Skip to content

Announcement: Lauds blog project

Hear ye, hear ye! — I have gotten started a new blog:

Dominus regnavit « Daily recordings of the Divine Office »

Daily postings of mp3’s for Lauds will begin on November 27th, the First Sunday of Advent, 2016.

Check it out; and perhaps also consider contributing: help will be needed to keep this project going.

Concerning the “flex” in psalmody

I have been aware for some time that there are sometimes differences in the way that psalm verses are divided, as far as the placement of the flex † and the middle cadence * are concerned.

[Both from edition to edition, especially when comparing secular to monastic and different orders, but sometimes also within the same book, as in the case of the variously compiled Liber Usualis.]

However, I recently came across some useful information in the book Psalmi in notis (Solesmes, 1903).

This book is of that particular genre of chant book the aim of which is to clarify for the user the method of singing certain psalms by laying them out in a more-than-usually idiot-proof manner.

In the case of this book, being published in the year 1903, it is interesting to see from examination of its contents that at this time just prior to the Vatican Edition, Solesmes was already thinking in terms of basically the same system of accents & preparatory notes as would later appear in the Liber Usualis.

Be that as it may, the interesting point for me was that in its title, the book in question claims to give the psalms “juxta ritum Romanum simul ac Monasticum”, or in the vulgar “according to both the Roman and the Monastic rite”. And to effect this double usefulness, there is an explanation on pages 152-153, entitled “De flexa in ritu monastico”.

A summary is as follows:

 

I. With the monks of certain orders, by the flex † it is noted that the voice should be lowered by either a major second or a minor third. Also of note, this flex is not to be found, except in the first half of a verse.

II. In the monastic rite, however, there are a certain number of psalm-verses which are not divided in the same manner as in the Roman. This book divides these the Roman way. [I think this is what the sentence is getting at; at any rate, it is true.] But if you want to divide them monastically, below are given all the verses in which there is a discrepancy, (and they are few enough) divided in this manner.

III. Note about all of these verses. — In either rite, to wit, Roman or monastic, these verses consist of three members. But in the Roman, after the first member there is placed the middle cadence, and after the second a pause ; however, in the monastic after the first member there is placed a flex (similar to the pause), and after the second the middle cadence ; which is the reverse order.

 

Now, I looked up the nine cases given (taken from seven psalms) in the Vatican Edition Antiphonale Romanum (1912), and lo! all appeared according to the monastic way: for the Vatican Edition uses the flex. This same division may also be seen, incidentally, in the Liber Antiphonarius (Pothier, 1891).

However, if you look up these same verses in a Roman Breviary, even from, say, 1942, these verses are all still divided “in the Roman manner”, with the longer second half, and no flexes.

Go figure.

Anyhow, I always knew that, as a rule, breviaries had no flexes;

This is the first that I have heard an explanation why.

How to: Francois Couperin’s Messe pour les Paroisses

The composer François Couperin (1668-1733) seems to have published only one book of organ music, this consisting of two Masses of 21 movements each, one “for the Parishes” and one “for the Convents”, the year being 1690.

Anyhow, I recently picked up the an edition of these, in two green paperbacks published by Kalmus, from the free shelf at a college library. Be that as it may, there are several public domain editions available at IMSLP. Mine happens to resemble this one, in that it frequently leaves the pedals on the second staff (which I like, in this case); or if you like your pedals on their own line, you might check out the newly typeset edition by Pierre Gouin [I mention this because I generally find his editions to be consistently well done].  Thus far for scores.

Anyhow, having obtained a hard copy, I found upon playing some of it that the “Mass for the Parishes” looked to be good postluding material, and decided to proceed accordingly. Interestingly, this is said to be the more elaborate of Couperin’s two Masses; however, the main reason I was attracted to it was that it is easily seen to be based upon the melodies of what nowadays we would refer to as Mass IV: Cunctipotens Genitor Deus (of which a convenient printout may be had here, though I printed mine out from the authentic Vatican Edition Graduale 1908 just for the fun of it, and then added the rhythmic signs on over top of it, afterwards.)

Now, I have mentioned that these Masses by Couperin have 21 movements: what of that?

Historically, in this period of time, the organ was played in alternation with the singing of the chant, in such fashion that it was actually considered to be, well, singing the alternate verses. [To hear an example of this practice, check out this Te Deum, which seems to make the rounds of the internet every now and then.] For example, if you were going to sing a hymn, the organ would play verse 1, the choir would sing verse 2, and so forth. Note also that the organ, at least as far I as have seen, generally takes the first verse: and the way you can tell is that when there is a hymn with, say, 7 verses, the composer will write 4 versets.

So, with these two organ Masses, the arrangement of versets (happily the same for both) is as follows:

Kyrie: 5 versets

Gloria: 9 versets

Offertory

Sanctus: 2 versets

Benedictus or Elevation

Agnus Dei: 2 versets

Deo gratias

For the Kyrie, Gloria, and Agnus Dei, the divisions we use nowadays (marked with a double bar) are right in sync with these versets. The Offertory is then stand-alone piece, and the Deo Gratias is the organ’s response to the priest’s “Ite missa est.” The interesting question, however, is what to do with the Sanctus, which our modern chant editions is not marked to be sung in alternation.

