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Thread: how to accompany gregorian chant?

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    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    how to accompany gregorian chant?

    I was asked to accompany gregorian chant during masses from september. I have absolutely no idea how to do it. I have listened some examples on youtube, I've seen some sheets with special arrangements. Everybody is doing it in its own way. I know there is no "correct" answer to my question, but still - if you have some tips, some advices about style, registration and harmony rules to give, what to do, what to avoid - I would be so grateful...

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    Duckmeister teddy's Avatar
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    Sounds like a - explain the universe in three sentences - job. You must post the results when you have finished. Best of luck with the project

    teddy

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    Administrator Krummhorn's Avatar
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    Normally, Gregorian Chant is best sung un-accompanied, but for the less experienced choral group they probably only need reinforcement of their parts.

    In that case I would suggest using a light string stop at 8' pitch along with a soft 4' flute stop, and keep the box closed. Play the voice parts on the manuals only and make sure that the organ is not heard above the voices.

    If you detect the voices going flat, add a little more volume or a very subtle 2' flute to the mix, and remove that once they are back on key.

    Experiment around a little ... but as a rule, don't be tempted to add that major third to the final open fifth chord of the choir.
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    Recruit, Pianissimo
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    Chant accompaniment

    If you get a chance to rehearse the choir, I would try to get them to feel comfortable singing it a capella. If they are a bit insecure you might only need to provide a simple accompaniment that does not play the melody. I would change cords where the accents fall in the text.

    There are some good examples of chant accompaniment in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982. Number 502 for Veni Creator Spiritus might be a good one to look at. Richard Proulx did this arrangement and I think it is a wonderful style to emulate. Number 504 offers another accompaniment to the same chant, this one by Charles Winfred Douglas.

    Hope this helps.

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    Commodore con Forza
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    Dear Star of the Sea: When they wrote those Gregorian chants, there was no such thing as accompaniment. Furthermore, they were in Latin.

    Might as well just improvise on them, as Daniel Roth and surely others are said to do.

    It occurs to me that at least one is already cut out for you. The "Dies Irae" has been done in any number of places -- try Berlioz' "Symphonie Fatastique".

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    Commodore con Forza Soubasse's Avatar
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    Guilmant, Gigout, Tournemire, Cochereu to name but four, have all produced either stunning improvisiations or compositions (or both) on a ton of plainchant - always a good place to start.

    At the cathedral where I used to play (and I still utterly hate saying that mainly because of the narcissistic cretin who was responsible and is still there destroying everything decent) ... sorry, where was I? Oh yes ... there were a few congregational uses of plainchant throughout the mass which were accompanied by myself or the (also former) principal organist. In our particular instance, it was mainly a case of following the phrasing and not going too over the top with harmony changes, although a bit of modalism here and there was always welcome. As for improvisations afterwards, well they were always open slather!.
    Music is made to transform the states of the soul, for an hour or an instant (J. Alain)

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    Admiral Honkenwheezenpooferspieler Corno Dolce's Avatar
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    Ah, we musn't forget Durufle - Listen to his Messe Cum Jubilo or Requiem and how Durufle has the organ seamlessly integrated with the vocal parts.
    *If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks* -Abba Zeno-

    *Protagoras: "Truth is subjective. What is true for you, and what is true for me, is true for me. Your opinion is true by virtue of its being your opinion."

    *Socrates: "My opinion is: Truth is absolute, not opinion, and that you are in absolute error. Since this is my opinion, then according to your philosophy you must grant that it is true."

    "Improvisational Art": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSxVO3EoCRM

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    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    Gregorian chant, is a capella, isn't it?
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Yes indeed, me too, I appreciate gregorian chant without any instrument. And I like to use it as improvisation theme. But I'm confused when I have to make an accompaniment. In France, gregorian chant has sometimes been accompanied (since 17th century, my collegue told me!) and the church where I will play they prefer to have a "support" while singing. Every organist does it in his own way. I haven't really heard anything beautiful to reproduce... The less I hear organ, the better it is I try to do it by feeling, but I'm not really sure what is allowed and what is not. And can there really existe any laws? They told me not to use the 7th degree - but sometimes it IS already in melody. Why should I avoid it while haromonizing? Sometimes I find some jazz cluster accords wonderful, but can they really be used?

