ICEL’s missal chants in neumes

Musica Sacra, the website of the Church Music Association of America, offers ICEL’s English missal chants in 4-line square-note Gregorian notation for the Order of Mass.

ICEL itself offers these chants along with all the other English chants (prefaces, antiphons for particular days, etc.) at its website. ICEL provided the chants to the English-speaking bishops’ conferences in 5-line notation. ICEL considered offering both 4-line and 5-line, and even planned on that for a time. Then it was decided that this would be a waste of ICEL time and resources, since no conference would elect to publish 4-line chant in its liturgical books anyway.

Then the question arose: What about folks who want to publish the missal chants in 4-line in their own publications? Would that be permitted, though it’s not the ‘approved’ ICEL notation? Yes, the thought was, there’s no reason not to allow that. And if some want to add in episemas, it’d be hard to disallow that, since the Holy See allowed the Solesmes monks to add in their rhythmic signs to the Vatican edition back in 1908.

The CMAA 4-line looks very attractive to my eye. No episemas, BTW. Enjoy.



  1. A quick question about these, Anthony, concerning the preface dialogue (and no, it’s not about “and with your spirit”). In Canada, we’ve had a different version of the chant, with quite a nice quilisma on both instances of the word “lift” and a slightly more elaborate melody on the rest of those lines.

    If we’re all using the same words now, I take it we’re all using the same chant, too. Does this mean we lose this variation, in favour of the American one? I think it would be a shame; ours is really pretty elegant, IMHO, and our parish, for one, knows it very well.

    1. Chris – don’t know for sure because this is up to the Canadian bishops’ conference. As far as I know, every conference is using the melodies ICEL sent them. So, alas, this would mean that you’re about to lose your Canadian variant.

  2. That’s great. Almost no-one here in PNG can read music, so we are starting from scratch teaching seminarians to read chant. I find it much easier to teach students in the seminary to read the 4-line stave than the 5-line for singing purposes. Until now, I have often had to transcribe 5-line chant material to 4-line. I use a little program called ‘Gregoire’ to print the neums. Do others know it? You can get it for free at

    1. I’ve tried out Gregoire before, and I liked it. More recently, I’ve taken a look at Gregorio:

      It’s somewhat more complex to use, but the output looks really good, and it’s totally free and open source.

      I’d guess that the Meinrad fonts have generally been the most popular for square notation.

    2. Martin;

      I came across “Gregoire” by accident and have found it to be VERY handy for producing brief passages of chant notation for our weekly parish music booklets. Not sure I would want to do an extensive job with it as it is way more cumbersome than the Meinrad font system.

      Also have to agree with you about the ease of learning chant notation…far easier as it totally bypasses the largest hurdles in learning to read music: Rhythmic notation, meter, key and specific pitch. There are, of course more advanced aspects of neumatic notation, but one can learn enough to read chant Ordinaries pretty quickly.

  3. Chants I always had the impression that those in Missale Romanum (and the more complicated ones in Graduale Romanum, sometimes found as an appendix in missals) could be used whatever the language, though I may well be wrong.
    My main ‘grouse’ about the ‘simplified’ chant found in the forthcoming English edition of MR3 (other than the ansence of traditional notation) is that the traditional solemn tone of the preface dialogue has a wonderful series of ascending notes on the first syllable of Sursum corda. matching the meaning of the words, whereas the new missal [see Fra.Lawrence Lew at ]
    actually descends on ‘Lift’! Admittedly, the traditional ferial tone did likewise. It sounds from the description above as if the Canadian missal used the traditional solemn tone.
    Anglicans have been using both Roman and Sarum chants with English words for a century and more – see the altar editions of the English Missal, Anglican Missal,and presumably the American Missal,as well as various other Altar Books produced down the years, e.g. by Rivingtons. Then there is Merbecke’s Book of Common Praier Noted of 1550 (square notes on red four-line stave throughout), where he followed the ‘one syllable, one note’ rule, incidentally setting the whole of the preface and its dialogue one note, an over-simplification spared us in the forthcoming Missal.
    Chant software I had not heard of Gregorio, so I took a look at it. I must confess it seems a bit beyond me. I have used Gregoire, which is versatileand produces reasonable results, though a bit fiddly to use. It is a pity it has not been further developed.
    Are there any other programmes out there?
    Kind regards,
    John Henley

      1. Jeffrey, Thank you for putting me on the right track. I looked at Meinrad, but as the Meinrad Test download comes with about 47 characters appearing only as black rectangles, I have writen to ask if this is is also a problem with the full set, but await a reply.

        However, thanks to your promping a search lead me to <i<Festa Dies and its relative Joseph Pothier
        The former is pretty intuitive, despite my ignorance of Spanish, and produces pleasing results.
        The one advantage of Grégoire is its ability to produce red staves, which look well.
        I also discovered Cæcilia
        but have yet to try it.

        Kind regards,

  4. Believe me, we did have the episema discussion. There are so many good arguments in all directions.

    Ultimately, as we know, music doesn’t live on the page. It lives in the making and hearing. What’s on the page are just signs and symbols. This is the root of all these problems.

  5. I would still be grateful for a comment as to whether my understanding (in my first post above) that the traditional Roman chants were always licit was, in fact correct.
    If so, it would be a wonderful project to produce something along the lines of the Solesmes Ordo Missæ to accompany the new translation.
    Interestingly, in that book, permission was given to vary the word order on occasion to suit the chant – but that’s a whole other discussion 🙂

    Kind regards,

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