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Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Mundelein Psalter Endorsement

This year old thread on the MusicaSacra boards has been revived, with an apparently heartfelt thumbs up for the Mundelein Psalter from a self-described non-musician:

I love the Mundelein Psalter. I had previously prayed the Liturgy of the Hours for many years simply reciting it. I had long wanted to be able sing the office but didn't know how: there are so few resources available for singing the office. Indeed, whenever I attended a celebration of Evening Prayer in a church, I inevitably found that the psalms were replaced with contemporary hymns from a hymnal. This, to my mind, is not really the Liturgy of the Hours and has always left me feeling let down. I wanted to sing the office using the psalter but clearly even most [parish] music directors don't know how to do that anymore. I was on my own in learning how to do that. And since I am not a musician, any resources I might have found wouldn't have helped me much. I was left high and dry longing to be able to sing the office but having neither the tools nor the skill to do so.

And then the Mudelein Psalter was published!

Suddenly I had a tool for praying the office and it provided music and musical notation that I could learn and use without the support of "real" musicians. Using the Mundelein Psalter, a few guides to square note notation easily found on the internet, the recordings from the Mundelein Psalter website and a collection of diatonic harmonicas that I can use to model the melodies, I was able to teach my self to read the notation and to chant the melodies. I was able to fulfill my long time desire of being able to sing the office.

After a little over a year of using this psalter I can almost sight read the gregorian notation - at least the simpler notation as found in the Mudelein Psalter. I certainly can't easily read the notation found in the Gradulae Romanum, but I can manage the notation in the Parish Book of Chant. I am no where near being able to sight read standard notation.

Did I mention that I am not a musician? In a little more than a year I have acquired more musical skill using the simple modal music offered in this Psalter than I have in all my years trying to sing the standard repertoire found in most parishes. One surprise benefit that I seem to have received from using these melodies is the clearing up of a lot of residual tone deafness. There seems to be something about this kind of music that teaches you to hear musically. I don't know how to say or describe it better than than that but the results are clear. I hear more accurately now and, as a consequence, I can now sing more accurately. The Mundelein Psalter provided an important first step for me to begin acquiring more sophisticated musical skills. I am not going to be performing at the Met anytime soon, but I am a better singer now than I was a year ago and I can credit that to the this psalter and to other simple chant resources that I have discovered.

I have learned enough now that I am ready for greater challenges but I am glad that the Mundelein Psalter provided the wonderful first step it has. Even though I am ready to tackle bigger challenges I have not yet grown tired of the psalter and continue to use it daily.

Is the music in this psalter simple? You bet it is - but that is a huge advantage to non-musician like me who will often find that they have to learn this material largely without the support of real musicians.

Now that's enthusiasm.

It's really a wonderful volume. I can't imagine there are many parish or community music programs so advanced they wouldn't benefit from this. (Imagine going from doing Evening prayer, or rather what is called "Evening Prayer" out of the Gather hymnal, and then graduating to this -- you'd think you'd died and gone to heaven.)

There was talk that there was going to be a companion volume, Hymnal.
Wonder if that's still in the works...

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