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October 31, 2006


Rich Leonardi

What is the relationship between the Graduale and the Liber Cantualis? I just bought LC as I am working my way through "A Gregorian Chant Master Class," which is indexed to it.


Thank you so much Amy for this post! It occurs to me that many people who have a look at these wonderful editions will think: wow, that's great but it's completely forbidding. Who can even begin to tackle such a project?

But just think how much progress we make by realizing, perhaps for the first time, what the normative ideal is. At least this way, we gain clarity about where we should be headed and we gain a standard against which we can compare what we do week to week. Most importantly, we can gain a sense of purpose and have long-term goals that are in line with conciliar hopes. That certainly helps brighten the outlook for liturgical music.

The best starting point for musicians is to buy the Gregorian Missal published by Solesmes, which a Latin/English mini-version of the Graduale with the Sundays and major feasts plus ordinary parts. It is more immediately inviting. It is also very likely to produce that "ah ha" moment: "so THIS is the music of the Mass!?"

It's important to remember that the music is not the notes on the page, does not consist of ink and paper or PDF files, etc. The music is the human voice itself, and so the proof of the glories of Roman Rite music comes not from the viewing but the hearing and experience of praying with this music in liturgy.

Steve Cavanaugh


the Liber Cantualis "provides an excellent selection of the best-known chanted Mass parts and hymns. Contents include the complete Order of Mass, seven chant Masses, including the Missa Primitiva and the Requiem Mass, four sequences, and 40 hymns, canticles and psalms." (from the OCP site).

The Gradulae Romanum has the complete Kyriale (18 Gregorian Mass settings, as well as some other individual chant settings of ordinary parts like the Kyrie and Gloria, other common chants like the Te Deum, and the Introit, Gradual Psalm, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion chants for each Sunday and Solemnity (and some other feasts as well) of the Church year. The 1974 version (N.B., not the one now online that Jeff and Amy refer to) has alternatives to some of the chants, based on the new since the Council 3-year Sunday lectionary. The older version was of course keyed to a 1-year lectionary.

There are few hymns in the Graduale, which the Liber Cantualis is likely to have more of. But that is because hymns are not really meant for singing at Mass, but in the Office and at Benediction.

Note also that the Kyriale as a separate PDF download is available here. The Kyriale, as the book with the Ordinary is perhaps the first book to use with the people. Especially in a multi-ethnic parish, it would be of great use to teach a setting or two from this, so that everyone could sing the same ordinary, rather than one bit in an English version, another in a Creole, still another in Spanish/French/Hmong/take your pick...


Rich, you know paragraph 117 in the Constitution of 1963? It says: "The typical edition of the books of Gregorian chant is to be completed; and a more critical edition is to be prepared of those books already published since the restoration by St. Pius X. It is desirable also that an edition be prepared containing simpler melodies, for use in small churches."

The Liber Cantualis is that book. It was published in 1978. Had it appeared at the same time as the new form of the Roman Rite, history might have been very different.


This is a liturgical milestone. Never before in human history has the official songbook of the Roman Catholic Mass been as widely available, for free, as now. AMGD.

Rich Leonardi

Thank you, Jeffrey and Steve. We also intend to use LC for this little venture.

Julianne Wiley

OK, I'm not a musician: I have neither expertise, nor even much exposure to the theory and practice of liturgical music. Nevertheless, I am a knowledgeable and fairly well-read Catholic of mature years and constant interest in these issues.

I feel confused. Why didn't I know any of this? Why wasn't I even familiar with the existence of the "Liber Cantualis" or "Gradulae Romanum"?

Has this stuff been effectively buried for 30 years?

Am I mistaken in my feeling that I was robbed?

(Don't let me get paranoid about this...)

Steve Cavanaugh

"It is desirable also that an edition be prepared containing simpler melodies, for use in small churches."

Jeffrey, I thought that the above would have referred to the Graduale Simplex. Or are the GS and LC different responses to this passage of Sacrosanctum Concilim?


Julianne, well, the main thing is that you're now aware of them. Another mature person, a Monsignor Schuler, has written a bird's eye view of 20th century liturgical history from the point of view of one who was deeply involved in it for a long time. It might help answer some of your questions.



You are correct that it was effectively buried for 30 years. I went to seminary and I never heard any of this. When the New Girm was released it talked about the Roman and Simple Gradual. I didn't even know what they were I was ordained for 10 years at the time AND I had been on the diocesan liturgy committee for 9 years. People are clueless: clergy and lay people.



IIRC, the Liber Cantualis was compiled by the Consociatio Internationalis Musicae Sacrae (CIMS), established by a Pope Paul VI chirgraph in November 1963.

