How To Read Anglican Plainsong Chant

Anglican chant – Wikipedia

Church and cathedral choirs, such as the Westminster Abbey choir, are frequently heard singing Anglican chant. In Anglican chant (also known as English chant), words from unmetrical texts, such as psalms and canticles from the Bible, are sung by matching the natural speech-rhythm of the words to the notes of an uncomplicated harmonized melody, which is then repeated. It is important to note that this particular form of chant is a prominent component of Anglican church music. Anglican chant was once widely used in both Anglican and Episcopal churches, but now, it is mostly sung in Anglican cathedrals and parish churches that have maintained their liturgical traditions, according to the Church of England.

During the English Reformation, theplainchanttradition gave way to the development of Anglican chant.

In the first, fourth, eighth, eleventh (and so on) bars of the chant, the majority of the words are chanted freely and rhythmically over thereciting notes, which are found in the first, fourth, eighth, eleventh (and so on) bars of the chant, and with the other notes of the music fittingly fitting the words at the end of each half-verse.

This results in a significant disparity between the lengths of each of these notes and their standard musicological value, which is the minimorsemi-breve.

The earliest known instances are single chants written by John Blow, Henry Purcell, and their contemporaries, which are still in existence today.

The first known double chants date back to around 1700.


An Anglican chant in which the chords are represented by different colors A simpleharmonisedmelodyof 7, 14, 21 or 28bars is assigned to each verse or phrase in order to indicate the text for chanting (known respectively as a single, double, triple or quadruple chant). An example of a single chant is seen in the image above. The following are the first four verses of the Magnificat, with the text colored to illustrate which phrases correlate to which notes in the music in order to make the connection (“the chant”).

  1. And my spirit has been re-joicing in GodmySavior.
  2. 3.As a result of being ‘holdfrom’henceforth, all gene’rations will refer to me as blessed.
  3. Barnabas Chorus that is used to sing theirDaily Office in-Chant-edpodcast of Morning and Even Song.
  4. Barnabas Variouspsaltershave been written over the years, with each one demonstrating how the chant is to be fitted to the text and each one containing its own variant on the exact rules for doing so, as well as explanations on how to do the fitting.

The following are the rules that are utilized in theParish Psalter (one of the more prominent psalters, published by Sydney Nicholson), among other places:

  • Each verse is sung to seven bars of music (the whole chant in the example above, however most chants are 14 bars = 2 verses long)
  • Each verse is sung to one bar of music (the entire chant in the example above)
  • The bar lines in the music correlate to the “pointing marks” in the text, which are represented by inverted commas or apostrophes in the illustration above. In the music, the double bar line corresponds to the colon in the text. All of the words for the relevant section of the text are sung together to the one note (asemibreve) in a bar where there is only one tone (asemibreve) in the bar. When there are two notes (two minims) to a bar, unless otherwise stated, all of the words (excluding the last syllable) are sung to the first minim until otherwise stated. This is the final syllable, and it is sung to the second minor key. The text contains a dot () (between words) or a hyphen (inside a word) to indicate where the note change should occur
  • In cases where more than the final syllable must be sung to the second minim, a hyphen (within a word) is used to indicate where the note change should occur.

The notation used by other psalters varies, and newer psalters, such as the New St Paul’s Cathedral Psalter (John Scott, 1997), have used the following convention:

  • In order to show a barline, a vertical bar (|) is used. Even if the change of note occurs on the final syllable of a bar containing two minims, a dot () or hyphen is used to separate the syllables when there are three or more in the bar.

