"Is there a difference between Sacred music and secular music?"

This is a great video, citing Church documents, discussing the kind of music and instruments required to help us worship our Lord at Mass.
Click HERE to watch.

I wish I could send it to the music directors at my parish, but don’t feel comfortable as I have very little contact with these folk.

Thanks for sharing! I want to share it with our cantor, but I don’t think she will get it, ever. Pray for her please.

Thank you for posting. I do appreciate the link to the hour-long teaching session on Gregorian chant and I do promise to spend the time viewing it and assimilating it into my knowledge bank. I think more of this kind of thing, i.e., teaching online, is desperately needed if there is to be any significant change in Catholic Mass music. ** The Church and those who advocate ancient music forms must come to a realization that we in the United States are essentially illiterate when it comes to ancient music forms.** I majored in music for a while in college (30 years ago), and I continue to be active in music in my city, and I know NOTHING about chant and how to read/sing it.

This musical illiteracy can be conquered, but it will take a lot of work. It will not be as many musical traditionalist imply, a simple fix involving a change of attitude. I think a massive educational effort is necessary, much more education than an hour-long online video. But at least the video is a start, definitely the right idea. A small candle, so to speak.

I would like to hear this same music sung by “regular” church congregations, not a university choir. I think it would be a lot less stirring.

It’s easy to be rapturous over well-sung chant sung by a SATB choir of well-trained musicians who read music. I personally think that these same complex pieces sung by a typical American congregation would be unpleasant at best and painful in most parishes.

I base this harsh and pessimistic comment on my 40 years of playing piano for church congregations. My conclusion after playing for six years in Catholic parishes is that most Catholics do not have any clue about singing.

It is my opinion that this kind of music would be so far above most Catholic parishes that it is essentially an impossibility, I think that what we would have to do is hire choirs, probably with many non-Catholic members, to provide this kind of music for our Masses. I don’t agree with any kind of music (including rock) that doesn’t allow for congregational participation.

The other possibility is training up children in the Catholic schools to sing this kind of music (and that assumes that the parents are willing to pay tuition for this kind of music education–I’m sure some would love it, but I think others would depart and take their children to schools where they can learn to sing “like the kids on GLEE”), and then somehow managing to hang onto at least some of these children throughout the high school and college years (that’s a real challenge!–from what I’ve seen, MANY Catholics say goodbye to the Church once they have been confirmed), and somehow recruiting these trained young people to sing in weekly Mass choirs (that’s a big challenge, too!)–my my, all of this plan just boggles the mind! I personally think this plan is quite a stretch, although I do have faith in God to work miracles.

Sorry to be a wet-blanket here.

I also do not appreciate the mental manipulation techniques used in this video. I distrust the piece-meal “quotes” taken out of context from various documents, and I resent having these quotes delivered by twin modern-looking hot “babes” in alluring low-cut outfits.

I’m betting that it would be possible to take those same documents and create an equally compelling case FOR non-traditional Mass music, using studious/serious-looking middle-aged men to present the narrative and set to background music using the glorious contemporary pieces sung by contemporary artists.

It’s amazing what can be done with media to shape people’s thinking. I would suggest that those who see this video step back and THINK about real-life situations in most parishes. Dream big if you wish, but it will take a long time to make the dreams in this video come true.

I think the video is very good, but I have a question about the use of the term “re-enactment” of Calvary. I always understood the Mass to actually BE Calvary itself,
and have always heard the word “re-presentation” used to describe it. I could be wrong,
but “re-enactment” doesn’t seem quite right.

This morning I was able to assist at an EF Mass in Ottawa.
Their choir is not ‘professional’ – it simply consists of talented parish members. I suppose that singers in love with Gregorian Chant may tend to flock to the EF(?).
A large percentage of the congregation knows the Latin and the Mass parts and can join in with the choir.

Does anyone know of any OF Masses that include some Gregorian Chant?

“Is there a difference?” A lot of people would say no. Vatican Council II says otherwise.

The whole point of Gregorian Chant is that it is very easy, yet it is extremely suitable for the liturgy. It’s just as easy as the Celtic Mass setting. There are of course certain chants that are ornate, like graduals, but they are supplemented with very very easy versions for those who are not at that skill level.

No, that’s not the point of it at all.

