E ALL NEED TO PRAY MORE. Liturgical Prayer isn’t confined to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. For centuries saints of all stripes have sung the Psalms throughout the day. At first it would take years to memorize the psalms. Then came the Printing Press. Now we have online tools which provide the psalms notated, ready to sing!
This tutorial will help you on any occasion when you would like to sing a psalm in the style of the Liber Usualis and Antiphonale and other liturgical books from last century. This still assumes you can read square notes. If this is an issue, you might like to read An Idiot’s Guide to Square Notes by Arlene Oost-Zinner and Jeffrey Tucker.
First step is to find your psalm. You may have a printed copy of your Office of choice, or you may access the amazing riches of the website: Divinum Officium. Take note of the Psalm Number.
Usually a psalm is preceded by an Antiphon in Latin. Take note of the first few words then head over to that amazing database of chant that is GregoBase. You can find your antiphon “by incipit” – you may have to scroll a bit through all the pieces starting with the same letter. Yellow boxes signify Antiphons.
Notice each Antiphon has a Mode Number, usually appearing above the Big Drop Cap at the beginning of the Antiphon. It should be a number from 1-8, possibly followed by a letter. This describes the flavour of the antiphon so that the psalm tone tune can be chosen to match.
Now open yet another tab, this time with the tremendous Psalm Tone Tool.
Select your Psalm from the drop down menu on the right. That menu defaults to the Magnificat – there are quite a few more Canticles in the collection for when you need them. Select your Mode on the left – there are modifications to most numbers named after the letter name of the ending note, taking Do as C. I’ve managed thus far without knowing how these variations are determined – some antiphons will specify which variation – ask your superior (and if you don’t have a superior, then it probably doesn’t matter too much.)
When everything seems to be in place, hit the “Hide Editor” link in the lower part of the screen. If all has gone according to plan, you should see the psalm all laid out ready to chant! With the Antiphon from GregoBase open in another Tab, you’re all set to sing!
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