Gregorian chant mass, San Francisco, Sat March 4th
- A Latin Mass according to the Anglican Rite will be celebrated at
Church of the Advent of Christ the King on Saturday, March 4th at
5.00pm. The Gregorian propers for the Eve of the First Sunday in
Lent will be sung by the Schola Cantorum, directed by Paul M.
Ellison. The congregation will sing the Missa Deus genitor alme.
Following ancient custom, the mass will begin with the Great Litany
A reception follows in Lathrop Hall. Advent is located at 261 Fell
Street, between Franklin and Gough in San Francisco. (415) 431-5439
Please join us, and step out of the modern world and back in time,
into the timeless world that chant inhabits.
A Short Introduction to Gregorian chant
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: http://wikipedia.org/
Gregorian chant is also known as plainchant or plainsong and is a
form of monophonic, unaccompanied singing, which was developed in the
Roman Catholic Church, mainly during the period 800-1000. It takes
its name from Pope Gregory the Great, who is believed to have brought
it to the West based on Eastern models of Byzantine chant. Gregorian
chant was traditionally sung by monks and was used during religious
services. It is the music of the Roman Rite of the Mass, also known
as the Tridentine rite.
Unaccompanied singing has been part of the liturgy of the Christian
church since its beginnings. Three separate roots for singing of
chant have been proposed: the musical practice in the synagogue
during the apostolic period; early Christian tradition; and pagan
traditions, music for which is now lost. For the first few
centuries, up until about 400, information is very scant indeed.
Scholars are still hotly debating the period between roughly 400 and
800. According to the Advent Project theory of James McKinnon, it
appears that in the latter part of the 7th century, a large part of
the Roman Mass had been put together rather consciously in a short
period of time. Other scholars, including Andreas Pfisterer, have
argued for an earlier origin. The music to accompany the Mass was
apparently also collected in this period. Since Gregorian chant is
remarkably uniform in geographically very distant regions, and this
unification happened in a rather short time, most likely around 800,
the bulk of evidence suggests that a major effort at making the
repertory consistent happened at this time. Scholars still debate
whether the essentials of the melodies originated in Rome, before the
eighth century, or in Francia, in the eighth and early ninth
centuries. In all likelihood, chant is at least as old as the
breakup of the western Roman Empire in the 5th century, but mutated
into different forms in different regions until brought together into
one unified repertory under Charlemagne.
In the ninth and tenth century, the first sources with decipherable
(but not pitch-readable) musical notation are found. These are known
as staffless neumes. Before notation, chant melodies were passed down
orally. Notation helped to standardize the melodies and reduced the
need for memorization. Most scholars of Gregorian chant agree that
the development of music notation assisted the dissemination of chant
across a thousand miles of Europe; indeed, it may have been
impossible any other way, since there is no evidence of mutation
across distance. Survivals of notated manuscripts, however, are few,
and restricted to a few locations in Germany (Regensburg),
Switzerland (St. Gall) and France (Laon, St Martial). Most of the
Gregorian chant familiar today, at least that in the Mass, has
changed little since this time.
The music and its performers
In most Western music since the Renaissance there are two modes: the
major and minor scales. The Major scale is built upon the Do and the
minor scale the La. The various keys that are used affect only the
range of the notes, or the pitch. Essentially the scale is the same,
only transposed, or moved, to a different range.
Many hear Gregorian chant and think of it as a very simplified
version of modern music. While it is simple in its lack of harmony,
the modal system involved is quite complex, and uses the theoretical
system of 8 modes. While some pieces fall outside these modes, most
obey the theory. The actual theory behind modality is quite
complicated, but essentially each mode is a unique scale system, in
addition to our major and minor scales. In this manner plainsong is
much richer than the simplified bimodal modern system, but this makes
some of the sounds of Gregorian chant unusual to ears attuned to
modern scalar modes.
Unlike modern music there is no beat or regular accent to Gregorian
Chant. In fact the time is free, allowing the accenting of the text,
which often includes sections of unequal length and importance.
The actual pitch of the Gregorian chant is not fixed, so the piece
can be sung at any range, so long as the intervals are respected.
Chant is commonly written on a staff similar to the modern
5-line-4-space staff, but the Gregorian staff has 4 lines and 3
spaces. The notes, called neumes, are somewhat similar to modern
notes, but often do not include stems and can be stacked, not to
create harmonic chords, but to indicate the sequence.
Example of chant notation:
Traditionally chant would be sung only by men, as it was originally
simply the music sung by all the clergy (all male) during the Mass
and Office (prayer sessions scheduled seven times throughout the
day). As the Church expanded away from the larger cities, the number
of clergy at each Church dropped, and lay men started singing these
parts. In Convents women were permitted to sing the Mass and Office
as a function of their consecrated life, but the choir was still
considered an official liturgical duty reserved to clergy, so lay
women were not allowed to sing in the Gregorian Schola or chant
As harmony began to develop in the middle ages and into the
Renaissance younger boys and castrati would sing the high parts. As
these numbers dwindled and the music became popular away from the
major cities, women gradually were permitted to sing the polyphonic
Eventually popes, especially Pope St. Pius X, encouraged the faithful
to sing the Ordinary of the Mass. In his motu proprio Tra le
sollicitudine, Pius X reserved the singing of the propers for males.
While this custom is maintained in some communities, the Catholic
Church no longer exercises this ban.
Gregorian chant in the liturgy
Gregorian chant, like the chants of the other rites, was later used
to sing only certain parts of the liturgy. The rest of the parts are
sung by the bishops, priests, and deacons with a certain default
assigning of notes to words depending on their place in a sentence.
The parts sung in the Gregorian chant style in the Roman Mass include:
* The Introit
* The Kyrie
* The Gloria
* The Gradual
* The Alleluia
* The Credo
* The Offertory
* The Sanctus and Benedictus
* The Agnus Dei
* The Communion
The Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion texts are
called the Propers because they are "proper" to day and season. The
Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei remain
unchanged, being "ordinary" parts of the Mass and thus called the
Ordinary of the Mass. The most complete collection of these chants
into modern times was in the publication known as the Liber Usualis
(Usual Book), which contains all of the chants for the Tridentine
Mass. However, the Liber Usualis is rarely used outside monasteries;
the most commonly-used reference for Propers and Ordinary in the Mass
is the Graduale Romanum.
It should be noted that the Catholic church allowed later music
written by individual composers, such as Giovanni Pierluigi da
Palestrina (c. 1525-1594), to replace the Gregorian chant of the
Ordinary of the Mass. This is why for example a Mozart Mass would
feature the Kyrie but not the Introit.
The Propers may be replaced by choral settings, as well, on certain
solemn occasions. Among the most frequent to compose such polyphonic
replacements for the Gregorian chant Propers were English composer
William Byrd (c. 1540-1623) and Spanish composer Tomas Luis de
Even with the advent of polyphony and accompanied melody, Gregorian
Chant remained the official liturgical music of the Catholic Church.
Popes have enjoined the faithful to give chant the pre-eminence it