications, is now shipping! It can be ordered here in both Assembly and Choir Editions.

The Lumen Christi Series is the work that I have been carrying since Simple English Propers, which many long-time readers of the Chant Cafe will remember began developing here back in 2010. Here is a short video on the tree that is growing out of the seed that was SEP:

The Lumen Christi Simple Gradual is the fulfillment of the hope that began with Simple English Propers, mostly due to its flexible nature, and full integration into a series of publications including a Missal, companion Hymnal, full Gradual, Accompaniment Editions, and so much more.

The renewal of parish music according to the Church’s mind on the liturgy and authentic tradition is a big task. It takes much time, wisdom, excellent resources, and great faith. Illuminare Publications has organized an effort that can provide the resources and ongoing assistance that parishes need as they undertake this most important work.

Visit the Illuminare website to learn more about the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual, and the work that lies ahead in service of the Church’s ongoing work of authentic liturgical renewal.

You can also join the Illuminare newsletter in order to receive updates as the Lumen Christi Series moves forward toward completion.

Singing the Mass Antiphons: At Home and in Rome

If you have been around the conversations within the Church Music Association of America for any length of time have, you have surely encountered discussion of an issue that manifests itself most often in the following question:

Why don’t the antiphons in Simple English Propers match the antiphons in our missalettes in the pews, and the ones in the Roman Missal?

(If I had a nickel for every time I have answered this question, I surely could be enjoying a comfortable retirement on a distant tropical island right now!)

The simple answer to the question is this: Simple English Propers sets to music the antiphons of the Graduale Romanum in English translation, while most popular publications (such as Magnificat, various hand missals, the ubiquitous disposable pew missals, etc.) usually print the antiphons of the Roman Missal. The antiphons of the Roman Missal and Graduale Romanum, while they are often the same, are in various cases different sets of proper texts. A neutral translation of the Graduale Romanum (from the Solesmes Gregorian Missal) was used in SEP, which could be freely shared online without copyright restriction, and as an unfortunate result, the Roman Missal translations were not used where the Missal and Graduale are in fact the same.

There are numerous further explanations and speculative analyses of the phenomenon of Roman Missal vs. Graduale Romanum propers, all of which can easily be found through a quick web search, and most of which are beyond the grasp, care or interest of those who are working in real-world, parish settings.

The conventional answer, common practice, and liturgical law

The conventional conclusion that the CMAA has maintained at for many years now is that when the 1969 Roman Missal was promulgated, the antiphons of the Roman Missal (including only the Entrance and Communion Antiphons, not the Offertory Antiphon) were intended to be spoken when the antiphon of the Graduale Romanum or Graduale Simplex was not sung. This distinction is clear in the rubrics of the universal law of the GIRM to this day.

The same rubrics, however, stated that “another suitable song” could be sung in place of the antiphons of the Graduale Romanum or Graduale Simplex, and we all know that this is the source of the proliferation of singing just about any kind of hymn or song at the Entrance, Offertory and Communion processions of the Mass in place of the antiphons that are appointed by the Church to be sung at these times.

Since we have never been given official, approved English translations of the Graduale Romanum, in practice, those who wished to sing proper antiphons in English defaulted to singing the approved translations found in the Roman Missal, and this practice has gone on for more than 40 years in certain locales in the English speaking world. In no way was this ever illicit, since the antiphons of the Roman Missal are perhaps among the best “other suitable songs” that can be imagined!

Because of the success of this practice, the Bishops of the United States of America voted to include the singing of the Roman Missal antiphons as part of the first option in the Roman Missal, Third Edition (see GIRM 48 and 87).

Thus, in particular law (which canonically trumps universal law) in the United States of America today, the antiphons of the Roman Missal form a part of the first option for the sung texts of the Entrance, Offertory and Communion processions, along side the antiphons and psalms of the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting.

This is binding liturgical law for all faithful and obedient Catholics in the United States of America.

Roman Missal antiphons in Rome

It is striking to observe an unconventional but illustrative development in the papal liturgies in Rome this year: The Entrance Antiphon that is being sung in this year’s Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica is not the antiphon prescribed in the Graduale Romanum (which is Dilexisti iustitiam), but is the antiphon of the Roman Missal! Further, it appears to be in a newly composed, “neo-Gregorian” musical setting:

