Plainchant resources

Release 1 JuneThe RSCM Guide to Plainchant

ed. John Rowlands-Pritchard

Dr Mary Berry, who died in 2008, was a leading plainchant expert. Her seminal work on plainsong Plainchant for everyone has been revised and updated by John Rowlands-Pritchard, who studied with Dr Berry and is himself a leading practitioner of plainchant.

The updated material has been re-set with an improved and clearer layout, and John has added an extensive anthology of plainchant, some in liturgical context, that singers and choir directors will find invaluable.

RSCM order number: G0038
Price: £9.95 (discounts for RSCM members)

Explore further online

Since Mary Berry wrote the bibliography and discography for Plainchant for Everyone, a wealth of chant material and information has become available online. It is now possible to consult books formerly only to be found in academic libraries, and moreover to see and turn online the pages of manuscripts carrying the earliest chant notations. Below you will find links to a selection of websites where you can hear the chant, download music and view chant manuscripts online, as well as academic chant research sites and chant associations.

Where to hear the chant

Among British Abbeys and Cathedrals using the chant regularly are:
Ampleforth Abbey, North Yorkshire Y062 4EN
Belmont Abbey, Herefordshire HR2 9RZ
Community of the Resurrection, Mirfield, West Yorkshire WF14 OBW
The Community of St Mary the Virgin, Wantage, Oxon OX12 9DJ
Downside Abbey, Bath BA3 4RJ
Pluscarden Abbey, Scotland IV30 3UA
Quarr Abbey, Isle of Wight P033 4ES
St Cecilia’s Abbey, Ryde, Isle of Wight P033 1LH
St Hugh’s Charterhouse, Horsham RH13 8EB
St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough GU14 7NQ
Westminster Cathedral, London SW1P 1QW

Solesmes: St Peter’s Abbey, Solesmes, France
A monastic centre famous for chant research, scholarship, and performance from the early 19th century to the present. Solesmes publish the Chant books of the Catholic Church, many cited in the bibliography and available directly from them. They also sell the series Paléographie Musicale, facsimilies of important early manuscripts of chant from the 9th century onwards.

Chant downloads

Jubilate Deo
Chants for the Order of the Mass 2009. Cited in Mary Berry’s original Bibliography, now out of print, but here partly available online.

Musica Sacra – Church Music Association of America
Downloads of complete chant service books in Latin (eg Antiphonale Romanae 1912, Graduale Romanae 1908); and in English, including some of the editions by G. H. Palmer of Sarum Chant with English words, originally published by St Mary’s Wantage.

Music of the Sarum Office
William Renwick, Professor of Music, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada. An incredibly rich practical resource, which contains the full text and music of all the services of the office for all Sundays, Week-days, Feasts and Fasts of the Year and Saints Days.

Chant manuscripts online

Abbey Library of St Gall, Switzerland
Codices Electronici Sangallenses – a virtual presentation of one of the oldest and most significant manuscript libraries in the world, with about 400 volumes produced before the year 1000 AD. It includes the earliest notated chant books, for example MSS 339 (Gradual of the 11th century); 359 (Cantatorium from the beginning of the 10th century, chants for the soloist at the Mass – the oldest of the St Gall Mass chant books); 390 & 391 (The Antiphonary of Hartker, monk of St Gall c1000, containing chants for the Office). All form part of Cardine’s examination of Gregorian Semiology.

Bibliothèque Municipale de Laon
MS 239, a Gradual of about AD 930 from Notre Dame de Laon, the notation of which forms part of the Graduate Triplex (see bibliography), and of Cardine’s Gregorian Semiology.

La Trobe University, Melbourne (Dr John Stinson)
Three 13th and 14th century chant manuscripts, including The Poissy Antiphonal, a Dominican manuscript with a complete annual cycle of chants for the Divine Office (Temporal, Sanctoral and Commons) and a hymnal. The manuscript also contains rules for copying chant and 23 historiated initials: it is in the State Library of Victoria.

Academic Chant Research Sites

The Gregorian Chant Home Page on the World Wide Web – Peter Jeffery, Scheide Professor of Music History Princeton University
Useful for his links to chant research.

Cantus – The University of Western Ontario, Canada
A database for Latin ecclesiastical chant. Indices of chants in selected manuscripts and early printed sources of the liturgical Office.

Cantus Planus – Professor David Hiley, University of Regensburg
A data pool for research on Gregorian chant.

Global Chant Database
Online tool for searching plainchant melodies in medieval sources and new editions.

Sarum Customary Online
Downloadable texts from the University of Bangor’s research of the Sarum Customary.

Associations

Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge
Mary Berry’s own organisation, continuing since her death under the leadership of Jeremy White.

The Gregorian Association
Originally established to promote the use of chant in English. Contains Dr Peter Wilton’s concise and helpful pages and links.

Plainsong and Mediaeval Music Society
The Plainsong and Medieval Music Society, founded in 1888, exists to promote the performance and study of liturgical chant and medieval polyphony, through the publication of editions, facsimiles and scholarly articles, and through educational and liaison events.

Opus Anglicanum
Chant workshops led by John Rowlands-Pritchard.

Gregorian Institute of Canada
The Gregorian Institute of Canada (GIC) undertakes research and education to promote the study and performance of Gregorian and other western chant repertoires in Canada. The site has many excellent links for chant research.