There are a number of extra restrictions that apply from time to time, including:

  • Acrotchet and dotted minim (in any bar save the final of a quarter) are common rhythms found in some religious chants
  • Two crotchets in place of a minim can also be found in some chants. The replacement of a minim in an internal bar (i.e., one that is not the beginning or last bar of a quarter) with two crotchets can result in one of two outcomes. The first and second notes are sung in fast succession if there is only a single syllable. If there are two (or occasionally more) syllables in a word, they are divided as necessary to fit the rhythm of the words to the two notes as smoothly as possible. Unless the natural rhythm of the lyrics and the spirit of the words suggest that it is suitable to omit the crotchet from the music, when an internal bar contains a dotted rhythm, it is to be sung as described above. Whenever the first bar of a quarter begins on the same note as the first bar of the quarter and ends on the same note as the last bar of the quarter, all of the syllables except the last are sung to the note of the dotted minim, with the last syllable before the barline being tucked into the crotchet. The initial note and the second note are sung in fast succession to a single syllable if there is only one syllable
  • The subtle accent is placed on the first note if there are two or more consecutive syllables. A dot/hyphen may be required after the final barline in the text if the last bar of a quarter has two minims instead of the customary semibreve: as if they were my arch-enemies (for example, even if they were not). Changes in chant can be utilized to highlight thematic alterations in the words, which is especially useful in extended psalms and hymns. It is customary to sing Psalm 119 with a change of chant after every 8 verses, corresponding to every 22 stanzas of the original Hebrew language, as it is the longest psalm in the psalter and the longest in the world. However, it is never performed in one sitting, but rather over a period of several days.

Double, triple and quadruple chants

A single chant is depicted in the above example. This is generally reserved for psalms that are barely a few lines long (half a dozen verses or so). Double chants are the most often heard and utilized chants. These chants are twice as long as a single chant would be. Every pair of verses is punctuated by the repetition of the chant’s tune. This corresponds to the framework of the Hebrew poetry that is seen in many of the psalms: Each verse is divided into two parts, with the second half responding to the first; the verses are arranged in pairs, with the second verse responding to the first.

  1. They first arose in the later half of the nineteenth century to cover some of the deviations to the standard format of that time.
  2. Psalm 2 (for example) lends itself to a triple chant; Psalm 78, on the other hand, would benefit from a quadruple chant.
  3. Triple and quadruple chanting are also referred as as having six or eight quarters, depending on the context.
  4. In a similar vein, “3rd part” markers can be used to distinguish triple chants.
  5. The four lines of the doxology are listed below.
  6. Gloria Patri is a two-verse hymn that is frequently sung at the conclusion of a psalm or canticle.
  • It can be set to any single chant sung twice
  • To any double chant
  • To any appropriate 14 bars (typically specified by the composer) of a triple chant or quadruple chant
  • Or to any combination of these.
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It can be set to a single chant repeated twice; to a double chant; to an appropriate 14 bars (typically chosen by the composer) of a triple chant or quadruple chant; or to any combination of these.

Antiphonal singing

The antiphonal style of singing, which is utilized in cathedrals and churches, is another stylistic method that is employed. Typically, the choir is divided into two equal half-choirs, each of which has representation for each of the four musical sections and which are facing one another in this situation. They are frequently referred to as Decani (usually the half-choir on the south side) and Cantoris (normally the rest of the chorus) (usually the half-choir to the north side). The choir may then use any of the techniques known as quarter-chanting or half-chanting to complete the song.

The side that did not begin the chant (typically cantoris) sings the second quarter of the chant after the first quarter (and thus the second half of the verse).

Half-chanting (which is more accurate to antiphonal singing in the Gregorian style) is performed by decani singing the first two quarters of the chant and cantoris singing the next two quarters of the chant (so that each half-choir sings a whole verse at a time).

Certain choirs go even farther, for example, by having some verses performed by soloists, trebles alone, alto/tenor/bass only (with the treble line translated into one of the other parts), or by having one part or soloists singing the melody while the rest of the choir hums, to name a few examples.

Descants are occasionally sung by some or all of the trebles; however, they are normally only heard in the last line of the psalm or the Gloria.

American terminology

  • Comma inverted and single quote mark (i.e. the “point” on the bar line)
  • Inverted comma and single quotation mark Notes are divided into four categories: semibreve, minim, half note, crotchet, and rest.

