The Accidental Punctum (or How I learned to Love Chant) – Part I

April 27, 2006

Gregorian chant. Saying the words can put some people into a state of euphoria and make others have apoplectic fits.

For those who are used to standard music notation, chant notation can seem like learning Latin when you know Spanish – it looks pretty familiar but you can’t just jump in and start singing.

First of all, learning chant is actually much easier than learning standard notation. There are only two clefs and no “key of ___”. There are only four bars. There aren’t any sharps. The one area where chant can get complex is in the actual interpretation of the notes.

Gregorian ChantHere is a brief survey of materials available for chant so you can teach yourself, or introduce it at your parish.

If you want an in depth history of chant before you get down to business, we suggest the book Gregorian Chant by Willi Apel. This book covers the entire history of chant both in the Latin rite and also contains information about Ambrosian and Old Roman chant.

Square Notes WorkbookTo start your journey, the best book we have found for learning chant is The Square Notes Workbook. This book was designed to teach you chant from the ground up in simple lessons. The book teaches the different types of notes as well as techniques for singing the texts without making them sound monotonous. The Square Notes Workbook also contains questions at the end of each lesson that are great if you are trying to teach a class or even just make sure you have learned the material yourself.

If you want a book that is a little more advanced, Beginning Studies in Gregorian Chant is a good book to look at. This book was written as a class book for Solesmes – the home of the modern chant revival.

O Lux BeatissimaThere are two CDs we also recommend for learning the basics of chant. The first is Learning Gregorian Chant which is an introduction to chant interspersed with sung samples by the monks of Solesmes. The second is O Lux Beatisima which is one of two (2, dos, duo)! chant products from Oregon Catholic Press. This CD has a great selection of common chants that could be the start of a parish repertoire.

Once you have a basic understanding of chant, it’s time to take a look at some real chant hymnals. The booklet Jubilate Deo was published by the Vatican after Vatican II as the basic list of chants that every parish should use so I’m sure you are all familiar with it and use it regularly ;-). Unfortunately, this booklet takes the chant and translates it into modern notation.

Adoremus HymnalThe Adoremus Hymnal, which comes in congregation, choir and organ editions, contains a large selection of chants for the Ordinary of the Mass in chant notation as well as a large selection of Catholic hymns in a more traditional vein for Mass. We have used this hymnal in our parish and except for a lack of dynamics markings and the strange inclusion of some harmony parts that aren’t actually for voices, the book has worked well.

If you would just like to learn the Ordinaries of the Mass and a selection of other chant hymns, the Kyriale is for you. This hymnal is a great supplement to your standard parish hymnal if you would just like to start adding chant to your Masses. This hymnal was also published by Solesmes.

Next: Okay, you’ve got the basics. Now what?

add to :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank

Why You Should Own a Copy of the Compendium of the Catechism

April 26, 2006
Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
  1. You're Catholic. The Q and A format is hard-coded into your DNA.
  2. For the great art.
  3. Because learning the Faith in 200 pages sounds much less daunting than in 900 pages.
  4. Because the subtitle of this book is really "Baltimore Catechism Number 4" and you have been waiting for this volume since 1956.
  5. Because there just wasn't enough in the Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  6. Because the title is so long it MUST be a good book.
  7. Because there are 43 letters in the title and 4+3=7 and there are seven Sacraments. Wasn't it obvious?
  8. Reader's Digest has been too slow in putting out a condensed version of the Catechism.
  9. To use as Cliff's Notes for the CCDB.
  10. To complete your collection (for now) of every book that Pope Benedict has written, written the forward to or looked at.

(Apologies to American Papist)

Holy Grail, Batman!

April 26, 2006

The Grail CodeThe Silver ChaliceWith the DaVinci Code coming out soon, we thought a focus on some legends that are in the Catholic vein would be in order. The Grail Code is a brand new book that gives an overview of the history and legends of the Holy Grail and its relation to the Eucharist. The second book is a reprint from Loyola Classics called The Silver Chalice which is a fictional story of a smith given the task of creating a holder for the Last Supper by St. Luke.

The authors of The Grail Code have a new blog that goes along with the book which includes links to many Grail legends in their original Middle English. 

(HT to Jim Manney from Loyola for posting information about The Grail Code) 

Why You Need Deus Caritas Est in Hardback

April 26, 2006

Deus Caritas Est HardbackAmerican Papist has explained why there is a hardback edition of the Pope Benedict's first encyclical coming out next month. We think the reasons are convincing so buy a copy 😉