Paul VI's chirograph, Nobile subsidium Liturgiae, established the Consociatio as an "international institute which would be able to make known [to the Holy See] the needs of sacred music, and which would be able to assist in putting the decisions of the supreme ecclesiastical authority relating to sacred music into practice." Pope Paul VI himself appointed officers for the CIMS on March 7, 1964.

Think of that: an international institute of some of the finest Roman Catholic musicians in the world, appointed by the Pope, advising the Holy See on how best to implement the Council's vision of sacred music.

Its efforts were, according to Msgr. Schuler, marginalized by rival organizations with a very different background, outlook, and agenda.

Steve Cavanaugh

"Why didn't I know any of this? Why wasn't I even familiar with the existence of the "Liber Cantualis" or "Gradulae Romanum"?"

The Liber Cantualis is not really an official book, although its contents are drawn from official books, so it might be very easy to miss it unless you're in the habit of browsing music book catalogues.

The Graduale is referred to in the General Instruction to the Roman Missal, both the original edition and the new one that was issued a few years ago. However, for multiple reasons, some involving nothing more sinister (I suspect) than impatience and lack of coordination, the Graduales (both Romanum and Simplex) weren't issued until 5 years after the vernacular liturgies were published.

In the U.S., in particular, which has a general cultural bias against "highbrow" music, art, literature, there was a tight hugging to the breast of mediocre English language melodies and verse following the publication of the vernacular liturgies. 'The simpler, the better' seems to have been the motto. By the time the Graduales came out, no one was even looking, and the few musicians who urged a closer reading of the Council's intentions about music, like Theodore Marier, were generally ignored.


The Simplex was met with great controversy since the Constitution said nothing about simplifying the melodies themselves.

Aimee Milburn

I agree with TM above: most people have never even heard of the Graduale Romanum.

I was a music director for several years, and never heard of it. Someone once showed me an old Liber Cantualis (all in Latin, with traditional Gregorian chant notation), and it confused the heck out of me. I would have had no idea how to use it, had anyone asked me to - and I really love chant.

Maybe we need music publishers who will publish missalettes that incorporate the Graduale Romanum together with the texts and prayers of the mass.

To make it user-friendly, use western music notation. To make it understandable, include vernacular translations under the Latin lines so people know what they are chanting (or have the option to chant in the vernacular).

Something like this would make it a whole lot easier to actually implement the liturgical guidelines of Vatican II, I think. Without it, we are at sea, as we have been ever since Vatican II.


Aimee, this is precisely what the Gregorian Missal is (available from OCP), except for the modern notation point (the neumes really are essential--and easier). The first time I saw it, I was really shaken: the Mass already has music attached to it that has a tradition as ancient as the text itself? And this is what the Church wants us to sing? Spending just a few minutes with it can really rock your world.


By the way, the melancholy Kyrie IV can be heard here (mp3), sung by Brazilian monks and accompanied lightly by an organ.

Many thanks to Luís Henrique Camargo Quiroz and his chant page.

Aimee Milburn

Jeffrey, thanks for the heads up about the Gregorian Missal from OCP. I just spoke to them and found it's a fairly new offering (she said just in the past year or two). It's a hard-bound permanent book and costs $33.00, about double the cost of a regular hardbound hymnal. It’s from the monks of Solesmes, and is available through other US publishers as well (GIA, CanticaNova). There is a good breakdown of the contents here:


It looks beautiful, but sounds like it has a few limitations. It uses traditional chant notation, which could make it harder for the ordinary congregation to participate, and has English translations in a separate column so there's no option for chanting in the vernacular. It has the citations for the readings, but not the texts themselves. It also doesn’t have the psalm verses for the communion antiphon, which has created a quandary for some users (where to find them?). It includes masses for Sundays and holy days, but not daily masses.

I had been thinking more along the lines of a seasonal missallete that would include the readings and vary the chants in a more user-friendly style, use western notation with English lines under the Latin lines, and include daily masses. I think this would make it much easier for congregations to transition to and enjoy using Latin chant. Maybe introduce Gregorian notation later on.

When I introduced Latin chant to my congregation, I used easier chants in western notation, with the English translation of a line right under the Latin line, to make it as easy as possible for them to understand what they were chanting (which Sacrosanctum Concilium speaks to), and even then it was difficult for them. It took time, though they did eventually learn and some told me they came to love it.

So many congregations today have never chanted and have no idea how to do it. I’m just trying to think of ways to make it easier for them – and for music directors, as most of us are in the same boat – to know what to do. Otherwise, if music is like food, then it’s like trying to feed steak to a newborn baby. Need to give the baby food it can easily digest, and give it time to grow up into a full adult diet. Maybe I’m being too cautious, but that was my experience, anyway.

