Chant and Money

The Instruction on Sacred Music and Sacred Liturgy (de musica sacra et sacra liturgia) published on September 3, 1958 states:

“It would be ideal, and worthy of commendation if organists, choir directors, singers,
instrumentalists, and others engaged in the service of the Church, would contribute their talents for the love of God, and in the spirit of religious devotion, without salary; should they be unable to offer their services free of charge, Christian justice, and charity demand that the church give them a just wage, according to the recognized standards of the locality, and provisions of law.”

For the second category, those “unable to offer their services free of charge”, we raise money to allow professional singers to:

  1. Discover and practice the Roman Gradual in its proper context, at Mass,
  2. Train and practice as paid schola members, without solo pressure until ready,
  3. Find a paid permanent cantor position for those who get hooked and want the Roman Gradual to be their teacher and companion throughout the liturgical year.

Interested in learning more?

Your first step is to come and attend the 5:15PM Mass at Mary Star in San Pedro ( San Pedro 5:15PM Mass ) and let me (Hervé) know who you are, as professional singer, and give me a singing resumé. Come twice, and you will receive $40 and a free copy of the Gregorian Missal after the second Mass you attend just for having used your precious professional time in educating yourself about the Roman Gradual. That is the first of the 3 steps described above. Then, I’ll ask you what you think.

If you find the Roman Gradual interesting and want to take a careful first dive, we will go to step 2: build a program with you to take you up the three steps described above. Each Mass is then paid $50, including the preparation necessary to keep progressing between each Mass.

Why would we do that? Consider these paradoxes:

  • When the Catholic Liturgy requires music, it is always vocal. Yet instrumentalists are leading most music ministries in our Catholic parishes, and lead with their instruments, which cannot sing (!). Instrumentalists typically have more musical education than cantors, and thus lead them. Catholic cantors should know their Church’s a-cappella tradition if they aspire to be paid as instrumentalists are.
  • The General Instructions of the Roman Missal (GIRM) clearly state that the Roman Gradual is the first choice for singing at Mass. Yet few cantors are familiar with this repertoire, even in Southern California where hundreds of professional singers are active. More parishes now see the need to have some of the Roman Gradual sung at their Masses. Bishop Barron often explains that we have “dumbed down” the Catholic faith after Vatican II. I think displacing the Roman Gradual for “missalettes” is a good example of this dumbing-down. Let us offer Catholic congregations the depth of the Church music heritage. One trained voice per parish is all it takes.
  • To a musician, the Roman Gradual is key to understanding the origins of our western Sacred Music. Yet no recent music graduate I met seemed to know about the Gradual before we discussed it. Is our sacred music education system failing?… Not convinced? Do you know that the “do-re-mi” scale originated from the hymn “Ut Queant Laxis”? Do you know why a famous fictional character is called Quasimodo? Or how Verdi was inspired to write the “Va Pensiero” chorus in his Opera Nabucco?…

If you need some terms above to be better defined, reading here may help.

If you would like to download a current version of the Roman Gradual, you can do so on this website.

The Gregorian Missal is a version of the Roman Gradual with only the music for Sundays. It is easier to “navigate”, and you can download it here: gregorianmissal-eng .

Questions? Email Hervé at longbeachchant@live.com

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