See also

  • Plainchant
  • Gregorian chant
  • List of Anglican church composers
  • Anglican church music


  1. Plainchant
  2. Gregorian chant
  3. List of Anglican church composers
  4. Anglican church music
  5. Plainchant

External links

  • In theChoral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki), you may find free scores of Anglican chants. Psalms and canticles written out in their entirety to Anglican chants in accordance with the Church of England’s three-year cycle
  • An online searchable index of chants is available

Anglican Chant for dummies – MusicaSacra Church Music Forum

I’ll also make a little quibble, although a minor one. Looking for accents in ‘Look upon my adversity and misery,’ whether primary or secondary, and following the axiom (with which I disagree) that there is an accent every two or three syllables in common speech, I read this as:Lookup onmy adver si tyandmi sery. I don’t know if this is correct, but I think it is. So, certainly, I detect an accent (albeit a secondary one) on the ‘ty’ in the word ‘adversity.’ when the word ‘and’ is not emphasised (in my reading of the text).

versity and |misery” as my theme.

If one follows Jackson’s pointing, it appears to me that either (1)the two or three rule for accents is being broken (which I’m more or less okay with), with the next accent after’ver’ in ‘adversity and misery’ occurring four syllables later on’mi’:Lookup onmy ad ver sity andmi sery, or (2)the two or three rule for accents is being broken (which I’m more or less okay In ‘adversity and misery,’ we have the accented syllables ‘and’ (supposedly weak) and’mi’:(strong) in the same sentence; Lookup onmy adver sityandmi sery.

To be true, Jackson’s recommended pointing, with the word “and” allocated by itself to the second note of the measure, seems to indicate this reading of an accent on “and” (as well as the emphasis on the following syllable “mi” of “misery”) whether one agrees with it or not.

While my personal taste places a (weak) accent on the letter ‘ty,’ I believe that with the following ‘and’ on the same note, this accent is not elevated to a strong accent from a musical standpoint.

This is a circumstance in which, I believe, YMMV applies.

Simplified Plainsong: An Unwritten Musical Resource for Anglicans in the 21st Century?

And I’ll throw in a small quibble of my own. Looking for accents in ‘Look upon my adversity and misery,’ whether primary or secondary, and following the axiom (with which I disagree) that there is an accent every two or three syllables in common speech, I read this as:Lookup onmy adver si tyandmi sery. I don’t know if this is correct, but it sounds like it. So, certainly, I detect a secondary accent on the ‘ty’ in the word ‘adversity.’ and, while not emphasized, is a contraction of two words (in my reading of the text).

If one follows Jackson’s lead, it appears to me that either (1)the two or three rule for accents is being broken (which I’m more or less okay with), with the next accent after’ver’ in ‘adversity and misery’ occurring four syllables later on’mi’:Lookup onmy ad ver sity andmi sery, or (2)the two or three rule for accents is being broken (which I’m more or less okay with In ‘adversity and misery,’ we have the accented syllables ‘and’ (supposedly weak) and’mi’:(strong) in the same sentence; Lookup onmy adver sityandmi sery.

(2) To be sure, Jackson’s recommended pointing, with the word “and” allocated by itself to the second note of the measure, seems to support this reading of an accent on “and” (as well as the emphasis on the following syllable “mi” of “misery”) whether you agree with it or not.

In spite of the fact that my preferred pronunciation places a (weak) emphasis on the letter ty, I believe that, when the word ‘and’ follows on the same note, this accent does not become a strong accent.

And as Corinne points out, a conscientious MD may absolutely work hard to encourage vocalists to avoid over-stressing the ‘ty” sound. YMMV, I suppose, is the case in this circumstance.

  • It should be used with an ordinary, un-pointed Psalter, as it appears in the Book of Common Prayer
  • It should be used with an ordinary, unpointed Psalter, precisely as it appears in the Book of Common Prayer
  • The essential musical concepts of the plainsong tradition, namely: the rhythm of speech and a standard reciting note, would be preserved.

