How to sing the Requiem chant according to the Solesmes tradition – Pt 2: The Gradual

Requiem Aeternam, the Gradual from the Missa pro defunctoris is typically unlike other Mode II chants. Mode II Graduals tend to have a different character to their Mode II counterparts with a wider ambitus and their own unique musical vocabulary. Here the structural notes are LA and DO and these should be kept heavy throughout the piece. The other ornamental notes should be sung with a lighter touch.

Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine;
In memoria æterna erit justus,
ab auditione mala non timebit.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
He shall be justified in everlasting memory,
and shall not fear evil reports.

Requiem aetérnam

Don’t rush the first notes of Requiem. The first three notes that form the Req of Requiem must be sung with equal length. Allow time for the choir to come in together on aeternum – you can break between Requiem and aeternum to ensure clarity of sound. As you sing the porrectus on ter of aeternum lean on the final TI before you move on to the next all important structural note DO. As you near the end of that aeternam neumatic group, put in a caesura before the final three notes, again as a device to emphasis the important structural note LA.

dona eis Domine:

When you reach the top notes, as with the introit Requiem Aeternam do not be afraid to linger on these notes. The top note of  the Salicus  on the do of dona is a perfect example. Remember the note before, despite having a vertical episema under it is not for sitting on, it is a ‘John the Baptist note. On the ne of Domine accent the double DO virgas not forgetting that the following note with the vertical episema is another of those important structural notes. The note after the quilisma is important (DO) and then on treat the final torculus as though it has a horizontal episema over it.

et lux perpétua

It is important to give lux its full syllabic value. Do not rush over it. Again towards the end of the neumatic group accent the two DO virgas

lúceat eis

Don’t be afraid to finish the syllables. Make a small emphatic break after luceat to ensure that the t is well inunicated The podatus on eis with a horizonal episema can be lengthened on both neumes. The same rule applies with this quilismatic group as with the previous quilismatic group, remembering to lengthen the top note of the Salicus before sliding gently into the next group of neumes over the quarter bar line. On the final quilismatic group before the double bar line again lengthen the penultimate note, the DO.

Follow the same principles for the verse. When you reach non timébit  lengthen both neumes on the podatus with the horizonal episema on é before adding another caesura before starting bit. On the final group acknowledge the final DO notes. Accent the double DO at the end of the first salicus and then into the podatus and lengthen the final DO after the quilisma.

How to sing the Requiem Chants according to current Solesmes teaching – Pt 1: The Introit

The Introit to the Missa Pro Defunctis  (Mass for the Dead) the Requiem Aeternam, is a very familiar piece to most people. Virtually any Catholic will be familiar with the text  and the music is regularly sung due to its simplicity and of course its importance. There are plenty of recordings on the internet  but most of these are all sung in a similar vein. It might come as a surprise to you that the current Solesmes practice of singing this Introit, as I discovered last Saturday at St Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight, is very different to anything you might have heard before.

What follows is a synopsis of the current practice of singing Requiem Aeternam as taught to my Schola by Sister Bernadette, the choir mistress of St. Cecilia’s. (Any quotations in speech marks are from St Bernadette. )

Firstly a couple of points on Mode VI.  This mode found a lot in Paschaltide  is the mode of rebirth. “The mode of simple and solid faith.” It is often pentatonic and characterised by a major third. The dominant is LA, the range of the mode is from Do to Do and the Final is FA. FA and LA are therefore the structural notes of this mode.  Sister has a theory that children naturally sing in Mode VI and would be grateful if someone would like to do a Phd on the subject to prove her thesis.

Moving on to the practice of singing the Requiem Aeternam, it is important at the very beginning that you start with a solid repetition on the FA FA on the Req of Requiem. Those first two notes are so commonly heard as one longer note. (Incidentally, the ideal note to start the chant on is F.)

The next and probably the most marked difference in how this introit it is commonly sung and how Solesmes interpret it are on the four identical salicus’  FA, SO, LAH.  They are found on the ae of aeternum, on the  do of  dona, the mi  of  Domine and the e of eis. Listen to virtually any recording and you will hear the practice of sitting on the vertical episema found on the second note in the Salicus. The Solesmes practice is that when it is sung, the first note is light, the second note is a contradiction note which then draws you to the top note, the most important and the strongest note.

(If you are wondering what a contradiction note is, in some monastic houses, it is  referred to as the ‘John the Baptist note.’ Meaning ‘l am not the important note, the one who comes after me is the important one. ‘ The contradiction note should not be confused with a quilisma which is not important even when in this chant it falls on the ‘lah. “A quilisma serves the purpose of being purely ornamental. “)

Don’t put a heavy stress on the bottom notes. You must always be drawn to the top note on the ‘lah.”In Gregorian Chant, the force of gravity works the opposite way round. You are always drawn upwards, up to the top notes.”  Therefore, it the top note that should be lengthened and NOT the middle note.

