Sunday, 10 March 2013

Is it worth putting Gregorian chant music into the vernacular?

I have just spent three hours trying to put a Swedish version of Mass XVII for Advent and Lent, into the correct Gregorian chant notation, using the Meinrad font sets. The music is in the new Cecilia as items 516 to 518.

Cecilia, as mentioned in a previous entry, uses a flying egg notation which is not only exceptionally difficult to read, but also wipes out the nuances of the music. The choir noticed this the moment we started to sing these pieces. The sound was dead.

The deficiencies of the new Cecilia is very apparent in the settings of the Latin texts, especially to anyone familiar with the conventional four line/square note system. Musical vandalism, one might say, but it easy enough to get hold of Gregorian chant in the traditional notation. But so far as I am aware, the Swedish settings have never been done. So the job is possible, the music becomes easier to read and the use of the system would lead to a better standard of singing.

Whether it is worth the effort is another matter. It is clumsy compared to the original Latin, and since everyone knows what is being sung and are meant to know it anyway, what is the point of doing the Ordinary of the Mass in the vernacular?