Singing the Propers in English for Laetare

During Lent our choir have been singing most of the Sunday propers in English. One of the reasons for shifting from the Latin Gregorian Propers of the Graduale Romanum is so that the entire choir can sing these texts. The Graduale Romanum propers  need a lot of rehearsal time to do them justice which we just don’t have at the moment. Singing the GR texts in Latin to a psalm tone is generally unsatisfactory melodically, particularly with the Gradual. So we have shifted to the Simple English Propers by Adam Bartlett which appears to be  so popular, even James Macmillan is doing these in his parish in Glasgow.

The SEP Introit for Laetare  is in the choir’s current favourite Mode, Mode V. We found the best starting note was D, anything lower and it becomes hard to sing Rejoice  and sound like you actually mean it. We do not observe the quarter bar line pause after consolation which is on the recording.  The flattened neumes on in and sorrow work well to emphasise the mood shift to sadness as we pass from the exaltation of the opening phrases reflecting on the beatific vision of heavenly Jerusalem that awaits us. 

My only moan about the SEPs is that the Glory Be is not laid out in full on the sheet. We are so used to sing it in Latin that we all struggle to sing it in English and you have to work out which syllables to move on.

For the Offertory we have been singing Aristotle Esguerra’s Graduale Simplex English Choral Propers and absolutely love them. They are brilliant because they are long enough to fill the entire Offertory (or Introit, or Communion), they have beautifully constructed melodies which are easy enough for the congregation to pick up – I have been putting the Antiphon on the Mass sheets, and they give the choir the opportunity to have a go at singing in parts (particularly with the verses.)

This Sunday’s Offertory. The antiphon is available as a MIDI file.

The other fantastic resource is Tom Hagger from St Thomas More, Seaford, English Psalm Tone propers. This are particularly ideal if you have limited rehearsal time. Lent 4 Year B Proper. The layout is particularly good.

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