For the first time, I feel I may have created something that might make the plainsong tradition more accessible to the typical Anglican in the twenty-first century. It’s referred to as “Simplified Plainsong.” It is quite straightforward, and that is precisely the purpose. The way it works is as follows: chanting the Psalm on a steady reciting note: whatever is comfortable in the throat and can be sung softly is used to recite the Psalm. The last emphasized syllable causes the recitation to end on a low note.

  1. At the conclusion of the second half-verse, take one step back.
  2. As we sang the psalms during morning prayer this morning, here is a (low-quality) recording of us singing them (sung from the BCP 2019).
  3. I’ve also been able to teach it to children as young as seven years old.
  4. Due to its hard austerity and near-monotone character, it offers a contemplative environment in which to fully dive into the psalm, and it also brings a great deal of joy to the Daily Office.
  5. Give it a shot at your next office and see if it turns out to be a valuable tool for your business.
  6. A sinner, the Rev.
  7. He was born and raised in England before moving to the United States in 1999.
  8. Archbishop Duncan conferred on him the ordination to the priesthood in 2014.
  9. From 2015 to 2019, he sat on the Liturgy Task Force of the American Churches in North America, and he was the principal designer for the printing of the printed prayer book.
  10. He also serves on the board of directors of Anglican House Media Ministries.
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Singing Simplified Anglican Chant

In an ideal situation, both according to the tradition of the Prayer Book and according to the overall history of Christian worship, the Psalms should be sung rather than just read aloud. And when people talk of singing, they are almost always referring to chanting (until, say, the 14th century when modern European music began to emerge out of the Greco-Roman chant tradition). Among the early Anglican Reformers, chant received a new lease on life in the English language thanks to composers such as John Merbecke, but for the most part, chant tradition among Anglicans went into hibernation in the 17th and 18th centuries, eventually re-emerging as “Anglican Chant” in the 19th century.

  • Consequently, it draws on the melodic simplicity of plainchant and the harmonic beauty of English hymnody to create a work of art.
  • The flexibility to express oneself, to create new chant melodies and combinations, and even to inscribe the text has increased significantly (meaning, lining up the text with the notes).
  • During the couple of centuries that chant was out of fashion, the singing of “metric psalms” took center stage on the church’s stage.
  • On the other hand, the negative of metric psalms is that they are not composed in English poetic rhythms or rhyme schemes, which means that they must be translated from their original Hebrew into English.
  • Plainchant, also known as Anglican chant, eliminates the need to re-translate the Psalms, allowing you to sing the text as it is written.
  • There are videos on YouTube, such as this one, that can assist you in learning the Anglican Chant.
  • SimplifiedAnglican Chant, on the other hand, is something I’d like to expose you to here.

Music for Simplified Anglican Chant is notated as four measures of music with two groups of notes for each measure of music.

As a result, one whole line of Simplified Anglican Chant corresponds to two verses in the text of the Psalm.

For those of you who have the Book of Common Praise 2017, you will find a good explanation of this at “hymn”738a, which includes illustrations.

Regardless of whether you have the book or not, you may have a look at this video I put together a few months ago.

The example song I selected is not one of the twelve that are included in the hymnal; it is just one that I faintly recalled from when I was a member of a church choir over nine years ago.

The congregation can choose to terminate the chant formula halfway through, which would be musically unsatisfying, or they can continue the second half of the chant formula (measures 3 and 4) for the last verse of the psalm.

Resources for Learning to Sing the Psalms

Written by Robin G. Jordan The Psalms were requested by one of my readers, and I was asked if I knew of any excellent instructional recordings on how to learn to recite them. This led me to look for materials on the Internet that could be useful to her and other readers who are interested in learning to sing the Psalms. I found a few that I thought might be helpful. Listed below are some of the resources that I came across and believe may be of use to you. I’ve also included a list of resources for people who are interested in learning how to sing metrical Psalms.