BTW, OCP is also now offering other chant resources (Liber Cantualis and the Graduale Romanum, along with a couple of other chant books). They're given fairly small play in the catalogue and on the website, and unlike their other missalletes and hymnals have no sample pages for viewing, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

Mary Kay

Great thread and great links - Thanks!


First to the Communion Psalm issue, I'm please to point you to this remarkable resource. This has antiphons for the year plus Psalms plus English translations (not underneath but you get the idea). This is even better than the Graduale, which only mention the Psalm, and better than even a printed Psalm text that is not set to music (doing this was a snap for serious Catholic musicians in the old days, but alas times have changed; I need the music too!).

Concerning the week-to-week antiphons, I just put them in a printed program with translations but remember that the Gregorian propers really are for the schola to sing alone. It's fine if people join in singing but they are not really intended for that purpose. The people can, however, sing the ordinary parts. In this case, the Liber Cantualis is the best choice for the pew (in the future, this will be the "hymnbook" in every Catholic parish).

If you are looking for modern notes--and there is no reason to shy away from neumes!--have a look at Laus Tibi also published by OCP. For the parish just starting to move into sacred music (properly understood) this is a great and affordable resource ($3, and you do not need accompaniment!).


I just downloaded the complete file and gave it a quick look-and-see. WOW!

One parish where my wife and I went 1998-2004 had a DRE who thought I was odd for enjoying traditional piety ("If he wants kneelers, why doesn't he go to the Lutheran church around the corner?"). Our music director, though having a taste for modern liturgical music, was open to bringing in some Latin chant for special occasions.

The radical awakening came when we sang at a May crowning with the parish women's group, which included Eucharistic adoration and devotions to OL of Guadelupe. I cantored "O Salutaris Hostia" and "Tantum Ergo", with instructions for all to join in singing the English translation. Imagine the awe when the whole assembly joined in the Latin of "Tantum Ergo Sacramentum". The DRE was, to put it politely, stunned.

Another time, I cantored "Adoro Te Devote" for the Mass of the Lord's Supper. My favorite experience, though, was cantoring a mixed Latin/English arrangement of "O Filii et Filiae" for Easter 2003, which was the 15th anniversary of my father's passing.

How, by the way, did I get a hold of the music and lyrics? An old copy of the Pius X Hymnal, which I found at a used book sale!

This is going to be a most fascinating object of study.


I second Jeffrey's comment about not needing to shy away from neumes. Take the Kyrie above:

- the top line is C, so the lines, from bottom to top, are D F A C
- each square note gets a rhythmic value of one
- a note followed by a dot gets a rhythmic value of two and diminishes in volume
- the diamond notes can be sung just a little quicker
- if you see one note stacked on top of another, always sing the bottom note first
- if you can do it, only breathe deeply at the double-bar lines (but you can sip a breath at the asterisk in the last section); the congregation will probably breathe however they want :^)

Try to make each phrase flow together in a relaxed, unhurried way, but don't be afraid to let the rises and falls of the melody be expressive of the text.

Aimee Milburn

Good instruction, Pes, but when is one to give such instruction to an entire congregation? I had an interesting enough time just getting my little schola to learn to read neumes on the one chant we used neumes for. For people who already know music and love chant it may seem fairly easy to adapt to reading neumes, but for those who don’t it can be pretty confusing.

But – I’m all for the Gregorian Chant mass, and neumes are ideal as they show the flow of the chant and help one to avoid the temptation to chant as if metered western-style.

I suppose over time a congregation could learn by listening if the choir were trained, along with the visual aid of the neumes, if chant were done consistently at every mass. I would love to see it - again, I'm just concerned about easing the transition, for congregations very unfamiliar with chant, as was the challenge with mine.


Aimee, it is a challenge, no question. But remember that this music was sung for hundreds of years before it was formalized in print.

Here is an easy step. Sing the Ave Maria after communion every week for six weeks. By the sixth week, they will be singing very loudly and wonderfully. And this allows people to fall in love with the feel of Latin.


I share your concern, and fortunately so did our predecessor monks: Ordinary settings usually have clear and repeatable structures, and some, like Mass 18, are short and easily memorized. So perhaps a lot can be achieved without any notation at all. The key, as you say, is repetition and consistency. For more complex Ordinaries (like 9, or 11), you can probably rely to some extent on community memory, but obviously not with a young, post-V2 group.

The music folks at St. Veronica's have a nice idea: distributing audio of responses and Ordinary for people to listen to at home, or in the car. Texts and translations included. Maybe make mp3's for the kids for their iPods.

Probably the only way to build serious notational literacy for the entire congregation is to have somebody run monthly workshops. Start simple and build.

A little column in the weekly bulletin, explaining bit by bit, could also help.

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