One of the theories behind this change in phrasing is based around the school of thought now that the vertical episema found on the salicus indicates an oriscus, not an ictus. Dom Gregory Sunol said that an Oriscus is ” a soft light notes which may be ushered in by an acclerando of the group to which is it attached in execution. It may either occupy the degree above the preceding note or be placed on the same degree.”

Moving on to the eis this must be sung as a light run, up and down.

After dona eis, put in a comma before you sing Domine.

After the bar line it is important not to rush the vowel sound on lux. In the St Gall manuscript it is drawn as a torculus. Treat it almost as though there is a liquescent before the x, so you enunciate the consonant x clearly.

When you reach the final eis, remember to elongate the LA on the e of eis and the sixth neume of that group SOL before falling gently to your final resting note.

One final tip, be careful when you have people singing this chant from different books. The psalm verse from the Liber Usualis is different to that it in the Graduale Romanum, the former is from the old vulgate (I think.)


You’ve seen the stills, you’ve seen the movie, now the soundtrack..

Click on each of the links to hear the music from the Mass of St Theresa of Avila with the Association of Latin Liturgy. It is worth remembering that this is all recorded on the camera microphone which was situated at the front of the church so it won’t give a true representation of the actual sound on the day – the recordings will always sound worse. And be kind when you listen to these as naturally there are mistakes, but God likes mistakes!! It keeps us striving to be better.

One more thing, the propers are sung by Schola Scholastica. The Schola are a female voice Schola formed in the early months of  this year to sing at BOTH forms of the Mass and to encourage others to get involved singing Gregorian Chant. Most Scholas tend to only sing the extraordinary form. We consist of two of us from St Mary Magdalen’s, two from St. James’ Spanish Place, and one from Our Lady of the Rosary, Blackfen in Kent. We are very fortunate to be under monthly instruction from Sister Bernadette, the choir director at St, Cecilia’s on the IOW.

And now the music:=

Introit – Dilexisti

Kyrie Mass XV

Gloria XV

Gradual – Spécie túa

Alleluia – Adducéntur régi


Credo III

Offertory – Filiae Régnum

Offertory – Salve Mater

Sanctus XV

Agnus Dei XV

Communion – Quinque prudéntes

Commmunion – Panis Angelicus – Guiseppe Baini

I’m afraid, I’m missing the epistle and half of the sermon.

And one thing. The reason I have put the recordings of the Ordinary up  is demonstrate that despite what my diocese think (I was told last week Gloria XV is too hard to teach congregations) everyone seems to be singing. The strange thing is, most of our parishioners would never have sung Mass XV before –  but they seemed to manage…. So maybe it is possible to teach congregations a new plainsong Mass rather than giving them a diet of Marty Haugen, Paul Inwood and ‘Taste and See.”

Singing the New Translation of the Missal – Arundel and Brighton style

Tonight I went to a practical session organised by my diocese, Arundel and Brighton, to help people ‘learn’ how to sing the new Missal translation. It was run by a very enthusiastic woman from the Portsmouth Diocese who seemed to have committed to memory every Mass setting written in English in the last twenty years.

I thought we would be looking at the ICEL chants. I did not anticipate singing through Mass settings which ranged from Marty Haugen to Paul Inwood to Stephen Dean. Have your ever turned up at a party in fancy dress only to discover that everyone is dressed normally? I got that same sinking feeling as l walked through the door and was handed an informative sheet with lots of different ‘Glorias,’ most which have ‘Glory to God in the highest’ as a refrain and a ‘cut out and keep’ article from The Tablet entited ‘Sing to him a new song.’

I must be positive about the experience but I felt like an alien just landed from a planet, far far away. A kind man from Dabcec, (diocesan organisational arm) who was very hospitable and friendly, came up to me at the break to chat. I was the only one sat on my own with no one to talk to, the only one that would not know the ‘Creation Mass’ by Marty Haugen in a Catholic karaoke booth. He said ‘you’re from St Mary Magdalen’s – you do things very differently…”  Well, I suppose we sing what is in the Missal.

