Preparing for Lent – Mass XVII


Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and requirements of the rubrics.”

Sacrosanctum Concilium
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy – Second Vatican Council 1963

Whenever we change the Ordinary at Mass, people object. The last time we sang Mass XI ‘Orbis Factor‘ some members of the congregation complained they did not like the new Sanctus or why could we  not go back to the Gloria that everyone knows.  You can’t blame them really. In our parish we stick with the Missa de Angelis for Ordinary Sundays, Christmas and Easter, and Mass XVIII (sometimes with the ‘Orbis Factor’ Kyrie) for Advent and Lent. Everyone knows these Ordinaries really well and they sing them well.

This Lent we are singing Mass XVII, the correct Ordinary for Sundays in Lent. I am nervous the congregation will not join in. It is so important that they do, the Ordinary is the Chant of the congregation after all. At our choir practices we have been learning it for the last few weeks. The choir have picked it up very quickly, it is easier than the Missa De Angelis.  I think it is rather beautiful, actually.

Does anyone have any tips for teaching the Congregation a new Mass setting?

Here are all the parts for Mass XVII from the absolutely brilliant site Saint Antoine Daniel. Note we are singing Kyrie B. The recordings are fantastic on this site. Last night, we sang through each part of the Mass and then listened to these recordings. It was extremely profitable.

Learning to sing the Introit for 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Factus est Dominus

The Gregorian singer must treat words as holy things.” Dom Gregory Sunol

Factus est Dominus protector meus (The Lord has become  my protector,)

et edúxit me in latitúdinem : (he has brought me forth into  free and open spaces/a large place:)

salvum me fecit, quóniam vóluit me. (he delivered/saved  me because he was well pleased with me.)

Ps. Diligam te Dómine fortitúdo mea:   (I will love you  always, O Lord )

Dóminus firmamentúm meum, (O Lord my  strength/firmament,)

et refúgium meum, et liberátor meus (and my refuge, and my deliverer.)


Before starting to sing any piece of chant, it is crucial that you begin by looking at the text, (‘in the beginning was the word,’ remember?) Read it aloud, leaning gently on the accented syllables, and lengthening the vowel sounds. Try to sound like an Italian!

With this particular Introit for the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time in the OF and the second Sunday after Pentecost in the EF, be particularly careful with the pronounciation of the opening words ‘”Farktoos est Dohmeenoos” and remember that ‘me‘ is pronouned ‘may‘ and the ‘c’ of  ‘fecit‘ is a hard ‘c’ (faychit.)

From Jogueschant

Now you can look at the notes or neumes. Which words or syllables  have the most notes/neumes attached to them? This will give you a clue to the most important words in the text and ultimately will help you understand more completely the Introit’s overall meaning. Take the first line for example. We know the Lord (‘Dominus‘) is important, that goes without saying, but the most important word in this sentence is not ‘Dominus‘, it only has four notes after all,  it is ‘protector.’ There are nine notes attached to ‘protector‘ and there is a horizontal episema  (a small line above the note) at the start of the last group of note which tells you to lengthen that note.  There is also a ‘liquescent’ (written as a smaller note) but  l’ll explain that in more detail at a later date.  It is worth mentioning  that the liquescent is there to remind you to carefully pronounce the end of the syllable and the first syllable of the next word, ‘meus.’ Continue  looking  through the text and you should come to ‘latitúdinem‘  and then onto  ‘vóluit.’  Remember, with chant you are always singing the text. Try and understand the words you are singing and this will in turn help you to appreciate the beauty of Gregorian Chant.  It will also aid your breathing. For example, you can’t breath after ‘Factus est Dominus’ because the meaning of the sentence is incomplete. You must sneak a breath somewhere else. There must be no discernible break until after ‘meus,’ when the meaning is complete.

The next step is to always  sing the text through on one note (recto tono.)   This gives you a good indication of the speed that the chant should be sung, slightly slower than you would speak it, but not too slow to lose the momentum of ‘sung speech.’  You should start to hear a rhythm in the phrasing.

(Trivial piece of information  ‘The lord has become my protector’ is on Swedish coins

Now listen to the Factus es Dominus.


Recognise the beginning?  That first interval (a 5th) and then the flattened third note is very common with the opening of Mode One Introits. Suscepimus Deus (Candlemas) and Gaudeamus (All Saints) are the two that instantly spring to mind.

When you are learning the notes, always start by singing the psalm through before you attempt the antiphon. This will give you a greater understanding of the sound and characteristics of the Mode .If you are interested in the features of Mode 1, the chanting note of the psalm is ‘LAH’  (Doh, Ray, Me, Fah, Soh, Lah, Tee, Doh…), this is the dominant note in which the  whole piece centres around, the final note or resting note is ‘RAY’ or ‘RE’  These two notes LAH and RE are the strongest notes in this mode. Look through the piece and identify where Lah and Re occur.

TIP: Remember, the Doh Clef at the beginning-the thing that looks like a telephone- tells you that the top line is Doh. Now you have to count back down the stave to work out where Lah is and then where Doh is an octave below.

