Twelve Latin Chants Every Catholic Should Know
An article bearing this title was published in the April 2003 edition of Crisis magazine. Written by Arlene Oost-Zinner and Jeffrey Tucker, it outlined a basic repertoire of 12 Latin hymns "that have carried the Catholic faith through many centuries." The article is written simply and beautifully, and contains resources for learning these hymns and restoring them to common use. However, one thing lacking was a central source where these 12 might be heard. So began the task of bringing free, downloadable audios of these hymns to one central location, on the Catholic Chant website.
It is true that Gregorian chant audio recordings abound, including for the 12 hymns listed. So what is unique about the audios on this site? The objective is to make it as easy as possible to learn the chants. Most recordings present several common challenges to the learner. First, a distant and echoed sound, while certainly aesthetically pleasing, tends to muffle the pronunciation of the words. Second, organ accompaniment, which can also be aesthetically pleasing, can confuse the melody and timing for the learner. My own preference in chant is to hear and sing it a capella, unadorned with instrumentation. Finally, mixed voices, or singers unfamiliar with the music and with each other, may detract from the unity of melody toward which chant strives.
The ideal setting for chant is in a group, generally known as a schola, whose purpose is to blend all individual voices in such a way that no one voice stands out, but all sound as one. In order to overcome the challenges above, however, I will offer a single voice, attempting to blend clarity and technique for a sound hopefully pleasing, but more importantly, conducive to learning the hymns.
A note on the use of the hymns: where applicable, I have shown each hymn's proper use in Mass or in a certain feast or season. All the hymns listed, however, are appropriate for use during Offertory or Communion for masses throughout the year (with due consideration for the season). I have also used these hymns at home, with my children during our night prayers and to sing babies to sleep. So while I would enjoy hearing chant more often in Catholic churches, I also would encourage its more frequent use in Catholic family life.
Questions or comments may be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.