HINGS THAT INTEREST ONE as a child no longer interest one as an adult. As youngsters, on hot summer days we would have a LEMONADE STAND in our front yard—and we really enjoyed doing that. But I have zero interest in lemonade stands these days. What’s astonishing is how Gregorian Chant is even more fascinating to me now than it was in the 1990s. I’ve matured, but I haven’t outgrown CANTUS GREGORIANUS. On the other hand, my ears don’t hear plainsong the same way they did twenty years ago; my ears are more sensitive now. I believe some Catholics feel hatred toward Gregorian Chant because they hear it sung in a boring, inelegant, lifeless way. But plainsong should be sung in a way that’s immaculate, pleasing, inspirational, and flowing!
A Danger • Having taught plainsong for more than two decades, I have come to believe that the thousands of modifications Dom Mocquereau made to the official edition can sometimes make Gregorian Chant sound plodding, fussy, and lifeless. This is especially true when amateurs attempt CANTUS GREGORIANUS, or when the Schola Cantorum has more than four singers.
New Book (157 Pages) • You might remember I’m working on a new project—using the official edition—which is called: GUILLAUME COUTURE GREGORIAN CHANT (URL). If you’re interested in proofreading (or if you’re just curious), please click on the URL. My volunteer choir was rehearsing one of the chants last week, and I made a recording of them singing (using the official rhythm). But the recording doesn’t do justice to how gorgeous it sounded in real life. Indeed, their choral sound almost knocked me off my feet! Although the book is still very much a work in progress, I hope you’ll check out the PREFACE I wrote:
* PDF Download • DRAFT COPY (Guillaume Gregorian)
—131MB • Jeff Ostrowski added some explanatory material in January of 2023.
Tons More Coming! • Many authors followed the official rhythm: Flor Peeters; Monsignor Nekes; August and Carl Wiltberger; Professor Max Springer; Dr. Karl Gustav Fellerer; Dom Ermin Vitry; Monsignor Johannes Overath; Abbat Urbanus Bomm; Monsignor Francis Schmitt; Professor Joseph Gogniat; Father Karl Weinmann; Father Franz Xaver Mathias; and so forth. This is not a “Jeff Ostrowski” thing. Indeed, Dom Mocquereau did not tamper with the KYRIALE very much, so anyone who has ever sung parts of the ORDINARIUM MISSAE has already experienced the official rhythm. Along those same lines, today we release an extremely rare GRADUALE ROMANUM IN MODERN NOTATION, edited by Professor Max Springer:
* PDF Download • MAX SPRINGER GRADUALE (870 pages)
—Professionally Scanned • 48.4MB • In modern notation.
Does Jeff Condemn? • Some claim that I condemn those who don’t follow the official rhythm. That is false. I simply explain what I do (and why I do it). Moreover, I make others aware of the different plainsong approaches, so they can make informed decisions. The most important thing is for those who sing plainsong to be perfectly together with voices perfectly blended. It’s also crucial to make sure the chant is not sung too slowly, the words are pronounced properly, and phrase endings get softer with a slight rallentando. In other words, there’s more to singing chant than simply knowing the right pitches.
Something Very Special • Max Springer does something quite praiseworthy in his GRADUALE. In addition to the full Gregorian Gradual, Tract, and Alleluia, he provides simplified versions. A directive issued under Venerable Pope Pius XII says: “In general it is better to do something well on a small scale than to attempt something elaborate without sufficient resources to do it properly” (De Musica Sacra, 3 September 1958, §60a). Max Springer knows that the full Gregorian Alleluia sounds awful if the choir has not attained a certain degree of perfection. Sometimes he based his “simpler” versions on seasonal melodies, such as “Roráte Coeli Désuper.” Below is an example that seems loosely based on the MODE V psalm tone:
Photographs • A few photos of this extravagantly rare book by Max Springer:
MAX SPRINGER (1877-1954) was an organist, composer, and professor. He was initially a pupil of the Beuron Abbey and later became organist at the Royal Abbey of Emaus (PRAGUE), a branch of the Beuron Monastery. At the university, he studied with Antonín Dvořák. In 1926, he became director of the University of Music and Performing Arts (VIENNA). On 29 June 1906, Dom Lorenzo Janssens—a member of the Vatican Commission on Gregorian Chant—sent Max Springer a congratulatory letter on behalf of Pope Pius X with regards to Springer’s book: “The Art of Accompanying Plain Chant.”