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Pentecost Vespers from Colloquium 2011

May 27, 2012

Since I haven’t posted in a while, here’s a nice cheap post that doesn’t involve me doing any research or making printouts.

Last summer I went the Church Music Association of America’s Colloquium.  (If you click the link, you can read all about this year’s one.  Basically, these colloquium-s or colloquia are educating people about Gregorian Chant and Sacred Polyphony in a hands on way, every summer, somewhere in the U.S.)  Anyhow, besides actually going to the Colloquium, you can learn a lot from it just by exploring the music packet, and the mp3’s as they become available for free use online.

Here, for example, is last years music packet; and here are the recordings.

If you scroll down the page of recordings, you can click to download mp3’s or click on the tracks in the player-thingummies to listen to whatever you want.  What I would like to bring to your attention is the one labled:

Vespers Service
Spanish polyphony, conducted by William Mahrt
Friday, June 17, 5:30 PM


This was the main thing which Dr. Mahrt’s choir sang at this colloquium, and this was the polyphonic choir in which I sang.  Jolly!  The EF vespers for Friday of Pentecost week are largely the same as vespers for Pentecost Sunday, by the way, which is why I post this today.  I hereby make some remarks:

  • The items we had to learn were: Deus in adjutorium – the response to it; First and Fifth psalms – chant alternating with a polyphonic formula; Second and Fourth psalms – straight chant; Third psalm – chant alternating with through-composed verses; Hymn and Magnificat – chant alternating with polyphonic verses; also, a couple of responses.
  • This was actually a lot to learn in four rehearsals; in the end we had to let a recruited group of Important Supervisial People do the antiphons for us, since we did not have enough time to learn them with the choir.  One of the things that confused anyone who wanted it explained were the transitions between chant notation and modern notation sections.  I think that “do” in chant usually translated to written “c” in modern; however, to add to the confusion, “c” in modern was not necessarily real “c”, as we were singing most things at a different key from where they were written.  Besides just getting the polyphony and the transitions to work, we also had the usual bother of getting the psalm tones right, as well as knowing the logistical things like which side started first, what was intoned by who, etc.  We also had to keep track of a couple places where we needed to sit/stand/bow or whatnot; this is because when we sang this, we sat in chairs in front of the sanctuary, men on the gospel side and women on the epistle side (if I remember correctly). 
  • Note well the use of organ improvisations to give the pitch of the antiphon.  How does this have a different effect than using the organ to play a “meditation” on the psalm/antiphon after they have been sung? (I was at a OF vespers once that did it this way.)  In my opinion, having the improvisation go before gives a lot more impetus to the service, whereas to have it after is somewhat dragging. 
  • Interesting: To make sure that the celebrant got the pitch right, one of the chanters from the group doing the antiphons would hum the incipit for him after hearing the organ improv.
  •  Since I have now run out of things to say, goodbye.  The Regina Caeli is in the solemn tone, in case you are wondering.
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