OU MAY HAVE ALREADY SUNG from an electronic copy of the Liber Usualis. It was most likely a PDF, or perhaps you have the fancy Liber Pro app from iTunes.
Or you may have a collection of electronic copies of old hymnbooks already lying around the corners of your computer’s hard drive.
Most PDF books are simply scanned images. They can be slow to load and clunky to navigate. A better way might be to combe images of the music with regular text which can set out section headings, translations and explanations.
Enter the Gloria Latin Hymnal: 100 Traditional Latin Hymns in Gregorian Notation with English Translations by Patrimonium Publishing. It is a regular ebook available through Amazon combining images of Gregorian chant typeset with gregorio following each piece with an English translation in plain text.
There are lots of old favorites as well as a surprising number of pieces I have never heard before. How many of you have sung the Memorare? How about O Sanctissima in Gregorian notation? The sources include Cantus Mariales from 1903 by Dom Pothier, which must be where many of these gems come from.
If you are a blithe owner of a Kindle or not concerned with the details of typographical layout, feel free to stop reading here and go check out a free sample from Amazon.
The really impressive thing here is the technical juggling involved in preparing music for such a limited medium. It is crazy enough to try formatting a hymnal for a printed page, but for a format designed for flowing pages of uninterrupted text is quite a challenge.
The compiler, Michael Phillips, carefully tailored the book for a regular Kindle device. He chose the breaks in the music to allow enough space for the translation to fit on a 6” screen. That is probably a good median size to cater for, but on other devices the page dimensions change and the pictures and text act differently to fill the new space.
Here is how it looks on my cell phone:
Turning the phone on its side enlarges the music, but leaves no room for the translation, which overflows into its own page.
On the big screen the music becomes much clearer, but the translation shrinks relative to the music.
You can change the text size setting in your ebook viewer as you wish. My picky side wants to fiddle with the default margin around the images, but I know this could upset how it works on other devices. Maybe, with time, Amazon will adjust their Cloud Reader to better adapt their ebooks for desktops. I don’t know, but I think I can live with it, especially as I get more absorbed in the actual content of the hymnal.
The reviews claim that all these hymns can be listened to by searching for recordings online. I’m not in a position to test that claim properly, but I would love to try.
I will be dipping into this little book for many months to come.
Maybe I’ll even get myself a Kindle.