The next step is to look for the repetition of groups of notes. These can be practiced first. The Porrectus’  (group of three notes where the lazy monk could not be bothered to draw in all the notes) on the ‘te’ of protector, the ‘fe’ of ‘fecit’ and the ‘lu’ of voluit’ are all the same. Now focus on ‘protéctor’ and then ‘vóluit.’ They are the trickiest bits of the piece. If you can, find a friend and try singing ‘protector’  in pairs facing each other. You will soon realise if you are making any mistakes, you will be singing something different to your partner. This is also a good aid to singing together, the essence to beautiful chant. Once you have mastered those notes, you are ready to join all the sections together.

If you think of the antiphon of this particular Introit in terms of two sections, the first section centres around ‘Lah” and then the second section drops in pitch by a tone and centres around ‘So.’ A couple more pointers – remember you can take a big breath at the whole bar in the middle of the two sections and be careful with the high notes. As you hit that high note on the ‘du’ of edúxit’ soften off. It’s not opera.

Thanks to a friend of mine who recently studied at Solesmes and came back with some very useful tips on singing this Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time Introit from the great Chant Director there, Dom Ives-Marie.

Singing Mode V

At our Tuesday evening choir practice we have begun to look at the characteristics of the principal eight modes of Gregorian Chant. Last week, we talked about mode VI and it’s ‘piety’ with relation to  ‘Ubi Caritas.’ This week we moved onto everyone’s favourite mode (possibly), the very familiar but you’re not quite sure why, mode V.

Wikipedia tells you mode V is the authentic mode ending on F (fah), sometimes called the Lydian mode. Yawn. Any chant manual will tell you the tonic or the resting note of mode V is ‘Fah’ hence why it can be called the ‘Fah mode.’ Still awake? Now all this pub quiz information might be useful to me when l am  bashing out the notes on the piano practicing for this week’s Introit ‘Domine, in tua misericordia sperávi’ which conveniently happens to be in mode V ( I know it starts on ‘F’ if l choose to play it at that particular pitch.)

Introit for 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time

To most people, particularly those who can’t read music, this kind of modal rule book stuff is pretty tedious. What we really want to know about the modes is what moods they evoke, what makes each mode individual and most importantly, how this in turn relates back to the text that we are singing.

So mode V. Firstly, why is it so familiar? Probably because we sing it every week. Take Credo III and the Kyrie and Gloria from the Missa de Angelis for starters. From the Marian Antiphons, the Salve Regina and the Alma Redemptoris Mater (simple tones) and even the Adoro Te. They are all mode V.

Secondly, why do congregations generally love singing mode five chant?

Guido D’Arrezzo, the godfather of notation, said mode V is the mode that ‘makes you happy.’ Another terribly important musicologist a few centuries later said,  ‘it’s the mode that can break sadness.’  Actually, l’m paraphrasing as l can’t be bothered to look up exactly what he said but it was something to that effect. Mode V could be described as a ‘major’ mode, as it uses the major 3rd, ‘the happy sounding 3rd,’ if you like. Modes 1 to 4 are sometimes described as the Minor modes because they employ the device of a minor 3rd (boo hoo) 5 to 8 are major (sort of) and therefore happier (yippee.)

Thirdly, how can we recognize mode V? What are it’s unique characteristics? One of my choir described it as the ‘train announcement mode.’ You hear those three triadic notes before the train times are announced, (bing, bing, bing.), and you know it’s mode five.

Look at the first three notes of the Adoro Te, the great hymn of St.Thomas Aquinas we regularly sing at Communion. It’s the announcement ‘bings’ going up.

Look at the first three notes of Credo III, there we have the same arpeggio, this time going back down the scale.

This simple pattern of notes recurs throughout mode five. Recognise those notes, and it really helps with the pitching.

Finally, the reason we were looking at Mode V last night, was because this Lent, we are going to sing the correct Lenten Ordinary for Sundays, Mass XVII. You’ll never guess what mode the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei are written in?   and look at how they begin….  The 5.12 from Clapham Junction anyone?

Ubi Caritas Est

Ubi Caritas is taken from the antiphons sung during the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet at the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. (In the Ordinary Form it is sung at the Offertory on Holy Thursday. )  This hymn written in Mode 6, the ‘pious mode,’ speaks of the infinite joys of Christian love and is intimately linked to Eucharistic adoration. Little is known of its origins but this hymn may have been written shortly after the first Millenium by a French composer. Recent tradition has the first line as “Ubi caritas et amor” (where charity and love are), but certain very early manuscripts show “Ubi caritas est vera” (where charity is true). The Roman Missal of 1962 favours the former version and this is the version we are studying.

The text of the first verse can be translated as Where charity and love are, God is there also; since the love of God has brought us together, let us rejoice, love the living God, and love one another with sincerity.”

There is a polyphonic setting of Ubi Caritas by Duruflé which we sang last year on Holy Thursday. There is also a Taizé chant of Ubi Caritas Est.

We will be singing Ubi Caritas at Communion on the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time.