2.1.7 Chants psalms and hymns

The music and words for chants, psalms and hymns usually follow a well-established format in any particular church. Although the formats may differ from church to church the typesetting problems which arise are broadly similar, and are covered in this section.


References for chants and psalms

Typesetting Gregorian chant in various styles of ancient notation is described in Ancient notation.

See also

Notation reference: Ancient notation.

Snippets: Vocal music.


Setting a chant

Modern chant settings use modern notation with varying numbers of elements taken from ancient notation. Some of the elements and methods to consider are shown here.

Chants often use quarter notes without stems to indicate the pitch, with the rhythm being taken from the spoken rhythm of the words.

stemOff = { \hide Staff.Stem }

\relative c' {
  \stemOff
  a'4 b c2 |
}

[image of music]

Chants often omit measure bar lines or use shortened or dotted bar lines to indicate pauses in the music. To set a chant with no musical meter, see Unmetered music. To retain all the effects of a time signature but disable automatic measure bar lines, set measureBarType to '(). Without regular bar lines, you might need to take steps to control horizontal spacing; see Line breaking.

\score {
  \new StaffGroup <<
    \new Staff {
      \relative {
        a'4 b c2 |
        a4 b c2 | \section
        a4 b c2 |
      }
    }
    \new Staff {
      \relative {
        a'4 b c2 |
        a4 b c2 | \section
        a4 b c2 |
      }
    }
  >>
  \layout {
    \context {
      \Staff
      measureBarType = #'()
      forbidBreakBetweenBarLines = ##f
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

Measure bar lines can also be modified on a staff-by-staff basis; see Modifying context plug-ins.

Rests or pauses in chants can be indicated by modified bar lines.

\relative a' {
  a4
  \cadenzaOn
  b c2
  a4 b c2
  \bar "'"
  a4 b c2
  \bar ","
  a4 b c2
  \bar ";"
  a4 b c2
  \bar "!"
  a4 b c2
  \bar "||"
}

[image of music]

Alternatively, the notation used in Gregorian chant for pauses or rests is sometimes used even though the rest of the notation is modern.

divisioMinima = \caesura
divisioMaior = { \caesura \shortfermata }
divisioMaxima = { \caesura \fermata }
finalis = \section

\score {
  \relative {
    g'2 a4 g
    \divisioMinima
    g2 a4 g
    \divisioMaior
    g2 a4 g
    \divisioMaxima
    g2 a4 g
    \finalis
  }
  \layout {
    \context {
      \Staff
      \remove Caesura_engraver
      \consists Divisio_engraver
      \EnableGregorianDivisiones
      caesuraType = #'((breath . chantquarterbar))
      measureBarType = #'()
      forbidBreakBetweenBarLines = ##f
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

Chants usually omit the time signature and often omit the clef too.

\score {
  \new Staff {
    \relative {
      a'4 b c2 |
      a4 b c2 |
      a4 b c2 |
    }
  }
  \layout {
    \context {
      \Staff
      \remove Time_signature_engraver
      \remove Clef_engraver
      measureBarType = #'()
      forbidBreakBetweenBarLines = ##f
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

Chants for psalms in the Anglican tradition are usually either single, with 7 bars of music, or double, with two lots of 7 bars. Each group of 7 bars is divided into two halves, corresponding to the two halves of each verse, usually separated by a double bar line. Only whole and half notes are used. The 1st bar in each half always contains a single chord of whole notes. This is the “reciting note”. Chants are usually centered on the page.

SopranoMusic = \relative {
  g'1 | c2 b | a1 |
  a1 | d2 c | c b | c1 |
}

AltoMusic = \relative {
  e'1 | g2 g | f1 |
  f1 | f2 e | d d | e1 |
}

TenorMusic = \relative {
  c'1 | c2 c | c1 |
  d1 | g,2 g | g g | g1 |
}

BassMusic =  \relative {
  c1 | e2 e | f1 |
  d1 | b2 c | g' g | c,1 |
}

global = {
  \time 2/2
  \skip 1*3 \section
  \skip 1*4 \fine
}

% Use markup to center the chant on the page
\markup {
  \fill-line {
    \score {  % centered
      <<
        \new ChoirStaff <<
          \new Staff <<
            \global
            \clef "treble"
            \new Voice = "Soprano" <<
              \voiceOne
              \SopranoMusic
            >>
            \new Voice = "Alto" <<
              \voiceTwo
              \AltoMusic
            >>
          >>
          \new Staff <<
            \clef "bass"
            \global
            \new Voice = "Tenor" <<
              \voiceOne
              \TenorMusic
            >>
            \new Voice = "Bass" <<
              \voiceTwo
              \BassMusic
            >>
          >>
        >>
      >>
      \layout {
        \context {
          \Score
          \override SpacingSpanner.base-shortest-duration =
            #(ly:make-moment 1/2)
          fineBarType = "||"
        }
        \context {
          \Staff
          \remove Time_signature_engraver
        }
      }
    }  % End score
  }
}  % End markup

[image of music]

Some other approaches to setting such a chant are shown in the first of the following snippets.

