English Proper Chants

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John Ainslie
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English Proper Chants

Post by John Ainslie » Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:12 am

I am pleased to announce the launch of English Proper Chants - chant settings of the entrance and communion antiphons of the Missal, ICEL translation.

You can find them at http://www.benedicamus.org.uk/chants - the first two seasons'-worth are available now, the rest to follow in due course. If you want to find out the why and wherefore, consult http://www.benedicamus.org.uk.

You will note that you can copy the downloads for your local community without charge, subject to the usual copyright conditions.

I hope readers will find them interesting - and some, useful. Others may like to take up the challenge of composing entrance and communion songs in other musical styles.

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Gwyn
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Re: English Proper Chants

Post by Gwyn » Tue Oct 29, 2013 11:27 am

Splendid work John, I love the melodic flow. Beautifully type-set too.

Just the right thing at the right time I'd say.

Gwyn.

JW
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Re: English Proper Chants

Post by JW » Tue Oct 29, 2013 5:00 pm

Thank you for making these freely available. The Forward and instructions on how to sing the chants are likely to be very useful. Although use of these chants may be restricted to relatively few religious communities and parishes this is, nonetheless, a valuable addition to the church music repertoire.
JW

IncenseTom
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Re: English Proper Chants

Post by IncenseTom » Wed Oct 30, 2013 5:12 pm

Yes, lovely. This solves a real problem for me. More texturally accurate than the Simple English Propers and still and easy and accessible way into chant.
Thank you, John.

dmu3tem
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Re: English Proper Chants

Post by dmu3tem » Mon Nov 18, 2013 10:58 am

The latest issue of the Monastic Musicians newsletter has several articles/transcripts/summaries about the composition of new English Propers including items by John Ainslie and Martin Foster. These are the fruits of their 'summer school' this year; which was devoted to that theme.

All make for interesting and revealing reading. The aspects that strike me are:

[1] A focus on unaccompanied monodic line. Accompaniment, if it is used at all, seems to mean just that - something that supports but does not appear to add anything extra to the vocal line.

[2] A general desire to use a plainchant type line; following the aesthetic/liturgical tastes associated with Solesmes approach to this genre. In many cases the object seems to be to adapt existing plainchant material to English texts. There is also a definite leaning towards the use of medieval neums.

Now I did not attend this summer school; so there is every possibility that what I read in the newsletter did not give me the whole story. So I would be interested to hear about any 'corrections' or additions to what is there.

However, such approaches fit in with the fact that that Monastic musicians are of course thinking about monastic communities, and mainly enclosed ones at that; where the ambiance is rather different from what you might find in a 'secular' parish. Nonetheless the ecclesiastical authorities seem to be endorsing a plainchant approach by their recommendation in favour of the Solesmes Gradual publications.

So this raises three questions:

[1] How far can music designed for an enclosed community be appropriately used in a 'secular' parish?
[2] If the answer is only 'to some extent', should composers working in a parish context not be exploring other approaches to the Proper?
[3] Should we revive the use of medieval neums? What are their merits and demerits in comparison with modern notation?
T.E.Muir

IncenseTom
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Re: English Proper Chants

Post by IncenseTom » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:25 pm

dmu3tem wrote:[3] Should we revive the use of medieval neums? What are their merits and demerits in comparison with modern notation?


In my parish choir there is only one other person who reads music and when singing chant the 'non-readers' pick up music in nuems much more quickly. It's as if it's a graphic score for them and they follow the shapes. This seems to give them a bit of a confidence boost when learning new music.

On the flip side, those who are not of a traditional/chant persuasion have a potentially negative association when they see the nuems, and think "I thought we'd moved on from all this nonsense in the 60's!"

I think somehow you get a different sound when you sing from nuems and singing chant from modern notation can feel a bit contrived. That's just me, though - if it's easier for folk to sing from modern notation then great.

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Nick Baty
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Re: English Proper Chants

Post by Nick Baty » Tue Nov 19, 2013 12:02 am

dmu3tem wrote:should composers working in a parish context not be exploring other approaches to the Proper?
And should we be swapping our responses to The Processional? I'd be interesting in seeing what other people have done.

John Ainslie
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Re: English Proper Chants

Post by John Ainslie » Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:47 am

This is exactly the kind of discussion about 'Proper' texts that I hoped would result from my efforts.

I refer readers to my Best-Practice Guide, for which you'll find the link on the third page of http://www.benedicamus.org.uk/chants. The first four lines of my Foreword read:
This collection of settings of the Entrance and Communion antiphons of the Roman Missal has been compiled principally for use by religious and collegiate communities for whom chant is a familiar, significant and practical vehicle for worship.

You can read a little more about my approach on the front page of my website. I would be mortified if, as a result of my initiative, a congregation was to be reduced to the status of spectators by a choir takeover in the name of chant.

1) Neums and all that

I wrote my originals in Gregorian chant notation because (a) I wanted to express a certain style, (b) it looked much cleaner and neater than the modern notation versions. I adopted a 'blobby' modern notation with some reluctance; personally I find it less easy to read than the chant notation, but then I am very familiar with the latter. Only the accompaniment version shows at a glance where the natural rhythm of the English text falls - and that is crucial for good singing of the chant I have composed.

2) The texts

Working with the antiphon texts from the Missal has been quite a revelation. Apart from those for the Sundays in Ordinary Time, they are very much to the point. Often they get to the meaning or significance of the day in a quite illuminating way. And the psalms appointed to go with the antiphons nicely complement them.

It's only in Ordinary Time that you might question the point of a particular antiphon. But then they were never meant to tie in with the readings of the day: most of them were arbitrarily placed, witness their assignments to successive Sundays in numerical order of psalm! For the Entrance Antiphon I question whether it should preview the readings of the day - wait for the Liturgy of the Word to be proclaimed! For the Communion Antiphon you'll sometimes find antiphons in the Processional (i.e. from the Missal or Graduale) that have been chosen to go with the Gospel for one or more of the years of the three-year Lectionary cycle. And there's plenty of latitude in the rubrics to use antiphons from other Sundays - why not repeat a good one on successive Sundays so that the people can really ingest and absorb it and make it their prayer?

blackthorn fairy
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Re: English Proper Chants

Post by blackthorn fairy » Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:21 pm

Re neums etc - YES YES YES. Blobs and other attempts at transcribing the untranscribable are worse than useless.The proper notation gives you all you need to know. Whoever decided on blobs on five lines in the new Missal deserves to be strung up.

Southern Comfort
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Re: English Proper Chants

Post by Southern Comfort » Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:05 am

blackthorn fairy wrote:Re neums etc - YES YES YES. Blobs and other attempts at transcribing the untranscribable are worse than useless.The proper notation gives you all you need to know. Whoever decided on blobs on five lines in the new Missal deserves to be strung up.


Well, you're talking about the three people who formerly made up the ICEL Music Subcommittee so lots of string will be needed ! :lol: — enough to span three continents, in fact. One American, one Englishman, one Australian. Then you have to add this man, who was formerly ICEL's resident chant specialist and an assistant editor: http://www.scribd.com/doc/106472149/Jason-J-McFarland-Cv who was responsible for insisting on the "blobby-ness" and who policed it. He seems to have fled to China now....

As if some of the chants themselves weren't bad enough, the blobby notation is one of the curses of the new Missal !

blackthorn fairy
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Re: English Proper Chants

Post by blackthorn fairy » Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:21 am

To China??? With luck on a slow boat... HA HA

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