There are numerous reasons why they are so often ignored, including their relative complexity. Many choirs & scholae do not have the time to practice these chants week to week, or they simply choose to focus their efforts elsewhere. The offertory chants have also been somewhat overlooked in the revolution of new vernacular resources we have seen in the world of sacred music over the last decade.
The need for more quality resources for the offertory has now been supplied.
Today, I would like to introduce to our readership a unique resource: Offertory, a new publication by Dr. Jon Naples. Offertory is a volume of choral chant propers in three parts for Sundays and feasts (complete). The project utilizes the Revised Grail Psalm texts for the verses and takes the antiphon texts from the Graduale.
Here are two audio samples (sung by Matthew Curtis) to give you a sense of the compositional style:
There are several strengths worth highlighting about this collection. First, it is well organized and cleanly engraved, making it very user-friendly. Additionally, the composition is limited to only three voices, making each antiphon & verse accessible to a wide range of choirs. These voices are easily invertible, such that the various parts may be sung variously by men or women.
Moreover, this volume shows great respect for the unmetricality of English vocabulary and syntax. The employment of Psalm tones by Fr. Samuel Weber & Adam Bartlett make this a useful book for easily singing propers in English. For most Sundays and feasts, the composer has provided two disparate settings of the antiphon. In both, the melody remains the same, but the harmonization has been changed, lending greater musical interest when these options are used in alternatim.
Finally, these settings were developed by a parish musician in the context of his own parish choir, so they are practical in addition to being beautiful. I would recommend this work for parish & seminary use. It draws its inspiration from the chant tradition, and it offers beautiful settings of proper English texts.
R. JON NAPLES holds his D.M.A. in Music Composition from the University of Southern California (1995), where he studied under Morten Lauridsen. He has a background in several instruments and voice. His compositions have placed in major competitions, and he has work published through CanticaNOVA Publications. He is now in his 11th year as Director of Sacred Music at St. Margaret Parish in Oceanside, CA. Dr. Naples was also involved in the Adventus Dona conference that I covered HERE back in November.