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    Admiral of Fugues Contratrombone64's Avatar
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    maybe a very soft 8' stop supporting the bass line is all that's needed?
    I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.
    —Albert Einstein.

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    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster Serassi1836's Avatar
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    When you're accompanying Gregorian chant, you have to watch what is the mode of the composition. This because ancient music was not based upon tonality, but modality. There were 8 modes that can be accompained using minor and major chords together. E.g., a gregorian scale could be: d e f g a b-natural c d. What is it? Neither major neither minor but I would use d-minor chords, but, on Gs and ** I'd play G major, on Es a-minor. Or: g a b c d e f-natural g accompanied with g-major chords but minor ones on As, Ds, Fs. You should also finish in a major chord, expecially if you're finishing with an Amen or Alleluia. If you have gregorian scores to accompany with neumatic notations modes are often written at the beginning of the song; if you have modern notation ones just watch the notes you can see in the score: they simply are the modal scale.
    For the registration, try with this simple scheme

    If you're playing an Antiphon (Introitus, Offertorium, Communio)
    Intonation (Cantor) - till the * : 8' Bourdon
    Antiphon (Choir) : add a 4' stop (a flute?)
    Psalm (V/): only 8'
    Psalm Response (R/) : keep a note (a tenor-related one?) with the pedal (Soubasse 16') to sustain the chant
    Gloria Patri (V/)...Sicut erat (R/) as the psalm
    Antiphon repeated.

    For Mass ordinary: (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus-Benedictus, Agnus Dei, also Ite missa est)
    Mass ordinary are often sung "alternatim" with the people.
    Intonation (Priest/Cantor): 8' Bourdon
    Then alternate 8'+4' / 8'
    This does not apply to Kyrie.
    Kyrie eleison (Priest): 8' Bourdon
    " " (Choir): 8' Diapason/Principal
    " " (People): 8' Principal + 4' flute
    The same for Christe Eleison and for another Kyrie eleison

    The hymns (e.g. Pange Lingua/Veni Creator/...) should be sung by all the choir but, in order not to be monotone, you can alternate a 8' with a 8'+4' in every stanza, but it could be a good idea to sing the Amen with the bigger registration so count the stanza in order to have 8'+4' in the last.

    Sequences (e.g. Dies Irae/Veni Sancte/Lauda Sion/Vichtimae Paschali/Stabat Mater) have repeated melodies in their stanzas. Don't repeat two times the melody with the same registration, but be always soft because organ *not should be used* to accompany gregorian chants.

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    Seaman, Mezzoforte
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    Thank you so much for your help! I'm not here very often, but every time I need some advice I find so good replys here!

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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
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    Very well explained Serassi1836. Good idea to listen to Organist at Saint Peter's, Notre Dame or other performances..many can be found on youtube and their web sites ( archives etc). I used a little fuller registration when I was playing for Anligcan and catholic churches in my earlier years.
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
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    I wish you the Best for each day, now and always.

    Bill

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    Lieutenant Commander, Concertmaster Serassi1836's Avatar
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    Well, when I play Gregorian I don't have a chorus and not very much people sing it!

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    Vice Admiral Virtuoso wljmrbill's Avatar
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    Oe trick in that situation is to use stronger registation as if playing a melodic line and chordal back up on second manual.This leads the congregation as well as making them less afraid to sing along. The organist Detra uses this technique with new chants/hymns at times at the National Cathedral. To do this well always sing/chant with it as you play. Just a hint.
    ....To play only what is written is the domain of science. To realize what is not written is the domain of art."
    - Jean Langlais

    I wish you the Best for each day, now and always.

    Bill

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