So what have I learnt from this evening:

  • 1. That all those Masses we sang in the 1980s, like Peter Jones’ ‘Coventry Mass’ have been re-written to the new words. Phew – congregations cannot possibly be expected to learn new music.
  • 2. That Stephen Dean’s ‘Sussex Mass’ and Christopher Walker’s  ‘Belmont Mass’ are the most popular Mass settings in our diocese.
  • 3. That some of the new Mass settings in the ‘Celebration for Everyone ‘supplement are regretfully missing guitar chords because they had to rush through the publication.
  • 4. That it is not worth trying to teach Gloria XV to congregations. It is too hard.
  • 5. That I quite liked ‘The Heritage Mass’  by Owen Alshott. No, I really did.
  • 6. That Paul Inwood’s ‘Gathering Mass’ has been banned in Portsmouth Cathedral. No comment.
  • 7. That whilst the ‘Clapping Gloria’ and other popular pieces which don’t quite employ the accurate text should really not be used anymore, it is ok to use them at other times in the Mass. The suggestion was that you might want to sing the ‘Clap Gloria’ as an entrance hymn.
  • 8. That we seem to be the only parish in the entire universe that sings in Latin and has the priest intone the Gloria. Apparently, they do not have to do it, especially if they are of a nervous disposition.
  • 9. That the ICEL board approving the new Mass settings (they only meet once a month) are not looking at the quality of the music. They are only interested in whether you have all the correct words in the correct order. Someone told me the other day that his lovely Mass setting had been sent back because he has not written a memorial acclamation…  I thought there was a perfectly acceptable chant one in the new Missal?     UPDATE – I’ve just found the approved list on the Liturgy Office website. HERE. Nick Baty has written twelve different settings..
  • 10. That ‘Taste and see’ is modern-day Gregorian chant
      This is a video of how my parish will be preparing for Sunday Mass from the first Sunday in Advent.
  • 11. That I want to be an Anglican.

A Day with the Association of Latin Liturgy

Yesterday we had a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful day.

We were honoured to have the Association of Latin Liturgy at our parish along with Monsignor Andrew Burnham and Deacon James Bradley from the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

Monsignor Andrew Burnham celebrated Solemn High Mass in Latin in the Novus Ordo, with James Bradley (first deacon) and Brother Anselm from St. Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough  (second deacon)

Lunch was served.  (Mgr Burnham chatting to the acclaimed Catholic journalist and blogger, Joanna Bogle)

The Monsignor’s talk on the ‘Liturgical Patrimony of the Ordinariate and the Reform of the Reform.”

Photos from this on Fr Ray’s blog

Meanwhile there were preparations for Vespers.

Sung Vespers and Benediction.  (Benediction was led by Fr William from Barking.)

And then the day sadly came to a close.

It was a great joy to have so many illustrious visitors to our parish.  (Jeremy de Satge from The Music Makers with one of the Association members)

A special thanks to Christopher Francis from the Association who stepped in at the last minute to  play the organ so magnificently for Vespers and Benediction. To Bernard Marriott, the chairman of the Association for his patience with my relentless e-mail questions, to our Sunday choir for all their hard work, to Andrew our MC,  and to my Schola, Schola Scholastica for singing.

Here they are hard at work with a little help from our monastic friends, Brother Anselm and Brother Michael.

And finally, the most exciting part of the whole day – well, we finally got to use our brand new set of the Parish Book of Chant for Mass and Benediction.


What’s the difficulty with the Ordinary Form ?


Fr Ray Blake has written an interesting piece on his reflections on the Ordinary form after sitting in the congregation for the EF Mass at Maiden Lane on Monday. He considers whether if Mass is celebrated Ad Orientum and in Latin, is there actually any discernible difference for members of the congregation between the EF and the OF?

For the celebrant things are different but for a member of the congregation the two forms can be almost indistinguishable, except maybe the absence of prayers at the foot of the altar, but then I have seem “preparatory prayers” done in the OF during the entrance hymn, and I have seen an ambo used for readings and heard the sermon end in a series of intercessions in the EF.

Predictably, the majority of his commentators fall on the side of the EF preferring it primarily for its historical continuity, its silent canon and its prayerfulness.

I was particularly intrigued with Fr Ray’s reflections on the relaxed attitude of the congregation at Maiden Lane to the rubrics:-

What impressed me was the prayerfulness of the congregation. The congregation’s following of the rubrics were less disciplined than at the OF, people stood during the Sanctus whilst others knelt, some knelt more or less through out or sat or slid between the two. Most joined in the dialogues, a few joined in the Ordinary quietly, a few followed missals, a few had Rosaries in their hands, most just prayed quietly. The celebrant was reverent, but  characteristically matter of fact, the servers were relaxed.

There seems to be a misconception that the EF, particularly celebrated as a Low Mass, is exactly the same where ever you go unlike the OF which always seems to suffer from, shall we say, parochial embellishments. My somewhat limited experience of Low Mass in the EF is quite to the contrary. I have attended some Masses where the dialogues are said by the congregation, or people join in with the Ordinary. I have even been to Low Mass where hymns in the vernacular were sung – something which l believe was quite common pre-vat ll. In my own parish, the Low Mass is completely silent. So much so that the last one l attended, l was muttering the Credo under my breath, and someone who was sat in the pew in front of me turned round and scowled. Not a terribly ‘prayerful’ attitude some might say. I haven’t been back since.