Selected Snippets

Chant or psalms notation

This form of notation is used for Psalm chant, where verses aren’t always the same length.

stemOff = \hide Staff.Stem
stemOn  = \undo \stemOff

\score {
  \new Staff \with { \remove "Time_signature_engraver" }
  {
    \key g \minor
    \cadenzaOn
    \stemOff a'\breve bes'4 g'4
    \stemOn a'2 \section
    \stemOff a'\breve g'4 a'4
    \stemOn f'2 \section
    \stemOff a'\breve^\markup { \italic flexe }
    \stemOn g'2 \fine
  }
}

[image of music]

Canticles and other liturgical texts may be set more freely, and may use notational elements from ancient music. Often the words are shown underneath and aligned with the notes. If so, the notes are spaced in accordance with the syllables rather than the notes’ durations.

Ancient notation template – modern transcription of gregorian music

This example demonstrates how to do modern transcription of Gregorian music. Gregorian music has no measure, no stems; it uses only half and quarter note heads, and special marks, indicating rests of different length.

\include "gregorian.ly"

chant = \relative c' {
  \set Score.timing = ##f
  f4 a2 \divisioMinima
  g4 b a2 f2 \divisioMaior
  g4( f) f( g) a2 \finalis
}

verba = \lyricmode {
  Lo -- rem ip -- sum do -- lor sit a -- met
}

\score {
  \new GregorianTranscriptionStaff <<
    \new GregorianTranscriptionVoice = "melody" \chant
    \new GregorianTranscriptionLyrics = "one" \lyricsto melody \verba
  >>
}

[image of music]

See also

Learning Manual: Visibility and color of objects, Vocal ensembles templates.

Notation Reference: Ancient notation, Bar lines, Modifying context plug-ins, Typesetting Gregorian chant, Unmetered music, Visibility of objects.


Pointing a psalm

The words to an Anglican psalm are usually printed in separate verses centered underneath the chant.

Single chants (with 7 bars) are repeated for every verse. Double chants (with 14 bars) are repeated for every pair of verses. Marks are inserted in the words to show how they should be fitted to the chant. Each verse is divided into two halves. A colon is usually used to indicate this division. This corresponds to the double bar line in the music. The words before the colon are sung to the first three bars of music; the words after the colon are sung to the last four bars.

Single bar lines (or in some psalters an inverted comma or similar symbol) are inserted between words to indicate where the bar lines in the music fall. In markup mode a single bar line can be entered with the bar check symbol, |.

\markup {
  \fill-line {
    \column {
      \left-align {
        \line { O come let us sing | unto the | Lord : let }
        \line { us heartily rejoice in the | strength of | our }
        \line { sal- | -vation. }
      }
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

Other symbols may require glyphs from the fetaMusic fonts. For details, see Fonts.

tick = \markup {
  \raise #1 \fontsize #-5 \musicglyph "scripts.rvarcomma"
}
\markup {
  \fill-line {
    \column {
      \left-align {
        \line { O come let us sing \tick unto the \tick Lord : let }
        \line {
          us heartily rejoice in the \tick strength of \tick our
        }
        \line { sal \tick vation. }
      }
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

Where there is one whole note in a bar all the words corresponding to that bar are recited on that one note in speech rhythm. Where there are two notes in a bar there will usually be only one or two corresponding syllables. If there are more that two syllables a dot is usually inserted to indicate where the change in note occurs.

dot = \markup {
  \raise #0.7 \musicglyph "dots.dot"
}
tick = \markup {
  \raise #1 \fontsize #-5 \musicglyph "scripts.rvarcomma"
}
\markup {
  \fill-line {
    \column {
      \left-align {
        \line {
          O come let us sing \tick unto \dot the \tick Lord : let
        }
        \line {
          us heartily rejoice in the \tick strength of \tick our
        }
        \line { sal \tick vation. }
      }
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

In some psalters an asterisk is used to indicate a break in a recited section instead of a comma, and stressed or slightly lengthened syllables are indicated in bold text.

dot = \markup {
  \raise #0.7 \musicglyph "dots.dot"
}
tick = \markup {
  \raise #1 \fontsize #-5 \musicglyph "scripts.rvarcomma"
}
\markup {
  \fill-line {
    \column {
      \left-align {
        \line { Today if ye will hear his voice * }
        \line {
          \concat { \bold hard en }
          | not your | hearts : as in the pro-
        }
        \line { vocation * and as in the \bold day of tempt- | }
        \line { -ation | in the | wilderness. }
      }
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

In other psalters an accent is placed over the syllable to indicate stress.

tick = \markup {
  \raise #2 \fontsize #-5 \musicglyph "scripts.rvarcomma"
}
\markup {
  \fill-line {
    \column {
      \left-align {
        \line {
          O come let us \concat {
            si \combine \tick ng
          }
          | unto the | Lord : let
        }
        \line {
          us heartily \concat {
            rejo \combine \tick ice
          }
          in the | strength of | our
        }
        \line { sal- | -vation. }
      }
    }
  }
}

[image of music]

The use of markup to center text, and arrange lines in columns is described in Formatting text.

