Until the great Summorum Pontificum, ". . . the single most significant initiative in Sacred Music since the Second Vatican Council."
- Father Eduard Perrone, Editor
What is The Cantus Project?
The present scope of The Cantus Project is defined thus:
1. To translate faithfully and literally into English the Latin texts of existing melodies from the Graduale Simplex for the Proper texts of the Introit, Offertory, and Communion chants so that they may be sung in English with their original chant melodies unaltered.
2. To adapt the Latin chant melodies for the Order of the Mass, the Ordinary, as found in the recent editions of Latin chant books published by the Holy See and Solesmes, to the officially approved English texts in such a manner as to render them as close as possible to the original Solesmes chant melodies.
3. As Liturgiam Authenticam requires a new and true translation of the Latin original texts, The Cantus Project aims to preserve the chant melodies of the Ordinary and Proper of the Mass with diligent regard for the integrity of the given melodies themselves, and their musical accents.
4. Observing an exacting set of criteria for the rendering of its English texts (in the case of the Proper antiphons) and for the preservation of the original chant melodies (in the case of the approved texts of the Ordinary of the Mass), The Cantus Project has already produced literal and singable translations for some 265 antiphons from the Graduale Simplex and the complete Order of the Mass, using the existing ICEL text.
5. This work has been a labor of love by musicians who wish to share the fruit of their work. If those who have been assigned to oversee the musical demands of the liturgy in English deem this work suitable for inclusion in the liturgical books that are to be published, The Cantus Project will have fulfilled its highest hopes and aspirations.
Much to the admiration of music historians, the Roman Catholic Church possesses an ancient treasury of plainchant called Gregorian chant. It is modally fascinating, spiritual and contemplative. It is unsurpassed in holiness. The Church authorities have constantly taught that it should be sung at Mass and Divine Office. The Second Vatican Council in 1963 (in the Sixth Chapter, entitled Musica Sacra, or Sacred Music) of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, or Sacrosanctum Concilium, taught that it should have the principal place in the Roman Rite liturgy.
Notwithstanding these truths, the Chant has been largely set aside, especially since the convulsive times of the 1960's. The Catholic clergy and people have been distracted by Protestant hymns, by a fully vernacularized Novus Ordo Liturgy, guitars, pianos, and "sacro" -pop songs, by countless experiments in new musical compositions (usually hymns), and by new attitudes toward worship in a modern, liberal culture.
Moreover, the Gregorian chant repertory, besides being in Latin -- an ever stranger language -- is musically quite demanding. Ordinary small parishes, even with good will, would find it difficult or even impossible to master all authentic proper chants each Sunday.
In view of this situation, the Vatican music authorities published in 1967 and 1975 a book of chant called the Graduale Simplex. Graduale means, literally, "on the step" (gradus). By extension, it came to mean the responsive chant following the Epistle reading and sung at times "on the steps" (of the altar). By further extension, Gradual now refers to the Book containing all the Proper (prescribed) chants for Mass. These chants being difficult, as noted above, a book consisting of shorter, simpler chants was prepared especially for use in the smaller churches. This is the Graduale Simplex : In Usum Minorum Ecclesiarum. But the obstacle and handicap of the Latin language, though diminished, remain strong enough to discourage most choirs from its use. And so, enter The Cantus Project.
The Cantus Project, then, is a translation of the Graduale Simplex into English. It is so carefully done that the number of syllables, and the placing of accents, are exactly as in the Latin original. To sing this chant is to enjoy an authentic Gregorian chant experience. It could be sung simultaneously with a Latin choir, and also with an English one, without clash or conflict.
The Cantus Project book would be published with both the Latin and the English languages so that a choir, graduating, as it were, to Latin could do so with utter confindence. The chant antiphons (Entrance, Offertory, and Communion) are short and relatively easy to sing, and can be quickly learned. Also, their lengths can be easily prolonged by means of repetition of the additional psalm verses provided. Their singing brings about a reverent peace, and fosters contemplation.
The use of The Cantus Project's Graduale Simplex could signal the beginning of a true revolution in holiness within our liturgies. It is not normal for the Catholic Church to remain for long content with Protestant hymns and/or "sacro"- pop songs and ditties. It is, instead, our heritage and our duty to call upon the simple, ancient, proper music of the Roman Rite Church. These chants can, of course, always be supplemented by other forms of suitable and worthy religious music, such as Sacred polyphony and truly Catholic hymnody in our churches. The Cantus Project of the Graduale Simplex should be welcomed by all and encouraged to enter its Catholic home.
The Cantus Project team consists of five professionally trained musicians. Three are pastoral priest-musicians; one is a church organist and seminary professor of music; and one is a wife and homeschooling mother of long musical dedication. For further information about the work of The Cantus Project, and to see forthcoming samples of the Latin/English chant rendered through The Cantus Project, please see elsewhere on this site.
- - Submitted by a priest-member of The Cantus Project
It is an historical fact that chant is indigenous to many different languages such as the Coptic, Arabic, Aramaic, Syrian, and, of course, the Roman (Latin).
The Cantus Project is the endeavor of a bimonthly gathering of a team of Catholic Church musicians for the purpose of supplying the English language to ancient Gregorian melodies. Under the editorship of Father Eduard Perrone, Pastor of Assumption Grotto Church in Detroit, already three-fourths of the ecclesiastical year have been adapted to this end, preserving unmodified the character and the melody of the original chant.
From its early usage in the Jewish tradition, chant in the early Church was the authentic expression of Christian worship. By the sixth century, it was codified under the influence of Pope St. Gregory the Great; hence this great body of ancient music became known as Gregorian chant.
From an erroneous reading of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, and its consequent and complete elimination from Catholic liturgical discussion following the Second Vatican Council, the chant proclaimed by the Universal Church as possessing "primacy of place" in the realm of Catholic Church music has been lost for the greatest numbers of practicing Catholics and Church musicians.
The Cantus Project is, indeed, "the single most significant initiative in Catholic Church music since the Second Vatican Council," having international implications. Its importance to the Church in all English-speaking countries cannot be overestimated, especially due to the increasingly universal nature of the English language. Besides its obvious prevalence throughout the United States, Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and African countries such as Nigeria; Middle Eastern countries such as Sri Lanka and India; as well as numbers of English-speaking European Catholics, increasing numbers of Asian peoples such as the Japanese, South Koreans, and Taiwanese insist upon the study of English in their schools.
It is significant to note that, at this time, The Cantus Project stands alone in its endeavors.
The participants are committed to respect the anonymous and nonprofit tradition of the inestimable body of chant bequeathed to us: that, having emanated centuries earlier in medieval monastic communities, the chant was always intended, in its practice, for the praise and glory of God. These same principles, it is believed, likewise guide the dissemination of the treasury of Englished chant.
Lastly, the shared conviction of The Cantus Project participants maintains that a serious case can be made that, as with the universally accepted doctrine that Scripture is an inspired entity, so is the accepted body of ancient Gregorian chant inspired.
Dominica in Palmis De Passione Dominis