A little pottering about turned up a couple of recordings with differing solutions, as well as some editions with either too many or too few double bars. Finally, I hit upon the Ratisbon Graduale, published in 1871, which gave an agreeable number of divisions, thus:

1871 Ratisbon Graduale - Sanctus from Mass IV

[And whether you separate the Benedictus makes no difference here.]

Now, the reason that I wanted to work out these alternations is that for the most authentic effect these pieces ought to be performed in alternation with the appropriate chants: and what I do in such cases is that I play the appropriate chant verses in their proper places on a the soft 8′ flute stop that I customarily use for accompanying chant during Mass.

In the end, the way things came to pass, I ended up playing the whole of the “Mass for the Parishes” over the course of seven postludes, in the following manner:

 

Postlude 1: Kyrie (all 5 versets)

Kyrie – organ

Kyrie – chant

Kyrie – organ

Christe – chant

Christe – organ

Christe – chant

Kyrie – organ

Kyrie – chant

Kyrie – organ

Postlude 2: Gloria (first 3 versets)

Gloria – chant

Et in terra – organ

Laudamus te – chant

Benedicimus te – organ

Adoramus te – chant

Glorificamus te – organ

Gratias agimus tibi – chant

Postlude 3: Gloria (second 3 versets)

Domine Deus, Rex coelestis – organ

Domine Fili – chant

Domine Deus, Agnus Dei – organ

Qui tollis… miserere – chant

Qui tollis… suscipe – organ

Qui sedes – chant

Postlude 4: Gloria (third 3 versets)

Quoniam tu solus sanctus – organ

Tu solus Dominus – chant

Tu solus Altissimus – organ

Cum Sancto Spiritu – chant

Amen – organ

Postlude 5: Offertory

(This one just goes by itself)

Postlude 6: Sanctus & Benedictus (3 versets total)

1st Sanctus – organ

2nd Sanctus – chant

3rd Sanctus – organ

Pleni sunt coeli – chant

Benedictus – organ

Postlude 7: Agnus Dei & Deo Gratias (3 versets total)

1st Agnus Dei – organ

2nd Agnus Dei – chant

3rd Agnus Dei – organ

Ite missa est – chant

Deo gratias – organ

 

And that’s how it went. By the way, all of these combinations ran to a quite satisfactory length of time, while at the same time none of them seemed to require an unreasonable amount of preparation. Also the entire sequence comes with its own built-in variety, in that the different types of piece and the different registrations occur in a pleasing sequence, courtesy of Mr. François Couperin, who planned it that way.

 

P.S. As a sample, here is Postlude 3, ut notatur supra:

 

 

2nd Vespers of Trinity Sunday

Here is a quick recording which I have just made, in order to demonstrate sung 2nd Vespers of Trinity Sunday, as done according to the Liber Usualis:

 

The flipping around necessary to get through this would be:

p. 250 – the Solemn Tone of the verse “Deus in adjutorium.” can be used ad libitum on Solemn feasts, so I used it; otherwise the Festal Tone (given on this same page) is always used at vespers.

p. 914 – 1st Antiphon

p. 128 – 1st Psalm, Dixit Dominus, 1. f

p. 914 – repeat 1st Antiphon, then sing 2nd Antiphon

p. 134 – 2nd Psalm, Confitebor, 2. D

p. 914 – repeat 2nd Antiphon, sing 3rd Antiphon

p. 143 – 3rd Psalm, Beatus vir. 3 a2

p. 914 – repeat 3rd Antiphon, sing 4th Antiphon

p. 150 – 4th Psalm, Laudate pueri, 4. E

p. 914 – repeat 4th Antiphon, sing 5th Antiphon

p. 156 – 5th Psalm, In exitu, 5. a

p. 914 – repeat 5th Antiphon, then sing the Chapter

p. 123 – the tone for the Chapter is on this page; also note that the Chapter always ends with the response “Deo gratias.”, which is missing from p. 914.

p. 915 – the Hymn, “Jam sol recedit igneus”; then sing the verse “Benedictus es.”

p. 118 – the tone for the verse is on this page; for Sundays or feasts, you use the first option, or else the second option, “according to a more recent custom”; I went with the first option, as its rather more common.

p. 916 – the Antiphon at the Magnificat, “Te Deum Patrem.”

p. 216 – the Magnificat, 4. E; I used the “Solemn Tone”, which has uses a more elaborate form of the middle cadence, because this is an option that can be used on 1st and 2nd class feasts; otherwise, the regular version of the tone 4. E would be used, as on p. 210.

p. 916 – repeat the Magnificat Antiphon

p. 101 – the verse “Domine exaudi” and the “Oremus” are said before the collect. I used the Ancient solemn tone found on this page; the other option for this would be the Festal Tone, found on p. 98. (The explanation of which tones can be used for the collect may be found on p. 124, if you are curious about these things.)

p. 916 – the collect is then sung; note that the flex † which is marked is in the right place for the Ancient solemn tone which I used (whereas, this would not be the case if I had used the Festal tone); however, as this tone has no metrum, the * does not really signify anything for us, except the existence of a good place for a pause. However, with the Ancient solemn tone, the instructions on p. 101 specify that “after any pause, the first syllable of the following word starts a tone lower than the dominant”; thus, I observed this as often as necessary.

p. 100 – the conclusion “Per Dominum.” can be read in full here.

p. 101 – the verse “Domine exaudi” is sung again after the collect.