Most of these elements are shown in one or other of the two verses in the template, see Psalms.

See also

Learning Manual: Psalms, Vocal ensembles templates.

Notation Reference: Fonts, Formatting text.


Phrase bar lines in hymn tunes

The \caesura command can be configured to create phrase bar lines that interact well with other automatic bar lines (see Automatic bar lines).

In the following examples, the source code for the tune in ‘old-hundredth-example.ly’ uses \caesura between poetic lines and \fine at the end. There are no \fermata or \bar commands; those symbols appear in the output because of the caesura configuration.

The Boston Handel and Haydn Society Collection of Church Music (1830) has a thick bar after each phrase. For this tune, it also has fermatas over the bar lines:

\layout {
  \context {
    \Score 
    caesuraType = #'((bar-line . ".")
                     (scripts . (fermata)))
    fineBarType = ".."
  }
}
\include "old-hundredth-example.ly"

[image of music]

J.S. James’ Original Sacred Harp (1911) has a thick bar when a line is broken in mid-measure at the end of a phrase.

\layout {
  \context {
    \Score 
    caesuraType = #'((underlying-bar-line . "x-."))
    fineBarType = ".."
  }
}
\include "old-hundredth-example.ly"

[image of music]


Partial measures in hymn tunes

Hymn tunes frequently start and end every line of music with partial measures so that each line of music corresponds exactly with a line of text. This requires a \partial command at the start of the music and a bar line at the end of each line.

Hymn template

This code shows one way of setting out a hymn tune when each line starts and ends with a partial measure. It also shows how to add the verses as stand-alone text under the music.

Timeline = {
  \time 4/4
  \tempo 4=96
  \partial 2
  s2 | s1 | s2 \breathe s2 | s1 | s2 \caesura \break
  s2 | s1 | s2 \breathe s2 | s1 | s2 \fine
}

SopranoMusic = \relative g' {
  g4 g | g g g g | g g g g | g g g g | g2
  g4 g | g g g g | g g g g | g g g g | g2
}

AltoMusic = \relative c' {
  d4 d | d d d d | d d d d | d d d d | d2
  d4 d | d d d d | d d d d | d d d d | d2
}

TenorMusic = \relative a {
  b4 b | b b b b | b b b b | b b b b | b2
  b4 b | b b b b | b b b b | b b b b | b2
}

BassMusic =  \relative g {
  g4 g | g g g g | g g g g | g g g g | g2
  g4 g | g g g g | g g g g | g g g g | g2
}

global = {
 \key g \major
}

\score {  % Start score
  <<
    \new PianoStaff <<  % Start pianostaff
      \new Staff <<  % Start Staff = RH
        \global
        \clef "treble"
        \new Voice = "Soprano" <<  % Start Voice = "Soprano"
          \Timeline
          \voiceOne
          \SopranoMusic
        >>  % End Voice = "Soprano"
        \new Voice = "Alto" <<  % Start Voice = "Alto"
          \Timeline
          \voiceTwo
          \AltoMusic
        >>  % End Voice = "Alto"
      >>  % End Staff = RH
      \new Staff <<  % Start Staff = LH
        \global
        \clef "bass"
        \new Voice = "Tenor" <<  % Start Voice = "Tenor"
          \Timeline
          \voiceOne
          \TenorMusic
        >>  % End Voice = "Tenor"
        \new Voice = "Bass" <<  % Start Voice = "Bass"
          \Timeline
          \voiceTwo
          \BassMusic
        >>  % End Voice = "Bass"
      >>  % End Staff = LH
    >>  % End pianostaff
  >>
}  % End score

\markup {
  \fill-line {
    ""
    {
      \column {
        \left-align {
          "This is line one of the first verse"
          "This is line two of the same"
          "And here's line three of the first verse"
          "And the last line of the same"
        }
      }
    }
    ""
  }
}

\layout {
  \context {
    \Score
    caesuraType = #'((bar-line . "||"))
    fineBarType = "||"
  }
}

\paper {  % Start paper block
  indent = 0     % don't indent first system
  line-width = 130   % shorten line length to suit music
}  % End paper block

[image of music]


LilyPond — Notation Reference v2.23.13 (development-branch).