Tuesday, March 17, 2009


By Dom Dominic Johner

Dom Johner's work on the Vatican Graduale is probably the best work available to understand the church's go-to liturgical music (too infrequently gone to these days.) It was translated from the German by the monks at Collegeville in the good old days. It is one of the great fruits of the original Liturgical Movement.

The Church Music Association of America has made it generally available. It is in the form of a 510 page pdf file. If the above link does not work for you, cut and paste this into your browser:


From the "Translator's Forward:"

In response to many requests for a book descriptive and explanatory
of the Gregorian Mass chants, the monks of St. John's Abbey, Collegeville,
Minn., undertook the translation from the German of Dom Johner's work: Die Sonn- und Festtagslieder des Vatikanischen Graduate, under the above title. In the foreword the author indicates the scope of his work. He writes: "The present work is intended chiefly to serve as
an aid to the prayerful rendition of the variable chanted parts of the
Mass. At the same time it aims to be a guide for the worthy and artistic
rendition of those chants which have been handed down to us from an
age of strong faith and noble taste." Chant is essentially a form of worship
offered by the faithful and as such is an integral part of the liturgy.
It is intimately connected with the very source of all Liturgy, the Eucharistic
Sacrifice, and attempts to interpret and express in music the
sentiments which the text expresses in words.
Individual consideration is given to the texts of the Introit, Gradual,
Alleluia-verse, Tract, Sequence, Offertory, and Communion. These texts
are given in Latin and in English, and are arranged in parallel columns.
They are studied in their historical and liturgical setting, and their sentiments
of joy and sorrow, hope and fear, gratitude and penance, are
pointed out and developed. In this sense also the intimate relationship
existing between these various texts is indicated; all are integrated into
a unified whole and referred to the life of Christ and His Church. Following
this short meditation, the author analyzes the musical score accompanying
the text, and attempts to show how Gregorian Chant interprets
these various sentiments and gives adequate expression to them—
in short, how Gregorian Chant is the prefect yet simple medium of translating
religious emotion into the language of music.

An indispensable condition for the intelligent use of this book as a
guide for interpretation is the simultaneous use of the Vatican Gradual,
since musical notation has not been included in the present work. However,
only a minimum and very elementary knowledge of Gregorian
Chant is necessary for the fruitful use and understanding of the book.
Further knowledge is given in a very significant Introduction, which
describes the structure and expressiveness of the variable Mass Chants.
The original German, as also the English manuscript, have been made
the basis for a very successful summer school course in the study of Gregorian
Chant. The book might adequately be described as "a study in
the appreciation of Gregorian Chant."

My thanks to Dallas Gambrell for the link!

1 comment:

Dallas said...

No thanks necessary, Malcolm; this music belongs to the Church and to all Her faithful children. May God grant that we hear more and more of this music at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each week.