The Reginator,

Although I’ve been settled in a parish for sometime, I know of a couple of parishes that celebrate the OF in Ottawa that use chant:

  • Saint Patrick’s Basilica at the 12:15pm Mass on Sundays uses chant sometimes. They also use some Latin as well (I’ve heard them use a Latin Gloria, for example). You’ll get to listen to Father Richard Siok’s sermons, which are perennially excellent. The organist at St. Pat’s is Francisca Baily, who has her ARCT credentials and is quite talented. It’s located at Kent/Nepean right downtown so it is very easy to get to.

Unrelated note; it’s also the English social hub for the Catholic community in the city due to Mass being offered several times a day (specifically the Young Adult community comes out at the 12:15pm Mass). Confession is available there too before Masses, just arrive a bit earlier as there tends to be line ups.

  • St. Maurice (near on Meadowlands, near Meadowlands/Merivale) on Saturdays at 5:00pm uses some chant. I’ve known both Father Lobo (just ordained recently) and Father Bank for years; both are solid. Their organist has their ARCT as well. The funny part about this is the parish belongs to the Companion’s of the Cross, who are quite charismatic (so you probably want to stick with the 5pm Mass there if you’re not into the charismatic stuff).

  • I’m certain there’s other Masses in the city that have some. If you PM where in the city you’re at I can find one for you (although like I said, Saint Pat’s is right downtown).

  • Personally, I think based on some of what you’ve posted you may want to swing by St. Clements, which is run by the Fraternity of Saint Peter. I know a couple of people who go there and they have a lot of positive things to say about the clergy.

I always thought that was one of the reasons it is so suitable for liturgy. Almost anyone can do it with a week or two’s practice yet it is still a spiritual aid. :shrug:

The point of the Chant is to put you in the right frame of mind, with a proven method of approved music, so you can connect with Jesus of a Spiritual level. The chant promotes that very essense. And is respectfull

Sort of like going to church with Heavy Metal and expecting to be in a spirit of reverence? Just not happening. The very idea is Respect and what promotes this and still activates the spirit is present in the Chant.

Vatican II is all that happened after the Chant

I’m a very good musician (pianist) who sight reads well. But I don’t find Gregorian chant “easy.”

One of the reasons for this, which I mentioned in my other post, is that I, like most Americans, am ignorant of the the non-Western notation that is used in Gregorian chant and also about the vocal technique for singing it. I know it’s not supposed to be sung like Broadway or country or pop. There’s a different vocal technique. But I have no idea of the specifics. I never learned this while I was Protestant, and I never learned it in college during music classes.

As for people who do not read music, well, that’s another level of ignorance that makes it even more unlikely that Gregorian chant will be etablished in parishes. Some people are good enough ear singers that if they hear a piece many times, they can actually learn it. I cannot do this. I can’t even learn pop pieces like this. :frowning:

And sorry, folks, I think a lot of others who say they sing by ear really can’t. They may be able to ear-learn a simple pop piece, but they honestly can’t learn complex, amelodic chants in a foreign language; they may warble through something approximating a melody, but each note is just a little off, or they slide up and down to the right notes–this is very grating and hard to listen to, hence my comments in the other post about “painful” Mass music. I don’t think badly-sung Gregorian chant is pleasant at all; mating cats comes to mind.

Of course there are exceptions. Some people truly do have an amazing talent for singing by ear. I envy them!

Ignorance can be overcome by education. But the problem is, there are so few people in each city who know anything about Gregorian chant that they can’t possibly be spread across all the parishes–or COULD they?

I think that if a diocese and its bishop is serious about wanting Gregorian chant in the OF Masses, they could put out a call across the diocese for those knowledgeable in Gregorian chant (probably, as you say, these people tend to flock to the parishes where the TLM is offered, or possibly to the SSPX chapels, or perhaps even one of the Protestant churches where G. chant has become “pop” music). Then the diocese could produce videos of these “experts” teaching Gregorian chant, and show these videos in all the parishes, especially to the musicians, so that at least the musicians in the parish could learn the unfamiliar notation and vocal techniques. They could also put the videos up on their diocescan websites so that everyone in the diocese would have access.

I have to admit, I honestly don’t think a lot of diocese are serious about establishing Gregorian chant in parishes.

My plan above would involve some little bit of work, and dioceses are already stretched. I think that the bishops are willing to allow the contemporary music and traditional vernacular hymns to continue to be the norm in most OF Masses, and if a few people complain, they are ignored. It’s too bad–I think my plan could work and it wouldn’t be that difficult or expensive.

