CHANT - Easy or Hard?

Is chant (whether Latin or vernacular) easy or difficult for the average pew-goer to sing?

I submit that it is much, much easier to sing than anything else.

My reasons:

Chant does not have bridges, refrains, or repeats. In fact, it has none of the technical music stuff that a choir needs but a congregation doesn’t.

Chant has notes without stems. Most of those notes are black. They go up. They go down. Most people can follow them.

Unlike with modern hymns/worship songs, there is no need to know the difference between a whole note and a dotted quarter note. The notes go up; they go down. After a few times, the chant is in one’s blood.

If someone thinks chant is difficult, please post the reasons here.

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I found it easy, but then I’ve been reading and playing music since the first Eisenhower administration.

D

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I started with the Kennedy administration myself, early,–and I concur. What’s your instrument?

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Voice in grade school, then accordion, piano, euphonium, double bass, et cetera.

D

You should check out Byzantine chant notation. It’s a whole other language :joy:

ZP

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Voice here as well, piano, organ, and percussion. I’m thinking when I retire I’ll take up the ukelele! Wow, I am impressed. Tenor, baritone, or bass voice wise?

Lol, I wonder if I could learn it!

But then, chant does not have to be Byzantine.

And if someone decides it’s worth it to shoot for Byzantine chant, does the people’s part need to have intricate notation?

Lol. The cantor at the Greek Orthodox Church (GOA) had a class on it. It was very interesting and he said it’s not that hard to learn. I was like, this coming from the guy with a theology degree and cantor certificate from Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology lol

Of course not. Just speaking as a Byzantine Catholic :blush:

The people just follow along with the cantor/choir. However, at the local GOA there is not much congregational singing.

Here an example of what it looks like:

http://www.byzantinechant.org/notation/Table%20of%20Byzantine%20Notation%20Symbols.pdf

ZP

I’m an engineer - no musical training whatsoever. I picked up the notation in about an hour (it may be easier for non-music-readers than for readers, I don’t know). If you’ve listened to any amount of chant (a trivial exercise with the internet) it’s just not hard at all. At least, the easy to medium chants. The most ornate will take more effort, but beginners won’t be singing those anyway.

Now I’m also singing English chant from Fr. Weber’s Proper’s of the Mass book. Our group picks it up quicker with each week, to the point where we can usually sing through a new proper with few or no mistakes the first time. Then we work on making it beautiful and prayerful.

I strongly believe chant should use the neume notation, not modern whole or half or quarter notes. I could go into my reasons if the discussion moves that way.

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I think this is the key–to have heard what it is you’re trying to do.

The other thing is that the place to start with chant is to learn a Mass that the congregation will do over and over again. That also gets it in your ear.

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That would be the Mass setting found in “Jubilate Deo”, released by Pope Paul VI in 1974. Oddly, Jubilate Deo is hard to find online, even though all the chants are available from other sources. But I did find this partial version: https://www.liturgyoffice.org.uk/Resources/Music/Jubilate/JD-Mass.pdf

Is your et cetera bass or alto?
:upside_down_face:

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I went to the website where I’d first found Jubilate Deo but it’s no longer valid. I’m pretty sure I downloaded the pdf file to my old computer so I’ll check to see if I still have it. In the meantime, have you seen this?

I find Chant to be FAR EASIER than other songs. I can’t read music, but I can chant almost anything using a basic meter.

However, what I find interesting is the number of cantors who can’t chant to save their life but can sing hymns like On Eagles Wings without issue.

:man_facepalming:

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From what I’ve heard, chant notation is actually easier to pick up then standard modern notation. But most people who have a basic understanding of how to read music grew up modern notation, so they haven’t been exposed to chant. That makes it a bit of a learning curve.

I’ve found that most of the basic Mass chants are fairly simple. However, many of the Mass propers can be quite difficult. Even though I’m musically inclined, I can have a really hard time with them. Open up the Gregorian Missal and you can see what I’m talking about. Many of them are simply infeasible for a congregation and require a Schola or choir to sing properly.

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This is where Fr. Weber’s English Chants for the Propers book (Ignatius Press) can really fill a need. First, the Propers are in English. Second, there are 4 or 5 different antiphons for each Proper, ranging from elaborate to extremely simple. And the verses (which could be sung by the congregation) are all simple.

I know there are other English Proper books, but I am only familiar with Fr. Weber’s, and I think it does a good job.

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Have you ever sung chant as part of a choir?

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I’ve always found chant to be easier than SATB choral singing. The biggest learning curve was in the Gregorian notation. I play various brass instruments and the piano. Using a relative staff is quite nerve racking. I’ve found that when I’ve introduced the Gregorian neumes to those not trained in our 18th century Grand Staff they actually have an easier time learning the chants than fellow musicians.

Even disregarding the neumes and translating them into modern scores, those with zero or near-zero exposure seem to adapt better than those who expect a neat Grand Staff, with a time signature and measure bars. Those who say the “common man” cannot chant probably hasn’t taken the time to bother teaching it.

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Maybe it’s just me, but when you’re more than one person chanting at a given time (polyphonic chanted verses, chant in a choir), I find it difficult to do it well, because imho, it demands a perfect synchronicity to sound right. I don’t find that easy with long chanted verses which each have a different prosody.

I find it very different from chanting a psalm on one’s own, with the congregation joining in for the antiphon, which is quite simple.

In grade school I was a boy soprano. As an adult I was a bass-baritone, until I wrecked my voice by pushing it beyond its designed strength.

D

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