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Musical Musings: Miscellaneous

Understanding the Chant Volumes

by Gary D. Penkala

There is renewed interest in the official chant books of the Church, prompted perhaps by a fresh look at the new General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) which specifically recommends their use. Here is a "Liturgical Lexicon" of the volumes of Gregorian chant, from historical (some out of print) to the current books (still printed and used).

Note: Two volumes, the Graduale Romanum and the Graduale Simplex are available from CanticaNOVA Publications.

Historical Books

  • Breviarium romanum [Roman Breviary]
    A breviary contains the texts for the Divine Office. The current Latin edition, Liturgia horarium, is in four volumes, as is the English translation for the U.S., The Liturgy of the Hours. Some early Breviaries included music with the texts.

  • Liber usualis [Common Book]
    The Liber, as this book was commonly known, was a very convenient volume containing chants necessary for the Divine Office and for Mass (ordinaries and propers). It was a very popular book, published by the monks of the Abbey of Solesmes (France), and in addition to providing all one might need to sing the Office and the Mass, it also included rules of interpretation based on the research spearheaded by this Abbey. The Liber usualis was first published during the time of the Mass of Saint Pius V (the "Tridentine" liturgy), and of course would use the structure and calendar of the pre-Vatican II liturgy. There is limited official use for this volume today (perhaps at approved Tridentine Masses), but it is newly published by Saint Bonaventure Publications in Great Fall MT. It may have historical interest as a concise volume of beloved chant.

  • Antiphonale romanum [Roman Antiphonary]
    While the Liber usualis contained music for both the Divine Office and the Mass, the Antiphonary had only the music that was used in the Hours (Divine Office). The chants for Mass could be found in the Graduale romanum. Only the pre-Vatican II edition of this book is available; an updated version (with new calendar and feasts) is presently being compiled.

  • Graduale romanum 1907 [Roman Gradual]
    While the Liber usualis contained music for both the Divine Office and the Mass, the Graduale had only the music that was used at Mass. The chants for the Office could be found in the Antiphonale romanum. A new, updated version of the Graduale romanum has been published by the monks of Solesmes and will be available from CNP soon [see below].


Contemporary Books

  • Graduale romanum 1979 [Roman Gradual]
    Yes, this momentous volume is now available in its revised form, matching the calendar and format of the Novus Ordo Mass. CanticaNOVA Publications will carry the new Graduale romanum, published by the monks of the Abbey of Solesmes, beginning in the Fall 2004 Catalog. The book contains all the "official" chants mentioned in the GIRM: Entrance (Introit), Psalm after the Reading (Gradual), Alleluia or Tract [during Lent], Offertory (Offertorium), and Communion (Communione). These are the first-choice preferences for what is to be sung at Mass, as noted in the GIRM. The book is very useful for reference or for a practical volume with which a Schola can sing some of the "preferred" music of the Roman Rite.

  • Graduale simplex [Simple Gradual]
    The Simple Gradual is a more "user-friendly" version of the Graduale romanum, with simpler chants. This latter book contains specific, proper chants for all the Sundays and solemnities of the liturgical year. The Simplex, however, has specific, simplified chants for each Sunday during Advent, Christmastide and Lent only. For the seasons of Easter and Ordinary Time several "composite Masses" are offered. From among these, one can choose Mass propers to be sung on any Sunday. The Simple Gradual is the book referred to in Option 2 for the Entrance chant (and other music) in the GIRM. It is an official, approved volume, very useful to those parishes wishing to introduce some Gregorian chant propers into the liturgy. Like the Graduale romanum, the Graduale simplex will be available from CNP beginning with the Fall 2004 Catalog.

  • Missale romanum [Roman Missal (Sacramentary)]
    This is commonly called the Sacramentary; it is the book used by the celebrant at the chair and the altar, from which he reads (sings) the prayers specific to each Mass. It also contains the "Ordinary" of the Mass (i.e. the parts that don't change week to week). The "preface" to the Roman Missal is called the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) and contains liturgical directives and rubrics for Mass. Once promulgated in Latin, the Missale is translated into vernacular languages; these translations are sent to the Holy See for final approval. The first typical edition (with the revised Mass texts and calendar after Vatican II) was published in 1965. A second typical edition was approved in 1975. The last revision of the Missale romanum, the third typical edition, was approved in its Latin form in 2002. The GIRM for this third edition (containing directives and rubrics) was translated into English, and the translation was approved. The Missale itself currently has no approved English translation. The translation made by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) was rejected by the Holy See for its inaccuracies and for having strayed from the correct text (perhaps with an "agenda" in mind). Consequently, we in the U.S. are bound by the directives in the GIRM 2002, while we still use the prayers and translations from the older 1975 Missal, pending approval of an accurate and more eloquent translation.

  • Ordo Lectionum Missæ [Lectionary]
    This volume, though not really a chant book, is the other important book used at Mass. It holds all the readings (lection means "reading") used at Mass. In its official English translation, the Lectionary has since 1998 been published in four volumes:
    1. Sundays & Solemnities (Years A, B, C)
    2. Weekdays – Year I
    3. Weekdays – Year II
    4. Ritual & Votive Masses (including marriage and funeral)
    All the Mass readings are found in these four volumes. Other books offer specific excerpts for various circumstances. For instance, a Book of Gospels is published, containing only the Gospel readings. This is carried in procession at the Entrance Rite by the deacon (or lector) and is placed on the altar; it is then carried to the ambo during the Gospel Acclamation and used for the proclamation of the Gospel. Other rite books (e.g. Baptism, Marriage, Funeral) may excerpt the pertinent readings from the full Lectionary.

  • Kyriale
    In the Roman Gradual [see above] one can find all the chants for Mass, both the propers (specific chants for each Sunday, like the Introit, Psalm, Communion, etc.) and the ordinaries (the chants that never change, like the Sprinkling Rite, Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, etc.). This book, the Kyriale, contains only the Ordinary of the Mass, specifically: Asperges me, Vidi aquam, Masses I through XVIII, Credos I through VI and a number of ad libitum chants and hymns.
Some contemporary publications are small, practical editions of familiar and useful chants:
Jubilate Deo – a minimum repertoire of chant, according to Pope Paul VI
Liber cantualis – 8 chant Masses, 4 sequences, 40 hymns & psalms
Cantus selecti – popular chants for the liturgical year
Other books are useful for reference:
Graduale triplex
This is the Graduale romanum set in typical chant notation, while above are printed the neums from the Laon manuscript in black, and below, the neums of the manuscript of the Saint Gall family in red. The three systems of neums are useful to the scholar and advanced singer for proper interpretation of the chant.

Liber hymnarius
This book contains the great chant office hymns of the Liturgy of the Hours. These hymns, in stanza format, are some of the most often quoted pieces in the Gregorian repertoire. Examples: Rorate coeli desuper, Puer natus in Bethlehem, Vexilla regis prodeunt, Ad regias Agni dapes, Veni Creator Spiritus. These selections are the only hymns prescribed in the Roman Rite; note that they occur not at Mass, but in the Liturgy of the Hours, at the beginning of the celebration of each Hour. There are no hymns (i.e. musical poems with regular, repetitive stanzas) called for during Mass — the current practice in the U.S. notwithstanding.
Some of these volumes should be in the library of every Catholic choir. There is no excuse for perpetuating our ignorance of Gregorian chant, which should be given "pride of place" in the Roman Rite. The choir director and schola should also have at least the Graduale romanum and/or the Graduale simplex for reference and singing. Check back at the CNP website in August for purchase options.

See also CNP's low-cost Booklets of Chant.

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