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mrbouffant

Choosing chants...

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Hello Folks,

 

I have been tasked with choosing the chants for a choir visit to a cathedral during July.

 

Given that multiple psalms will be sung during some evensongs, is it usual practice to choose chants that are harmonically related, or should I not bother particularly?

 

In my current post we only sing one psalm at evensong so I haven't come across this quandary before.

 

Thanks for your wise words.

 

--mrb

 

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It is best practice for there to be a smooth tonal transition from chant to chant. This is especially important if the chant is to be changed during the course of a psalm to reflect different modes in the text because, in the interests of keeping the narrative flowing, it is important for the choir to keep going without waiting for a chord from the organ - but obviously decisions along these lines will depend on the choir you have in mind. I would suggest you find/borrow a copy of the Oxford Psalter which is very sound on signalling discreetly (by an extra line space in the text) where to change chants during those psalms that need it. It also signals which psalms need a single or a triple chant. Alternatively, if you tell us which psalms you are singing I am sure you will get plenty of advice from forum members.

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Thanks for the advice. I am thinking about Psalms 98-101 inclusive. The changes will be between psalms and not within psalms (if that makes a difference....)

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How nice to see that there are still cathedrals that do the psalms of the day! :) Nice set of psalms too - three extrovert ones and the gentle 101. Personally I don't think the chants need necessarily be very tightly related, but I would certainly avoid wildly clashing tonalities, e.g. E flat major followed by A major. Aim for (reasonably) natural sounding transitions that the choir could, at least in theory, accomplish unaccompanied. For example two keys a third apart, such as E flat major to G minor, will often work.

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Aha! Saturday 19th July, perhaps? These are the psalms appointed for 19th evening under the system where the whole psalter was sung, in chunks, a bit at Mattins and a bit more at Evensong, every month. If you go to a psalter with chants, or to a chant book with chants that was put together to match that system, you should find a ready made set that go well together, in related keys, and someone has already decided whether there should be a single or a double chant!!! One set I know of even has the same (single) chant for psalm 99 and psalm 100!

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Hear, hear!
I know Chichester *insists* on visiting choirs doing the full Psalmody of the day if at all possible.
It would be nice to know which other places do. Then I'll try to make a point of taking a choir on the 15th.... :D

 

How nice to see that there are still cathedrals that do the psalms of the day! :)

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For example two keys a third apart, such as E flat major to G minor, will often work.

 

Not, I should add, that you will be using a minor-key chant for the 19th evening, but you get my drift.

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Not, I should add, that you will be using a minor-key chant for the 19th evening, but you get my drift.

 

Oops, I was thinking of doing the Stonex F# min chant for Psalm 99 (blatantly copying Vol. 6 of Priory's Psalms of David series from Guildford Cathedral).. then again, it modulates so much it avoids the minor mode for much of the time...

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Well, it's your call and I have heard stranger things. There are different styles of chanting and some choirs/DoMs prefer a more reflective or worshipful style than others. Personally I like a fairly "in your face" approach that communicates the words. The question to ask (always) is: does this chant that I have in mind really enhance the tone of what the psalmist is saying?

 

In psalm 99 we are in upbeat, "God is great" mode:: "The Lord is King ... The Lord is great in Sion and high above all people ... Thou hast executed judgement and righteousness in Jacob ... O magnify the Lord our God... etc." Is a minor key chant, beginning and ending on a low-tessitura chord really the best match to convey this mood? Stonex wouldn't be my choice, to be honest.

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Somebody mentioned Chichester.. In John Birch's time, the 19th evening would be...

Psalm 98 - Thomas Attwood in D - starts D, E, F sharp, down to A: an excellent fit for this exuberant psalm;

Psalm 99 - Ouseley chant in A - starts A, C sharp, A, up to D. Nothing special, but very likeable and tuneful.

Psalm 100 - Henry Ley chant in D - starts low D and then up the arpeggio to top D.

Psalm 101 - the truncated Nicholson chant in G major as in the Parish Psalter. Atmospherically, this works very well and the change in the length of the chant is appropriately different without being unnecessarily arresting.

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