And to be fair, it’s possible that some bishops are not serious about establishing Gregorian chant in their parishes because they know that many people who are barely singing the hymns now will drop out of singing entirely if Gregorian chant is used. Vatican II DOES call for participation, and although some people on this board argue that participation can happen even if people aren’t singing–I think that many bishops (and I, too) don’t see a non-singing congregation as a positive step. They WANT Christians to sing. There are too many verses in Scripture that admonish us to sing, not just listen to other musicians sing. It would be a bad thing to do something that makes it more difficult for people to sing in Mass.

Finally, it could be that some bishops are hesitant to try to make a push for Gregorian chant because they have Protestant churches in their diocese where G. chant is “popular” and perhaps ?? the bishops are waiting for the “fad” to pass so that people don’t begin to think of Gregorian chant as “pop” music. This is a long shot, but I think it’s a possibility.

But there has to be education. No one can expect the current musicians in most Catholic parishes to just suddenly “burst into” Gregorian chant instead of Gather Us In. We don’t know how.

Good post Cat. However, I don’t really see how singing Gregorian Chant is different than singing everything else. I know in my local parish they have Gregorian settings in modern music notation right next to the folk Mass settings. The intervals are really small, usually just 2nds. Maybe if we had all Gregorian Chant in modern notation that would make life a lot easier?


I appreciate your thoughts. My question for you is this: have you actually tried to teach yourself chant notation? I submit that you can read this document and be reading chant notation in less than an hour. It just isn’t as difficult as you describe.

We started doing this in our parish about a year ago. We chant the communion proper every Sunday now. At first there was some grumbling, as there will be with any type of change, but now we hear mostly positive comments. I know you are of the belief that it is impossible to participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass without belting out a few verses, but I think that the chant during communion allows people to meditate on what is about to happen – that we are about to receive the body and blood of Christ. I do not see this as being non-participative, or as being a bad thing.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on chant after you have tried it. I think you can teach yourself how to read basic chant notation in an hour or less.

There are some chants that are comparatively easy, and many that are not. Historically, the vast majority of Gregorian chant was never intended for congregational singing (unless you were in a monastery, and your congregation was a group of monks). So it makes sense that your parish is picking chants for congregational use that are relatively easy, and you’re not seeing most chant that’s out there.

Keep in mind that all the Propers (introit, gradual or tract, alleluia, communio, offertory, plus, formerly, a sequence most of the time) change every week, not to mention for most other feasts, and are often lengthy and highly melismatic. It’s simply not possible to have them memorized, unless you’re a prodigy or maybe a very old monk. And until very recently (the twentieth century, really) you could not just go out and buy a book that contained all the chants of the Mass. For centuries and centuries, books had to be copied by hand, and very few people could read, so the chants would be sung by clerics all reading from one large volume. No missalettes; this was not congregational stuff.

Some, frankly, would see it as a pretty big insult to Gregorian chant to say that the “point” is that it’s easy, and you can learn what there is to be learned in two weeks. I mean, what is this, Mary Had a Little Lamb? Read through – as a totally random example – this recent thread, and ask yourself how elementary the material being discussed seems.

I think for most congregants who don’t read music anyway, but just follow along, singing along with chant would be little different from singing along with anything else.

I am suggesting that learning chant will be more of a challenge for those of us who read music than for those who don’t.


I have never said in any of my posts that Gregorian chant is difficult. If you find that in any of my posts, I’ll give you a nickel!

I play extremely difficult classical pieces. IMO, any music with just one line is easy.

It’s not a question of difficulty when it comes to Gregorian chant. It’s a question of ignorance. That’s different.

When someone offers a teaching tool (e.g., your link), I agree entirely, it’s not difficult.

But the problem is, there don’t seem to be any teaching tools that are readily available, and if there are such tools, musicians and others in the parish don’t know that they exist.

Those of you who know all about chant might think, “Oh, come on, that’s just an excuse.”

We have to be very careful that we don’t assume that just because we know something, everyone else knows about it, too. E.g., do YOU know what synchronized skating is? Do you know what a twizzle looks like and can you describe the correct edges for a twizzle? Do you even know that ice skating blades have edges? Do you know that ice skating blades and boots are sold separately?

I know all these things. Why don’t YOU know them?! (Maybe you do–I hope so!)

You see, we can’t assume that people who don’t know are just making an excuse.

