A great example of the New Evangelization in Catholic music is found in Fr. Samuel Weber. Just as Bruce Hornsby (see previous post) mastered the music of Bill Evans and then re-shaped it so that his friends would be attracted to it, Fr. Weber mastered the Graduale Romanum and re-shaped it to attract English speaking Catholics.

The Graduale Romanum is the Catholic Church’s song book. In Latin, in Gregorian Chant notation, this book contains the chants of the Roman Rite sung at Mass. Here is a youtube of one of my favorite cantors, Giovanni Vianini, singing an example from the Graduale. The second Vatican Council promoted Gregorian chant so much that the Council Fathers called for an updating of the Graduale to match the new conciliar liturgical calendar, and published it in 1974.

Fr. Weber, possessing a thorough understanding of Gregorian chant, and aware of how few English speaking Catholic parishes are singing from the Graduale Romanum, composed an English gradual (The Proper of the Mass for Sundays and Solemnities) to help Catholic musicians discover the music of the Roman Rite.

It would be difficult to overstate what this collection does for English speaking Catholic musicians. Fr. Weber sets each proper antiphon in four versions from complex (inspired by the Latin original) to simple (psalm tones) so that any musician can successfully sing the propers. Before, one had the option of struggling and failing to pull off the challenging original Latin chant (which requires sustained study from dedicated singers) or singing simple psalm tone English adaptations.

Here is a recording of the 3rd option for the Communion proper for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time.