Free Internet Resources for the Catholic Mass

Presentation by Jeff Ostrowski • Southeastern Liturgical Music Symposium 8/25/2012

Don’t feel like reading?

No problem! Just click on the video presentation for a special guided tour.


1. Free Online Movies about Sacred Music
  Website Links:(URL #1)(URL #2)

Here is a quick excerpt by Dr. William Mahrt, Professor at Stanford.

2. Important Quotes about Gregorian chant
  Website Link:(URL)

1963 (Second Vatican Council Sacrosanctum Concilium) — The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given first place in liturgical services.

2003 (Pope John Paul II Chirograph on Sacred Music) — With regard to compositions of liturgical music, I make my own the “general rule” that St Pius X formulated in these words: “The more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savour the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.”

N.B. Polyphony and organ music are also usually listed as important.

Reading about the Church Legislation is one thing, but what if people don’t know anything about Gregorian chant? The good news: if you can raise a family or do a fancy computer program, you can handle Sacred music! Especially since we’re going to look at a whole bunch of free web resources to help you learn.

3. How to Read Gregorian Chant
  Website Link:(URL)

This website teaches one how to read Gregorian chant, but (in our view) there is a much easier way: just watch our 1,000+ videos that have the music scrolling by as the scores are sung.

4. Vatican II Hymnal
  Website Link:(URL)

The rest of this presentation contains a whole bunch of resources. You might want to obtain the Vatican II Hymnal, because most of the resources below correspond to it. In other words, the Mass settings (Weber, Rice, Esguerra, Ostrowski, etc.) the Mass Propers, the Readings, the Hymns, the Kyriale, the training videos, and so forth — all of them correspond to the Vatican II Hymnal.

5. Free Online Hymns
  Website Link:(URL)

Notice the hymns are available in numerous formats: Organist / Cantor / SATB, etc. If you forget your book, just print it out!

6. Mass Settings using the New Translation
  Website Link:(URL)

These Masses have been approved for Liturgical use in the United States of America by the USCCB. Here you can download free Masses by Richard Rice, Aristotle A. Esguerra, Bruce E. Ford, Jeff Ostrowski, Fr. Samuel Weber, Linda Simms, Kevin Allen, Royce Nickel, Brian Michael Page, and many more! Settings are in Latin & English, and many are from the Graduale.

Let us quickly hear two samples: Sanctus from St. Anne Line & Gloria from St. Ralph Sherwin (including polyphonic version by Matthew J. Curtis).

7. Free Responsorial Psalms
  Website Link:(URL)

“Seeing is believing” when it comes to the St. Noël Chabanel Responsorial Psalms. Literally thousands of free Responsorial Psalm PDF Scores, Mp3s, and practice videos by numerous composers (some are here). Congregational inserts are also available for those who do not own the Vatican II Hymnal.

Let us examine the Psalm for this coming Sunday, also to be used at the Vatican.

As in all our scores, we avoid this.

8. Free Gospel Acclamations (Alleluia before the Gospel)
  Website Link:(URL)

Each and every Gospel Acclamation is carefully written out with only ONE verse, to make life easy for cantor and organist. Furthermore, there are specially composed harmonizations of the Alleluia for each repeat, instead of an inartistic (and mindless) repetition.

9. Church Music Association of America Resources
  Website Links:(PDFs)(Literature)Archives

This is too vast to even describe. Particularly notable are the Liber Usualis, Graduale Romanum, and archives of the Gregorian Review.

10. Fr. Matthew Britt, OSB
  Website Link:(PDF)

Most people do not realize that in addition to giving poetic translations of the ancient Catholic breviary hymns, Fr. Britt also gives careful, literal translations. This is our faith. How beautiful are the verses from the Reproaches & Crux Fidelis and the Dies Irae

Aurora cœlum purpurat, | Æther resultat laudibus, | Mundus triumphans jubilat, | Horrens avernus infremit.

The morn had spread her crimson rays, | When rang the skies with shouts of praise;
Earth joined the joyful hymn to swell, | That brought despair to vanquished hell.

The dawn is purpling the sky; the air resounds with hymns of praise; the exulting earth shouts for joy; trembling hell rages.

Cujus sepulchrum plurimo | Custode signabat lapis, | Victor triumphat, et suo | Mortem sepulchro funerat.

Whose sepulcher, surrounded by an ample guard, a stone seals; (nevertheless) as a conqueror He triumphs, and He buries death in His own sepulcher.