I do think that for the majority of people in the U.S. who don’t read music, ANY musical notation for ANY song will be “difficult” because they don’t know “the language of music.” If you hand me a simple children’s primer written in Russian or Mandarin and say, “Here, it’s so easy.” Yes, it’s easy for those who know the language. But it’s not easy for those who have no clue about the alphabet, let alone the vocab!

I take back my previous post. Sorry, moreorless, but after skimming through the tutorial, I was completely and utterly confused. I have no clue what I just read. All those weird names and little squiggles and then they go and add LATIN words! No way! Maybe the tutors should stick with “doo doo doo” or “loo loo loo” for several weeks until people get the idea.

This isn’t going to happen, folks. Not without a major overhaul of music education in this country. It’s going to have to start with the children.

I’ve accompanied children’s choirs at various music competitions, and I’ve seen music teachers in tears because the children didn’t have the concept of notes representing pitches, and didn’t understand what “moving up and down in the voice” meant.

Half steps? Whole steps? I know what they are on a piano. I’m not sure I could sing them without a piano. The musically ignorant will wonder what the heck you’re talking about. Again, I’ve seen children that cannot hear the difference between a half step, a whole step, a 3rd, a 5th, and an octave.

After reading this “simple” tutorial, I think that the chances of establishing Gregorian chant in local parishes is about as likely as the current President becoming an enthusiastic member of Right To Life.

Solfege has always been an utter mystery to me. I wasn’t taught solfege and I honestly have no idea how singers do it. Perhaps my difficulties with solfege are because I play piano and I just can’t get the connection between the nonsense syllables and the notes. Sigh.

I know that in our city, a few music teachers attempt solfege, and the private schools use it. But in most of the public schools, music class is more like a sing-a-long, and much of the music is popular stuff. I’ve heard of music teachers getting in trouble for trying to teach “white, Eurocentric music.”

I don’t think some of you realize just how musically ignorant the vast majority of Americans are!

Sorry to be a gloomy girl here. God will have to step in and work a miracle for this to become common in Masses in the U.S.

I’ll print out the tutorial and mull over it more slowly. That will probably help, but honestly, I have my doubts. When I got to the page where they showed the “simple chant” and said, “Now you can sing this!” I said, “Oh, no, I can’t!” :frowning:

“With Chant, this sequence of whole and half steps does not vary. The only thing that
changes is your starting point. If, for example, you begin on Do and end at Do, the
placement of whole and half steps will be as follows: whole, whole, half, whole, whole,
whole, half. If you begin on Re, the relationship of the whole and half steps to each other
will still be the same; again, only your starting note has changed. Your Re to Re scale
will sound like this: whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half, whole. Once you understand
this “slide rule” principle, you will be able to sing any chant melody.”:confused:

Can anyone explain this?!!!

I don’t understand this “slide rule” principle at all. NO clue. What the heck is he talking about, especially when he starts talking about the Re to Re scale?!!! Why isn’t it the same as the Do to Do scale?

Perhaps you can keep in mind that I play the piano. Maybe someone can re-phrase this in “piano” terms.

BTW, for those of you who DO understand this, I am not worthy! I salute your superior brain. I can see why this is called “The Idiot’s Guide.”

moreorless, I feel totally stupid. :frowning:

I understand there is computer software that will translate it for you, if that will help.

First off, don’t worry, it’s not remotely true that understanding the theoretical principle of the modal scales will make you suddenly “able to sing any chant melody.”

What this is talking about is the following: in piano terms, Gregorian chant only uses the “white keys”, with the one exception that sometimes the B can be flat (which is, in fact, why the flat sign looks like a b). Now, if you start on Do ©, then a scale going up proceeds by these steps: whole, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half, with that last half step being from Ti (B) up to the Do © an octave above where you started. If you start on Re (D), then, using only the white keys, your scale is not a D major scale (D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D), which has the same intervals (wholes and halfs) as the C scale given above. It is a Dorian scale: D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, or in interval terms, whole, half, whole, whole, whole, half, whole.

The point is, the order of the intervals between the white keys on a keyboard never changes. But the Gregorian modes involve starting on some different key (say, an E, or an A) and playing seven notes up, on the white keys only, to an octave above.

Does this help?


One of the reasons for this, which I mentioned in my other post, is that I, like most Americans, am ignorant of the the non-Western notation that is used in Gregorian chant and also about the vocal technique for singing it.

Gregorian notation is as Western as it gets. (It’s just not modern.)

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