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Simple English Propers

For the Ordinary Form of the Mass
Sundays and Feasts

- Adam Bartlett

  Simple English Propers

Format: Book (439 pages)
Edition: Hardcover
Published by: Church Music Association of America

This extraordinary book has been met with widespread acclaim for the beauty and versatility of the music — and also for being the first generally accessible book of chanted propers in English for every parish. It provides complete entrance, offertory, and communion propers in English with Psalms in modal chant, with four-line, square-note notation, for all Sundays and feasts. They can be sung by a single cantor or a full choir. The modes from the Gregorian original are wholly preserved to capture the sound and feel of the Graduale Romanum proper chants. They follow a total of 24 chant formulas to make singing easy for any choir in any parish. The project is sponsored by the Church Music Association of America, and is also published by the CMAA, at whose website downloads are also available.

From the Introduction:

Why Propers?

This book provides music for the propers of the Mass, which are integral to the structure of the liturgy and which have been sung since the earliest centuries. The entrance, offertory, and communion chants in this book are for use in the ordinary form of the Roman Rite. The translations of the antiphons found in this collection are from the Gregorian Missal as published by Solesmes, and the psalms verses are taken from the Revised Grail Psalter. You can find these texts in Latin in their Gregorian musical setting in the Graduale Romanum.

How important are the propers in the Ordinary Form of the liturgy?

In 1969, the Vatican's Consilium that released the new Mass in the Ordinary Form was asked a question about the old prohibition of singing the propers at Low Masses with hymns: The unambiguous answer came back: "That rule has been superseded. What must be sung is the Mass, its Ordinary and Proper, not 'something', no matter how consistent, that is imposed on the Mass … To continue to replace the texts of the Mass … is to cheat the people." This is why the General Instruction on the Roman Missal [GIRM] speaks of adding decorum to the processions (entrance, offertory, and communion) by singing the "chants proper to them" (#44). "When the people are gathered, the Entrance Chant begins" (#47). "The procession bringing the gifts is accompanied by the Offertory Chant, which continues at least until the gifts have been placed on the altar" (#74). "While the priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion Chant is begun" (#86). If we are to grant chant pride of place at Mass (#41), the propers of the Mass clearly need greater attention.

As Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in The Spirit of Liturgy, "the biblical and liturgical texts are the normative words from which liturgical music has to take its bearings." However, despite the frequent mention of Mass propers in many documents, there has been a surprising dearth of resources available to sing the propers in English, which is a step toward singing the Mass instead of just singing at Mass. The Simple English Propers provides music for the full liturgical action of these processions for singers who have not previously sung Mass propers. They are designed to be used without accompaniment. They are flexible enough to be sung by a cantor alone or by a large choir that can sing in unison in two octaves or be divided into high voices and low voices. The people are free to join in but this is not necessary, for the propers of the Mass belong primarily to the choir.

Jeffrey Tucker

From an online review:

It is hard to believe that the English-speaking Catholic world has had to wait 40 years for a dignified setting of the proper antiphons of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, but it's best to look forward to future riches rather than lament the gaps of the past. This book contains beautifully rendered, easily sung settings of the Entrance antiphon (or Introit), Offertory antiphon, and Communion antiphon for every Sunday and major feastday of the liturgical year (including instances where there are different options for Years A, B, and C).

When used at Mass, the Simple English Propers effect a truly wonderful and refreshing change. Instead of singing a random hymn or even a hymn loosely related to the Sunday or feastday theme, the cantor or choir can sing the actual text appointed by the official liturgical books, in a Gregorian chant idiom passed down to us by our forefathers in the faith stretching all the way back to the early Church. The antiphons sound, in short, like sacred music: music that is woven of divine things, sung in honor of the Lord, and capable of raising people's minds to Him, in keeping with the specific aims of the liturgy of the day. We are, as earlier popes have put it, singing the Mass, not just singing at Mass.

The chant notation is very easy to read once you get the hang of it — the introduction walks the user through the learning process in a few simple steps. I would say to any liturgical musician eager to promote beautiful music, as Pope Benedict XVI has asked us to do, and who wishes to follow conscientiously the norms of the Catholic Church for her worship: do not hesitate to get this book, and begin using it as soon as possible!

Dr. Peter A. Kwasniewski


Order #: 2250
Price: $25.00


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