H/T Steven van Roode, musicasacra.com/forum
It is interesting to note that the GIRM in force in Rome, and in every other diocese of the world outside of the US, does not list the antiphons of the Roman Missal—strictly speaking—as sung texts, but as spoken texts when the antiphons of the Graduale Romanum are not sung. It seems that Msgr. Guido Marini and Fr. Pierre Paul, among the other planners of papal liturgies, agree that the most suitable alternative to the antiphons of the Graduale Romanum and Graduale Simplex are the antiphons of the Roman Missal.
This raises another question for us to consider: Is it within the Church’s mind and within the bounds of the authentic spirit of the liturgy for additional proper antiphons to be added to the Church’s corpus of Gregorian chant? 
“Neo-Gregorian” chant propers have been composed throughout the centuries, and many exist in the Graduale Romanum today (such as the chants for the more recent feasts of Christ the King, Corpus Christi, the Immaculate Conception, among others). This idea was heavily frowned upon around the time of the council, when the work and research of Dom Eugene Cardine and the Semiological school was coming to an end, which brought the 100-year chant restoration project of Solesmes to point of near completion. 
Today, however, chant scholarship is in a place of stability and scholars are in virtual agreement across the globe on what constitutes the authentic Gregorian chant tradition. Is the time right for a slow, gradual and organic development of the chant tradition, as we are perhaps seeing happen in St. Peter’s Basilica this year—one that would in no way supplant the authentic Gregorian chant corpus, but would enrich and expand it, taking its secrets and genius and applying it to new compositions both in Latin and in various vernaculars?
I think that the answer is yes. And I am not alone in thinking this.
The successor to Simple English Propers

In fact, in a particular way, this effort is taking form in a brand new English chant resource that will begin shipping in two weeks.

It is the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual, edited by myself, and published by Illuminare Publications (learn more here). This resource is the true successor and fulfillment of its predecessor, Simple English Propers (which also composed and edited by myself).

There is no other resource like this. It will be available in both Assembly and Choir editions, and it contains the fully sung Order of Mass in English, eighteen Mass Ordinaries in English and Latin chant, and a complete repertoire of simple English chant settings with texts that are drawn from the Church’s primary sources for the sung liturgy—the Graduale Romanum, Roman Missal, and Graduale Simplex—and arranged for successful parish use, according to prescripts of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Musicam Sacram, and Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The source translation that is used is the Roman Missal, Third Edition, and new translations have been made where they are needed (e.g. the Offertory Antiphons, among others), and approved for liturgical use by the USCCB Secretariat for Divine Worship and by episcopal imprimatur. This assures the greatest textual continuity between the texts of the Missal and Graduale, and accords with the requirements of Liturgiam Authenticam.

It is arranged with the needs of todays parishes in mind, and it builds not only upon the experience of the past 5 years, but also upon the wisdom of the past 50 years. The musical settings that the Lumen Christi Simple Gradual contains already form a part of the core repertoire of numerous parishes across the English-speaking world, and early online releases have helped hone and perfect the chant settings and their arrangement over the course of the past three years.

Accompaniment editions are currently in preparation, and pre-publication digital editions are now available online every week for free download.
This is the next installment of the ever-developing Lumen Christi Series, which is a complete parish sacred music program. Be sure to sign up for updates and future announcements here.
I’m very excited to be able to present this new resource to the Church, in addition to the growing, organized effort that is developing behind, it to the parishes of the English speaking world. More information will soon follow on other exciting developments and initiatives. For now, let us look forward with hopeful anticipation of the future of liturgical renewal that lies ahead!

Music for the Three Palm Sunday Entrances

Often in parish life, the hustle and bustle of preparing for the Paschal Triduum overshadows the attention given to Palm Sunday, and particularly the various forms of the entrance procession. After all, are we sure the palms have been ordered? Is the sound system going to be set up for the gospel reading outside? Are all of the parts of the passion reading assigned? The list could go on.

Further, there are very few, if any, available musical settings for the actual texts of the processional and entrance chants as they are given in the Roman Missal. That is, until now, thanks to Illuminare Publications. Here are some sample scores for Palm Sunday from the developing Lumen Christi Series, available for free download:

Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

The Roman Missal describes the three forms of the Palm Sunday Entrance: 1. The Procession, 2. The Solemn Entrance, and 3. The Simple Entrance:

The memorial of [the] entrance of the Lord takes place at all Masses, by means of the Procession or the Solemn Entrance before the principal Mass or the Simple Entrance before other Masses. The Solemn Entrance, but not the Procession, may be repeated before other Masses that are usually celebrated with a large gathering of people.

While the Missal, thankfully, includes musical settings of the Hosanna filio David chant in English and Latin, the rest of the sung texts have no musical settings included: they are found there as text only. As a result, many parishes often default to singing the hymn All glory, laud and honor or another more generic hymn or song during the entrance procession.

In the scores provided above, all the texts for all forms of procession are set in simple, English chant settings, including the two responsories that are provided in the Missal. These are set in such a way that all of the faithful can sing the response after the intonation of cantor.

The Procession and Solemn Entrance

The Procession and Solemn Entrance both prescribe the following text for when “the procession enters the church”:

R. As the Lord entered the holy city, the children of the Hebrews proclaimed the resurrection of life. * Waving their branches of palm, they cried: Hosanna in the Highest. 

V. When the people heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they went out to meet him. * Waving their branches.