  1. When it comes to the three techniques, only Anglican chant calls for an SATB choir.
  2. All three strategies necessitate the use of an appropriate acoustical environment.
  3. However, while metrical Psalms are less influenced by the acoustical context in which they are performed, they will not sound as good as they could in an unsuitable setting.
  4. This page is a list of websites that may be of use to individuals who wish to learn how to recite the Psalms.
  5. By just listening to them, you can pick up on the tones.
  6. In this handbook, you will find the services from the English Book of Common Prayer (1662) transposed to Gregorian tones.
  7. An introduction to the Psalms and the singing of the Psalms The fundamentals of reciting a Psalm.

Some of the classes on this page devoted to reciting the Psalms in Latin, for example, may be of use to you.

On YouTube, there is a decent collection of psalms that may be heard.

Many people now believe that psalmody is a monastic discipline that exclusively belongs in monasteries, yet psalmody is a spiritual treasure that is accessible to everybody who prays.

Bringing Christian psalmody into the twenty-first century, Cynthia Bourgeault provides a history of Christian psalmody as well as an awareness of the discipline’s position in contemplative practice today.

“Even if you don’t know how to read music,” Cynthia explains, “or if you’ve internalized the message that your voice isn’t good or that you can’t sing on pitch,” she hopes to demonstrate that chanting the psalms is a skill that can be learned by almost everyone.

An introduction to Archbishop Parker’s Psalter, which is a metrical Psalter created by Elizabeth I’s first Archbishop of Canterbury, and which is available online.

The following is an article I published on the early metrical Psalters that were used in the Elizabethan Church.

The entire Psalter, which contains one hundred and fifty Psalmes, has been translated into English meter; the first quinquagene: The first edition of Archbishop Parker’s Psalter has been published.

Tate and Brady’s (Tate and Brady’s) In addition to hymns by John Newton, Isaac Watts, John Wesley, and others, The New Version was popular throughout the nineteenth century and comprised a substantial part of the repertory of the “village quires.” Psalms and Hymns written by Isaac Watts: The texts of the Psalms and hymns written by Isaac Watts are available for download.

Haligweorc Chant Resource Page

Currently in the process of being completed A significant aspect of daily life at haligweorc is the practice of plainchant. Of course, St. Augustine was correct when he said, “He who sings, prays twice.” In my style of Benedictine Christianity, we believe that a transcendent liturgy that emphasizes the awe and grandeur of God’s contact with his people is more likely to move us closer to God and toward the life of virtue that God desires for us and for all of creation than a traditional liturgy.

  • Plainchant is one of the great jewels of the Western Church, and this is prolegomena to speak it.
  • For those who sing, it is not only a method of focusing on the words of the Scriptures and liturgies that enliven our Life-in-Christ, but it is also a means of controlling and directing the breath, which supports our contemplative and physical act of prayer, which is a gift from God.
  • Even for those of us who are devoted to the daily routines of liturgical prayer, there is no reason why we should not participate in this song to the extent that we are able.
  • Numerous materials, particularly those that are publicly available, are created by musicians and liturgists from the Roman Catholic Church.
  • When referring to their work, I shall make two points of clarification.
  • As a result, only a small number of these sites have English translations; keep this in mind, especially if you’re not accustomed to hearing your liturgy in Latin.
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More to the point, some of the great Anglican hymn writers and liturgists (John Mason Neale comes to mind as an example) were known for their expertise in keeping the meter of Latin liturgical texts in their translations, allowing the old melodies to be used for them even after they were translated.

  • To make matters even more complicated, the majority of plainchant revival efforts in the Roman church are focused on the Mass.
  • That’s not to say there aren’t Office resources available; it’s just that the bulk of them are geared for the general public, and if you want Office resources, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
  • Organizational Relationships The New Liturgical Movement (also known as the New Liturgical Movement) This is a collaborative blog maintained by a group of conservative Roman intellectuals and artists.
  • It’s something I read on a daily basis.
  • Many of the typical suspects from the National Library of Medicine are members or officers here.
  • Cecilia Schola Cantorum (St.
  • Chant is introduced in the following ways: How to Read Square Notes Like a Pro (For Complete Idiots) This brief pdf document, created by the leadership of the St.

Even if you want to sing in English, this is a highly recommended option.

