This page is intended to provide a summary guide to how one might go about starting a Schola to sing for Mass in the Extraordinary Form. In particular which musical options are available which allow singers to start with simpler chant settings and then progress to the full settings in, for example, the Liber Usualis.
Low Mass with Music
It is not permitted to sing either the Ordinary of the Mass or the Propers at a Low Mass with music. However it is permitted to sing other hymns and/or antiphons at appropriate points in the liturgy (e.g. during the Offertory and Communion). A wide range of seasonal Gregorian chant hymns is available which have simple repeated refrains, many of which also have simple verse melodies. This might prove the simplest starting point for a novice schola wishing to enhance the liturgy with music but having limited familiarity with Gregorian chant notation: initially one modestly experienced cantor might sing the verses and all sing the refrain; as experience is gained all might then sing the verses, and so on.
For a Missa Cantata it is necessary to sing all of the Ordinary and Responses, and all of the Propers of the Mass. However it is not required that these be sung in their most elaborate Gregorian chant form as in, for example, the Liber Usualis. It is therefore perfectly acceptable to sing the texts to simpler chants (for example, using settings of the texts to simple psalm tones) according to the skills and experience of the schola singers and director.
Singing the Ordinary
Singing the Propers
The following table offers some specific steps on a path from singing all of the Propers of the Mass to simple psalm tone to singing the full Propers from the Liber Usualis. However the options listed are not exhaustive so that, for example, as singers become more experienced one might combine the Introit and Offertory in psalm tone with the Gradual and Alleluia with only the verse reduced to psalm tone (a la Liber Brevior), but with a full Communion antiphon from the Liber Usualis.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of online sources for the options identified above.
Playback & sound files
Choosing a starting note