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Chants for Teenage Boys

by Gary Penkala

Teen Choristers The Saint Gregory Choir is a boys' choir at Saint James Catholic Church in Charles Town WV. When a few of the boys started singing an octave below pitch, I came upon an unusual situation. Prior to this, when a boy's voice began changing, he became self-conscious and dropped out of the choral program. But now, these dedicated singers enjoyed choir and wanted to continue singing in church.

Since their "new" voices didn't fit well with the treble sound of the rest of the choir, I started a new group, called the Saint Dominic Savio Choir, just for them. Many of the cambiata singers, as they're technically called, had a very limited range — usually just a meager octave at most, centered on middle C. Finding music for them to sing was difficult, until I stumbled upon some Gregorian chant with a narrow range. For example, Ave verum has a range of only a sixth. I pitched it at what would be very low for a treble or mixed group: starting on A below middle C. The guys could sing it easily there and had a very pleasant, rich tone in that range.

Ever since then, I've reserved some seasonal chants just for the Saint Dominic Savio Choir. Here are some of their favorites:

  • Advent- Creator alme siderum
  • Christmastide- Hodie Christus natus est
  • Lent- Parce Domine
  • Passiontide- Vexilla Regis prodeunt
  • Eastertide- Victimæ paschali laudes

These are slightly more familiar chants:

  • Advent- Veni, veni, Emmanuel
  • Christmastide- Corde natus ex Parentis
  • Lent- Attende Domine
  • Passiontide- Stabat Mater dolorosa
  • Eastertide- O filii et filiæ

I present these in square-note Gregorian notation. The guys love the challenge of reading this notation and the Latin language is an added bonus. There's no reason for these young men to avoid particiapting in the church music program during this transitional period in their vocal development. Beyond this, they can learn some of the great music of the Church and contribute fully as they mature into knowledgeable tenors and basses.

Article written 12 March 2019

CanticaNOVA Publications / PO Box 1388 / Charles Town, WV 25414-7388
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