It begins with basic lessons that are appropriate for persons with no prior musical experience, and then delivers a diverse range of material.

The Chant of Fr.

In this customary, Father John-Julian instructs the Order of Julian of Norwich in a succinct manner on how to sing chant communally for the singing of the BCP Offices, which is a customary authored by Father John-Julian.

If you only had time to read one of them, I’d choose this one.

Gregorian Chant: A Textbook for Students (1930) The CMAA has provided us with yet another full-length book scan for your viewing pleasure.

It’s much simpler to learn to chant if you can listen to the music and follow along with the audio, which is why we’ve provided the audio.

My Suggestions for Chanting the Psalms: Blueprint for Success: Sacred Music in Your Congregation From the leadership of the St.

This is a proposal for the establishment of a chant schola.

Scores/Liturgies/Music The Liber Usualis is a collection of writings from the Middle Ages.

Among its contents are the common texts for Mass and the Sunday Offices, as well as propers for Masses and Vespers held throughout the year.

A Benedictine Psalterium that comprises the Psalms, hymns, and a concluding verse answer for each of the nocturns throughout the course of the week.

Once again, everything is in Latin.

This is not for the faint of heart, and it will most likely be used as a reference rather than for everyday use.

For the Benedictus and Magnificat, it includes both the traditional 9 basic psalm tones with the different Sarum endings and somber arrangements in each tone for the Benedictus and Magnificat.

Tone Sheet for the Psalms The Liber Usualis contains the nine tones and their ends, which are shown on this page.

For a long time, this was the only website that gave the chant for Anglican Offices, and it remains so today (and the Mass).

These are the offices of the Order of Julian of Norwich (Julian of Norwich).

While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the Plainchant Masses, which adapt Rite II texts from the 1979 BCP to traditional plainchant music.

There’s a lot here, so take your time and look around…

Materials for Fr.

Tessone (Chris T.) is now working on marking the hymn texts contained in the Anglican Breviary (which has the same material as the ancient Roman Breviary, but with traditional-language English texts instead of Latin texts).

He hopes to be able to give seasonal hymns for Matins, Lauds, and Vespers in the future, but he must first resolve licensing and permissions concerns before they can be made available to the public. This is a work in progress, once again. Please provide suggestions for things to include!

Anglican chant

Psalms and canticles in the Anglican Church are sung in Anglican chant, which is a basic harmonized arrangement of a melodic formula designed specifically for singing in the Anglican Church. Similar to the psalm tones used in Gregorian chant, the formula is composed of a recitation tone, middle and finalcadences (mediation, and termination), and is based on the formula for psalm tones used in Anglican chant. It was in 1550 that John Marbeck produced The Booke of Common Praier Noted, in which he employed the canticles in the first seven psalm tones and the psalms in tone number eight.

Most likely, the harmonic style of these polyphonic settings was developed through a variation of the continentalfalsobordonestyle, which also utilised the plain-song-psalm tones, but in the highest voice of the choir.

There are also triple and even quadruple variations of the same thing.

Consequently, plainsong harmonizations re-emerged, as in James Clifford’sDivine Services and Anthems Usually Sung in Cathedral and Collegiate Choires in the Church of England, which was published in 1845.

Beginning at the end of the 17th century, English composers began writing own melodies, utilizing the recitation note and the cadences of thepsalm tone as a framework but leaving out the intonation entirely.

Following the beginning of the Oxford Movement (which promoted a reorientation toward Roman Catholic liturgy) in 1833, parish churches began to provide choral services, which had previously been reserved for cathedrals.

The Plainsong and Medieval Music Society has rekindled interest in Gregorian chants sung in the vernacular, and they have done so with great success (founded 1888).

Winfred Douglas, who lived in the United States, both had a significant impact on the movement.

It was the English poet Robert Bridges who pointed out in 1912 that the chant should be tailored to the words rather than the other way around. Dr. Hugh Allen, a professor at Oxford, encouraged him to publish the Psalter Newly Printed, which was released in 1925.

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