01 January 2010

Books about Chant

UK sources for newly printed books about Chant, as for books of Chant, include St Michael's Abbey (Farnbrough). For some of these books you may need to try Amazon or searching more generally.

These are all short introductions to the Chant which I (Joseph Shaw) have happened to have read and found interesting; notes on other books very welcome.

An Idiot's Guide to Square Notes, by Arlene Oost-Zinner and Jeffrey Tucker
Free dowload: tells you the basics about where the semi-tones are and why you should be singing Chant from square notes.

Schola's Guide to Sung Mass (Latin Mass Society)
Online here. Tells scholas exactly when, what, and how long to sing at the Extraordinary Form.

Psallite Sapienter: A Musician's Practical Guide to the 1962 Roman Missal, by B. Andrew Mills.
(Available from Lulu)
Helpful tips on the rules governing the 1962 Missal. A more detailed form of the previous entry.

Square Notes: A Workbook in Gregorian Chant, by Sister M. Judith O.P.
(Available from St Michael's Abbey)
This is how it was done in the 1950s. A truly didactic book, intended for schoolchildren, but going as far as explaining how to distinguish the modes and 'how to place the ictus'. Based entirely on the 'Old Solesmses' method, and fascinating if you wonder what the curly lines on the examples of chant in the introductory pages of the Liber Usualis mean.

The Beginner's Books of Chant, by a Benedictine Monk
(Available from St Michael's Abbey)
Helpful tips on running a schola; written with monastic scholas in mind.

Plainchant for Everyone, by Mary Berry (Published by the Royal School of Church Music)
(Available from Amazon and the RSCM)
Particularly useful introduction to the modes.

Gregorian Chant: A Guide (trans Edward Schaefer)
Gregorian Chant: A Guide to the History and Liturgy (trans Mary Berry)
by Dom Daniel Saulnier
Two translations of the same book. Dr Berry's translation is better, but harder to find (see Amazon, or contact the publisher, Paraclete Press, directly - see comment, below). More substantial than the others, excellent introduction to the history of the Chant, notably explaining what it means to say a chant is in one mode rather than another.

Chant Made Simple, by Robert M. Fowells
Good short introduction to the history of the Chant followed by illustrated explanations of the squiggles in the Graduale Triplex, and how they help you to sing the Chant better - not something tackled in any of the other books.


  1. this is very helpful, Joe.

    I would second it all, by a caveat, though: progress will be much quicker if one gathers with likeminded others and sings often!

  2. Greetings -
    I was noting the comment above of Dr Berry's translation of Gregorian Chant: A Guide to the History and Liturgy. Please contact me at:

    Jim Jordan/Music Editor/Chant Specialist
    Paraclete Press
    36 Southern Eagle Cartway
    Brewster, MA 02631 USA
    508-255-4685, ext. 335

    Paraclete Press publishes Dr Berry's translation of Dom Saulnier's book.