Vain is the cavern’s three-fold ward— | The stone, the seal, the armed guard;
O death, no more thine arm we fear, | The Victor’s tomb is now thy bier.

As Eucharistica says, the rhyme versions can never approximate the beauty of the literal. In 2008, I claimed that this book was the greatest gift to the Church, and I stand by my comment.

11. Simple English Propers
  Website Link:(URL)

Our beautiful Catholic heritage goes back centuries and centuries. We will look at this below (with the manuscripts). Using Simple English Propers enables your congregation to (once again) pray these amazing prayers. The congregation can follow along if they have the Vatican II Hymnal, which is currently the only pew book containing the complete Mass Propers.

Corpus Christi Watershed has recorded practice videos for all these chants. Below, the “Daily Liturgy” will be discussed, and this is where you can find these videos. Out of hundreds of videos, listen to any, for instance, the Nativity of St. John the Baptist Introit or the Palm Sunday Offertory.

12. Church Music Association of America Forum
  Website Link:(URL)

A very good place to get all your questions answered about . . . well, pretty much anything to do with Sacred music is at the CMAA Forum. I cannot recommend that forum highly enough. If you have questions, they will answer them, with extreme patience. For instance, a little later, polyphony will be discussed: if you want recommendations on easy SATB pieces to start your choir out on, ask the Forum, and they will give helpful suggestions.

13. Gregorio
  Website Link:(URL)

Want to instantly create beautiful Gregorian chant scores like this? Click on the link above, and if go to the CMAA Forum we already talked about for help! People on the forum will even send you hundreds of (free) files you can instantly format to your heart’s content.

14. Polyphony of Thomas Luis de Victoria by Nancho Alvarez
  Website Links:(URL #1)(Direct link to Scores) . . . appears to be down temporarily

First of all, you need to know that “partituras” in Spanish means “scores.” Therefore, to get to the Victoria scores, click on the button called “partituras.” For many years, my friend Nancho has maintained this truly amazing website, containing the complete scores of the great Spanish composer, T. L. da Vittoria. Some of the scores will take a little bit of arranging (example), but it is very much worth the effort.

A few years ago, one of my tenth grade students (over spring break) took a recorder into her room and recorded each line of a Victoria Benedictus (score). Here is the Resulting Recording (Mp3)(low)(middle)(high)

15. Custom Polyphonic Recordings by Matthew J. Curtis
  Website Link:(URL)

In early 2002, I started producing and selling CDs with multitrack recordings of Renaissance polyphony (here’s an example) “Ut conlocet eum cum principibus cum principibus populi sui.” (That he may place him with princes, with the princes of his people.) Multitracks record each line individually, and (in the case of my early CDs) are all done by 1-2 singers total.

At that time, I remember thinking to myself, “One of these days, some amazing singer with a 3-octave vocal range is going to come along and really take this to another level.”

A few years later, vocal phenomenon Matthew J. Curtis arrived on the scene and became the indisputable king of multi-track recordings. What Matthew has done in this area is ineffable, so superb, masterly, professional, clever, and musical are his productions. He was also the youngest member ever to be accepted to Chanticleer, singing with them for three years before leaving to devote himself fully to ChoralTracks.com. Matthew and his wife live in California, but he has toured the entire world as a vocalist. He has the greatest and most beautiful range of any living singer: his high soprano notes are exquisite in a way difficult to convey.

Matthew provides each line in different formats to TRAIN singers. Hundreds of Matthew’s videos are free, but some are only available to members. He also does custom recordings!

He wants to record a piece of YOUR choice! I could showcase his high notes a million ways, like the Newman pieces or Kevin’s 4-part Tantum. For now, let’s just look at: Biebl Ave Maria

16. St. Antoine Daniel Kyriale
  Website Link:(URL)

Many of Matthew’s solo recordings of Gregorian chant can also be heard on the St. Antoine Daniel Kyriale, which has video recordings, scores, and mp3 recordings for every single Mass setting in the Vatican Kyriale.

17. Daily Liturgy Resources
  Website Link:(URL)

At this point, the reader is probably overwhelmed by all these resources. Perhaps the “Daily Liturgy” site will help you organize all the resources. As you can see by scrolling down to the “Completed Feasts,” we are near completion for the entire Liturgical Year. There you can find numerous resources we have not even mentioned yet, like the Chants Abrégés and Simple English Psalm tones.

