“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.)
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.