In the Lumen Christi Series sample scores, this is set in both chant notation and in modern notation with a simple organ accompaniment. The verses of the responsory should be sung by a cantor, and the response is arranged in such a way that it can be intoned by the cantor with all responding to “Hosanna in the highest”. This musical setting is simple and intuitive enough that I imagine it could be successful on the first try.

Further, the simple response allows the faithful to both take a vocal part in the singing while being able to watch the procession with palms enter the Church. It is unfortunate that many parishes require them to instead have their heads buried in a hymnal, singing multiple verses of a hymn, which keeps them from witnessing the grand procession.

The Simple Entrance

The chant for the Simple Entrance is sung in a similar way. The text provided in the Roman Missal is also in responsorial form:

Six days before the Passover, when the Lord came into the city of Jerusalem, the children ran to meet him; in their hands they carried palm branches and with a loud voice cried out: 

* Hosanna in the highest! Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy!  

O gates, lift high your heads; grow higher, ancient doors. Let him enter, the king of glory! Who is this king of glory? He, the Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory. 

* Hosanna in the highest! Blessed are you, who have come in your abundant mercy!

Similar to the Solemn Entrance, this chant has a short response that all of the faithful can take up after hearing it only once. Verses can be sung by a cantor or by the choir as the procession enters the church.

*     *     *
One of the beautiful features of these entrance chants for Palm Sunday is that they both relate the historical entrance of Christ into Jerusalem to the liturgical re-presentation of the same action. The faithful are able to cry out with the words of the Hebrews, whom they symbolize in this liturgical feast.
How much more deeply could your parish enter into this mystery by singing the very texts of the Mass itself? Perhaps this is the year to find out.
The Lumen Christi Series intends to help make this possible in every parish. You can learn more about the current and future offerings of Illuminare Publications here.

David Clayton on English Psalm Tones

David Clayton, well regarded as a sacred artist and Artist-in-Residence and professor at Thomas More College in New Hampshire, has written an wonderful and detailed piece on his work in English chant psalmody at the Notre Dame Sacred Music blog.

Anyone who has sung Gregorian chant in addition to chant in English knows that the two are very different. The genius of the Gregorian tradition is its sensitive and masterful treatment of the Latin liturgical text, and it has done this so well that Pope St. Pius X named it the “supreme model for sacred music”—a sentiment that was reiterated at the Second Vatican Council and beyond.

The challenge of adapting this genius to vernacular languages is great, however, and some do not think that it can be done. I believe that it can, and so do the many who have seen some of the great successes of recent years in the area of English chant. There perhaps is still time for us to see which methods will be the most effective and long-lasting. Many of us have established our methods and convictions. The time has never been greater, though, to explore the possibilities in vernacular composition which making use of the Church’s great musical heritage as a point of inspiration and as a guide.

David Clayton has responded to the challenge in his own unique way. Here’s some of what he has to say about his task of composing psalm tones for use with English texts:

Adapting the Gregorian Psalms tones to English text is very difficult because the patterns of emphasis in the two languages are different: tones that flow naturally in Latin seem unnatural and awkward when forced onto English. I felt that in order to develop tones that could consistently be applied smoothly to all lines, I would do better to treat English as though it conformed more to its Germanic roots. This leads to a form of chant that tends much more towards having one note per syllable, which is called ‘syllabic’ chant. If you were to characterize one major difference between Latin and English, it would be that Latin floats on the vowels while English punches on the consonants. (When singing, choirs should be aware of this and make sure that they don’t punch so aggressively that they kill it!) 

Those who delve deeply into what I have done will find that some tones have some simple neums of just two notes per syllable. However, even these cannot be universally applied without occasionally sounding awkward, so I had to develop a rule which allows the singers to decide whether to drop the second note depending on the flow of text at that point. The instruction on how and when to do that is in the score. 

To begin adapting the melody, I analyzed the characteristics of the original tone that made it beautiful: is it melody or the rhythm, or aspects of both? In the end, I think it is the combination of the two, but I decided that I would focus first on melody and make my priority to retain the key melodic intervals. The rhythm of the tone does not emanate from the music first, but matches the rhythm of speech for each line of text. Therefore, I decided that the rhythmic pattern of the tone be dictated by the English language, which means that it will have a different rhythmic feel than its Latin root tone. Sometimes this method worked well, but other times the melodic phrasing is so closely linked to the rhythmic pattern of the original language that it does not carry over into English. In these cases it was necessary for the character of the tone to change partially. I found this particularly in the Mode VIII tones. In some cases I decided that I would have to go where the pattern of the English language was taking me and, in effect, compose new tones to fit it. 

This process has to be more than a systematic process of adaptation. While what I have explained so far does sound somewhat coldly methodical, at the end of the process I always take a step back and ask myself if that particular tone “works”. When I hear it sung does this sound holy? Does it have goodness of form? Does it seem to participate in something that is universal to chant? From here, I modify the tone further based on these qualifications if needed. 


You can read the rest there.