sacred music

I’m not sure where to post this… so here it goes.

I’m 22 years old, and really the only parish I’ve known is the one I’m at. I have little knowledge of the repertoire of truly sacred music, simply because we use very contemporary music for the liturgy, i.e. guitars & drums etc.

I’ve been used to it, and even liked it, until recently. I’m coming to understand that a lot of what we do isn’t really appropriate for the liturgy at all (especially the closing for today). Yet the parish still loves it because we do what we do quite well.

I’ve been blessed with a good singing voice. Many have started to tell me that I should start recording. I would like to record a CD of some good, sacred, traditional, music to sell at my parish to help change people’s minds that we may start moving toward a more sacred liturgy.

Can anyone help me with some ideas of what to sing?

Here is a video of Mass with sacred polyphony and Gregorian chant, it’s less than 5 minutes long:

fyi, the first prayer they sing is “Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy,” etc. The second is the “Glory to God in the Highest…”

I don’t usually sing at Mass because I feel it’s a diservice to the Catholic next to me, but if you can sing this would be a great way to go.

It sounds like you are on your own, correct? If so, then sacred polyphony would naturally be impossible (for now, at least). So, Gregorian chant it is…

The best way to start would probably be to learn the Kyriale – the simple chant settings for the Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria in excelsis, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei). After that you could advance to the Propers (Entrance chant, Gradual/Responsorial Psalm, Offertory, Communion chant, etc). Many Catholics forget that the Mass provides all its own music.

The Monks of the Abbey of Solesmes produce some of the best-known and highest quality books of chant.

If you don’t want to spend money on chant books, this website has a plethora of resources for sacred music (in both English and the original Latin):

I don’t think recording solo will help. Most traditional music is supposed to be sung fully chorally, and the depth will be lost if you do this alone. You would be far better to purchase a C D of mass settings and motets by Palestrina or Thomas Tallis or William Byrd or suggest an outing to a choral performance. Be aware the resource needed is considerable. Good luck!

So… should I get Cantus Selecti, and the Kyriale?

Well, before you actually purchase anything, I would consider two questions:

  1. Latin or English? Latin is the original language of the liturgy, and the chant settings are much more ancient. English, however, can perhaps be better for transitioning a parish from “modern” music to sacred music, since many people today are averse to Latin for whatever reason.

  2. Traditional chant notation (4-line staff; square notes; no key sig.) or modern notation (the five-line staff)? The traditional notation is more flexible. It only shows the notes relative pitch, rather than absolute pitch (i.e. a first to a major third; as opposed to C to E), so it does not ever need to be transposed. It doesn’t take long to learn to read for simpler chants, but can get rather complex. Modern notation has the advantage (its only advantage – with regard to chant) of being more familiar.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit