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  #1  
Old Jun 7, '12, 5:28 am
PazzoGrande PazzoGrande is offline
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Default proper breathing technique for Gregorian Chant

What is the proper way to breathe when singing Gregorian Chant?

With operettic music and modern music, you only breathe in when there is either a breath mark or punctuation. Otherwise, in the middle of sentences, and especially in the middle of words, you're not supposed to breathe in.

How is it with Gregorian Chant? Take the Kyrie Eleison in the Missa de Angelis, for example. The e in Kyrie is very lengthy. When I hear Gregorian Chant, they do take breaths within the word, but I don't know if it's actually correct. With operettic and contemporary music it's improper to do that.
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  #2  
Old Jun 7, '12, 6:01 am
Cat Cat is offline
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Default Re: proper breathing technique for Gregorian Chant

Quote:
Originally Posted by PazzoGrande View Post
What is the proper way to breathe when singing Gregorian Chant?

With operettic music and modern music, you only breathe in when there is either a breath mark or punctuation. Otherwise, in the middle of sentences, and especially in the middle of words, you're not supposed to breathe in.

How is it with Gregorian Chant? Take the Kyrie Eleison in the Missa de Angelis, for example. The e in Kyrie is very lengthy. When I hear Gregorian Chant, they do take breaths within the word, but I don't know if it's actually correct. With operettic and contemporary music it's improper to do that.
I know next-to-nothing about Gregorian chant, but I know about singing.

You do what you have to do.

I accompany a men's choir (I'm a woman). Most of these men are 70 or older. As much as the director would prefer that they not take a breath in the middle of certain phrases, and certainly not in the middle or words, there are times when age and physical limitations make the breath necessary.
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  #3  
Old Jun 7, '12, 7:41 am
Splagchnizomai Splagchnizomai is offline
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Default Re: proper breathing technique for Gregorian Chant

While there are exceptions, you can find where to breathe according to the bar lines. Here are some general guidelines, which I've transcribed here for you from page 19 of Square Note Workbook in Gregorian Chant. I highly recommend that you obtain a copy in order to facilitate your understanding. It is very affordable and invaluable for the beginning student of chant!

One may breathe at half (aka member), full and double bar lines. When a breath is necessary at a half bar, the breath should take stolen from the time value of the note before the bar. The full bar marks an end of an important part of the melody: allow one extra count for breathing. A double bar marks the end of a melody or the pause between sections of a choir: there will be a slight ritardando and decrescendo here.

One shouldn't breathe at a quarter (aka incise) bar line. If you are breathing at those points, you are either breathing incorrectly or chanting too slowly (a frequent problem).

Here are examples of the quarter bar line (first staff, after Omnia), half (1st staff, after Domine), full (second staff, after fecisti) and double (6th staff, after tuae).

If I've made any mistakes, mea culpa!
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  #4  
Old Jun 7, '12, 10:42 am
929dad 929dad is offline
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Default Re: proper breathing technique for Gregorian Chant

Two thoughts from someone with a master's degree in music and teacher of singers.

1. It's not tough to imagine the wet acoustic of a stone church. The echo that gets created gives plenty of time to grab a breath and start singing again, even in a small group without allowing the sound to end.

2. Many phrases aren't necessarily designed to be sung in a single breath. When sung by a group, it's easy to stagger the breath, that is, taking a breath when others aren't. This practice continues today in choirs across the globe.

Hope this helps.
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  #5  
Old Jun 7, '12, 11:21 am
CharlesinCenCA CharlesinCenCA is offline
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Default Re: proper breathing technique for Gregorian Chant

The interpretation of the barlines above is quite accurate, and that should help in terms of keeping the phrasing either moving, or when it fluctuates or comes to cadences.
Of course, there are two basic choral aspects that always apply, even more so with chant:

1. Listening is of equal or perhaps greater value to unison singing and the flow of chant than merely observing the chironomy/conducting of the director. This, of course, presumes that everyone is up to speed not just on the barline issues above, but the intent of the various neumes and expressive aspects and "schools of thought" regarding 2/3 groupings of syllables and semiology. But (Corpus Christi Watershed prez) Jeff Ostrowski's simple maxim when I sang under his direction: "Listen and do it the way I want it done." works for me, and I use it with my schola.
2. Teach and overteach correct breath management skills which include: a. a catch breath is never a problem unless it's taken at the same time by a neighbor in your section or is audibly noticeable; b. such catch breaths should never involve the "taking in" or sucking inhalation of air- all that's required is an open trachea and lungs, and the catch breath should take less than a second to get you back into the mix.

Last edited by CharlesinCenCA; Jun 7, '12 at 11:23 am. Reason: added affiliation
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  #6  
Old Jun 7, '12, 11:51 am
superamazingman superamazingman is offline
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Default Re: proper breathing technique for Gregorian Chant

Quote:
Originally Posted by PazzoGrande View Post
What is the proper way to breathe when singing Gregorian Chant?

With operettic music and modern music, you only breathe in when there is either a breath mark or punctuation. Otherwise, in the middle of sentences, and especially in the middle of words, you're not supposed to breathe in.

How is it with Gregorian Chant? Take the Kyrie Eleison in the Missa de Angelis, for example. The e in Kyrie is very lengthy. When I hear Gregorian Chant, they do take breaths within the word, but I don't know if it's actually correct. With operettic and contemporary music it's improper to do that.
Yes, it is appropriate, if needed. The Mass VIII kyrie is right on the edge of needing a breath, so depending on the group you may need a breath, you may not. But just to prove my point, look at some more melismatic chants, such as graduals or tracts or even alleluias. Those are obviously meant to have breaths as needed. Here's an example or two of pieces that would probably need breaths:



[edited]

Last edited by Jean Anthony; Jun 8, '12 at 6:51 am. Reason: image too large
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  #7  
Old Jun 7, '12, 1:06 pm
Simon62 Simon62 is offline
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Default Re: proper breathing technique for Gregorian Chant

On average we have about 5 - 6 men singing the Gregorian Chant at mass, we've been doing it for 4 years now and have found it easier with time to actually sing longer on one breath than when we started. There are pieces where there are a lot of notes before the next breath line and we keep an ear or eye open to catch a breath before or after another singer so that the chant is continuous. All technical bits, see previous posters above. I promise it does get easier with practice.
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  #8  
Old Jun 7, '12, 2:00 pm
superamazingman superamazingman is offline
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Default Re: proper breathing technique for Gregorian Chant

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Originally Posted by Simon62 View Post
On average we have about 5 - 6 men singing the Gregorian Chant at mass, we've been doing it for 4 years now and have found it easier with time to actually sing longer on one breath than when we started. There are pieces where there are a lot of notes before the next breath line and we keep an ear or eye open to catch a breath before or after another singer so that the chant is continuous. All technical bits, see previous posters above. I promise it does get easier with practice.
Indeed. It gets way easier over time.
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  #9  
Old Jun 8, '12, 9:37 am
Deo Gratias42 Deo Gratias42 is offline
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Default Re: proper breathing technique for Gregorian Chant

Quote:
Originally Posted by superamazingman View Post
Yes, it is appropriate, if needed. The Mass VIII kyrie is right on the edge of needing a breath, so depending on the group you may need a breath, you may not. But just to prove my point, look at some more melismatic chants, such as graduals or tracts or even alleluias. Those are obviously meant to have breaths as needed. Here's an example or two of pieces that would probably need breaths:



[edited]
I always thought the little vertical dashes were breath marks, as they usually line up in the right spot at the end of a phrase.
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