The reader will notice that more resources are included there than one could possibly use. Earlier, it was pointed out that the Popes say all liturgical music must be inspired by Gregorian chant. One way to do this would be to carefully listen to each Sunday’s beautiful Solesmes recordings, like “Oportébat pati Christum”, and notice the tone. The text speaks of the saddest thing possible to humans (but happiest to the Divine), yet the key is not “minor” like Chopin’s Marche Funèbre. The melody goes down on “Rise from the dead.” Then hit “return” and see what other versions are available to you (organ accompaniments, simpler versions, etc.)

18. Kevin Allen Polyphony & Training Videos
  Website Link:(URL)

We live in an age where idiots on television constantly overstate their case to get attention. Ours is the age of true abuse of superlatives. Conscious of this fact, I still make bold to say that Kevin Allen is one of the greatest, most inspired composers of Sacred vocal music currently living.

Every choir director needs to own his Motecta Trium Vocum (URL), a beautiful collection of Motets for three voices. Matthew J. Curtis has recorded 56 free practice videos (URL) to make it easy for choirs to learn these pieces.

Mæstro Allen has also composed simple SATB Motets, Cantiones Sacræ Simplices (URL), and Matthew J. Curtis provides 144 free practice videos for these pieces !

Kevin Allen’s Missa Rex Genitor (URL) is a peaceful, heavenly, beautiful Mass for three voices. Matthew J. Curtis also provides 42 free practice videos for this Mass. Here is an excerpt.

19. A Polyphonic Kyrie during Lent
  Website Link:(URL)

The possibilities of masterpieces that can be brought back to life are endless. The above link has some simpler pieces that have been sung at Mass even by very small choirs. The link also shows what a difference expressive singing can make! First, listen to my attempt at an SATB multitrack recording, which is fine when it comes to teaching your choir the pitches and rhythms. Then, listen to Matthew’s expressive rendering of a three-voice Kyrie. What a difference expression makes! Matthew takes the listener into a different world: reflective and holy, “showing forth the splendor of God’s universe” as Dr. Mahrt said.

20. Other Sacred Music Composers of Significance
  Website Links:(Esguerra)(Rice)(Weber)

There are many other wonderful composers of Sacred music. Above are three examples: (1.) Aristotle A. Esguerra’s Collection of Responsorial Psalms in PDF; (2.) Richard Rice’s Simple Choral Gradual in PDF; (3.) Fr. Samuel F. Weber’s collection of English chants.

21. Ancient Gregorian Chant Manuscripts
  Website Link:(URL)

Using the “Spiritus Domini” will be a good way to make sure we know how to use the “search” command. Explain what it means to have books from 750AD. I.e. 1250 to 1550 is 1700 to us.

22. Solesmes Mass & Vespers (1957) and How To Use Gregorian Indices
  Website Link:(Extremely Large PDF)

This example could easily be done with other extremely important books (i.e. Liber Usualis or Graduale Romanum) but I will use what is, perhaps, the greatest treasure of all: Dr Mahrt’s gift of the 1957 Mass and Vespers, because it is in ENGLISH.

If you download the whole thing, like the other books, there will be multiple sections called “index.” Make sure you get the right one, and make sure you know Mode numbers in the Index.

23. ICEL Chants (Missal Chants)
  Website Link:(URL)

Many priests and choirs are utilizing these videos, which correspond to the chants for the New Mass Translation.

24. Public Domain Choral Music (CPDL)
  Website Link:(Extremely Slow URL)

What to make of the little icons on cpdl.org?

25. Hymns & Hymn Tunes Explained
  Website Links:(Part 1)(Part 2)

For reasons I never understood, early Catholic hymnals do not include the name of the tune.

A Concluding Question for Consideration: Cristóbal de Morales Polyphony
  Website Link: (URL)

To quote Dr. William Mahrt of Stanford: “Polyphonic music, encouraged in a special way by the Second Vatican Council, shows forth the splendor of the universe.”

A question to ponder: In a “homophonic” (?) age of simple rock music, have we lost appreciation for multi-layer things? Polyphony is multi-layer. So was the pre-Vatican II Mass. So are some Eastern Rites.

When I look back over my own experiences, spending many years teaching young children the joys of Catholic polyphony, I realize that our Lord has always granted me, a great sinner, His peace. I never understood why people think Gregorian chant is not emotional, as I listen to this old recording.  “Grant Us Peace”

For those interested in the Extraordinary Form, don’t miss the
St. Edmund Campion Missal & Hymnal for the Traditional Latin Mass

[ click here to learn more ]