Psalm Tones: They’ll Save Your Life!

Imagine this scenario: you’re a freshly hired Director of Sacred Liturgy. You’ve been handed the task of coordinating Lectors, Altar Boys, EMHC’S, and establish new choirs for the parish (in addition to its already existing 3 choirs). One choir provides music for Holy Days of Obligation and special feasts, and the other is a Schola for the Traditional Latin Mass.

Also imagine that with regards to a Schola, you’ve gone to one Chant Intensive hosted by the wonderful folks of CMAA, and the rest of your chant knowledge was gleaned from internet sources from the wonderful people at MusicaSacra.com, CorpusChristiWatershed, and the ChantCafe.com. (Links here, here and here) Are there enough tools at your disposal here to successfully get the Schola off the ground? Even if you teach your people solfege, will they be able to navigate the melismatic medieval chants compiled by Saint Gregory the Great? Will you be able to learn the Propers of the Mass fast enough for each Sunday along with a Mass Ordinary and proper responses?

Gregorio Sample

The answer is “yes”. It has been my experience over the pastfive months that teaching volunteers the proper chants from the Liber Usualis is probably too much for people with little experience with chant. The good news is there is a way to be faithful to the text of the Propers, and present them in a way that is singable! The answer to the problem is using Psalm tones!

If constructing Psalm tones is not in your tool set yet, it’s fine. There is a wonderful internet resource out there that can help! GABC is a gregorian chant software that is free online. If you’re a Google Chrome user, you can download the app for free in their app store. If you prefer a different web browser, you can go to http://gabc.romanliturgy.org/.

This is a game changer. Any Mass that is needed for Sundays and major feasts is here. It will transcribe the propers in their original melodies, and if they are too difficult for your group to sing, you can click the option for Psalm toned propers. This option can be done for all of the propers in a feast, or for specific ones. Now if a certain chant is too difficult for your schola to tackle at the time, you can make it a Psalm tone that is accessible and singable!

I’ve employed this method with my Schola since its conception in Advent. It is an incredibly successful way to get people started singing the Propers of the Traditional Latin Mass. If you’re thinking about starting a Schola at your parish, I highly recommend checking this out!

 

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