Monday, July 11, 2011

Book Review: Canticum Clericorum Romanum

A few weeks back I was sent for review Canticum Clericorum Romanum (Volume 1) which was published this year by Biretta Books. These are chant settings for the Epistles, Gospels, and Collects for Sundays, Solemnities and each day of Holy Week.

The settings were put together by Michel Ozorak and the book published under the editorial guidance of Fr. Scott Haynes of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius. Richard Rice of the CMAA also had a hand as an assistant editor, as did Br. Brian Schafter of the Canons Regular. Notably, Fr. Josef Bisig, FSSP is also noted as one of the collaborators for the volume.


The purpose of the volume is probably best expressed by the website of the Canons Regular:

Although a 1962 Missale Romanum contains all the texts that the priest should sing at a High Mass, no musical notation is given for the Epistles, Gospels, or Orations! In the past priests received all the proper musical training for the complex rules and musical tones of the High Mass. However, seminaries have not provided this training for decades. Thus, generations of priests are not equipped with the musical background to sing the Traditional Latin High Mass.

To remedy this problem the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius have collaborated with Michel Ozorak and the Windsor Latin Mass Community by creating a comprehensive volume of Gregorian Chant sheet music containing the musical notation for all available musical tones for the Epistles, Gospels, and orations for every Sunday and Feast of the Liturgical Year!

In short, the idea behind the volume is to make clear the chant tones that are to be used for these chanted portions of the missal that are not accompanied by chant notation itself.


So what does this volume contain? Here is a more detailed listing from the publishers:

- Complete musical settings for the Epistles, Gospels, and Collects for Sundays, Solemnities and each day of Holy Week!

- All Collects and Postcommunions are notated in the Tonus Solémnis or Tonus Festívus

- All Gospels are notated in the Tonus Evangélii, Tonus Antíquior, and Tonus Ad Líbitum

- Lessons, Orations, and Blessings are notated in the Tonus Feriális, Tonus Prophétiae or Tonus Simplex for certain litirgical days (such as Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday, Candlemas, and the Easter Vigil).

Here is an image of one of the sets of pages:

Physical Construction

Turning our attention to the physical production of the book, the first thing to note is that the book is approximately the size of an altar missal and approximately 2" thick. That said, the book is indeed very lightweight. (In fact, when the package arrived, I wondered if it could possibly be the book in question since I thought it would be much heavier given its size.)

The cover is a red hardcover in bonded leather. Importantly, the binding is a sewn binding which means it is likely to stand the test of time, unlike some other binding methods.

The pages in the volume are of a nice stock and the book lays open quite nicely -- both of these physical features are important insofar as they also have a practical dimension that will make the book easier to work with.


Exteriorly and interior, the book is evidently intended to have a liturgical appearance to it. The cover design includes a budded cross with fleur-de-lys as well as the symbols of the four evangelists and is quite attractive. These four symbols are repeated on the spine of the volume.

The pages of the volume are gold gilt and the paper itself within the volume is of a nice cream stock. I was very glad to see the use of traditional red dropcaps, which is not only traditional and attractive, but also very practical in helping to identify the beginnings of the respective chants.

The volume also includes four ribbon markers in the four primary liturgical colours as per the missal: red, white (gold), violet and green. Thus if you, like me, actually make a point of setting up an altar missal using the ribbons of the proper liturgical colour for the day, you can do so with this volume as well.


From a design perspective, one improvement I could see is for deeper embossing to have been employed for the cover designs, and further, the use of ribbing on the spine -- thus aligning the binding further to the traditional liturgical bindings usually seen within the context of the usus antiquior. Needless to say, however, this surely would have increased the price of the volume, which already sits at $275.00 USD -- which, while seeming pricey, really is not when one considers the usual pricing for comparable types of volumes.

I think in the same vein, it might have been nice if thicker ribbon markers had been used, similar to those in older missals, but again, this is hardly a major point and really is more a matter of personal preference.

Overall, a nice job done for a resource which will surely have practical value.

Canticum Clericorum Romanum
Roman Clerical Chant - Gregorian Chant Settings of the Orations, Epistles and Gospels
Michel Ozorak
bonded leather hardcover, gold-embossed, 803 pages, 8½" x 11" (approx. 1¾" thick) - ISBN: 978-0-615-46105-2
Product #: SY393

To order: Cantius Webstore

Other Reviews:

A Mighty Contribution to the Practical Arts of Liturgy, The Chant Cafe

Canticum Clericorum Romanum, Rorate Caeli

Is This Book Authorised for Liturgical Use?, The Liturgical Pimpernel

Guessing how to sing that prayer? Not any more. Canticum Clericorum Romanum, Vol. I., WDTPRS

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