I suppose my point is the OF CAN be and SHOULD be as prayerful as the EF. There is no reason why there should be any fundamental differences between the way we approach the two rites. Preparing the music for the Latin Mass tomorrow in the OF, there is virtually no difference in what we will be singing. The sung propers are the same as the EF (Mass of a Virgin not a Martyr), we won’t be singing any vernacular hymns and the organ will lead the processional and the recessional. The only differences are, we do not have as much time at the Offertory to sing a Motet or a hymn. In this instance we are singing the Salve Mater but after the Proper there may not be enough time to sing more than one verse. Mistime it and Mass has to wait. In the EF, if we are singing a polyphonic Mass, the Benedictus would normally be sung after the consecration. In the OF it has to be sung straight after the Sanctus which can leave the priest waiting for an incredibly long time to start the Canon. This is why most parishes who sing Polyphonic Masses tend to sing a plainchant Sanctus so they don’t ‘hold up ‘Mass.’ Tomorrow we are singing Mass XV.  I have purposefully chosen to go the plainchant route rather than the polyphonic route so that the congregation can join in in what is ‘the chant of the people’  after all.

The other thing l want to say, is that the EF can be and should be as inclusive as the OF.  If people want to join in with the dialogues it should be fine, if they want to sing, particularly if women want to sing the chant, then that is ok too.   Yep, some scholas (the majority) still only allow men to sing the chant.

I hope that ‘traddies’ that attend our Friday evening EF Low Mass will also attend our OF Latin Mass tomorrow. As a friend of mine always says about the OF, “if it’s good enough for the Pope, then it’s good enough for me.”

Discovering the antiquity of Gloria XV

Some thoughts on the ‘antiquity’ of Gloria xv.

I had never sung Gloria XV, until Monday night. I am still a chant beginner, after all. I was so surprised. This Gloria isn’t like anything else you will find in the Kyriale. Its simplicity of form, its narrow range. It seems so un-Gregorian.

When we were last at St Cecilia’s, Sister Bernadette hinted that it was quite possible the pentatonic melody of Gloria XV could have originated from the Synagogues. Could this have been a melody that Christ would have been familiar with?

A forage into the recesses of Google to uncover what those who know what they are talking about are saying and there seems be a consensus that Gloria XV is indeed unusual if not unique. One commentator on Musica Sacra apprises the scholarly notion that it is ” to be a rare survival from the Gallican repertory of chant that was widespread in western Europe before Gregorian chant and before the invention of notation.”

In 2008, Aristotle Esguerra wrote on his blog ‘The Recovering Choir director’ about Gloria XV being ‘an entry point to sung prayer’ for the ‘uncertain singing worshipper’ as his schola were just about to introduce Mass xv into their parish. He goes onto make several observations about the structure of this piece.

“It is predominantly syllabic chant (one note to a syllable);
While the range of the chant is a major sixth (already very narrow), most of the melody resides on three notes spanning a perfect fourth;
There are simple melodic formulas for half- and full stops, making the chant predictable;
In addition to serving as full stops, the melodic elaborations on “Christe” and “Patris” bring direct attention to both Christ and the Father (and indirect attention to the Holy Spirit who falls in between them);
The Phrygian mode revealed in the final “Amen” is not something one would readily associate with popular music.”

Fr Columba Kelly writing in ‘Custos’ the newsletter for the National Association of Pastoral Musicians examines the ancient origins of Gloria XV as the only congregational setting of in the entire Kyriale collection with the exception of the Ambrosian Gloria borrowed from the Ambrosian rite.


Unlike the more thoroughly-composed settings of the Gloria found in the Kyriale, this setting is based on a psalm tone pattern and uses only the notes of the pentatonic scale, a scale common to every culture. The Amen, with its semitone intervals was a late addition to the Gloria.”

The simple psalmodic scheme, the basic cantillation between the recitation pitches G and A and the limited pitch all point to this Gloria being the perfect choice for the new Missa Simplex for the new translation. This piece was meant to be sung by everyone, laity and clergy alike. Why is this not sung more regularly especially if we want to get to the roots of our Catholic musical (sung prayer) heritage?

Mass XV

This Saturday for  Solemn High Mass in Latin (Novus Ordo) with the Association of Latin Liturgy, we are singing Mass XV. Those who have already started to learn the new English translation to the Missa Simplex will immediately recognise that the Glory in Excelsis melody is in fact the Gloria of Mass XV –  Dominator Deus (In commemorationibus et in
festis temporis natalicii.)

All the files for this Mass are taken from St Antoine Daniel, courtesy of Corpus Christi Watershed