At this point, p. 916 has an Antiphon / Verse / Collect for the commemoration of the first Sunday after Pentecost. However, on p. LXXX, it is noted that this is omitted (i.e., the rubrics no longer call for this commemoration to be made.)

p. 125 – the verse “Benedicamus Domino” is sung to one of the tones given for use at 2nd vespers of 1st class feasts; I went with the second option.

p. 261 – the very last thing is the verse “Fidelium animae”, which is said recto tono in a low voice.

And that’s how today’s Vespers are meant to be sung, to the best of my knowledge.

 

 

 

 

 

Today is the “Bissextile” day

“The year hath twelve months, comprising fifty-two weeks, and one day : indeed, it has three hundred and sixty-five days, and nearly six hours ; for in such an interval of time the sun traverses the zodiac. However, in the course of four years, four times six hours constitutes an extra day ; hence that year is called intercalary, bissextus, or bissextile.”

De anno et ejus partibus (my working translation)

Well folks, this is such a year, and today is the day, liturgically speaking.

Here’s why.

“In a bissextile year, the month of February is 29 days long, and the feast of St. Matthias [note: usually on the 24th] is celebrated on the 25th day of February, and the feast of St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows [note: usually on the 27th] on the 28th day of February, and the Sixth Kalends are said twice, that is, on the 24th day and on the 25th day ; and the dominical letter, which was taken up in the month of January, is changed into the preceding one : as for example, if in January the dominical letter was A, it is changed into the preceding one, which is g, etc., and the letter f serves twice, on the 24th and on the 25th.”

Calendarium romanum (my working translation)

Eh, what?

In the Roman method of reckoning, days are counted backwards from certain set points in each month: the Kalends, the Nones, and the Ides.

Since the Kalends are always the first day of the month, the first day of March is called “the Kalends of March”;

The last day of February is called “the day before the Kalends of March”;

The second last day of February is called “the Third Kalends of March”;

The third last day of February is called “the Fourth Kalends of March”;

And so on.

(By the way, this numbering system is an example of what is called “inclusive counting”.)

Now, counting backwards like this, the “Sixth Kalends of March” is February 24th in most years, but in leap-year when you add an extra day to the end of the month, the Sixth Kalends suddenly becomes February 25th.

Since we are talking about the Roman calendar, it should not surprise us to find that the feast of St. Matthias is affixed to the Roman-style date, the Sixth Kalends, and not to February 24th.

This goes for the other (later) feast that occurs near the end of the month, St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, as well.

So where’s the leap-day?

As it happens, when an extra day was to be inserted into the Roman calendar, their method of doing this was to have two days which were both “the Sixth Kalends of March”; these correspond to our February 24th and 25th.

Since the feast of St. Matthias is to be celebrated on the 25th, we may therefore deduce that the intercalary (that is, “inserted”) day, the bissextile (that is, “twice-sixth”) day, is in fact February 24th.

In fact, in an English version of the Roman Martyrology which I have, the direction in this regard is:

But in Leap Year on February 24 is read only:

The commemoration of many holy martyrs and confessors and holy virgins. R. Thanks be to God.

So, there you have it.

Happy Bissextile day!

 

For beginner piano: Concordi laetitia

Now for Easter, one of those random chants in honor of Our Lady:

Concordi laetitia (Rhythmus paschalis ad B. Mariam V.)

The handy annotations section of Cantus selecti gives the date for this as 13th century, with the melody being from a prosa Orientis partibus and the more proximate source for the chant being Variae Preces (1892). Interestingly, this latter book starts the chant on “Do”, whereas more recent editions put it on “Fa” to be more correct for mode 6.

We sang this at Offertory on Easter morning this year.

For beginner piano: Vexilla Regis prodeunt

Here is another chant put into easy piano form:

Vexilla Regis prodeunt (the vespers hymn for Passiontide)

Which is also used on September 14th for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, as well as (formerly) on May 3rd for the finding of the same. This hymns also shows up in the movie The War of the Vendée; incidentally, if I remember correctly, in both its Monastic and Roman versions.

Chant notation for this hymn can be found in the Liber Usualis, p. 575.

Oh, and one last use: in older chant books, such as the 1954 Liber Brevior, one may see that this chant was also formerly sung on Good Friday for the procession bearing the Blessed Sacrament to the altar.